Moving On and Growing Up (a long one and a long time coming)

I've been thinking. You may have noticed a theme in the title of my posts this past week. As I begin this new week I actually am going to end the theme with the major thing that got me started...thinking. Do you ever find we do too much of it? Thinking about how to end the school year, our day to day lives, and where we go from here. Maybe it's just me. I'm an over analyzer. 

But then, I'm also always reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the TV show, Grey's Anatomy, which if you have ever read my Blogger profile you have learned by now: 

"We're adults. When did that happen? 
And how do we make it stop?!"

The thing is, I don't think its so much that we want the process of adulthood to stop. I'm wiser now than I was last year, and I'm certainly happier now than I was 5 years ago. I don't know that I'd want to go back. Slow it down at times, maybe? And yes, only maybe. It's the realization that we have to grow-up. Perhaps even "have to" is incorrect terminology. We know we have to. Its inevitable. We age, we go to school, we leave home, some of us get married and/or have babies, things change, people move away. There I said it. I said the word that makes us all become adults and "grow." It's a word I've never liked. CHANGE. 

Sometimes though, there's that little minutia that we take for granted. And I mean my.nute. See, the aforementioned changes are somewhat par for the course in the road of life. Even if it is not our life. We join in the celebrations, wrapping the presents and signing the cards, putting on the make-up and smiling for the pictures, all-the-while still being able to play "pretend." It's as though we are acting, which we as teachers have become good at. Yet, there are parts of our everyday lives that we think will always be there - the television shows with hosts, actors, and characters whom we have watched for over 25 years (and yes, we've watched them since we were 5!). 

Yes, that's the minutia I'm talking about. It may seem trivial. For me, it began last year when Oprah aired her final episode. Her episode not only began the demise of my own (probably 20 year) daytime ritual, but also the beginning of my adulthood. It was almost an exact year ago (May 25, 2011 was her finale).  Oprah aired on ABC. One month before Oprah's final air date, ABC announced the cancellation of two other beloved shows of mine - All My Children and One Life to Live.  For years, my afternoons had gone like this: 1-2: AMC; 2-3 OLTL; 3-4 GH; 4-5 Oprah. I know. I was in school, then college, then working, then teaching, when did I find the time, right? It came down to initials - VHS, DVR, TiVO. God Bless them all. There I sat last May listening to Oprah, a day before my teaching contract ended. I listened intently: 

"What I knew for sure from this experience with you is that we are all called. Everybody has a calling and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and to get about the business of doing it...
live from the heart of yourself. You have to make a living; I understand that. But you also have to know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world."

I grew a little. We grow each day, we really do. There's a reason we are here. There's a reason we have these life experiences and share that wisdom with those who come after us (and in some cases those who have come before us). I kept on going that summer and as we know I found myself teaching again this past fall - right in time for All My Children to end in September. Another piece of my childhood was beginning to end (I was sad, but somehow it was a tad easier with the other two continuing). I remember the day I started watching that show. My mom had it on and I can't remember if it was the summertime or just a break from school, but Janet had Natalie in the well. I was hooked. Will the good twin win? I had to watch the next day to find out what would happen. Of course the next day, if you don't get up from the TV fast enough you get hooked on the next soap. Oh, One Life. You helped me bond with my older brother because he was in the room and he decided to nickname Todd "Scarface." From then on if ever the soaps were on TV and he walked in the room he had to make a comment about Scarface. Then this past January, One Life to Live aired its final episode. Another one bit the dust. What would my afternoons become when there was no school, or when I was sick and had nothing to do but lie in front of the television? 

