Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Catching My Breath

Over my shoulder
I can still feel summer's heat
tonight the snow falls

I hadn't intended to neglect this blog or pull the plug, and while I knew the end of summer would bring big change, I didn't anticipate how busy I'd be. This Christmas break with two weeks away from teaching and my university classes has been truly restorative. Breakfasts with my children, walks to the coffee shop, rides without a destination, and now this little un-forecast mini snowstorm are all food for my soul, and I'm so grateful.

I had intended to write an entry titled "Freeride" (cue Edgar Winter Group). Now, I'll just summarize: My district's decision (financial) to end my reading program, and my "transfer" to a new position/location also entailed a salary cut. And summer school - which I've taught for the last four years - was also one of those "extras" the district trimmed, so I was left with more free time and less money this summer. This ended up being a blessing. I decided to dabble in a little bike racing, but couldn't afford the entry fees. But I was time-wealthy and I raced the whole Mount Tabor road series, and the whole PIR Short Track mountain bike series for free by volunteering before and/or after my races. I also volunteered at all three of Portland's Sunday Parkways events, first with my son as "Intersection Superheroes," then helping with set-up, and finally as a "roving mechanic." My three shifts earned me the coveted Sunday Parkways special edition bandanna.

  1. I also got a free ride for the Portland Century (next day sign removal), the Hottest day of the Year ride (truck unloading), The Night Ride (with my son in exchange for flyering for the Cirque du Cycling), and the Tour de Lab (bike parking at Hopworks Biketoberfest). All in all, a summer of good bike fun and a drawer full of free bike t-shirts (that became nightshirts for my girls.)

Racing in the mud
over engine breath cowbells

and shouts "Go Redmill!"

But best of all was the royal treatment I received for the Cross Crusade. The Baiku version is I know someone who knows someone at Bob's Red Mill, and they knew I eat Bob's organic steel-cut oats every day and preach the Bob's goodness, and I was asked to join their new cyclocross team. I got a free kit with Bob's picture on the shoulders, and in exchange for riding and running and leaping around in the mud with my bike, I received free registrations and some BRM whole grain goodness. How cool is that?! This year I joined the mens 50+ cat for some hard & fast competition. I held my own, once came close to a top-10 finish, and got my first experience with flatting and running it out (twice). Most of all, I had a blast racing with a great group of guys.

And I needed that relief valve this fall. This is my 20th year teaching, but getting ready I felt like such a rookie; I was nervous, scared, excited, and I spent more time getting my classroom and curriculum together than I ever have before. I've got a couple of great groups of 6th graders, and I'm teaming with some incredibly hard-working and dedicated teachers. Plus, my new principal is a former colleague, and a very funny and talented guy, and I feel fortunate to be part of his team. But it has been and remains a lot of work making the transition to a new building and new curriculum. I'm reinventing myself as a teacher. I hadn't realized until I made the move how burnt out I was getting in my former position. I thought I was better than that, but I had allowed the canned curriculum and isolation to lull me into getting comfortable and it was killing me as a teacher. The new job is more work for less money, but - strange as it sounds - I feel a lot better about what I'm doing and I look forward to every day. That hasn't been true for a couple of years.

And I'm finally in an administrative program, deciding to attend the University of Portland after a disastrous experience with Portland State that really was the final straw in a long string of bad experiences with them stretching back to the late 80's. The classes at U.P. have been fantastic, and I feel like this fall I've transitioned from being cautiously curious about working in educational administration and uncertain of my own abilities, to ready to get in and start creating the kind school I believe kids really need. I feel like I've spent the last 20 years learning and gathering and preparing for this. I know I'm idealistic and I know nothing resist change like a public school bureaucracy. And maybe I'm sick that way, but knowing this just makes me want it more.