Thursday, August 11, 2011

TOY and a little panic attack

Back in the spring I received an email from a nice lady at the Oregon Department of Education saying that I had been nominated for Oregon Teacher of the Year (TOY). Hmmmm, I thought.

I still don't know who nominated me. I thought it might have been my principal, but she didn't know anything about it.

The nice lady's email had an attachment. Seventeen pages of forms to fill out if I wanted to apply to be Oregon TOY. I was too busy. Maybe after school was out.

After school was out I spent a week down at the Oregon Department of Education offices in Salem, working with another very nice lady who paid me for doing some work on the state reading test and some training materials for teachers to learn to score reading and writing work samples. Still too busy for that seventeen page form.

Then we went on our three week road trip, and I missed the deadline. Which was just as well, because I really didn't want to be Oregon's Teacher of the Year. I've reached a point in my life where I really don't want a lot of attention. It makes me skittish. The Oregon TOY is expected to be a spokesperson for all of Oregon's teachers, making profound statements on education policy and teacher evaluations. I might have relished that at one time, but not now. Too heavy a burden. Plus the Oregon TOY is required to attend a bunch of conferences, which means more time out of my classroom. I already get pulled out of my classroom too often as it is.

While we were on the road trip, I received another email from the (first) very nice lady, saying that they knew the application was a lot of work, so they had decided to extend the deadline. Hah! I guess I wasn't the only one who missed the deadline. Oh, all right, I thought. I guess I'll do the darn thing. Can you tell how excited I was about it?

Back at home, I allotted exactly one morning to fill out the seventeen page form. Pulled up the form on schedule, started filling it out, and made it through all of 1/2 page.

Why I am I doing this when I don't even want to be Oregon Teacher of the Year? I asked myself. Walking over to the recycling bin with the seventeen pages, I felt a momentary pang of guilt for not being more excited about representing all of Oregon's teachers, and then put the forms in the bin and forgot about them.

At 57, I am on the downhill side of middle age. There are enough things in my life that I do because I need to, not because I want to / love to do them. Why add one more thing? It was nice of that anonymous person to nominate me, but being a candidate for the Oregon Teacher of the Year just isn't a good fit in my life right now. Why fill out a seventeen page form for a responsibility I don't even want to have? So I emailed the nice lady and told her that I wished all of the other candidates well, and that I would not be submitting the application. Door closed, deal done. It feels good to say NO once in a while.

Last week I had a miniature panic attack about being a teacher. I was standing right over there, in my kitchen, putting a pan on the stove, when I suddenly thought about going back to school and making lesson plans. Do you know that making lesson plans is hard, every time? Some parts of it get easier, but even when I'm teaching a lesson I've more-or-less taught before, it's different. Different kids, different me, different world. I'm always a little anxious about whether or not it will work. Will the kids learn what I hope they will? Am I teaching it right? Am I even clear about what they should learn and what / how I should teach? Arggh. So I was standing there with the pan in my hand, and I thought, I don't think I can do this anymore. How will we pay the bills if I don't go back to work in the fall? The thought passed quickly and I told myself there was nothing to it, but it kind of freaked me out.

A couple of days later I had to pick up something from my office at the school. I don't have my own classroom anymore (I teach in someone else's room during their prep period), so my office is "my space" at school, where I keep all of my teacher stuff. I stood there at my desk--thank goodness I left it fairly organized back in June--and wondered if I would feel all panicky again. But I didn't. I was ok. It felt good to be there. I felt calm.

Yes, I think I can do this again. Not as Teacher of the Year, but just as me. Only two more weeks of summer vacation, and then, ready or not, back to school.


Katie Lewis said...

You'll do great Mom!

And, hey, when in doubt, just dress up as Homer. That always seems to be an instant success. :)

Sarah said...

I'm grateful that you post your worries. It makes me feel better about posting mine. :)
I'm sure you're a fantastic teacher...why else would someone nominate you for such a prestigious award?
You'll have another wonderful school year. Would you enjoy life more if you didn't go back? Making decisions based on income is so difficult.
I'm sure you love your job, and that's why you're a great teacher.

Dorothy said...

Well, first of all, (and I don't even quite know how to say this...) but I am proud of you for not turning in the application for TOY. Most everyone already knows that you are qualified, and you do, too, but there are probably other teachers out there that would need this honor..this boost to help them along. Yea for them!

And for the momentary freakout...
don't we all have them? (What am I doing steering this large chunk of metal on wheels around town that has the potential to seriously injure or hurt others...?) But when we step through the veil of fear and do what we know how to do and the panic subsides.

I think the young people you teach are very, very lucky to have your kind of compassion and instruction in the public arena. :)