:: on hope and inner work ::

sun peeking through clouds

After my post yesterday on how my teaching job has changed over the years and how I changed and seemed to have lost my passion, I have been thinking a lot. I felt exhausted and did not know exactly why. Then it dawned on me: what I wrote yesterday was honest. For the first time I have been absolutely honest with myself, and searched for the reasons, the real reasons that made me a less motivated teacher.

The thing is: once you stop looking at the factors ‘outside’ of your own head and behavior (even though there are quite some), it becomes possible to change. When I believe people can change their behavior, and sometimes by that, change their inner convictions, my attitude towards school work can change too. When I believe, and I do, that teaching goes two ways and I can learn a lot from my students, it’s time to work on that. To recreate that openness and find ways to involve them the way they deserve, I need to be prepared. Better than ever. Only when I have my canvas laid out and sturdy, they can play and build on it, and, with their help, I can change patterns or even deconstruct some pieces as we all see fit, without losing myself somewhere in the process.

So it’s back to the drawing board for me. I have 2,5 months left in which I have more alone time than usual. I’m going to read until my eyes fall out. I’ve already asked my school for a digital newspaper subscription in the target language, so I can make decent course material. I’ll refresh what I have learned about language acquisition and I’ll try to read on immersion (because that is what I am going to do – immersion teaching. With one big challenge for me: the language in which I’ll teach is one I know thoroughly, I have the needed certificates too, but it’s not my mother tongue. I feel like that makes a lot of difference. An awful lot, especially since I’ll have some native speakers in my group).

The whole soulsearching thing also made another question pop: I need my home to be a safe haven. What does it take to make my home a safe haven, not only for me but also for my loved ones? If I am going to properly invest in teaching again soon, I’ll have to maintain that family time at home is sacred. Not only sacred though, but peaceful too. I have been quarreling with the kids a lot lately and it doesn’t do us justice. They are tired from school and I am tired of things not going like I had in mind (see a theme here? Things in my mind always are better than in reality. I need to see the beauty in the real again). We all lose temper. We all feel like home is not what it could be.

So I’ll work on that too. 10 weeks and a lifetime to go!

:: Grey day and reflections on work ::

rain drops and grey clouds

You know that feeling? On the verge of a great carrot peeling session, but wanting to write, telling your days, documenting and trying to grasp time before it inevitably flees. And after you finally made the decision: this morning I am going to write, you feel like you have nothing to say. Heck, you can’t even go outside to take some nice picture of what’s in my garden. Everything is grey. The flat kind of grey: no rays of light that illuminate the passing clouds. There is daylight but barely depth. A bit like how I feel right at the moment.

I am home. I have been looking forward to this, a repeat of the four months I took for my boy, but now with two kids in school. I can’t seem to find peace of mind though. Last June I was so glad it would be over for 6 months. I thoroughly enjoyed the supper holidays with my family. I decided to take September completely off and do nothing in preparation for school. And now… I feel like my job is whispering in my ears and I don’t want to hear it. I used to like taking my time to write course material and look for good articles and interesting topics. Now I’m tired just thinking about it.

My sister-in-law even suggested: maybe it’s time to find another school. Of something completely different altogether? The idea scares me. Being a teacher was the only future I really saw myself in. Right now, I just want to be home. I fill my days with reading and doing little things in the house. Trying to clear out the attic. Doing laundry. Cooking. Ironing when I feel like it, listening to an audiobook in French, to keep in touch with the language.

If I’m really honest, that’s what I want, what I’ve always wanted: books being the center of my life (along with my family of couse). They were my first true love. Building my days around reading and reflecting on what I’ve read. I used to find ways to combine that with being a teacher and it was the best. Lately I have the feeling I can not anymore: I don’t have the energy to read, let alone to implement what I’ve read in what I teach. Maybe that’s precisely where the passion was lost.

The last few years of teaching were heavy. Combining a family with small children with a fulltime teaching job was a lot harder than anticipated. I decided to declare my time at home sacred and try to avoid any school work there, or limit it to the absolute minimum. I managed, but I was a lesser teacher for it. Add my tendancy to procrastination: not the best combo. I always ended up overwhelmed with all the correction and prep work. I recycled (good) old parts of course materials without really updating. It worked, because it was good stuff to start with, but I never felt actually on top of things. I used the time at school and in between lessons not efficiently enough so I would get behind. A lot.

There are some other factors that make me doubt: the atmosphere at school was changing. We had over all more challenging groups of students. We had some good colleagues falling out and deciding to stop altogether. We had a few changes in the head master department. (The biggest one is one I have not actually ‘lived’ as it started in September). Things didn’t always change for the best. I felt pressured, along with many colleagues. My way of dealing with pressure? Stop trying to keep up at all. Not feeling good about it though. With three months of ‘no pressure’ paternal leave to go, I’m dead scared for that moment in January whan I return. That’s not a good place to be in.

I have still a few months left. I might find back some of my passion. At least enough to start with a smile and keen on making something out of it. If it gets worse, then there will have to be some heavy thinking and some tough decisions to be made. Getting this down on this little piece of the interwebs that I call mine helps in some way. The word is out, the challenge on.

And now I’m going to mindfully peel some carrots.

