A Difficult Year Or An Amazing One?

I found myself in an unusual emotional space at the end of this school year. I had the same bittersweet feelings about my students and I leaving one another. But, I also had rather strong feelings of angst, frustration, stress, and honestly, just overall ick. Top it all off with the perception that I couldn’t shake the ick, but instead was somehow stuck in that grey, disgusting, frustrating, depressing, putrid space.

How’s that for an image?

So, what’s an educator to do when she finds herself in that spot? Choose a new story.

Kindra Hall says “In life, the most important stories are the ones we tell ourselves.”

If I were in the audience when she said it, I might have jumped up and yelled “Preach it, sister!”

Ah, but how to do that? It seemed the story I was telling myself was quite true. It certainly felt true. And, in some very real way, it was true. But was it the whole story? Was it the only story? Was it the story I wanted to choose to tell myself about the year, or me, or teaching, or the world? No, no, no, and no, it certainly was not.

Well then, what was that story? What was the truth I was overlooking, or not highlighting as the star of my story? What is the story I want to tell myself about this year, and perhaps about every year?

It is a story filled with love, triumph, learning, and inspiration. Listen as I tell myself (and you) the truest stories about this year.

One night this spring, I just broke down. Crying, I said “I don’t know what the matter is.” My brother paused and softly said “It’s been a hard two years.” It has indeed. I did cancer treatment – during a pandemic. I didn’t teach or coach for what seemed like forever. I felt awful more than I felt good during my six months of treatment. I taught Kindergarten virtually after spring break – that’s a remarkable new level of exhaustion. I took a 200 hour yoga, SEL, and mindfulness course as I recouped over the summer. I returned to the classroom in person this school year with a compromised immune system, no antibodies, masks, seating charts, tons of new tech, and tons of new teaching load. For sure it’s been a hard two years.

And yet, at the same time, and for many of the same reasons it’s been a year of triumph, grace, gift, and amazing strength, love, and overall fantabulousness. Let me explain.

I did cancer treatment, during a pandemic, with drugs that compromised my immune system more than it already was. I did it! Not by myself, mind you. I did it with the help of the amazing docs, nurses, and researchers. I did it with the love and support of family and friends. We did it! Me, and my tribe, did cancer treatment during the pandemic, and lived to tell about it with smiles and deep gratitude to God.

I taught Kindergarten — virtually! Not by myself. I did it with the help of many beautiful, kind people who helped me, encouraged me, affirmed me, and sometimes sat with me while I cried. And I didn’t just do it. I did it well. I proved that distance is not a deterrent to learning or to relationship. It’s an opportunity to rethink, to collaborate, and to figure out ways to make it amazing.

Fall of 2021, I returned to my Kindergarten classroom with a compromised immune system, no antibodies, masks, seating charts, tons of new tech, and tons of new teaching load, in a year that was difficult, exhausting, and taxing to the best of us. I returned. I struggled. I ideated and iterated. I breathed through a lot. I imagined possibility and I worked to bring it to pass. I entered into relationships with my Kindergartners and their parents. Together we created a year of learning, joy, discovery, and creativity. Together we created and lived a year of triumph!

A sentiment I send right back to all my Kindergartners and their families!
As I processed this to share, I noticed the Kindergartner’s handwriting. It is ALL correct upper and lower case letters with beautiful legibility. That is a triumph on so many levels!

At times this year was fraught with stress and anxiety. Unwilling to have that be our experience of the year, we worked together to fill the year with joy, peace, affirmations, breath, and mindfulness. As those dear sweet Kindergartners wept — missing their parents, unsure of what their friends where feeling — we breathed together. Sometimes I held their hands, and did the affirmation and breath practice while they simply stayed with me. I trusted that their mirror neurons would do their job and calm them by simply observing my practice of self-regulation. At other times the Kindergartners were the ones reminding me to breathe and practice mindfulness of doors, or helping their friends with affirming thoughts and suggestions of ways to proceed. They embraced their classroom jobs of peace person and positivity proclaimer and daily led their peers through mindful, beautiful moments of breath, affirmation, and peace. They even asked if they could increase their having a holiday job to include leading their friends in two yoga poses each morning. They also took their practice home and shared it with their families and friends. I know, because parents regularly shared their amazement and gratitude with me.

As I gathered my thoughts for this post I went through the notes from this year, as well as ones I’ve saved from years past. These add weight and validity to my stories. They strengthen the positive neural pathways in my brain.

The Kindergartner made affirmations for the letters that spell my name.
Love notes from the Kindergartners

Thank you for creating a warm, peaceful, exciting, artistic, free thinking and child driven classroom.

You are a warrior queen — determined and victorious!

Remember what an inspiration you are to so many.

You encouraged her to try new things no matter how scary they seemed. You taught her to not be afraid to ask questions.

We appreciate your fantabulousity.

I’m not the only educator who had a difficult year of triumphant teaching and learning. I’m not the only creative one. I’m not the only amazing one. There are so many others. I hope each educator that reads this post, takes the time to carefully choose the story you are telling yourself. Make it about your triumphs, your discoveries, the lives you’ve changed, the relationships you’ve forged, the difficulties you have overcome. Make it the best and truest story about yourself, who you are, and what you do.

With gratitude to God and all the amazing people who encourage me to be me, and who help make what I do possible, I say, “I am capable, and strong. I have a big beautiful brain and am always learning. I am kind. I am brave. I can do hard things — and regularly do. I have an awesome heart. I make a difference. I inspire others. I am deeply loved. I am, and always will be, fantabulous. My year was not easy, but it was amazing.”


Post Script:
If you’re anything like me, it may feel a bit uncomfortable to say all these things in such a public way. It may even seem somehow improper to do so.

But, the truth is it is completely proper, and absolutely necessary!

We must treat ourselves as we would a good friend or colleague. We acknowledge their foibles and the times they have fallen short, but we champion their fantabulousness and all their victories, and gains. We tell them the stories that help them understand who we know them to be. We tell others those same stories and more — because they are valuable stories — to tell and to hear.

Please tell your amazing stories! I’m happy to listen if you want to share them in the comments. But feel no pressure. Just tell them to yourself and at least one other.

12 thoughts on “A Difficult Year Or An Amazing One?

  1. I felt every word of your story in my soul. I did not do many of the things you did, but much of what I did resulted in many of the same feelings. Thank you for telling your story. Thank you for reminding me that I am on the right track with my mantra, “I am an education professional, and I can do great things well.” I have, I did, and I will continue to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My colleagues and I were talking at the close of the school year about how we thought, out the beginning, it would be so much better than 2020-2021…but it was MUCH harder. Exhausting to the bones, physically, mentally, spiritually. To think of undergoing cancer treatments as well….you ARE a warrior queen! You give so many vital reminders throughout your post, such as how we need one another and to just breathe. I celebrate your amazing year and the gifts of enduring, healing, and life. “The most important stories are the ones we tell ourselves” – we can paint our narratives any way we choose, as dark or as light as we want – I celebrate your telling yours with so much radiance and courage.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I LOVE how powerfully you rewrite the story. You have an amazing inner strength and kind collective support to overcome personal and world challenges. And you write about this with such a strong voice and emotion. Admirable.

    Liked by 1 person

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