Wednesday, March 30, 2011


“A kiss, a cry

Our rights, our wrongs

A moment, a love

A dream aloud…

And we won’t stop until it’s over

We won’t stop to surrender”

- McKenna, Lori. Song “Sweet Disposition” Temper Trap

When I first started the Social Studies job in September, I was overwhelmed. I had a textbook, an accompanying notebook, and two fat curriculum binders. The teacher had only introduced me to two classes before she left.

No plans, little direction.

While I was pretty sure it was impossible, I wished for the weeks to somehow fast forward like magic. Rather than experience them, I wanted to arrive at the end of them. One day at a time. I jumped from rock to rock across a wild river.

I lived for:


Field trips


Weeklong breaks

Where was the teacher I had trained to be? Where was the woman who made eye contact, full of confidence at the interview? Where was the mother in me who had rules, standards and consequences?

I was ashamed at my fear.

When I came home, I was a seashell without body. Nothing left to give. Meals were mediocre, time was spare. Weary bones hit my pillow an hour earlier than before.

I had little to give as a wife, mother, and WRITER.

I clung to the textbook like a life raft, knowing I needed to loosen my grip because I wouldn’t drown without it. Even if the teacher needed it, I had to trust myself. And I had to be willing to make more time. Precious little time. To plans lessons. Innovate.

Didn’t I promise innovation in my interview?

Hadn’t I mentioned differentiated instruction to reach all students?

Some children demanded it in their own ways. Protesting against boredom. So I planned a project. And another. And another. The hallway walls became lined with evidence of learning:

A few students thanked me for the fun they’d had.

And I began to have fun too. And I relaxed.

There was less:


Work to take home

Sleep needed.

And more:


Time for my family


What about discipline? Ups and downs like waves, was no way to run a classroom. I still struggle with that. But I’m getting there. In fact, this week, I get it.

Near the end.

Friday is my last day with the students as their sole teacher. Monday is the day the teacher returns. On Tuesday she takes over.

And I will go.

Students, parents, and teachers have said lovely things. I’ve received gifts. Hugs. My eyes have begun to fill up, but they haven’t yet run over.

That will come.

I ‘m glad that magic didn’t intervene to let me get past this, when I needed to go through this experience. I’ll surrender the job, but I won’t surrender:

The relationships I’ve made.

The lessons I’ve learned.

The lessons I’ve shared.

I buoy when a parent tells me a kid loves my class. Truth is, I love every single one of my students. And I will miss them. As painful of this is becoming, it is a bridge.

I won’t surrender my dreams to become a full-time teacher, or a writer.

What lessons have you learned?

What dreams are you trying to achieve?

"When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another."

-Helen Keller


  1. "I'm glad that magic didn't intervene to let me get past this, when I needed to go through this experience."

    YES. I think that's what life's all about. It sounds like you've gotten so much from this experience, and it's because you've taken the time to feel what you were going through instead of just lamenting the uncertainty. I know it's going to pay off for you in the future.

  2. What an uplifting post, Theresa, and how lucky they were to have you for even a short time.

  3. It's always the things I look forward to least I end up enjoying the most.

    Here's hoping you get your own room very soon so you can put all this experience to good use!

  4. What a wonderful post. Sounds like you really overcame your fears and stepped up to the plate when you really needed to. Now when you get that full time teacher postion, you will know that you can do it!
    Smiles to you.

  5. When you were posting about your difficulties, I was hoping/betting you'd work things out like this... And I'm delighted to hear that you have.
    I reckon I've learned to always make sure the shutters are closed before leaving the house... And to always synchronise my portable device. A small thing but one that I have learnt the hard way. : p

  6. I am glad you found that balance and were able to gain so much from the experience. I plan on continuing my writing even though I took the job I'd never plan on taking. It will be a challenge, but once I set my mind to something, I always reach my goal.

  7. I'll bet you a bazillion dollars, twenty years from now, if you ask those kids who their favorite teacher was, they will all say you.

    I've read your trials and tribulations over the last months and I've never seen a better teacher. You have the compassion it takes to get this to the next level. Your own class.

    I'll also bet that when the old teacher comes back, the kids will all say they want you instead.

  8. What a great post. It's really hard to balance two careers. You're doing a great job at it. Now back to your pages... :)

  9. So much of life is perseverance and doing hard things. It's amazing how what we learn in one area gives us strength to persevere in others.

  10. Dang, I came here because Google finally updated you in my dashboard and here you go and make me cry.

    Through your words I have come to know how much teaching means to you and how YOU ARE innovative as a teacher.

    Thank goodness the magic left for this journey but I hope it returns with a permanent position. We need teachers like you :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  11. @ Sarah, thank you. I was so overwhelmed in the beginning, I actually bought 4 months worth of supplies from the drugstore. I didn't even believe I'd have time to run errands. Crazy, right?

