My cancer distraction was school. I knew I had to keep working through chemo or else I would have gone crazy. But the crazy thing is that when chemo was over I didn’t really know what to do. It was like, ok…now what? For six months I had an identity. I had a routine. Then it was just over and the waiting began. Because in the cruel world of cancer you have to wait six weeks before you can get a PET scan to see if it all worked. And six weeks can be torture without a distraction. So, I poured myself right back into a place I knew best – school.
I am the co-sponsor of STUCO along with Tavis. Normally, it runs pretty smoothly. But this year it was just meh. I don’t know if it was because I was so distracted or if we had simply run our course with our traditional events. Regardless, I was really disappointed with STUCO – not the kids, per say, but the idea of it. Our coffee house was cut, our Spring Fling was barely planned. And our dress-up days were in single digits percent wise. Students didn’t know about us and frankly didn’t care.
The other problem is that I came from a large public school. Although we had a lot of public school problems, I will say that American public schools can do the fun stuff well. And Hendersonville was no exception. We had pep-rallies and Black and Gold day and people attended games and dress-up days were crazy popular. If we can do that with a 2000 student population, we can certainly change the school climate of a 302 student school. So I pulled a Mrs. Rogers. Lile Rogers was and is the queen of Hendersonville. She is in charge of all things fun – STUCO, yearbook, pep rallies, the hospitality committee. Even when I was sick I got card after card sent to me in Uruguay from Lile. She makes a school feel good. While I didn’t always agree with how things were run, after all the popular kids seemed to only thrive, I did appreciate her spirit and enthusiasm. She loved our school and our kids knew it.
As a colleague, I had been channeling my inner Lile Rogers all year with birthday cards and surprises and happy notes. This time, I channeled the teacher Mrs. Rogers. I pulled my current president and treasurer out of their fourth period class and we sat for 95 minutes coming up with a school climate plan. It was going to take two years, maybe more, but we were determined to change the climate of the school. We were determined to make UAS a home for all students, even if someone was only there for 18 months because their parents were in the military. Every student who walked through the door was a Toro and was going to always be a Toro. The more filled my white board became with our ideas, the more enthusiastic we all became. I started to feel lighter. We can do this, guys! We can actually do this!
For weeks I was obsessed. We tweaked and fine-tuned our plan. We held “elections” to get the most enthusiastic students on board. We emailed the principal, the director, and the board members. We included teachers and made a calendar of events. We ordered 157 t-shirts from the states so that we could initiate class colors. All of which I was going to have to figure out how to get back to Montevideo when I went home for summer/winter break. We came up with games and slogans and bulletin boards. My kids were excited about school again. I was excited about teaching next year. And it was all because I had needed a distraction from my upcoming PET scan.