the tested teacher

Tests have always given me anxiety.

I remember cramming for math tests and physics tests in high school.  Not really knowing how to study, but staring and my crappy notes and homework and trying to read the gobble-de-gook that was the textbook.

My hands always got clammy as the test was handed out as I prayed that something looked familiar.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was pulling all-nighters in college studying for tests in my Gen Ed classes or my Spanish classes.

Even when I knew that I rocked at the subject and could write great essays and discuss literature with gusto, the TESTS came close to giving me hives.

It was the lack of control over what to expect.

It was the not knowing if what I prepared was the right stuff.

I took notes, I studied the text, but did I know it well enough to not just pass a test, but rock a test?

I was never sure.

I very much preferred take home tests.  Even better were projects or papers to demonstrate what I learned.  How I would apply it to my current life.

I guess I haven’t changed much.

Today I was issued an unexpected test.

As you know, I went back to work this week.  Teachers reported Tue-Thur this week, and next week the students will be back.  I was given my schedule, assigned a classroom in the new high school, and I’ve logged a LOT of hours since last Thursday getting ready.

I spent two full days last week building my classroom from a bare room to nothing short of awesome.  This is the third classroom I have been in in 10 years and it is BY FAR the best as far as layout, room, technology, decor, etc.  I won the jackpot of rooms.  It was formerly a computer lab, so it is quite large and it has AC (something 95% of the building does NOT have).  I covered the walls in a great mixture of American Literature/English class things and Spanish things.  I put up an American flag.  I created areas for grades, missed work, due dates, viable teaching/learning objective…all things I had to sort of half-ass in my other rooms.

Nothing about this room is half ass.  It is full awesome booty, people.

I had a great schedule: four sections of Spanish 2 and one section of English 11.  I had a nice afternoon prep and I was one of the very few who did NOT have to share her room during her prep.

I smiled big every time I came in the building.

I felt blessed.

All while this has been going on, I have been busy keeping up on #SheReadsTruth.

I have been finding MANY passages about letting go of worry and fear, being a quality leader, making good choices, etc.  I have been furiously copying down verses and making notes trying to fill my heart and prepare myself to be the best possible teacher and co-worker and employee that I could possibly be.  I want to be a light to those around me.

And then today happened.

Today I was called into the principal’s office and told that due to low class sizes and the need for another Spanish teacher at the Junior High for two hours, two of my Spanish classes would be combined with our other Spanish teacher’s classes and I would be headed to the Junior High for the second half of my day.

I would teach two sections of Spanish 2 and one section of English 11 in the morning at the high school.  Because of the change in schedule, someone would now be in my room during my planning period, and during the last two periods of the day while I was out of the building.

It felt like time stopped.

I was handed a test I wasn’t ready for.

Or was I?

I had read the text and taken furious notes about not worrying.  about not giving in to being brought down. about being a good example…a light…for others.

Why did I do the studying if I didn’t think I would be tested?

My first reaction, of course, was to worry.

That is how I am hard-wired to react. So much of my classroom is filled with personal items, will the teachers I share with respect that?  Will the students?  Will all the traveling take away from my precious planning time?  I only have so much time after school before I have to run off to get the boys, would there be time?  And the big one…will this affect my teaching assignment/room assignment from now on?  Will they do this to me again next year, and consequently decide someone who is only there part doesn’t need such a big, glorious room?

But then I had to stop.  I had to.  I was on the verge of a full on anxiety attack (and I didn’t have my “emergency meds” with me).

I started to slowly count my blessings:

  • So many in my schools have to travel and do not have any room to call their own. I have two.
  • The room I am sharing at the junior high is just me and the french teacher, and we never overlap, so i can go there to plan in peace.
  • My planning hour, lunch, travel time totals almost 2 hours in the middle of the day.
  • I can schedule myself so that I am at the Junior High during the lunch my teaching bestie has lunch (we were separated this year, much to our horror)
  • I get to see how both buildings run
  • I will get to know almost 60 of the freshman, so they will know a teacher (and I will know them) when they come to the high school next year.
  • I will have to step up my game to show Ideserve the awesome room I have at the high school.  That I do amazing things with and for students and their learning with that space and SHOULD have it next year…full-time!

This will be ok.

It is not ideal, no.

I have allowed myself to be sad and disappointed and completely useless today since I got home from work.

Eddie and I watched a movie and ate popcorn before dinner.  Charlie and I laid on the floor and giggled for 30 minutes.  I shut my work email and ate dinner at the table with my boys while Cort was at class.

Tomorrow is a new day.  A gift, as my friend Trisha reminded me.

Tomorrow I will take control of this new schedule and really sink my teeth into doing amazing things this year.

Because I am being tested.

