Tomorrow our students begin carrying water. In five gallon jerry cans holding only three. The cans will travel with them in the hallways, to the bathroom, across the room to the sink for a drink of water. They will learn to guard them, treasure them, hate them, deny them. Hopefully, they will gain a small perspective of what it would be like to have to carry water in order to cook, bath, drink.
We read The Long Walk to Water, by Salva Dut. The students learn, through Salva’s story, what it is like to travel miles, as a child, to find water every day. Twice a day. No matter the weather.
Empathy. What we want our students to feel, to have, for others less fortunate than themselves. Understanding. What we hope our students will carry with them when the last pages of the book are read. Appreciation. What we work to instill in our students as they first complain about, and then embrace the effort it takes to carry a fraction of the water and miles others do every day.
Tomorrow our students begin carrying water and more than that, we hope they will carry with them the memory of the experience and in some way, an understanding of a world so different from their own.
Today is my husband’s birthday. We feel a special level of celebration.
Last year, at this time, we were well into the murky routines of cancer treatment. Weekly chemo and daily radiation treatments were the main focus, not to mention bandage changes and feeding schedules. And as we followed the rigors of these routines we had no idea what the outcome would be. But there was always hope; there had to be hope. And faith; lots of faith and prayers. And love; more love than we ever realized we had for each other and from our friends and family.
When going through a major challenge, health or otherwise, it is hard in the beginning to fathom what lies ahead. At times it felt we were moving along in a terrible dream, always wondering what lay ahead. Always overshadowed by the reality of the dark illness that waited in the wings. Often feeling the fear of the unknown, yet wanting to keep moving ahead, believing that the treatments would work, having faith that the doctors were being guided in answer to the hundreds of prayers that we were told had been given up for us.
And so today, we celebrated. A birthday, yes. But also finding the end of the dark journey. Celebrating this day meant we were celebrating the amazing doctors, nurses, technicians, and the many other outstanding health care professionals that were involved in my husband’s care. We were celebrating our supportive family and friends. We were celebrating each other.
Today we celebrated. But mostly, we celebrated – life.
The question, now, comes all too frequently. “When are you retiring?” they ask. Is it my grey hair? Is it a sign of retirement. If they stopped dying their hair, would they get the same question? Did I just write that?
It is a question that I can’t and won’t answer. Because I don’t know. I am able to retire. My age and years of service have reached the required guidelines. I could easily notify the powers that be, come April.
But I still love being with kids. I still love watching kids that thought they couldn’t, find that they can. I love seeing interest spark in a student that believed the subject would be boring or learning something new about an area he or she thought they knew all there is to know.
And I still love the challenge of learning something new myself, to take back and tryout with my classes. To try it with the first, and retry with the second. Mixing and folding, kneading and rolling. Watching a lesson take shape and come to fruition through my students.
Until I lose that wonder, that enjoyment. The concocting like a chef in a five star kichen, I will continue on.
Here I sit, having just awoken from a snooze during a movie. I realize, suddenly, as I look at the clock that I have seven minutes to write and post for the March SOL!
Of course, my mind races as I try to think of my topic. What do I tell my students? Go to your journal pages and look at your writing ideas…but I have none of those resources at my fingertips. Only my computer is nearby and my racing mind as I try to think of what to write with time ticking away.
This is not the entry I would choose to write about today, but here it is, my writing friends. I apologize and will do better tomorrow.
Wait…that’s in four minutes! I better get this posted!
It’s time. Time to move past the dreary fog of the past year. To push ahead. No more excuses. “Get off your derriere,” as my mother would say. Looking at the image in the mirror, I like what I see but not the wrapping its in. “You can do it!” I tell myself.
Passing the sign everyday. GYM. Get yourself moving! It’s time.
Four mile runs? Wow! What happened? My inner self tells me it’s still possible. My outer self groans with the movement of each tree trunk as I drag them down towards the first .10 mile. Wow! What happened? “You can do it!” I remind myself.
Slowing to a fast paced walk, I am resigned to the reality of starting over. But…I will do it!
I’ve been purging.
Unworn and I’ll-fitting togs. Tops and bottoms purchased for the image that was, and the hope of what could be. Socks that long ago lost their mates. Once part of a whole now relegated to the back of the drawer hoping for return of its mate.
And the boots and shoes. Do I dare mention the boots and shoes?
Instruction manuals and cords. Saved for equipment that long ago stopped working. Well-intentioned ideas pulled from magazines stashed away in the hopes that time would be found within busy days and too short nights.
Garage sale finds that never should have been found. Gifts whose usefulness never came to be.
Papers collected from meetings. Ideas collected from the image of what was, and the thought of what might be.
Resources books that long ago lost their appeal or usefulness. Relegated to the cabinet shelf in hopes that one day they might return, full circle and once again be the “next great idea.”
Trinkets of students past of whose names were once memorized, now forgotten. Lining the shelf, hidden in cabinets, tucked away in closets. Given with love or perhaps guilt, saved just in case. Just in case they might return and remember. Saved just because. Just because they were given. With love. They are tucked away, hidden once again in cabinets.
They escape the purge.
Watching The Post tonight, I was reminded of the importance of our first amendment rights and protecting the rights of the press to freely report true, unbiased information to the “governed not the governors.”
As a teacher, this same freedom must be protected, but it is also our responsibility to share information that is true and unbiased as well. This is hard to do but important. The danger of doing so may also sometimes conflict with parents’ truths.
As the world becomes more diverse, those whose views are less open may push back, building walls, closing doors. But shutting out what we don’t or refuse to understand acts as a censor to the realities of life.
As a teacher of a diverse population it is my belief that it is my duty to share the diversity of my students with that of the world. Doing so means giving opportunities for them through the printed word. My class library shares books that match the makeup of my students and others different from them in culture, race, ethnicity, gender, and ideas. It is their’s to explore and hopefully learn from. All through the printed word. All because of our first amendment rights.