Looking Back on the Year

It’s our next to last week. Next week our students have final exams, then summer! I have to say I am very ready for summer this year. This has been one of the most challenging years of my teaching career, and of my life. I have been walking through the grieving process of losing my mother, and walking through some very challenging things at school. I’m tired, frustrated, disappointed, and ready to have this year be over, and figure out how to do next year better.

This is the first year that I have been actively utilizing twitter. I’m so grateful for the PLN I have been building this year, I have met some wonderful educators, learned some incredible things, had a lot of my teaching practices and beliefs validated, and generally enjoyed discussing, questioning, being questioned, challenging and being challenged, learning new ways to view things and meeting new colleagues. I think some of this has been causing me fatigue, I have often spent an hour or two on twitter after work and perusing it during the day when I get a chance to keep up on conversations and trying not to miss those wonderful lesson ideas or discussions regarding topics that help me to create better lessons for my students. While learning and stretching myself, it has also caused me to spend less time in rest or non-work related activities. I think that finding a balance is very important and definitely more healthy.

My students have been challenging this year. They have really fought learning, desiring that I lecture, model problem-solving, and give them guided practice, in general, teaching in a way that I just don’t do well or at all. It has been a long struggle to get them to begin questioning, engaging and desiring to learn and dig deeper, and I am definitely tired from that. We are now reviewing for finals next week, and some students are beginning to desire to understand the material (as usual) when they realize that grades will be final next week. I am encouraging them to dig in still, I do pass students for the semester who pass the final, but also try to let them know that it is a lot of hard work to pass a final if the work has not been done consistently throughout the semester. I really do hope they are able to do it, I want to see each student pass, even the ones who have aggravated me through the year with their refusal to work or put in any effort.

Lastly, our district has decided to put “academic specialists” in place at each school site and a couple at the district level to help with implementation of common core and to support teachers. I have applied for several of these positions and we are going through the interviewing process now. I think we are all feeling the time crunch of this, not only do these specialists need to be chosen and put into place, but there will be many teaching positions that will become vacant because of these changes. These last two weeks of school are a crazy time for this, and we are all feeling the pressure, however, trying to work together to make this process as easy and smooth as possible. It will be exciting and interesting to see how everything comes together, and how we will create a strong district level PLC to support math teachers at all levels across our district. My hope is that this will be the start of strong learning and teaching throughout our district, and that common core will no longer be something to be feared and stressed about, but an enlightening journey that we create to improve instruction and learning outcomes for all our students.

One journey ends, another begins.

Moms and Learning

On this Mother’s Day I am finding myself thinking of my mother. She passed away just about one year ago after a lengthy struggle with alzheimer’s. I had the opportunity to care for her during her last four years, two in my home, and the last two in a memory care home. The changes that occurred in my mother caused me many different emotions, some pain, some joy, some anxiety. There is a lot of emotion tied up in a relationship with a mother, and caring for them as they decline can cause many lines to be crossed, and a struggle ensues over having to step up and “mother” your mother.

I really struggled with this at first. Having to become a parent to the one who raised me, loved me, encouraged me, disciplined me, and generally was the strongest force in my life was very difficult. Making decisions for her, having to tell her what she needed to do, when she needed to go to the doctor, what she needed to eat, caused a terrible struggle within me. It felt so wrong to be making these decisions for her and to be the one taking charge in her physical care. I finally came to grips with this mainly due to the help and support of the alzheimer’s association. They are a wonderful, caring group of counselors, and people like me, who have experienced the devastating effects of this disease in their own homes and lives. Watching someone who was a very vital part of life become so childlike and dependent is extremely difficult.

I was reading Audrey’s blog this morning about her mother. I found myself identifying with this completely. My mother also loved books and when we had to move her to the memory care facility, I felt the most important thing to make sure she had with her was her books. Due to spacial considerations we decided only one bookcase could go. It was difficult to decide which books to place on this case, it was important that we chose every item sent with her with extreme care. The things around her needed to give her a sense of peace and home, things that gave her the good memories and safe feelings. Some things can create such anxiety in someone with alzheimer’s and it is important to avoid these things as much as possible. One thing we did make sure to keep with her was a doll given to her by a friend. This doll gave her someone to care for and often was the one thing that would calm her in times of extreme anxiety and stress.

I miss my mother. She was a amazing person. She raised my sister and I, worked her way up in the hospital from a medical records technician to an administrative position, encouraged my sister and I to go to school and become successful people, volunteered in many enterprises in the community through her sorority and personal interests, was an energetic and active grandmother to four grandchildren, painter, singer, and dancer.

The dancing kept her joyous at the end. She could often be seen dancing around the halls and the dayroom in the memory care facility, and often the care workers would dance with her. Even in her confusion, she brought smiles to the faces of many.

I miss my mom.