Showing God’s grace in everything I do. This has been my prayer for the past few months, and one that will probably serve me well forever!
I don’t know where I’ll be next fall, but I know I’ll be somewhere new! I officially checked the “No” box on my letter of intent for next school year. Most people think I’m crazy to close this door before another one opens, but I just KNOW it’s my time to move on. I love everything about my area and my job, and honestly could see myself staying here forever. That’s exactly the problem though – with nothing to kick my butt in gear, I could easily just stay here. And as much as I do love it, I have always wanted to travel the world.
Right now, with nothing to tie me down, I figure I better take advantage of this freedom and travel. Of course, I’ll miss my friends here and I’ll miss being only 2 hours from my family. I’ll miss the school I’ve worked at for the past three years and the community I’ve become a part of. I’ll miss getting to have past students stop in to say hi and I’ll miss living in Northern Virginia. I’ll miss my proximity to D.C. and all the fun times my friends will keep having here. BUT. Life is a collection of missed and taken experiences. There’s nothing I’d rather do right now than attempt to create my next adventure, and to see what kind of experiences I can fill this next phase of my life with.
This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I just like posts better when they have pictures…and this was the only picture saved on my desktop..so here you go.
Nothing beats the feeling of a completed to-do list. Especially when you get it done in the morning and have the whole afternoon with nothing hanging over your head!
In college, I remember having huge page long to-do lists that I followed each week. It helped me fit in my class assignments, work study hours, and student teaching lesson planning. I remember including things like grocery shopping, working out, showering, and even calling my mom on those lists as well!
Lately, I haven’t used a list as much. Normally, my weeks are pretty routine and I have specific times I do most things. If I do have something additional to do, I pretty much tackle it as soon as I’m able to without needing to write it down. This week though, I had acquired quite a long to-do list and had planned to do it all today on my day off! (Election day, yay!! Side note – GO VOTE!!!! There’s really nothing else like being part of a nationwide decision.) Before going to vote, I woke up and got right to work doing a few tasks on my computer and phone. I called the airline I’m flying with this weekend about foot accommodations, called about some doctor’s bills, cancelled an online subscription, and completed a few other odds and ends. After that, I deep cleaned the whole house. I haven’t been able to do it since before I hurt my foot, so I feel GREAT being able to relax in the freshly cleaned space. I also showered and made myself a yummy lunch before walking to my polling place and voting. After getting back, I cleaned the entire inside of my car, too. I was really in a cleaning mood!
Having completed my list now, I feel so content. And it’s only 3pm! I feel more and more like myself again as my foot heals little by little. I didn’t realize how much it had pushed pause on my normal life. It seems obvious that it would, but lately I’ve been so ready to just get back to normal! Having and tackling this to-list is such a small, but happy thing for me, and it’s just one of those things that makes me feel like ME.
This random feeling of happiness over something so small is also such a Sarah thing, and I’m happy for that too!
My next overarching to-dos are to research teaching internationally and to research logistics for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. I’m getting antsy and I’m ready to do something BIG!!
As I crutched it out of the school building today about an hour after dismissal, a friendly voice called out, “Hey, Ms. Rogers, how’s your foot doing?”
I paused and looked up to see a boy riding toward me on a bike. As he got closer, I squinted to peer at the face under the helmet. He looked familiar, but I still couldn’t quite place him. My mind whirred as it finally clicked the pieces together – he had been a student in a classroom in my hallway either last year or the year before.
(As you can tell from that account, my memory isn’t the greatest – especially with placing faces. Earlier this year, I talked to one of my former students, and I couldn’t remember if I had her last year or the year before….and I only had those two options! And she was my own student! I don’t think I’ll ever be that teacher who remembers the name of every kid she’s ever had. But I already get teary-eyed when I reunite with many of my former students, so it’s not that they don’t make an impact on me and become a part of my life forever. ❤️ Plus I eventually remembered which year I had her..that just doesn’t bode well for 10 years down the road when I have many more classes to think through.)
As recognition dawned on me, I smiled brightly at the boy. He slowed his bike as he approached me, pedaling slowly. “It could be better,” I replied honestly, “but it is healing!” He smiled back and continued on his way, a “cya!” thrown over his shoulder.
I continued crutching to my car, but the smile stayed on my face. As simple as that interaction was, it’s situations like those that I’ll miss so deeply when I move on from this place. Even just being a third year teacher, I’m a part of this community. Kids in younger grades whisper my name excitedly as they talk about what teacher they might get in 5th grade (along with tons of other great teachers in my school!), and those older kids who have gone to middle school keep in touch by writing me emails and they spread the love by telling younger kids how lucky they’d be to have me as a teacher.