And I’m going to ACE this mother.


ps. It does not escape me that my ability to clearly think about the Bible passages I have been studying is possible because I sought help for my the issues I have been having with depression and anxiety.  Without my new meds, I am positive I would not have been able to clearly recall or care about the lessons I have been absorbing each morning let alone apply them.

preparing my heart

Hooray for Popsicles!

Today is my last day before putting the boys in daycare full-time to get ready for the first day of school (which is Sept 4 ’round these parts).

We are off frolicking at the zoo with a bloggy friend to celebrate an awesome summer.

I’m trying not to beat a dead horse here, but hey, it’s my blog and I can beat whatever dead animals I want, right?

Wait. That didn’t sound right.

Anyway. School starting.

It’s a big transition for me every year.  It’s always brought on my anxiety in a big way.  If I were to create for you a nice graph of the past 10 years, you would see a giant, angry anxiety spike every single August.

That’s right.  10 years.

This fall starts my tenth year as a contracted teacher in my district.  I also did a semester of student teaching there and a total of 3/4 of a year long-term subbing in the high schools (over 2 school years).

This year, though, brings lots of changes.  Our district is down to one high school, and since we have combined the two we had, we are actually a brand NEW school.

We have a new mascot: The Wolves

We have new colors: Purple & Black (with Silver as an accent)

We have a new fight song, uniforms, paint in the building, gym floors, outside signs.

Tomorrow I go into my new room in the new building to begin creating my new space.

We are not allowed to put up any artifacts from either of the old high schools.  Not even any pictures of former students.

We are starting new.

No old traditions will be continued.  Everything will be created fresh.  We are starting the traditions that we hope will live on for generations.

You see, the two high schools that are coming together were rivals.

We need to now make them one.  One community.  One family of students.

It’s hard on me to not bring the past 12 years of students with me into this new room of mine.  But it’s time to start over.

And at the same time, I am preparing my heart to leave my boys.  Eddie for the 3rd back to school, Charlie for the first time ever.

It’s harder this year than it’s ever been.  Probably because of the sheer amount of change looming before me.  I don’t deal well with change…even when it’s super exciting and positive.  It’s hard for me to process.

Hence the anxiety spikes ever August, which have only gotten worse since having kids.

I have to prepare my heart to endure the pain of letting my boys go, and to expand it a bit to hold the students I will gain this year.

Each morning I have been spending time quiet and with the #SheReadsTruth assignment for the day.  I want to start the year with a good attitude toward my new school and the leaders.  I want a positive start to the year with my students and their parents.

And I want to come home and still be a happy, loving mother to my boys and wife to my husband.

I am letting myself grieve the loss of summer and time with Eddie and Charlie.  I am allowing myself to feel the sadness of having to switch Charlie from what he has known his whole life to a completely new routine with  new people.

I’m taking my new meds regularly to help control the depression that wants to creep in and the anxiety at bay.

But I am also letting myself be excited and happy to get back to the job I love.

And to look up and see the vacations from school that I am blessed with throughout the year to love on my boys…until next summer.

When we are together again.

So today, we are at the zoo.  I am not thinking about my classroom or lesson plans or what new school shirt I will order for casual Fridays.

Today I will be present for my boys so we can enjoy this last adventure of the summer.

You know, until next weekend when it’s Labor Day.

starting fresh

I take my position by my door and face the new school year.

“Good morning!”

“Happy Back to School!”

“How ya doin’ today?”

“Lookin’ tired!  Wake up and smile! We’re BACK!”

Faces wander past me.  Some familiar, some new.

The familiar ones give me head nods, high fives, shout out’s, even hugs.

“How was your summer, Mrs. Sluiter?”

“I heard you’re pregnant!  YAY!”

“Aw, I wish I had your class this year, Sluiter!”

“I read your blog.  I’m glad you are feeling better.”

I watch new faces walk through my door.

They don’t know me.  Some know of me, some do not.

There are shy smiles.

Some nervous, searching eyes.

The hallway where I stand is full of chatter, but as my classroom fills up, it is almost silent.

Most do not know what to expect.

The past students crane their necks past me to peek at the new kids filling up the desks that they used to occupy.

“Look out for that one, Sluiter!”

“Oh hey, you have my sister!”

“You guys are lucky!  Sluiter is the best!”

I laugh and shove the previous students down the hall to their new classes.

But inside, my heart smiles.

My soul feels a spark it hasn’t felt in months.

As the clock ticks down the last minute until the first class, new sneakers squeak against the newly waxed floor.

“Hurry up!  You don’t want a tardy on the first day!”

“Do you know what classroom you are going to?  208?  That is upstairs.”

“Are you looking for my class?  Mrs. Sluiter?  You found it!”

The bell rings.  Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong.

I take one last glance down the empty hall.


Take a deep breath.

And as I close my door I announce with complete confidence,

“Welcome back to school and into Sluiter Nation!  We are going to have a GREAT year!”
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