Thursday, September 24, 2009

New, New, New

Everything is new.
My neighborhood, house, routine, and especially my job. I am currently working as an AmeriCorps Service Member at the Orion Center as a GED lead tutor. The Orion Center serves homeless and street involved youth and provides a wide variety of services, among which include their education, job training, and employment services.
The transition from student teaching to tutoring in a drop-in style GED center has been challenging for me for a number of reasons which I don't have the energy to get into now.
I am learning that reframing my role and expectations are going to be necessary for my work this year. I am also learning that it is not that easy to do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Love for my Students

I want to scream in your face
and slap you silly.
Tape your eyelids open and yell

The world is alive
and broken
and at your fingertips
crying within your very heart and asking
to be held.

I want to smash your nose against
the glossy pages of our textbook
and tell you to smell-
Take a good whiff of your own battered humanity.
Taste the blood inside your mouth,
feel the iron shackles around your ankles.

You're bound to the grave already
if you refuse
to Look
and Listen
and Wake Up-

To be serious
about something.

Love for my students...
It looks like pulling my hair out
sleepless nights
endless lesson plans
ineffective conversations
about respect

something to do with Shakespeare
and Langston Hughes
off the timid white page,
still hot from the copier.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I have been trying to tell people for years,
that there is something pregnant in the darkness.

A prehistoric bird perched in the rafters
of your condominium, townhome, high rise, track house.
Regal and terrifying-
And ready to take flight.

If you could see it plainly you would realize
it has your grandfather’s wrinkled brow
And holds the image of your own aged face
in its deep set eye sockets and sagging gullet.

But you’ve been told not to believe in mystical
phenomenon like Old Nessy or crop circles
And that’s fine- forget that.
I’m talking about something else-
a bird

Like Emily Dickenson’s feathered hope trapped under
Poe’s floorboards, beating its wings with primal frenzy.
Or maybe Maya Angelou’s caged bird singing
for freedom in the most beautiful blue tune.

I suppose it could be one of Darwin’s mockingbirds
With a strange mutated beak
denounced for eating seeds with unnatural expertise;
Heaven knows they’ve unleashed enough riot.

But the point is this: it’s there
In the dark-
Potential energy coiled
in its terrible wingspan;

The entire arc of human history
Enfringed by golden feathers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

How I Un-Quit Student Teaching

one saturday on the verge of mental breakdown i was sitting next to a friend in church explaining how soul-sucking student teaching has been. my friend patiently asked me if anyone had given me permission to quit student teaching, noting that sometimes it is easier to make the move toward a healthy life choice when you are gently pushed by a sane person.
no one had- so she gave me permission; "quit."
i spoke to my university supervisor the next night, blubbering about how unhappy i was and she likewise encouraged me to stop torturing myself if i don't want to teach in the future and if i don't get any joy out of the work. "stop and reclaim your life," she said.
so the following monday i went to school in low spirits, thinking that i was most likely going to quit the whole shenanigan when the quarter was out, but didn't manage to make it through the day. i entered my classroom in tears; the degeneration happened so quickly that by 3rd period i told my mentor teacher that i quit, cried in her lap, and left right then and there.
i was expecting release and freedom...
instead i went home and mourned the loss of student teaching- i was grieving- like it was a horrific breakup that i didn't believe i could recover from.
but i still had to go back to school and finish the quarter out so i forced myself to get up and go anyway, put on a happy face until my time was up but then a bizarre thing happened...
i had two amazing days in a row. "well, shit!" i thought to myself, "what am i supposed to make of that?"
i tried to remind myself that two good days did not make up for 3 months of anxiety attacks, tears, and debilitating stress. i tried to urge myself not to go back for more torture and abuse just because i was scared of what my future would hold without a credential. don't do the battered woman thing- stay strong, walk away.
but i couldn't- things kept happening to draw me back.
the first realization i had was that i actually liked my students. once i was able to take the stress level down a few notches and stop believing that if i made one fatal move everything would crumble, i could finally relate to my students as individuals with dynamic and amusing personalities.
then something else happened at church: i realized that i was putting too much stock in a teaching credential. i believed that this piece of paper would bring me safety and security and was desperately afraid to give it up. but i did- mostly. told god that he could hold onto my future like a big blank check and give me a ring if there was anything important i should know.
i also visited another student teacher's classroom. it was complete chaos. students were literally throwing fruit across the classroom, no one was listening, and it was an honors section of language arts. i felt much better after my visit and began to think that maybe i am not actually the world's biggest looser of a teacher. maybe i am not a total failure. maybe i am in good company with people who are trying to figure this thing out and blundering along like all first time teachers.
and i suppose the million-dollar event is the most obvious one: i quit. that is a big deal for someone who has never quit anything. ever.
to quit was to surrender my desire for control and power, for security and survival, for the approval and esteem of other people. quitting meant looking bad and having to stand up to my parents and claim my right to not be amazing and perfect all the time- to be normal and have limitations and need to back out of responsibility instead of saving the world one more time.
it's truly ironic how all of these moments and realizations have led me back to the classroom. i am not sure that i actually want to teach in a mainstream public school setting in the future, but am committed to finishing this experience out. learning and growing in it and remaining humble.
i read that "grace is commitment to- or at least acceptance of- being ineffective and foolish." i don't necessarily agree this is the best definition of god's grace for us, but i do think it speaks to something about how we are supposed to show grace to ourselves. these words encourage me to let go, make mistakes, and get over it. go out on the dance floor- make a fool of yourself; it will be healing in the most unglamorous way.