I am fully a part of this community, and I love it with all my heart. I love going to sporting events, choir concerts, and plays at the middle school to see my past students doing things they love. I love volunteering at the family market that provides food to many families in my district. I love being a known teacher at the school with kids waving and smiling every time I walk anywhere.
I know that nothing can replace the spot I have in the lives of the students who have been in my classes over the past 3 years, but sometimes I feel guilty for planning to move on. I won’t be a part of their community anymore. I always remind myself that being comfortable somewhere is never a good enough reason not to explore other places in life, but it’s definitely moments like these that pull at my heart strings and make me know that this community will always hold a special place in my heart.
Last year, at Open House night, a student came running in waving a paper excitedly. Open House night is the first time the students see who their teacher is. “You’re at the top of my list for what teacher I wanted to get, and I got you!! How lucky am I?!” she chirped excitedly as she hugged all the air out of me while showing me my name at the top of her handwritten list. She went on to explain that I had subbed in her room for a bit one day last year, and that from that moment on she knew she wanted me as her teacher. As I thought back to that day, I had to laugh! When we’re short on substitutes, teachers are sometimes assigned to cover a classroom for half of their planning period. At the most, this would mean I was in the girl’s classroom for 30 minutes. I remember walking into the fourth grade room, sitting down, and looking out at the students as they worked on worksheets that they had already started. I think I introduced myself and said something about how some of them might be in my class next year, but I’m pretty sure that was the extent of it! From that small interaction that I barely remember, this girl had chosen to hope and wish and write a physical list with my name right there at the top. Small moments often remind me how big of an impact we can have on someone else (especially kids) without even realizing it, and this was definitely one of those moments.
At the same time, moments like my interaction with the past student on a bike also remind me what an impact such a small situation can have on me. It’s often these tiny, unobtrusive moments that most make me stop and think about how much I’ll miss this community I’ve found for myself here. ❤
***Warning: This post contains some talk about injuries and medical procedures that might make some people squeamish. Proceed with caution!***
A little less than a month ago, I was on the phone with my mom while lounging in the hammock out back. Things had been winding down after the craziness of moving into a new place and then starting a new school year, and I finally felt that I had some free time. I believe my exact words to her were, “I’m almost bored at the moment…” I followed this up with my excitement to join a gym, a church in the area, and to volunteer some of my time each week, but lo and behold, those fateful words had already been uttered.
A few days after the conversation with my mom, my roommate and I were getting ready for our housewarming party. We had spent all morning cleaning, organizing, and prepping food, and there were only about 10 more minutes before guests would start arriving. My roommate’s boyfriend and a few of his friends were already there, and we were just doing a few last finishing touches. I decided this would be the perfect time to empty the dishes that had been drying in the dish strainer. Without paying too much attention, I took all the pieces of the food processor and sloppily pieced them back together. Carrying them toward the pantry, I was going to get the box out, set them in it, and then place it back on the shelf. My roommate was standing next to me when I used one hand to open the pantry door. All of the sudden, I dropped the whole food processor. As it fell, I sort of stepped back – kind of just moving my feet like you do when something is falling toward them. At that moment, I felt an intense heat in my foot and then saw blood start to gather on the rug. “Who’s hurt?!?” was my first question! I looked down and realized it was my own foot, and I immediately ran to the kitchen to try to save the rug. (When renting this house, the owners had been very particular about the rug so my roommate and I are always SUPER careful to keep it looking pristine.) Amazingly enough, everyone sprang into action without too much freaking out. “Why did this have to happen!!” I complained as the boys there started giving me orders to sit down and elevate my foot and put pressure on the wound. The blade had gone right into the bottom of my foot and had sliced pretty deep – somehow I had dropped it and then stepped on it all in a matter of a second! I yelled to my roommate to just focus on the carpet, because it really was a huge mess and I knew it would be good for her to focus on that instead of my sliced open foot. A stool was shoved under my foot, a towel was wrapped around it, and my friend Eddie grabbed on and started applying pressure to the wound. I knew I would need stitches immediately, and after pulling the towel back to quickly look, the boys agreed with my initial assessment.
Without any conversation, it was decided who would come with me to get all fixed up and who would stay behind to welcome the guests that would be arriving any minute. As I was carried out the door and placed in the car, I smiled for a picture before we went on our way.