When I was younger I had promised myself I would not get drawn into yet another soap opera. I mean, I was 10 years old. Then Kimberly McCullough (Robin) worked her magic. She was my age (okay, maybe a couple of years older). I loved watching her. Here was this girl acting her heart out on screen and I was just this kid, her same age, who didn't want to go to summer-camp because I was so homesick. What loser was I?! My dad even sent me Soap Opera Digests to camp so that I could read the recaps and write what I thought would happen. Then when I was in high school Kimberly's character was in an HIV storyline. I cried my eyes out through that Robin and Stone storyline (and it used to take a lot for me to cry during TV or movies). I grew up a lot in high school for other reasons too, although they still had to do with tolerance. I continued to educate myself throughout that storyline and others that occurred on GH, as well as my other shows. So many storylines were, and are, informative. My brother's college girlfriend watched GH. We still send messages about it. My cousin watches. It's a bonding topic of conversation whenever we are together. And for the past 6 years Kimberly continued in another storyline, perhaps one of my very favorites, with Jason Thompson (Patrick).  My mom and I used to share our thoughts and opinions about "Psycho Lisa" who kept trying to come between them. Then this past November, Kimberly announced her plans to depart the show. To say I was devastated may seem extreme because I personally do not know Kimberly. However, I do think she'd be fun to know and she has certainly entertained me for a good 20 years. I will say this though, when she died onscreen and Jason Thompson played out those scenes in the days following, I have never sat in front of a television and cried so hard. In fact, the last time I cried that hard was when I lost my job interview last summer due to HR cutting the position 12 hours prior the interview. But that cry - that cry was an ugly loud cry. This cry, the tears were just quiet and flowing. I called my mom as I paused the TV and said, "Either they all need Emmy awards or I have major issues!" Either case may still be up for debate. I strongly believe Emmy awards are needed. What they did in all those years and especially these past months of scenes was not just for me to feel the loss of Kimberly and her character Robin, but for me to feel the loss of it all - the loss of what I'd grown up with, the loss of what I've struggled to let go of and say goodbye to. 

It's hard to let go while you're still holding on; At the same time it's hard to still hold on but move forward. As teachers we're not just actors playing a part in our every day lives, but also in the lives of our students. We have to make a conscious decision to be present. Sometimes that decision is a courageous one. Kimberly made a conscious, courageous decision to follow her dream of becoming a director. I miss her acting dearly, but I thank her and Jason for giving me a gift, unconsciously, in more ways than one. 

"Understand[ing] that one principle, that everybody wants to be heard, 
Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. 'I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.'"


I've Been Blessed, take two

 As I said in my previous post, stay tuned for this year's updated version of my revised poem, "I am a Teacher." Interspersed throughout is feedback just filled out today from my 4th grade after-school students. 

I am a teacher. 

I have made it my mission to see that every child in my path feels loved and cared for. 

I am a teacher.
Some days are harder than others.
Some children come from broken homes.
Some children know what it means to do without food.
Some children know what it means to not have a fresh bed in which to sleep.
Some children bring these troubles to school.

I am a teacher.
I provide warmth.
I provide friendly smiles.
I provide a kind environment. 

I am their teacher.
I am their teacher who expects nothing but their best, and accepts nothing less.
When they enter my room, their world changes and dreams appear.
I am their teacher who makes them believe that things are possible.
If they practice, they can do it – they can succeed.
I am their teacher who will sit with them in times of struggle and celebrate with them over small victory.
I will high-five them for knowing sight words, and salute them for accomplishments.
I am their teacher who has taught them to never, ever give up.
I am their role model. 

I am a teacher.
I am a teacher in the midst of never ending cut backs
I am a teacher who does not know what the future holds.
I am a teacher who will not surrender, because I love my students and my job.
I am teacher who feels a difference being made through each hug and smile.
I AM a teacher –
 who believes.


I've Been Enlightened

Wow! There really are some amazing bloggers and teachers out there. You are all so supportive. 

I must say though, it's times like these that the most unlikely support comes from the mouths of our students. My job this year has been unique. I am essentially a small-group teacher. I teach EIP (Early Intervention Program). The majority of my students are second language learners, and all of them are deemed "low" in the area in which they are in my small group, whether it is math or reading. Yet it is my students who try their hearts out for me, every. single. day. Some days are better than other, obviously. And yes, as teachers we often live for the moments when we see the light bulb 'click', but I also think I live for the moments when I pick up my little groups and they line up in the hall and we we're getting ready to go my little girl says "Ms. Cohn?" and I turn and look at her, "Yes, sweetheart?" She looks at me with a smile and says, "I love you!" It's those unprompted moments. Those moments at the end of the day when you just don't know if you have it in you to do one last small group, to work with the last little bit of your 50th child throughout the day, you've pushed them to their limit because they know you expect their absolute best and you will not accept anything less, and they look at you and smile. 

