Thursday, August 27, 2015

Back to School - But Different

Counting thirteen years of K-12 schooling, (so many I shouldn't say) eight years of college and graduate school, and eleven years as an educator, this past Monday was my 32nd first day of school.  This year is different, however, because it is the first year I have my own child that is having her first day of school.  Being a daddy makes everything different.

My first day at work the day after we found out we were pregnant with Ellie was different.  My students were no longer just my students; they were someone else's children.  The drive home from the hospital with Ellie was different; I had never been such a cautious driver.  So while the first day of school this year brought many of the same feelings it has brought in past years, it also brought new feelings.  With that, I offer this letter to all educators from all mommies and daddies, especially this one.

Dear Educator,

Today you take my most prized possession into your hands.  There is nothing I wouldn't do for her.  Nothing.  If you are a parent you understand what I feel for her.  If you are not, it is nearly impossible to describe.  She's my world.  And now, she's under your watch.

She is a human, and therefore inherently deserving of respect, kindness, and patience.  I know how tough your job is.  I know firsthand.  Please, always give her the respect, kindness, and patience she deserves.

She is eager to learn.  She once said to me, "Daddy, I never want to stop learning and dancing."  I hope that spirit never dissipates.  I fear that it will.  But you can help with this!  Inspire her, challenge her, believe in her.  Appeal to her natural curiousity.  Remember that she came into this world knowing nothing and being able to do nothing (besides cry, eat, and poop).  From there, without any lesson plans, she learned to walk, talk, sing, count, dance, laugh, and think.  She chose to learn how to do each of those, and so many more, on her own.  Please help me keep that spirit burning.

She is unique.  As many first-time parents do, we watched her progress as an infant to a toddler and compared her to other children.  Is she talking yet?  Should she be walking yet?  My child knows where her toes are!  However, we quickly came to realize that none of that matters.  She would develop as she would develop.  She may be better than her elbow-partner at math and not-better-than her table group at science.  She may be shy in class, or (more likely) may want to answer every question.  Regardless, she is unique.  There are no other models of her.  Please remember that.

And finally, she is mine.  As I said, there is nothing I wouldn't do for her.  Sirens sound different when you become a parent, because even though you know your wife and daughter are at home safe and sound, you wonder - could that be my family?  So please, I beg of you, keep her safe.  Watch over her, because during those hours that she is with you, I cannot.

Thank you so much.  I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate it.


Ellie's Daddy

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tough Day, Good Day

Most days I love my job, but today was a tough day.  Ironically it was a tough day because it was a good day.

This year we implemented WEB at our school.  WEB stands for Where Everybody Belongs, and it is a program where 8th graders serve as mentors for the incoming 6th graders.  The year is kicked off with a highly energetic assembly that welcomes the 6th graders to their new school.  Highly energetic is actually low-balling it.  It's wild.

My job today was to facilitate the assembly, a task I thoroughly enjoy.  I get to feel like I'm equal parts stand-up comedian, singer, motivational speaker, and, of course, vice principal.  I got up early today, was at school by 6:15 am getting things prepared, and by 8:30 am the assembly had started.  We finished around 11:45 am, and by 12:30 pm I was having lunch with our leadership team and planning our back to school professional development day.  That ended at 1:30 and I worked for a few more hours.  At roughly 5:45 pm I pulled out of the parking lot.

This isn't to complain, by any means.  (Side note, if it was to complain, I'd be switching my bracelet.)  Sure it was a physically tough and exhausting day, but that isn't why I said in the beginning it was a tough day.  It was a tough day because I came home and struggled as a daddy.

My kids are 5, 3, and 1.  They don't care that Daddy spent his morning rallying 320 kids to cheer, dance, laugh, sing, and feel welcomed.  They don't care that Daddy's morning was filled with screaming and clapping and silliness.  And they don't understand that when I came home I just couldn't bear to be around any more noise.  They didn't get my best tonight.  As a matter of fact, they didn't get much at all of me tonight.  I played a little, cuddled a little, but mostly I just sat, and after a while I had to step away because after today the noise was just too loud. 

That may sound cruel.  "What kind of dad is this guy?!"  There's nothing in the world more important to me than my children, and that certainly includes my job.  I just love my kids so much, and I hate that I struggled with them tonight.

But, and this is a very big but...(and I cannot lie),

I'm thankful.  If I have to struggle with my kids once every now and then due to the fact that I have a job that doesn't feel like a job, that's okay.  If a rare struggle as a daddy is a part of getting to wake up every morning and never feel like I'm going to work, that's okay.  If one bad night means that I'm going to come home 100 other nights inspired, thankful, grateful, and enthused because I've got an amazing career, that's okay.  It's okay because when my children visit me at school they get to see Daddy smiling, laughing, and enjoying his job.  

So I guess sometimes tough days are good days.