The two friends who ended up coming with me were really the perfect balance of seriousness to get things done and silliness to keep me distracted and happy. We joked that we were getting a true bonding experience after only having known each other for a few weeks. Our first stop at patient first ended up being pointless. The nurse and doctor took one look at how deep the wound was and sent us packing to the ER. When we got there, it had probably been about an hour from the time I had first gotten hurt. By this time, the adrenaline was wearing off and I have to admit I cried a little as I told the ER receptionists my phone number and address. I pulled myself back together though and went through the process of getting X-rays and talking to many doctors before finally someone came to do something with my injury. I do have to mention how kind everyone was in the ER. Especially compared to the first people we talked to at Patient First. In the ER, everyone went out of their way to make sure my friends could stay with me, and everyone was kind and welcoming. The attending doctor first came in to check out the wound. After getting my ‘okay,’ the doctor brought in some nurses who were just starting and a few other people just to watch the process. She told me that she was going to numb the area with a shot..and I made the mistake of asking if that shot was going to go near the wound. I should explain that up until this point, I hadn’t really felt any direct pain from the wound. I mainly kept being scared that it would hurt, and I was scared by how much blood was coming out, but it wasn’t actually painful. After I asked if the shot was going near the wound, she calmly and matter-of-factly explained that the shot was going IN THE WOUND. That didn’t go over so well with me, but I also knew that it just had to be done. I held my friend’s hand, covered my face, and told her to keep telling me stories as the doctor got the shot ready. As the needle started to poke at the wound, I started loudly vocalizing my thoughts!!! Listening to stories just wasn’t enough to distract me from the pain, so I had to yell things. “I THOUGHT YOU WERE ONLY DOING ONE NEEDLE. WHY AREN’T YOU DONE YET? OMG IF I’M THIS LOUD NOW IMAGINE ME WHEN I GIVE BIRTH.” I kept up a random stream of consciousness for a good few minutes until she was done. As I peeled my hand from my face, I sheepishly blinked up at the bright lights and the amused smiles on everyone’s faces. I did feel a bit silly after all my commotion, but hey, it helped!
After rinsing out the wound to really see what we were dealing with, the attending doctor decided it was deep enough to call in the resident podiatrist. As soon as he walked in, my friends started making googly eyes at me. He was quite the cutie. That distracted me as he checked out the foot and decided it would be alright to stitch it up. Eleven stitches later and I was finally good to go! They chucked some crutches at me and sent me on my way.
I started getting used to life on crutches. Spoiler alert – it’s really hard! You can’t carry anything because you need your hands to work the crutches! I started carrying a backpack everywhere so that if I needed to bring anything anywhere (which happens pretty much constantly), then I would have some way to transport it. This works pretty well, although the backpack does put me off balance. One time it was too heavy and I stood up and then promptly toppled back over..putting weight on my off-limits foot on the way. Not my best moment on crutches. Even so, I was figuring life out.
I set up a follow-up appointment with the podiatrist, and just hoped he’d tell me the stitches would heal in a few weeks and I’d be good to go……
Fast forward to the appointment, and I sat in the chair trying with all my might to follow his instructions and bend my toes. My big toe just wouldn’t bend! I could move it up and down, but couldn’t get it to make the bending movement. The doctor thought some of this could be attributed to my foot being swollen and bruised, but he wanted me to go get an MRI just to be sure I hadn’t sliced through the tendon that makes your big toe bend. He was able to schedule me an emergency MRI for that same afternoon, and let me tell you, an MRI is an experience in and of itself!
The next day, he called and shared the news that I was hoping to avoid. The MRI had shown that I had, in fact, sliced my tendon, and there was a 6mm separation in it. Although technically I could choose whether or not to get the surgery to repair the tendon, he shared that with me being young, active, and a runner, he would definitely get the surgery to make sure I could get back to doing the things I love.
So, last Friday, I had surgery to repair my tendon. While doing the surgery, the doctor actually found that I had sliced TWO tendons – the one to my big toe and my second toe. He fixed them both and said that everything else went well. He also ended up putting some nerve endings inside some muscle so I wouldn’t have nerve pain either. That sounds so gross, but if it will be good in the long run then I’m glad for it!
I still can’t believe how intense the recovery is for this surgery. At first, before the surgery, the stitches had run in a straight line across the arch of my foot. Now, I have an entire Z taking up most of my foot! I was in a lot of pain for the first week, and I still have some intense bouts of nerve pain, and then random pain near the stitches and in my toes. I can’t put any weight on it for three weeks, and then if all is going well, I can switch over to a boot. I have a huge splint/cast that goes from under my foot all the way up to my knee. I still can’t believe that all of this is happening. I’ve barely ever needed to use a bandaid in my life, and now this!
