Ed. note: Michele Godwin is beginning her 14th year of teaching high school. She’s back at Leadership High School, where she taught from 2001 to 2008. An English teacher by training and experience, Michele has changed her focus to build a library for Leadership. In addition to her fundraising and library organizing, she is an 11th grade adviser. These are her musings from the first few weeks back at work.
Monday, 8/4 – 8:46 am
Back to work already! When did summer end in July? I can’t complain much, though: my summer lasted three years. But August 4? Really?
Tuesday, 8/5 – 10:08 am
Over my resentment about the short summer, and excited to be someplace that feels so much like home, even with all the new faces. It’s a bit of a shock to be one of the oldest people in the room, however. It didn’t used to be that way!
Wednesday, 8/6 – 3:47 pm
Another day of excellent professional development. I’m reminded how fortunate I am to work in a place that takes the education of its staff so seriously. I’ve learned more about how to recognize my privilege and better serve my students in LHS PD meetings than anywhere else.
Friday, 8/8 – 9:10 am
A day of work/rest. Don’t have to put a classroom together or plan a lot of curriculum, so I focus on rest. Off to Tahoe for a camping trip with friends, a good way to remind myself the importance of maintaining balance in my life, especially as the school year kicks in. Only working 80% while I finish up my Master’s degree this year – AND I’ve got to keep being a mom and a partner for my family. MUST MAINTAIN BALANCE!
Friday, 8/8 – 5:37 pm
Finally make it DL Bliss State Park after a long drive. Enjoying a drink with friends when I witness my 8-year-old do an end-over the top of his bike a mere 15 feet away from me. When I try to run to him, I trip on a tent wire and go flying, landing on the ground with my rump in the air. Wearing a skirt.
BALANCE. MUST MAINTAIN BALANCE.
Saturday, 8/9 – 3:32 pm
A day at the beach. Jumping off rocks into Lake Tahoe from a 12-foot-cliff, and I can’t help but make the experience into a metaphor as I watch my little boy agonize over the decision whether or not to jump, actively working to overcome his fear, having seen all his camping friends take the plunge already. He has lots of support, with everyone assuring him of his safety and encouraging him to take the risk; his father waits in the water below, arms ready. He finally jumps and is met with shouts of praise, like something out of Rudy. I am reminded of how privileged he is, to be in this beautiful place and to have a whole network of people around him to help him take this risk. I want the same thing for my advisees.
Wednesday, 8/13 – 4:15 pm
First day of three days of retreats with advisories. My group is 15 or so juniors, several of whom have had multiple advisers in their time at LHS. The first day does not go well. They are angry, and I am rusty. They need me to be strict but not rigid, to know their stories but to make no assumptions about them, to be committed to them and to not allow them to push me away. I almost cry after they leave, I am so stressed out. Almost, but not quite.
Thursday, 8/14 – 3:48 pm
Field trip to Berkeley with three of the four junior advisories. The adults are unorganized and unprepared, and it comes through: the kids don’t understand the point of the trip and complain. A lot. They want to leave campus to buy lunch, even though they’ve been told they won’t be allowed to. Lots of pushback and argument. Two of my girls fuss and fuss, and then change their approach to calmly and rationally explain why they need to buy lunch from the pizza place down the street. I am angry and hot, and ready to dig in my heels, when I call my principal for some advice. Do I let them go, and send the message they can do whatever they want? Or do I stick to my guns and watch them get hangrier and hangrier? My principal talks me down. I take the girls to the pizza place down the road, and they tell me their life stories. Turns out, they have every right to be angry.
Monday, 8/18 – 2:47 pm
First day of school. Two kids who didn’t come to retreats join us, and it’s nice to finally see their faces. The group is worked up and restless, after a full day of classes, and they just want to get through this last hour twenty and go home. I tell them we are going to talk about what is going on in Ferguson, and they loudly exclaim that they’ve been hearing about that all day, that it has nothing to do with them, that it just makes them angry and sad and scared. I understand. But we forge on, and it feels like I’m swimming upstream, as they talk over me, talk to each other, talk about who didn’t show up today, talk about who’s getting her eyebrows done after school. I send them out into the hallway to come back in and start all over. One never comes back. At the end of the day, though, we have a short list on the board: WAYS WE CAN DO SOMETHING TO EMPOWER OURSELVES. It’s a short list, but it’s a start.