On any given day, I fail to meet expectations of SOMEONE. On every given day, I fail to meet the expectations of MYSELF. My goodness, as a teacher and a mom of two young kids… More
Hello! I’m Christy.
In a nutshell, I am a:
- Soon-to-be published author (March 29, 2018!)
- Grief survivor
I think you’ll love it here if you have ever tripped up the stairs, if you love to read, if you love true crime, if you have any kind of emotional baggage, if lots of people stress you out (or don’t), or if you have at least one child who is obsessed with Halloween. 🙂
At any rate, I’m glad you’re here.
Life is giving me whiplash lately.
Every time I think I have something figured out, I realize I’m completely wrong.
But, wait-am I?
I am more convinced than ever that there is so little that we actually know for sure. We spend our time arguing and convincing and then coming to a conclusion that this is what we believe and this is what we know and that is that.
People have this perception of each other that is shaped on so many things. Ways we have been treated in the past by others, our assumptions, pet peeves that cause us to dig in our feet and decide that what we believe is what is real and true.
Up until recently, I truly believed that WHO I am could stand up on its own. That if I just led my life trying to be the best person I could be and if I used kindness and gratitude that people who love me would believe that.
I listened to a podcast on my drive this weekend (I’m at a writing retreat a few hours away from home) about a woman, a real estate agent, who suddenly found a viral post about her online. In the post, someone claimed that she and her husband hired this woman to help them buy a home. She couldn’t go to a showing one day, so she sent her husband, but then ended up being able to make it at the last minute. When she got there, she found the realtor and her husband in a … let’s say, precarious position.
This was untrue, and the realtor began searching to figure out who would say this. Her business and reputation were ruined, and in the end it turned out that a total stranger had written a post on a website called “Homewrecker.” The reason? She had seen a comment that the realtor made on an online news article and assumed she was a racist, and decided she deserved to have her life ruined.
It turns out that the comment was sticking up for a teenager, saying we should show her some grace since she is a kid.
This = she is a neonazi, according to the woman who decided to tell a story about her being a home-wrecker.
The quote that got me in this podcast was that she said (I’m paraphrasing), “I always just thought if I was good, if I tried my best, that I would be ok.”
I have said this so many times. I’ve practically screamed, “BUT IT’S ME, CHRISTY! YOU KNOW ME! I WOULD NEVER DO SOMETHING HORRIBLE ON PURPOSE! HOW COULD YOU THINK THAT?”
If I had to pick one thing in life that I feel I’m really good at (besides singing the theme song to the Fresh Prince of BelAir) it is getting to know people. I share my innermost thoughts and feelings and I admit things that I’m not proud of to show others that they’re not alone. I have a way of getting people to share things, and I love to learn about them. I truly LOVE human beings. I love their good and their bad.
With my friends, I share my worst traits. I share that sometimes my anxiety causes me to look like a giant grump or like I’m stuck up, when in reality, I panic and I just want to be alone. I share that I feel like I am never enough, that I can never be enough, that no matter what I do, I fall short. I fail. I share that when someone yells or snaps at me, I cry. I can’t help it (definitely more therapy on the way, don’t worry) and it’s just ingrained in me. It’s part of who I am. For now.
The other day I said to my husband, “I know my heart. Why doesn’t anybody else?”
And I guess that’s because it’s my job to know me. It’s my job to stay confident in the fact that I don’t hurt people on purpose. I have to stay strong in the knowledge that I am doing my best, setting goals to become a better person, to learn and to change, and to grow. It’s my job to let that shit go.
I. Am. Enough.
This is what I will whisper to myself, 20 times a day if I have to.
I. AM. ENOUGH.
I believe this, and that has to be the only thing that matters. Oh, and hey–you are enough, too.
- Don’t spend the entire first week just talking about rules and routines and regulations. Sure, there are things you absolutely need to do on the first day, but I think it’s SO important to actually get INTO the routine instead of TALK about the routine.
