Teaching Middle School, Week 8: Searching for My “Normal”

IMG_9832Whenever I go through something new and difficult, I find myself searching for what feels normal.

“Normal” is the way life used to be before my change. And I’m always sure that the former “normal” is better than what I’m experiencing right now.

Silly, isn’t it?

Because, I mean, what is normal?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. And I’ve come up with an answer that seems right for me.

“Normal” is what I grew up with, the environment of my childhood home. That seems to have calibrated what I think normal is – what I think normal should be. Even though I well know that everyone grew up in different situations and environments . . .  which means that there have to be millions and even billions of different “normals.” Because, after all, every home situation is different.

I know that I keep measuring how I think I should feel, what I think I should be doing, how I think I should be living my life . . . by what my parents and extended family felt and did and thought. And by what I have felt and done and thought the past years of my life.

But now I find myself in a new situation, trying to shed my old self.

Trying to shed my “normal.”

It’s very uncomfortable.

I want to return to my known qualities. To what feels familiar. To what I’ve done over and over in my life – even though I know that life is about change and growth.

As you know (if you’ve been reading these blog posts about my new job of trying to teach middle schoolers), I’ve been struggling not only spiritually and emotionally, but I’ve really been struggling physically.

I’ve been sick a lot. And this past week was no exception. Last weekend I went from stomach bug straight into a cold. A cold that got worse and worse until I needed to go home from school on Thursday and stay home on Friday.

I can’t remember when I last felt well.

And I long to feel well and normal.

Being in the classroom , though, has started to feel more “normal.” My students are responding to me much better. They don’t fight me so much. They’ve seemed to have relaxed into a “normal” for my classroom.

But what does that even mean??

Isn’t normal an illusion?

Of course it is!

So why am I in such strong pursuit of it?

I know I need to relax, to let go, and to follow the flow of each week, each day, without trying to figure it all out, without trying to grasp at a “normal.”

I had an aha moment this morning while making coffee (of all things!).

I realized that I’m just like my students in a major way.

I’ve wondered many times in the last couple of months why they’re so resistant. Some seem to resist at first everything I introduce. They just know they’re not going to like it, no matter what it is.

My aha was that . . . . that’s what I’m doing right now, too!

I’m resisting the not-normal.

What an eye-opener.

I’m just like them!

Maybe it’s human nature to resist what feels new and uncomfortable. Even if you’re not 11 or 12 or 13 years old . . .  but instead are 57 years old!

You’d think I’d know better by now, have a better approach.

But sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I feel 11 or 12 or 13 years old, too.

Maybe that’s why I find myself in a middle school classroom at this juncture of my life.

Maybe I’m learning (or more likely relearning) some old lessons.

Like that I need to be more open and willing to give something new a chance.

So that’s my goal for this week.

To let go of my old ways of thinking and doing. To be open to letting things occur in new ways. Ways that may feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

To let myself feel uncomfortable without trying to escape somehow, even if just in my thoughts.

To quit being so resistant.

After all, I need to be a good role model for my students.


So I’ll just start with myself. Tomorrow.

And then the next day.

And so on. One day at a time.

To heck with normal!


Daffodils last March at Gibbs Gardens

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