Favorite Thing Friday: That New Start Smell

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A friend of mine loves this time of year because she loves the way a new box of crayons smells. I’m with her on this – there is nothing quite as wonderful as that waxy Crayola aroma. It means the crayons are perfectly sharp and that a new school year is about to begin.

At this time last year, I didn’t want to go back to work. My usual enthusiasm for teaching was buried under the huge weight of grief. Within days of losing a close friend to cancer I was expected to show up at work with a smile on my face and “get pumped” at professional development meetings. No amount of welcome back activities or fresh crayon smell was going to get me excited for a new school year.

Things only got worse as the school year progressed: Three more people passed on, including my Grandfather. I found myself pretending to be enthusiastic and happy, when I really  just wanted to go home and cry. Some saw through it, but many did not. It’s funny how you find out who your real friends are when you are stuck in a very black hole. Even when I folded in on myself, they never gave up on me. I credit them with keeping me afloat.

I walked away from the last school year knowing I could’ve and should’ve done better. I didn’t do a horrible job, but I certainly didn’t reach my personal standard. My inner critic wanted to harp on this fact, but when it comes down to it, I was in survival mode. I did my job and my students learned what they needed to learn, but I couldn’t connect to them in a way I’ve been able to in the past. Quite honestly, I couldn’t connect with anyone.

After a year like that, I spent my summer healing and rediscovering my spark. It’s been two months of exploration. Two months of renewal. Two months of learning to live again for the sheer thrill of it. I did the things I loved most, traveled, and spent time with friends and family. It was all about reconnecting to everything that mattered most to me. And it worked.

I am excited to go back to work this year. So excited, in fact, that I’ve been working on curriculum for the last two weeks. I decided it was time to give my arsenal of lesson plans a much needed refresh. Instead of rehashing the same old thing, I’m opting to experiment with the Flipped Classroom Model.

It’s a terrifying thing to suddenly shift gears, but I’m relishing in the challenge. Aside from the issues I had to deal with last year, I realized I was bored. The last thing I want is for my students to feel the same way, so it’s time to shake things up.

So far, I’ve got class websites set up for both of my content areas and two weeks worth of lesson plans/assignments constructed and uploaded. I am literally getting up early in the morning to have extra time to work on it. Everything is looking awesome and I can’t wait to try it all out on my students.

Next, I’ll be heading into my classroom, (four days early!). I’m giving the place a mini-refresh by getting rid of some furniture and clutter. Since I got new student desks this year (OMG, so thrilled for this – the previous desks were over 20 years old), I’m considering a new desk configuration. I’ve had the same configuration for ten years, and I think it’s run its course. For the walls, I’ve ordered some new posters and they should be here any day!

It’s a new start and it feels really good. The grief is still there, but it serves as a more of a reminder that I was loved and I know how to love. That’s a powerful thing. Far more powerful than sadness or self-criticism.

My first official day back at work is next week. The day before, I plan on buying a fresh box of crayons. In the moments before a long day of professional meetings, I’m going to open the box and enjoy that “new start” smell.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2015