It’s only February 23rd and it seems that 2019 has hit pretty hard. Everywhere I turn I see loss, illness, hardships. When we go through a season of difficulties, we must not lose hope. Whenever I hear bad news, or go though hardships, I always tell myself- this too shall pass. But most importantly I remind myself that we live in a broken world. There is not one person who is immune to the hardships of this life. If we have expectations that we can live life free of pain, suffering and difficulties, we are only setting ourselves up for disappointments- ON TOP of what we are going through to begin with.
Give life a break- forgive it for being what it is. Give yourself a break and know that life is a series of ups and downs.
Bugs Bunny said it best- “Don’t take this life so seriously, not one person has come out of it alive.” I have always loved that rabbit!
Life goes by too quick for us to be angry and bitter about our circumstances, instead we put on our big person pants, or we take a few days to mourn or get well and then we smile and try to help others along the way. Sometimes life hits us hard, and then it gives us beautiful rewards along the way.
Hang in there friend- this too shall pass, and know you are loved, even during this difficult time.
Four years ago I received an email asking if anyone was interested in helping out with an after school program. At the time, I thought, why not. I need a little extra money, and how hard will it be. I enjoy teaching and being around kids, so what’s an extra hour and a half after school?
I had no idea what the program was- so when I signed up I was told I would be doing a club called, Leadership.
I chuckled on the inside because I don’t consider myself a leader- in fact I saw myself as an ordinary, scared, quiet person. Fake it til’ you make it, was my strategy that first year of teaching it.
I thought it went pretty well- we hosted a campus clean up, visited Road Runner Food Bank, invited distinguished leaders in our community to speak to the club.
After the second year of teaching the club, I felt that it needed something a little more. I saw need. These kids were hungry for some kind of way to get connected to their peers, with their teachers, and with the community- even if they don’t say those exact words, I knew they needed something.
As I researched about Leadership and Leadership Clubs, Student Council kept appearing. I found the New Mexico Association of Student Council website and thought- Why don’t we have a Student Council here at our school?
I emailed my Principal and the After School Activities Director and they told me to go for it.
This is my second year at trying to teach, guide and lead these students to create a Student Council that will leave a positive impact for our school and community.
Let me tell you- it’s not easy. Not only is there obstacles to overcome, I have very little money, and very little time to invest in order to make this Council what I believe to be AWESOME!
After our weekend escapade to Farmington, New Mexico, to attend the State Conference, I reflected a lot about the word Leadership.
I sat in the stands with my members and listened to some amazing Key Note Speakers about life, hardships, teamwork, and of course leadership. One particular speaker, known as The Amazing Tei Street, spoke a lot about being amazing. There was one point in her talk where she asked the audience to remember a time where someone spoke ill words to them. A time where someone “close” spoke those words. She then asked them to be brave and courageous- to be vulnerable in a safe place- and to share those words with the rest of the assembly. I was shocked and mortified. I was amazed at how many of our kids shared those words with us. I heard stuff like, “You’re stupid” “You’re ugly” “You suck” “I don’t want you around” “You’re fat” “You’re too sensitive” “You’re a mess” “I hate you” “Go kill yourself” “You’re weird” and you get the picture.
I of course thought about the words spoken to me as a child from someone close to me- ” You’re worthless” “You’re so stupid” “You can’t do anything right” “What is wrong with you.” And just recently words like “You’re too nice” “You’re not family” “You’re a hypocrite.”
What I realized at that particular moment is how powerful words really are- I mean, not just some cliche about the power of words, but the internal transformation they have for each and every single one of us.
You see, we do internalize the words that are spoken to us. We can preach it and tell ourselves that words don’t hurt, but they do.
I grew up thinking I was stupid and not worthy. So I gave myself to men. I wanted to feel loved and worthy and for some stupid reason that was what I did to try and satisfy the desire to be something to someone.
And that is exactly what our youth are doing as well- trying to satisfy their desire to feel loved, accepted and cherished. To know that they belong.
I sat their listening to the speaker tell these kids that they were amazing. I think we need to tell the people in our lives just that. That they are amazing. Not out of obligation of course, but to let the people around us know that they are loved, cherished and accepted.
