Be The Calm

It was a busy summer.

Just so you know, that’s the usage of the word busy where it actually means overwhelming-and-sometimes-stressful-enough-to-make-me-think-I-might-lose-my-marbles. And that’s despite summer vacation, and my school being closed for renovations.

We bought a house in June, right before end-of-school craziness; we beautified and sold our house in July; we packed in August, and moved on the last Saturday of the month. It was hard to tell how much the kids felt the upheaval – they had plenty of emotional outbursts, but that’s nothing new.

In truth, it was a pretty nice low-pressure timeline – we even had five days of overlap with both houses, so that we could properly clean out the old house. I said goodbye to it by scrubbing out its fridge and vacuuming its bare carpets with a thoroughness it hasn’t seen since we became parents. (Interestingly, vacuuming an empty house is a good way to find all those above-mentioned marbles one has lost.)

Five days later, in our new house, I suddenly got weepy for no reason I could pinpoint… other than, I suppose, a whole summer of emotional and physical craziness.

Now we are settled in. Ish. That is to say, we have unpacked enough to function quite well, but there are lots of boxes still to unpack, and certain things we haven’t yet located. (Like E’s raincoat. Mom Fail.)

The kids like it at the new house, but E especially still likes to mention, in tragic tones, that he wishes we could go back and live at the old house.

E has started in Grade 1 at his new school, with a much smaller class than in JK or SK, and seems to have had good days (overall) every day… but he still doesn’t really want to go each morning. He still looks sadly at me each day before he goes into the school.

AB is going to same day care provider as always, and we are now within walking distance of her house! But since the summer, AB has decided she doesn’t like going there. This morning she was sobbing and holding my hand as hard as she could when I left.

In an alternate reality, today would have been Sebastian’s first full day of Junior Kindergarten. We got a notice last winter, on lavender paper, inviting all parents of “children born in 2011” to register their kids for kindergarten. Yep, we’re those parents… but not.

That was the first time I realized that starting kindergarten is the first concrete missed milestone for Sebastian, and for us as his parents. We know he would have gotten teeth and crawled and said words and walked and all sorts of cool things by now, but we have only a vague idea of when. The event of starting school has an exact date. I know many beautiful JK munchkins, Sebastian’s would-be peers, who have visited their classrooms and begun big-kid school over the past week. I’m excited and proud for them and their parents, and I’m sending them extra-special vibes as they settle into this new phase. With a little lump in my throat.

Before school started, I was feeling so-so about going back to work. My emotions were all over the map; the house wasn’t all ready; I didn’t feel organized; and I was still dealing with the bitter taste left after last year, when I contended with difficult behaviour from my students with a frequency that exhausted me. Last year, I was not happy with the level of patience I was able to muster, with either my students or my own children. I was not really proud of the job I did.

But, ready or not, a new house is a fresh start, and a new school year is a fresh start. And many things have happened this summer, both locally and globally, that give me perspective on the things I struggle with.

So, regardless of how many boxes remain to be unpacked, I am starting over. I have given myself a new mantra, in which I misquote Gandhi (but in a way I think he’d endorse):

Be the calm you wish to see in the world.

My life will be disorganized for a bit longer, but the calmer I can be, the sooner things will fall into place.

My children will certainly have emotional outbursts, but the more I can model calm, the more likely they are to absorb it.

Certain of my students will forget the expectations, say rude things, fall off their chairs, interrupt, be mean to their peers, and/or goof off when they should be working, but the more I remind myself to maintain calm, the easier it is to remember that it’s not personal – those kids are simply displaying their needs – and that my reaction, the part I control, sets the tone more than anything.

I aim to Be the Calm, and at the end of this school year, to be proud of myself for it. I can feel already that my classroom atmosphere has more humour in it, and less stress.

Today, one of my new Grade 4 students blurted, after five French classes with me, “You’re my favourite teacher!” I know it’s only week two, and opinions change mercurially, but that has to mean something, right?




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6 thoughts on “Be The Calm

  1. Krista says:

    Great mantra! I will be adopting it. 🙂
    Slightly smaller (okay way smaller) changes than you, but I moved out of my classroom, moved 95% of my teaching stuff home, moved the other 5% to a desk and a cubby in our “hub”, and am wrapping my head around teaching health & phys ed, music, drama & dance to grade 1 through 4. I forgot how exhausting primary is! BUT – Favourite moment from my first week back to school:

    Grade 1 student: Ms. P…
    Me: Just a minute (the behaviour of 3 or more other littles demand my attention)
    Gr 1: Can I tell you something?
    Me: Can it wait til we get to the gym? (This line is noisy and straggly and it’s the last 25 minutes of the last period on Friday.)
    Gr 1: (nods)
    Me: (totally unintentionally forgets that this little boy wants to tell me something until I see him waiting patiently by the gym door as I round up the back of the “line”) What did you want to tell me?
    Gr 1: Do you know what my favourite thing in school is?
    Me: Ummm… gym?
    Gr 1: No. My favourite thing in school is everything you teach us.
    Me: (heart melts into a giant puddle) Awwww, that made my heart feel good. Thank you.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Awww! That makes my heart feel good too. Grade 1s can be so lovely! (And I can’t disagree about the exhausting nature of primary, no matter how lovely they are…)

  2. emerge says:

    Doh, I just read this now! It didn’t load when I first opened it but was hanging out in a window on my phone and I found it today.

    I didn’t know about your Calm thing, but it sounds like a great idea. How are you feeling now?

    I know it’s hard when your kids are compounding all the stuff that is already tough for you, and it’s up to you to deal with it, even if they don’t want you to be unhappy. Hopefully by this time next year everything will be settled and this fall will seem like a bizarre dream, because you’ve alllllways lived in this house, right?

    I remember when I visited Heather a year or so after they moved to their present house and Natasha didn’t remember their old apartment! When they got the new house it was amazing, of course, to be in a house and have a park nearby and everything, but that apartment was where Alexander had lived, so it was also sad that they were leaving.

    I hope things go waaay better with the kids in your classes this year! And the babysitter stops being SO darn mean :P.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Hey, I was late for your comment too! The Calm thing is going okay. A lot better than last year, but I can still improve. Just need to focus a bit more and get good sleep… Sigh. xoxox

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