Sunday, January 4, 2015

Catching up: Welcome to 2015

I recently realized that it has been almost 4 months since I posted anything to this blog and to be honest, I was pretty disappointed in that. But  while deleting outdated memos from my cell phone, I discovered about a dozen pieces that I had typed but never posted. Apparently, I never made the time to revise them to the point where I felt comfortable sharing them. So in a last ditch effort to delay the still imminent return from winter break, I decided to revise and share a few of them today. 

Although the next five posts all say they were were written today (and with an impressive 35 minutes between them), they were all written in the fall of last year (and over the less impressive span of a few months).

Sometimes words

Sometimes they just flow out of me, 
like they've been ready all along. 

Other times they wander and rush through my head for days,
Like they're trying to find each other 
In the chaos of emotions 
They beat down, befriended, or became along the way. 

I am more of a thinker than a writer. 
I'm more of a philosopher than a poet.
Half the time, I have too many words for my theories. 
Half the time, I have no words for my thoughts. 
But sometimes words happen. 
And sometimes I call it poetry. 

Starting over: The life of a teacher

It's a blessing and a curse, really. Starting a new job every single year. 

It means a blank slate, a chance to try new methods, to work with new people, to reach new goals. It also means having to rebuild your protocols, your reputation, your curriculum, your timeline, your relationships, your comfort zone.

All the excitement and anxiety of starting a brand new job--This hits me every fall as I step back into my familiar yet unpredictable classroom.  I remember the kids that reached their goals and the kids that inspired  me the year before, and I sigh a little because I wish I didn't have to change students again this year. And I remember the kids who didn't reach their goals and those who wore me down, and I wonder, "what if this year's even harder?" I wonder what goals my students will actually reach this year, if we will go deeper or farther than my classes had before, or if this will be the year we don't really succeed. I connect the targets, strategies, philosophies, and materials that could help guide us through the next year together. I prepare a far too detailed pacing schedule that will be moved around and eventually smudged out when students start showing that they need different timing, instruction, or practice. I try recalling the pep talks I've given throughout the years, so that I can create a talk that will help start their year off right.

But after 11 years of this autumnal game of anticipation and reflection, I've  realized there's one thing I'd never considered. What goals will guide ME this year? Not the me in my classroom, not in my coaching circle, not in my professional development, just ME. When a friend and department leader asked me this question yesterday, I was clueless. I've always set goals for what I should learn and attempt as I try to help my students reach their goals, but I have never really set goals for what I want to accomplish away from my students. 

Sure, I have set little goals for myself, like the semester where I told myself I would be home and done grading every day by 5 PM. (And every teacher knows that goal won't even last until second semester.) But that's not really a goal to make me personally happy anyway. 

So what do I really want for myself? I've struggled a lot with maintaining a sense of peace in 2014, so I think that needs to be my priority in 2015. But how to accomplish it? I'm still working on that part. As always, if any of my friends out there have suggestions or invitations that could help, I'd love to hear them. 

To sleep, perchance to dream

Sometimes sleep isn't just a euphemism. 

To sleep, perchance to dream?
For in that sleep of death, 
what dreams may come?
Not the death of a body, 
just a day that needs to die. 
It used to be a sweet escape, 
a peaceful place to hide. 

But when daylight nightmares invade your dreams, 
where can you escape?

I used to dream in nightmares; 
Now I dream in days. 
If only I could wake 
and cease to be afraid...


"If so and so jumped off a bridge, 
would you?"

"It's called a leap of faith. 
You just have to jump."

Standing on the ledge. 
Heart beating out my chest.
Messages mixed and nowhere to go. 
I give in, give up, take the risk.

Fear, destruction, delivery.
Falling, rushing, zooming
Toward me, to me, through me.


Delivery, distraction, denial.
Slipping, shrinking, gone. 

Some tell you not to jump. 
Some tell you to jump and believe. 
But what happens when you jump 
and you believe 
and you still end up 
back where you started? 

The lost art of communication: Mistaking movement for progress.

Have you ever been so desperate to reach your destination that you cut through neighborhoods are back alleys just so that you don't have to stop and "wait for the traffic"? Of course, I'd never make a mistake like that, but I hear that other people do it all the time…

 I've begun to realize that our society is making the same type of mistake with our communication. In this world of endless technology, it would seem that we're surrounded by communication all the time.  However, I'm afraid that our important words are rarely written on paper or spoken into the air for an audience who actually wants to think about them, but rather they're displayed on cell phone screens and computer monitors for audiences who can turn them off and on as the mood fits. And it's making us take our words for granted. 

The social media platforms where we display our words for the world convince us that we don't need to communicate personally with anyone because we can communicate widely with everyone and still feel like we've expressed ourselves--even if we haven't been heard. In the same vain, we respond to funny trivial memes with the same "like" that we give to deep and thought provoking artwork or articles. And we don't have to internalize or memorize any of those ideas because we can always just look them up again if we want to reconsider them. 

Is that what's watering down our real life communication or are we actually valuing thought less as time goes on? Since beginning to consider this issue, I've increasingly noticed that generic platitudes prevent us from investing in and sharing with each other. Whether I'm chatting with a coworker or boss, observing the conversations near me in a store, or even texting with some of my friends, it seems that we 

The time it takes to receive and send these generalities sometimes tricks us in to thinking we've spent quality time with each other.

Aside from the handful of friends who truly know us, do we ever really communicate anymore? Or have we begun texting and talking with the same time-wasting trivialities that we share online? 

Hey, good to see ya there today. 
You too. 
Having a good day so far? 
Pretty much. How about you?
I'm good. Thanks. 
That's good. 
Yeah, it was great seeing you again. 
You too! Hope you have a good week. 
I hope you do you too. 
It was good to hear from you. 
Yep, talk to you again soon!
Ok. Talk to you then. 
--And that accounts for two hours of "talking."

 Sure, sometimes there's just not time for anything else, or we're not sure what else to say to a person we only sort of know. But if we're going to spend so much of our time reading and writing things to one another electronically, shouldn't we commit to really saying something? 

Let's not mistake words for communication.