2017, man. What a ride so far, eh? I think it’s safe to say that in the last two months we have seen both the ugliest and most beautiful parts of humanity. I never knew I could be so skeptical and yet so optimistic at the same time. I think I’ve been doing the same thing as many others; sifting through the ugly, looking for silver linings in an ocean of differing opinions. And deciphering the sentiments of a nation divided is a lot like Alice jumping through rabbit holes, unsure of what she’s looking for or what even comes next.
For those of you who don’t already know, I’m a public school teacher. Furthermore, I’m a teacher in a school with a diverse multicultural population. I get the joy of guiding our littlest scholars from the very beginning towards academic enthusiasm. Or rather, I try to. So yes, I was part of that collective sigh when it was recently announced who would be appointed at the top of the educational food chain in D.C. I worry like many others because I’m actually down here, in the trenches. Let me tell you, teachers are amazing human beings. All things considered – our lack of funding for things as paramount as technology and as simple as enough toilet paper distribution to manage the school – all of the educators I know are still marching on. It’s what we do. Because it’s not about us. I’ve got 25 kindergarteners, from all different backgrounds, who depend on me daily. So even though things have gotten ugly, I’m not peacing out. Because that changes nothing.
Each and every one of us in this country today is playing a subtle role in what feels like one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. And I think many angry people could learn a lot from the public educators who have dedicated their careers to children. We’ve handled numerous blows in recent years with an articulate grace. Please, ask me my thoughts on the voucher system. Or the pay scale for the professional career I have devoted my life to for the last decade. I will tell you what I know without bias or slant to the truth. I will share with you my “war” stories and the triumphs and tragedies of plowing through a whole mess of ridiculousness for the greater good of education that matters. Switching lenses to an even bigger political picture, I think we’ve certainly lost sight of some of the most beautiful threads in the fabric of our nation.
I’m not a hard core liberal or a die-hard conservative. I’m just an American, trying to carve out my existence somewhere in the middle. I’m a person who sees compromise as the only answer to a whole lot of messy questions right now. It’s what I use in my classroom daily. That and a whole lot of empathy. Because I haven’t been in every little person’s shoes who comes up for hugs in the mornings. I’m just there to love them and encourage them to the best of my ability.
Every year I teach a unit about simple machines. If you exist somewhere in the kingdom of academia you’ve probably heard the acronym STEM. It stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. There has been a huge push in this direction with good reason. We want kids these days on the cutting edge. It totally makes sense. The irony lies in the lack of funds to do so. Anyway, I digress.
So, in simplest terms, the “fulcrum” is the part of simple machine where movement happens. It is the pivot point. Without the fulcrum you are dead in the water, so to speak. The load has nowhere to go and “force” becomes moot. I think 2017 is definitely a fulcrum year. We are at a pivotal state of being and could shift in any given direction at this point. The weight of this country is heavy and the force being utilized for change feels unstable and inconsistent. That last statement points fingers at no one particularly. It’s going to take all of us to move the load. Go ahead, re-read that last sentence.
Reality is this: Life is not about highlight reel. We’ve all got one of those. It’s also not about who gets the best snarky jab in out here on the interwebs. And it’s not about shaking our angriest fists. I mean, we could all do that. The pharmaceutical industry would love it. High blood pressure and anti-depression medication usage is probably soaring at the moment. But the beauty of real change relies on the slow steady heartbeat that incessantly plows through all the hardship. That may be a tough pill to swallow, but it is what it is. And without the ups and downs of the proverbial rollercoaster, there would be no ride. We must go through turmoil if we are ever going to make change. It’s true. Turn around and look back in history. All major shifts in the direction of this country come after certain disorder. We can do this. We’ve done it many times before.
Don’t forget once in a while to turn around and look back at the chaos from which you personally have overcome. Furthermore, look at all the chaos this country has overcome. You might just see the ashes from which we rose.
Can I be real for a minute? I mean like, really real? I just need to take this moment in cyber space to stop time and purge all the thoughts that were rolling around in my head this morning. I practically wrote this thing already on the way to work. That’s kind of how the love/hate relationship of “inspiration” and I roll. It’s not like texting and driving or anything, so don’t freak out on me. It’s just there. On the tip of the tongue. So, here we go.
The last time I checked this was December, right? I remember throwing out in to the blogosphere way back in October that OCTOBER was my “feel crazy” time of year. I had some good hits off of that one and a lot of site traffic. So much so that I just reposted my 2015 words instead of writing a new one for 2016. I mean, why not? But, here we are. And it’s December. And I’m chasing my tail again. So for all of you moms out there who have yet to even sit down and online order your kids’ Christmas via Amazon Prime – and probably won’t until well into late next week –well, this one is for you.
I’m a fixer. How’s that for an opening line? I tend to want to fix things and people and situations. I like to see the triumphs over the tragedies and the silver linings to the rain clouds. I can apply this to most external situations. Personal ones, however, are always harder to do. You see, I think that’s because we always put ourselves last, right? At least I’m fairly certain I do. Children first, always. The nurturing caretaker role of mother, teacher, friend. We lose identities in this way, yet, we all succumb to it here and there.
