being a teacher, goodbye, students

My Kids Say Goodbye

We have committees at the end of the year and we always give thanks to all of those who have helped us have a successful year.  So a group of kids spearhead thank you letters; they have everyone write them, they gather them, bind them and present them.  This year though they presented one to me as well; a complete surprise and one that has left me a little teary eyed.  So what were some favorite comments?

  • I like it a lot because you are not strict but don’t let kids fool around like my bus driver.
  • I sometimes have been thinking I did bad but you made me feel much better.
  • My family and I will miss you…I babysit.
  • The most interesting part of my blogging experience was that people on the other side of the Earth ask questions that people in America think everyone must know the answer [to].
  • Thank you for not trying to bore us in class…
  • Thank you for criticizing me but not being mean about it.
  • You have inspired me to want to become a teacher.
  • You cared about the class and what we wanted…
  • Thank you for helping and believing in me…
  • I will miss you the most

And so that’s why I teach…

May your final days with your students be filled with stories and laughter, and perhaps a tear shed in private or public. 


When the World Continues to Turn – Goodbye to My Morfar

Today I woke up and received the news that my incredible morfar or grandfather had closed his eyes to the world in the middle of the night.  This man who lived 95 years and was married to his soulmate for more than 60 slipped away peacefully, certain that he had fulfilled whatever destiny he had been given.  So as the world continues to turn and I still gather my things to go to school, I move forward honoring his memory and cherishing the moments where he made me feel like I was his favorite grand child of all.  I really think I was.

Grief is a selfish emotion.  We grieve because the world does not stop and take notice of the giant hole we feel all around us.  We grieve because we get no more time, no more memories, no more chances to ask them to tell that story again.  We grieve because death is cruel and necessary.  Grief pierces our heart over and over until we hopefully as ancient people ourselves finally feel our hearts give in to the world. 

We honor this man as we move on and pick up the pieces.  As we circle around my 98-year-old grandmother who now stands alone against the world.  We remember him and his love for us every time we look at my daughter, Theadora, who shares his middle name.  She too loves life fully and stubbornly.  She too makes you feel like you are her favorite in the whole world.  Through her eyes, the world continue to spin and the night sky gains another star.  Sleep well Morfar.


Saying Goodbye

How do you say goodbye to someone that has been there for you for 13 years?  How do you let them go, peacefully, and still let them know that you are there no matter what?  That you will never forget all of those years, all of those times spent together.  About an hour ago in the middle of an #RSCON3 presentation, my cat Bailey fell over and started crying.  She has been sick her whole life, I picked the runt of the litter, the one that farted and sneezed when I picked her up.  And yet, I knew that this time it was more than.  This time something was seriously wrong.  And the vet agreed, there was no coming back from this one and so the decision was made and she drifted off peacefully, more at peace than I have seen her in months, off to a better place.

And so I sit here in an empty house picking up the pieces.  Picking up our memories and remembering them for what they were; unforgettable and ours.  Bailey picked me as much as I picked her and she loved life.  She would purr and wiggle in urging you to pet her, give her attention, until her belly was raw from all of the stroking.  If you tried to sleep on the couch you knew she would be right there, cuddled up by your ear, not willing to move even when you had to get up.  Naps simply were another excuse for her to be close to us because that is where she felt she belonged.  And I agreed.   For many years she would sleep right on my head and all night I would battle with her over the pillow.  I would listen to her snore and wheeze due to the chronic respiratory infection she had gotten from her mother.  And yet having her right there, sometimes right on my head, meant a certain comfort, of being home and being with someone, even if Brandon was out of town and the house was too quiet.

I found Bailey 6 months into me moving from Denmark to America.   Practically alone, unless you count the one boyfriend I had, until I found her.  She was 9 months old when I stumbled upon her, already having been rejected by one family as being too mean and too sick.  For me it just felt right.  Her and I could do anything together.  Through breaks ups, lonely night and finally finding my soulmate she was there, always ready to cuddle, always ready to be together, running to the door whenever I came home.   When I moved she came with me every time, always finding peace as long as I was there.  Her illness would go through cycles and we thought we would lose her more than once.  But she always pulled through.  The joke in my family was that she would outlive us all.  When she was 7 she was viciously attacked by a stray dog and we thought at first that this was it.  She proved us all wrong.  And when the doctor said that her back leg would have to get amputated, she proved us wrong again, regaining the use of it within a couple of months.  Through all the years of trying to have a child, she was there when I needed her.  With every failed atte,pt and all of those tears, she sat patently on my lap reminding me that she was there and she understood that it was sad but that life would move on as it always did.  When we found out Thea was coming and my belly grew, Bailey would climb on top of it, having found a new place to snuggle up to – even if it kicked her at times.  She just knew when I needed her to just curl and be.

