While I gather my words and images, here is a video of my letter to students for this school year. I remember my elementary teachers sending welcome letters at the beginning of the school year -- I had always thought high school students would find it cheesy. This year, I decided to be brave and not just 1) write a letter to my students, but also 2) video-tape myself reading it. I will probably revisit this topic in more depth, but for now...
I have an amazingly visceral reaction to words. I appreciate literature because good writers make me want to catch their snowflake words on my tongue. I want this joy for my students, too: all of us chasing after flurries, head tilted back, and tongues sticking out in perfect glee.
Beyond appreciating words, through reading, I urge my students to write.
Write for discovery, for change, for release. Write from the gut. Write to persuade, to entertain, to inform. Write just because. Write with the rubric in mind. Write as though the grade didn't matter. Write for life. Write to give endings and beginnings, but more importantly, write to jump in the middle, right smack in the thick. Write in the now.
A series of YESES have led me to helping coordinate a teacher support group of sorts and tonight is our first get together. There's no agenda set in stone-- the idea is to have a regular meeting with teachers from different schools, come together in a safe place to voice frustrations, give each other feedback and support, share best practices, celebrate successes, and form friendships outside of our schools.
As I sit here waiting for my hopefully brand new friends, I'm beginning to have some doubts-- will anyone show up? Part of me questions if this is even a worthwhile endeavor. I was searching for ways to rekindle my passion and excitement for teaching and along the way, this year, I've said YES to things I didn't even see were options.
In September, I said YES to EdCamp, an unconference professional development where I met some of the people I'm getting together with tonight. I finally said YES to social media. I said YES to becoming the Sunshine Committee Chair. I said YES to making a diaper cake. I said YES to becoming the club sponsor for the Student Organization of Latinos. I said YES to showing over-the-top enthusiasm for Homecoming Spirit Week. I said YES to Karma Cards. I said YES to running 200ish miles around Las Vegas with 11 others in the Ragnar relay. I said YES to video-recording myself while teaching. I said YES to starting a blog.
So YES, here we go…
In my near-decade of teaching, this is the first year that I finally feel seasoned, experienced, qualified. Paradoxically, I resemble my first-year-teacher-self more now than I have in the last seven years. This past summer I read Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a Pirate, which brought back bit by bit sparks of the bonfire I used to fervently stoke. And now it’s beginning to blaze again.
I began to seriously reevaluate my choice to become a teacher during my fifth year. The stress and anxiety compounded by my own perfectionism amounted to month-long migraines, nearly thirty extra pounds added to my five-foot frame, a silver dollar-sized bald spot, and a daily retching compulsion—all of which I desperately struggled to hide. At one point, I deliberated on dog-walking as a viable career option--I’d rather pick up dog poop than teach.
And then I got a dog.
And I went to therapy.
And I started running again.
And I am taking risks again.
And I am beginning to write again.
Which leads me here.
I have always been a teacher. And I have always loved language. From the time I was seven and prancing bare-footed door to door, inviting the island children to listen to my stories, I was teaching. As I brandished glossy picture books sent from America, enunciating each magical word, I was teaching. It was then that I realized the power of words to stir the imagination, to elevate the spirit, and to capture the heart.
My aim here is to continue to seek and grow in my love of language and teaching. I wish to continue to discover and rediscover specks of truth through the creative labor of teaching and writing. There have been and there will be ineffable moments of joy. May I always remember to forget the pang of disappointment, and yet not fear to fail.