Monday, August 20, 2012

It Is What It Is

It's tough to be an educator. You knew that going in. So...quit your belly-achin'. (My dad, 1991)

Every teacher is in their classroom padding the nest with disclosure documents, colorful butcher paper and a mini-fridge full of Diet Coke. Can you feel it in the air? The chickies are about to come back to the nest for a nine-month visit. Not sure while I've always called my kids "chickies" but that what they have always been. It makes me feel like a bird? No... It makes me feel like eating worms? Closer....

I have a friend that has been working on her classroom for the last two weeks without any air conditioning. The school district can't afford to turn it on until the kids arrive. She's working to set up her nest like she's back in a Bronx sweatshop, circa 1898. There are laws, aren't there?

I would be molting...stripping off my clothes as I entered the school every morning. PSHT! Add a hot flash to the mix and I would march right down to the front office to sit in the privileged front office, where they actually have loads of cold conditioned air. Those secretaries would understand. Not sure if the parents and kids waiting to register would get it, butt...too bad. You would see how fast the air could actually be turned on, just to get me back in clothes.

We're not so bad off at my school. We have swamp coolers...but the actual invention of "central air" has not quite made it to our school, so I have been taking extra shirts to work so that I can change half-way through. Learned that from my friend Mic.

We've been enrolling kids in a steady stream for two weeks now. The eggs are just hatching right and left as if Horton flew the coop.

Let me digress...

For those of you gleefully entering your kids back in education this week, can I just plead...if you know you will be in a new school, register your kids sooner than the night before. I know its impossible sometimes, but the day before school starts, is like getting ready for a huge party you are going to give all year. You don't know how many guests will arrive and no one gave you any money to throw the party in the first place. People keep inviting themselves, the numbers go from 210 last Friday to 257 on Monday. You may end up with 400 people at your party. Where will they all sit? How will we get them all in the room? Who's going to bring the special purple punch?

You know I'm kidding about the punch.

I have three documents to write tonight, a poster to design and email that needs answering before the Freshmen and new transfer students arrive tomorrow in their hip new clothes and backpacks that still zip shut. I'll be wearing a skirt from 2007 and, if I can get them glued back together, my black sandals...the ones I bought when I played M'Lynn in Steel Magnolias in 19...something. I'll have microwave mac 'n cheese for lunch and I'll make sure to have a fire extinguisher near and ready because there will be 12 to 257 fires to put out tomorrow. No biggie. To coin an Effie-ism from one of my dear friends in the Washington 8th Ward "IT IS WHAT IT IS."

Here I sit...writing a blog about being naked at school and drinking special punch.

I am not going to be able to solve the world's education problems tonight. I am not going to be able to find a pair of shoes that fit tonight nor do I have the energy to make punch for 400 tonight. It is what it is.

I didn't always think this. I remember working "free of charge" 12 hours a day the weeks before the kids arrived and put up bulletin boards with hand-glittered lettering and a glue gun. What I found out is that glitter can cut your eyeball and hot glue can take your fingerprints right off. Well anyway if you were the punch server, no one would be able to trace it back to you, right?

See...see how something like third-degree burns can be turned into a positive?

I was brought up by two optimists. You'd have to be optimistic to have eight kids on a teacher's salary. I was also brought up on the phrase "well, with that attitude..." which is another mighty quick way to shut down negativity. I've caught myself wanting to say both "it is what it is," and "well, with that attitude" about a thousand times this week. It's hard what we do. But we need to be more positive about the fact that what we do is a sacred calling! Let me say it yet again...It is no small thing when a child is placed in your path!!!! We chose this profession. We knew.

Yet, we blog. We complain. We go to our Negative Nellie place. We sat through four hours of "policies and procedures" or as I like to call it "How to Keep Yourself From Being Sued." I am very conscious of my non-verbal language. Several times in the meeting I had to remind myself to smile and think about presenting my energy in a more positive way. I should know better.

Mormons, as a general rule, are optimistic. We consider both work and tribulation to be a blessing. We have that pioneering attitude that when the wheels fall off your cart, you pick yourself up and move down the trail Minerva. We are the "CAN DO" people. (I think there's a state that claims that motto, but I'm just borrowing it for the blog, don't kill me) Think of the sacrifice, the fear..."walk this handcart full of your stuff 1500 miles west...stop when you feel like it," they said. "Can do," we said right back. And we did. Did we always smile? No. No, we didn't. But we rejoiced when it was over...what am I saying? It's not over till I get my air conditioning!

I'm a generation or two from the actual Utah pioneers but their blood and sweat is what developed this part of the country and I am forever grateful for their sacrifice. So what if the air conditioning isn't on yet and 50 kids we've never seen, signed up to be taught by us! Awesome bonus! There are worse things...

Like pulling a float in a summer parade in 100 degree weather. Think about that sewing job my mom had to do while you look at this picture of me, as a 12 year-old girl forced to wear a polyester caterpillar costume while pulling a plastic pom-pom nest down the street, full of crepe paper blue birds.

It was what it was! We weren't pulling a hand cart but the elasticized crotch in that costume might as well have been woolen underwear. At least they didn't put an extra pair of pom poms on the top 1/7th of the costume. There's that! We didn't have to do our hair. See?! Didn't have to shave our legs! We had a lot of help too! (The next year the float was pulled by just my brother and me and we wore Clydesdale horse costumes. Not kidding. Nothing says sexy like the world's biggest horses. Still looking for the pictures.)

Still I feel like that smile is genuine. I was happy with my assignment despite the fact that my antennae wouldn't stand up and with every step we took the legs of the costume would creep up into our promised valley. (Incidentally, the blue-bird that is smiling and looking toward the camera is my sister Penny. Nothing cuter than that. She has five kids now.)

The truth is, whether your birds are leaving the nest this week (parents) or coming back to it, we all build our nest, now we have to pull it around. No...that's not it...You built your nest, now you have to wear the costume...No....

I know....We'll build the nest, we'll sit on those eggs until they hatch, and eventually, they will slowly peck us to death, or eat us.

Kidding! It is what it is. Happy 2012 - 2013 everybody. We might survive it.

(Not with that attitude!)