I’ve been trying real hard lately to work on “fixing” myself. Not that I’m necessarily broken. I consider myself a productive contributor to society. I have great friends and a pretty sturdy set of ideals. But, the journey for improving self-worth is there. Fixing. I’m trying to really focus in on these grand plans that I have for life. But, somehow along the way, the path tends to crumble from time to time. I find myself just going through the motions. And this, my friends, is not the way I plan on living the rest of my life. If you can step outside of yourself and say that out loud…. Well, that’s a first step.
Does anyone out there remember being a child and sitting at the foot of someone you thought was really wise? You listened to them tell you a story and your eyes were just wide open with wonder. I hope you have a memory like that. For me, it’s the embodiment of my first encounter with wisdom. That feeling of being awe-struck by someone older and more experienced in the world around us. Probably it would have been someone you knew well and were very comfortable with. And it wasn’t just the big eyes, but the full head tilt upward. Because, childhood.. and I’ve never been very tall. That whole “whoa” experience.
Anyway, I wish I could take those type of feelings and humanize them. In a sense, what if we could take the undergird of THAT story, THAT lesson, that whatever you remembered and make it a person? The famous line by E.O. Wilson has recently surfaced on a lot of memes. You may have seen it. “We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom.” I think I’ve posted it a time or two myself. I don’t think this has ever been more true. Not that information isn’t necessary. But wisdom – come on! Wisdom is what holds together the threads of the universe. Am I right? Would you rather be book smart or wise?
So, if wisdom could talk to all of us at this very pivotal point in current history – I think it would have some advice for all of us. Maybe something along the following lines.
Good morning!!! It’s a beautiful day to be on Thanksgiving vacation! I have so many zings to share with you, now that I have a little bit of time freed up to do things not considered part of survival mode. Gosh, where to even start? (Insert favorite thinking face emoji here.) Can you tell I’m winging this? How about them Cubbies?!?! Oh… and holy tacos, the election is big news.
It’s Saturday morning. My kids are already up and running wild. I should probably be doing something motherly like fixing them breakfast. I’ll get to that. But Imma take a little selfish ‘me time’ first, with my coffee and my laptop. This is the first day of an extended holiday break from school. Citizens, do not be fooled. Teachers get just as excited as the students at the thought of many consecutive days off in a row.
When I was little, I remember sitting at the dinner table many an evening with my grandparents. Yes, here she goes again talking about her grandparents. No apologies here. It’s the nature of storytelling, isn’t it? To go back to what grounds us.
Anyway, dinner time always had a rhythm. Grandma cooked, we ate and watched the evening news, Grandpa and Julie washed and dried the dishes. This was routine. Steady. The norm. My scope, however, narrows today to just the middle part of that: the timing of what we did and when the news was on those many moons ago. My grandparents, like most folks, watched it every evening at the same time. And there’s something calming about steady consistency. You could always count on the television being on for the evening news and an extra long morning in the recliner reading that thick Sunday paper.
I’m here to publicly mourn the loss of this rhythm. We now have news media details shoved down our throats faster than we can suck air into our lungs. It’s everywhere. And we have somehow allowed ourselves to become the new-age version of Pavlov’s Dog. DING!!! A notification! Automatically our brain gets its rewards and we essentially have shouted “SQUIRREL!!” I am as guilty as the next guy.
There’s a low rumbling in America today. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably noticed. Kind of like the undertones of thunder just before a big storm. We are hearing and seeing the disgruntled thoughts of many people. From the election drama to the Black Lives Matter movement to the way we are handling the crisis in the Aleppo and beyond. To be blunt, people are pissed. Some of you may think we are already amidst the storm, but I really don’t think so. I don’t make light of the anger or the demonstrations, peaceful or otherwise, currently clogging all of our newsfeeds. But, for lack of better terms, we ain’t seen nothing yet.
You see, we are all caught up in a thought trap today. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, we have established for ourselves a parameter of mindset that we will be darned to remove ourselves from. “This is how it is!” Am I right? Many of us blatantly refuse to consider stepping aboard any other thought trains.
So, this raises a question for me – Why? Why must our opinions remain steadfast? Why does it have to be one way or another? This or that. Black or white. Furthermore, who decided that progressives and conservatives should start throwing the playbook at one another? These are precarious times. We currently have people who want to transform society and others who want to bring back the older more traditional ways. Welcome to the thought trap. What to choose? That is the question.
I see value in both sides of the argument, don’t you? There’s something really special about upholding and continuing traditions that built up and held together one of the world’s greatest superpowers. However, there is also something thought provoking about the word “change”. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but even the noblest of ideas started out as a prototype and had to go through tweaks and upgrades. Of course we don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water. But at the same time, as a country we cannot stay the same as the world changes around us. At an alarming pace, too, I might add.