IMO: This morning belonged to Murphy.

Here is what happened to me this morning in the following order beginning at 7:00a.m.

  1. I woke up late. I never sleep to 7.
  2. I had no coffee to grind for the percolator. I never go without coffee in the morning.
  3. I searched deep into the pantry and found decaffeinated. I never drink decaffeinated. It tasted disgusting.
  4. My kindergarten granddaughter wouldn’t do her homework and refused to brush her teeth. I’m never this late leaving the house to drive to my school.
  5. My gray sweater was wrinkled. My mascara was dry and clumpy. My hair was damp and limp. I never go to school like this.
  6. Today, for German class, I had scheduled a Weihnachten party to introduce my students to traditional goodies. Not only had I not made Stollen, Pfeffernüsse or Lebkuchen the night before, but I didn’t have time to purchase store-bought imitations. I had to rely on students to make the classic German cookies and remember to bring them in.
  7. I pulled into the school parking lot and someone had parked in my spot. Thus, I had to drive around the other side of the school and park in the guest parking while 900 people were trying to get inside school simultaneously.
  8. The school bell rang to start school, and I was nowhere near my classroom.
  9. I entered my room after the final bell, and when I turned on my computer to take attendance, the system had locked me out. After calling and insisting someone from IT help me, I suddenly remembered my new password, thereby, wasting their time and felt like an idiot.
  10. My opening activity was missing from my desk. I swear I made copies yesterday. Where did I put them? Twenty-five faces looked at me wondering why we weren’t doing something.
  11. After school today, as the sponsor of Interact Club, I am to buy the wish list presents for the residents at a local nursing home. Our club wraps and delivers them tomorrow. I was notified that I couldn’t use the school credit card because of an administrative complication. I don’t have $300 to personally buy presents for the fifteen “forgotten ones”. Will I have to call off the event disappointing the elderly and the teenagers who had organized the event?

It was only 8:30am. By this point, I threw up my hands and gave up trying to control the day. Murphy’s Law was in full effect. “Whatever can go wrong, will.” 

I took a breath and let it all go. The students filed in with containers and plates full of Lebkuchen and Pfeffernüsse.  Several of them told me they stayed up late last night making them with their dad or mom. They thanked me for the opportunity saying it had been a memorable event for them as a family.

Just like that, I caught the Christmas spirit and my sour day turned into a good one.

And it wasn’t even noon.

Not my Pfeffernüsse.

IMO: Vivaldi’s Winter, The Four Seasons

Except for a small lamp, I am sitting in the dark and face the computer screen. It is four in the morning. I’m grading college English composition papers where students compared and contrasted Ulysses S. Grant to Robert E. Lee. After the fifteenth one, my mind wandered and entered that zone where it splits–one side hears music while the other grades. I lose myself. On Pandora, Vivaldi’s “Winter” from Four Seasons begins.

It occurred to me that it has been twenty years since I last listened to Vivaldi’s “Winter.” It was four in the morning. I lived in the wasteland of Illinois during winter. Icy, bitter below-zero cold. The stars flickered, the air crackled, and the sun rose and changed the black into a powder blue sky. The sun teased, but the hope of warmth would not come that day.

I drove ninety minutes from my hometown to Illinois State University. My teenage kids still slept. They would get themselves up and eat breakfast and cross the street to school without my orchestration. Excited was I to be in college, and I fell in love with academia. I was in my thirties at the time and amazed by how little I knew about everything–history, literature, classical music, art, architecture, foreign languages, philosophy, and geography. I was starving and ate it up.

There is nothing to look at during the winter in central Illinois. The corn fields have been harvested. The expanse and flatness and dingy colors combined with the cold temperatures–well, that’s why I live in Arizona now. Two decades ago, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played in the car. The first cup of coffee had worn off, and I was in that lull where one part of me heard the music while another part drove.

How wonderful then, today at four in the morning, that a time warp occurred. “Winter” by Vivaldi began on Pandora and triggered that long ride to campus. I was that non-traditional student traveling distances to learn. This morning, I am the instructor on the other side of the desk, that is, the other side of the computer who grades the paper I once wrote. Tied by Vivaldi, the music became a mirror, and I sat on both sides and said “Hello.”

IMO: Life Cycles

I was surrounded. It was creepy.
Graduating students “bombed” my room.

Very few jobs offer a conclusive beginning, middle, and end to the year. The rhythm of the academic calendar is psychologically beneficial, and if I hadn’t made a career within it, I would have jumped off the plank a long time ago. Let me explain by showing you an excerpt by me right before a holiday break (Here’s the whole post if you missed it) :

“. . . I never wanted to be a high school teacher. I wanted to be a college teacher. I’m tired that I have to work in the trenches, dealing with obnoxious teenagers, to be politically correct, inspirational, and compassionate to all students every day no matter what inappropriate thing they say or do. I am that sergeant in war movies who answers to officers, some idiotic, some great, always a revolving door, the principals, and superintendents who come and go and meanwhile, my responsibilities compound, the acronyms multiply like rabbits. I can’t believe after 19 years, I have to do this for eight more years before I retire. What’s worse, the classes I created, devoted my heart and soul to were taken away and given to younger teachers. I’m supposed to be a good sport, but I am resentful. I already paid my dues. I feel unappreciated. I am steaming, and the bitterness takes root. Why didn’t my dream come true? My trajectory was the moon. What strange star is this?  And the dark irony in it all? I’m really good at what I do.” 

Today, I reread the words revealing my dour attitude and I’m embarrassed. When you are a teacher, it is like jumping off a high cliff into the riptide. To endure, the veteran teacher learns how to breathe underwater and ride the current. Obviously, in the quote above, the stress was getting to me. Just in the nick of time, a holiday break occurred. Whew!  I could regroup and adjust my attitude.

Most schools in America, especially on the East coast, resume in September after a healthy summer break. Out here in Arizona, we just went back to school. This past week was full of professional meetings, inspirational pre-service gatherings, getting organized, meeting the students, and beginning instruction. For me, a new year has begun. I’m happy to report I’m very excited to begin again. I have hope and ready to inspire and rock and roll. By winter, I’ll start to drag. After the winter break, I’m recharged. Pretty soon it’s spring break, and then after a month, I’m looking ahead at the calendar wishing for summer break at the end of May. In this profession, the pendulum swings back and forth and the force conditions my mood and my worth ethic. Students and teachers wonder if they can make it to the end of the school year. Of course, we can. Faster than we thought. Now the best part comes. Time. To reflect and consider and indulge in the hobbies of my life. The year is over. What’s done is done. Students graduate and move on. When the new year begins, you start with a clean slate. This is the cycle that runs my life.

One of the complaints I had last year was the indignancy I felt for key classes I had worked so hard creating the curriculum and then they were “taken away” and given to others to teach. That’s a problem when you give a lot of emotional sweat and brain cells to a project; you feel a sense of ownership. During times of reflection, I’ve learned I had to get over myself, let go of the ego, or the roots of resentment grow and I risk becoming a bitchy co-worker. My patience and tolerance falter.

Wir werden backen.

Anyway, I changed my situation and it changed my attitude. After securing my endorsement, I’m now the new German teacher. I’m having the best time setting up the best class ever. We have started to speak it and see it and say it and write it. We’re going to make homemade pretzels and have a proper Oktoberfest with kraut and wurst and (root)beer. We’re going to Bavaria in 2020. It’s going to be the best class my students ever had.  Ha!

The cycles of a year. Is yours measured by the seasons? By your job? By your family? By imposing your own cycle?

I opened my classroom and found this note. Lucky, aren’t I?

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