Strange question? Perhaps, but it’s one I’ve had to face lately. As many of you know, my son MacKale was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma earlier this month. His diagnosis was a whirlwind trip through a cancer tornado wrapped up in a really crappy hurricane of questions and unknowns. Obviously, his health has been our number one concern, but after you’re hit with the first upper cut to your chin, you shake your head to make sense of it all and all the other realities of your life come crashing into your mind. How will we manage . . .What about the little boys . . .How will we fit him and his leg and a wheel chair into one of our vehicles . . .what about his school . . . what about our jobs . . . Believe it or not, you even think about stuff that’s really not important, because your mind is all overloaded so why not pile it on with more garbage . . . who will watch the dog . . . what about the season ski passes we just bought . . . where will I find pants to fit over the brace on his leg . . . what about our spring break plans . . . what about Halloween . . . can he keep his braces . . . how am I going to keep a house germ free with 3 little boys, one big one and a dog? All stupid insignificant stuff in the greater realm of things, but still things you have to deal with at some point. The big one . . . our jobs. What do you do when your child needs at least a year of treatment in order to fight this horrible disease and you live an hour and a half way from his hospital?
The day that MacKale was scheduled for a MRI, I left school at noon, and I hadn’t been back. My aide and friend Laurie, who was once a certified teacher and is super qualified to run my class, took over for me. She’s been with me for six years and so for my students, there hasn’t been that uncomfortable feeling of not knowing who was going to be their teacher every day. Laurie is the glue that has been holding it all together.
I’ve still been planning each and every week, going in on the weekends when I wasn’t at the hospital and setting up stations, but I haven’t spent five minutes teaching. Three weeks to the day, yesterday, I returned to my class to visit . . .
They had gotten so big . . . and smart!
I was able to spend the morning watching them do their morning work.
They really worked.
They survived and had thrived without me. I knew they would and it made it a little easier when I had to tell my them and their parents during conferences that I would taking the rest of the year off to be with MacKale during treatment and to be mom to his brothers when I wasn’t at the hospital with MacKale. It is my most important work right now, and while it took three weeks and a lot of crying over, it is the best decision, and there’s no question that it’s the right decision. I was lucky enough to secure an amazing retired teacher who my kinders are going to adore. Everything has fallen into place to make it all possible. They even game me a little parting gift yesterday by meeting their ‘Read To Self’ goal of two times at 20 minutes. Woohoo. That meant, I had to come back today to celebrate.
We turned the classroom into a giant fort and read in the dark. It was a good way to end things.
But it did leave me wondering, ‘what do teachers do when they don’t teach?’ What will I do? Am I really even still a teacher? Will I lose crediblity with my teacher friend and readers? Will they still let me ‘play’ teacher in the dark hours of the night when I can’t sleep and I busily work on a new product or post in order to avoid the lure of yet another cancer statistic or article on the internet? I’m here to tell you friends, I can’t NOT be around teaching. It’s just a fact So I hope you still come around and talk teaching with me. Teaching, curriculum and kindergarten are the things that are completely mine . . . separate from cancer . . . separate from levels and hospitals and all the other unpleasantness that comes with cancer. Late at night in the hospital and at home, when I need to really be sleeping and I’ve prayed all the prayers I can possible pray for that day, teaching keeps me sane. Blogging, creating and talking to all of you about teaching calms me. I can control teaching . . . I can manage a blog post . . . when everything else seems to be spinning out of control, sometimes working on Differentiated Kindergarten is the only thing that makes me feel like me.
So I do hope you will still come around. While I won’t be actively in my classroom on a daily bases, I will still be ‘teaching’ in my own way. I have so many pictures that I’ve been meaning to put into different posts and a ton of products ideas that I just haven’t gotten to over the years that I hope to tackle when Mac’s resting and when I can’t sleep and need a distraction. I also have plans to do some presenting at a couple of conferences, the earliest being in December in Livonia Michigan. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by. It’s not my usual gig to teach teachers. I think we are all probably a little more comfortable hanging with 5 year olds, but since I can talk about kindergarten and differentiating to anyone who will listen, I thought it might me a good outlet. I’ll look forward to hearing from you all. Please feel free to contact me often with questions . . . problems . . . ideas! It is my plan to return to the classroom in the fall, and I will need to ‘keep on my toes’ from now until then. Don’t want those teaching wheels to get too rusty, ya know. I love a good conundrum, so make sure you keep me in the loop if I can help.
