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.