I don’t know much about being a teacher. I’ve only taught in a public school system a few times as a substitute. For several years, I homeschooled my children.
On second thought, I know one thing about being a teacher: it’s hard work. Really hard. So hard, in fact, that I changed my major from early education only a month or two into the second semester of my freshman year of college. Back then, I knew my limits.
Now, I’m a student. Again. This’ll be the third time I’ve taken on the title, having already completed a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. I’m a long way from that coveted piece of paper, having only finished one semester of a three year program. But I’ve already learned something.
I’ve learned a lot of things, but one particular concept keeps coming up: being a student is hard. Really hard.
When I was a kid, our parents moved us across the country. It was an adventure that turned horribly wrong for me and ended up shaping my life forever. One event that occurred was entering the third grade. I started it in one classroom, in a particular school district, in one state, and finished that same grade in a different classroom, in a different school district, in a completely different state.
Math got harder that year. As an avid reader who had no trouble at all with reading comprehension, I could not wrap my brain around mathematic formulas and story problems. I still have trouble with those things and am constantly in awe of my children who can take the most complex math classes and come out on top.
Who am I kidding? I’m just always in awe of my children. They amaze me on a daily basis with their courage in facing life and all it throws at them.
Anyway, back in the third grade, I came home with a particular math homework assignment and was struggling. My mother was attempting to help me, but my whining and complaining got loud. At one point, I distinctly remember crumpling up my paper and shouting about how stupid the whole thing was. Did I mention it was really hard?
Enter: my father.
Let me warn you that if you’re expecting a mushy father-daughter, father-hero moment to be written in the next paragraph or so, you’re going to be disappointed. Maybe he’d had a hard day. Maybe there were serious, adult worries on his mind that I wasn’t privy to. Maybe he was unhappy at having been woken from sleep by a shouting eight year old.
I honestly have no idea. He never told me what was on his mind that day. All I know is that I was on the receiving end of it.
Words were thrown about. Feelings were hurt. I cried.
He disappeared into the bathroom to shower and get ready for work, leaving my mother to deal with me. Leaving me to figure out the complexity of that math assignment.
By the time he emerged from his long shower (sometimes I think he spent so much time in there to avoid all of the hormonal drama that living with a wife and four daughters brings to one’s life), my homework was done. I was feeling better, though not amazing, about the whole experience.
“We figured it out, Dad,” I remember telling him.
His remark wasn’t one of praise. He didn’t remind me with a fatherly hug that having a tantrum never solved anything. He didn’t tell me that he knew all along I was smart enough to figure it out or remind me to thank my mother for sticking it out with me.
I walked away from that homework experience feeling…stupid.
To this day, I struggle with math concepts. I struggle with maintaining my composure when I’m frustrated with something. Not knowing how to do something still has a way of reducing me to tears. Being a student, of anything, is hard.
Even after all these years, after several accomplishments –academic, career, personal, and otherwise. I know I’m intelligent. I know that not everyone excels at everything. I know that not everyone knows all things. Being a student, of anything, is hard.
Now when I’m learning something new, I don’t tantrum, though I have been known to shed a tear or two when the assignment turns out to be something I simply can’t understand. I’ve also been known to shy away from tasks that involve so much learning that it appears a neon sign has been put above my head, shouting for the whole world to see: Look at how stupid she is! She can’t figure it out!
Now when I’m learning something new, I have a hard time being a student and reveling in the fact that what I’m doing is learning. Although I’m proud to be working toward my third degree and proud of having completed the last two, I find myself panicking at the thought that somewhere, someone, is ashamed of the fact that I wasn’t born already knowing the things I’m studying. I find myself scrambling to prove that I do know things and that this learning I’m doing isn’t that big of a deal nor does it require that much investment on my part.
When the truth is: working on this degree is hard. There are things about this academic path that I don’t know anything about. I do need to invest time and energy into learning these things so that I can improve in the writing world. It’s not something I can just skim over the top of and walk away with a genius crown.
Being a student, of anything, is hard.
With a new school year starting, I hope for two things. Three, really.
