Passion Project Pause


Just when I finally feel like a valuable part of a team that is firing on all cylinders,  it’s time for a pause. The school district (my employer) has agreed I’ve earned a leave for next year. I can pursue my dream of learning Spanish and celebrating her many cultures.

I call it “Penny’s Passion Project.” For this term, I credit Tamarashazam, the fellow blogger and fun second grade teacher who operates in my neighborhood cluster at school. Since she’s nearby I get to hear Tamara laugh often and direct her charges all day long. One of the things I like most is hearing her encourage young writers. Oh and her love of pretend and costuming. In response to this photo a youngster who knew her well asked, “Hey, is that a wig?”

I am especially grateful to work near Tamara because this school year has been a bit of a bear for me. Who’d think that a work week consisting of two days could make for such an arduous stretch? After all I have been able to carve out time for two extended trips (to Europe and Nicaragua) and have earned health benefits. Most importantly I have meaningful work on my plate—counseling five to twelve-year-olds in an elementary school. And my colleagues are decent and well-led. I feel alive at Oak Heights Elementary and the time flies by.

So what is it? One factor is I work Thursdays and Fridays and this school has 640 kids. It’s the largest of its type in our district. That means I arrive each week when the train is already going at breakneck speed. I need a hand-up which is a lot to ask when everyone is so bloody busy. I’ve learned to appreciate help from several on the team.

That’s a key word at Oak Heights and every other school I know of—team—and I didn’t have a lot to contribute to this important concept at the beginning of the school year because I was a new staff member. While I have served children and families in lots of places over the years, it had been almost ten years since I had worked in an elementary school. Over time I have introduced myself (with my sidekick puppet, Mo Jo Banana Monkey), developed and taught classroom lessons for grades K – 6 on personal safety and anti-bullying, and created small group counseling opportunities for struggling students. Ordinarily I do like being given a clean slate to color on and this has been intense.

I took over facilitation of the Problem-Solving Team too, an operation where teamwork flourishes or flounders. I inherited a solid group of talented, dedicated educators but why should they have trusted new-to-them me to steer through the inevitable politics and riptides? It’s been rocky. We’re starting to navigate as one finally but it’s already May.

Rob thinks a harder year is helping me consider retiring someday, like he did six years ago. Maybe this is the nudge I need to leave consistent work in schools behind, work I have treasured by the way.

Thus I am thankful for the likes of Tamara…and several others. I’m glad I get to move toward another passion-filled effort that I am excited about instead of running away from a difficult task.

So, I’m finding this transition period at work, with classrooms full of eight-year-olds and their fabulous teachers surrounding me, to be bittersweet. Nevertheless, immersing myself in Latin America for extended periods sounds wonderful. And I’ll have more to give back when I return again to schools, churches, hospitals. After all, more and more bilingual Spanish/English speakers are my neighbors and there will always be bridging work here at home.





3 thoughts on “Passion Project Pause

  1. What is a Christian Mystic? When do you fly to Nicaragua? Will you stay there from June 23, 2018 straight through August 20th, 2019? Will Rob be going with you for the entire 14 months? It’s pretty cool. Have a safe trip and I’ll see you in August 2019.


    1. Luke, what about you? Do you blog regularly too? Or are you one of those ultra-great people who knows this is where you can find the better writing (as compared to FB, Instagram, etc) so you have a WP account that allows you to comment? Regardless, I like it. My (journalism major) daughter says what I need to do next with my writing sideline is develop my online presence. It’s exhausting to hear her talk about how to do that. I prefer the method of dropping a stone in a pond and seeing where the ripples go. Lord knows, I’ve spent enough time over the years of trying to push the river. Just seeing what happens is much more fun. Take care.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s