For my students

To my former students,

On Friday I went back to the school where I taught for nine years. And I got to see, once again, the faces of so many young people whom I hold fondly in my heart. I wish I could say something heartfelt and true about each and every one of you. But I could never find the words that are adequate to express my affection for you individually or collectively.

Young people often make the mistake of assuming that they have no real impact on their teachers. Not true. Regardless of what the gradebook ever said, I could never feel good about a class if I felt like I didn’t have a positive connection with them. I could never not take it personally. Maybe that’s why I took it so hard when I couldn’t reach a difficult student. That’s why your goodwill, your cooperation, your willingness to play and learn along meant so much to me. You let me do something I loved. To those of you who let me do it without complaining or judging… you gave a priceless gift for which I will always be grateful.

Some of these people may not think that I am talking about them.So, let me be clear to any who may happen to read this. If I saw you face to face on Friday, know this: You are beautiful. You are amazing. You are a powerful light in this world. And I am honored and humbled to be a part of your lives for the short time we spent together. There are a few whom I didn’t get to see, but I trust that you know that this is for you as well.

To you seniors, I can not wait to see what you will do next. I believe in you. I pray for you. I hope that all good things come to you in their time and season.

Please, for goodness sake, keep in touch.

And one last thing — Jedis > ninjas, no contest.

Much love to all of you!

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When the ship becomes the anchor.

Last weekend I read through some of these archives, particularly posts from the winter months, and after doing so it seems this conclusion has been an inevitability for so very long.

I do not know what is around the bend. I cannot tell if the clouds are scattering or if they’re gathering. But now that I’ve let go, I can see the blue skies so much more clearly despite the hazy horizon. Every morning I rise feeling a little lighter than the day before.

My heart has always floated on the wind. My spirit yearns to follow the river, to see what’s around that next bend. When I walk in the woods, I’m never ready to turn back and go home. So I guess I shouldn’t be suprised that the more I drift, the more centered I am in my spirit…the closer I am to God.

Maybe anywhere the wind blows is all worth waiting for.

Do you hear that?

That sound?  The sound of crickets and cicadas and dogs barking and sprinklers watering and distant thunder rolling and baseball lights humming and lawnmowers buzzing and screen doors banging and ice cream trucks jingling?

That’s the sound of the last exam grade being tallied and recorded. The sound of me NOT carrying home a 10+ pound bag of work to do. The sound of being able to read a book–whenever I want to–JUST FOR FUN. The sound of my recliner kicking back and my ipod on Genius shuffle. The sound of my colored pencils gliding across the pages of my sketchbook journal. The sound of me strolling outside in the early morning, coffee mug in hand, watering my flowers. The sound of me sitting on my front porch in the early evening, sangria in hand, to watch the neighborhood and the fireflies. The sound of my laugher rising easier. The sound of my voice being more patient with my kids. The sound of me happily doing laundry, loading dishes, sweeping the floors, because I have TIME to do it. The sound of me pecking away at my keyboard trying to write something good. The sound of my camera lense snapping as I try to capture the divine in the every day. The sound of me cooking dinner for my family. The sound of my sweet husband getting to do less because I’m around to do more. The sound of me playing with the kids, becoming part of their little games and being privvy to their big secrets. The sound of me being closer to what I want to be–for myself and for them.

It’s the sound of me getting back to center rather than running around in circles.

I’ve been putting this off for awhile now. [Otherwise known as the post I’ve been composing in my head for months].

So there’s this meme that’s been floating around the internets and Facebook– 30 posts of truth. I first heard about it from Sweetney, and I wanted to participate immediately, but when I looked at the 30 topics my first thought was dang, these are going to be hard.

I don’t like writing unless I can be honest. And I find that I will sit for an hour and work a paragraph until it says exactly what I want it to say. I don’t ever want to publish a word here that I don’t absolutely mean… I shy away from writing anything that I suspect I won’t want to stand behind a year or two or five from now. This can be a good thing, because I am cautious about what I write here…and caution is good. But it can also be bad because it keeps me from really laying some good, honest, nitty-gritty-where-my-life-is-in-the-trenches-stuff out there. It keeps me from taking risks.

