Doing our part (so we don't fall to pieces).
This month has been rough.
I’m still recovering from my winter break gall bladder removal: the big incision pinches, my diet has changed, and it’s January. And this particular cyclical January has millions of us in the U.S. and around the world incredibly anxious. This month was the ’17 TechExpo and proudly a few Minecraft Club members rallied and represented.
This year the Minecraft Club hasn’t been as big as it’s been in the past, and I’m not sure if it’s because we have a new staff and it needs some promoting. Regardless, we have some hardcore fans. The students have to provide it for themselves, but I’m still working to change that.
One thing that struck me as odd, and irksome, was a woman, (not sure what her role was, etc.,) asked me if “all the kids were doing was just playing Minecraft” for the booth, and yes, basically, that was it. The ‘l’esprit de l’escalier‘ moment came when I thought of all the things I should have said, namely, ‘Go ask the students yourself.” I learned later she asked an IT person who was helping in the general area the same question. It put me on the defense: I’m constantly educating other educators about the benefits of Minecraft in terms of coding, narrative, resource management, etc.
My inner voice screams: WHAT THE HECK DO YOU WANT?! Manage thy expectations, ma’am.
But honestly, sometimes…I just get a little burnt out. It’s exhausting constantly meeting others expectations. Or falling short.
One thing, though, that wipes away a snooty lady who questions the existence and right of students to share a passion they love was a visit from a former student.
I didn’t recognize him at first: when students grow from 8th to 12th grades, they change a lot. We talked, and he shared that he was going to college, he was working, etc., but he seemed kind of down. When he told me of his college plans, I asked him if he remembered my promise to him and his classmates that I would be there for them, long after 8th grade, if they needed help or guidance. He said he did–and then he skipped a beat and said how disappointed he was that he was graduating under Trump’s presidency.
Let that sink in for a moment.
I swallowed and said I was struggling to find silver linings in things, now, too.
Think of it this way: he’s the first one graduating under his own rule– and that is the most powerful thing of all.
His shoulders lifted, and he seemed ready.
That was Thursday night, January 19.
Friday was the inauguration. I made a point to let it go for the day.
On Thursday in class, I tried something slightly new for Part-Time Indian. I took ten theme seed ideas, wrote them on large Post-It notes, and put them around the room at four table stations. The students counted off, and then rotated and discussed which idea out of the group per table. They kept track of their ideas in their composition books. We’ll use this for their own writing about the novel this upcoming week.
Friday we talked about the arch of one positive idea, and how one positive idea is often conflicted by negativity. I had them draw the diagram of ‘dreams’ and the betrayal idea versus the racism in the novel. On one side, his tribe and community see him as a traitor, but when he goes to Reardan, he is met with constant aggressive and casual racism.
Then I had the students list positive things about themselves. The number of things was determined by one student choosing a random number between 1 and 10. Next, they had to write the same number of negative things, and then determine how those negative things caused obstacles for the positive thing. They can also use this as part of their final reflection about the novel.
And then on Saturday, I was too exhausted, in pain, and sick to get myself to Seattle and march.
And the guilt was overwhelming.
So when I get this call to service, to do something else, something more, am I allowed to say “no?”
I write this blog, I plan new, original lessons. I meet with colleagues. I try to walk the dog with my husband. I try to keep up with book club reading choices and read new books for my students. I run two clubs. I am a union rep this year. I stay up on news and curate articles. I watch documentaries. I look and curate new resources. I spend a ton on new books. And this is all part of my personal passions and pursuits. But when I get one more ‘call to adventure’ it’s overwhelming. When I commented on Love, Teach’s post, another commenter told me my service as a union rep was “a good place to start.”
Can someone hand me a Dixie cup of water on this marathon, please?
No one can determine or judge what we do or don’t do. You know why there were millions who marched on Saturday? Because women get it done. Men, good men, do too. We all do our part: we write, draw, take photographs, bravely post our own opinion (even if it doesn’t match others in our circle of friends), and try to come to understand. Listening to understand, instead of responding, is critical, and something I could work on. Concurrently, however, I am not going to back away from my beliefs that are based on deep research and reading. If new information or actions occur that help all Americans, I’ll listen. So far nothing but “post-truth” or “alternative facts” in some Orwellian nightmare has seen the light, but I’ll still look.
And working together as classrooms and community is the best thing of all. Love this idea from Ethical ELA:
In class, we talked about the concept of betraying one’s community. We took a stand up vote:
How many think Arnold betrayed his community?
(no one stood up)
How many think his community betrayed him?
(most students stood up)
I asked those who remained conflicted or neutral to share their thoughts. It is in that ‘third place’ where a lot of truth is told. It is hard to see the community made to feel ashamed that they weren’t able to provide the life and education Arnold/Junior deserves, and understand why they don’t cheer him on when he leaves.
This is our shared conflict: stay in the tribe and ‘go along’ or speak up and question? How do we share of ourselves and our gifts? If we want something different or break away, do we risk losing our past?
For now, this is what I share, and what I do. Many of my social media contacts have hidden me. That does hurt, just a little. But it’s also their choice is they want to read my message or not. I read everything — echo chambers are boring. I can’t control whether or not they want to curate or prune me from their feeds. And as uncomfortable as that is, it is.