I can’t tell you how thankful I am to all of you readers who are my friends who have now become my family through this whole journey. Your prayers and kind words have sustained me. Bless you!
Heather F. says
I took 8 years off to raise my own sons. I was still a teacher. I did various things that allowed that “teacher creativity” to come out. My family has since moved from where we lived when I was teaching before, and fell right into a preschool teaching position. It was like riding a bike 🙂
I operate by the motto of family first. If you take care of your family, everything else falls into place. Praying for your little guy and all the rest of your guys. You are still a teacher, you will always be a teacher. 🙂
Thanks for praying Heather and for your kind words.
praying for you
Thank you, Cindee
You are so strong. My prayers are with you and your family. I understand some of your feelings. Being diagnosed recently with 2 auto immune disease’s I was advised by my dr.’s not to teach anymore. “The germs could be fatal.” Well, what do I do now. What about all my great Pinterest pins and great ideas I get from blogs like yours for my borrowed kids….. I went to visit on Wednesday and the squeals and hugs made my heart full. I can only play Bejeweled so many times a day. God Bless you and your family. He will show you the way.
Uggghhh you totally get what it’s like. I wish you didn’t. You are now in MY prayers. Be strong and get well soon friend.
Linda Groce says
I’ll still be checking in, Marsha. BTW….I have more sensory tub packets to buy!! 🙂
I know taking a leave of absence had to be a difficult decision, but definitely necessary!! Your decision just shows that you know that God is in control.
Praying for you and your family.
Thanks for your support Linda, and thank you most of all for your prayers.
Rachael Coe says
Marsha, I’ve thought and prayed for you all often since your first post about what’s going on. Taking time to be with your family is absolutely the best decision right now and all the other answers will come in time. We’re on other sides of the country from each other, but if you are needing anything, please let me know. (I mean I can’t watch the dog and all, but you know what I mean.) 😉 Please keep us posted.
Lots of love,
Thanks Rachael. Your offer to help means so much and your prayers are priceless. I will definitely keep you posted.
Patty Rutenbar says
Thanks for letting us have a peek at your life. I know you made the right choice. You will never regret this decision. I believe you will find a way to make ends meet. It just will happen….somehow.
I also want you to know that I’m just like you in that I have to be teaching at all times. I retired in 2014, but I still have teaching on the brain. I do have a part time job four days a week. I love it! It keeps me with kids and current with education. You will probably be teaching MacKale on his good days. And what a wonderful gift to be able to teach your own child. This will be something he remembers for a long time. Bless you, Marsha. I pray for your brave heart and soul every night.
you are a sweet sweet friend. Thank you so much for all you have done for us. Love you so much.
Well I know one thing is for sure. I will still gladly stop by your blog because you are an amazing teacher. I was a reading specialist, then Kinder teacher, and now 4th grade teacher. Even though I made the switch to 4th, I still keep up with your blog because you are an AMAZING teacher with AMAZING ideas that I feel inspired by and can tweak to fit even my 4th grade classroom now. From interventions, to routines, to classroom management you have always been an inspiration to me and thank you…for being a beam of light when I didn’t know where to go next in my teaching. Sending you love of positive thoughts for your little guy. You are right. It is the RIGHT decision to be with your family at this time. Best wishes to you and your family.
Awww you are so kind Amy. Your sweet words made my day. Thank you so much
Dalynn Holling says
Hey fellow Michigander!
What a tough decision. But at the same time an easy decision. This is my second year teaching full-time and my first year in kindergarten. I have loved your blog for many years.. I even talked about it in my interview! You are such an inspiration. I will probably be sending some questions your way! You know, to help you have some conundrums to solve. 🙂
Will pray for you as you come to mind!
You are so sweet. Thanks for your support and I’ll be looking for your conundrums!!! Keep me busy please.
