Monday, September 17, 2012

State of Wonder

These days, I'm in a constant state of wonder.  Mostly wondering how on earth I'm managing to get up every morning, then wondering how I will ever get through the day. I'm feeling my age in these old bones. My exhaustion seems to know no limits. I go to bed tired, with a brain that won't shut off, wondering and worrying, with a sea of ten-year-old faces taking the place of imaginary sheep, and wishing for elusive sleep.   The first few weeks in the fall are always exhausting, but, like childbirth, somehow I forget that part until I'm immersed in the tsunami like waves of it once again.  Right now I'm wondering how many more Septembers I have in me!

I'm sure all occupations are like this, where you feel like you're already behind, almost before you get started.  With new Common Core State Standards (which are really not new, but new wording and new ways of organizing) and new students, and new schedules (radically changed from previous years) and new expectations, and new staff members, my poor old brain is spinning. I'm wondering when I am going to remember all these new things.

Fortunately, I have an amazing classroom of 27 fifth graders who, for the most part, are enthusiastic, eager, and willing to remind their wonky teacher that it's time to head out for lunch, or PE, or where ever they are supposed to be going.  I am already in love with them, and committed to making this a year of wonder that they will always remember. 

I spent my first weekend, after the first week of school, inexplicably weeping.  I knew that on some level, it was partially due to knowing one of my students had lost his dad last year, and that reminded me of losing my mom when I was in 4th grade.  I also knew I was mourning the upcoming last day of a student I have barely gotten to know, but felt wrenched with her leaving after only four days of school. I've had kids before in these situations, though I'm usually not weepy.  I'm still wondering about my sensitivity, although I think I may have traced it to my reaction to a book I read this summer, recommended by my dear friend, Deb (aka Catbird Scout).

Deb told me about a book called Wonder, by P. J. Palacio, the story of a fifth grade boy with multiple facial anomalies, who enters public school for the first time.  Auggie is "just an ordinary boy" stuck in an unordinary body, and this poignant story is told mostly in his voice.  It's a beautiful book, and I fully intended to read it to my class.  Unfortunately, a series of events caused me to think twice about beginning the book on the first day as I had planned. I read a few picture books instead, but I was missing the magic that happens when I read aloud an intentionally chosen chapter book that draws the class in.

I won't go into the details here, however, after careful consideration, and a conversation with my principal, I began reading the book aloud on the fourth day of school. It was the right decision.

Auggie's voice is often very funny, and at moments the class erupted in hysterical laughter.  (I was finding it difficult to read aloud, as his descriptions are pretty amusing, in a delightfully fifth grade sort of way!)  Humor is always a good catch, however the beauty of this story comes alive through the conversations we have had as a class.  Deep, and sometimes painful, connections were made, and the empathy was palpable in the classroom.  Stories shared brought tears, understanding, hope and invoked  a state of wonder. I am humbled by what these young people have dealt with in their young lives, and have a burning desire to brighten their world.

The first week of school, I suggested an idea to my class for covering our reading response journals with torn paper art, representing a favorite book.  I got the idea from my daughter, Kailyn, who had created one for an education class she was in last spring.  The kids loved the idea!
My example, which I found quite difficult to accomplish!
One student's choice of their favorite book! There were several Dr. Seuss!
Of course, there was BabyMouse!
Many, many versions of different "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books.
This one surprised me! I'm enjoying getting to know this student.
We will begin week three by celebrating Constitution Day.  Lesson plans are ready; Kailyn is visiting today as she doesn't start classes until Wednesday.  I am no more rested than when I began this post (about a week ago!) but the clock is ticking and life is moving on.

Despite the weariness in my bones, my heart and soul soars in a continual state of wonder, filled with the anticipation of what awaits in the days to come.