Things Can Get Harder | February 2022

I don't think I have words to describe the last two months. It's going to take me a minute. I really do need to find some words because words help a person process. But what words can I use to describe life right now?  When someone asks you how much something hurts on a scale from one to ten and you don't know if you've ever felt 10, what do you say? 

I'm not ready to try just yet. So, let's start with a simple recap!

Christmas Break 2021 = ski trip to Idaho and Montana. We visited three new ski resorts with our Indy Passes which give us two free days at many places in our region. 

Silver Mountain gets a rating of 7/10 from me -- fun, but long gondola ride to the top [fortunately, because it was raining at the bottom!], but not super accessible to get from one part of the mountain to the rest. The runs coming off of Wardner Peak were pretty steep and hadn't been groomed the days we visited. We also had the disadvantage of a lift being shut down for mechanical issues and then really high winds later in the day. They have pretty good fries in the lodge though!  
Next, we visited Lost Trail Ski Area. This resort is also really spread out and not very easy to get back to the lodge from the east section of the mountain. But the runs were SO FUN. I've never skied runs that just go on and on like these. Two Dot and Lewis and Clark just brought epic speed on groomed runs that felt like they would never end! Truly incredible! We also enjoyed Far Out very very much. Just steep enough to safely rip! It was REALLY cold the days we were there and pretty windy at the top, but the lodge was warm with a lovely wood fireplace with 360 degree seating! This place gets a 9/10 from me! 

The temperatures kept dropping and by the time we got to Blacktail Mountain, we were skiing in 3 degrees. We bought hand warmers and definitely struggled to stay positive. But again, even though this is a small ski area, the runs were really great! When you look at the map, you'll think, what? This is too small. But the runs off of chair 4 are phenomenal when groomed! We flew down Buck Snort and Tail Dragger again and again! If the weather had been warmer, we would have loved it here even more. I give it an 8/10.

This photo is taken at our friends house...we spent one night with them on our way home and the kids had so much fun getting towed on sleds and skis behind their car! We did have a real wintery Christmas break adventure! 
And then we were back to school. This year has been hard from the beginning, but as content rigor has increased, student motivation has gone down. Many of my students weren't prepared for fifth grade [especially math] and every day for them is a struggle. I've never experienced a year like this before. Last year was hard and weird, with all the restrictions and protocols, but this year, so many students are academically behind. That presents a challenge that is more difficult to overcome, especially with the largest group of kids I've ever taught. 

When you take the academic struggles of this year and add it to the social struggles, you can imagine how exhausted teachers are. As one of my friends wisely said, these kids lived in a selfish bubble for too long [distance learning] and now they don't know how to put up with one another or remember to think about how others might be feeling. We've been focusing on re-teaching social skills like empathy and kindness. So many of them are saying mean things to each other and are also so easily annoyed by one another. The amount of complaining/tattling I've heard this year is unbelievable. Seating arrangements and learning groups are a puzzle, trying to keep certain kids far away from those they can't get along with.

If you think that's enough crazy, add in family stress too. Some of these kids have difficult situations at home and come to school in the morning already wound up tight. For a plethora of reasons, families are tired and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, I can't fix all of these problems for kids. I just try to meet them where they are, try to encourage them to focus and learn, and try to be patient and firm at all the right times. 

Then, on January 5th, we got almost three feet of snow in 24 hours! It was intense! Nobody in our neighborhood could get out of driveways onto the main road. We finally got plowed out Thursday evening. We got all our snow for this winter in one day. Ezra had fun shoveling...digging caves in the fluffy snow! 

I found Ezra this cozy onesie that he loves! :) He's also pretty into the kazoo and volleyball. He likes to play "check it up top" with daddy...basically an indoor simplified version of basketball. 

We have had a lot of cloudy days down here in the valley, but we were able to get up above that layer and into the sunshine a couple times! Here we are hiking the Pipeline Trail!
We've also had some happy opportunities to ski at Mission Ridge, Apex, and White Pass, thanks to the Indy Passes! There hasn't been much fresh snow, but fortunately the grooming has been good! We're hoping to also get to 49 Degrees North and maybe Tamarack and Brundage.

And finally, for the last two pictures: 
1) Sometimes you just have a buy yourself a DQ Blizzard! 
2) It's a pretty good Valentines Day when your son knows exactly what gifts you like! #darkchocolate #flydelta 

So, back to the beginning. I still don't have good words for this. January and February don't have any more weeks in them than other months, but somehow have seemed longer and harder this year than ever before. I just feel defeated, empty, incapable, hopeless, overwhelmed. It's just so much. Carrying the weight of life feels too heavy. So many sad, stressed, or frustrated students. So much anger and distress. I can't carry the weight of all that. I want to help all 22 of them, but I'm just one person. I'm just a teacher. I'm not a social worker or psychologist. I'm not their parent. I'm already working between 50-60 years each week just trying to grade their work and create helpful learning experiences to help them feel more successful and make some progress. For a lot of these kids, that's not enough. I'm not enough for them. 

And here I am again, deep in the thick of feeling inadequate. But also extremely exhausted. I don't have anything else to give. So if this isn't good enough, I don't know where to go from here. I've gone through other very hard times, but haven't known how to rate them on any scale. And here again, it's really hard, but how hard? Is this 10/10 hard? Is it only going to get better from here? Or can it get even worse? 

I guess things can always get harder. 

That's a heavy way to end a post. How about I share two bright spots: 
Wordle | this is a really fun, single-dose game that I play every morning now
Tapioca Pudding | we have whipping cream in the fridge which means I need to make this to go with it