Thursday, March 12, 2009

keep a prayer in your heart.

the past few weeks have been madness, sheer madness... but in the best way possible. the students really pulled it together to put on a wonderful event on tuesday for the Nothing Like My Home finale/community event. my stress levels were high, as i realize time and time again, that while project-based learning has the rep of being "easy" with regard to high-levels of student engagement, it takes a ton of planning on the part of the teacher to "structure the openness", if you will. in order to have the students truly organize an event, each of the 120 ninth graders had to have a finite role to play, and for me, that meant they needed to have some choice in the matter. i find that giving students agency in the shape and nature of our work is the best way to build their desire to invest in the project.

despite having technical difficulties (i.e. no sound system), the students rocked our worlds, with their deep poetry about the refugee experience, with their ability to roll with the punches and put on a show anyway, with their desire to help and commitment to making the event run, well. my marketing team got the word out there about it, my security team plotted the best entrances/exits for safe traffic flow and monitored for students cutting class, my food team educated our guests about the middle eastern food being served, my gallery guides took our guests on a tour through the photo exhibit and explained the biographies of the subjects. my MCs stepped it up, read loud and proud, projected to the audience, and the kids really listened and appreciated the presence of Ms. Majeed, an Iraqi journalist and refugee, who came to speak to us about her harrowing experiences and need to leave her country.

my kids closed the event by giving me a huge group-hug (being swarmed by 9th graders was adorable) and cleaning up the room in about 10 minutes flat. i was so heart-warmed by their attention to detail, their willingness to listen and participate, and even to try the strange food (falafel, hummus, pita and tabouli salad) that i had made for the occasion. the experience was great and we all enjoyed our time together that afternoon, though the biggest complaint from my students was that the principal spoke too long, ha!

so, i thought that i'd be able to take a big breath, sigh of relief and maybe catch up on my sleep, as of yesterday. i missed a call from my mom during our grade team meeting, and thought it an odd time for her to call me. i called her back as soon as i got home and got my dad on the phone. we chatted for a second before the following twist in the conversation:

dad: "oh yeah, and i'm in the hospital."
me: "WHAT?!?!"
dad: "it's nothing, just a bad stress test. i'm okay..."
me: "well, okay... how long are you there?"
dad: "not sure, they put a stint in..."
me: "WHAT the....?"
dad: "here, your mom can explain it better... love you"
me: "love you, too."
mom: "he neglected to mention that he had a HEART ATTACK! he's in denial. they took him in an ambulance from the doctor's office to the hospital... at least it happened there."
me: "WHAT?!?!?! are you serious? what's going on? should i come home?"
mom: "no, he's fine... he's fine, really. just wanted to keep you in the loop..."

STOP. REWIND. my head swirls back to our conversation of last week, him telling me that all he wants to do when he next visits is sit on my stoop with me and survey the South Bronx block. keeps going back, to his high-blood pressure, to his obsessive morning workouts, to his activeness, to his shoulder surgery and unwillingness to ever seek medical attention, to his laugh, his inability to ever wear socks, his hair that has been in the same style since the early 80s, his piercing blue eyes, his no-bullshit attitude, his "feelings just get in the way" callousness, his installation of the core value of respect into me, his affinity for sweatpants, his "dress sweats", his playing catch with me in the front yard, his teaching me how to throw a ball, water-ski, drive a car, boat and golf cart, his desire to come back in his next life as a buffalo (literally), his love for beer, his long talks about life on the way home from softball games, his local celebrity status, his joy and appreciation for waking up every single fucking morning.

i try to treat every conversation, every meeting, every phone call with every person i know like it will be the last. tomorrow is not promised, this is something i learned from my father, and have had to deal with in the loss of many people in my life. this is why we must treasure every moment and i feel so lucky to have grown up with him, to have him around for me, as this is not a given in our society, either. he is truly a "piece of work", as my mom and i say all of the time, but his influence on who i am is so monumental, and the thought of (not to mention close proximity to) losing him shakes me to my soul.

in my head, i know that he will be okay.
in my heart, i'm asking for your prayers.
i love you, dad.

thank you.

lauren michele fardig

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