    @ Brigid, I'm glad you found it uplifting. Right now, it doesn't feel like an uplifting post to me.

    @ Vicki, it's true. In the beginning, I couldn't imagine the satisfaction I received from this experience.

    @ Choices, thanks. If the teacher returns next week, I will have done almost the entire year. And since I went to most of the training and after school meetings, it's like I had a regular job without the better pay.

    @ Alesa, 6 or 8 weeks in, I found my stride. There were starts and stops, but overall things got better and better.

    I like that a French person has used "reckon". Thanks for sharing your learned lessons with me.

    @ J.L. Jackson, I hope you find that balance between work, home, and writing. I still don't have the time to devote to writing I'd like. And when I squeeze it in, something else gets sidelined.

  12. What a great post, Theresa!

    "When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another."

    --Helen Keller

  13. @ Anne, that's a nice compliment, but I don't think that will be exactly true. One thing I've learned from subbing is that there are a lot of good teachers out there.

    I do know next time I'll be a better teacher. I hope I've gained confidence and won't make some rookie mistakes.

    It will be interesting to see what things are like on my transition day. Many have said they want me to stay, but I bet they'll be happy to see her too.

    @ Aubrie, thanks for stopping by. I can't wait to see the feedback I receive on my pages.

    @ Connie, I like the way you put that. I think my teaching experiences make me a stronger writer even though they take time from writing.

    @ Jules, thank you. It's nice to know you feel the emotions in my words. I'm trying to be innovative. The Social Studies teachers didn't work together, but I've changed that with one of them. And he wrote me a glowing letter of reference, which means so much to me.

    I'm glad I'm back on your dashboard.

    @ Betty, thanks. And thank you for the perfect quote from Hellen Keller. If I had it before, I may have put it one top of this post. Maybe I'll add it to the bottom.

  14. Great post and a wonderful reminder that life is in the living of it.

  15. Hi Theresa .. that's wonderful .. it sounds like you've touched many hearts and I'm sure doors will open. Friday (the weekend) and Monday will not be easy - but you can see what you've achieved .. so here's definitely to the future ..

    Cheers and a big hug .. Hilary

  16. Many people will give up at the beginning, realizing they aren't cut out for it. A great teacher makes it through and gains the benefits, as you did.

    Did you shed a tear writing that? cause I teared up reading it!
    Way to go! And never give up =)

  17. This is what I try to remind myself every time I think I'll never get published, or that I can't finish my WiP.

    I remind myself that this is my dream, and that I've come a long way toward making it happen. I just need to keep working hard, and feeling positive.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Theresa!

  18. That is so touching! What a neat experience to have. Thanks for sharing it!

  19. When you finally do get your own class, you won't be a first year teacher. You did that this year. Which means your full-time gig will start out that much easier.

    This was the thought I had while reading this post. I thought I'd share (for what it's worth).

  20. hi miss theresa! lot of times there stuff i was sooo afraid of doing but i did it and in the end it got me more strong and real happy i could do it. the most hard stuff we gotta do gets us way more strong. i love this post cause it says for sure your a real special teacher.
    ...big hugs from lenny

  21. What we all need is experience and time to achieve our dreams. You're getting the experience. Time is on your side. It sounds to me like you're making progress. Some days are up, some days down. You'll make it!!

  22. Hi, crusader popping in. You defined the fears and dreams very well.

  23. Oh Theresa Milstein!!!!! Oh I am so sorry. I know this was coming but I hoped and hoped that maybe somehow, you'd be made permanent, full time there!! You gave your heart, soul and mind to these precious precocious children. I hope you take comfort with the fact that you have so obviously planted the seeds of learning and more so - the wonder of learning within these childrens' minds with your projects and classes.

    You've achieved so much in so little time - but that's just so you!!!! You are one amazing teacher and writer - and you work so so so so so so soooooooo hard! You deserve your many triumphs! Take care x

  24. Those Kids would really miss you, but its good to know u touched their lives.

  25. Best wishes to you, and that is so cool you've made all those connections and learned so much. A very valuable experience that way. :)

  26. If someone who hires for a school district would just read this blog, they would snap you up in a second. There is no teacher more sincere or passionate about the job.

    I'm looking forward to your next advernture.

  27. @ MP McDonald, well-said. Life is for the living of it. Thanks for the comment.

    @ Hilary, I hope you're right about the hearts and the doors. Yes, Friday and Monday will be hard. Today began the hard phase.

    @ Tara, I hope my perseverance is what makes me meant to do this.

    I teared up writing it, but nothing has spilled out yet. Doesn't matter because I feel it inside.

