As I write this, I sit on my balcony enjoying the interplay of stars above and apartment lights around and headlights below. Dave and I just shared some conversation about our separate days’ experiences (the first we’ve been apart in awhile) on the balcony while sipping out of cherry blossom mugs the whiskey we packed into our overseas luggage.
As you might be able to tell, I am in a much better place than yesterday.
Today started with the first of many back to school alarm clock appointments followed by a meditation about going with the flow of life’s direction. And for the first time in a while, I actually put effort into getting ready. As my mother-in-law would say, I put on a face. It’s amazing how a little bit of eyeshadow and eyeliner can brighten the outlook.
On the agenda for today was some good old-fashioned team building (name game, line game, etc) for the newbies. If you know anything about me, you know I am a sucker for these things. Partly because they remind me of camp. Partly because they do the trick. Partly because they align with my corny nature. The line game here at Graded was very different than my normal experience though. In the past in urban education when people had to line up according to years of teaching experience, the weight of the line was on the inexperienced side. Today, with my ten years of teaching, I walked to that inexperienced side, realizing that where I would have been a dinosaur (a decade!), now I am an infant. It felt equally intimidating and refreshing.
After that, the obligatory opening remarks by the superintendent that somehow felt different, here, now: students first; we value you; influence is not abused here; the teacher-student relationship is the priority. Yes, please, and obrigada. Then we met with just our high school group where we did the opening rounds of getting to know one another and the school. Here, inspired by the initial authenticity of our principal: “I am such an introvert this week makes me want to run away from you as fast as possible,” followed by more authenticity about humor as defense mechanisms and fear over a lack of meaningful connection and impact with students had me at the cusp of an emotional breakdown. Which I promptly had when it was my turn to share.
I shared, in embarrassing sentences broken by tears, about my experience this year where one of my toughest students broke down and was so beautifully and publicly supported by a peer. This is why I teach. Stories. Connection. This. I then shared that I was overwhelmed by all the extroverted appointments we were doing, and I was completely new to working in this healthy school environment where everything is not life or death, and how authenticity matters to me, and how I was a mess. Literally. Thankfully the group responded with the space of grace, the place to just let it out. It was cathartic, and probably exactly what I’ve been needing.
After this, we took a tour of a campus that is more than I could have ever dreamed. I honestly felt some guilt. I have taught for ten years in places where resources were limited and where students came to school hungry, but here I am walking in a glorious campus full of remodeled fields and black box theaters and recording studios and giant libraries and homecooked meals on the lunch buffet and outside barbecue pits and…
My heart aches for what is broken in American public education. My heart aches for what I left behind. But… that probably will be more posts, later.
All this “work stuff” actually helped me more than I can say. My comfort zone is being good at my job, living a life of love in the classroom, so it was stabilizing to be in the environment where we’re talking school.
The day ended with a beautiful and delicious churrasco of meats and cheeses and garlic bread and yep, you guessed it, an open bar staffed by the school bartender.
As I reflected with Dave tonight, I could not help but think about how this might just be the place that heals my teacher soul. I was worried that if I did not make a drastic change, I would leave teaching altogether.
But in my heart of hearts, I feel there are students here at Graded that have been needing me as much as I have been needing them.
I cannot wait to meet them.