Sometimes, I forget about my colleagues. Teaching can be very isolating. I open my door and students pour in. When the bells chime for class to start, I shut my door and start working. About eighty-five minutes later, the bells chime and the students pour the door and are replaced by another set.
I shut my door because I’m loud.
I shut my door because I’m easily distracted. And between students poking their heads in my door because I have a couch or the incredibly distracting sight of the security man riding at breakneck speeds down the hall (on his bike), I don’t need anything keeping me from trying to do my job.
Note, the word is try.
Loving my students is easy. They are good, kind people who want to do well. They fill my pockets with the currency of their smiles and I sometimes feel like I’m moving from one happy moment to another. Sure, I have frustrating points in my days. But, for the most part, it’s easy to love what I do thanks to my students.
But I sometimes forget about my colleagues. Right now, sitting beside my computer is my newest Thomas Kinkade Disney puzzle. This one is from Tangled, and it’s Rapunzel clinging to the wooden boat, her hand reaching out to touch the lanterns undulating through the sky.
I love this scene from the movie. And I forgot how much I loved doing puzzles until the lovely math teacher who used to share my room gave me a Cinderella puzzle for doing nothing more than peacefully sitting in my room and hanging out with her kids because her sub forgot to show up.
You see, surrounding me are the bits and pieces of my daily life at school. And deep within those bits and pieces are not just my students, but, most of all, my colleagues.
I am not thankful for my math-colleague because she gave me the puzzle. I am thankful for my math-colleauge because the size of her heart can’t be contained with a box that holds 750 pieces.
And this is merely a representation of so many of my other colleagues.
Yesterday, as I was grading, my door opened and in strolled another math-colleague. This one was the woman who invited me to attend her husband’s music recital. For fifteen minutes, we sat on my couch and talked. Just talked. Nothing serious. Nothing important. But she pulled me out of the cold shell surrounding my desk where I miserably peered at my computer because I had forgotten my reading glasses at home. We talked about music. We talked about children. We talked about how much we love our jobs and how much we love our families and the dichotomy of being working moms who desperately want more time with our kids but still love coming to work each day.
And I’m thankful that I work with people who understand the conflicting poles to my life. I want to be with my children. And I want to be at work. And neither of those are bad, but they make me feel bad because being a good parent is usually portrayed as giving up everything to be with my biological children. But being a good teacher is usually seen as giving up on everything else to dedicate my existence to be with my academic children. And, if I’m not careful, I will destroy myself with those polar opposites and then lose everything.
But I don’t. Because I work with people who remind me of the joy of balance, who craft beneath me a cushion lined fulcrum and keep me from tilting too far to one side or the other.
Today, we had the English Department Secret Santa Exchange. I love doing stuff like this. I hate buying gifts when I’m not certain if the person is going to like them, hence why I feel nervous about secret Santa gift exchanges. But this year’s organizer sent out a survey (like last year’s organizer) and I had a list of ideas with which to go shopping. And go shopping I did.
The reason I especially love secret Santa gift exchanges, though, is that I am continually surprised by what I receive. My children and husband give me great gifts. They give me exactly what I ask for. Which is fantastic. Except that I love the joy of shredding the wrapping paper and gasping with joy at the contents hidden beneath.
Today, the organizer turned out to be my Secret Santa. And as he handed me my gift, I felt the rush of excitement. The gentleman who organized the exchange is someone with whom I have been working for several years. And for a year, our classrooms were directly across the hall from one another. I, being the mischievous old woman that I am, took to throwing things across the hall, namely my shoe. I also gave him Christmas lights, not to celebrate the holiday, but because they are pretty and sparkly and fun and rather distracting (hence why I try to teach with my door shut).
My son, when he was still a middle schooler walking to the high school, loved chatting with this gentleman. This colleague took the time to greet my son, ask him about books, ask him about life, about school. Because of those times, my son’s investment in his education grew and I was always so thrilled that my son had people who genuinely cared about and for him. I knew that no matter what happened, my son would always have a support structure.
In the last year, my life has changed so much. I moved to a new classroom. I started working with new students. I have dedicated my life to change and have dropped twenty-eight pounds (keep on coming off, dear ounces. Please keep on leaving). I want to be fit. I want to be outside. I want to live.
And so, when I filled out the Secret Santa Gift Exchange Survey, I noticed that some of my answers had changed. One question, in particular, was about favorite books. Which stressed me because I have so many favorite books.
Today, though, the organizer gave me a bag filled with surprises and goodies. At the top were oranges and bananas, an acknowledgment of how much I am working to improve my health and train for next year’s hiking and running adventures. Then, beneath that was a box containing a set of Shakespeare’s Magnetic Poetry (Love IT!). And then, a book about happiness, a book about finding and living within joy. Little sayings. Beautiful quotes. Validation about living life the way I need to live my life. Without fear. Without anxiety about what the next person is going to say when I’m staring at the sky and loving the colors falling out of the heavens.
And then, a journal. A beautiful, simple, spartan journal that is just a simple cover and pages of open dreams and unwritten stories. A perfect journal to be tossed in my pack when I travel across oceans and mountains of my imagination or literal landscapes. A perfect journal that will be beaten up and decorated with the flotsam and jetsam of my experiences.
The gift, today, was a validation of me. Not that I need validation. But it felt incredible to touch words and see words and know that my love for words is….
I don’ t know…
I was given words today. I gave coffee, potato chips, and a Regal gift card.
I was given the world in a paper bag. I peeled and ate an orange, another orange, and then a banana. I touched words. I touched my life.
I touched joy.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.