What Do Teachers Do When They Don’t Teach?

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!


Marsha Moffit McGuire

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