And just why am I afraid to let myself write what I think today, knowing that it’s okay if I grow and change my mind somewhere down the line? Is that so wrong? Is that so bad?

All of that is to say, I wanted to do this 30 posts of truth, but I was scared–skeerd–to do it. What if I [gasp] look bad? Like THAT’s never happened before. Get over yourself, woman!

So, to begin — Day 1 of the 30 posts of truth: Something I hate about myself:  Okay, to begin, there are numerous things I dislike about myself. Not the least of which are these: I don’t always know when to shut up. And when I’m talking too much, I often say awkward things. This happened just last night at a wedding reception. I’ll spare the details because they really aren’t that good. It wasn’t exactly an example of putting my foot in my mouth as mucha s it was, just an awkward remark that made no sense to anybody except for the little person in my head who flips the “blurt” switch in my brain from time to time.

Anyway, I’ve been putting off writing this first of 30 days of truth posts because even though it says it just has to be a thing I hate about myself, I keep focusing on the thing I hate most about myself. And that is a difficult thing to think about, let alone write about… especially considering my aforementioned tendancy to only want to write things exactly as I mean them, and also not to write anything that I might regret later.

Before I tell you what it is, I’ll tell you that I’ve had this tendency for as long as I can remember. I used to take pride in and contragulate myself in my skills in it, but as I’ve grown older it has cost me a shocking amount of peace and enjoyment out of life. I’ve tried to correct it in myself, I’ve tried to just flat-out stop doing it, of no avail. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve beat myself up over it so many more times than I could even say. It impacts my relationships with people–particularly those I’ve lived with past and present. I’ve let it (and the things it touches) get the best of me and take the joy out of my life.

And though, when some people read this, they will roll their eyes and say, “Good lord, woman, just freaking grow up already,” I’ll tell you that it’s not a simple matter of being more disciplined. Or, if it is, then I guess I’ll just have to face facts that I am not a very disciplined person. But I’m here to tell you that procrastination–my hugest demon, ever–is a nasty, nasty thing to grapple with. It’s not just a matter of getting off one’s lazy rear end. It’s more than just shutting down the computer or turning off the tv. It has created such disorder and chaos in my career and personal life. It makes me less effective and I hate that. But some how that isn’t enough to get me to stop doing it.  I feel like such a hypocrite when my students who are chronic procrastinators ask me for extentions on papers and projects, and I tell them no. (sometimes I tell them yes). But part of it is that I know that they will not get it done until they have to. And I know this because I am the same way.

I wish I was not this way. I wish I was the kind of person who had a schedule and kept to it. I hate the fact that minor inconveniences become a major wrench because I’ve backed myself into a corner with no time to work my way out of it.

I have some theories. Procrastination is indicative of boredom. Indicative of a lack of structure, so instead of “having” time, I’m constantly “stealing” time. Indicative of mild depression. Or perhaps more directly, indicative of someone who just doesn’t want to do this stuff they’re procrastinating. Can that even be true? Because if it is, I don’t want to do most things that promote a smooth and orderly home and blossoming career.

Maybe it’s time to think about whether or not I even want to do the things I procrastinate doing. Maybe my procrastination problem is a big symptom that I am not really living an authentic life. I mean, getting out my camera never feels like a chore. Reading good stuff never feels like a chore. Being outside never feels like a chore. Being with my students never feels like a chore. 

I know that there will always be things that I don’t want to do that I  have to do… like loading the dishwasher and folding the laundry. But what about those other things? That stack of random stuff in the office that I don’t want to lose but needs to be put away? That decorating project I seem to really want to do? That stack of papers that need to be graded because it’s my damn job? That thesis that hasen’t been written to further my career? What about those things?

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with me? Sometimes I just feel like a big piece of crap. When I talk to others about it, they always assure me that this is not the case. They’re always supportive. But maybe what they’re thinking is something else. Or maybe it’s just me thinking that of myself. This… this problem of mine–it’s very sneaky… it deepens my insecurity… in prompts me to question the good and loving support of friends and family.

