This morning I’m preparing to write two cards. One card to congratulate a family member on their recent wedding. One to a dear friend who just lost her 26 year old son. One card is bright and sparkly with a silk bow and bold silver and gold lettering. The other has subdued grays and blues and a smaller, cursive font. In one card, I’m sending wishes for a long future together, filled with love, laughter, and eternal happiness. In the other, I’m urging my friend to take life one day (sometimes one minute) at a time, and to have strength, hold onto memories, lean on the people she knows and loves. Life is complicated. I don’t know what else to say. I can’t find the words.
“30 Days Left! We can do it!!” This on a school bulletin board in May. This week, calendars in classrooms and faculty rooms are marked off with thick Sharpies. ….. 19 (crossed off), 20 (crossed off), 21 (ready to be crossed off), 22 (circled in bright colors with sun strokes radiating outward and LAST DAY! written across the rest of the week).
Of course I am excited for the school year to wind down and summer to begin. Of course I look forward to long days with no schedule, reading on the beach or in the hammock, and trips with family. Of course I can’t wait to take long walks with my husband and dog, and take time to relax and refresh. But there is another part of me that grieves at this time of the year. I don’t like endings. I struggle with transitions. You would think I would have figured this out after 25 years of teaching, but I still find the end of the school year difficult. I don’t like the barren look of classrooms with empty bulletin boards and everything neat and packed away. I don’t like all the boxes lined up in the hallways for teachers who have to leave the building or move classrooms. I don’t like saying goodbye to staff members who are retiring or heading off on a new journey. The truth is that I miss my “school family.” I miss my meaningful work. I even miss my schedule.
I have to give myself a week or two to adjust to the summer way of being. At the start of the summer, my eyes still open early and I feel the need to get up and get the coffee going. At the start of the summer, I feel a bit lost with nothing on the calendar. At the start of the summer, I always make a huge list of things I want to accomplish.
Of course it doesn’t take long to adjust to the slower, more relaxed pace of summer. I get used to the later waking time, the time spent drinking coffee and reading in the mornings, the long, endless days spent doing whatever comes to mind, and the long To Do list that remains largely undone. Then as August winds down, and the new calendars start to go up in classrooms, and new bulletin boards welcoming students back to school begin to appear in the hallways, I grieve the end of summer.
My dad grew up in Brooklyn. Not today’s Brooklyn of hipsters and coffee bars and fancy food venues, but the Brooklyn of old. The Brooklyn where kids played on the stoop and chickens were raised in yards. The Brooklyn where boys ran free in the streets and jumped from roof to roof to show off for the girls. My dad has so many wonderful stories about his youth in the Marine Park neighborhood. He told me this beauty the other night:
Dad: “When I was a kid….we all carried salt shakers in our back pockets in the summer.”
Me: “Salt shakers? In your back pocket?”
Dad: “Yup. There was a truck farm where they grew tomatoes right down the block. We’d play baseball all day long, and then, when we were really hot and sweaty, we’d run down to the farm, grab a few fresh tomatoes, find a cool spot under a big tree, sprinkle salt on the tomatoes, and ahhhh. That’s what summers were made of.”
I just love this story. It captures so much about the simple pleasures of summer, of youth, and of the good old days!
I was talking recently with two friends of mine; both are mothers of teenagers, and both are experiencing the joys and challenges of raising adolescent children. One said that her daughter had recently uttered the words she had never wanted to hear. She had actually screamed, “I hate you, mom!” Of course it was said in the heat of the moment. Of course everyone knew she really didn’t mean it, but it was hurtful. My other friend turned around and said, “If your kids aren’t angry with you once in a while, then you are probably not doing your job as a parent.” This struck me as being true. Of course part of being a good parent is to say no and deal with the fallout. Being a good parent means sometimes having to be the bad guy, the unpopular person in the room. We know that children learn from having limits set and enforced at times. We know that sometimes we have to push our kids into areas that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable. We know that sometimes a bit of unpleasantness at the moment will lead to something worthwhile and much better in the long run.
Is this true with coaching as well? Is it true that if you don’t meet with some resistance from teachers and administrators, then you are probably not doing your job as a literacy coach? I’ve met with a bit of resistance over the last few weeks. I know it’s the end of the school year and people are tired. I know that maybe this isn’t the best time to introduce new ideas. I also know that I want to give teachers, administrators, and especially students, everything I have until the last bus pulls out of the driveway on the last day of school. It’s hard to hear that teachers aren’t happy about initiatives I’ve suggested. It’s hurtful. But maybe, just maybe, being a coach involves (even requires) some resistance. Maybe resistance is just part of the learning process. Maybe (hopefully) we will move through this patch of unpleasantness toward something that is going to be much better in the long run.