Your prayers are greatly appreciated.
Gail Donahue says
You are an amazing woman, mom, teacher and mentor! You have our support, love and prayers. I know you have expressed how writing is therapy for you but also know that your words are helping many others learn how to deal with the curve balls they may encounter daily. It is so good to know that we will still hear from you and that we still have an opportunity to learn from you. As an instructional coach, I will continue to are your story with the many teachers I work with on a daily basis. MacKale, you and your family will be in our prayers each day. Thank you for being such a strong role model. Peace and blessings.
thanks for your support and understand but most of all your prayers.
I love your blog and will most definitely will continue to follow you! My prayers are with you, your son & your family during this difficult time.
I am wondering if I can get the info on your conference in Livonia in December because I’d love to come hear you! It would be a reasonable drive and would be a wonderful way of learning some ideas/techniques to use in my very first classroom that is a Transitional Kindergarten/Kindergarten split classroom. Thank you!
Thank you Alicia. If you go to the SDE (Staff Development for Educators)website you can look up the conference there.
Sylvia Parker says
I will still be reading, watching and learning from you. Teachers teach regardless of whether or not we have a classroom full of kiddos or a child in our home. You are an amazing educator but more importantly, a loving mother. Praying for your family.
Thanks Sylvia. Your prayers are so precious to us.
Please do keep your blog and FB posts coming! Whether they’re teaching or life related we can all benefit in one way or another from each other. Prayers and positive thoughts for you and your family, Marsha. <3
Thanks Lorena. I really appreciate your support.
Karen Harris says
I ran across your blog a couple of years ago and have been following you ever since. (Is that creepy? lol.) As you and your family deal with what life is throwing at you right now, please remember that you are being lifted up in prayer. You have friends in Tennessee praying for you.
No it’s not creepy. Do you know how long I followed Deedee Wills and now she is I can actually call her friend. I was following her a long time. I so appreciate your lifting us up in Prayer! Thank you.
We’ll always be here for you. And once a teacher, Always a teacher.
Thank you Katie. That’s very kind of you.
I’ll definitely still be checking in and will always be happy to see new creations from you. I understand that making products is a creative outlet and I’m sure a sanity saver at times…where you can be distracted (if just for a little while). Keeping you all in my prayers.
Thanks Karyn. That’s so sweet of you.
Karen in MN says
My prayers are with you on this journey. I have a friend whose Kindergartner spent a year beating Neuroblastoma… and WON! Childhood cancer is a nasty thing. Your son will be braver than he should ever have to be. But with his mom at his side, he will be fine. I love your work. I have always wondered how you fit it all in. Now you will have that extra time. Don’t worry if the “extra time” disappears some. I’m sure your life this year will be a whirlwind at times. It’s OK if you sleep through a whole night! I will continue to recommend your website to others.
Thank you so much Karen. I love hearing success stories and I so appreciate your kind words.
Emilie Kloster says
I haven’t visited your blog in a bit and was sad to hear the news about your son. Sending lots of hugs and prayers your way-for you and your whole family as you deal with your new normal. I am happy that doing some school-related things will still be a part of your daily life-but my Mom heart is so happy you will get to spend the bulk of your day with your sweet son. Thanks for always being so honest in your posts.
Thanks Emilie. I appreciate the the prayers very much.
Sarah Barnes says
You are being a teacher every time you make a post! If you walked into my classroom in northern wisconsin you would see your influence (yes, I’m the one with the green spots on my counter from dieing pasta – ha ha). I am a better teacher because of you and your products, and my students have such fun learning experiences because of you. We all love you BECAUSE you know you need to be there for your home kids. Know that as you blog and create you are teaching your cyber kids (big and little), and when you pop in to visit your class you are teaching them some important lessons about family, life and love. Continued blessings to you and your little men (and even the big one) <3.
Sarah, thanks for your kind words. It made my heart full. It hasn’t been an easy decision to stay home, but I know it is absolutely the right one.
Amber Peterson says
Teach me Marsha! Continuing to lift your family up!
Where in Livonia will you present and do you know a date?
I’m going to be at the I Teach K -Michigan conference in November
Thanks for asking.