60,000,000,000 Things Happening at Once

This post is a salute to all the teachers who finished this Halloween week of teaching with a smile on their face. Today, one day, consisted of 60,000,000,000 split-second decisions.

It started at home, with deciding not to do my yoga today. I had taken Nyquil last night so I could sleep instead of deal with post-nasal drip. The ten extra minutes of sleep was delightful, and it was my very first day since school started of not doing my yoga.

Then I had to decide whether to keep my kids home- as they have nasty colds. I decided to keep them home, put on home clothes, then went to get them out of bed. They told me they were feeling better and could go to school. So I went to change back into school clothes. As I was brushing their hair a fight arose over who got to wear these cute cupcake kitty socks. I decided to ignore it and they fortunately resolved it by compromising and each wearing one.

When one girl called the other stupid and got hit as a result, I decided to point out the fact that if you call someone stupid, they might hit you. This meant I didn’t yell at the one who hit, however. And getting on the bus they were fooling around, pulling on each other’s backpacks and spinning around in circles. Again I decided to ignore it as I was still drowsy and tired and didn’t want to fight.

As soon as I got to work, I had to decide should the students bring their binders to the assembly or leave them in the classroom. (I hate that there’s never a clear plan for this.) Then during the assembly I decided where to stand to encourage certain students’ behavior.

After the assembly I had a class for 20 minutes. I decided to push forth with the hard core lesson plan I gave to the other classes, though we had little time. This decision turned out to be a smart one as the material was engaging. I spoke about the Monarch Butterfly Migration to Mexico and how each year 4 butterfly generations are born. The first three live only 6-8 weeks. The fourth lives 7-9 months and flies around 2,000 miles to a valley in Michoacan, Mexico. They are able to tell time with their antennae and use an internal compass to get where they need to. 60,000,000,000 butterflies land in the same location in Mexico each year, though they have never been there before. Their great-great grandparents were the last ones in their family to migrate.

60,000,000,000 butterflies floating around one valley. All the things a teacher deals with in one day.

How to push and coax each student to take part. How to handle the boy who won’t take notes. How to handle when four girls are gossiping in class and refuse to stop though you have no clue what they’re gossiping about. How to handle when you witness a boy swing his backpack so hard the locker doors bang the loudest you’ve heard all year. Come to find out a mirror was broken. How to respond when the phone rings as I start teaching, and students are pulled (students who need the MOST teaching) only to be thrown back in the last 15 minutes and all they do is distract others. What to do when students try to get up and leave because you mentioned the word outside. How to try and run a lunch club that only gives five minutes for an activity- and lets face it kids want to chat then anyway.

All the things.

What to do when two students walk in randomly saying “Don’t mind us.” and starting walking around the room while you’re teaching even though you don’t even have them as students. What to do when other teachers send groups of students to work near your room and don’t bother to check their behavior. You spend your prep time hollering at other teachers’ students. What to do when the copier breaks and you need to make copies for an assessment for Monday.

60,000,000,000 things.

On a Friday after Halloween week, you emerge from the school into the sunshine and warmth, and stand and look at the clouds. As if millions of butterflies were hovering and you could feel their presence. As if none of this really matters, but how you handle it all matters tremendously.

What to do this Friday night when you have to pick up the kids, figure out dinner and respond to the teacher’s email about one of your kids hitting someone (a mistaken attempt to be funny). What to do when she cries and hides under a blanket at home because she is so worried you will be mad and yell at her.

All the things.

And all the things today weren’t so bad. They were full of warmer, in-perspective moments. They were full of mistakes and understandings and regrets and moving to a higher way of being. They point towards improvements and humor and forgiveness. They point towards an acceptance of our fallacies and a kinder, brighter tomorrow.

60,000,000,000 butterflies next spring will start to migrate north, lay their eggs and die off. They will pave the way for a new generation to find their way back north. And may we also serve our future generations well, and keep heading in the right direction.

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