I really love my job, and nothing could have proven it faster than taking it away from me. Driving up the lamp-post lined Copley Hill to the hundred year old brick building with a hummingbird mural and entering to walk the creaky wood floors to my classroom, the same one I have stood in surrounded by fabulous individuals for over two decades, was my day to day. I miss unlocking that door, greeting the quiet few who always arrive early. Now I get ready for class at our dining room table in the one large space that is kitchen, dining, and living room combined, with windows facing all four directions. Notebook to scribble thoughts for the day, laptop open to a dozen tabs, hot black tea at my elbow, I’m slowly working out how to engage for 45 minutes via a fuzzy and often interrupted google meet twice weekly with my students. Like everyone I know in the school system, I am nonstop problem-solving, whether with curriculum shifts, individual student conferences, talking to para-educators and special educators or with concerned parents. By 4:00 most days I’m intellectually challenged and emotionally drained. But by 4:00 what I’m mostly aware of is how much I miss my students. Miss that class room life. Not every second of it, but most every second with them and all their hope. All their blue sky action.
In this time marked by the disintegration of morality in our politically frayed America, where hateful politicians posing as caring humans justify their inhumane practices by treating children with the cold abuse of a Nazi, we must hold on to hope. That fragile and slender of emotions that alone fuels my soul, and no doubt yours, hope, elusive yet necessary. Thankfully for me, this past week, there is the reminder, where there is love one can find hope. Of course there is the always love of family, of sunshine and water, of a cool breeze after a hard day, but in this crazy here and now, I find the love of these friends. Friends who arrived from luck yet stayed dear through the years. Without a falter, these women are there. Yes, lucky me indeed. They provide me hope to endure.
There are moments in one’s past that stand the test of time. They shine while all the rest muddies. They remain as beacons which illuminate all your future achievements. Sometimes you know in advance, other times it is only in reflection, but those moments grow roots throughout your life and cannot be disentangled from who you are, ever. Receiving my MA from Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English is such a moment for me. One for which I read and wrote and thought and worked harder than anything to reach. Of course there are many people who steered me to that pinnacle, but there was one woman who did so through her own extraordinary passion to enliven and enrich the learning of every student, whether we were in her classroom or for those in classrooms we would return to in the fall, she supported me to be my own teacher-researcher, to gather my own anecdotes, all in the service of being a better teacher. This notion seemed novel at first, the idea that a teacher could guide herself and use her own students’ feedback in such an endeavor, but Dixie Goswami’s commitment empowered me more than any educational program I had been in before, or since, and continues to direct my practice even now, two decades later.
First of all, a big thank you to all of you who hang in there. Who continue to show up for those noisy crazy little beings. Perhaps a special shout out for those of you who learn to grow along side them too. (In this area I was fortunate, in that just about every roundabout loony or otherwise twist and turn my siblings and I took, at least one of our parents understood, or learned to).
But what I really want to suggest today, is to be adventuresome with your kids. I know you’re tired. I know too many of you are between jobs or down on your luck, and working with all your inner resolve just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Regardless, those little ones need to see the shiny side of life. They need movement to exert themselves and they need art to be uplifted. At the end of each day they need all the light you can provide.
I thought about writing a post on the upcoming presidential election and the field of candidates vying for our vote, then thought, better not, at least not without a promising outcome. Same with the weather. You see it’s still cold this April, and even though a northerly wind is a topic to start the conversation, it doesn’t get very far without May flowers. I considered writing about my mother, who a year ago still called me, still planned family gatherings; and yes, did everything humanly possible to make every last one. But really, who would expect otherwise from her, a true party lover and planner? I mentally moved on to the topic of food and considered offering a new recipe, but as I avoid the kitchen and the stove religiously, recipes are hard-fought posts for me. I mostly beg for them.
Ever wonder what writing magic you can create in only 7 minutes? Letting your mind minder into which ever direction you wish will relieve stress as you stumble on to a new idea. Students in my classroom, and classrooms all over, discover all kinds of wonderful when we find the right prompt. A few weeks ago many of us had a blast writing on Vermont Writes Day. You just never know what will turn up when you let your imagination soar.