Anyway-- I'm feeling reflective today. Almost emotional. I can blame the hormones, but really I think it's because I am filled with regret. When a school year comes to a close, you take a minute to stop and think about what you accomplished and what you didn't. I tend to focus on what I didn't accomplish-- what I set out to do, but didn't. What I hoped to achieve, but didn't. What I imagined myself doing, but didn't. This isn't the best way to think, but it is also where the biggest changes are made. Self-reflection is quite important in all areas of life, but in teaching, it is crucial. Teachers who no longer self-reflect are the teachers who are giving everyone else a bad name. Teachers who go on doing what they always have been doing just because it's easier, not because it's good for the kids. I have always been quite reflective and have never really been afraid of change. In fact, teaching is the one area of my life where I enjoy and embrace change. I love fresh, new ideas and strive to be the teacher that I would want for my very own children.
All that said, I now know that I have a lot of work to do this summer on my own mental perspective. I spent the largest part of my school year counting down the minutes, hours, and days until it was over. I dealt with "mommy guilt" so much that I missed out on opportunities to grow and challenge myself as a teacher. I spent the better part of 9 months complaining to anyone who would listen about how tough my job is. My job is tough, and I know it is...but that should be good enough. I shouldn't have to paint a billboard that reads I WORK HARD. My hard work should speak for itself.
Though I consider myself a good teacher with new ideas and a fresh perspective, I also consider myself to be a really great pity party thrower. This needs to stop. My dad congratulated me on finishing my 5th year of teaching and told me a rough estimate of how much money I've "made" since college. I quickly laughed and said that I have nothing to show for that. What a foolish statement that was. Aside from the material possessions I have accrued, such as buying a home, buying a car, buying a new camera, getting Noelle anything she could ever want, going to nice restaurants, having meals and clothes, putting gas in the vehicles, taking trips, and purchasing other luxuries that many people would really want, I also have achieved and experienced so much in my 5 years since college. A wedding, pregnancies, watching Luke graduate medical school, great memories with friends...the list goes on. When I look at it all in black and white, I feel quite rich, and quite stupid for making that comment.
Next year, I give myself permission to ENJOY my job and not to feel bad about being a working mother. I don't know how long I will be a working mother. I don't know how many years of teaching I have in me. I don't have a crystal ball and cannot predict the future. I don't want to pay for two in daycare. I don't want to be away from my babies. But this is a choice I am making-- yes, a choice. I could stay at home. In fact, I am only one of two wives in the entire residency who work outside the home. I could make it work on Luke's salary. We made it work on mine for 4 years. However, I am choosing to work because of the fact that I am good at what I do, I enjoy the adult interaction, and I enjoy (when I let myself) teaching children. Of course I love being with Noelle, and of course I am dreading leaving my new one, but I know that my relationship with Noelle hasn't suffered because of me working. I know that she loves me and she knows that I love her. I know that as a mother, I have a really great career-- there are 365 days in a year and I work 185 outside the home. Not a lot of other jobs allow you to work half the year. This is a blessing, and why I have been overlooking it for so long is beyond me.
I have been afraid of enjoying working outside the home because it feels like I should just be at home. It feels like I am making the wrong decision by being away from her and allowing "someone else to raise my child." It used to be that stay at home moms were judged because people didn't think they did anything all day except watch soap operas and do laundry (which of course I know that isn't true!), but now I feel like it's the working moms who face criticism because we're not home with our children and breastfeeding all day and blah blah blah. Why can't we as women just support each other? Why can't women who stay at home and women who work outside the home just recognize that we are all humans who contribute to society in our own ways, and we should be valued and respected because of that?? I'm guilty of it all, too...I'm talking to myself...but it's got to change.
I was searching the Internet for some classroom ideas just 20 minutes before starting this entry, and I came across a cute blog that got me all excited for teaching again in the fall. I then saw the picture and the bio and realized it was a girl who I had known in college and am still Facebook friends with today. She is married and has a little girl, but she still had time to create a cute blog with all kinds of great ideas and sound really excited about her life and her career and her decision to teach despite having a little one at home. I was suddenly inspired by her to be that way-- to embrace everything and realize that I could be like that, too. I could still be head over heels in love with my children and husband, but I could also be a damn good teacher and it's OK to be both. It doesn't have to be either/or.
So, I have a challenging road ahead of me. I know that my mindset will not change over night...but I know that with positive thinking and positive steps in the right direction, I can turn this around and look forward to a school year full of new ideas, new successes, and a new baby. :-)