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Another School Year

Since I’m the daughter of two teachers and an educator myself, I tend to think of years in terms of school years. My life has always revolved around the school calendar. It seems it still does. January might mark the true beginning of the New Year, but late August or September is how I really check off the start of a “new year.”

I even started this blog last September. It felt like the right time.

As a teacher, I have always loved this time of year. Every class was full of new faces, new challenges, new opportunities, new discoveries and new untapped potentials (and yes, new problems!).

Every year when I first stood in front of my classroom and even when I was “merely” the substitute, I took this responsibility, this power to make a difference, very seriously. I knew each year was a fresh start for me, but even more importantly, it was a fresh beginning for every student sitting there as well. No matter what had transpired during the previous school year for any of us, every new school year offered a fresh start, a clean slate, a chance to do things right, or at least better.

That’s a remarkable feeling I will never forget.

I love the hustle and bustle of back-to-school excitement this time of year. I love the eager anticipation mixed with a bit of apprehension I see on the faces of kids as they anxiously meet new teachers, make new friends and reconnect with old ones. And to this day, I love opening up a brand new box of Crayola Crayons.

Last year I was not able to return to the classroom for a variety of reasons. I know many other teachers have carried on in the classroom after a cancer diagnosis and through treatment as well. I know many people carry on in whatever career cancer has so rudely interrupted. Those people truly inspire me, because honestly, I don’t know how they do it.

This year I am once again staying out of the classroom. This year I am choosing to do so, still for many reasons, but mostly because I want to devote more time to writing.

Since my diagnosis, I have decided to focus more on things I want to accomplish yet. I have reassigned the order as to what things matter most to me. Teaching will always matter a great deal to me, but now I want to more diligently pursue one of my other passions, writing.

Sometimes this makes me feel selfish. Why should I get to do what I want? Sometimes this makes me feel free and very grateful (thank you hubby for your support). Sometimes it makes me feel apprehensive. I mean, who am I to think anyone wants to read what I write? Sometimes it makes me feel inadequate and overwhelmed. What should I write about today? Sometimes it makes me feel very vulnerable, I mean what, no paycheck?

Recently I heard some aspiring writer in a movie (I don’t know what the movie was called, I didn’t see it from the beginning or finish watching it), say:

“I write. That’s what I do. It doesn’t even matter if anyone ends up reading what I write. I write because I want to, no I write because I have to. That’s what I do. I write.”

That’s how I feel about writing.

That’s why I appreciate readers of this blog so much because even though I write because I want to and it doesn’t matter if anyone reads what I write, it sure is a lot more fun when people do!

Do you, or did you, like the “back-to-school” time of year?

Is there something you just “have to do” because you want to so much?

Have you changed careers since a cancer diagnosis?


Monday 27th of July 2020

Keep following your dream, Nancy. I am also a former teacher exploring writing reluctantly but joyfully. I don't want to regret not following my dream.

Elizabeth J.

Wednesday 4th of September 2013

I was an elementary music teacher. Unfortunately, my district was doing layoffs, so despite 16 years of loyalty to them, they decided to lay off the teacher with cancer. (There is no tenure in my state. They don't have to give a cause to not renew a contract.)Last year, I was really struggling with finishing treatment, and then recurrence, but whether I came back or not should have been mine and my doctors' decision, not theirs.

I guess you can't keep me out of the classroom, though. This year, I am a volunteer music teacher for a small Christian school. I teach 4 classes, each one only once a week. (Total 2 hours class-time per week.) Love it. But, it is also proving to me that I would not be able at this time to return fulltime to the classroom. Just two classes today (kindergarten and 1st/2nd) left me exhausted.

Before cancer, I did a lot more in my church. I taught Sunday School, played keyboard in the praise band for multiple morning services, taught children's choir, and sang in the choir. I have recently returned to singing in the choir and now play piano Sunday nights, but that is going to be about it for now.

People used to tell me that I needed to write down the stories I told to make music history interesting for my students. So I have been working on the first of what I hope will be several books, the story of how Silent Night was written. My plan is to try to get it published as a children's book. I know a young artist who is dying to get a chance to be my illustrator.

This year, back to school meant becoming a real empty nester. My youngest finished college and will not be showing up to "shop in my pantry" and get her laundry done on weekends. She took a job in Europe as a teacher and left just before school started! I plan to tour Europe this year through her pictures!


Saturday 14th of September 2013

Elizabeth, I'm sorry you were laid off. Was it legal for them to do that? I agree that going back or not should have been your decision. I didn't realize you were/are an elementary music teacher. I used to substitute in elem music and I loved it. I'm glad to hear you are volunteering and enjoying that. I know what you mean about the full time thing though... Your new project sounds great! Good for you! Congrats on your daughter's new job. That should be a wonderful experience for her. One of my sons just landed his first teaching job in TX and yes, that's the reason for my absence of late! Thanks for sharing.

Facing Cancer Together

Tuesday 3rd of September 2013

Ah! I'm so excited for you, Nancy. Doing what you love, having the ability to give time to that passion, being supported so much by everyone who reads this blog and your family - you have me smiling, because it all sounds like a good place in which to be. There is no selfishness here. Writing honours a creative side of ourselves, and if it is what you want - than go, go, go! Best of luck and be sure to share. I'm quite looking forward to reading more from you.



Tuesday 3rd of September 2013

Catherine, You're very sweet! Thanks for your kind and very supportive words!

Weekly Round Up « Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

Friday 23rd of September 2011

[...] enjoyed the discussion over at Nancy’s Point this week, prompted by the traditional going back to school time of the year. Another great [...]


Friday 23rd of September 2011

Thanks, Marie for including me.


Tuesday 20th of September 2011

Such a good post, Nancy. Fresh notebooks. That's what I love about a new school year. Actually, even now. Notebooks are my preferred way of writing, before finalizing on computer. Habit, I suppose. I think I feel the same way about writing as you. From a young age I felt I didn't choose to write, it chose me and when I didn't write for so many years after my mom died, I really missed it. I thought about it all the time, but it wasn't until blogging that I was able to do it again. Funny.

I love your writing and I can't wait to see what you come out with. I don't think it's selfish to want to spend time doing what you love. I get the paycheck worry. Believe me, I have the same worry, but I like to think if we're true to ourselves, it will work out. At least I hope so! That's what Oprah says.


Tuesday 20th of September 2011

Stacey, Thanks for sharing a memory about the fresh school year. Not surprising you like notebooks I guess! I'm so glad you got back into writing via your blog. I always look forward to and wonder about what you're going to write next, as I do with all the bloggers. That's part of the fun. And your advice is pretty smart. Who can argue with you and Oprah, right?

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