the break feels shorter
as my oldest leaves again
bavk to college life
so different from your sister's when i spent many joyful hours piecing together the photos of her youth your youth is marred, robbed, broken and i don't know why i don't know why and it might be the not knowing that will take us both
the first for me; with my girls
to steal a weekend
the center of our country,
sordid past exposed
a bar mitzvah morn
in year five-seven-eight-three
from our first beliefs
a city forest
walking distance from temple
Shabbat salom. Peace.
my happy daughters
finding books, happiness, love
on our girls’ weekend
getting her to here
after COVID/grief trauma?
a grin worth winning
If you had another job, you would be so annoyed by the coworker who couldn’t piece together fiber or the project manager who doesn’t know how to manage, and your day might be temporarily ruined. You would miss your lunch hour redoing someone’s work or you wouldn’t be able to tell your boss your exact opinion of his golf vacation in the midst of your short-staffing issue.
If you had another job, you would spend your lunch hour cutting fibers or sending emails or catching up on a spreadsheet, hoping for a break or a promotion or … anything else.
Anything but this.
If you had another job, you wouldn’t stop in your tracks in the middle of a lesson to let a severe-needs child work his way to his seat, an admin begging you to give him a pencil and a blank piece of paper because maybe if he could draw a basketball, he would stop rocking on his heels and shouting the word across the room for all the world, all your classroom of recent immigrants, to witness.
If you had another job, when the siren makes your phone and the PA system and the whole world bleep and vibrate, you wouldn’t be thinking about the announcement (seeking the nurse) at lunch. You wouldn’t be sending your middle daughter to investigate the health of your colleague whose life was already threatened more times than the number of weeks in this school year, only to hear this report: “There were people everywhere and a kid on the floor. The security guards were surrounding the whole scene. We couldn’t see anything.”
If you had another job, you’d see everything. The botched fibers. The boss’s vacation. The spreadsheet that tells you exactly what you’ve done right and exactly why you don’t belong here.
But you don’t have that job.
You have this one. And despite the pull of this dog lying on your calves with the persistence of a love so divine you couldn’t measure it, this morning or in any other moment, you are here now.
And you look at your refugees and think about the Afghan girl and the Afghan para, who both stood on that tarmac eleven months back in a country that will no longer allow them to attend school, let alone show their faces, and are up in the tech office trying to get a new computer while you stand here, trying to explain without Dari or Pashto words,
“It’s a lock… out. There is a problem outside of the school. Not here. Do you understand me?”
And all the while you are thinking about your colleague whose student yesterday held a girl at her throat and sprayed her with dry erase cleaner, now imagining that at lunch that kid was under the security guards’ hands, and that he escaped, and that he “is a suspect in the perimeter.”
And that your colleague could be gone. And that your daughter was braver than you, walking down there to report on truths that can’t be reported.
And that you have to teach a lesson about the BE verb and all its uses and “Yes/No” questions such as,
“Are you happy?”
Yes, I am.
No, I’m not.
And the boy who can’t read or write or take total control of his body won’t stop talking about basketball, and then soccer, and then eating, and his paraprofessionals finally come, and the Afghan para and the Afghan girl return unscathed, and when you look into her young and beautiful eyes and ask her to say, in Dari and Pashto, “Please tell the students that the danger isn’t here. It’s a danger outside of the school,” they all shout, “We understand you, MISS!”, and even after her translation, her reassuring interpretation of your words,
You’re. Still. Not. Sure.
And let’s make contractions out of these “Be” verb conjugations, my students! (He + is = He’s. You + are = You’re.)
If you had another job, you wouldn’t have to wait until the passing period to see the text from your threatened colleague.
“I’m OK. A kid passed out in my room during lunch. I don’t know about the lockout.”
You wouldn’t have to wait. You’d be sending emails, repairing fibers, or working your way through a mountain of paperwork.
You wouldn’t be standing in front of these kids who are trying to piece together the parts of a sentence and the parts of their lives that were left in another country.
You wouldn’t be you.
If you had another job.
I have been teaching for eighteen years. Aurora, Parker, Spain, Denver. I (mostly) grew up in Denver, where the public school system is pretty much a shitshow compared to upstate New York, where I learned everything by age eleven that was then repeated at Merrill Middle School.
I have seen every teaching style, from direct-lecture to let’s-let-the-students-decide (DSA before what it is now). My former school (in Parker) paid $20,000 annually for us to be a part of a program that was based on improving teaching by learning through our peers. Learning labs. Peer observations. The whole gamut.
Just a bit of background to let you know that I haven’t just stood in front of a group of Newcomers for eighteen years.
I’ve seen, co-taught with, and even evaluated, every type of teacher. The let-loose, out-of-control-classes type of teacher. The expert-in-every-way, loving-just-enough type of teacher. The middle-of-the-road teacher.
And it’s taken more than a week for me to write this to you. And I know that he already left and I would never in a million years deny you the opportunity to stay home with your beautiful child.
Yet when I asked you, point-blank as I always do, if you’d come back? It breaks my heart that you shrugged.
Because you are NOT the let-loose, out-of-control-classes type of teacher, nor the middle-of-the-road teacher. You know and I know that you are the one.
The one who, in your own subtle fashion, captures the entire class. Calling on every kid. Listening to what they have to say. Taking in their expressions and their hidden voices. Reading aloud. Helping them to understand the complexities of our oppressive system while acknowledging their experiences with it.
You once brought your mother with you to a PD I was running. How absurd, that I was running a PD for YOU to learn from. As if you couldn’t have been teaching us all, in your calm and supportive way, how to be better. Your mother, also a teacher, who gave you what you have, who put everything into you that makes you who you are.
Better at teaching.
Better at not having those gut-wrenching reactions.
Better at being truthful without being hurtful.
Better at being yourself.
I wish I could be there to witness what you are about to endeavor. The chasing of toddlers. The balancing of life with a firefighter. The even-keeled response to life that encompasses who you are.
I wish I could be there to thank you. Because you are not just a teacher. You are one of the teachers who listened to me when I cried for my daughter’s soul and.
You’re one in a million. Better than I will ever be.
And I hope you know that. I hope those hundreds of kids who have shuffled through your classroom know that.
And that you won’t just be a statistic.
And that you’ll come back.
Because there has never been a better time to have a good teacher. The one with the Birkenstocks. The one whose beauty fills the room. The one whose patience emanates.
One of the best.
Better than the best.
dock spider, mud, fish;
a small hardwood forest hike
to a man-made lake
you can feel the joy
seeping through this perfect view
of nature, reborn
lakes are in my blood.
i learned to swim in one
and love nothing more
a magical place:
the only way to describe
these teenage smiles
even pup loves it
cycling past wildlife
below the Smokies
where can you see bears
and collect salamanders
under the same sun?
this mountain-framed pic
taken on the same soil
twenty-three years past
we’re fatter, older
while the mountains are hotter;
such is life—sad changes
yet look at our girls
fearlessly taking this on
one moon-wing a time