So I write this post as a tribute.  Some may think I am a crazy cat lady and that is alright.  For this crazy cat, I am.  In an hour I present at the Reform Symposium, and Matt, my co-presenter, always the gentleman, graciously told me that he could handle it all.  I declined, I will be there because that is what we do as teachers.  We pull through and we get the job done.  No matter what is happening in our personal life our jobs move us on and the demands continue.  We know that what we are committed to is important and we don’t back away from that commitment.

I am not sure why I write this post but I had to.  I had to say thank you to the tiniest little cat who always just was.  We found each other when we both wanted so desperately to be loved.  Thank you for loving me so unconditionally and teaching me that quiet time can be the best time of the day.  Thank you for just being there.  For putting your faith in us to treat you right, for naps, and car rides, and all those moments where you jumped up on my lap reminding me that life is about love and showing those that love you that they mean the world to you.  The house is too quiet without you.

being a teacher, goodbye, journey, Student-centered

They Are Ready to Leave

I started this year with a vision and ended it with a new belief. I started this year by throwing it almost all out, scrappng what I thought were “have to’s” in the classroom, discarding rhetoric survived from college, raising my own expectation for eagerness, excitement, genuine learning rather than memorization. I started this year with many ideas. Not my students. They started this year being excited about being 4th graders, bummed about losing their third recess, but pumped that the chairs and desks were bigger. Some were even interested in what we would learn in 4th grade, but none of them knew what to expect. Neither did I to tell you the truth.

So these kids that have been my partners in learning, these kids that have believed in our journey together are now ready to leave me. They are ready for new challenges, new jokes, new routines and expectations. They are ready to decompress, breathe a little bit, and just be kids in the summer heat. I pretend to be ready to let them go, I know it is their time, but it is still hard to lose the label of “my kids.” The journey we have been on has been so incredible, so beyond expectations, that I wonder if this is it? Is this the year I will always try to emulate? Or did I really stumble upon something within myself? Did I create a new teacher where then old me once stood? Will my vision survive the next year?

I started this year with a vision and I was lucky enough to have kids that believed in it too. Now they get to leave with our vision of what learning should feel like, and I am left behind, alone, but so, so proud. These kids – they will change the world some day.


Dear Beautiful Baby

Today you were supposed to have been born.  A beautiful baby, joining your  older sister Thea that does nothing but run around and point at all the babies she sees in the world.  We would have been scared but excited.  Feeling so overwhelmed and yet so happy.  But today is not your due date; that day will never come because I lost you many months ago.

Every day until this day I have thought of how big my stomach should be now. How I wouldn’t be able to fit into those pants, bend over to pick up that marker, or even be able to tie my shoes.  I would be getting ready to hand over my students to another capable teacher to welcome you into this world; into our family. And yet, sometimes life doesn’t work the way it is meant to work.

I am sorry, there is no heartbeat are the hardest words I have ever heard.  And I think that moment in time will always be frozen, just hanging there, not quite within my reach but there as a mountain in my life.  Brandon took my hand and held it so tight and the tears just came and came.  A magic child, a child we had so hoped for, was not to be.

And yet, life goes on.  I returned to school and had to face parent emails, students that needed help in math, hugs and smiles because that’s what teachers do.  We keep going, no matter what happens in our life, we know there are kids that need us and sometimes, truthfully, we need them as well.  And I really didn’t tell anyone because I did not want them to ask how I was.  I knew I would be ok, I am not the only one to ever go through something like this, and yet you feel so alone when it does happen.

So with this letter, sent out to the world, I am saying goodbye.  Goodbye to the dreams that would have been with you that were not meant to be.  And thank you; thank you for showing me that maybe having another baby is not outside of our reach.  For showing me that I am incredibly grateful for my soulmate, Brandon, who I know will weather any storm with me.  Thankful for the strength you made me find in myself to carry on and keep smiling, loving, laughing.  Goodbye dear baby, so long.