Remember Who You Are

family-stone-1

The Family Stone is a movie that has become a regular in my Christmas rotation…and sometimes at other times of the year as well.  Amy Stone, played by Rachel McAdams, is the youngest of a family of adult siblings gathering for Christmas.  We find out from one line in the movie that she is a teacher, and her profession has no bearing on the plot of the movie at all.  And yet, because I know she’s a teacher, I’m attached to the moment in the movie when she arrives at her parents’ home.  She drives what would be generously described as a budget-friendly car.  She hauls two large tote bags of work.  She’s so crabby about it that when one of the bags falls in the snow, she angrily throws the other one down, too.  She has her clothes in a laundry basket – no stylish luggage for her!  And best of all, she seems to have thrown on the first eight pieces of clothing she saw.  She is so overtaken with the rest of her life that their is no energy left for putting together a presentable outfit.

In this one small moment of the story, I think Amy Stone is the most realistic depiction of a teacher that I’ve seen in movies or television.  I mean, maybe it’s exaggerated a bit for cinematic effect.  Maybe I don’t look quite as frazzled, maybe my car is more of a small, shiny red budget-friendly choice than a hand-me-down heap, maybe I travel with my clothes tossed into a giant ThirtyOne tote instead of an old basket…but that scene definitely captures how that overlap between the work week and family time can feel.

The last three weeks have been brutal.  The kind of brutal that makes me wonder if Starbucks is hiring.  The kind of brutal that makes me want to watch this little 10-second scene over and over again to feel that I’m not alone.

DEVOLSON, or whatever.  Except that I’m not sure Thanksgiving break will make it go away.

A little voice inside my head has been saying, “Remember who you are.”

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I feel overwhelmed.  I feel the stress tangibly in my body, with stomachaches and a tightness in my chest.  I feel like I can’t get the bare essentials under control, and there is no hope for going above and beyond or actually excelling at anything.  I’m not ready for conferences, or the sub for my half-day meeting, or for the meeting I have with the literacy coach in two days, or even for my own teaching time tomorrow.

Remember who you are.  I am a living being, always in a state of change, flowing from one emotional state to the next.  This stress feels so strong that it feels permanent, but it isn’t.  Time will pass.  I will sleep.  In 24 hours, I will feel a little bit different.  In 48 hours, even more so.

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I am focused on the data.  I have graded and analyzed the math tests from every possible angle.  I have a large collection of action steps I can take to respond to how the students did.  I want to pack them in, to fill our math workshop time with as many productive moments as I can.  I want to prove my superhuman capabilities.  I want to show my worth by raising my students’ scores impressively.

Remember who you are.  My value does not rest with the data.  My value does not rest with how well I do my job.  My value would not be proven by math scores, and my value would not be increased with superhuman time management and productivity in the classroom.  My value is proven by the fact that I am here.  Every breath in and out is evidence that I am worthy of a place on this planet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am too busy for community building.  I am too busy for classroom management.  I am too busy for relationships with the students.  If I have a 2-minute conversation with each of them, that’s an hour of our day, gone.  We don’t need to address behavior.  We can just hold it together, one hour at a time, day after day.  We don’t need to talk about it.  We need to do reading and math and writing and number talks and intervention time…

Remember who you are.  My calling is to build relationships, to create a community of learners.  To do all things with great love.  We do need to talk about it.  We need daily practices of sharing those “star stories” (things that happen that match our classroom agreements) and solving the problems that arise.  We need daily doses of playfulness and humor and connection.  We are not robots, and I don’t want to hold it together one hour at a time for the rest of my career.  I want to let the mess of relationships and character building into our day.

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I am too busy for the needs of my soul.  I am too busy for stillness and solitude.  I don’t have time to light a candle, write in my journal, read something uplifting.  I am too busy for the needs of my body.  I don’t have time to exercise, to cook real food, to sleep.  When everything is non-negotiable, everything gets negotiated.  The math doesn’t work.

Remember who you are.  I am an eternal being.  Eternal.  The math is irrelevant.  “The same power that rose Jesus from the grave / the same power that commands the  dead to wake / lives in us.”  A good Jeremy Camp song can do wonders.  “We will not be overtaken / We will not be overcome.”  I have more power than I can feel when I am busy thinking about the math.

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This season will be over soon, friends.  Or not.  Either way, remember who you are.

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