Winding down

I like those quiet days between Christmas and New Year. Little Boy is making me steak and coffee (pompons and little wooden blocks in his play kitchen) and I can do some reading. Yesterday we have played in the snow. He doesn’t seem to like it that much – his sandpit is frozen and he wants to play with his crayons but the wind is cold as ice and after a while his hands hurt. He was born when the whole country was completely covered in snow, but seems to be more of a summer boy.


Yesterday I went through a few maps of old lesson plans. I tossed most of them but rediscovered a few things I can use again this year. Lots of them were from my first years as a teacher and it’s actually nice to see how inspired I was. I do remember though that lots of the actual lessons didn’t go as well as I had imagined. How I wish I could redo some of them with the experience I have now! But it will be easier to turn it around and use the inspiration to spruce up the rest of the year.


2014 has brought me lots of good things. I grew into my role as a mother. For a moment I was tired of being a teacher but rediscovered my love of teaching along the way. It was a quiet year, filled with little moments of pleasure and peace. I hope 2015 to be as sweet.

Happy New Year to all of you…

Thou shalt not judge

There was a knock on the door of the Teachers’ room. I sighed. I had just started grading and I was hoping to finish a certain amount of work before heading home. But hey, I was there, so I opened the door. One of my students, that actually missed my exam that morning, was in tears, asking for a colleague that had already gone home. When I told her that, she broke down completely and as I was the only one available, she shared her story with me. I was lost for words after that.

Last year she finally freed herself of an abusive relationship. Supported by her parents, intensely followed by a psychologist and with a few months of mental recovery at a specialized centre for young people in her case, she managed to get herself back together, trying to claim back her life and self-esteem. She came a long way. All was well and she was in a new relationship for quite some time now, with a boy that was in my class last year. A caring, gentle young man.

Her ex had managed to contact him though and now she was receiving horrifying messages from that sweet boy. She didn’t recognize him at all, was so disappointed that her ex once again had managed to slip into her life, trying to ruin everything she fought for.

The mascara was making her look like a panda at that moment and my heart was aching and I felt naive and completely unable to say anything useful. This girl, whom I didn’t think much of first, was hiding a battle that no woman should ever have to fight. She opened up to me, because she knew she had to tell and I was the only one there. I am one of her actual teachers, didn’t know a thing about her life, and still she found the courage to tell her story, knowing that she could not take back her words and I would keep knowing it until the moment she leaves school (and ever after).

I admired her while my heart broke for her. I encouraged her to call her parents and psychologist, to surround herself with people that actually loved her, as in a warm bath. She left, smiling, and thanking me for my time. I returned to my desk, feeling like I didn’t have a clue and being very very upset about the fact that people actually have to deal with this kind of situation, at such a young age even.

And it learned me, once again, I shouldn’t judge. Ever.


Linking up with Titus2Tuesday

Three attitudes that will make you the best teacher ever.

Standing in front of a new group is always in some ways nerve-wracking. But as a teacher you have no choice but finding a way to cope with that. Here are some tricks that have helped me a lot.



  • Decide to like your students. To love them even. Sometimes it’s as simple as that decision you make in those very first minutes you meet them. They’re your pupils now. You’ll be with them for the year to come. There will be struggles and maybe in some groups things won’t turn out as expected, but that simple decision, that conscious act, may just make your year.


  • Learn to laugh. You don’t have to accept everything but sometimes you simply have to admit their less polite remarks are funny. Why wouldn’t you laugh if you think it’s funny? Often a drop of humor can alleviate a tense or awkward situation. Besides, laughing makes you human. From time to time it’s good to remind your students that you’re human too. They’re inclined to think that your bed is somewhere beneath the desk and cannot even imagine you might have a life outside of school (hence the complete surprise when they discover you go to the same supermarket as they do).


  • Be yourself. It may sound incredibly cliché, but it’s the best advice you’ll ever be given as a teacher. It can be daunting to compare yourself with colleagues. Don’t. There are as many teachings styles as there are teachers. Know that it’s a good thing for students to have different teachers, your unique way of handling course material might be exactly the way that’s perfect for them.


Behind the scenes: first teacher meeting of the year

  • There’s a ridiculous amount of kisses, most of which I manage to escape.


  • Coffee! I never drink coffee at home, but entering the school building calls for coffee. Endless liters of the brown stuff are consumed here on a daily basis. If you’re not a huge coffee fan, you’ll become it once you’re a teacher. Many of my colleagues learned to drink coffee in the teachers’ room and I joined their ranks.


  • The meeting starts at 9am. Five minutes before everybody starts to climb the stairs and the chairs are filled with teachers, starting with the last row. We’re not that different from our students for that matter.


  • The first ten minutes, everybody listens carefully. More or less. The next three hours, not really. There’s a lot of whispering, texting, writing grocery lists. I confess guilty for that last one.


  • When the end is near (finally), there’s a lot of moving, peeking at each other. Now will finally come what we are waiting for. The meeting is over and with danger to our lives, we try to suffocate the guy that holds the schedules to get hold on ours.


  • Once we managed to grab it, we run downstairs. And I mean run. Apparently the birthday people of August brought cakes. Like a hoard of hyenas we devour them, almost no chewing involved. We make a big mess of the recently cleaned teachers’ room.


When I arrived home, there was already a different schedule in my mailbox.

Yes, we’re officially ready for September 1st.