So what does this have to do with leadership? EVERYTHING!
Leadership is about stepping up to the plate when called. It doesn’t matter if you strike out, it doesn’t matter if you only get to first base, it doesn’t matter if you walk to first base, it doesn’t matter if you hit a home run, and it certainly doesn’t matter what the score is.
What matters is that you are part of a team. Leadership is not a solo gig- it has nothing to do with ego.
What matters is that you encourage your teammates to be the best they can be. Leadership is about empowering others- not enabling.
What matters is that you give your everything when it is your turn to step to the plate- Leadership is about being all in- it is not halfway.
What matters is that you give a helping hand to someone who needs it- Leadership is about service- it is not about winning or being right at what ever the cost.
What matters is that you forgive your teammates and encourage them when they fail- Leadership is really about unconditional love.
With keeping with my Baseball Analogy, the crowd, the spectators, and the people who are close to us, will criticize, will shout words of discouragement, will question our strategies, and of course complain.
There is a great quote in Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” – Theodore Roosevelt
When we step up to leadership of any kind- there will be complaints, criticism, and discouragement.
Life is funny isn’t it? Just a few years ago I never thought of myself as a leader. Suddenly I have an urge, a need to want to lead. It is true that I have NO CLUE what I am really doing with the Student Council at my school, and yes, it probably could be more awesome than it is right now, but I answered the call. I said, “Why not? I’ll do it.” And sometimes that is all it takes. Leadership is not a HUGE GRAND PRODUCTION, it’s just about being willing.
I teach a population called “Gifted and Talented” Students. What does that mean? It means that kids who have an above average IQ and who have above average cognitive abilities are placed in an advanced class with other similar kids to be challenged. That means my class sizes are smaller than the general education class. My average class size ranges from 9-16 students. Sounds like a dream right?
I have had colleagues in the past give comments about how easy I have it. I can see why they would think that. Small class size with kids who are smart and motivated. Who wouldn’t want to teach under those circumstances?
What they don’t see, or more accurately, what they may not be aware of, is that these kids have their own kind of issues and problems they bring to the class as well. After all, they are just regular kids with regular problems. They just process it more deeply, or analyze it in a more intellectual way which can cause a lot of anxiety. Think about it. How does an 11 year old process the knowledge of the world when her brilliant little mind and imagination takes her to places that her peers won’t even recognize? When the gifted child realizes that her thinking is different than that of her peers, there is a sense of isolation. A sense of being different. Who then can this person talk to, and most importantly, who will understand them?
I could go on and on about the pshycology of the Gifted Child, but I would probably just bore you. What I want to share with you today is that I really suck as a teacher. Here is why.
Our present system is one that is Teacher Centered. It is all about how well the teacher can present the content, AND how well the teacher can do so in a milliton different ways, because we deal with a million different little minds. We currently base Teacher Performance on how well our students perform on a standardized test. We currently place all of the responsiblity on the teacher on whether a child succeeds or fails. When we get observed by our leaders, the observation is all about how the teacher talks, walks, presents, juggles swords on fire, with a full bladder, by the way, while making sure our little dolls are engaged with our teaching- in other words they are quiet and listening with no distractions, becuase the world is not full of distractions.
I suck because I don’t want that responsbility. I am a limited human being with limited knowledge. I can only do so much. The truth is that I can’t make every student succeed in the definition of what our system defines success.
I have students who are underachievers. I have students who struggle with perfectionsism. I have students who have self-doubt. I have students with a variety of diagnosis from Aspergers to ADHD to Depression and Anxiety.
I have students who know WAAAAAAY more than I do about certain topics like technology and serial killers. No joke! But that doesn’t matter, does it?
And yet it is up to me, little ol’ me, to make sure that my students are performing academically. Do we not see or understand the enormity of that kind of responsibility?!?So we continue to make our Educational System all about the Teacher.
Somehow us teachers are to have a magic wand that will cure the diagnosis and make all of their social and private problems go away so that they can soak in every detail of what we teach. Oh, and we have to make sure they eat a well balanced meal, get enough sleep and build their self-esteem. Teaching is hard people!!!
Do we have the answers to these pressing questions? Do we know what needs to be done to make education more viable?