My students have been amazing during this whole process, and so has my Virginia community down here. People have been sending me well wishes, getting me recovery gifts (someone got me a brand new knee scooter!!), and making dinner for my roommate and I since I had the surgery. I feel overwhelmed by all the kindness.
In about 2 weeks, I’m flying out to Seattle to visit my brother and sister-in-law. I’ve had this trip planned since long before my injury/surgery. It should perfectly work out that I can switch to my boot right before traveling, so I hope everything goes as planned! I have a post-op appointment each week, and I even squeezed an extra one in last week. During that appointment, the doctor said things were already looking even better than they had been two days prior.
I’m still counting down the days until I can wear two matching shoes! Not only that, but I’m counting down until I can start running again, going on walks, taking care of Kato, walking around while teaching, taking a normal shower, going hiking, riding on my dad’s motorcycle, and so much more! This whole experience has really put things in perspective. Although I often consider myself lucky, it’s an entirely different feeling to actually have to put those things you normally do on hold. When I get back to doing all of my favorite things, I hope I can really hold on to this gratefulness for all the things I often take for granted.
When I was traveling to Ireland and my canceled flight led to a 24 hour layover, I spent a lot of time with a woman who was going to be on my flight. We enjoyed our meals together and hung out and talked as we waited to get on our flight the next day. One of the stories she shared is something that has stuck with me as it relates to my current situation in a way. She talked about this person she knows (let’s call her R), and how R is always moving around in life. R has a teaching degree and has had many jobs in various states over the past few years. She constantly moves to a new area, tries it out for a few months, and then decides she doesn’t like it and moves somewhere else.
When I first moved to Virginia, I was so overwhelmed by all the newness – my new job, my new apartment, my new dog, my new area. I was kept so busy by it all, and with keeping in touch with my old friends, that I couldn’t even really have an opinion as to whether or not I liked my new spot. I was pretty taken with my job right away and I was liking hanging with Kato and relaxing, but it didn’t necessarily feel like home at all for the first..6 months maybe. Thinking about R and her quick decisions about whether or not a place was home for her made me think about what my decision would have been if I had to make it so soon after moving somewhere. A year and a half later, I can fully say that I love my area, the people there, my job, and everything about it. I do have a tendency to grow where I’m planted, so it’s not surprising to me that I’m happy where I am, but if you would have asked me 6 months in versus now, my answer would have had different emphasis.
You have to give yourself time to adjust and enjoy a place, and to fully explore all that somewhere can be. Even to become close to new friends, you have to give it time. One of my very best friends right now is a friend from my new area. I wouldn’t have told you this would be the case a year ago!
If I could give R some advice, I would tell her to slow down and give it time. It’s completely okay for a place to not be right for you, but it needs a fair chance to be explored for all that it can be.
Usually, I would rank myself pretty well in terms of keeping things in perspective. One of my favorite life strategies to get me through something that is hard/nerve-wracking/intimidating/etc. is to think about myself after whatever the event or situation is. For example, when I was presenting at the National Council for the Social Studies Annual Convention a few years ago, I was a little bit nervous (okay a lot nervous!) for my presentation to start. I was also excited and grateful to be presenting, but nervous nonetheless. Whenever I felt myself getting nervous in the days/hours leading up to my presentation, I would picture myself 24 hours after the event (or even just 5 minutes after!). Hard things pass too, and it often helps me to picture myself going about my normal life even after going through something embarrassing, hard, or scary – because that is how it happens, you do go about your life normally after getting the hard thing out of the way! It’s my way of telling myself that it will all be okay.
This works in phases of life, too. Last year, at the start of my first year of teaching, I found myself staying late after school, bringing work home every night, working till bedtime, and even working through most weekends. As I created lessons and trudged through some of the challenging first-year work, I was able to think about how all of the work I was doing then would help me in the future. I knew that it wouldn’t always be like that and to appreciate it for what it was.
Today, Kato had a vet appointment. As the vet and I chatted, he told me that it was great to see me working so hard to give Kato a great life and that he really gives me credit for all I’ve been through with this dog. This really made me step back for a moment and think about our journey together. Even through all the times I contemplated whether my house was the best place for him, I always ended up coming back to the thought that no one else would put up with this craziness! The vet shared that this really is the case, and with a surplus of dogs out there, people would normally put a dog with this many high needs down and just get another and start fresh. Of course, this is not always the case, and there are a great many people who would probably go to much greater lengths for their dogs than I even have for Kato. During the last year, when I was really going through some hard times with him, I didn’t really have my perspective in place. Yes, I would often tell myself, “It’s just one bad year for 10 good ones,” which really is exactly that perspective I was talking about, but it wasn’t sinking in as much as I would have hoped.