- Make positive contact home as quickly as you can. Parents are nervous about their kids, especially if they’ve had behavior struggles in the past. If they know you’re looking for positive things, it starts everyone off on the right foot.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Remember how hard it was to sit through inservice these last few days? They are struggling, too. Many of your students have just had to majorly change their sleeping routines and are used to having a lot more activity and now suddenly have to sit. Get them up and moving! Be patient and kind.
- Smile. Don’t forget to have fun! Do a Mad Libs, or play a quick game. Sing and clap and dance. Have a dance party the last 5 minutes of the day on Friday. If anyone ever told you, “Don’t smile until November,” they’re dead wrong.
- Acknowledgments. At the end of the week, circle up your class. Teach them how to do acknowledgments and tell them you’ll be doing them often. The phrase they’ll use is, “I’d like to acknowledge (person’s name) for (something they did/said/etc). Be very clear on what is acceptable and what is not. In my class, they have to be specific (Joe is a good friend is too broad, Joe is a good friend because he makes sure I have someone to sit with is better) and they have to be about their inside not their outside (Joe has cool shoes is not ok). The person they acknowledge says, “Thank you.” Give a lot of wait time. Remind them not to only notice their friends.
- Have high expectations and stick to them. Remember not to threaten, but if you say something Love and Logic-y like, “Oh, it sounds like some of us are chatting instead of working and may have to find time in their day to finish this up,” you have to remember to follow through. Remind your students that no matter what, your top priority is kindness, over everything else.
- Don’t take away recess. It’s not a privilege that is earned. Recess is a scheduled part of the day that is a much-needed movement break. In rare cases of physical danger to other students, sure, but otherwise-if a student isn’t finishing their work, do your best to get to the bottom of why.
- Check-in on your co-workers. See if you can help. Ask for help. Chat about your day. Laugh together. It’s the only way!
- Don’t send home homework. Especially if you teach elementary school, don’t send home homework ever if you can help it. You can find the research about this, but for real-just don’t do it. (Sidenote: some teachers don’t have a say in this because of their school districts).
- It’s so cliché, but take care of yourself. Go to bed early. Drink a lot of water. Meal prep ahead of time. Pack snacks and your fave drink for the day. Take a quick walk at lunchtime, if you can. Remember not to make plans for Friday night, you’re going to probably feel like you’ve been run over by a giant semi and then the semi backed up and rolled over you again.
YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!
We make fun of buzz words, I know, but trauma is something that’s really weighing on my mind as we head back to another school year.
Last summer, as a lot of you know, while my husband was traveling overseas with high schoolers, I got a call from a caring and kind family member, who mentioned that my mother-in-law hadn’t answered her phone. This has happened before, and I had just seen her the night before last, and she had a Life Alert, so I wasn’t worried at first.
But an hour later, when I used our spare key to open the door to her house, I had never been so grateful that I had called in emergency help to watch my kids while I went over to check.
My mother-in-law was in her bed, but she wasn’t alive any longer. She had had a massive stroke overnight. I crawled up in bed with her and kissed her face and then got back out and screamed, and, honestly, I haven’t been the same since.
Going back into that house made me so physically ill that I would shake. The first time I went back in, to get something for the funeral home, I came out and vomited in the front lawn. Then, I sat in my car, shaking and crying, and wishing I could call my husband and talk to him, or maybe just be beamed up out of there.
I think of what police officers and firefighters and EMTs and our armed forces see every day and I just close my eyes and feel my heart starting to physically hurt. I think of what therapists and psychiatrists and our school psychologist and guidance counselor hear and see and know.
I think about how I am an adult, with resources-I’ve read books, and talked and written about it, and seen a therapist, and I still have moments. This morning, for example, I woke up and looked over at my still-sleeping husband. There was something about the way he was lying across the bed that reminded me of that scene, and I had an “attack”. I had to put my head between my knees so I could breathe.
And then, I think about what some of our children have seen or lived through. And how they come to school and most of the time we don’t even know. When I was a kid in school, no one ever would have known how big the fights between my parents were, or that I had been called a “cry baby-bitch” the night before, and those things are MILD compared to what some children go through.