I am not going to say I do have the answers, but I do know that we need to shift the responsibilty to the kids and their parents. Somehow education should be Student Centered, not Teacher Centered. Isn’t that the whole point of education anyway? To guide, to inspire, to mentor, to facilitate? Yes, we have certain curiculum and standards that need to be taught, still, shouldn’t the students take more ownership? Perhaps if they are more invested in what they are learning and take charge on HOW they learn it, might give them a more sense of success, and self-efficacy.
This is the crux of the matter- The world needs mechanics as much as we need doctors. The world needs artists as much as we need engineers. And most importantly, the world needs people who have strong work ethic! The Teacher Centered model is one that spoon feeds kids knowledge that kids don’t want to swallow, unless the topic is one of interest. SO the solution to this problem is one that still keeps it Teacher Centered- DIFFRENTIATION! -cough- -cough- So we are creating, in a sense, people who don’t quite develop a good sense of work ethic, or pride, because the teacher is doing all the work!!!
Isn’t it a wonderful and amazing thing when we encounter a professional who actually works hard at their job and actually knows what they are talking about? How frustrating is it, when we have a business encoutner with someone who doesn’t work so hard? Or worse, they are incompetent. And when that happens lets just blame the teachers!
I do wonder, though, what would it look like if we did make that shift. If we, God forbid, allow the students to take ownership and responsibilty for their learning. What if, instead of placing an impossible role on the teacher as “teacher” we place the role of facilitator?
I know– That’s chaos. That’s crazy. That’ll never work. We will never know if we don’t try.
That is why I suck as a teacher. I suck because the testing data says so. And we all know that data doesn’t lie. I suck because if you put me at the center of other’s learning abilities, I will miss the mark! I am not a good juggler. I am, however, really good at drinking wine. Actually, I am really good at having my students develop the skills to think for themselves and to develop a love for learning. And everyday, I do my very best. Except when I can’t.
This essay was in response the Professional Development I attended today.E
When you have those days, weeks, months or years where life just hits you hard in the gutt, there are little glimpses of good just for you.
Sometimes it feels hopeless with no end in sight. You just want to hide and lock the door and just let it pass, but it doesn’t.
Every little fuckin thing just irritates you, and what’s worse is when you see everyone around you celebrating life. You feel alone. Not just alone, but so alone you can’t breathe.
And just when you can’t take one more bite of what life gives you, there it is.
A glimpse of good.
Maybe it is in the words of an old friend that was sitting on your night stand waiting for you to pick it up and read.
Maybe it is in the eyes of your little girl, and all she wants is to dance and twirl.
Maybe it is softly saying “good-bye” to that very person, or thing, or dream and releasing all that baggage.
And it wasn’t an accident. No. Nothing in this life is an accident.
That little glimpse was just for you. For you alone.
Then you can breathe a little easier.
The colors start to look sharp again. And what’s that? A little smile?
Life sometimes feels like one big giant scary toilet, ready to flush you down to some unknown abyss.
That’s when the those little glimpses become so real, so valuable, because you realize that you are stronger than you believe.
There was a time, when you rode your bike and you let go of the handle bars, and for that moment the wind in your hair, and the beat of you heart was all about trusting. Trusting that you will not let yourself fall. And if you did fall, you could pick yourself up and dust your feet.
All it takes is one sentence. One sentence to change your entire course. “We are sorry to tell you, but you are no longer employed… you are no longer healthy… you are no longer loved…you are no longer needed… your loved one has passed…”
You keep on climbing.
Because the world needs little glimpses of good. And you may not know it now, or it may not feel like it, but YOU are a glimpse of good.
Your little light shines to help the other travelers find their way home.
In 2004 I was fortunate to visit a little kingdom in South Africa called Swaziland. Swaziland is a third world country.
I packed my passport and flew 22 hours over the Atlantic Ocean. I left the comforts of my country and spent two whole weeks soaking in the fresh aroma of blooming fruit trees and body odor in the smallest monarchy country in South Africa. Our mission was to help dig wells so that the people would have drinkable water, rather than walking the few miles to a polluted river.
