WRITTEN SEPT 27, 2014 - You know those Facebook challenges that either inspire you and knock your socks off OR they drive you bonkers and you find yourself deleting countless requests and nominations to do crazy things like dump buckets of ice water over your head or list 5 reasons for 5 days about why you’re grateful. I usually dodge these nominations, not because I don’t believe in the cause it’s just that I have a to-do list that is already seemingly endless. Recently, I was nominated by Pat Wilson for the “Gratitude Challenge” and when it comes to gratitude, I don’t know where to begin. So I’m going to simply write about the most recent thing I am grateful for.
I have 2 kids. Grant is almost 9 and Sara is 6. I am ashamed to say that I have never spent a day in their classrooms. While I have been in their class for a few minutes here and there or for a longer visit to watch a special presentation, assembly or cry unabashedly at the Christmas concerts, I’m kind of a deadbeat mom when it comes to helping out at the school. I’m not the brownie-baking for the bake-sale kind of mom but I made the decision to be more active this year and I’m taking a 1/2 day from work each week to spend it in my son’s class. My daughter has no problem with school or language, my son on the other hand…well, he needs a little bit of a push to get going.
Yesterday was my first day and it was AMAZING and it was utterly and completely exhausting. Keep in mind that my regular work schedule sometimes demands several all-nighters to get work done, it’s full of stress and emotions, it demands a ton of energy and time…but none of that could have prepared me. Hell, if I had been a Gladiator during the Roman empire it wouldn’t have prepared me for this kind of exhaustion.
When I got to the school that morning, I was nervous. My kids are both in French immersion and I don’t speak French well at all. Basically, I know how to cuss, I can sing the French chorus of an ABBA song or order beer in French and none of these phrases were likely to come in handy at an elementary school. I went into the class and my nervousness only increased, there were 25 kids from grade 4-7. That’s right, 4 grade levels in a single classroom!! I didn’t really know what to do or how to help and I found myself saying, “Bonjour!” a lot and when the kids replied with phrases in French I stared blankly at them and said, “OUI!”
For the next 3 hours, I watched my son’s teacher expend more energy than a nuclear power plant. He kept them engaged, motivated and excited about their work and about learning. He used discipline in the most unnoticeable and yet effective way. He pumped out all kinds of lessons and I found myself learning as much as the kids. I would walk around and check their spelling pretending that I knew what I was doing but mostly I sat in the back of the class holding back my incessant urge to start clapping every time Monsieur finished a statement.
Even with the extra help, it was really difficult to get to all the kids that needed the help. One activity demanded more supplies than he had available and he stepped across the hall and borrowed some supplies from another teacher. Monsieur also had to engage me as a parent and teach me how to help the kids. It was clear to me that parents REALLY need to be in the classroom when classes are this big.
It was brilliant. I was inspired. I was motivated. I was ready to take on the world. Nothing would stop me now! I left the school at lunch ready to tackle anything that came my way - I was almost floating and had all kinds of ideas about more ways to help at school. Why hadn’t I been involved earlier? Why didn’t I jump at the chance to help in class last year, or the year before? I regretted not getting involved sooner. I thought about taking another 1/2 day and helping out in my daughter’s class. From only a half day, I found new ways to help my son at home. I hopped on my bike and pedaled down the hill with the new kind of energy that one finds when they feel they’ve solved the mysteries of the universe.
I walked in my door and collapsed. I was completely spent! This was a new kind of fatigue, one I don’t remember experiencing. I tried to get some work done but just couldn’t muster the energy. I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and it was now 1:30 and I was starving but eating meant I had to cook something and that took energy…so I just didn’t eat. I had about a dozen phone calls to make and I just couldn’t bring myself to dial, just the thought of having a conversation was exhausting. My phone rang a few times but I just stared at it across the room from my chair…watching it ring, wondering who it was and wondered if it was important…but I didn’t actually care because all I could manage was to just sit there. Ugh.
So I sat there until my head slumped forward and I dozed off. I woke up with a jerk when I heard the kids come home. I couldn’t believe that I had slept, I NEVER sleep during the day and I had been out for an hour! And yet, it felt as if I had just closed my eyes.
Even though it was 3:15, I had to make myself a coffee but it didn’t help. I switched to auto-parent, stumbled through dinner, didn’t wash the dishes and went upstairs and turned on “Hidden Kingdoms” for the kids. We all snuggled in my bed but I fell asleep at 8:30pm and didn’t wake up until 8:30am the following morning.
So this is my way of participating in the gratitude challenge - I am sending a salute to all the teachers and principals out there in the world. Despite the fact that you’re likely nuclear powered mutants from another planet, you’re amazing and I am so grateful for you.