1. If you’re a parent reading this: remember that being a student of anything is hard. Sometimes, it’s really hard. Forgive your kid his or her tantrum and give that kid a hug. As a parent, it’s your job to not only help them with their homework, but to teach them how to better express their feelings than through tantrums.
2. If you’re a kid reading this: take a deep breath and keep trying. Don’t give your parents such a hard time. They may be going through something difficult right now too. Maybe your mom’s job is really hard. Or your dad is going off only a few hours of sleep. Maybe a million parenting, adult-like things have happened or are happening right now and they’re just trying to get through the day. Thank your parent –for helping you with your homework, for working, for giving you life. Being a student is hard work, but being a parent is oftentimes a thankless job.
3. I hope you have a really great school year. Whether you’re a third grader, the parent of a third grader, an adult learner, or a teacher. Study hard. Breathe deeply. Learn a lot. We’re all in this together.
Most of all, I hope you don't give up on learning. Grow as a person. Teach others. Learn much. #beyou
It’s almost our fifteenth wedding anniversary and we’re almost out of groceries.
All these years together and three academic degrees between us –you’d think scrounging for a meal wouldn’t be on the agenda. You’d think we’d be living the easy life with dinners out and full cupboards.
Before you get stressed out over our plight, let me say: we’ve been down this road before.
Wait. That probably doesn’t help.
This time, it’s different.
This time, there’s money in the bank. There’s some food in the freezer –it just may or may not be the ingredients to make a great meal. Salmon and popcorn, anyone?
Another difference? There isn’t a brood of children tagging behind us at the grocery store, confused and worried when the younger-than-us cashier tells us our debit card doesn’t have the funds sufficient to pay the bill.
Yes. We were that family.
No. Our children weren’t removed from our care due to reports of starvation or neglect. They’ve simply grown up.
This time when we’re about out of groceries, we’re smiling and not fretting. We’re eating whatever is available. Yesterday’s lunch of re-heated mixed veggies with a side of peanut butter crackers was actually quite filling. And late last week when dinner was going to be a third appearance of a meal made earlier in the week, we went out to dinner instead.
Because this time, we’re not almost out of groceries due to a shortage of funds. We’re almost out of groceries because when we placed our bush order, the store was overwhelmed with orders and it’s our turn to wait in line.
This morning’s breakfast consisted of an English muffin and our daughter’s mini boxes of cereal rejects. Frosted Mini Wheats for me and Corn Flakes for him. The cereal, along with two other boxes are remnants of our daughter’s camp out sleepover from the night before.
There’s an egg in the fridge. It’s nestled between the half full container of mustard and a single serving of salsa. The latter is completely devoid of even a hint of spicy flare. It’ll languish there until I unearth the ingredients for a catch-all stew in need of diced tomatoes. It’ll be a while –diced tomatoes are something we have an unhealthy abundance of.
But the egg? It’s not going anywhere.
At least not until our bush order gets here and other eggs take up residence alongside it. Or we find the necessary components to pair with it to make a half a cake or a dozen cookies. Or our daughter decides to cook for the giant puppy we brought home in June.
Neither hubby or I will eat that egg for breakfast. I know that to be a fact. I’d offered it to him yesterday in the wee hours of morning before we’d had coffee.
He declined. We both ate a piece of sausage and a piece of toast.
That egg –that’s the real difference between being almost out of groceries after nearly fifteen years of marriage and being almost out of groceries back in the honeymoon stage of our relationship.
That one lonely egg represents so many things:
· A litter of children grown into young adulthood
· A cross country move to remote Alaska
· A change in lifestyle –gone are the three cars in the drive. Now there are two bicycles in their place.
· A lasting love that has made it through parenting, financial struggles, and countless moves
· The constant love of God through all of that and then some
So this morning, I’m smiling and bordering on deliriously happy. I’m also quietly contemplating putting that single egg in a shadow box on the wall as we get close to that fifteen year celebratory date on the calendar. I’d put the shadow box in its rightful spot –next to our framed wedding photo.
This last decade and a half haven’t always been easy. There are equal amounts of never posted, sad, and scary moments that counter those happy, joyful Facebook posts.
Yet there isn’t another man on this planet that I’d have wanted to be with through all of it.