Those were the days when I was on a mission to becoming a Saint and spreading the Gospel to the four corners of the world. Yeah, that didn’t last very long. The life of hypocrisy and sin seems to fit me better. I sometimes joke that I am a born again Pagan- except on Sundays, then I am Christian again.
Needless to say, the experience has stuck with me, and I will never forget the little Kingdom of Swaziland and the people who touched my soul so deeply.
Yes, their lives, customs and culture are very different than ours. For starters they have no public education– I cannot even fathom! And the one I CANNOT EVEN is that women are considered property. Daughters are sold for live stock!
Some of the people had to do their best to survive and built their homes from left over bricks and sticks, or move into abandoned buildings.
On average, 7000 people die from AIDS every year, and malnutrition is widespread to the families living in abject poverty.
On a good note- the land is breathtakingly beautiful- surrounded by the Mountains of Malolotja, the oldest in the world at 3.6 billion years. Due to the location of the Southern Hemisphere, Spring time is in the month of October, which is when I was able to visit. The purple trees in bloom over took the entire backdrop.
I even got to spend three whole days on a Safari at Kruger Park. As exciting as that sounds, the majority of the Safari is driving around in a four wheel vehicle with no air conditioning, trying to find wild animals. I seriously thought it would be the most exciting adventure of my life- but when you are sitting in that vehicle and you notice the shot gun underneath the driver’s seat, with hours passing between seeing the animals, who are doing anything but hunting, playing or mating, you realize there is a reason why National Geographic Documentaries in the comfort of your home seems more appealing! The night Safari seemed even more intriguing- all that happened was us getting soaking wet, thanks to the pouring rain. These vehicles have no doors, which means no windows, which explains the shot gun, and why we were soaking wet!
Yes, it was exciting to see the Elephants, Giraffes, Impala, Water Buffaloes, Hippos, Alligators, Laughing Hyenas, Ostriches, Cranes, Rhinos and lots and lots of Monkeys! Okay, I just convinced myself that seeing it Live is much better than National Geographic, it’s just that I really, really wanted to see a Lion and I really, really, really wanted to see one hunt down an Impala. You know you would want to see that too! Enjoy some of these shots!
Although it was 15 years ago, I still often think about that place, especially when I am going through some tough times. You know, first world problems. It isn’t that I think about their problems to make mine feel better, or less significant, because I just think that is dumb, it just doubles negative thinking…and well, that sucks! NO. I think about the people who start singing a song in the middle of lesson being taught. Despite their own circumstances, they can still sing. They can still smile. They enjoy their life.
The classroom is no bigger than my own classroom. There’s nothing more than a few desks and a chalkboard, making the acoustics astounding. A sound of a deep bass voice starts singing the words “Never Give Up” The entire song is “Never Give Up” Over and over again you hear the harmony of their voices and it echoes from the walls. An a cappella concert that made my soul want to dance! Yes, they did that too.
The spirit of some of these people were far from lackadaisical. It really gave me perspective– that joy–serenity–and attitude– truly is in the mind of the beholder.
Whether it’s third or first world problems– problems are problems, and it isn’t the problems that are problems, it is our negative response to those problems that make them problems. Whew!
Yeah, I think I have lost my mind as well.
It’s true that we cannot compare cancer to hangnails, it’s just sometimes we act as though hangnails are the end of the world. I’m not saying we shouldn’t complain about it. We should, because sometimes hangnails hurt, and we want the world to know, “hey, it hurts.” I think that’s okay, as long as we keep it in perspective, that our hangnail will eventually heal and we’ll forget all about it until the next one. But we have every right to complain and be sad, or angry, or confused, or scared, or whatever it is, because life is hard, and we all have struggles. And I can’t explain it, but when we talk it out with a safe person, we feel better. When we get validation that our pain is our pain and we have a right to that pain, we can take a deep breath and know that everything is going to be okay.
I don’t think it’s natural to be happy about a hangnail because someone else has cancer. I don’t understand how comparing our suffering to another’s suffering could be helpful? Maybe this comparing shit we do is the real problem!! Hmmm…
I had a great experience at Swaziland. A trip of a life time. Maybe one day I will get the chance to go back. And not for one minute will I feel bad about the life I have made for myself here. In fact, I am thankful that my ancestors were able to jump the border and make a life in this country- before “the wall” became an issue- so that I could sit here, in my 70 degree house, with cushioned seats, typing on my expensive lap top and write about this life I find so fucking incredible!
