Not Being the Best (At Least Not Right Away)

So today I found myself sitting on my prep period with relatively little to do.  It’s the second day of the semester so I don’t have any grading, and I’ve got all my planning done and handouts made for the week.  Still wanting to be productive, I decided to poke around Pinterest for some inspirational ideas to use in my classroom.

Holy moly.  Bad choice.  After about 32 seconds I was feeling like the worst teacher ever.  All I could see was how creative these other teachers are and how much I suck and am failing my kids.  I started pinning all sorts of ideas and trying to figure out how I can make my classroom Pinterest-worthy.  I started feeling overwhelmed, and then the paranoia kicked in a bit.

I did what I always do in times like these–ran next door to my mentor’s classroom.  I am SO SO lucky to have an incredible mentor teacher.  I told her how I was feeling like a giant failure, and she gave me great advice.  She said to close Pinterest and focus on tomorrow’s lesson plans (which, coincidentally, is watching a movie.  Hey, Hercules can teach them a lot about ancient Greece!).  She reminded me that I am a first-year teacher, and I’m not expected to be amazing right out of the gate.  I was thrown into a role that no one has done before (we are doing this weird block scheduling at my school this year and I”m expected to teach two different classes in my block) so my biggest focus should be on doing the best I can this year.  Then I have all summer to look at what I did, make adjustments, and add new things.

I needed this perspective in my life.  I’m such a perfectionist so I always want to be the best.  I have been overtaxing myself trying to add all these great things to my classroom, but in the end I was just hurting my students.  I’ve been tired and trying to do too many things that aren’t my style and don’t work for me.  I’ve been working on accepting that my lesson plans might not be perfect this year, and that’s ok.  As long as I give my students my absolute best every day (and make sure I cover the required standards) then I can consider my first year in the classroom a success.

I’m trying to apply this to other areas of my life as well.  If something isn’t perfect right away, that’s ok!  Life can be messy, and it can require some tweaking.  That doesn’t mean we just give up on things or that they won’t work out well eventually!  Any other first-year teachers out there who can sympathize, we will get there!


Graduation on a Budget

Time for a complete break from my posting themes of late!  I’m all half-marathoned out and have nothing more to share (well, I did get an email yesterday containing the proofs of pictures that were taken of me during the run and they are funnyyyyyy but they all have PROOF stamped on them in giant red writing so I won’t share–and sorry but I’m not spending $25 for the rights to one picture).  I’m going to shift gears today and write another DIY post.

I am the media specialist at a high school.  One week from tomorrow the 74 seniors at my school will be graduating.  I’m not sure how high school graduations work where you live, but here’s how things go in North Dakota: several weeks before graduation, students begin sending out graduation announcements.  These announcements almost always include invitations to the student’s open house/after-grad party.  Teachers often receive several/many open house invitations.  This is where I think North Dakota is weird, because my friend from Chicago did not understand that at all–maybe it has to do with the smaller school size and the fact that we are able to get to know more of our students.  

Anyway, as of today I’ve gotten several open house invitations.  I will not be able to attend any of these open houses because many of them are Memorial Day weekend and my youngest sister is also graduating that weekend, so I will be in Dickinson celebrating her.  Since I can’t make it to their parties, I want to give them a gift beforehand.  I know my dad (who is also a teacher) usually gets a card for every student who gives him an announcement and puts $10 inside.  That can get expensive reallyyyyyy quickly, and since I’m a new college graduate living on a teacher’s salary, I needed to think of a different option.  My thoughts immediately went to DIY, and I took to Pinterest.

It took about 7 seconds and I found a solution to my problem:

ImageDon’t you seriously freakin’ love Pinterest?

When I clicked the picture it just took me to a static image (one of my major pet peeves) but this was simple enough that I could figure it out.  I made my list and was off to Hobby Lobby:

-Mason jars (one for each announcement received)
-Black cardstock (I got one sheet for each student but that ended up being way too much–better safe than sorry)
-Candy (I had to go to Target for that)

That was it.  It was probably the easiest and cheapest Hobby Lobby trip I’ve ever made.  I took my supplies home and got to work.  

