Converse (or Chuck Taylor’s, if you will) have been an important part of my life for a long time. Steve and I were both wearing Converse when we met, and everyone knew that when they saw a little pair of Converse walking their direction that it was me. Recently in London I bought myself a new black pair as a souvenir and brought them home to join my white, blue, and grays. But it’s my green pair that mean the most to me.
I bought my green pair when I first started teaching, because they were the school colors (white, black, and green). Even though they were on clearance, I debated buying them. There were numerous doubts in my head: Should I spend the money when I didn’t know how long I’d be at my school? What if this was my last year? What if I wasn’t asked back? Would I be stuck with a green pair of Converse– a color I normally don’t wear?Would these shoes be ridiculous? Would I be trying to hard to have school spirit? Would the kids laugh at me? It’s weird what we remember, but I remember being in that shoe store pondering them. Purchasing those shoes seemed too hopeful, and I didn’t want to toy with hope only to get its evil twin, disappointment.
Feeling like a girl going to school the first day of wearing a training bra, I wore my green shoes. One of the assistant principals waxed nostalgic when she saw them and later on dug up an old pair and wore them to school. The kids began showing me their Converse when they wore them to school, and a couple of years later, another teacher purchased her green pair. That year I was not let go, but wasn’t officially invited back either. Instead it was an assumption that I would just return. Driving away for summer break I felt odd– I had worked so hard to make that transition from sales to teaching in such a short amount of time (for example, I decided to become a teacher in March, got accepted into a credentialing program in April, quit my sales job on July 4th, and began teaching on July 26th). Now all I had to do was enjoy myself for nine weeks and then go back and show up.
But it’s weeks like this one that makes me realize how far I’ve come from being that doubting, anxiety-ridden teacher (though I am still both, but about other things). Here are some things that occurred this week:
Observations: This week I had two observations. One was by my vice principal and the other by a leadership team. Before I would have been on-edge and nervous, trying to make my class as perfect as could be. Now, I’m not bothered by it. My vice principal and I shot the breeze while my kids did pair-shares. While the leadership team observed my students, my kids just went about their business like they weren’t even there. Everyone did what they were supposed to do, and they made me very proud.
Maintaining my temper: I can have a very bad temper, and I don’t mince words when I’m angry. In the past, I have gotten emotional and let my feelings overtake me. It doesn’t do much except freak out the kids. The biggest struggle has been to rein in my feelings. There were times this week when I had to quietly and calmly reassert my authority. There is much more power in staying calm. There is also much more power in getting angry less, so when it does happen, it packs a punch.
Letting my kids out: My seniors have been working on media analysis all week by studying rhetorical appeals and advertising techniques. Yesterday and today they’ve been working on creating a PSA power about how to be a successful student using the appeals and techniques. Normally I have my students post their work around school, but this time they are presenting their posters to freshman and sophomore classes. On Monday they will break up into small teams and each team will visit a specific classroom. There are eight teachers who are allowing my students to present to their class. Once my students heard they were presenting, my students stepped up their work, created scripts, and are planning to dress professionally (this is extra credit, but I don’t mind giving it since they look so cute dressed up). Before I would have never let my students out of my sight, and now I’m letting them go present elsewhere.
Clubs: Advising a club used to give me anxiety. I advised the Red Cross Club one year, and while we had some fun, the experience was just negative. There was a lot of needless drama, and I don’t do drama. The last couple of years I have advised clubs that are more my speed: Book Club and Academic Decathlon. In Book Club, I was the co-advisor. The main advisor was quite mothering and took care of a lot of their needs as a club; she is now retired. Through her doting, the leadership team did not have to do much. The club has mostly been filled with wishy-washy kids. They can’t make up their minds to save themselves (they’d have to decide if they want to be saved first). Now that the club is mine, this drives me bonkers, and I want the leadership to do more…. leading. I suggested this as an area of improvement, and they agreed. They are slowly gaining more leadership and making decisions.
In the meantime, my Academic Decathlon club has a new president, who is by far, way smarter than I am. I have also heard stories about how she can take charge of classes, push the teacher aside, and teach the students herself. So, I assumed my role would be relegated to pushing the power point button. I am, quite frankly, in awe of her. This past week they practiced algebraic equations on my whiteboards, while I stayed safely on the sidelines, unnerved at all of the numbers, lines and symbols appearing before me. The only chart my board has ever know is a plot diagram. She was in charge the entire time, and I felt superfluous walking around making sure everyone was signed in. She blew my role as benevolent host after the meeting as she debriefed me on the meeting and asked for my feedback on how I thought it went. It was nice to know that she cares about what I thought.
All Aboard!: Last summer for the first time I took students to London and Paris. We had a blast. It inspired me to put together another trip for next summer to Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales. If you told me when I first began teaching that I would take kids overseas, I probably would have said, “Yeah, right,” and cited Liam Neeson’s film Taken as a reason to not to do so. Neeson, shmeeson. The kids and I are itching for our next take-off.
Throughout all of my changes and growing pains, my green converse have been right there with me. They remind me of where I started, where I am now, and how many paths I have yet to walk.