I’ve been through training with trauma informed care for education, and, like I said above, I’m glad it’s a “buzz word” and that people are talking about it, but I still feel lost. I still feel like I can’t accomplish enough. I still feel like I’m letting all these kids down.
Do any of you work with children/adults who have experienced trauma? What about when you expect they have, but don’t know? How do I love and care and be there, but keep my own emotions safe in a professional way?
I’d love your ideas, resources, and suggestions!
Thank you to ALL of you out there who help others–you are the true heroes, yo.
Last week, I was minding my own business, scrolling Facebook, looking to find memes that I could twist around in order to support my major life decisions, when I came across one that made me … THINK. I know, I know, those of you who know me by now are shocked that I might read an internet meme and start thinking about it.
But, you guys—it IS so weird. We form our opinions about people based on maybe one thing-something we observed, or even something someone told us! And our perspective is definitely shaped by other things as well.
I know that I think WAY too much about what others think about me. I’m always trying to be that person that everyone likes. And I’m pretty sure by now that we all know that when you’re trying super hard to BE something, you almost always fail.
That leaves me being my authentic self, and here is where that gets complicated. I’m not just ONE thing. I’m not just ONE way. We are all such complicated versions of ourselves, multi-faceted and full of layers.
I (and trust me, I know this is strange) like to think a lot about my strengths and weaknesses as a human being. You know how there are some (incredible) people who are so committed to exercise/health that they are constantly thinking about how to be healthier? This is me, except I’m fat and instead I’m constantly thinking about how to be a better person instead of meal prepping and tread-milling.
I read this, though, and something clicked for me. Something I definitely already KNEW, but didn’t know-know.
No matter how hard I try to use my words to build others up, I will mess up and I will say something horrible and mean accidentally.
No matter how hard I try to be flexible, someone will think I’m spineless or can’t stick to a decision.
No matter how hard I try to be compassionate, someone will think I only care about myself.
No matter how hard I try to be understanding, I’ll miss something and someone will think that I can’t put myself in anyone else’s shoes.
That even though I remind people all the time that even though I may seem outgoing, I have almost-crippling social anxiety and I panic when I see people I know, especially people that I know dislike me (like you, who may be reading this, even though you unfriended me on Facebook long ago for a reason that I’m not quite sure of, but spent a while wondering, and then just decided that you hate me). So if I seem like I’m making a beeline to get away from you— yeah, I totally am. Because I don’t know what to say and I hate that feeling!
So, let’s face it: it is OFFICIALLY time for me to STOP worrying about what everyone else thinks of me.
Except … I’ve said that before. And I haven’t done it. So, now it’s time to make an action plan!
I know the feeling that I get when I feel that someone else is making negative assumptions about me. It’s shame, it’s wondering if they are actually correct, it’s berating myself for whatever I did to make them come to that conclusion.
When I start to get that feeling, I will:
- Tell it to get the EFF away from me
- Write down 5 things I love about myself
- Write down 5 things I’m grateful for
I’ve got to let go of trying to live up to this idea that I can be the person that everyone loves, that can see right deep into my heart, that only brings joy and doesn’t ever make anyone mad. I have got to realize that even when I think I’ve proven to others that I have the best intentions, they will draw their own conclusions.
I have GOT to remember that even though I overthink and go around and around and around, I STILL MISS THINGS. I still say hurtful things. I still make (plenty of) mistakes, because …
Wait for it, yo …
I am HUMAN. (Hint: so are you!)
So, I’m going to revel in the fact that I can be different versions of myself to different people, and that if it helps someone else to make me their villain or their hero, that’s pretty cool. And I’m gonna tell that horrible judgy feeling to GET. LOST.
You know there are memes and quotes and anecdotes that will support whatever “side” you’re on, right? Sort of like you can find research to support both sides of a claim-nothing is very simple when it comes to being a human being. For example:
Life is full of perspective and points of view, and they are all shaped on a number of things. Your background, your experiences, your biases, from who you seek advice, where you get your news, mental health struggles, trauma/abuse and more.
