your ordinary life is a fairy tale
and that means it's the best kind of real.
sometimes, it's hard to stay quiet, and sometimes going public hurts. I have had two interviews and sample teaching lessons in the last two months, and I have been hired for neither position. For the second, I was applying to take a classroom at the school where I teach now. When I met with the assistant principal today to talk about my application, and she told me why I hadn't been hired, I was immediately full of tears. Because, on the one hand, she may not have been right about one or two things, but on the other hand, the observations she shared from the interview committee were so dead on.
People, it's all about being authentic, and about living out in the classroom what I espouse in the faculty meeting. And in the moment, under the eye of other teachers, feeling like I am in a classroom with students that aren't mine, I fail. Over and over again, I fail. I have been making the wrong people my role models, again, because (and I wish I could get this through my head) they are not me! I have to stop using other people's tools. They don't work for me. The minute I put up a box for children to earn "points," the minute I take down names, the minute I threaten to call someone's mom, I HAVE LOST. I've lost it. I lose my cool, my resolve, my nerve, and all my fine talk about being a relational teacher and seeking to connect first? Like unto dust in the wind, dude.
I'm trying to see it as a gift: the gift of being the co-teacher again. Of not being in charge of planning. Of not having to be on the front lines of parent communications. Of getting to just be me.
Have I been me in the classroom? No. I've been me in my small groups, mostly. I've been choosing books I know the children will love, having them practice with movement and art and games. Now to find the balance between teaching lessons I didn't write, and chucking it all out the window to dance and paint all day.
I have four more days with this class as their leader. Four more days to turn it around, to give them my best. To actually dare to try something, instead of grinding -- GRINDING -- through the day, feeling nothing but regret and exhaustion at the end. Four more days to try to figure out why it is that the two African-American girls in the class are the two I am having the hardest time reaching; I have so much to unpack, so much to examine.
And it's hard. And it hurts. Every day hurts. I'm trying to trust that I am learning, and that I am in the right place, and that they want me to continue in this role, because they see potential. The school sees that I have something they need, and I need to find a way to let that shine out more.
Nothing feels easy with this job. I need to roll it all back in, and really figure it out, because if I don't it will eat me alive.
Sometimes, I really hate learning. Learning is HARD. Growth is HARD. And what happens again and again, is that I see that the path forward, is really a path back. It's a path that reminds me to be what I am, teach how I teach, and trust the children.
I need that tattooed on my forehead. Or on a BIG poster paper in my classroom. (doing that tomorrow. yep.)
there's one week before the story/reading journey, diving into the well and coming out of the forest, begins. we will be exploring two wintery tales, full of magic and wonder.
We have room for a few more companions on our way. Spend as much or as little time on it as you wish. All that's required, is that you listen to the stories, and listen to your life. Go deep, or just trail your fingertips in the waters of the magic well. It's up to you.
I'm offering this course in the winter, at the turning of the year, because it's a time of reflection and looking forward. Two-faced Janus stands in the doorway of the new year, and asks us to see into our own pasts, and to make our plans and dreams for the future. What better way, than through the voices of the long past, telling stories of once upon a time, a time so long ago that perhaps it never was? What better way, than to dream through stories that read like dreams themselves, where anything is possible?
No experience is needed, except the experience of being human and living on earth. No materials are required, except what you wish to use to explore your new dreams and new understandings -- pencils, paper, computer, crayons, playdough, clay, paints, fiber, felt, leaves, stones, your body, your voice . . .
Imagine pausing in the midst of your day, and noticing that you can see whatever situation arises, as the call to adventure. Imagine seeing your loved ones on their own paths through the woods, and having your heart fill with wonder at their courage.
Come with us.
Fairy tales, not necessarily in their scholarly definition, but allowing for a few other folktales and the occasional legend or myth, are the life's blood of childhood. Fairy tales give us a map for the journey of life, and if parents can see through the time-bound elements of societal values and lessons, they can help children to navigate the treacherous waters of learning to live as a human being with wisdom and courage.
That's a bit of a weighty introduction. Still with me? Of course you are. Here, then, are five of my favorite fairy tales to share with children who are stepping through the doorway from early childhood dreaminess into the open-eyed world of learning to know things for oneself. These stories are perfect for older five-year-olds right up to middle school, but six and seven might be the ultimate age for enjoyment.
So, there you have it. Five of my favorites. The websites these links take you to are worth exploring -- so many great stories to share with the kids in your life! Read aloud, or learn to tell them yourself in my upcoming Be a Storyteller ecourse! (details coming soon!)
And remember, when you come to something that makes you unsure about telling a particular story, whether it's a turn of phrase that rings false in your ear, or a character who meets an end that seems too harsh, take your time. If it's not the right story for you or for your listener, then just let it go, and find the story that's your Goldilocks moment -- Just Right!
As you may know, I left full time teaching around 2 years ago. It was painful and hard, and in retrospect, the right thing at the time, but my God, it was awful. My story now, is that I left being a class teacher, because I needed to spend more time with my family (true!) and wanted time to pursue storytelling (also true!) and to find my own direction again. However, it is also that I was really, really struggling as a teacher. Being in a lot of other classrooms over the past months as a substitute, I have learned so much about what I was missing.
I spent my first eleven years as a teacher working in one small, developing school. I knew the families I was working with, and they knew me, and had watched me grow from a fresh-out-of-college girl to my full stature as a teacher and leader in the school. My classroom style was tuned to working with small groups of students, 12 at the most, who came to me with a really strong early childhood foundation. They could be left alone in the classroom for a few minutes while I stepped into the office to take a few deep breaths and check my mailbox. I had the freedom to throw out lesson plans and walk to the beach with my class when the weather was fine, and to construct my day-to-day curriculum as each year unfolded. I am proud of my work at that school, and so very proud to have taught the amazing young people who came out of it -- if you know them, you know how fantastic they are. It was hard work, with many, many long meetings. The school brought out the best and worst in all of us, and it was like a big, noisy, argumentative family in many ways.
I stepped into an established school, where I soon learned the school I came from was viewed by some as "not a real Waldorf school", and I tried to make it work. Waldorf teacher training is focused mainly on understanding the development of human consciousness throughout childhood and adulthood; my training as a teacher was heavy on the "why" and intentionally sketchy on the "how." I carried with me an assumption that any classroom issues stemmed from either a lack of proper inner attitude on my part, or on some constitutional characteristic of the child in question. The cultural differences led to a huge number of mistakes on my part, and the larger class and wider range of skills and temperament demanded a very different approach than I knew how to take.
I lacked some key skills in classroom management, planning, and workplace etiquette. On top of this, I had a child who was still nursing, and I slept around 5-6 hours a night. This was a recipe for disaster. My colleagues and I were not working from the same playbook; I was exhausted and ill; there was a disastrous "mentoring" visit from a master teacher. In short, we all could have seen the writing on the wall from the beginning. I needed another 5 hours in my day -- three to sleep, two to plan.
So, here is what I wish I had understood four years ago:
I want to elaborate more on some of these, but I'm tired, and trying to get more than 5-6 hours of sleep a night. My son finally started sleeping through the night 2 years ago, so I'm off to enjoy sleep interrupted only by cats, the dog, and my own ridiculous dreams...
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.