What is love? I have heard many different definitions. I have read many books, watched many movies and experienced different variations. So seriously- what is it?
In the novel, The Giver, by Lois Lowry, a story about a boy living an a colorless and loveless world where everyone is the same, asked his parents, “Father? Mother?”…”I have a question I want to ask you.”
“What is it Jonas?” his father asked. He made himself say the words, though he felt flushed with embarrassment….
“Do you love me?”
There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then father gave a little chuckle. “Jonas. You, of all people. Precision of language please!”
“What do you mean?” Jonas asked. Amusement was not at all what he anticipated.
“Your father means you used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it is has become almost obsolete.”
Jonas stared at them. Meaningless?
“And of course our community can’t function smoothly if people don’t use precise language. You could ask, ‘Do you enjoy me?’ The answer is ‘Yes.’ ” His mother said.
“Or,” his father suggested, ” ‘Do you take pride in my accomplishments?’ And the answer is wholeheartedly, ‘Yes.’ ”
That paragraph always intrigued me, and it makes for a great discussion with my 6th graders- when we read the novel together.
I sometimes wonder if our own community has generalized the word Love, that we really don’t know what it means anymore.
The Greek word Agape means- selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. Then there is the Greek Myth of Eros- the son of Aphrodite and Ares, whose mischievous meddling in the affairs of gods and mortals caused bonds of love to form and drama to unfold. In other words- sensual love and desire.
In my own personal life I was confused with the two. I grew up in a home where addiction and abuse was normal. Whenever my dad had an episode of raging anger I felt fear to my bones. The next day my mom would apologize for him and explain that even though he acted that way, he did love his family. How confusing for a young person. I grew up thinking that love was suppose to hurt. I grew up thinking that Eros love was real – the feeling – and Agape love was nonexistent.
You see, even though my dad “felt” love for his family, he did not give us the Agape love that every human craves. How can a person be sitting at a bar, telling the bartender, how much he loves his family, yet neglects them and hurts them? How can a person show indifference to his brother, and yet be told he loves him?
When we were young girls, how many times were we told that if a boy hits you, he is probably interested in you.
Maybe I can’t precisely define love- but I think I am learning what love is not!
It is not indifference
It is not neglectful
It is not hurtful
It is not holding on to grudges
It not fearful
Unconditional. Sacrificial. Selfless.
The Great Book says it this way:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13 4-8.
Isn’t it insane how we justify, give excuses, whether it be for ourselves or others, when love becomes the opposite of the above statement? When a person holds a grudge because they do keep a record of wrongs, and justly so. Or when we become easily angered and say things to hurt the other person and expect the other person to keep us close?
Love is not about guilt. Love is not about enabling. Love is not easy.
When I start to think about such things, I go back to that dialog in the novel- Is the word Love so generalized, so abstract, so mysterious, that it is becoming obsolete, or just vague?
Or maybe to be fully human means to live with the tension of Agape and Eros love? That maybe in our hearts we love and we are indifferent. That there are people we love unconditionally, and people we just write off.
And maybe that is what is means to become a mature, wise and loving human being, is when the tension of Agape and Eros becomes more Agape than Eros. Which means we have to see the indifference in ourselves first. We have to recognize when we are holding our love when we should be freely giving it. We need to admit when we are envious, boastful, angry and resentful and practice the art of forgiveness. We need to love ourselves first!
Holidays, like Valentine’s Day, are cute and fun ways to express love, and it is true that we all show our love in a plethora of ways, however; neglecting, yelling, belittling, indifference and lying are not in the same vicinity as love. It is in fact very loving to yourself to let go of people in this world who do in fact, treat us that way. You can still love them from a distance, but for Heaven’s sake, love yourself and your children by showing them the true meaning of love.
When your child grows up watching someone close to them treat others with contempt, indifference and neglect- you are in fact, contributing to the confusion of what Love is- and speaking from my own personal experience, it is a confusing and painful way to live.