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Something About Christmas Time

Jen Robinson Education, Life in the Classroom

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There are days and weeks that as educators we just wash from our minds and as soon as they are over we forget and move on. The first week of school, the last week of school and the week before winter break. This past week felt like a month of Fridays. I have no other way to explain it. Now that I am on break and looking back it doesn’t seem so bad, but honestly I have forgotten much of what transpired.

It is not so much what happens, it’s just a different level of energy. Good energy, excited energy, nervous energy, bad energy. Before I had started teaching I loved Christmas and couldn’t imagine a better time of the year. That feeling faded and continues to fade the longer I am in education. As a teacher, I saw it in my scholars, some were happy, some sad, some anxious and just plain mad. But ultimately I could impact those feelings within my classroom. I would make sure different cultures were recognized and all scholars felt safe making sure they had gifts for their parents and families.

But as an administrator, I see a spectrum of emotions from all sides: Parents, scholars and staff. My most memorable experience happened several year ago – a scholar shared some pretty serious stuff that had happened when she was at a relatives’ house for the holidays. She had not told anyone else and since the holiday break was fast approaching, a flood of emotions fell over her and she desperately shared these feelings with her friends, who shared with her teacher, who shared with me. We responded with her best interest in mind and brought her parents in to discuss the concerns. Ultimately everything worked out and the family took care of the situation. Here I am years later thinking about this scholar and others who may face the same challenges. Wondering, “Are they safe?”

Another more recent event, was a scholar who came to talk with me. She wanted me to know why she had been tardy so frequently and missing school. Well from her mouth to my ears, “We, my mom and I have been evicted from our house and we are not sure where we will be living or sleeping. I am not sure I will be here on Monday, but if I am I will try hard to be on time. I just wanted you to know, it’s hard and I am scared.” How do you put that into perspective? While I’m at my house during the holiday break, many of the scholars I see on a daily basis may not even know where they are sleeping, or have their lives turned upside down, not knowing what each day will bring. I wonder, “Will they have food? Will they be safe?”

I see parents coming in with concerns about teachers and staff members, about other scholars. They are coming in in a flight or fight mode and looking for ways to have control or fix a situation. They are not always thinking clearly or rationally. It is up to us to listen and bring some resolution to their concerns. In the same breath, we have parents, families, and scholars facing issues at home, who simply need someone they trust to listen to them. They need have their voice heard. I wonder, “Do they have the support they need to be effective as a parent? Are they able to handle the daily stress of having a family? Do they ever have tome to just get away?”

Now, throw staff members into this mix and the anxiety they feel with the pressure of the closing semester, finishing grading and report cards, reflecting on their mid-year assessments, wondering how to reach all of their scholars, not to mention their families and making ends meet on an educator’s salary. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that teachers have lives outside of school, they too have families and very real problems. But we ask them to leave their emotional bag at the door so they can give 100% to our families and scholars. Well what happens when they break? When they need a minute to stop and breath? I wonder, “Are they taking or making time to relax and rejuvenate? Are they able to stop thinking and be fully present with their family?”

Through the high energy and outrageous anxiety and stress of the holidays, how do you manage to keep it all together?

 

Jen Robinson

Maricopa, Arizona

Hello, my name is Jen Robinson. I have been in education for over 20 years. I began teaching in Buffalo, NY in 1992, as a pre-school special education teacher. My experience ranges from primary grades through high school. My husband and I moved to Arizona in 2001, where we were fortunate enough to teach at the same school. In 2004, I achieved National Board Certification and currently support candidates. In 2011 I completed my Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation. My dissertation research focused on supporting National Board candidates through their certification process. During the 2012-2013 school year, I completed my National Board renewal process. It was humbling and very powerful to step back into a classroom. I am currently an elementary principal. I am excited and hopeful for the new school year. I also serve on the Arizona Teacher Solutions Team where we are solutions focused in an effort to transform and elevate the teaching profession.

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  • Yolanda Wheelington

    Thank you for writing about this topic. With the daily demands of teaching and the reality that 2018 teaching requires all of us to be consistently present, it is easy to forget that we all have another life. Everything will not always fit around the academic clock. It is important that we honor the vulnerabilities of humanity that we are all susceptible to. This applies from our youngest preschooler to our oldest staff member.