    @ Tere, thanks for sharing your answer. Last night I read the average writer writes six manuscripts before becoming published. That means some do it on the first try and others take longer than six. Gotta make us feel better, right?

    @ Nisa, thanks for the feedback. I appreciate your comment.

    @ Liz, that is true. Of course, if it's not the same time period, I'l have to come up with new ideas, but I hope I can use some of what I've done with other periods of time and places.

  28. @ Lenny, I know you've been though many obstacles and have kept your humor. You're an inspiration!

    Thanks for commenting.

    @ Ann, when I work with 25-year-olds, I don't feel like time is on my side. But plenty of women wait while raising kids to begin working. Thanks for reminding me.

    @ Louise, hi, crusader! Thank you for the comment.

    @ Old Kitty, looks like she's coming back. I reminded the assistant principal to check with the teacher this morning. I'm waiting for confirmation... again.

    Thank you for your encouragement. I appreciate it, especially when I'm feeling down.

    @ Joanna, thanks for your nice words.

    @ Carol, I agree, it was an invaluable experience. I'll miss them but I'm glad I got the opportunity.

    @ Missed Periods, too bad I don't advertise the blog to the school district.

    I hope the administrators know how seriously I take the job. Most of the staff and students do.

  29. I'm with you. As a mom I know that there are too many hats we have to wear on a daily basis and it never seems to get easier. hang tough, girl! Writing is a great escape. =)

  30. Good for you. Sounds like you've got into the swing of it. :O)

  31. Beautiful post, Theresa. I'm sure you've impacted each and every one of your students.

  32. @ Tana, thank you. Yes, writing is a great escape except when writing causes the stress. Hopefully they good thing is I'll have more time to write.

    @ Madeleine, thank you.

    @ Talli, thank you. The students have sure impacted me.

  33. Good on you for finding your feet!

    You are more than one step closer to realizing your dream.

    I'm rooting for you. :-)

  34. Really beautiful. You're a gift to every student out there. It's wonderful that you care so much and try so hard. Love this!

  35. I'm proud of you for making it through this year; it sounds like it was a success. Any school would be lucky to have you as a teacher. It's definitely meaningful when not just the kids but also the parents are praising you for your work. By the way, I think I forgot to tell you (sorry!), but there's an award for you on my blog; it's on my post titled "7 Facts About Me".

  36. What a great post, Theresa. Thanks for sharing!

  37. What a great post! Never give up and never back down!

  38. It's amazing how stress affects our whole lives and makes things harder than they should be.

  39. @ Misha, I hope you're right. Thank you!

    @ Amy, thanks. It's been quite an experience. I can't believe it may be only two more days.

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, it's been hard but rewarding. I appreciate how much support the teachers and parents have given me. It's surreal that it's all ending.

    @ Nas, thanks for the comment. I appreciate it.

    @ Nicole, I like your mantra! Thanks for commenting.

    @ Lynda, stress is really hard to deal with. It would be nice to have be stress-free, but then we'd probably look for excitement, right?

  40. What a great post. Starting something new like that can be scary. I've had experiences at work I dreaded from fear but was glad I did too. Good luck with the next phase of your adventure. Hope you get some writing time in between.

  41. Wow, I'll bet you've had a huge impact on the class. I'm sure the kids will always remember you. You know how it is, kids love a teacher who makes learning fun.

  42. @ Natalie, I kept telling myself to stop being a baby. Other teachers, plus other people have jobs where there's a period of breaking in. And stress isn't just for teachers. I think the throwing into the job is what really got to me.

    @ Julie, I hope so. I've had a lot of fun for the most part.

  43. Great Helen Keller quote!

    You sound like such a fantastic teacher! Those kids were so lucky to have been able to be your students - it sounds like you really made a difference.

  44. Richard Bach once said "A goodbye is necessary before we can meet again, and meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends."
    By the way, drop by my blog sometime. You have an AWARD waiting for you!

  45. Yay for having found your stride, boo that it's nearly done.

  46. Oh Theresa, I am all teary eyed for you. I am delighted the students and their parents have come to appreciate you. I know this will lead to bigger and better.

  47. What a lovely lovely post-- see, you've given them a piece of YOU to take away with them. Some will never forget!

  48. @ Susan, thanks. I hope they got a lot out of my Social Studies classes. I loved coming up with projects and seeing (most of) the students excited about doing them.

    @Nuschell, that's a nice quote. When I return, it will probably be as a daily sub. But maybe I'll be lucky and something good and permanent will open up soon.

    Thanks for the award. I'll stop by your blog.

    @ Su, I'm so with you on the yay and boo.

    @ Ann, thank you. I hope you're right. Today was a surreal day. Monday will be even weirder, I'm sure.

    @ Christina, thanks. I hope they won't forget me. I won't forget them.

