I just started reading a book called Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. It’s a book written for women that tackles “lies” society has been telling us about who we are or who we are supposed to be and offers very blunt, very inspiring suggestions for debunking these lies and taking control of our lives in a way that will lead to more happiness on the other side. One of the very first pieces of advice she offers is to surround yourself with positivity and to do what makes you happy. She admits that both of these sound incredibly obvious, but are very often easier said than done.
The first thing I did after reading this chapter was make a list of everything I choose to “do” in my life. Included on my list were things relating to my profession like “teaching in the ARCTIC Zone” all the way to things I just kind of dabble in like “gardening.” In looking at my list, I found there are many ways I could categorize the activities. I could list them as professional or personal or I could rank them by a level of importance I find them to hold in my life. Some of them clearly fit into a “want” category more than a “need.” At any rate, it got me thinking carefully about why I choose to do each of the things on my list and whether or not that “why” was strong enough for me to keep it on my list.
When I think about my “why” for teaching in the ARCTIC Zone, my thoughts drift to the afternoon of our final day of school this year. The last day is always a bit of a chaotic nightmare, regardless of the grade level you teach. End-of-year activities are often weather-dependent, scheduling a tight enough plan together to keep students engaged becomes tricky, and emotions are high simply because of the time of year – utter exhaustion mixed with tearful goodbyes. Admittedly, the majority of the day had caused me to feel more stressed out than anything, until the 8th grade celebration came to a close. We had just concluded the graduation-like ceremony in which each 8th grade student crossed the stage for friends and family to applaud, and at this point, students were dismissed to leave with their families.
As I stood toward the back of the room, one-by-one, my students and their families found their way to me. Pictures were taken, tears were shed, stories were shared. There were many special moments – moments I’ll keep to myself, for some things are better kept close to the heart. I will say this, though – there is a huge difference between receiving a hug from a student and receiving a REAL hug from a student. I got a lot of REAL hugs that day – from both students and family members.
The ARCTIC Zone has provided me an opportunity to build relationships with students and families on a level I never imagined possible when I started teaching nine years ago. We’ve shared three years together. Three critical years in their student’s growth and development. I’m not sure if I helped any of them become better readers or writers or historians or scientists. I do know, however, this group of 8th graders is leaving with far more confidence and resilience and a much better understanding of and acceptance for who they are than when they entered our doors. I feel really good about that.
On the last day, the 8th grade class also presented Andy and me each a special gift – a book of pictures and quotes. Though the pictures make me smile and will always be something to look back on, it is the words of my students that leave the biggest print on my heart. I’ll share a few of my favorites below.
THIS is my “why.”