First, I used a piece of ribbon to measure the circumference of the jar.  It ended up being about 10 inches, so I cut strips of cardstock that were 10 in long and about an inch thick.  I debated on what to use as a connector, and ended up going with good ol’ Scotch tape. I taped the strips in a circle and then cut the top of the motarboard.  Here’s where this project gets a little embarrassing.  I’m a perfectionist, so I laid my ruler across the top of the jar and figured I wanted the diagonal of the square to be about 5 inches.  I broke out the formula for a 45-45-90 isosceles triangle and determined the length of the sides of the square (if you do this project you don’t have to be quite so OCD, but fyi for a 5-inch diagonal the sides of the square are about 3.53 inches).  I cut my squares and taped them to my circles.  Then I just filled the jars with candy, tied a ribbon around the top and voila!  My graduation gifts:



I think they are pretty damn cute.  Unfortunately, my Hob Lob was out of the 2014 ribbon so I just went with red (one of the school colors).  I hope my students (girls and boys) will like them, and best of all they were cheap.  I also got these gift bags at 50% off, tissue paper, and a card for each student.  With all those things included I spent about $6/student.  I took the time to write a pretty heartfelt message for each student.  The gifts aren’t much, but I think my students will think they are cute and appreciate the effort!

It’s Official

Hey y’all, it’s been a few days since I’ve posted.  A lot has happened in those days.  Most importantly, a lot has happened in those few days related to me potentially moving back into the classroom next year (yeah, the title of this post is a spoiler.  Sorry I’m not sorry).

On Tuesday last week I told the middle school principal that I would like to officially be considered for the 6th grade social studies/religion position that is opening up next year due to a retirement.  All he replied was “Excellent,” so I waited until Friday and then emailed him asking what the next steps are.  He said that all that was left for me to do was talk to the school chaplain about his expectations for a religion teacher.  I set up a meeting with Fr. Charles that afternoon.

I thought it was going to be a pretty relaxed discussion about the topics covered in 6th grade religion classes.  Wrong.  It was a full-fledged interview, and kind of intense.  He asked me about my personal faith journey and why I wanted to be a religion teacher.  Then he started asking me how much I knew about certain teachings of the Church (Theology of the Body, papal infallibility, teachings on homosexual people vs. homosexual acts, etc).  THEN he asked if I would take the state Know Your Faith test, which is a test administered to high school students around the state (the top scorers from each Catholic school make up that school’s Know Your Faith team, and the schools then compete against each other in Catholic Jeopardy.  It’s actually a really fun event).  The test wasn’t too bad, and he told me it wasn’t a make-or-break thing for the job, just something to give him an idea of areas I might be strong in and areas that might need work.

Well, Fr. Charles stopped by this morning to tell me that he gave the principal a “total endorsement” for me to join the religion department, and that he is very excited to work with me to see what we can accomplish in the department.  About 3 minutes later the principal came to my desk.  this is how our conversation went:

“Did Fr. Charles come talk to you?”
“Yep, he was here just a couple minutes ago.”
“K good.  You want it?”
“I want it.”
“Awesome.  I will let the business office know to open up the media specialist position.”

Five minutes later this email came:

Image(edited to maintain privacy)

So it’s official!  I will be moving back into the classroom next year!  I am very, very, very excited, but I’m also nervous.  I’m not so much worried about the social studies part of the job.  I have my degree in social studies, plus another teacher has 2 of the sections of social studies classes so she can help me.  I’m totally on my own with the religion classes.  Plus, part of me worries I’m not a good enough person to be teaching religion.  I mentioned this to the chaplain, and he said the most important things he looks for in a religion teacher is someone who loves God and loves the Church, who is excited, and who is willing to continually learn and grow.  I fit all those qualifications.  It’s just hard to feel a little underqualified since I’m not a nun and I’ve done my fair share of sinning in my life.

I hope this job is a sign that the really crappy part of 2014 in over and I’m entering the uphill part of the year.  I feel like I have purpose again; instead of wasting my days in the mindlessness of the World Wide Web I am now looking up tools and lessons for 6th grade religion courses.  I’m already getting nervous for next year, but it’s a good nervous.  It’s an anticipatory nervous, not a dreading nervous.  

Any advice/prayers would be most welcome!!