Tomorrow is the first day of school and for the first time in as long as I can remember, I am not preparing for a day in the classroom. There are no new school supplies, no new clothes to lay out, no lunch to make. There won't be any tossing and turning in my sleep tonight because of first-day jitters, I won't strain my voice from explaining so many classroom procedures that even I get tired of hearing myself talk, and there won't be any of those extra sweet first-day hugs from a brand new batch of kindergarteners. Instead, I will be at home, playing with my daughter, squeezing in a little work from home, and enjoying life outside of the classroom. I made the decision to take a year off from teaching so I can spend more time with my family.
I must admit that it all feels a bit strange. For as long as I can remember, there has always been a first day of school. First as a student, then as a teacher. The end of summer and arrival of fall always meant the same thing – it was time to go back to school. This year things are very different and while it is scary and strange, the future also is also full of promise and possibility. This is a break that my heart and soul have been seeking.
Why did I decide to take a break?
This past year was incredibly difficult to juggle all of the things that I love, despite my very best efforts. I have known for quite some time that the only way I could continue to teach, blog, and have enough time for my family was to gradually cut down on my school commitments. For the past few years I have been working part time and trying everything I could think of to make all the pieces fit together. My principal did a wonderful job of trying to accommodate my schedule and I did anything and everything I could to try and fit all of my passions into what became a very busy schedule.
But becoming a mother really does change everything. This past year I felt my priorities shift and I began to crave calm and simplicity more than anything – in addition to wanting to soak up every possible moment with my daughter while she is still young.
I desperately tried to juggle my hats of mother, teacher, wife, blogger, sister, friend and daughter to the best of my abilities; while also making a point not to sacrifice my own health and well-being. Every day last year, I set my alarm to wake me up at 4am so that I could have time to pray, dress, work on the blogs, and get ready for the day before waking Dessa up and heading out the door to arrive at school by 7:15. It was exhausting, but I somehow made it work.
I've never been one to do anything halfway and the problem was that my part-time teaching job started to feel a lot like a full time job. There were countless days that I found myself at school hours past my out-the-door-for-the-day goal of 12:30pm. I struggled to pull myself away for the day knowing that there were still parents and students counting on me and tasks that required my attention.
As school ate up more and more of my time, I was determined not to deprive Dessa or my husband, Rob, of the mother and wife they deserved. So the time that remained in my day was spent enjoying every possible moment with Dessa until she went to bed. Once she was down, Rob and I caught up on our day and watched a quick show together before I hauled my exhausted self off bed around 9:15pm so I could wake up the next day and do it all over again.
It was a lot to juggle and I felt like I was spreading my limited time and energy into too many passions. Something had to give. Last year, Kinder Craze suffered because there just wasn't enough of me to go around. Sometimes months would go by before I had a chance to write a new blog post or share a photo on Instagram. I was exhausted and at the end of the day and didn't have the energy to keep up.
Am I leaving school forever? Of course not.
Although I may not be in the classroom every day, I have no intention of disappearing from school and I will still refer to it as “my school.” St. Mary School will always and forever hold a very special place in my heart, even if I'm not there teaching in the traditional sense. My principal refers to my break from teaching as a “sabbatical” and I think that's the most appropriate term for this season of my life.
I actually spent more time at school this summer than you would expect from a educator taking a break from the classroom. I helped three different teachers redecorate their classrooms for the new school year. I already shared a tour of my school's Learning Center makeover that featured the new Twinkle Twinkle You're A STAR collection from Carson-Dellosa and Schoolgirl Style. I also redecorated my mom's old second grade classroom in a nautical theme (which is the cutest classroom ever and I am so excited to share the transformation with you in a couple of weeks). Lastly, and perhaps the most bittersweet of all, I've been working with my good friend Lexy, who is taking over my kindergarten teaching position to completely reimagine her classroom space. It has been a very busy, somewhat crazy, mostly magical summer. I even had the distinct challenge of trying to work at school with my 13-month old daughter in tow on several occasions. (Just as much as I will always view myself as a teacher, she will always and forever be a teacher's daughter.)
Something amazing happened as I hauled in a mountain of supplies, decor and bins for my classroom projects this summer. Without the stress of a new school year and the return of a crazy schedule that left my head spinning, I was able to focus on the classroom environment and just enjoy my work. It was like a breath of fresh air. The joy of my work returned and I had an extra spring in my step as I rediscovered a passion I had put on pause for far too long.
I'm not quite sure what this next year has in store for me or my family and I've been asked about my future as a teacher more often than I can count. My plan is to see how this year goes and see where God leads me. I may find after one year that I miss the classroom more than anything and I want to try juggling all of my roles once again. I may wait until my daughter is in school to return to the classroom. Or perhaps this year will open up new opportunities to share my knowledge and expertise with more teachers than ever before – in a different kind of learning space. I truly don't know what the future holds – I'm just following my heart and trusting that this is the best choice for right now.
So what happens now?
Well, I have big plans to celebrate the first day of school by taking my daughter for a walk to our local library. I'm also excited to share my remaining classroom transformation projects in the blog in the coming weeks and if all goes well, I will finally be able to share some amazing content and ideas that I photographed over the past few years but could never quite find the time to share with you on Kinder Craze. (So, so many great ideas.)
But I don't want to get too ahead of myself.
First off, this teacher-mama desperately needs a vacation. It has been nearly two years since our family treated ourselves to a proper getaway. The three of us are heading up to Mackinac Island in a few weeks for two glorious nights away from all of the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. We intend to ride bikes, hike, play on the lawn, take in the scenery and just enjoy ourselves.
I'm not going anywhere.
I am so incredibly thankful for each and every one of you that have been following my journey for the past six years. I may be stepping out of the classroom, but I have no intention of going anywhere. You can continue to follow along with my latest projects by following Kinder Craze on Facebook and Instagram. And if you want to see more of my life at home, read all about life with Dessa, find out how we live on a budget, you can follow all of the Gavin family happenings our lifestyle blog, Crazy Together.
I'm wishing all of you an incredible school year that is filled with every bit of joy that you and your students deserve. If you need me, I'll be over here with this crazy girl, hoping to answer your questions, emails and comments much more quickly.