So it’s been a month since I wrote last. And it’s been a week since I got home from Teach for America’s summer training, called Institute: a non-stop five weeks full of professional development (of questionable efficacy), lesson planning and execution, and getting to know my first class of students. It was intense. I’m still recovering.
Which means I’m still processing everything I learned and everything I experienced: It was information overload to its finest, and now that I’m “back in reality,” in addition to making sense of everything, the confusion is compounded by the quest to secure housing in Milwaukee, planning my move in two weeks, and arranging visits with my friends in North Carolina before I leave. It’s been incredibly overwhelming.
I intend–and we know what we say about intentions–to share my thoughts on Institute more fully at a later time (after I’ve considered more deeply what I’m willing to share, and what’s in my best interest to keep private), and with all the uncertainty in my life right now, it’s difficult to articulate any amount of profundity on current events.
So to write something, I’m writing a post on words–in particular, the words I’m reading.
The five books I’m presently reading–and what the rest of this post is about.
I’ve been watching a lot of lectures about education lately, and there’s a common theme to answer a common question: How can I keep myself from burning out?
The answer is always a variation of “work harder” or “work smarter.”
This, I’m afraid, is simply insufficient. There is no amount of working harder or working smarter that can make the work we’re doing any less exhausting–and this applies to all areas, whether you’re a student, a teacher, healthcare provider, or something else.
There’s a heinous demonstration on campus today that asserts abortion is genocide and compares it to events like the Holocaust and the expulsion of Native Americans from their homelands. All of this, of course, is coupled with graphic images that are neither scientifically accurate nor representative of abortion.
So naturally, there are a number of students protesting the demonstration. No matter the motivation of the protestors, they accept the right of this other organization to free speech, but object to the way it delivers its message–a manner that’s so reprehensible I refuse to even mention their name.
This same group was on campus last year, and I protested against them. This year I’m unable to protest, but at least I can lend my support in other ways.
Two weeks ago I posted about my summer goals, but since then I’ve managed to make as little progress as could possibly be defined (a rather flowery way of saying I’ve done nothing). Part of me wants to kick back and say I don’t care, because hasn’t it been a stressful year and don’t I deserve a break? But the better part of me feels bored and knows, deep down, I do want to accomplish the things I’ve set out to do.
It’s just getting there that isn’t always easy.
So it’s time I stop for a second, hit the pause button, and take a moment to restart.
I’m at an odd place in life. I’ve got everything planned out but nothing is certain–in fact, those things most certain are also the most unpredictable. It’s crazy. Sometimes I wonder if the fact I’m a Gemini predisposes me to a life of self-contradictory experiences.
I digress. I need focus, and I’ve learned what helps me focus is having goals, and over the summer, it’s been a longstanding tradition to keep a special set of goals to motivate myself and continue growing into the person I want to become. In fact, this might very well be the last summer when I can make such goals before the full force of adulthood whisks me away and the notion of a free summer ceases to exist. So I must make the most of it.
When in Rome, do as the Romans. Or in this case Mexico. And then Mexicans. And that means speak Spanish. Except I can’t. Or I can? Not a lot, but is that the point? I’m lying in the dark at a hostel in Puebla as I write this, and I think I need to start at the beginning.
Summer school started today and while I aimlessly wait for textbooks to arrive in the mail and for my professors to get the course websites up and running, I decided to browse Facebook and see what’s going on in the world–or at least in the lives of twenty friends Facebook selected at random, which for today, can be my entire world.
I came across this Buzzfeed article called “30 Questions for Straight Guys” and thought it’d be a fun read. Except when I opened it, I quickly realized directing these questions only to straight guys ignores the fact that gay guys are, in fact, still guys.
To set restless minds at ease, here are 15 answers to 30 questions for straight guys.
The time has come: In barely twelve hours I’m leaving for Alaska. Past connecting flights in Chicago and Seattle, I’ll leave the lower 48 and have the chance to serve in a culture completely different than what I’m used to.
A different language, a different lifestyle, and I’m so excited to serve them.
Unfortunately, online access will be limited and I won’t be able to post while I’m away. Instead I’ll be eating lunch with the children in school or having dinner at the senior center. I’ll be in classes to learn Tlingit and classes to help students in math and reading. And in the rare moments I’m not actively serving, I’ll be participating in team reflections, writing in my journal, taking pictures, and using poetry to capture my experience.
I’ve got my boots and I’m ready for the snow.
Most of these pictures, poems, and other writings will be invisible to the world for a number of reasons that will prevent me from sharing them publicly–but I still want to share my experience privately with as many people as I can. I’m still fundraising for my trip, and anyone who donates at least $10 will receive a journal of reflections, photographs, and especially poetry from my service trip in Alaska. For those interested in experiencing my 2013 service trip, a $20 donation will also include my Belize adventure book.
My fundraiser ends on March 7, so please be sure to donate today if you can.
Thank you for all of your help and especially your readership!
Last night a speaker came to campus to talk about bullying. She said a few words–I probably could’ve counted how many–and then she started asking questions. And when we didn’t willingly answer, she stood in silence waiting. And if we still didn’t answer (this only happened once), she walked up to someone and asked him directly.
This wasn’t a typical lecture. It went both ways.
And that got me thinking: bullying goes both ways, too.
It’s no secret I love learning, but if you press me to share the most memorable moments that made learning come alive, each of them would share a common theme: a teacher who inspired me. My favorite Hebrew school teachers were understanding and compassionate, sharing stories of living in Israel and talking to us in Hebrew. My favorite math teachers humanized abstract concepts and spoke to us as equals, helping us not only to learn, but to love. My political science teachers have made dull topics exciting by impersonating polar bears flopping around on the ice or breaking the tension with a sarcastic comment that leads the class into laughter; writing teachers have given encouragement, honest feedback, and shown an intimate interest in helping me to grow.
It is no small task, the work and effort I’ve put into my education at every level–from my earliest memories of being homeschooled through today–but if not for the passion my teachers showed me, all of this would have meant nothing.
So wouldn’t it be amazing, if only for a few days, I could inspire others as much as my teachers have inspired me?