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 Β 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

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18 thoughts on “Favorite Thing Friday: That New Start Smell

    • I’m grateful that no one expected me to follow any rules on grieving. They let me be and were always there when I need them. I hope I can return the favor one day.

      I spend all day playing with curriculum and lesson plans today and it was so fun much! Even though I’ve been teaching the same subject for 15 years, it’s all new to me and I configure content into a new methodology. πŸ™‚

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  1. What a wonderful post. Seeing you this past year has been hard at times. Knowing you were needing something nobody could really give. You’ve given new meaning to a new box of crayons; besides memories and the smell. My favorite thing right now is getting ready to go to Wash. to take the boys back to school shopping. And, yes, a new box of crayons for me. BTW, August 2 is National Coloring Book Day. Let’s all celebrate!

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    • It was hard to be seen sometimes this year. You and WIG are a big reason why I didn’t completely fall apart. Thanks for being there and giving me space when I needed it.

      This post was largely inspired by your prompt this week. πŸ™‚ I didn’t read it because I knew I still had to hash through a few things.

      Hopefully, it’ll be a bit cooler in Wash. when you go. It’s been so hot up there all summer. I’m sure your boys are going to be so excited to see you!

      I’ll bring my coloring books on Tuesday!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such an honest post. You are only human and when life gets as tough as it has been for you, the emotional reserves run dry. teaching is a high-energy occupation requiring so many skills and huge commitment all the time. I would bet those kids went away perfectly happy with what they’d learnt and knew you were a good teacher even if your emotional energy was low. Great to see how inspired you are for the coming year. may all your crayons smell wonderful for the new year…enjoy the new desks, posters and lesson plans.

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    • Along with honest, I’d call this post therapeutic. πŸ™‚ Life is a beautiful thing, but it is the ultimate test, too. It was a lot to deal with, but I think I came out the other side a little stronger.

      Hopefully that strength will stay with me as I move forward. Teaching is an all encompassing profession and I feel like I’m able to throw so much more of myself into it this year. The energy is there and so is the passion.

      I’m sure my students last year felt like it was just like any other classroom, but I’ve always held myself to a higher standard. I don’t want to be that average teacher. I want to be better than that and I think I can be again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Our daughter is a teacher so I understand what you’re saying. Still and all, some years you just have to accept its not possible to achieve everything. Wishing you all the best for the year ahead.

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  3. The smell of new wax Crayons… That really caught my attention! Personally, I used to love the smell of semi-burnt diesel which permiated our stations in the 1970’s / 80’s. It’s largely gone now. I still love the great mingled smells of steam and hot oil when visiting a preserved railway.

    For a teacher each year must be a new beginning as a new batch of students come to your class. Learning who they are and what they can achieve must be an exciting part of your work-life. My work has a little that too – I manage my own little ‘application’ team which is fun as I have two off-shore software developers in Kolkata and the contract supplier replaces the senior coder every 6 to 8 months with a young coder so that they can gain experience. Each has to get used to my sense of humor which is normally of an encouraging rather than put-down nature. The latest is a lovely young lady who is rapidly developing into a great member of the team – she was a little shy but now she’s started speaking loud enough to be heard on the daily comnference call πŸ˜‰

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    • We have a number of new teachers this year – three of which are in my department. It’ll be interesting to see how they get on (or not) with the rest of the group and with students. There are so many personalities converging in one spot when it comes to a school!

      I’ve gone to work twice this week (ahead of the first official day) and the year already has a nice feel to it. I’m hoping that good feeling will continue. πŸ™‚

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  4. I’m so glad to hear that the start of this year is looking bright. πŸ™‚

    By the way, so excited that you’re using the flipped model! Blended learning is such a fantastic way to engage with students, especially since this digital world is their home. Definitely allows for more flexibility and efficiency with classroom time. The school I work at has been using an enriched virtual model for about five years now, and it’s been very successful. (Not to mention grading essays online is so much easier than dragging around piles of papers, and making videos and such to explain things keeps the questions to a minimum.) Have fun! πŸ™‚

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  5. I have experienced many of those emotions you described so well in this post. I too, love the smell of fresh crayons. Funny, I just purchased a new box this September even though I’m not going back to teaching yet. I opened the box just to look at the colours. They so reminded me of my childhood when colouring meant cookies were being made. My Mom’s kitchen was decorated a warm orange (nifty for the 70’s) and it was filled with “her” presence. That’s what crayons remind me of now – my Mom and her cooking.

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