If it does all of that– if it costs me so much– why is it that I have not made the necessary changes? What exactly is my problem?

Where’s the 10-foot pole when you need one?

Okay, so this lady. Do I feel her pain and frustration at trying to teach–of being held accountable to teach–students who seemingly have no interest in learning? Sure, I do. Have I, in a moment of frustration, vented and pronounced judgments and labels upon certain students or groups? Probably. But I did it behind closed doors to my spouse or my parents or my friends whom I trust. And, most importantly, I did not do it to make pot-shots at my students’ expense.

And that is my biggest problem with Mrs. Munroe’s actions. Her words read more like insults, no matter how “symbolic” or “about-no-one-in-particular” or even how truthful they were. And worse, the purpose of the insults seem to be, in part, to entertain herself and her readers. At that point, she positioned herself as an accusor instead of an ally and compromised what I believe is an intrinsic level of trust placed in teachers.  You are there because you want what is best for students. That you are there to help them.

This does not mean that I think teachers should shine sunlight up everybody’s fannies, either. I could say that every student wants to learn they just need to be properly motivated… Or that students don’t fail the system, the system fails the students. I could say that… but that isn’t reality. The reality is that there are troubling and unpleasant truths to tell about education, about students, about teachers, about schools–about the whole shebang–just like there are unpleasant truths to tell about all the endeavors of humanity. But I’ve never adopted the philosophy that you’ve got to be cruel to be kind. I’ve never supported the idea that truth can be weilded as a weapon simply because it’s true. Just because the truth just hurts sometimes does not mean that the truth-teller can be just as harsh and unmeasured as they desire.

Finding that measured level of honesty without harshness can be difficult. There have been plenty of times I’ve had to inform a parent that their child’s performance and/or behavior has been unacceptable. And every time, I feel a little anxiety about what the parent’s reaction will be because I want the information I give parents about their children to be accurate, and truthful, and I want to be fair. As long as I am fair, I believe that the parents and students will see me as an ally, even if they do not like the truth that I had to tell. Ms. Munroe’s comments strike me as unfair to her students.

And just to be perfectly fair and truthful, this generation of young people have have some absolutely beautiful, spirited, talented, bright, kind, outstanding individuals.

I’ve often wondered if the things I’ve written here will ever come back to haunt me. If you were to comb the archives, yes, you would find a few colorful choice of words. You would find a few posts in which I sound-off about the state of education and my job. However, I’m pretty confident that even when I was frustrated with my job and vented here, I did not turn my frustration upon my students–although I will admit that at times some of them really deserve it. I would never want to say or write anything that would cause my students to question whether or not I see the goodness in them…

…Because I do see it. Every day. I really, really do.

December Views-Day 14: Finals

It’s the last big push to get through finals. Most college students are wrapping up their semesters this week. Ours doesn’t end until December 22, which is ridiculously late in my opinion. We have a short Christmas break this year. This week we have had two snow days, and the unexpected days off are nice, but the harsh reality is that this isn’t a day off as much as a golden opportunity to finally make a dent in the horrifying amount of work I’ve been carrying home for the past two weeks. Hey, it’s kinda hard to grade while I’m teaching.

Today I am writing a final exam for my sophomore classes. It’s actually not as easy as one would expect. Still, I think I’d rather write them than take them. So, to all you students out there — study well. And if you know a student (high school or college), have mercy on their little BAH-HUMBUG souls… because I sure won’t! Juuust kidding. Seriously though, it really can be a stressful time for them, especially while it seems like everyone else is basking in the holiday glow.

“Oh my god, they found me. I dunno how, but they found me.”

No, did not send the Libyans a fake bomb made of old pinball parts.

My students. They found me here in my little ‘ol corner of the internets.

I always knew that this would happen eventually. They were worried that I am going to completely take the site down now. (I’m not.) Or that I would change the name so that they won’t be able to find it again. (I won’t.)

But what they they didn’t ask is what may or may not be removed now that they know it is here. And I’ll never tell them if I’ve edited, or if they are getting to see all that there ever was to see.

And the not knowing? That’s going to drive them nuts. And I enjoy that. Because I am evil.