so that's the story. i met with my university supervisor last thursday at taco bell and officially un-quit from student teaching while her dog ate nachos under our table. i still have a lot to work on internally and externally as i seek to make the rest of this experience livable, but i am on my way now.
lord help me.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

finding things...

i made this picture for a christian scriptures class a long time ago...
the assignment was to visually represent the entire biblical story.
for me the unifiying symbol is the tree- roots, branches; the past and present entangled and always growing.

Her Morning Elegance

Take a look at this link for my favorite music video at the moment. The song is entitled "Her Morning Elegance" by Oren Lavie

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Things they don't tell you #2...

2. Letting students sit around for the last 15 minutes of class results in chaos!

Yesterday I was rushing through my lesson, nervously looking at the clock thinking I only had 5 minutes to wrap up everything. Ironically, we were discussing the theme the "failure of reason."
I zoomed through the reading and last minute announcements, satisfied that I had once again crammed in as much info into one 50 minute period as possible.
Students were packing their belongings up and I told them just to chill out for the remaining 60 seconds until the bell rang.
But the bell didn't ring...
I glanced back at the clock and was horrified- I had accidentally read the time wrong earlier and we still had 15 more minutes left of class!
Chaos burst down the flood gates. I tried desperately to reign students back in; read quietly, look at your grades in the back...but there was no chance coaxing these 9th grade savages back into sitting in their desks and reading demurely.
I simply had to put out fires for the remainder of class time.
Students opened the windows and were yelling outside, girls were flirtatiously hugging and snuggling up against my gangsta boys, people were milling around, laughing and arguing. It sounds painfully typical for high schoolers, which it is, but monitoring these hormone-bursting teenagers is enough to make me feel schizophrenic.
Moral of the story- fill up your class time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Things they don't tell you in Teacher Education courses...

1. students don't keep or look at the copies you make them (so don't waste paper on high schoolers!)
instead they use all your precious white paper to do the following:
a) make origami
b) write notes to friends
c) rip it up
d) step on it and leave it strewn about the classroom
e) fold up into odd shapes to stick in their back pocket or backpack
(Bare with me and try to imagine a gangsta wanna be high school boy with a week's worth of homework assignments folded up into quatrains and stuffed in his pants- nice organization; or the girl who has crumpled up all of her assignments and shoved them into her backpack so that it looks like she is carrying around a satchel of trash- awesome!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'm back...barely

Ok- I am back to blogging.
This will be my cartharsis for student teaching, which more or less has been shattering my sense of self-worth.
What fantastic fun.

But I am ready to stop beating myself up, receive some grace, gain some perspective, and humility. These are my strategies for climbing out of a student teaching sink hole:
1. exercise daily- or at least go outside each day.
2. plan a week in advance on Thursday nights.
3. seek out support from older and wiser people.
4. write down things that I do well.
5. ask for more student feedback.

and work on remembering:
1. the job of savior is already taken (and I suck at it anyway...)
2. i am not responsible for student performance; students are responsible for their own choices and learning.
3. i am not in control
4. i cannot prove my self-worth by what i do or do not do.
5. for every winter there is a spring