Though I haven't exactly meant for it to be the case, I could summarize the theme of this school year so far in the following way: on weekends, get the hell out of dodge.
It all started because of a few October weddings that prompted car rentals and travels to northern Washington. There was the NCTE conference I just went to in Philadelphia. There's the fact than James and I are going to New Zealand come Christmas. Then there have been countless weekend excursions that--though they're not exactly getting out of Portland--have felt like excursions nonetheless: an unofficial half marathon through Forest Park, game nights with friends, dinner parties. And then there's the newest adventure, a short Sacramento trip next weekend to see my lovely brother who's finally, after waaay too long, back in the country (I'm ridiculously excited:).
It all contributes to this budding feeling that it's not school that's giving my life meaning right now but all the peripherals that happen outside of school. Somehow, that's a little unnerving to me. Not that school should be my life, I mean, but I feel like I want to look forward to that, too, since it does comprise a good 50 or so hours of my week.
Last year, I was pretty stoked. I felt like I had a better handle on what I was doing, had a better rapport with my students, was excited to figure out how to do everything better. This year, it feels like I haven't quite found my stride. It's not because my teaching is bad (I don't think). Objectively speaking, I think I'm doing better than last year, am more organized, have a better sense of what I'm doing and how I want students to learn. I'm just not that stoked about it.
In part, it's because of everything I've been writing about on this blog: feeling like education is broken, like what I'm doing isn't relevant, like I'm just one more cog in this giant bureaucratic educational monster. It also may be that I'm feeling confined by my grade level. I love 7th graders, don't get me wrong, but--especially after hearing all this spectacular stuff at the NCTE conference--I think I might want to teach something where I can focus more on content and ideas, less on organization and how to get along with others (elementary teachers, you have my utmost respect).
It's really been all the stuff that happens outside of school that's been great this year. But in the interest of preserving my sanity and making ALL of my time--not just my leisure time--seem worthwhile and meaningful, I need to find a way to be more excited about school, too. I think it means making drastic changes. I think it means taking my focus off of curriculum and the endless "skills" I'm supposed to teach, and re-centering on my students: who they are, what they need, how we can all help each other be better people (and, in the process, become better readers, writers, and communicators). I'm not sure how, exactly, but that's what's stewing in my mind right now. I don't want to be one of those people who suffers through work to get the the real living that happens outside of it. I love the traveling and adventures I've been having away from school, but I want to be excited about my livelihood, too. I need to reclaim school.