My brain is in a million places at once right now. Yes, this is the same for all teachers at the start of a new school year, but as the coach of a fall sport, it's back-to-school-teacher-brain combined with the urgency-of-coaching-brain. My time and energy are focused in two related but separate directions, and my stress is multiplied. Last week was both the first week of classes and our first Cross Country meet of the season. Today, I needed one thing: to focus on the best parts of the day instead of the stressful annoyances.
Practice was short and easy tonight. We have a meet tomorrow, and I like to have something relatively simple the day before: a few easy laps of our grass course, and individual sit downs with each runner to reflect on the last meet and set goals for the next. Then some yoga before we take off for the night.
Tonight, as we were waiting for the last few runners to come in from their laps before we started our group yoga, I slipped into typical teacher mode and asked a question to the group for everyone to answer. What was the best part of your day today? I called on the first eager kid, then had them popcorn around the group until we heard from everyone.
Some kids were excited to spend time with a best friend in a certain class. Some kids were excited because school lunch was decent today. Some were excited because they snuck in a nap or some Netflix during study hall. One kid was pumped that he found a Pop-Tart in his laptop bag that he'd forgotten about.
Some didn't know what the best part of their day was, so we decided for them that the best part was Cross Country practice with the CGD XC family.
Finally, after all the kids had shared, they asked me what the best part of my day was.
At first, I drew a blank. I'd just spent 15 minutes asking them, and I couldn't do the same. What was the best part of my day?
And then the flood started.
The best part of my day was when my colleague thanked me for the letter of recommendation I wrote for his application to grad school. He complimented my writing skills and was genuinely grateful.
The best part of my day was when two former students who are now seniors came in for their first day as my student helpers.
The best part of my day was the Meme of the Day email and website that Myriam (my XC senior girl and all-around fabulous human being) sends out every single morning of the school year.
The best part of my day was that I get to spend my day talking to teenagers.
Then we did our yoga. And as we stood around in a sloppy mass, kids deciding who was going to hang out or grab food after practice, one of my quiet boys came up to me.
"Mrs. Hauptsteen, actually, the best part of my day is probably that today is my birthday," he shared in a barely a whisper.
"It's your birthday? Happy birthday!" I couldn't hide my excitement. Birthdays should always be celebrated.
And then every single kid on the team huddled around him and we sang "Happy Birthday" at the top of our lungs without any planning or discussion. They gave him hugs and well wishes. They gave him some love on his birthday.
As I sat there watching my team, my little family of misfits and rebels treating each other with simple kindness and love, that was the best part of my day.
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.