Ever since I started actively running a few years ago, I've wanted to share that love of running with my students. I got my coaching endorsement and have been a middle school girls' track coach for the past two years. Middle school sports are essentially a social activity, at least in my district. Yes, there are certain sports that are very specialized and have a strong AAU presence which makes them more serious, but track is not one of them. As a middle school track coach, the main job is teaching the basics of each event and giving everyone a chance to participate. High school is when it gets serious. I love running, but I don't love Track. Probably because I don't run on a track (unless I'm really focusing on speed work). I've always felt more drawn to Cross Country. Partially because I love distance running and it's not confined to a track; partly because I like the type of kid the sport attracts. The hardcore stereotypical jocks seem to be more inclined to go for football and volleyball; the misfits flock to distance running.
The XC coaching position in my district opened up this year. I applied immediately, and waited as patiently as possible to hear word. The official news came last week: I'll be coaching Cross Country next year. A coworker and I will work as a team for all boys and girls XC runners in grades 7-12. Our goal is to build the program and make our runners as healthy and competitive as possible. My other main goal is to spread the awesomeness of running as far and wide in this community as I can.
My feelings about this change based on the given day and time. I'm thrilled, of course. This is something I've dreamed of for years. I'm also terrified. Middle school track is nothing compared to varsity Cross Country. I have so many plans laid out and expectations for myself, and I know the pressure from parents will be there, too. I'm excited to have this opportunity to keep in touch with former students and to build athlete-coach relationships. I'm scared I'll let them down and won't live up to expectations. It's a new adventure, and I hope it's a successful one.
I've had my student teacher since we came back from break at the beginning of January. That means it's been four (going on five) long months since my classroom has resembled anything normal. "Normal" being relative since I teach middle school English, but still. I'm ready. I was ready at least a month ago. I adore my student teacher- she's been the best possible experience I could have asked for, but this experience has made it so clear that I need to be in the classroom. I need to teach. I've missed it so much, and now that the end is in sight, I can't help my excitement. My ST's units will wrap up at the end of next week, and then I'll come back in for the last week and a half of her placement in order for her to have some time to grade papers and finalize her portfolio.
I end the year with Shakespeare in both 7th and 8th grade, and the excitement and nerves are stirring. I get nervous every August when school starts up again, training myself to be on all day when I'm not used to being the center of attention. Even though I've been here all this time, I definitely haven't been a major presence in my classroom for the past two months. I'm ready to throw myself back in full-force, and Shakespeare is the best way to ensure I'm at the top of my game for the last month of school.
Lesson planning is usually my least-favorite endeavor since it requires me to be organized and plan ahead, and I like a certain amount of spontaneity (which I always allow for by making my plans in a rough outline style). Today, I've been in the back of the room, giddily plotting out the time, two weeks from now, when I'll return to my favorite role. I'm sure the transition back will be rough in some ways, but for now I'm daydreaming. While many teachers are probably counting down to the end of the school year, I'm counting down the moments until I can really feel like a teacher again. In fact, when another teacher approached me this morning about a 7th grade field trip on the last day of school, I flat out refused to be one of the teacher chaperones. I've missed so much precious time with my 8th graders over the past few months, I won't sacrifice my last chance to be with them before they move on to high school. I'm ready.
Remember how naive I was a few months ago to think having a student teacher would free up some of my time? I'm busier than ever before, hence the hiatus from writing here on the blog. In an effort to keep myself from going crazy while not teaching classes, I somehow ended up piling on more work to fill my days at school. At this point I'm counting down the days until I take my classroom back so I can rest a little from other obligations!
One major thing occupying my time right now is that I was chosen for my district's TLC grant-writing committee. Imagine that: English teacher was nominated when writing's involved! The Iowa TLC (Teacher Leadership Compensation) grant provides funds for school districts that create a system for at least 25% of the teaching staff to take on teacher-leader positions within the district. Teachers who take on these roles are compensated with salary increases based on the specific role. This process has only just started for us, so I'll write more about it later.
We had a TLC planning meeting with an AEA rep (oh, teaching, and your endless acronyms!) yesterday at a neighboring school district that's also starting their grant work. As we were leaving, a familiar girl appeared next to my principal, crying. It was one of my former students, a girl who was only in our district last year as an 8th grader. She was a sweet girl, and had spent years in foster care. I had her as both a student and a track athlete, and she developed so many skills over the school year.
The thing that saddens me the most about my job is how many kids I lose track of once they leave my classroom. I think it must be hard for every teacher to think of all those relationships we've created over the years, and how they all eventually move on. I rarely know what happens to any of them after 8th grade unless they make the effort to seek me out and keep in touch. I know it's important for kids to move on. The goal is to create independent, successful (future) adults, and part of that is knowing that they don't need me anymore once they reach a certain point on that path.
I was surprised to see this freshman girl sobbing in a completely different school district, when I didn't know she'd left ours in the first place.
I did the only thing I could think of. I hugged her tight and told her that I didn't know what happened (assuming the only reason she'd be elsewhere is that she'd been removed from her foster home for some reason) but that I knew she was a strong girl and that she would be okay. I told her she knew where to find me if she ever needed me, and then I had to say goodbye while she stood there in tears.
I spent most of the car ride home feeling like an idiot. Why couldn't I think of something better to say? What could I have done? Why didn't I know something had happened to her? Did I fail her in some way by not being able to comfort her?
And then I moved on, because that's what teachers have to do. There are always more students who need us.
I opened up my email this afternoon to find a message from that girl. She told me how great it was to see me, how she appreciated that I told her she was strong. She quoted Ray Bradbury from work we'd done in my class last year, and mentioned that she's still out for track at her new school, and how someday she'd really love to run in a 5k with me again. She thanked me.
I was there for her when she needed me at that small moment in time. I didn't fail her. My words were enough.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.