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Back-to-School Chaos: a study in vulnerability

August 27, 2014

I have back-to-school teaching nightmares every summer.  Even the summers I wasn’t going back to work.

Today, one of them came true.

I was 2 hours late to our first professional day:  a day of meetings and information and reconnecting with colleagues and information.

Not because of traffic, or car trouble, or sudden illness.

Because I wrote down the wrong date in my calendar.

The Really Awesome Office Manager called me to wonder if I was okay.  As soon as I got the voicemail, I burst into tears and started running around trying to gather anything I thought I needed.

Audrey and Jamie came to give me a hug before I bolted out the door and cried most of the way to school.

It was really embarrassing.  I mean, I am a professional.  I like to at least keep up appearances that I have my sh*t together.  Last year’s hoopla, getting hired after school started and meeting my students in Week 2, at least gave me the excuse for being barely organized.  This year, not so much.

Thankfully, I have very kind colleagues and administrators.  True to what I’ve been working on with my kids, they told me, “It’s okay.  We forgive you.”

My back-to-school experience started with an explosion of chaos, and throughout the day, the chaos–and consequent vulnerability–only mushroomed.

Every year this happens.  Every year, I think that I will be better prepared, that things like technology and physical spaces will be ready, that I just need to focus on my teaching.

Why should this year be any different?  Today, these are some of the things that appeared on my To-Do list:

  • integrate Common Core standards into my instructional practice
  • figure out how to hook up my new laptop to my new classroom’s projector and sound, or if the correct cables are even in the room
  • revise and copy syllabus and other first-day materials
  • find a phone, a trash can, and office chair for my office
  • move the rest of my belongings from old office to new office
  • get more than a 5×5-inch whiteboard for my gigantic new classroom
  • move old stained-glass workshop materials (like mirrors and other sharp objects) out of my classroom
  • take online quizzes for safety issues in education
  • get various forms filled out and back to the right people

Some really nice things did happen today.  I get my own classroom instead of running to three different rooms and an office spread out over three wings.  Another teacher showed me my classroom and offered to help move things off the walls.  My new office mate is super nice and already painted our tiny space.  I saw a couple of former students and chatted with them about their summer.

But the best two things that happened are these:

  1. Alan listened and empathized and offered to get take-out and go grocery shopping because I was about to, you know, replenish our household’s stash of food when I got the voicemail, and
  2. Alan’s aunt, a retired teacher who is really also my aunt and really also my soul sister and really also our kids’ honorary grandmother, texted me in the middle of the day to say:  Just thinking about you and your meetings tomorrow and Friday. [Ha! I even convinced her that they were NOT TODAY.]  I know you’re going to have a wonderful year!  Just like Audrey, Theresa, and Jamie, your students are going to know how much you love them and how much you want them to succeed!  You are an amazing mom, wife, niece, friend, and teacher!

Which made me cry again, but for a different reason.  The same lesson in grace that I give my kids:  that you are a good person who sometimes makes not-good choices.  And you are always, always loved.

Every year at this time is the same craziness.  In my last year at my old school, before I got pregnant, I announced that it was the year of Zen Michelle.  New technology didn’t work correctly.  We were integrating hundreds of new students into our newly renovated school.  I let it all go.

The universe wants to teach me the same lessons, over and over again.  This time, due to my own oversight, I feel like I’ve been airdropped into some sort of marathon swim race and I’m trying to get my bearings and breathe above the waves, and other swimmers, and obstacles, and lack of proper equipment.  Zen Michelle did not anticipate the shock of vulnerability.

The more chaos, the more opportunity to find the center.  The calm in the storm.  The ability to breathe, and swim, and mess up and find grace where it is.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. rayaless permalink
    September 1, 2014 4:07 pm

    Most importantly, I reiterate Betty – you are an AWESOME parent, teacher, friend, and spouse! She’s ABSOLUTELY right! Your children and your students are definitely fortunate for your parenting and instruction.

    And – in a different vein – wonderful that you have your own classroom, a new office, and an empathetic spouse (Yeah Alan!)

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