i keep talking about this deep reflection that i'm going to write on what has been an utterly crazy, no-seatbelts, off-roading-in-a-convertible type of year (how's that for specificity?), but i'm struggling. here are some almosts, some reflections still forming, in no particular order and half-formed. you know, dear reader, that it makes me crazy to not put out a finished piece, but i am the biggest work in progress and this summer i am starting to absolve myself of my fears, and really do this right.
the hyperbole of a mess - june 28th
yesterday, linda stopped by my room and we had a rare chat. in the midst of one of the most insane years in the history of our school, and education nationally, i had the unique experience of having a wonderful year, both in and outside of my classroom. linda reminded me that i always return to hyperbole when i'm summing up my experiences - b/c i am somewhat dramatic; and it's more gemini to call myself a mess than it is to calmly explicate on my need to improve my organizational skills. perhaps the artist feels a pressure to be unraveled, but i'm not a mess. at least, not always, in all ways. i have it together professionally.
in 2010/11 i was blessed to bring 2 students to NCTE in Florida, held LPS poetry readings and attended readings with kids, did a great partnership with the Tribeca Film Institute, got tenure, became more active with United Playaz and started to envision UP Detroit, coached the softball team and was on PBS, highlighting my students' understandings from a unit i taught. i must be doing something right, but it is moments like these that i critically interrogate all of this and i am humbled and committed to working even harder. i can do so much better, i know this of myself, but hey... i'm also doing pretty well. for all of its drama and difficult mornings, i love my job and cannot imagine myself anywhere else right now.
title marinating - june 30th
i think it's true that one cannot see the beauty in life if one doesn't experience struggles, for the extremes bring us to a fuller range of emotions. the sweetness wouldn't seem to jump off the page if the bitter didn't push me back down. but as i told linda the other day, regardless of my tendency to self-deprecate, it's not about me or my ego. i go through this range of emotions FOR the kids and ABOUT the kids - it stopped being about me when i first set foot in this profession. yet, balance is the key and not a key i was born with. It has taken me awhile to teach myself balance. I have all the patience in the world, so I will keep letting others take energy without restoring it; this is my gift to the world, to each of you. i have learned how to replenish my energy and keep giving.
i've learned a lot this year, about saying yes and saying no. i've learned that my classroom is my domain that i can control, but outside of those walls, i don't control anything. and even within the walls, i am not a tyrant, and i am good at relinquishing control in favor of creating an environment that is collective. i believe in community building and try to reflect this in the physical space we inhabit together. i also believe in changing the teacher-student relationship and what it looks like on a daily basis. one comment from the PBS website was "I'm sure this teacher's time would be better spent teaching literature, civics or math", and i realize that if it doesn't look like traditional teaching, people don't recognize it. i was teaching literature AND civics - global citizenship is the kind that i favor.
must i be cold, frigid and disconnected to be a good teacher? what's wrong with the conflation between the personal and professional? i don't know how to turn my heart off or leave my politics at the door. i do not wish to indoctrinate my students, though, but i do aim every single day to get them to ask questions, consider different perspectives, question their own beliefs. this way the classroom functions interrogating these questions makes it look more like family to me, and that's what the DOE can't calculate or tabulate about my school. how can so much be working at a school, but the desired test scores are not being achieved? because the desired results aren't possible, given our resources and circumstances... but we are teaching our asses off and trying to nurture souls, instill values and starting where they are... i'm way more worried about producing good people who will contribute to the world in a positive way.
reflection (cont'd) - July 4th
there are so many things that i enjoy about what i do and miss during the summer. the daily antics of the show-stealers, who try to take my thunder and meld the class their way. the struggle to settle down and hush the hall energy with books. the resistance to reading until you find that story that somehow speaks your name and repeats it softly. One Hundred Years of Solitude was the first book that did that to me and i go back to reading like an addict, looking for words to make me feel that way again.
i miss the attempts at writing and farce of revision until you figure out that to revise is to make better, is to perfect your thoughts and help people understand your brand of brilliance. i know all about your lucid moments and just want to share them with a larger audience. i've also realized my need to have an office, because while i've crafted my classroom in my own colorful image, i cannot stay there to read your words. but home must be a sacred space of balance and practice - faith and health. both my faith and my health need a break from teaching sometimes, so there must be a physical space in which i get work done. the need to leave longwood is powerful, and will be even more so next year.
because i do so much after-school and above my union hours, i need home to just be home - but the time i spend out of work can and must become better utilized. it is all about moderation. i have become the extreme queen; i justify everything to myself as stress relief, and while healthy steps have been taken to move this in a new direction, i can improve. so to conclude, i am not a mess. i have acclimated myself very well to the demand of high needs and drama, but i must take precautions to be sure that i am safeguarding my heart and how much i give. not in order to give less, but to focus on replenishing the energy i exert. i need to improve my efficiency. i can do so much better and will need to keep pushing myself. just because no one else is hovering over me doesn't mean than i don't need to focus. this is just the beginning.