Friday, May 28, 2010

Reviewing Esme

I read several book lists that touted teacher "must reads." Well, since I am such a dedicated reader, I thought it might be in my best interest to pick up a few of these books. At the very top of several of those lists was a book called Educating Esme.

When I found the book, it was in the "Teacher Help" section of Barnes and Noble--an automatic strike. It was sitting next to educational atrocities like Harry Wong's First Days of School (and yes, that is his real name). Needless to say, I felt obligated to continue with my personal sense of dedication, but I was no longer excited about the work.

But the book is an educational gem.  It truly is.  Esme has the heart of a real teacher--one who feels success and failure in the same hour.  She is curt but smart, funny but firm and consistently entertaining.  The book honestly reads like a series of stories--some humorous and some that would enrage the most docile of educators.

I found the book inspiring but realistic.  She doesn't paint a rosy picture that leaves educators feeling as though they can never live up to the hype (see Freedom Writers, Dangerous Minds, etc.).  She shares honestly and openly about her experiences with her students.  Some of her ideas are amazing, out-of-the-box and completely inspire the children to learn.  Yet she finds herself frustrated with situations that cannot be solved in the classroom, and a school Principal (and Vice Principal!) who was obviously not hired for his interpersonal communication skills.

The book is worth a purchase based solely on the story about the fifth graders who stabbed a substitute in the rear end.  Their reason was completely founded based on classroom rules--albeit, they needed a bit of clarification ;)

When I put the book down, I didn't feel like I couldn't measure up as an educator.  I honestly felt like I was doing everything I could do to make my students as successful as possible...and, at the end of the day, that's all anyone can ask for.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A dichotomy of tears

It's been a horribly surreal two weeks. I've mostly felt like I was dreaming, or haven't felt much like doing anything, saying anything, being anything. It comes with the territory, I guess.

Today was the last day of school. As a teacher, I only had to go for an hour while report cards were distributed, pick up my paycheck and go home. In the last 15 minutes, I received a very unexpected phone call froma parent who will never know how much her words are appreciated.

She praised me over and over again for the things I had done in my classroom over the last few months. She asked questions about what she could do over the summer to help her child, and then, she asked if I was in danger of losing my job and what she could do besides call her legislator.

For the last two weeks I've cried because I'm so overwhelmingly sad. Today, I cried because I was overcome with thankfulness. She can't possibly know what her call meant to me.

But I sure do.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mean Girl

When I am hurt, I say mean things. Sometimes I say mean things I don't mean and often I say mean things that I would never say if I were in a reasonable state of mind. But that is my true nature. It's what I fight when I've surrendered to Christ. And when I don't? Well, I say mean things.

Maybe it's part of dealing with feelings I don't want and can't handle. Maybe there's a build up of bad emotion so I have to emote. But it's completely selfish.

I find people like St. Augustine admirable for a variety of reasons (he was, after all, a saint), but I find him most admirable for his prayer to anti-selfishness. Pray it for me. I want to believe I could be that type of person. But the more of me I see, the more I'm afraid I'm not as pliable as I should be.

St. Augustine's Prayer
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith ;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy
O divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Most people get really excited over the prospect of a beginning. It must be the promise of possibility, or maybe it's the hope of change or fulfillment.

Ends are different. I'm not sure what the band was referencing, but Semisonic was certainly on to something when they penned the words "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." But most of us hate the idea of closing the book on one chapter--even with the hope of another ahead.

And some chapters bleed into others.

When bad things happen, I think there is always a fear of disbelief--that faith will cease to exist and other things will take its place. For me, pain is the result of faith coexisting with disbelief. I can't understand, but I can't disregard what I know about God.

I won't lie. My heart is broken. I am broken. My brain is cloudy, and sometimes it takes me ten minutes to register things that normally process very quickly. Mostly, I'm just going through the motions without a lot of thought or regard for the result of those motions.

Often, I feel like I'm going to be suffocated with grief. Breathing is spasmatic and I can't see because my eyes are full and so is my head. Some days I think that I can't do this anymore, and I hate the sun for continuing to bring other days when I'm not sure I can get through this one wholly. On those days, I don't have any room for any other sort of feeling, but today I have a small space to be thankful...

And I am for a lot of things: For Chris who I have probably never appreciated the way he should have been appreciated. Love is knowing where someone is and being willing to go there with them and ease it in whatever way you know how. Success, babe. Total success.

For my family--particularly my mom--who can't know but is willing to try. I tell my students all the time that dependability is far more important than intelligence. I guess that works outside of regular employment.

For my friends who don't know what to say but cry anyway. Grief shared is not grief divided, but it's a little less suffocating when someone else can cry with you.

And I'm still thankful for redemption and grace, although I'm less verbal about it right now. Like anything else, some days they seem a little more obscure. But there is a declaration to "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine" (Isaiah 43:1). So there's a promise of ownership.

I don't know when this will end. I don't know if it will ever end. I'm not even sure what I'm supposed to be doing or learning through this process. To be quite frank, I just plain don't understand why it happened at all. A beginning isn't supposed to be followed by an end. There's got to be a middle somewhere...

I guess right now I'm in the middle of an end and another beginning.
But every new beginning...

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev. 21:3-4).