Sometimes it’s like building a bonfire and throwing in all the things you own to fuel the flames. You’re waiting for the fire to burn bright. To burn bright enough to illuminate something just out of sight. You know what you hope to see, but you can’t know for sure.
Grading papers. Sitting in a cafe between two tables with chatty white girls on either side of me. I’m not trying to generalize or say they were basic, but could a conversation get more bland? Even unintentionally overhearing them, I craved a little salt on my tongue.
So the girl on my left, she starts saying that maybe she’ll become a teacher, and she, like, read this article about things you don’t know about teaching until you teach, and like, “I know you get the summers off, but I don’t know if I could go three months without a paycheck.” And I was like, girl, forgive my intrusion, but let me tell you how it really is.
Back in the earliest days of my college career, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I also knew I never wanted to be a creative writing teacher: Don’t get me wrong, creative writing is one of my passions, but by that time I’d spent years participating in online writers communities, reading others’ stories and providing very detailed feedback.
And, if I may, I was damn good at it. People I’d never met before knew my name because of the quality constructive criticism I gave, and sometimes writers would ask me out of the blue to read their rough drafts or proofread their final copies. I was even invited to judge not one but two different short story competitions!
So why didn’t I want to become a creative writing teacher? And now that I’ve finished teaching a four-week creative writing elective, why will I never teach it again?
Last week President Trump visited Milwaukee. In class that morning, one student said, “He’s not my president.” The timing wasn’t right to go into the nuances of that statement, to correct the fallacy that blindly believes saying “He’s not my president” excuses us of his wrongdoings (when we, the collective voting citizenry, put him there) but merely excuses his ignoring us, so my response to her was subtler.
“Whether we like him or not, he’s our president, and we should respect that.”
I refused to get religious. In fact, “refuse” is the wrong word: I keep my faith wrapped around my neck but not gurgling through my vocal cords, so I never genuinely talk about religion with my students. Perhaps, this time, I should have.
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.