The thing about morals and ethics is that there are certain things we can all agree on, no matter who we are (think: the golden rule), yet it’s really not black and white because of how many different ways we actually see a situation. And whether we like it or not, what we see is somewhat already shaped by our natural bias, by our experiences, by that whole list of things I added above.
Lately, though, what’s been weighing on my mind has been the concept of intention. The purpose behind our actions, or lack thereof. The thing about this issue specifically is that there is no way to really know someone’s true intention. We can guess, right? We all can speculate, we sit and we analyze, we discuss what that person is going through (according to us, of course) and we draw conclusions about what happened.
Wouldn’t it be fair, though, to admit that we can speculate all we want, but we don’t really know?
This year, especially, I have grown and changed a lot as a person. That is to say that I’ve experienced some growing pains. I’ve had to become extremely comfortable with knowing that people dislike me, or are angry with me, or are making judgments about me that I cannot control.
(Ok, so I became a little more comfortable. Not extremely comfortable.)
Most of it I’m proud of, some of it I’m not. You know that expression about how you can only take so much before you blow?
I got so tired of hearing the same stuff, seeing the same actions, being somebody’s villain, that a few times (2 come to mind immediately) that I completely lost it. Once was yelling. Yelling like someone who had had.enough. Yelling in a completely angry, irrational way.
Do I wish I could have stayed calm? Of course. But do I regret losing it like that?
Because I know that my intentions were good. I know that I am ALWAYS doing my best with any situation that comes my way, with whatever I have at that point. I know my heart. I know that my intentions are always good.
But then, in the end, do my intentions even matter? Because people decide why I did what I did without asking me. Or even if I get the chance to share my intentions, I’m not believed.
So then, in the end, does it matter if what I do is coming from a place of good intentions?
I just want to say that I think it still does. I think it matters. Even if it’s just for your own heart.
On a simple level:
Someone stands you up for a coffee date.
A) she was in a car accident
B) she just didn’t want to come and didn’t bother to let you know
That’s different, right? When you don’t intend to hurt someone, the hurt they feel usually goes away. We’re always looking for that reason–and, frankly, sometimes in this complicated and messy life, you are not the only person that’s being factored into decision making.
As an educator, we spend a large amount of time trying to figure out what a student’s motivation/intention is for their misbehavior.
A student is acting out in class.
A) the night before, his dad was arrested and taken to prison
B) he is trying to be funny to get attention from his peers
Which one diffuses the situation? It’s almost like we breathe and we say, oh…ok. There’s a reason for this. It’s understandable. That poor baby.
But, maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe we should treat A and B equally and not care about the intent. (I will say that as an educator, my initial response will be the same, I don’t want you to worry! But getting to the bottom of the why is so, so important).
It personally helps me-I’m often comforted by the explanation, by knowing that what hurt me was not intentional. For me, it makes a difference.
What do you think? What are your experiences? Do you think intention matters? Does it make a difference? Do you listen to people’s intentions, and seek to find out if you don’t understand? Do you believe them when they tell you? I hate even saying this, but … do you believe in the “benefit of the doubt?”
Yes. It is, in fact, the 367th day of May. There is a full moon, I just saw 17 black cats, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to rain every single day this week, scheduled to the exact time of recess.
I heard you the other day when you said, “Don’t LICK THAT GNOME! OMG!”
I saw you when you made every single kid line up and personally look at the pair of socks that have been in the hallway since November. “LOOK ME IN THE EYE AND TELL ME THEY’RE NOT YOURS!”
I can read your mind, and I know what’s going on in there is not pretty. I know you’re saying the swears. Even the super bad ones!
I can smell the rotting contents of your lunch bag, a compilation of “Whatever is left in my refrigerator” that can be carried in a bag and *isn’t moldy. Your lunch account is empty, and let’s face it, it’s “cook’s choice” for the rest of the month anyway.