  49. Theresa, your time there with those kids will prove to be an amazing stepping stone in your career - where you learned to deal with the work, the stress, the time management, lesson plans, parents, discipline, faculty meetings, testing, hallway displays, report cards... all of those things take time to master. But the first year is by far the hardest and you should be proud of what you have accomplished.

    I have had three long-term subs for my maternity leaves. One of them really cared about the job and the kids and put everything into it. The other two did the minimum and got through the day. When I returned from a Sept to January leave from first grade, my sub told me she had no idea what levels my kids were reading. I was so sad that they had lost half a year of good instruction.

    The one sub that I had that invested herself in the class and kept me posted on their progress was priceless to me and to their families, and I made sure to write her a really good recommendation. She got hired permanently the next year.

    I wish you all the best. It's ok to take a well-deserved rest. :)

  50. @ Dangerous with a Pen, I hope this does become a stepping stone and fast.

    How interesting to hear you maternity leave/extended term sub experiences. Funny thing is this teacher hasn't kept contact with me. I've been keeping up with lesson plans, meeting notes, copies of handouts I've used, + I planned to write her up something this weekend. I hope it helps her transition back.

  51. You have provided these students with some wonderful instruction and you have gained valuable experience. Best wishes with future teaching opportunities.

  52. What a beautiful, thoughtful post, Theresa. And I love the HK quote you chose to use with it. Perfection.


  53. *sniff* You have to be one of the bravest people I know. I can't imagine going into several classrooms and, for lack of a better word, conquering them.

    And that's just what you did: fear, doubt, distrust, change, attitude, hopelessness, weariness, confusion....and so many other things that both you and your students had at the beginning-were overcome by your innovation, determination, and compassion.

    You're an amazing person and it reflects in your writing and your impact on those students...and their families.

  54. What a beautiful, inspiring post. I understand full well that fear you described, and your self-disgust because of that fear. I had an experience that was very similar (on an emotional level) to this last year.

    I came to your blog from the interview you did on JC Martin's site, because I saw you live in Queensland. Me too! So I just thought I'd say hello to a fellow Queenslander. Congratulations on having your short story included in 100 stories for Queensland. :)

  55. In spite of everything, how rewarding it must be for you to know what a difference you have made in the lives of those children! I have such respect and admiration for teachers.

  56. @ Paul C, thank you. Your comment means a lot to me.

    @ Lola, thank you. Bossy Betty was an early commenter who provided the quote, so I added it to the post. I was so glad she sent it.

    @ The Words Crafter, the classes have been going really well overall, and I have so many ideas, but I won't get to see them through. I cried a bit this morning. Except for my bug-eyes, I feel a bit better.

    @ Cally, thank you for sharing. You're describing my feelings perfectly. Sorry you went through something similar.

    I'm glad to meet another 100 Stories for Queensland writer. I cannot wait for the book to come out.

    @ Connie, thank you. I hope I made a difference in their lives like they've made in mine.

  57. Wow! This is an amazing post. You bared it all and let us feel your despair and then your confidence & resulting triumph. You showed how all that came from making a choice to get over it or wallow. You did it! And now you can walk away without regrets, knowing you did your very best for those kids as well as learning a few lessons for yourself. Congratulations. :)

  58. I think I've said it before, but I'll say it again. You subs amaze me. I've been a teacher for 14 years - all at the same level - and still learn new things all the time. You guys need to be so versitile and still love it and learn it and - you're amazing. I co-teach with a woman who's been on a 12-week maternity leave and said good-bye to her sub on Friday, too. With a few tears.

  59. Such a great lesson! And so inspirational. I'm sure it will be difficult to let go, but it sounds like you came a long way. I think there are definitely some experiences we need to go through, no matter how much we fear them.

  60. How lovely that you never gave up. I love that you found a happy balance and can now enjoy life.

  61. @ Nicki, thank you for putting such a positive spin on it. I'm trying to focus on what I'm gaining instead of what I'm losing.

    @ Erica (of Erica and Christy), sounds like I'm not the only one who's attached to my students. Friday was so hard because on of the classes held a party for me. And the teachers also had a breakfast for me. Tomorrow will be even harder.

    And then I'll be back to my subbing versatility!

    @ Carolina, thank you. It will be difficult to let go, but I'm richer for the experience

    @ Glynis, it took a couple of months, but I did achieve a balance. I know I can do it next time. Thanks!

  62. This is inspiring! I teach college students but the core concept is the same: how do I get past the boredom factor so they actually learn??? How do I get the involved? Textbooks certainly aren't the answer! Esp. college textbooks. Gag!

  63. @ Margo, thanks. I agree! Textbooks can be a good foundation, but they are boring. If we just read out of them, I'm dealing more with kids talking because they're not interested. Especially for Social Studies, there are so many ways to mix it up.