Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

December 6, 2018

Dear Families,

My mother believed from the time I was six years old that I would be a teacher. Thus, I determined I would be anything but a teacher.

Literally, anything else. 

Her logic and observation provided the evidence she needed to support this belief. 

My next door neighbor couldn’t tell time on an analog clock. Upon realizing this was the case, I sat her down at our kitchen table and coached her on the finer points of telling time. We spent the better part of an hour navigating the mystery of the analog clock. We started with time by the hour and worked our way to the telling time down to the minute. At the end of our play-date, she navigated the face of the clock with ease.

What was I supposed to do? My 7-year-old friend couldn’t tell time. I couldn’t let her start 2nd grade without that vital knowledge. How would she know when recess started? Or lunch? How would she know when school got out? I certainly didn’t want my first-grade friends to know. They might tease her. 

As I journeyed my way through adolescence, my path became clear. Thus, at every fork in the road, I went as far away from education as I could. Yet, somehow no matter what direction I turned, I found myself in scenarios riddled with opportunities to teach. During this time period, I mastered what Paul calls my avoidance strategies.

Twenty-six years later, I find myself exactly where my mom said I would be. 

At 6 years old, I simply refused to comply with my mother’s ideas. How dare she dictate my path. As I reflect upon my steadfast position, I wonder if I had strong-willed tendencies.  I digress.

Today, my educational worries extend far beyond concern that a student struggles with telling time. How I wish the challenges of education remained so simplistic. In my early years of education, going to sleep with gum in your mouth and accidentally dropping your sweater in the sink while the water is running defined a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. We connected to Alexander and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day when we didn’t get dessert in our lunch. 

Today, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day makes Alexander’s day seem like a walk in the park. I spend sleepless nights contemplating how best to support my littlest of littles to my biggest of bigs. I roam the empty halls on weekends reflecting on the specific struggles I see within each grade level. 

Sometimes, I see struggles at recess. Healthy competition morphs into aggressive anger. Both teams, each individual, left agitated rather than refreshed and ready to continue learning. Why? Winning overshadows the purpose of recess.

Have we emphasized the importance of success to the point that we lost sight of time and place? Have we removed the ability for our children to delineate when winning matters and when a game has a different purpose? Have we subtly or overtly pushed our children to the point that we emphasize success over relationships at any cost? I know without a doubt that is never our intent.

Sometimes, I see discouragement, heartache, or frustration in the halls of middle. Discouragement in the form of classroom struggles.  Heartache via a Snapchat or Instagram DM. Frustration over friendship issues. 

Have we lost focus on what needs priority in the classroom and what needs less emphasis? Have we provided the tools of society to our youth without guiding their use? Has our focus on success either personally or academically caused us to lose focus on teaching skills of interaction?

This past weekend, we learned that our daughter’s friend went missing. Monday the authorities in Flagstaff released the news that he had been recovered. The NAU community is again rocked by a loss. A precious life ended too soon. My daughter again navigates the tragic death of a friend. Her 6th since she was 15. I find myself again baffled, heartbroken, frustrated, and overwhelmed.

I find myself baffled by the intense pain within our young community. Heartbroken because again I look for ways to support my grieving daughter as she is expected to “pull herself up by her bootstraps” and achieve academic excellence. I cannot fathom the loss she has experienced. I question how she can possibly focus and function in the midst of more pain. Frustrated because regardless of where she is pain finds her. Overwhelmed because this pain is not isolated to my daughter. 

Forty-three years ago, my mother declared I would be a teacher. I fought her. Battled with all that I had to direct my steps elsewhere. 

Today, I find myself thankful for her wisdom and insight. Not because Shelly can tell time. Not because the journey has been easy.  But because serving in the capacity of education allows me to pour into the lives of one of our most precious resources.

The time and space in which I exist allow me to see the pain created when there is a lack of resilience within our children. I have the opportunity to take the pain and heartache endured by my own children and learn from it. Study it. Examine the cause and effect relationship that led to it. And find ways to change it for my students. 

I desire nothing more than to save Maddy and Hunter from heartache and pain.

It’s not possible.

Thus, my heart desire is to allow the character building opportunities Maddy and Hunter endure to teach me.  If my own children must endure the pain of this world, I want that pain to serve a purpose.   I want it to teach me how to empower my students, just a little bit each day. I want that little bit to grow. So that they too will be empowered to navigate anything life throws their way. 

Thank you for entrusting your precious ones to us. We fail. We make mistakes. We are human. But we truly desire to pour into not only the hearts but also the minds of our students. Everyday.

Honored to Serve You All,

Janet Worley