I suppose in any new situation you feel the initial shock of new people, new ideas, new culture, new norms. And then at a certain point you realize how much you’re changing, how much you’re evolving. This moment hit me today and I decided: This is exactly where I want to be. This is exactly what I want to be doing. Every day, I am surrounded by the people I want to become.
I get emotional even typing it, because as frustratingly, achingly difficult as my life here is, I do deeply love it, in an odd and slightly off-kilter way. This realization has been so long in coming and so I welcome it – let it in – actively seek it.
I can’t even pinpoint exactly why I feel this way or what set of circumstances got me to this point. By all accounts I should be feeling anything but. I got four hours of sleep and have 2.5 lesson plans to write this evening and I haven’t talked to people about anything except for teaching in days. My kids today were good but not great; the upcoming holiday weekend made them eager to just be done with school. Yet for some reason, despite all these factors and circumstances, I am feeling deeply fulfilled and gratified by the way I have changed this summer.
Steady as the stars in the woods
And the warmth rang true inside these bones
As the old pine fell we sang
Just to bless the morning.
-old pine, ben howard
Remember my Gatsby post? Life begins over again in the summer. It has never been truer for me than this summer. I have done more, pushed myself more, lived more than at any point in my life. I feel like I’ve spent so much of my life just sort of spinning my wheels, fumbling along, trying to see what I’m passionate about and where I fit in. And though Institute is certainly not a perfect fit, it comes pretty damn close.
The sun is setting, peeking through my window, and I just came back from a wonderful dinner with my CMA group. I am deeply fortunate to work alongside such driven, caring, passionate individuals; I have learned far more from them than anything they may have learned from me. These are people who have seen me at my worst – literally in tears at school, in tears at 1:30 AM in my pajamas, in tears in a pencil skirt, in tears just barely hidden from my students – and yet they are unendingly supportive. I suppose Institute has a way of pushing us all past our breaking point and then gently bringing us together, so that we may carry each other through the rough parts.
Maybe some of this is just general nostalgia and reflection. By tomorrow at 2 PM I will be done with Week 3 of Institute and – in an odd state of mind I never thought I’d reach – I realized I’ll really miss Institute. I’ll miss the constant support of living alongside friends and mentors. I’ll miss the camaraderie and the communal journey. I’ll miss the way we fight so, so hard to stay positive amongst all the negativity that can close in if we let our guard down. I’ll miss the unwavering kindness of my CMA and all the other adults who have so graciously held me up along the way. These people have spent hours of their time on me. observing me, debriefing with me, videoing me, giving me tissues when I cry. In three weeks I’ll be living in an apartment with two other girls. I’m excited for what lies ahead but simultaneously torn, because Institute is something I know will stick with me forever. Is it possible to miss something while you’re still in the middle of it?
I’ve spent so much of the past few weeks bogged down in the day-to-day; I’ve been so worn-down by the sleep deprivation and short-term-emergency state of mind that I haven’t had the energy to zoom out and realize what’s happened. And yet here I am, finally able to deeply think about all that has been felt and said and been in the midst of this whirlwind of a journey. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to be here. For all the late nights and awful school days and afternoon sessions when sleep tries so hard to take over, I do not know what I did to deserve such fortune and honor in getting this opportunity.
I gave my students classroom culture surveys today and was astonished to see their responses. They essentially give me hell in the classroom and yet it’s clear they understand who I am – where I’m coming from. She pushes us to work hard because she cares. She smiles a lot. She doesn’t give up on me. I teared up as I read their responses on the bus coming home because for the past two weeks I’ve felt like an angry, cold version of myself. and maybe that ice is breaking. Just a little bit. We decided to split our classroom into three groups for Academic Intervention Hour in the morning. I have a small group, maybe eight students, and we head off to an empty room to “real-talk” together. Today we talked about race and class and why people speak differently. They asked me why my hair looks different from their hair. They asked me why the video they saw immediately beforehand showed them a side of the world they’d never seen before. They asked me about my tattoo (which I’d tried so hard to keep covered, but as soon as they found it, we all laughed together). I finally relaxed and gave up some control in the classroom today. It was loud and noisy and probably only semi-productive, but beautiful in its own way, and I found myself smiling the rest of the afternoon. My kids didn’t make significant, Lifetime-movie-worthy gains in a single day. They didn’t 100% master the content. They still don’t really know how to read – which is heartbreaking and a topic for a different discussion. But those things will come, hopefully with their future teachers. In this moment they just enjoyed being in my classroom. And for me – at this point in my life – that is more than enough.
I am still scared of the road ahead. I’m scared of teaching, I’m scared of making friends, I’m scared of being an adult living in the real world. Yet all those fears have been gently silenced by my deep, unshaken faith in the path I am following and in the glittering sky stretching out forever in front of me. We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night, they say, and in the light of my faith my fears have been cast aside. They lie still, nested in the dim shadows, and in their absence I look skyward – unbridled – at the breathtaking stars.