We’re all hitting the snooze button on our alarms like 13 times, telling ourselves, “Well, my contracted time is 8:00, but I think there’s usually some wiggle room there, and I spent all night at home working on report cards, so technically, 8:13ish shouldn’t be a big deal.”
The sweet and funny quirks of our students have now become unbearable. A fire rages within you with every tap-tap-tap-tap of a pencil. You wonder if there is actual fire coming from your nose and mouth when you send the kids back to their desks to work and on the floor in front of you is everything from broken pencils to bookmarks to a “Unicorn that’s pooping rainbows” *Squishie. You know you can’t scream, “I SAID PICK YOUR SHIT UP” so you have to breathe in verrrrryyyyy deeply and say, “Boys and Girls, another reminder to bring back to your desk EVERYTHING THAT YOU BROUGHT UP WITH YOU OMG PICK UP YOUR PENCILS I WANT TO THROW AWAY ALL THE PENCILS AND MAKE YOU WRITE WITH THE TEARS FROM MY EYES.”
Your exchanges with parents are now similar to this:
Here are the updates for the week. Don’t forget Friday at 10:20 is our assembly!”
Thanks for the e-mail. Can you tell me what time the assembly is on Friday, though?
Maybe, I don’t know, you could read the email that you just replied to, the one with “Assembly Time” as the subject? Here’s a thought: look at one of the other places I sent that time home: your kid’s folder, I’ve brainwashed it into their brains, it’s branded onto their ankle, I’ve whispered it into the wind and sent it directly into your mind. Oh, oh! I know! You could look at the school calendar. You could look in the school newsletter. I’m pretty sure at this point you could find the answer in the stars.
Your kid’s teacher
It’s getting rough out there. It’s time to prepare for battle. You need copious amounts of chocolate, Diet Coke, your comfiest shoes, a bull-horn, noise-silencing headphones, a “I don’t know what to do with you today” packet of word searches, and, of course, a reminder that:
You’re almost there, fellow teachers. And, let’s face it: you know you’ll miss ’em. XOXOXOXO
*Certain amounts of mold can be cut off
*I still prefer Squishies over fidget spinners, even when they are poop shaped.
Teeth disgust me. When baby teeth get really loose, children lose all ability to focus on anything except using their tongue to push the tooth all the way down, so it’s just hanging by a thread. I’ll be in the middle of reading aloud, all snuggled into my comfy chair, getting to the good part in Where the Red Fern Grows, and suddenly there will be a child standing practically right on top of me.
“Mrs. Wopat, my tooth is loose.”
I look up, check to see if it looks like anyone is bleeding or about to vomit, then I give my “I’m so angry right now that you interrupted me and you know read aloud is my favorite and I hate being interrupted when you know Billy is just about to catch the Ghost Coon” face.
“Uh-huh,” I say, looking back down at my book. “Ok. Well, when it falls out you can take it to the nurse.”
“Well, but look at how wiggly it is! Watch!”
I don’t know why I look. I know better.
Seeing teeth move makes me gag. This makes my class laugh, of course. And so now they do it even more often. I swear 4th graders lose teeth at quite an alarming rate. And apparently never at home!
I untie knots in shoes, feel heads for fevers, I wipe away tears, I discreetly give a granola bar to a kid who didn’t get breakfast, answer the phone when I forget to take attendance, take the lunch count, count how many milk cartons kids will take that day, I read a note left on my desk from a student that reads, “Last night my mom told me she fucking hates all of us,”, I start my class on a simple task while I take her out to assess the situation, I remember to ask how the hockey game was last night, and see how far he got in the 3rd Harry Potter book, I touch base with the special education teacher about what groups we’ll have in math, I chat with the gifted education teacher who has stopped by to see if she can support during reading today, I take a phone call from a parent who is angry that the students are still going outside for recess although it is icy, I see the guidance counselor walking by and she motions for me to talk quickly in the hallway, where I get a quick update on the case we’ve been working on to get free dental care for one of my students and update each other on the behavior plan for one of my students, I pat students on the back and make sure they are all greeted.
