My first official day back at school was supposed to be October 11th. However, the kids didn’t have school on Monday, so I went back on the 8th to get my classroom ready for my return. I felt like I was prepared for the mess I would encounter when I went back. The few times I visited school to show off Winnie, everyone would tell me to not even look in my room and to enjoy my time without stressing about it. Every time I talked to my coworkers they told me it was bad but to put it out of my mind until it was time for me to come back. I listened, they were absolutely right. No matter how bad it was, there was nothing I could do until I came back. I didn’t look in my room and tried to come to terms with the fact that it was going to be a disaster. I was grateful for coworkers who were supportive of me taking full advantage of my leave. Nothing could have prepared me for what I would walk in to.
When I went in on Monday, I was in shock. It looked like an actual tornado had gone through my room. Pencils, paper, erasers, book pages, crayons, markers, scissors, and chairs were strewn about the room. Worksheets were spilling out of every mailbox and cubbie. Student’s pencil boxes (which I had purchased and filled with supplies) were broken and covered with glue and markers. My teacher materials had been stolen or broken. I couldn’t believe it. Then, I saw my library and Fun Friday activities. Books, games, toys, and activities that I had purchased with hard earned money, DESTROYED. Fun Friday items that had been provided by Donors Choose, DESTROYED. Books had pages torn out, glued together, and the covers were torn off. My blocks and Magnatiles covered in glue and thrown all around. Everything covered in marker and pencil. The students had shoved the books and materials under every shelf. I burst into tears. I was livid and hurt. My blood was actually boiling. Upon investigation, I found there were about 4 students responsible for all of this, the rest had done minimal damage. “These kids have no idea what’s about to hit them on Thursday”. I thought. My mom and I threw most everything away and organized what we could. We covered all my shelves with butcher paper and turned them toward the walls. It was as “kid proof” as I could get it while still being functional. For the next few days I stewed. What in the actual heck was I going to do? Would I rip my kids a new one or clean it up and move on with my year? I had no idea. I was still so mad I couldn’t decide.
When Thursday morning came, my only concern was dropping Winifred off at daycare. A former coworker of mine had started an at home daycare with her mother and was going to be taking care of her. When I got to the house, I actually felt good! The house was adorable, cozy, clean, and welcoming. Winnie had been in the house 10 seconds and was already being loved on. They took her out of the car seat and gave me a tour, it was perfect. It made my mommy heart so happy to know she was going to be safe and loved by wonderful people. However, when it came time for me to leave her and go to school, I couldn’t hold back the tears. They started streaming down my face as I thought about being away from her all day. I couldn’t fathom how this day had already come. She was so little. She had just started smiling, and now I was going to miss days full of her smiles. I knew she was going to be ok. I just didn’t know if I would be. I had already cried off my mascara as I pulled into the school parking lot, but I had to get my ish together. It was going to be a long day.
I decided I wouldn’t go on a war path to make my students pay for what they’d done. Yes, they should have behaved much better, but they’re 6. So, I collected some of the destroyed items and placed them in the front of the room. After breakfast, I brought the kids to the carpet and explained that I was sad and my feelings were very hurt about how our classroom was treated. I held up each item and we talked about the way it should be used and not be used. Surprisingly, the students who were responsible fessed up and I had to celebrate their honesty. It’s not easy for a 6 year old to own up to something that might get them in a ton of trouble. We took a deep breath together and made a pinky promise to handle our classroom objects with great care and respect. I gently reminded them that if they had anything to confess to or return to me (a lot of stuff had been stolen), that no one would be in trouble. Some students confessed or pulled my materials out of their backpacks and we celebrated that our friends were brave enough to be honest! I wanted to set up my classroom as a place of trust and honesty. As hard as it was for me to let go of my destroyed materials, I knew that if I wanted to have a successful year with these babes, I had to move on. So, another deep breath and we all let it go. It’s all just material things and it won’t matter at the end of the year. We have learning to do! #wewillrebuild
Now, if you know about my school year last year, it was rough. I had a student in my class who did some physical and psychological damage to the point of me having to be put on anti anxiety medication during my pregnancy. I was hoping for some reprieve this year and, for the most part, I got it. I have a class of the SWEETEST and brightest babes. I do, however, have one little trouble nugget. She is just as sweet and just as bright as the others but she has trouble with the word “No” or redirection of any kind. She had run my classroom for 9 weeks and was not a fan of me coming in to change her routine. By 9 am, I was in tears again. She was giving my behavior management skills a run for their money and I was already exhausted. Luckily, my administration was there for me and intervened when I needed help, but I started thinking about Winnie. I was questioning if this was going to be worth leaving my daughter. I began to calculate all the things I was willing to give up to be a stay at home mom. I could live without Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Starbucks, makeup, fast food, getting my nails done, etc. I would live minimally if need be. I love my job, and I’m really really good at it, but it didn’t want it to affect the kind of mother I would be. I didn’t want to go through the hell I’d gone through last year. The day was full of tears. I kept repeating “I can’t do this. I can’t do this”. I went home that day and just collapsed into my mom. I looked at her and asked “How do moms do this?” Was there something I was missing?
I thought seriously about just walking away and never going back, but I’m glad I did. Friday was much better. Winnie’s daycare sent me out with a warm, homemade tortilla and two fresh tamales (they are the best family)! How could my day not already be better? My nugget had another rough day, but our first meltdown was at 10am this time instead of first thing in the morning, so I count that as a win!! She was getting better and responding to me, while my administrators continued to intervene and constantly support me. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel; maybe this wouldn’t be a repeat of last year. The other 16 babes were wonderful. You could tell they were craving structure and rigor in the classroom! They were masters at our routines and procedures by the middle of the Friday. I got so many hugs and drawings that I thought my heart would explode. My friend at the daycare sent me a video of Winnie sleeping soundly and it gave me some peace. I felt myself getting back into the groove of this job that I love so much. It felt good!! I know this is what I’m supposed to do with my life.
I’m just gonna say it, working moms amaze me. All moms amaze me, but I was not prepared for how difficult this would be. I love my job and I love my baby. Will I be working forever? I don’t know, but I do know that this year will be a good one. Finding a balance will be a priority. I’m learning how healthy it is for me to separate my work from my family life now that I’m a mom. I could go on about how I now understand things I used to judge moms for before I was one, but that’s for another blog post.