And suddenly, it’s 2015. The year of the distant future, to which Marty McFly traveled in Back to the Future. Seems like just yesterday I was a big-haired, gum-snapping teenager, watching this film at the movie theater, trying to imagine life in that science fiction-like setting. Yet here we are, having survived the ominous Y2K, but still waiting on the world that “doesn’t need roads.”
One week into the new year, the sky is a cloudless blue and snow covers the frozen landscape, conjuring images of a Norman Rockwell Christmas card. But looks can be deceiving, and Mother Nature loves to remind us that she’s in charge. The temperature today, factoring in wind chill, is a frigid -20F (-29C), forcing school cancellations, which gives me an unanticipated day off. Even we weather-hardened Chicagoans have our breaking point.
The last time I logged into WordPress was so long ago that it took me a minute to remember my password. I’ve been grievously absent from the blogosphere for nearly two months, but not without good reason.
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you probably know that by profession I’m an elementary school teacher. You probably also know that a few years ago, I resigned from my job to take a part-time position in the same school, in order to be at home more for my family.
Then last spring, when a good friend and former teaching colleague shared the news that she was expecting her first child, and she wanted me to cover her maternity leave, I immediately agreed to do it. Although I substitute now and then, I’d been away from full-time classroom teaching for three years, and this would be a great opportunity to refresh my professional skills.
The call to start the maternity leave came unexpectedly in mid-November, a full three weeks before my friend’s due date. Even though I’d told myself–and her–that I was prepared to jump in any time as her due date approached, I was still taken completely off guard that morning (as was she, naturally)! I skipped the shower and raced to the classroom to orient myself, knowing I’d have to wing it for much of that first day.
In the weeks since, the class and I have fallen into a comfortable routine; dare I say we’ve become a well-oiled machine. The riding-a-bike analogy is aptly applied in this scenario — you really never forget how to do it — but nonetheless the learning curve has been steep, as so much has changed in the profession in the last three years.
I’ve become reacquainted with everything that goes into being a good teacher: the over-scheduled, exhausting days; the sleepless nights spent worrying about struggling students; the stacks of papers waiting to be graded; the to-do list that never gets any shorter. But there are also the priceless rewards, namely, the simple acknowledgement of a job well-done from students, colleagues, administrators, and parents.
These weeks back in the classroom have been rife with reflection, and it’s help me come to three irrevocable conclusions.
First, despite the day-to-day stress and the ugly politics in which my profession is mired, I come alive when I step into the classroom. Somehow the long list of negatives falls away, and I’m reminded it’s all about the kids. This is what I’m meant to do.
Second, this is the one thing in life I at which I truly excel. I’m a decent wife and mother, an okay writer, a mediocre cook, and a so-so runner, but I’m a good teacher. I can say this with confidence.
Third, as much as I love to write, I will likely never pursue it as a career as I’d once dreamed. I’m not even sure I’ll make the jump from writer to author, and I’m no longer convinced I want to. Writing will always be something I love and look forward to in my spare time, and deep down I think I want to keep it that way.
So where does that leave this blog?
The short answer: I don’t know. Having a web presence doesn’t seem as urgent as it once did, and if I have no intention of pursuing a career in writing, what purpose does a writing blog serve? As many times as I’ve considered disappearing into complete obscurity, I’m reminded of all the wonderful people I’ve connected with over blogging, and how much I’d miss those connections and camaraderie if I never blogged again.
Perhaps a reinvented blogging identity is the answer, but right now I have no idea what that would be.
Finally, as much as I’d love to jump back into the teaching profession, now is not the right time. Doing the job well is all-consuming, and it’s the main reason I resigned in the first place. As a teacher-and-mother, I struggled to find the balance, and too often my job took priority over family life. That’s not the kind of mother I want to be.
So for now the plan is to enjoy the remaining weeks of being at the helm of a classroom, and then return to my part-time job in February. It will be hard to let go of the class, as I’ve come to think of these students as “mine.”
I’ll continue to pop into the many blogs I follow from time to time, but I’ll be pretty scarce until mid-February.