Another school year has come and gone. Over the past ten years, I have LOVED being a teacher, sharing my passion for learning, working on so many fun projects, and getting to know and grow all of “my kiddos”. It has been one wild and spectacular ride. That’s for sure. Still, I found myself asking one question over and over and over again this year: Who am I?
Who am I? It’s such a loaded question, right? I can rattle a few things off like, ” I am a child of God. I am a wife. I’m a mother. I am a dog-owner, and definitely not a cat person. I’m a teacher. I’m a presenter. I’m a singer for my worship team.” Even still, it’s complicated. I started really wondering, “In the season that I’m in, can I really be everything to everybody all of the time? (An obviously ridiculous rhetorical question with an obvious resounding NO as an answer.) What do I really want out of my personal and professional life? What is really most important to be?” I started to grapple with the idea of balance more than ever this year. I struggled SO much with sending my son to daycare, especially the first three months. I struggled with knowing that someone else was with him more than I was. I struggled with “missing out” on fleeting moments that I’ll never get to experience or do over. I pushed myself so hard to keep up at school and do projects to stretch my kiddos, but I stayed up way past my bedtime to get things done once Reid was asleep, only to be awake with my little one that only recently started sleeping through the night as a one-year-old. I thought things to myself like, “Buddy, it’s time to go to sleep. Mommy has work to do.”
And then I realized something about myself. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I just couldn’t handle the fact that I was wishing away precious moments with my child for the sake of keeping up. I just couldn’t handle missing out on the day-to-day moments. I just couldn’t do it. I realized that as much as I love teaching, and as much as I loved my students, I would never look back and say, “I wish I had worked more.” I also realized what all parents realize: Babies don’t keep. They grow and change daily. For me, it was a tough decision to make, but I will be staying at home to be a mommy next year. Although the last week of school was an emotional rollercoaster, I made it through, and now I am looking into the future, taking a step in faith, leaning on the Lord, and taking it all a day at a time. I am a MOM, and I am going to take a little time to smell the roses (and unfortunately dirty diapers too). I have big plans to live intentionally, and really soak it all in. I will live on purpose.
I am a MOM, but I am also a teacher at heart. It’s a part of me. So although I will be leaving my third and fourth grade kiddos, I am not totally disengaging. I don’t think I ever could. So, what’s the plan? I will have three days a week that I will designate as work days. Every other day will be mom days. I plan on going to the park…the zoo…playing with Legos…and playing in the yard. I just know I need a professional outlet too. Because I’ve always prided myself on being transparent on my blog, here’s my tentative plan:
I plan on blogging a few times a week. I want to add free reference sheets that walk you through best practices. I want to focus on CONTENT more than anything else. I love research, and I love professional development books. I enjoy dissecting them and breaking down the information into manageable chunks. It’s why I started this blog to begin with before life got so very busy. So, in that respect, I am going back to the beginning and hitting the restart button. I want to be a resource for you. I want to share tips and tricks and research that will make YOUR life easier, because I know how hectic and overwhelming teaching can be at times, but I also know how great the reward is. We all want what’s best for kids, and with the time that I have, I want to help equip YOU to go the extra mile. Expect lots of posts about literacy and gifted education in the future!
The rest of the plan is to design as much content…as many products… as I am able to. Since I will have three designated work days a week, the bulk of my resource creation will happen while my son is at daycare. I plan to work on more One Week Wonders, more interactive writing workshop resources, independent study resources, critical thinking task cards, author studies, and so much more that I am pretty sure I’ll never have enough time to flesh it all out this first year. It’s a nice problem to have. Essentially, I want to make all of the units I wished I had time to make while I was busy teaching two grade levels. If I can make someone else’s life easier in the process…if I can help their kiddos grow… it will all be worth it. The thought of being able to use my time at home to equip other teachers makes my heart so full. The thought of being able to save YOU time that you can then spend with your own family is so motivating to me. So, expect to see a lot of lessons coming your way this year as well. I’m so excited to get the creative juices flowing! I’ve already got a few different products in the works…and I’ve been busy chipping away at some redesigns and revamps as well. I’m so excited, you guys! (Translation: you guys is Midwestern for y’all.)
Something that I’ve really become passionate about in recent years is critical thinking. I believe it is so important to foster critical thinking, creativity, and really, all of the 21st century skills. Many of our students are going to be doing jobs that don’t even exist yet. We HAVE to prepare them by fostering thinking skills and innovation. I already have a lot of products that are geared toward student choice and critical thinking, but that’s another thing you can expect from me in this next stage. The world needs THINKERS.
Although I am so excited about what I will be able to do from my own home on my “work days”, I am excited to have a few opportunities to mentor other teachers in real life too. In addition to local workshop opportunities, I will also be presenting for SDE occasionally throughout the year. I will be returning to Malone University this summer (as an adjunct instructor) to teach a two-credit hour course on Reading Comprehension! I seriously LOVE working at the college level, and it has affirmed my desire to (someday) get my Ph.D. I would really love to secure an adjunct position (even an online course) for the school year. The idea of getting experience, staying current, and STILL having so much more time for my family is so appealing to me. (I’m typing this with my fingers crossed.)
In all seriousness though, for me, it all comes down to trust. This year, my heart was aching for my baby. I prayed, and I prayed. I prayed for strength. I prayed for discernment. I prayed for my students. I prayed for my marriage and my son. I prayed for peace. I prayed that God would use me in whatever way He intends to use me. I prayed that I would know exactly what that is…that I would hear His voice above all of the noise…above my own desires and feelings. Sure enough, through sermons, conversations, Bible studies, and lots of prayer, I began to see various threads weaving together. I began to see this clear answer emerge. All of my anxiety and worrying melted away, and I decided to take a step—a leap—in faith. I don’t know how my story will end, but God does. I don’t know if I will go back into the classroom, if I will work as a curriculum director, or if my dream of becoming Dr. Amanda Nickerson will actually come true. I can’t see past tomorrow, and all I know is that, right now, I’m going to be a mom, I’m going to be a loving wife, I’m going to be a blogger, a presenter, and an adjunct (at least during the summer). Ultimately, I know that God has great plans for me…for each of us. My trust is in Him. I know that He knit me together in my mother’s womb for a specific purpose…to fill a specific need. I believe it starts with this blog…with the One Extra Degree shop…with mentoring teachers…but who knows the full scope of what’s ahead. I certainly don’t, but I can’t wait to find out! Happy Summer, friends!