Allison Grindle saved my life. Really…. I would have walked out of Pickering Elementary in October 1992 if she had not walked across the hall along with Mrs. Richard and invited me to cry in her room. I was at the end of my rope. Teaching was so much harder than I thought it would be. I was making a little over $700 a month and my rent was $300. I had $5.00 in my bank account and was not sure if I had enough peanut butter to make the week, let alone gas.
I knew I could not possibly take on another job when teaching required my efforts until 11 p.m. most nights and my weekends were shot with grading and planning. I taught every subject to my fifth graders including reading, language, spelling, math, science, social studies, art, music, some health and PE plus I helped with the DARE program and sometimes had them during foreign language. I had a thirty-minute planning period two or three times a week, ate lunch with them, we all went to potty together and I had duty every day morning, recess, and after school.
The time and money issues aside my class was in chaos. These precious 10 year olds were eating my lunch every day. They rolled their eyes at me. They laughed at every mistake I made. No one loved me like I loved my teachers. Law school was looking pretty darn good. However, there were a few magical moments when all the students came together in a beautiful learning experience and I was in total bliss. I just could not figure out how to be in bliss more than I was in mess.
Mrs. Richard and Mrs. Grindle taught me about resistance. I pushed the Q-Tip, so to speak, when I needed to pull back. My lack of understanding about how things worked was causing everyone pain! I was so excited I rushed at things and I rushed at students without thinking things through. These ladies told me a few specific things bluntly and then began to question me into figuring the rest out.
I learned I needed order and a consistent schedule. Effective teachers post and teach expectations consistently. They came to my room and pointed out how chaotic it was. They talked to me about my centers and how to find a place for every item and every person. They both helped me figure out a seating chart and a conduct system that would work for me. They helped me figure out I was allergic to chalk dust! They introduced me to an overhead projector!
Most of all when one of my angels broke the rules I had to actually follow through with the consequences instead of being a push over. I could not loose my temper. I could not let my hurt feelings show. I had to be stoic and unruffled all at the same time. WOW! Where were those lessons in college? Over the next few weeks I started doing whatever these two ladies told me to do and I began thriving and my kids began thriving.
The lesson I learned that fall was you have to have peer supporters in the work place. Supporters are not those who lord over you or tell you everything to do and trust me there were those also. Supporters are those who see your strengths and question you until you find your way. Mrs. Grindle and Mrs. Richard saved my life by telling me some blunt statements, by asking me some great questions, and by just cheering me on. I stayed in the profession because of these two women and I have taught over 2,000 students using those early guiding principles. Find people you can trust. Build your support team. Excellent teaching is hard work. You can’t do it alone. Sometimes those supporters become your friends also. Allison Grindle became my friend socially that year and was one of my first friends on Facebook. She is miles away, but she is so close to my heart. I thank her for helping me find my bliss.