He is my knight in shining armor. He is the provider for our family. He’s the man of my dreams. And the guy who has my heart.
According to this writing prompt that I picked out the book 642 Things to Write About everyone has a special skill. Everyone. Including you.
On a day following a day when I felt about this big (put your forefinger and thumb about a millimeter apart) when it comes to understanding a certain aspect of my day job, knowing that I have a special skill is just what I needed to read. And it got me to thinking about you. –You being whoever is reading this blog post and what your special skill is.
Anyway, getting back to this special skill notice. We all have one. Me, you, our neighbors, the postman, and even the guy driving in the car next to you on the highway.
What’s your special skill? Maybe you have more than one. If you’re having trouble coming up with one, ask someone you know what they think it is. I’ve found that asking a kid a question like this will usually result in the most honest answers. Kids are like that…except when they’ve eaten the last cookie. Then, they’re special skill is being able to lie through their teeth while crumbs are covering their chubby little cheeks.
As you mull over your special skill, try to refrain from identifying a self-deprecating skill. None of this: I’m great at being negative or I’m great at being late to all the important appointments in my life. After all, if someone asked you what their special skill is, would you give them some kind of snarky comment in response? Probably not.
So, don’t give yourself a snarky comment in response to identifying your special skill. Just admit that you have one already. It’s okay –everyone else has one too!
When you figure out what your special skill is, celebrate it a little bit. Have a cookie –assuming the kid in your life hasn’t eaten the last one. Take a nice walk and enjoy the weather. Pick up your favorite book and read for a few minutes. Do something to celebrate being you.
I'm not writing much these days. And I hate that.
This morning, the urge to write hit me hard. For over a year now I'd made writing a priority. It was the reason I got up at 4:30 in the morning five days a week. It was the thing I had to do every day before going to bed. It was an addiction. An addiction that I liked and was proud of.
Now? Now, I've fallen off the wagon of writing every day. Now, I've replaced writing with "homework" and the joy of writing languishes in the back of my head, waiting for that glorious moment when all the right words -and only the right words- make their way into the forefront of my head and out the tips of my fingers to grace the blank page in front of me.
And I hate that.
I hate it that writing has become more work and less of art. I hate it that life events -happy or sad- have interrupted my morning ritual. I hate it that I'm spending more time not finding the time to write than I am anything else.
Reading (for school) has taken the place of my writing time. And while I love reading (though this last book was not as enjoyable as I had thought it would be) I don't want it to replace writing. In my writing world, reading has become what the scale always becomes when I'm trying to eat healthy. -A compulsive need that gets in the way of eating right.
Similar to logging all those blasted calories -gone is the point of taking care of myself and being healthy as it's replaced with many times a day stepping on the scale and scouring my smartphone for the correct calorie count of whatever it was that I'd eaten.
Instead of enjoying all of the words (even the lousy ones) that spew out of my brain and my heart onto the page, I'm too busy focusing on word count or getting just the right word down or reading so that I can learn more about the craft.
But what's the point of learning more about the craft if I'm not going to apply what I've learned? Isn't that the importance of learning?
It's something I need to work on. I'd been writing daily for weeks. I'd been working on overcoming the nonsense that goes on in life that was stealing a week of writing every month. I had come so far! And now, here I am, back at square one again. I'm not even keeping a notebook by the side of my bed anymore! -I know, shocking, isn't it?
So, I'll resolve to be more aware, to be more focused. And to find a way to balance all the aspects of school with my love of writing. I hate to think I'd come this far and be at the point in my life where I can actually study writing only to not write anymore. That would be ironic, wouldn't it?
I'm going to do what everyone does when they reach this stage of change. Or at least what I think will help me to make a significant change (again). I'll seek out a writing buddy to help hold me accountable. I'll resolve to write a thousand words a day -even if it's only journal writing. Because...well...journal writing is good for the soul and because it could end up being the start of something literary. I'll work on my novel -not just talk about working on it. I'll use writing prompts. I'll carry my notebook and look for something -anything- in my ordinary day that might help me dig deep enough to find the words that beg to be written.
Here's to Tuesday. To finished novels. To an MFA. To fresh starts. To a new resolve. Here's to writing.