I’m now two weeks into another school year. Typically, at this time in the late summer/early fall, I’m already staying at school until 5:00 or 5:30, bringing stacks of papers home each night, and lugging a bag full of textbooks home on the weekend.
Last week looked a lot like that. But this week has looked a bit different.
As my summer break drew to a close, I took a moment to sit back and think about how I wanted my school year to run. Obviously, I hoped for a sweet group of students who love to learn (and have some fun, too). Check! (Thanks 4th grade teachers for putting together such an awesome group!) All of you (my lovely blog followers) know that I’m striving to work on a new novel this school year as well. But when I really thought about how I wanted to try to make this school year different than the others, the word that came to mind was balance.
Every year, when the calendar flips to August, my life shifts and begins revolving around school. I suppose that’s to be expected. It’s an important job, a vitally important job. Yet, that’s exactly what it is. My job. And while I would never say, “It’s just a job,” (teaching clearly isn’t just a job, it’s a passion) I’ve decided that I can’t let my job dictate the rest of my life.
Being a teacher is an enormous part of who I am, and I’m extremely proud to be one. But it’s not all of who I am.
I’m a wife. Unfortunately, my husband often gets neglected during the school year because I’m so focused on making everything perfect for my students and my classroom. Which is silly. Especially since, entering my 8th year of teaching, I know that some of the best lessons are the ones that don’t go as perfectly as I planned. They go in a new direction that I never could have expected in my long hours of picture-perfect planning (alliteration will be something my students know all about by the end of the year!). I need to spend time focusing on my husband (and our pup, Kasey) when I’m home, not just grading papers and doing lesson plans.
I’m a writer. I write because I love it. I’ve loved it since 2nd grade. And spending time doing the things you love is so important to living a fulfilling life. Not to mention, if my goal is to be published (which, duh, of course it is), I need to dedicate some of my time to writing (*see the plethora of posts on finding time to write).
I’m a reader. As much as I love to write, I also adore reading. Many a time, I’ve tried to decide which love outweighs the other, and I simple cannot. The two go hand in hand (as my fellow writers know) and I refuse to go through another year without setting aside a bit of time to read. Now don’t get me wrong, reading can certainly apply to school (it often does). I’m drawn to young adult and middle grade fiction. As a person whose brain works in a very organized, sequential fashion, I try to alternate by reading one adult book, followed by one children’s book. I’m able to find books to recommend to my students (see Blessing of the Books, which will begin next week in the classroom!) and still keep up with my book club – everybody wins!
I’m a dancer. Every year of my life as a child, kindergarten through senior year of high school, part of my weekly schedule included dance. Ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, I wasn’t particular about what kind of dance I was doing, I just loved doing it. I don’t dance for a studio anymore (though I did my first two years of teaching), but I haven’t given up dancing. There’s no way I could. It’s my favorite way to exercise, whether it’s a workout video or simply music that I dance to in the basement. I’m a Dancing Classrooms teaching artist, which introduced me to the world of ballroom dance. And I coach a 6th grade cheerleading squad at Dundee. Though you can’t come see me perform anymore, I’m still very much a dancer.
There are so many parts of me, I just can’t justify focusing on only one. So the commitment I made to myself is this – I will find balance between being the best teacher I can be, and being the best Michelle I can be. And the wonderful part about it, is that I know creating this balance will end up making me an even better teacher. Win-win.