Hello! I hope you have all had a relaxing and rejuvenating summer break. For those of you who are already back at it, we feel for you! It’s still summer in Colorado! Our students come back next week and the forecasts are predicting 90s for days, so we feel your pain. For those of you who don’t go back until after Labor Day, we’re all jealous, just so you know.
I hope you’ve all taken some opportunities to unplug and do what feeds your soul this summer. Teaching is soul work. As Adrienne talked about in her last post, we had the honor of working with a group of dedicated heritage teachers this summer and let me tell you, there was a lot of heart and soul in that group of people. Sure, sometimes people fall into teaching heritage classes, but we stay in this work because our hearts are in it and we know that sometimes it can be heart-wrenching. That’s why I think summer is so important, we need that time to be able to freely seek what fills our cup so that we can come back and pour our energy, passion, and love into our students. But does that have to end as we go back to school? Does anyone else feel like they are taking a deep breath right before diving back under the water? Does it have to feel that way?
Yesterday I was going through pictures from summer, posting some of them to social media and I noticed a change. I started to feel lighter and happier. My heart felt full. It led me to start thinking about how I can sustain that feeling throughout the school year. I think one way we can keep our cup full is by reflecting on and writing about the experiences that fill it. So in this post, I would like to tell you about what I did to fill my teacher cup this summer and I hope you will share what you did to fill yours in the comments.
One thing that always fills my cup is being with my family. I am originally from Alabama and almost all of my family lives there, including my four little nieces and nephews. I try to go home for as long as I can in the summer to just be with them. I think quality time is definitely one of my top love languages. The time I get to spend with my dad, my brothers and their families, my aunts, grandmother, and cousins is time that feeds my soul. I lost my mom seven years ago, so it is especially important for me to be with the women who helped raise me. They build me up like no one else can and I am so grateful for them. Inevitably, we end up talking about my work and it gives me time to step back and see this work we do from a different perspective. It helps me see the big picture, instead of getting lost in the day-to-day as I sometimes do during the school year.
The other important part for me is spending time with my nieces and nephews. My brothers each have a red-headed girl and a blond-headed boy and I am lucky that they and their wives let me soak up as much time with them as I can when I am there in the summer. Being around their pure little selves is like hitting the reset button for me. They love unconditionally and speak their truths unabashedly. It makes me see everything in a different light. The oldest is going to kindergarten this year, and I was excited to talk to her about school, but she wasn’t. She was worried that she was going to get in trouble (she won’t, she’s a rule-follower) and that she wouldn’t have friends (I told her that is what kindergarten is for). It made my teacher heart break a little bit. It made me pray for a kind teacher for her that would see her as she truly is. What a lesson for me as a teacher. I am walking into a room full of people’s precious children. I can be kind. I can try to see them as they truly are. And what about the ones that aren’t necessarily precious to anyone, as heartbreaking as that is? They need an extra dose of kindness and being seen.
This summer I was also lucky enough to get to travel. When I decided to be a teacher, I thought that my summers would be filled with travel to all the Spanish-speaking corners of the world. I obviously knew very little about the expenses of being an adult and how far my teacher salary would (or would not) go. So now, when I do get to travel, I really appreciate it. I got to spend eleven days in Mexico with my honey and it was amazing. He is from Mexico City and acted as my own personal tour guide. We got to stay in the historic city center and see most of the major sites. We also checked off a lot our food bucket-list and I got my open water scuba certification. It was great. So how did vacation make me a better teacher?
First, a lot of my students are from Mexico. I feel like I got a better idea of how the country is laid out and the differences between different regions. Now, when I ask my students where they or their families are from, I have a little better reference to make that connection. I also got to try a lot of different foods that I had never had before. From huitlacoche or tacos de canasta to roadside barbacoa or chiles en nogada (a nod to all the times I have read Como agua para chocolate), I felt like I ate my way through Mexico. I know food is different from region to region, but some things are universal and now when my students talk about food I didn’t know before, I have a better reference. And we all know that food is a strong point of connection for us humans. It was also great for my Spanish to be immersed for eleven straight days before going back to work. My slang got better, especially listening to my boyfriend and his friends.
I also think that scuba diving had a lot to teach me, even if it wasn’t necessarily cultural lessons. I love the water and I love to swim, but I wasn’t so sure about trusting that tank to give me the air I needed or how I was going to keep from choking on a mouthful of water. It was much more of a mental exercise than a physical one. I learned a lot about trust and surrender. Once I was able to let go of my need to control everything and trust the process, I was able to do it and even enjoy it. So much of my teaching journey has been about exactly that. When Adrienne and I moved to the workshop model in our heritage classes, I had doubts. But I took a risk, trusted the process, surrendered my control and a lot of beautiful things happen. It was good to get that reminder in such a visceral way in the water. This year is going to be a new year for me with a lot of changes professionally (more about that in a coming post), so I know I’m going to need to keep this lesson close to my heart.
So now it’s your turn. What did you do this summer that filled your cup? What lessons are you taking with you into the new school year? How are you going to keep your cup filled?
Enjoy these last days of summer if you still have them.