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A First-Time Mama Questions Her First Time Away From Baby: AASSA 2018

by Julia Landau, Escola Girassol, Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

When AASSA was still a distant conference, way off on the horizon of commitments and events, things were rosy. As any teacher or administrator will confirm, the day to day at school is so intense that there was little time to think too much about the conference at all – perhaps this is what Lee Crockett calls that the Tyranny of Now? Well, the weeks before the conference were certainly tyrannical, which worked in my denial’s favor: I barely remembered that in just a few weeks, I would be spending a week away from my 18-month-old.

As the conference approached, things got murky for me. As anyone who would listen at the time would tell you, I was excited, worried, upset, unsure, insecure and curious all at the same time. I had never spent much more than 12 hours away from my son, much less an entire night (Hello night feedings? Any moms out there?), much less an entire week. I cried, I doubted myself, I almost backed out. I also tried other strategies: I played it cool, I pretended it was nothing, I ignored that it was happening. I even went for the old fallback: arguing with my husband over everything. How was nothing working?!

But underneath it all I knew that I had to come, I had to make this happen. Renewing my practices, knowledge, awareness and empathy as a program coordinator is essential to my work. It is part of being an educator. Without breaking free of our comfort zone, we don’t awaken our curiosity, we don’t reevaluate our schools and classrooms, we don’t dare. For me, this comfort zone was not only professional – this year it was deeply personal.

And there’s more: even though my career as an educator started way before the babe was even an idea, today it has everything to do with him. Education has always been about my small way to keep wonder alive in our world, and now a piece of that mission is at home with me, in baby form. Do I wish that this form included less drawing on the walls, or less affinity for sharp objects? Sure, but the important thing is that my child is now inseparable from my work as a teacher.

Being at AASSA is about doing the work my son and our students deserve; it’s about being someone my baby can be proud of. The distance is hard, the days are long. The walls are going to have even more crayon-graffiti when I get back. But has it been worth it? No question.

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