And then the bell rings for school to start.
There are so many professions in this world that are meaningful and fulfilling, and there are some that just seem like “work,” although we would be lost without them (think: garbage man, wastewater treatment plant worker), and then there are the ones that we could totally live without but get paid the most because of where our values lie (or at least seem to lie).
One day, during a class meeting, we were going around the circle, sharing what our dream job might be. I said a)writer, b)family and marriage counselor or c)cellist in NYC for Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. As we went around the class, nearly every boy said they wanted to play football for the NFL, and nearly every girl said she wanted to be an actress.
“Mrs. Wopat? What’s wrong?” the girl sitting next to me asked.
“I can’t believe none of you said you want to be a teacher! Or a doctor! Or even an astronaut!”
“What’s an astronaut?”
“Well, teacher is my second choice, if I don’t get drafted right away!”
“A doctor would be ok, I guess, but I wouldn’t make as much money as Ariana Grande.”
I got really quiet. I tried to hold it in. Christy. Don’t speak. Now is not the time for a lecture. Just move on. Time to start math. MATH, Christy. Do you remember that?
“Everybody! Take a knee!” I yelled. My class huddled around me, on their knees.
“I want you to remember that I am proud of you no matter what you do in life, as long as you’re trying your best. Remember that if you want to be a professional football player, I believe you can accomplish that as long as you never, ever give up. BUT, I feel like I need to say that we probably celebrate sports so much because of all the money involved. I will say, though, that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be! Money doesn’t give you everything. My job is the best job in the world, I think. And I don’t get paid all that much.
I do, however, know that not very many people want to be teachers. And although it makes me sad, I get why. There aren’t tens of thousands of people cheering for me in a big stadium, and Nike doesn’t care if I wear their shoes, and I probably won’t ever get to come running out of the locker room through a lineup of cheerleaders and coaches and jump through a giant paper thing to make the print of my body in the paper and then have everyone screaming for me–”
“Uh, Mrs. Wopat? We get it,” one of the boys said, interrupting me.
“Do you though?” I pressed. “Because I need you to remember that your teachers keep on going, even though there aren’t a lot of cheerleaders out there! There are so many other important things you can do, and you have to do them even when other people don’t notice.”
We moved on to math then, and I thought Um, Christy? This is what happens when you try to lecture 9-year-olds. DUH. Of course, they don’t get it. They want to play football. Football is their life. Recess is their life. You did it again, with your incessant rambling!”
That afternoon, I got hung up in the lunchroom, talking to a teacher assistant. I had already sent my class back to my room, and so I was walking backward, trying to use my body language to show her that I, uh, kinda sorta needed to leave.
“So, then, do you think our next plan could be–” she started.
“I have to run! We’ll talk about this later!” I said and turned to leave.
“Ok, but, when later?” she pressed. This is not that important, I thought, shaking my head. I headed back to my room.
As I rounded the corner toward my classroom I heard a huge commotion. My blood pressure spiked. UGH. Seriously. 2 minutes. They’re in there for 2 minutes without me and they’re totally off the walls. What do we do after lunch? WE READ QUIETLY AFTER LUNCH. They will never learn. It’s March. I give up.
I had my teacher face on, and I was ready to give it to them until I stood in the doorway of my classroom and looked in. There was my entire class. Standing in a line, across from one another, holding their hands up like arches, cheering for me.
“And now, our starting QB, let’s give it up for MRSSSS WOOOPPPATTTTTTTT!!!!!!!”
My class cheered.
I was frozen in place, tears instantly in my eyes.
“Mrs. Wopat! Run through the tunnel! We made you the tunnel! Do you get it?” a girl said. She nudged me on the back.
I ran through that tunnel, while 25 9-year-olds cheered and screamed and patted me on the back. Most of us were crying.
You ain’t got NOTHIN’ on teaching, NFL. Nothing.