In my teaching heart, there are students.
Present students, who I see on Google Meet and Flipgrid
I remember their smiles each morning and the sound of their laughter.
Past students, at all ages and stages of life-
a new middle schooler, a high school senior, a college freshman,
I remember their faces as children and how fast our time together went.
My future students
are in my teaching heart too
as I look for ways to be better
so they can become who they're meant to be.
In my teaching heart, there are books.
Books full of beautiful words,
Words that challenge you, change you, charge you
Words that make you laugh from the silliness
Words that make you cry from the pain you've known
You're not alone, the book reassures you.
Books fill my classroom- real and virtual.
Books and words fill my teaching heart.
In my teaching heart, there are mentors,
Fellow teachers, leaders, educators
who show me new ideas and ways through
when I've felt all roads are blocked.
Their kindness, passion, expertise and advice
help me to keep believing
in the power of a teacher
to affect eternity.
In my teaching heart, there are tools.
Markers, chart paper, chrome books, apps,
Stickers and Screencastify
Pencils and Padlet
Folders and Flipgrid
Binders and Buncee
Real life objects and digital tools
Help me show my students
flexibility and resilience.
In my teaching heart, there is hope.
There is faith.
In my teaching heart, there is love.
A teaching heart must always
begin with love.
My teaching heart has broken
so many times
but it has always healed,
always mended itself
A teaching heart,
always finds a way.
Whether it crouches in the corner,
during lockdown drills,
Or wears a mask,
Or connects with students virtually,
A teaching heart makes the impossible possible
for the ones who need it so very much.
Tools, teachers, books, students,
These are what fill
my teaching heart.
One foot in front of the other. Again and again and again.
The Jones Beach boardwalk stretched out in front of me. 2 miles one way, 2 miles back. My son wanted to do the whole thing. I was wearing slides and carrying a 5 pound-ish pocketbook. The last time we went to the beach, the kids ended up playing in the sand and I had socks and sneakers. Trying to correct my mistake, I wore slides only to have the kids want to walk the boardwalk- the entire boardwalk- instead.
This was a walk I did often as a teenager and in my 20's. Maybe even early 30's. At almost 41, I haven't done this walk in some time. The last couple of months have led to a decline in moving. When I was teaching in the classroom and otherwise living normal life, I would average 12,000-15,000 steps a day. Last week, I had like 4,000 steps on one random, same-as-before, day of the week. Quarantine has not been good for my body. Sitting more, succumbing to the treats that are around more often, I don't feel good or look good. It's time to correct that.
The last few days, I've been eating the way my body enjoys. Lots of vegetables, lean protein, fiber-filled carbs earlier in the day. Less sugar. Far less sugar. Less impulsive choices. More movement. More water.
The journey feels so long. Just like the boardwalk felt endless. I felt like I would never finish. I felt like I wasn't capable of doing it. But every step forward led me closer. I was the slowest one in the family but I got there. 4 miles, in slides, with a heavy pocketbook and an out-of-shape body.
So maybe, in everything, it is one more step when you think you can't. Keep going.
-"Okay, Flowers, here are the ground rules," she told them as I dug in the soil, kneeling on my lavender gardening pad, and grabbing for the next flower to plant. My daughter Megan had just finished reading Mo Willems' The Pigeon Wants a Puppy to the flowers, because, you know- carbon dioxide. And who doesn't bloom from being read to, really?
The "ground" (ha!) rules consisted of "Do not block each other's sun" and "Do not get tangled in your own roots." As I pushed down on the soil to secure a new flower in its' spot, I thought there was such brilliance in those words. How life would be better if we didn't try to block anyone else's sun, or maybe steal their moment in the spotlight. If we just accepted the sunshine that came our way. And if we didn't allow ourselves to get tangled in our roots- our old stories, our old habits, the way we think we are supposed to be.
Last week, my fingers touched mostly the keyboard as I worked away each day. Today, my fingers touched seashells, sand and soil. I inhaled the ocean air. I planted flowers. There was still keyboard clicking. The work remains, endless, as always. But I am working to restore balance to my days.
Much like the flowers, I needed some ground rules too.
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski