As we close out this year, I think it is important to reflect on the growth and changes we have made within our lives and within ourselves. This time last year, as I was choosing my #OneWord for 2019, I was really focused on myself: who I wanted to be, what I wanted out of my life and how I wanted to finally feel like I was somewhere I belonged. I focused on the word renewal as my #OneWord and boy did I ever live up to that word.
For so many years, I had allowed myself to be taken advantage of because I didn't ever want to say no or seem like I wasn't a team player or helpful. Unfortunately, that reputation preceded me in my career and people just associated my name with the concept that I would always go above and beyond. Way above and beyond. This bit me in my backside multiple times in my career as one person cannot possibly be the most effective teacher they can be and have a myriad of other responsibilities that actually do not impact students.
So last January, I started putting my foot down. I started saying no. I backed out of things I had been asked to do that I didn't really want to do anyway. It made some people mad and it caused some gossip, but unfortunately, gossip was nothing new where I was. It happened in every school I was part of. I continued to push myself to be who I really wanted and needed to be.
In April, when I discovered that I had been royally deceived, I was done. I wasn't going to do this anymore. I pride myself on being honest; honest to a fault actually because sometimes folks don't appreciate my honesty. They would rather keep the peace and the status quo and I am not about that life (and never have been). When someone deceives me on purpose, that's it. We are done. You don't get a second chance, especially when it's in a professional setting. It turned out to be a good thing because it was the catalyst I needed to take my time and talents elsewhere.
In mid-May I was offered my new job as an ESL teacher and I felt blessed to know that I had something lined up for the following year. That may have felt, at that time, like the culmination of my word renewal. I had done it. I had gotten myself a position that I was suited for and would (hopefully) appreciate my time and talents in a way I hadn't felt for a long time where I was.
We ended our school year and within a few days, I was aboard a plane for a month in Uganda working alongside their teachers as a coach. I have always wanted to coach, but have never been given the chance to do so. Uganda changed me. I have told people since I have been back in the USA that I feel like I left part of me in Kunungu District (I definitely left a little skin back there when I slipped on a hike!). I found renewal there too because I realized how simple life could be and how happy everyone we met in Kunungu was. Sure, they called us mzungu's (white people) because there aren't white people there usually, but it wasn't said to be rude or mean, we were more like a novelty. I remember the first day that Heather, Selene and myself went to our assigned school. The students all wanted to touch us because they had never really seen white people before. My eyes were opened to the conditions they have and I was amazed at just how happy they were; they didn't have the creature comforts we are used to in the US but they were cheerful, friendly and probably the happiest people I've ever met.
I came back to the US on July 1. It took me awhile to get used to the fast-paced lifestyle we lead here. I found myself annoyed at the trivial crap people obsess over. My fellow school coaches and I decided to gift our school with real blackboards because while it was crazy expensive to the school (over a million Ugandan shillings), it was only about $330 US, split three ways it was no big deal. I felt like we were leaving a legacy for the children and their teachers and something that would be sustainable for years to come. (And when they had them installed, they were so happy and told us we were angels. We aren't...we were just humbled by these amazing people.)
Then it was time to focus my attention toward my new job. I really didn't know what to expect because I had always been a general education teacher. Even though I have been classified as an ESL teacher for over 10 years, I was always still in a general education setting. This was going to be very new. In mid-July, my new ESL team invited me over for dinner to get to know each other (they've worked together going on 18 years) and I found out there I would have one elementary school and the middle school on my caseload, roughly 55-60 students total.
I went to a ton of trainings at the end of August and then prepped my classrooms for my new adventure. I was excited to know that I would have a class in my middle school where I got to work with my lower ELs but also wasn't tied to an actual curriculum (color me happy!).
I love my job. I think, honestly, it is the best part of this year. I haven't been babysat, no one has hovered over me, and I have been given the professional freedom to make some changes to do what is right by our students. More or less, I have been left to my own devices which I have discovered really fits my personality! In all seriousness, however, I have been treated like a professional who is competent enough to make decisions and follow through on them. That was not true for me previously. The freedom in my job is amazing and I really love what I do.
The last day before winter break, I was at my elementary school in the morning and the middle school in the afternoon as I typically am on Fridays. I knew with the excitement of the school parties and the school-wide celebrations we were having, I wasn't going to pull my groups. I did, however, go to each classroom I see students from to wish them a happy holiday and tell them I would see them in January. The compliments I got from the staff about how happy they are that the students want to come with me made my day. My elementary principal also wrote on my Christmas card that she was so happy I had brought joy to their students. I think that may well have put the nail on the head for my word renewal. I had finally found who I was and was meant to be, in a place where I felt respected, have always been treated like a professional and feel good about the work I do.
In all, I'd say this year has been a good one. It has certainly had its ups and downs (what year doesn't?), but I have gone into everything head-on and with the goal of trying to figure out the purpose or lesson of the situation. It really got me through some of the tougher times.
That leads me to my #OneWord for 2020. I have been thinking about what I wanted this word to be -- It had to be spectacular to follow up on renewal. I found an online quiz somewhere and it told me my word would be harmony. As soon as it popped up on the screen, I knew that was my word, without a doubt.
I am at a point in my life where there are many things happening (one of my kids will be graduating this year and the last one next year; my oldest is thinking of trying for Baby #2) and I want to feel at peace with the stage of life I am in. I think harmony is an amazing word to try to live up to -- to take each day and lesson as they come and try to grow and be better with every lesson.
As this year wraps up and we had into 2020, I wish you peace, harmony and happiness.