Eleven Pennies

Seeking Opportunities Among the Final Days of School

293ED7D6-7A2B-452C-A40A-207E388EE6B4 (1)208 days ago, I did something bold.  I started writing goals in my journal as if they had already happened.  I had heard about doing this type of forward writing, and also seen first hand that focusing on the action rather than words like, “Want to, hope, wish, try” is key.  Almost every day for the last 208 days, I have written, “I work at my Dream Job”.  Last fall I definitely enjoyed a number of things about my job, but had chosen to let the things that frustrated me get the best of me, and cloud my view of teaching. When I looked at other careers I got frustrated and felt like the grass was definitely greener on the other side of the fence.  I found that I began to fixate and get frustrated about the few things that bothered me.  The days felt long, and became jealous of people who really loved their jobs.

At the beginning of April, I decided to make a list of what my, “Dream Job”  included.  I found that the first half of the things I wrote down were actually a part of my job right now.  This exercise helped to give me a new perspective on what I thought was important.

At the start of May, a few experiences I had as a parent also gave me a fresh perspective on what I could do differently.  First, my oldest son, a seventh grader and his friends would routinely finish his work early.  After a few days in a row, the teacher suggested that they bring something quiet to do after completing their work.  That was when he informed my husband and I (also a teacher), that he had brought a deck of cards to play poker.  As we both laughed, took a deep breath and explained why cards were not the best choice; for first time in a long time, I saw a kid, a kid who did not mean to bug the teacher, but one who just wanted to have fun and fill the extra time in class.  I have those same kids in my classes.

It was the next day, that I challenged myself to see my students differently, and assume the best about them.

A few days later, I was offered a glimpse.  The idea being able to observe something about your life, while having enough time to make changes, reminded me of The Family Man;  one of my favorite movies.  Main character, Nicholas Cage has an opportunity to see another version of what his life could have been like.  As the movie comes to a close, he realizes he has an opportunity to change the future and be a better version of himself.

My glimpse came in the form of frustration that my middle son was experiencing at school.  Due to end of the year stress, family medical issues, and a chatty class that was ready to head to middle school; there were moments that his teacher became frustrated.  While it was valid at times, it was still tough to hear him talk about it.  I began to wonder how often I had been the “difficult” part of a student’s day.  I know that there had been several days over the spring that I was stressed out, and had not been in the best of moods.  Fortunately, my students had given me a lot of grace throughout the year.  While I am human, and some moments in the classroom are better than others, I realized that I had to require more from myself. I love a good challenge.  And so, one was born.

What if, with about a month left of school, I forced myself to not let the little things get to me.  No matter how overwhelming an hour might get, I would try and remain calm and collected.

Having high expectations and requiring work and responsibility from the students would certainly be enforced.  No, they would not be able to get away with things; but yes, I could do a better job at offering strategies and redirecting them.  Rather than just being frustrated with a student, and feeling as though I might explode inside, I looked for an opportunity.  I looked for opportunities to impart wisdom and strategies that might be useful even after my class.

As someone, who loves spending time with her husband and kids, catching up on good books, extra time to run, traveling and enjoying the summer; yes I am excited for June 14th!

But, rather than thinking, “Only 11 days to go”, I now think, “I only have 11 opportunities left”.

In November, I wrote about using a marble jar 116, 92, 68 – I am grateful that spoke to the importance of making each month count.  I had been searching for a way to recognize being intentional about the moments in my classroom.  Last night,   I gathered 11 pennies, and put them into a plastic bag and then tossed the bag into my school bag.  Each penny would represent opportunities I had for the day (through my assignments, the encouragement I would give, strategies I could teach, the positive attitude I would display, and the compassion I could show.)  At the end of the day, I would to reflect on the highlights, and be grateful for the opportunities I had.  Because patience is stretched at the end of the year, the focus would be on how I overcame tough moments.  Once a penny is taken out of the bag, it, just like the day, cannot be returned.

As the year comes to a close, my mindset has certainly changed.  My job is not perfect, and there are defiantly days when I am really excited that the final bell sounds.

Lately,  I have been fixating on the positive things that I love about my job.  I am discovering this might really be my Dream Job.  And, it is my responsibility to be creative and find a way to make my job the best that it can be.  As Rachel Hollis, author of Girl Wash Your Face, says, “If you don’t like something, that’s on you.  Change it.”  When I think about the amazing things that have happened with our Student Council Leadership Team, the opportunity to get to know my colleagues on a deeper level, the growth and collaboration among students, the success of our environmental team and journalism class, I am in awe of the excellence I have been surrounded by this year.  So, one penny at a time, the 11 coins in my school bag have begun reminding me that the grass is becoming the greenest right where I am, and I have one of those jobs I was jealous of 6 months ago.  Last week on a Twitter Chat I said that I loved my job.  For the first time in a long time, I really meant that.





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