Shop the fall collection ➔

I miss the teacher I used to be.

I remember how excited I was the day I walked into my first classroom. It was 1995, and I was teaching first grade. I felt ready; all those college classes and practicums with veteran teachers, not to mention my student teaching, had prepared me well. But there’s nothing quite like putting into practice everything you’ve learned and observed. It was a year of finding out what kind of teacher I was, the one I’ve been for over two decades.

Until this year.

I remember that year we had an academic Olympics which culminated with a ceremony outside, parents cheering their Olympians on. As my career grew, I graduated to higher grades. I became a middle school teacher in a building that had the longest hallway I’ve ever seen. I let my students cover that entire floor with an incredible amount of newspapers before sending them out on a fact-finding mission. As the years have passed, I’ve entered the world of high schoolers. Having taught freshmen for almost a decade now, creating units that they not only embrace but remember fondly, I’m thrilled to hear from them many years later when they return to reminisce.

RELATED: To My Kids’ Teachers As the School Year Begins

This has been a hard year for education, and I’m sure I’m not alone when I confess I’ve shed some tears. But it’s fall, and I have students in my classroom once again even though nothing is as it was. It may be true that most of them only see me through a computer screen now, but they’re still my kids and I’m still their teacher.

Even though I desperately miss the teacher I used to be, I’m learning to embrace what I do have, adapt where necessary, and offer huge amounts of grace to everyone, even myself. After all, there wasn’t a class in college to prepare me for what I’m experiencing now.

This year just might be the year to shift our focus.

We have the unique opportunity to reach out and truly empathize with one another as we are all experiencing pretty much the same thing. We’ve all lost what we had. Classrooms aren’t the same for any of us.

RELATED: Dear Kids, We’ll Make the Most of This School Year Together

Perhaps this is the year to look at processes instead of products. We might even learn to see things from each other’s perspective which can only help us become better teachers, better students, better parents.

Yes, I wish I could see my students interact while I walk around my room and listen as they work in small groups. I wish I could share a smile with my entire face instead of just my eyes, but that’s not where we’re at.

And where we’re at, our reality, is where we have to put our energy. Once we’ve all had a chance to mourn what this year is not, let’s rise to the challenge and make it the best it can be. You may not recognize the teacher you are right now, but please give her a break. It may seem like your child is not reaching his potential as a student, but perhaps it’s time to help him shift his focus. And, as a parent, you may worry your child will fall behind academically, a valid concern, but perhaps there’s wisdom in looking at all the hidden opportunities for growth that have always been there on the fringe of typical school lessons.

RELATED: 5 Days of Prayer For Our Nation’s Schools

I miss the teacher I was, but I have a feeling that once I get the chance to be her again, I’ll realize I don’t want to be exactly the same. I’ll bring a little more empathy into my classroom when all this is over. I’ll have an attitude so full of thankfulness that it will bubble over into what I do. And I’ll certainly never take any of it for granted again.

Sandy Brannan

Sandy Brannan, author of Becoming Invisible, So Much Stays Hidden, Masquerade, and Frozen in Time, is a high school English teacher. Creating memories with her grandchildren is her idea of a perfect day. You can follow Sandy and read more of her writing at https://sandybrannan.comhttp://facebook.com/sandybrannanauthor  http://instagram.com/sandybrannanauthor  and  amazon.com/author/sandybrannan .  

I Love it When You Smile at Me

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little girl in wheel chair with classmates, color photo

I gained a bit of insight today. We were walking past the checkout at the store this afternoon when we came upon a mom and her children, waiting in the checkout line.   RELATED: A Simple Invitation Means the World To a Special Needs Parent My daughter Chloe rolled by them in her wheelchair. I watched, as I often do, as the children noticed her. One girl about Chloe’s age smiled at her as we walked by. As soon as we had passed them, Chloe turned to me and said . . . “She’s the first person to smile at me!”  Let me say I...

Keep Reading

It’s Okay to Say No to the Promposal

In: Kids, Teen
Boy holding pink sign saying "Prom with me?"

Promposals are cute.  But, even for the sweetest questions, it’s okay if the answer is not yes. I have more boys than girls at my house so the whole meet the boy asking your girl out with a gun posts don’t sit well with me. Boys and girls have an equally hard time negotiating friendships and relationships in high school, and I care equally for both. A young man spent some time, told his friends, made a cute sign, and planned to ask my daughter to a dance. A friend of my daughters mentioned he might ask (and even made...