That's why we teach, isn't it? That's why year after year we come back to this, whether we have a job or not. It's true, as far as having a contract year after year, I've been put through the ringer. However, I don't know if I would change the day to day of it at all. This whole journey has made me who I am, and I AM a teacher. 

Last year I wrote this post, titled I am a teacher.    Blogger has changed a little and the way I posted it has become more difficult to read. I thought I would repost it. This was last year's: 

I am a teacher. 
Do not look surprised. 
Do not sound shocked. 

I am a teacher in a low-income school. 
Do not ask how I do it. 
Do not feel sorry for my students or me. 
Do not ask what it is like in this economy. 

I am a teacher. 
Do not ask me what it is like to grow attached to a class of 19 students each year for the 4 years and leave each one behind at the of the school year, as I have to leave for job availability. 
Do not ask me about the number of students I have retained, put through Special Education referrals, taken to a student support team meeting, had in foster care, or stayed up late at night worrying about in one year alone. 
Do not ask me about my personal budget, or how much of my own money I spend on my classroom.

I am their teacher. 
Ask me about the smiles I get each morning. 
Ask me about the I receive each afternoon. 
Ask me about the tears I wipe away and the wounds I heal whether I have to run as fast I can on the playground, or help a heart that is hurt. 
Ask me how I make my students apologize and mean it. 
Ask me how I have made my students move an average of 8 reading levels since October. 

I am their teacher. 
Smile with me as they make me laugh. 
Laugh with me when the moments become so unbearable that all you can do is chuckle. 
Worry with me as the end of the year approaches and I wonder if I have prepared them as well as I possibly could have. 
Cry with me as I watch them walk out the door on the last day of school, hoping they are safe all summer, and hoping others will look out for them next year. 
Ask me how to care. 
Ask me how to help a child. 

I AM a teacher. 

I've rewritten my poem slightly for this year....stay tuned for the updated version.

I've Been Cut...

 in so many ways!

1. Twenty days ago the doctor cut into me - through my belly button. I missed the last 2 days of school before spring break (and of course, hence me being MIA in blog land). The surgery was planned. But lemme tell you something, I don't care how much you plan for surgery, you are never prepared. Everything comes down to the wire and down to the last minute. And you are never ever prepared for the recovery. I had been in pain for a while, so believe it or not, I was looking forward to the surgery and had given my doctor strict instructions that she was not to close me up until she found something (I wanted answers). Well she found it alright. She found endometriosis and scar tissue. I am not shy to talk about this, because I find that some people still don't know what this is and I urge you to educate yourself. Needless to say she found plenty, and where I should just have one incision in my belly button with stitches, I have two others and so a total of three locations of stitches holding me together. The recovery was gruesome, I've worn the same two maxi skirts with elastic waists to school for the past week. Cross your fingers stitches come out Friday. Of course, on top of my recovery I came down with a horrible sinus cold and cough, and this week has begun week three of that. Oh happy, happy joy, joy! I think I am on tissue box number 4!

2. If you have paid attention to any of my 'getting to know me' posts then you know that I was hired after the beginning of the school year (for the 2nd time in a row) and that does not guarantee me a contract for this coming school year. I knew that going into it, but of course it always hurts to hear it. I heard it about a week or two before my surgery and spring break. No matter how sympathetic my principal is, I still cried. I've been pretty positive about it ever since, but cut from a job again. Oh, teaching.

3. Cut from my followers. Where have they gone? Why is it blank over on my sidebar? I wish I knew. I wish I had the energy to figure it all out. With all the other aforementioned cuts, I'm already in my pajamas and in bed. Perhaps I'll give it a go another night. Stay tuned this week. I intend to make this week a series, for how I'm coping, growing up, staying positive and how I've been humored and enlightened. So much happens when we enter a new decade, I suppose...

Help Autism Speaks Shine a Light on Autism

I can't think of a finer way to begin my spring break than supporting Autism. To learn more about Autism and Autism Speaks, click here.

Are you "Shining?" My mom and I are. If you would like to, feel free to contact me or to click here.

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