Realistic Resolutions and Mascot Moments for 2019
I didn’t know it was possible for human glands to generate so much sweat. Fluid sprinkling from my scalp like a showerhead dribbles over my eyelids, blurring my vision. Perspiration drips down my back, pooling at the bottom of my shirt and rim of my jeans. My tongue is carpeted in a thick layer of wool. I glance at the clock on the wall. Five minutes down, 55 to go.
5 Hours Earlier….
The first day of my 22nd year teaching began in my school’s newly built gym. My principal asked us to stand in a circle for an opening activity. Seventy pairs of shoes squeaked against the high-gloss floor as the teaching staff managed to form a lumpy oval. We were instructed to go around and share a fond memory we recalled from our own elementary school years. I listened as fresh faces recollected how fun it was when their teacher read the newly released Harry Potter to their class. Nearly every staff member’s memory was familiar, but not because I had similar experiences as a kid. Nope, it was because I had done all of them with my own students over the years. Oh dear lord, 2/3 of this group are young enough to have been my students!
Standing there on the spanking new gleaming gym floor, I sank into a funk. On my drive to school that morning, I had indulged in whimsical nostalgia; remembering all the students I had taught over the years and the many close colleagues who had retired or resigned since I started teaching. My walk down memory lane left me longing for the good old days and feeling expired.
There’s a difference between feeling old versus expired. I used to take pride in being one of the more ‘seasoned’ teachers, but over the last few years at school, I began to feel expired; past my prime, washed up, an old fart.
In society at large, being 44-years-old classifies me as middle-aged, not old. But at my school, teaching with mostly 20 and 30-somethings, I’m a relic. I have little to add to the conversations with teachers in their 20s who are closer in age to my children then they are to me (GULP!) To them, I might as well be a 95-year-old in a nursing home.
I don’t do much better with the 30-something crowd. When I congratulate colleagues who announce a new pregnancy, I’m barely given an obligatory thank you. Nobody wants to talk to me about what baby gadgets to buy. Any input I can offer is hopelessly outdated.
Of course, there are teachers in their 40s and 50s. We haven’t been the shiny, new, young teachers in decades. We’ve caught glimpses of what it’s like to be considered irrelevant. Stories that used to be met with laughter from co-workers are now given polite half-smiles. Our anecdotes have outlived their shelf life. In the world of education, we are older than dirt.
Institute Day stretched before me like taffy. Once again, I flashed back to the good old days. I saw myself dancing on the roof of the school to kick off our weather unit. Images of a younger me coordinating class plays, young author visits, puppet shows, vocabulary parades, and poetry slams danced through my head. Looking around, it saddened me to realize that few teachers in the room knew I had ever been a shiny new teacher with boundless passion and enthusiasm.
By 1:30, it was time to prepare for our ‘Meet and Greet,’ where the students come with their parents to drop off their school supplies and meet their teachers. As a reading specialist without a homeroom, it was my job to help visitors reach their destinations. I was standing with the other specialists when someone looked at my principal and said, “Hey, who is going to dress in the dolphin costume? We can’t have a ‘Meet and Greet’ without our school mascot.”
Everyone looked at the ground. Who in their right mind wanted to put on that enormous dolphin head and sweat-stained costume in August (or any other month for that matter)? Moments passed in silence. I waited for a 20-something to volunteer with perky enthusiasm. When that didn’t happen, I waited for a good natured 30-something to pipe up. Still, crickets.
“I’ll do it!” shouted some lunatic.
My desperation to prove I wasn’t an old fart, landed me inside the inferno-like dolphin costume. I immediately regretted my sudden zest for school spirit, but reluctantly began walking the halls and waving to the kids and parents. I was met by squeals of delight, hugs, and requests for pictures. Nobody had any idea who was inside the suit. Cloaked in anonymity, I was no longer some aging teacher past her prime. I began dancing down the corridors.
I made my way to each classroom and was repeatedly greeted by happy kids and smiling teachers. As my hour in the mascot costume drew to a close, I became increasingly goofy; doing the Electric Slide, blowing kisses, fist pumping the kids, and basically feeling like a brand new, shiny, 20-something teacher.
When I finally took off the large dolphin head, peeled off the full body costume, gloves, and oversized shoes, I was drenched! Physically, I was a disaster. Half my makeup had sweated off, I couldn’t stand to smell myself, and my hair had doubled in volume and frizz. Mentally, I was on cloud nine. Never had I felt more invigorated to start the school year!
In the four months since I donned that dolphin costume, I have wanted to blog about it. I thought my mascot moment could remind readers that age is just a number, we can pivot our attitude at any moment, make our own fun, dig ourselves out of our own rut, and step out of our comfort zone. In my head, this was supposed to be some inspirational piece about ushering in the new year with a reignited passion for your profession, or even an altered view on life. Yikes- I may have grossly overestimated my writing abilities and readership.
The truth is, while my mascot moment was energizing, it was also extraordinarily uncomfortable. Although I brought a smile to many children’s faces, I also made a few cry (I found out the hard way that some younger siblings are deathly afraid of large walking dolphins). My mascot moment was not life-altering, but it did shift my day and those that followed. This doesn’t mean that I plan to replicate the moment by dressing up in random school mascot costumes every time I’m feeling down.
Rather than enter 2019 with some grandiose plan to revolutionize my life, I’m simply going to strive for more mascot moments. I’ll try to shift my thinking, take more risks, reinvent myself, and stop romanticizing the good old days. In 2019, I want to make more people smile, less people cry, blow more kisses, initiate more fist pumps, and dance through more halls. I hope you’ll join me in whatever version of a mascot moment you’ve experienced this past year. Cheers to accomplishing this without the furry costume and ten-pound dolphin head!
I desperately wanted to include the following in this piece:
- For all you old farts out there, in the words of the great Billy Joel, ‘The good ole days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.’
- For all you young shiny readers out there, in the words of the great Kesha and Macklemore, ‘I wish somebody would have told me babe, Some day, these will be the good old days.’
- How many of you old farts are like me and thought the word ‘babe’ in the lyrics was ‘then’ ?