Land Of the Grown Ups

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”  My friend Carol and I were looking out at a sunset over the Mackinaw Bridge late that June.

“Absolutely.  Almost makes the rest of it worth it.  Well, maybe.”  I chuckled and nodded as we both sat in a comfortable peace together on the ferry back to the mainland.

Carol and I had been sent for a weeklong summer course on how to teach with a method called the Writer’s Workshop.  It went hand in hand with another method for language arts instruction called Reader’s Workshop.  It was a very child focused, more independent way of delivering instruction for reading and writing.  Instead of having reading books full of stories, children chose books of their interests and were grouped and ungrouped flexibly, thus increasing their motivation.

I had been surprised and somewhat elated when our principal had, at the end of the previous school year, told me I would be swapping subject matter with another teacher in our building.  It was a major, and very obvious, commentary on my colleague’s effectiveness as a teacher.  And while on some level I felt a little badly for him, a man twenty years my senior, on another I felt vindicated that someone had indeed noticed how much effort I put into my job versus how little he’d put into his.

Of our seven staff members from the previous year, two left voluntarily, one was asked to not return, and one had his current level of responsibility curtailed to a subject that would not appear on any standardized testing.  I worried about the heavy turnover rate at our school but after a year under my belt there, I was hardly surprised.  City schools, even magnet schools, were difficult places to work.

I was now being given a regular classroom on the second floor (replacing the man who had been asked to leave) and was going to be teaching Language Arts and Math, my two middle grade specialty subjects.  My friend Carol taught the rest of the sections of Language Arts that I did not, and a new teacher, someone whom we hadn’t met yet, would be teaching next door to me, responsible for the other sections of math.  I was the only hybrid teacher at the school, another compliment that I didn’t take lightly.

Being singled out for extra training was another compliment that I was happy to accept.  The weeklong course had a hefty tuition bill and meant a week’s hotel stay during high vacation season on the western side of the state, near Traverse City.   It was an investment in my skill set.  My sister and my fiance were tag teaming caring for my son for the five days I’d be away; I thought it was a good time to perhaps give Z and R a little alone time, to see how things fared in my absence.  Overall, I thought that they got along very well, but without me as a buffer, I was curious to hear if there were any problems.

“You know, Carol,” I said as the boat started making its final turn towards the mainland, and the end of our evening sojurn out to the island, “I think we have arrived in the land of the Grown Ups.  And honestly, I’m kind of amazed at how awesome it can be sometimes.”  I thought of how nice it was to be here, to be traveling to a place I’d never been, to be getting ready to be married, to be getting trained for something that would make me better at my job.

“I’m not entirely sure that we’re all that grown up,” Carol answered.  “I was just thinking that we needed to find a liquor store on the way back into town to take back to the room.”

“Actually, that’s exactly what I do mean,” I countered.  “Grown ups can, and actually are legally able to, buy a drink when they want.  And they can afford to.  They can afford the nice meal we just had.  They can learn to enjoy not just ‘partying’ for having fun, but experiences like being trained to do something new and better at your job.  Call me crazy, but our workshops today were just as fun, if not more, than a night of partying would be. It’s like…how can I explain it.  I still feel like a kid, but I also am able to enjoy all of those things that I did as a kid because I have a job, and a life, and…it’s like the best of both worlds.  Young enough to have fun, but old enough to afford it.”

“No, I know what you mean.  I think as we get closer to thirty than twenty we are all looking for that balance.  Family, work, responsibility but still fun and friends and enjoyment too.   It’s when you start to realize that you can make all of that work, and be happy about the trade offs, that you’ve landed in the Land of the Grown Ups.”

I sighed happily as the boat gently nudged against the dock.  “It’s not really that overrated, after all.”

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