So the 2016-2017 school year is the past tense. I should be happy and content and my body should start to feel more relaxed. This weekend A already has left the house to spend his annual first week of Summer at the seaside with his grandparents and cousins. So this then means that I get to spend some time on my own and trying to detox. When it comes down to this I know so well the signs of withdrawal. On Friday evening I was still ordering professional reading material with promising titles such as ‘How to Use Questioning in the Classroom’ or ‘Visible Learning for Teachers’. After all I will never imply that I already know everything that there is to know about teaching. Also my biological clock is still in school-modus what means that around 6 in the morning my body is already awakening and my mind is up and about running wild.
It will take some time to get used to not having to get up and start worrying about many typical work- and school related things. Yesterday P and I just went out in the rain and walked to our favorite fresh market and we ordered some pre-dinner finger food and one glass of cider. It was then for the first time since Friday that I truly relaxed. Outside the weather was rather Autumn like and my shoes were wet but I felt relief. That the place was almost empty and the lounge like music that filled up the space might have added up to my state of mind but still… I sat there and my mind was blank and I just loved sitting there and living&enjoying the moment.
So I am granting myself just one more look over my shoulders before embarking on my summer that hopefully will bring bountiful moments filled up with sweet and bliss. Yes, airplane tickets and hotel reservations have been made and we know mostly where we are heading for but I am tremendously looking forward to just enjoying the stress free and ‘no-deadline-to-get’-time. After all it has not been a very easy going year. There have been those moments that I had lost the will to live. Moments that I was not allright and felt out of tune.
In case you are wondering:the educational amputated state I still sense. After all I have been asked to give up something that I tremendously love and cherish. Nothing has changed on that side of mind. The past year was in many ways rather a different story than the ones before and I had some very dark and emotional moments that made me feel rather empty and useless. Stallie knows so well that she takes a lot of things way too personal and takes many things to heart that perhaps many would consider not that important. Yes, I still aim for perfection in my job. And believe me, also my very driven coworker is.
My office/classroom looked at times like a battlefield and did depict my state of mind. Yes, deep inside I am a rebel when it comes in teacher. After all I have got this Han Solo figurine standing in a corner of my office. It is a constant reminder of who I am deep inside. Not that you will see me a lot acting like a die hard rebel or doing daring things that go against the stream. It is more in the inside that I am about to act like this Star Wars character. But still… for instance I don’t believe in one set of teaching strategies when it comes down to learning and teaching languages. One of my teaching mantras is:’It can never hurt to try.’
Yes, I have managed to try out new things with my students and I had the pleasure to embark this past school year with someone who is also very focused, passionate and driven. So we did manage for sure to change a few things and we also tried out many new ways of teaching. In many ways we both have tried to get the massage across how important we consider learning a foreign language. And not just Dutch but any language. Yes, we both take it very serious and have got very high expectations of our students. But also of ourselves.
I am fully aware that I am not the most easy person to work with. I take my time and yes, I not worry about a bit of chaos in cupboards or beyond. It is like I wish to point out that in my work space I am constantly moving around and that there is not time to be wasted. Still I have tried very hard not to change my classroom/office space into a mess. On Friday I even took along home our two colorful orchids to spend the summer with me at home. Last year I had forgotten about it and when I returned in September I faced a withered plant. It stood there and it looked like a rather bad omen that I did try to ignore it but you know me that I am little bit to much into superstition to do so. That not one but two made it to the end of the school year and stand her now on the windowsill and are both embraced by my 7 other orchids is surely an accomplishment!
Yes, I am rather happy that there have also been some educational accomplishments. Some of which I did consider rather mission impossible at the start of the year. I have been cursing many times at my computer screen or just slamming doors due to frustration, having lost my patience with people, situations or IT-issues. It has not always been all right. There were my notorious morning moods who without the help of George Clooney coffee, colorful coffee cups by Blond and patience I would have not been able to overcome. Plus baked goods and Haribo have helped me in cases of an emergency. Luckily my coworker U had figured that one out soon!
It has been a good year. Not my best ever but then I am very likely never ever to call a year my very best year ever due to me always finding something that could have been done differently or never ever would have planned in the first place. Trial and error is still part of my daily job. Still I am just very happy that I got to the end of the school year in one piece. That I managed to tick all the administrative boxes and that I made all the deadlines that were set by the management or by myself.
