First, Iowa Irish Fest was an awesome experience! Gaelic Storm never fails to amaze me on the show they put on. Being we’ve seen them for 8 years now, they run some of the same material, but they play with passion, and I love it. The Screaming Orphans hit the center stage this year, and it was a sight to see! They are another group that just plays with a passion that’s hard to describe! Heart felt songs to totally rocking out. I love it! A new group to the fest: Socks in the Frying Pan! Who knew three guys from the west coast of Ireland could rip it up as they did! We saw them twice, once on the main stage, and once is the one of the side tents. Great energy, great harmonies, and just a great feeling walking away after their set. All in all, this was simply a great fest! I look forward to next year!

Side note: our band director just stopped in to chat and said, “nice music.” This is note worthy because NO ONE likes my music, not ONE SINGLE PERSON ever says nice music. So shout out to him and to Steve Boyett and his baby, Groovelectic! Right now, I happen to be listening to the “Homebase” mix. 🙂 Back to your regularly scheduled blog, all ready in progress.

Now, I’ll be honest, as upbeat as that first paragraph was, that’s not my general mind set. I’ve felt down about school for a while now, being asked to move grade levels for the fourth time in the last 7 years. I’ve really not felt valued, but more a cog in the educational machine. This comes in part from what I see on social media, all the “be positive”, “be a light in the darkness”, “shut up and do your job” posts (ok, maybe not that last one, but you get the gist).

In a blog by Shanna Peeples titled, ” Your Back-To-School Messages Are Hurting Teachers”, she writes:

There’s tremendous pressure on teachers to be up and on, always positive, always “engaging.” When the issues students bring to school with them accumulate to a degree that they feel too heavy for many teachers, there’s not many places to turn.

This can cause what feels like a constant, low-grade emotionally abusive relationship. Too much of school, in my experience, fosters a dark co-dependency where staff are told that if they just work harder, give up more hours of their lives, tutor more, then students will “achieve.” Achievement, in this regard, of course means higher scores.


I’ll write about my daughters in a later blog, but we are empty nesters, and I think about all the time I spent at school, that “if I could just give a little more time”, that would make a difference.

What about my family and the time I didn’t get to spend with them? Or the time the younger teachers here are giving up with their children? Does that time make a difference?

Needless to say, it’s been hard to be “up” for the school year, something that hard to for me to admit, but two things happened this week that helped lighten the load.

This will be my 24th year in the profession (damn I’m old), and I get friend requests from old students from time to time. It’s neat to see what they’ve become over the years, and watch them navigate life, much the same way my wife and I did back in the day. My first year of teaching was done in a rural Eskimo village in Alaska, 3,000 miles from our family and friends. My wife and I graduated in December, were married in March, had interviews in April, and left in July for Alaska!


I have two students from that class who’ve friended me on Facebook, and one recently post

Darin was one of my favorite teachers along with a lot more that I’m not friends with…many influences on my life that I appreciate now more than I did as a student at Unk Schools!!! They all did right for me along all those years in school


It was nice to read that, considering that was a LONG time ago! 🙂

A couple of days later, former fifth grade student from the 97-98 school year tagged me in a post where someone had scanned and put a picture up of our old class. It was ridiculous to see me with a dark, full head of hair (that will not be posted here!), but more so was the fact many of them had commented about how much they enjoyed my classroom. They were a smaller group of kids, and we really connected, young teacher and young class. As my wife and I were expecting our first child, they took it upon themselves to throw us a baby shower, and looked forward to the birth of our daughter as much as we did! 🙂 As I looked on their Facebook pages, so many memories came flooding back, both of them and the teachers I worked with as well. They were an awesome group, and to see them talking about how they felt about me, lifted my spirits greatly.

So, as I’m moving back to 6th grade, my goal this year, like all years, make the connections. The kids won’t remember the awesome test I gave, but they will remember if I cared about them in class. They won’t remember that killer lesson, but they will remember if I gave them respect. They won’t remember the smiley face on the paper, but they will remember when we played soccer/basketball/cards/chess something with them!

We has teachers need to figure out where our line is that we will say, “nope, not doing it,” and hold fast to that line. We need to put our own families first, because if our mental health isn’t good, we cannot be good for our students. But at the same time, we need to show our students, school isn’t always about “the achievement”: it can be about the laughter, the tears, the fun of getting away with something, and the joy of being happy and safe, if only for a brief moment.

How will you make those connections? How will you take care of your family AND your students? Where’s the line where you say, “My family is more important?” If you cannot answer those questions, you need to stop reading this, and figure out your answers, because being great at both means you know where the line is for how much you can give as a teacher AND a parent.

For my students in Missouri and Alaska, thank you for helping me realize that I do have something to off students. Your posts did a world of good for me, more so than you know! 🙂