A little over a year later, I’ve finally found that perspective that I was looking for. When I come home now, whether there’s a mess to clean up or not, I greet him with the happiness he deserves. When he randomly chooses a stranger to be wary of and growl quietly at, I sometimes think, “well, maybe you were creepy,” instead of, “GEEZE KATO WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!” Basically, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt so much more. I used to really think in a ‘grass is greener’ perspective – thinking about all the other perfect dogs out there, and why couldn’t mine be like that! Now, there aren’t times that that thought doesn’t cross my mind, but I really have a new perspective on this little dog laying next to me right now. He definitely isn’t normal and he definitely has his own range of high needs, but who else could love him as well as I do?
I’m flying to Ireland in two days!!! Beyond excited!!!! Although I should probably start packing………
“What do YOU love about being a teacher?”
This caption accompanied a post on Facebook about World Teacher Day today, and I knew it wasn’t something I could answer in just a sentence or two.
I’ve been amazed this year by the similarities and differences between my first year of teaching and my second year of teaching. And while I loved my kids so much last year, and everyone who knows me knows how much I always gushed about them, there’s something amazing to me about the fact that I can love my group this year just as much! But this year, my love for them is different – it’s so much more apparent to me and easy to articulate in so many ways. Last year, I remember talking about how lucky I was to have such a great class. I joked around with people that I might have a rude awakening this year if my new students weren’t as angelic as last year’s. I also used to say that I wasn’t sure of my impact on the group, and that this year would be telling to see if last year’s group was just magical or if it was my leadership that set the tone for the year. I’ve only recently come to realize that me calling my kids angels last year and talking about how “good” they were was just my way of sharing how much I loved them. In all honesty, they weren’t angels! We had an amazing year and I wouldn’t change anything about it, but it wasn’t as if I went to school each day and could just sit back and watch them interact perfectly and teach themselves! Lots of teaching, prodding, and encouraging went into these kids every single day. I was exhausted at the end of each day, but I left feeling that my kids were such good kids because I saw the way they worked to grow and learn each day. Even when they messed up, you could feel the love between us under the surface and we knew it would be okay. As a first year teacher, I wasn’t sure how okay it was to profess your love for your class every day. And while my coworkers joked because I did talk about how great my class was ALL THE TIME, I still did it in a way that wasn’t quite putting into words what was really going on.
This year, I LOVE my class and I LOVE their hard work and I LOVE their enthusiasm and I LOVE their eagerness to adapt and learn.
I don’t need to call them angels or say that they’re perfect to know that I love them every day. In the days before this year began, I tried to think back to whatever “magical” thing I did last year to create our classroom dynamic. I couldn’t pinpoint any specific thing, so I just knew I’d have to wing it again this year and use everything I learned last year to make this one even better. Now that we’re almost done with the first quarter, I can again say that I don’t know what magical thing has been done in our room.
What I can say is that my kids feel the love from me every day and this is something I now KNOW. This makes a difference, and it only makes me approach every day with a fresh heart and positive attitude so the love in our room can keep growing.
In our room, love looks a little like this (I’d like to add to/rearrange/reword this list and potentially make it into its own post – but for now, these are the things that make my heart happy every day):
The kids give me spontaneous hugs as they come back from lunch because they missed me while they were gone for 25 minutes.
All my students drag their chairs around my desk during our quiet work time so that they can work right next to me.
When there’s no homework written on the board, someone always adds “come in with a positive attitude!”
After two students had to write their names on the board today for goofing off in line, they came to me at separate times to apologize for their behavior (this is definitely not necessary and they know that once an issue is taken care of we all move on, but them caring enough to apologize shows me they respect and care for me, too).
Yesterday when someone said that our new math topic was easy, that same student chided himself for saying it and reminded everyone that we needed to keep the whole class feeling safe in the classroom. Hearing these words from a student’s mouth in this way reaffirmed everything I’ve known about kids hearing your every word and taking what you say to heart.
We only allow positive attitudes in our room, so my kids cheer when it’s time to write notes, take quizzes, or do anything else equally boring. A quick, “do I hear complaining?” takes care of any stray comments we get in the 8th week now that might not be wholly positive.
I make sure to verbalize my thoughts to the kids. Today before sending them off to specials for their first block, I took a minute to share how proud I was of their hard work and their determination to try a new testing strategy we learned last week. I shared how I was grading papers at 11pm last night with a huge smile on my face. And I shared that I was so happy to have them in my class. This took less than 1 minute, but the proud looks on their faces didn’t come off till much later! 🙂