A school year is always unpredicted and in most cases it is a bit like that one box of chocolates mentioned by Forest Gump. September is always a gigantic question mark and by the end of October I wondered if I was ever are going to get the hang of it. November is the month in which I just tend to lose it all together and wonder if there will ever come an end to my worrisome state of mind and when I will feel content and satisfied in a class room. Once I started wrapping Christmas presents I even started to panic when looking at my term planning. Timing often is not on your side when it comes down to teaching and planning. January is the month where I tend to loose my voice and having to battle cold germs. When February showed up I felt rather like the groundhog who has decided that a deep hole is the best place to hide out in. March was the month in which I just wonder if the sun is every going to come back and if students are aware that it is still a long time to go till the end of the school year. In April I already started to write report card comments. In May I took deep breaths at the Dutch sea side and got sun burned due have forgotten certain aspects of the sun. And there was June where it suddenly hit me once more between the eyes…
June is were all the months come together where I can look over my shoulder and have to write that ISE document (a very lengthy self evaluation document that I honestly do like to write. Yeah believe sometimes those documents do make sense!) in which you have to reflect about your set goals and priorities I set myself. It is then I stare at my computer screen and can suddenly go very quiet and reflect about my past school year. Fair to say that there is always room for improvement and next year there are surely a few things that I wish to do differently. Professional and academic wise I can tick most of the boxes and call myself satisfied. Unfortunately when it comes down to my personal well being and state of health I think I did fail big time this year.
Yes, I have the last 10 months not taken good care of myself. I have lost myself amongst all the planning, worrying and never ever calming down the moment I walked into work. My brain has gone in over time more than once and I hardly ever felt rested. All my good intentions about going back to ballet or at least test out the classy gym at work none I actually ended up doing. My body and mind have barely survived this year and to be honest it is not something that I wish to repeat. The mindfulness button seemed to be in the permanent pause state. Not happy about that and there is no real excuse to justify what I have done to myself and my body.
Okay work sucks up a lot of my time and and energy. My time table is not completely filled up but I seem to have felt obliged to spend as much time as possible at work to get the work done and to stay on top of everything. In the short run this approach works but honestly it won’t work in the long run. Yes, as you can guess have I made some pledges to some people and myself when it comes down to this. We will see how I can keep these up. Still it is worth a try. In return I will get so much more. I have done it before and know that it is the best way forward but still I will need some reminding.
The only thing that is unlikely to change ever is having to deal with having to say goodbye every single school year. Having mentioned this before as being one of the less fun things of working at an international educational hotspot I know that June is the month in which I am forced to let go many people. Not only students and believe me there are many who I am going to miss next year in my classroom. Some are off to some very exciting places and will have to start from scratch when it comes down to finding their way around in a new school, getting used to many new rules and having to try to make new friends. All of this is not easy peasy and so in the international school world friendships are looked at from a different perspective. Also when you are a teacher.
Over the last 5 years I have already ‘lost’ a few extremely passionate, driven, creative, wise, daring, rebellious, IT inspired and child centered colleagues/heads/principals. Some of them I got to respect and they did learn me a few things about teaching that I will never forget. There are even a few ones that I dare to call friends and those I still miss daily. So the rather teary emotional state I end up in the last week of school I will never get used to. This week many top notch teachers & one head have said goodbye and momentarily I can not see the silver lining in this. But then you can only wish them the very best. It is their decision and their life not mine. The memories I created with most of them I will cherish for the rest of my educational career.
When I on Friday closed my door of my office and walked towards my car I felt relieved but at the same time I felt sadness. Driving home is then trying to put things in the right perspective and coming to terms and that in September I will meet up with new student and coworkers who are are also very anxious. Most of them also hope that this place will bring what they are searching for when it comes down to teaching and education. So I can’t wait to meet up with these new educational souls after all what Jo Cox said about diversity counts also in the world of education. We do have more in common than what divides us otherwise you not last a long time in this profession.
As you might can tell by now has it been a mixed school year when it comes down to many things . It has not been always easy and so it has not been the easy ride. Still I am still breathing and and knew what I need to do in order to breath easier and find more energy. So for now I am going to dive into some lighter reading and trying to tackle Outlander book 4 and reading up on Stockholm where I am heading for in a few weeks with A. Hereby I wish all my fellow educators the best summer break they are after and that they will be able to take in a lot of vitamin D and feel refreshed by the time the new school year is showing up on the calendar. Keep breathing you all great educators you just wrapped up an other memorable school year.