Keep Reading

I Wipe the Slides

In: Kids, Motherhood
boy on slide

I want you to have the most fun possible at your tiny playground stars program, so I wipe the slides. I don’t want you to have a meltdown if your clothes get wet while I’m gone, so I wipe the slides. I want to have three precious hours of only managing your little sister, so I wipe the slides. RELATED: I’d Rather Serve My Kids Than Have Them be “Self-Sufficient” I don’t want you to feel embarrassed by a big reaction to wet clothes when I’m not there to help you, so I wipe the slides. I want you to...

Keep Reading

One Day You’ll Outgrow Being My Little Boy—But Not Today

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and two sons back-to-school picture, color photo

One day you will come home after your first day of a new school year and not wish to share a single thing. Not today. Today, you got into the car and talked non-stop about every second of your day. I was delighted!  One day you will not have countless first-day forms for me to sign and return the next day. Not today. I signed my name at least four times. I was happy to grant permission for you to play sports, learn algebra, and do whatever else I gave my permission for.  One day you will not allow me...

Keep Reading

The Sports Mom Shows Up For Her Kids, No Matter What

In: Kids, Motherhood
Youth baseball game

We’re nearing the end of club baseball/softball season, and the burnout is real. The time away from home, burning through gas to get somewhere for two hours with half your house packed only to pack back up and turn around and drive to the next two-hour destination is insane. I don’t even like the sport right now. There . . . I said it. I’m so sick of softball fields and wind-blown dirt in my face. I’ve seen so many balls thrown in the last two months that my eyes hurt. But I still show up. I love to see...

Keep Reading

Having Babies and Toddlers Is Exhausting—but So, So Sweet

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Family of four with baby and toddler on bed

I took the girls to one of our favorite coffee shops last week and all around me were parents of babies and toddlers. Their little ones ran about in the grassy area out back, toddling up and down the lawn, when it suddenly hit me with perfect clarity—the sun has nearly set on this season for me. It was a realization marked by internal tension, a mourning of the loss of one season contrasted by the joyful anticipation at the arrival of the next. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a tidal wave. Having five kids in...

Keep Reading

3 Common Phrases to Avoid Saying to Your Kids (and What To Say Instead)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother sitting with young boy on couch

Learning to love yourself is hard work. I did not grow up loving myself. Instead, I always felt inadequate, and I felt the need to change myself to prove my worth.  I want more for my kids. I want my kids to know their inherent value and worth. I want to empower my kids to love and accept themselves.  My self-love journey, aided by the expertise of a counselor, has helped me realize there are some narratives from my childhood I needed to unlearn. I had to accept my emotions as helpful and not something to be pushed down. I...

Keep Reading

They Love Each Other (and Sometimes They Don’t)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler girl lying with big brother, color photo

When I was pregnant with his baby sister, Forest kissed my belly and talked about all the wonderful things he would do with this little girl he already loved so much. His plans changed, however, after she was born, and the thing he wanted to do the most with her was place her gently in the trash can. Some mornings he would kiss her softly, other mornings he would walk into the room where I’d be nursing her and say, “Her doesn’t look precious to ME.” Two and a half years later, Forest’s feelings toward Grace remain about the same....

Keep Reading

As a Mother, I Matter Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in living room

“What’s more important than me, Mammy?” my daughter asked. I looked at her, and she was looking at me. Her question wasn’t harsh or accusatory, it was curious. She was curious. We were in the kitchen, I was at the table working, and she asked me to help her find something. I told her I was finishing up some important work and then I would play with her. This is when she asked me what was more important than her. I bit my tongue to stop the words that wanted to rush out of my mouth. I wanted to proclaim...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, Follow Your Beautiful Heart

In: Faith, Kids
Mother and daughter smiling

When I held you in my arms for the first time, it was like time stopped. As you looked up at me with innocence and new life, I was struck by the reality that my main role in your life would be to guide and direct you on the right path. I hoped I would do the best job possible. As I watched you grow, I basked in your joy of putting on your pretty dresses, adorned with layers of costume jewelry, parading around the house for your father and me to see. I dreamed often of what path you...

Keep Reading