With Apologies To Emily Dickinson

img_0822Hope is a thing with feathers, “ she said,

However, I am not so sure

I carry my hope piggyback style

And the weight’s a chore to endure.

 

My hungry hope eats everything

It’s the least picky eater I know

So carrying it around all day

It has nothing to do but grow.

 

Sometimes it gets too heavy for me

And I drag it by the feet

At times I rest with my head on its chest

Other times, I’ll admit my defeat

 

While carrying Hope around all day

It burns a hole and sears

It scratches at your sanity

And it preys on your worst fears

 

Hope’s words are dipped in poison

On every inch there is a thorn

But if you swallow every word of Hope’s

Your passion is reborn

 

Hope is not a thing with feathers.

Dickinson was wrong

I’ve waited

and waited

and waited

I’ve waited for so long.

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Sitting In Someone Else’s Chair

I remember the day I got the key to my first classroom. I was shocked someone trusted me enough with a key to something I saw as so valuable. That key represented I was part of something bigger than myself. It was acceptance. To some people that key was a paycheck, a duty, or stacks of papers to grade. All I could see was the difference I wanted to make.

Today, in sharp contrast, I waited for an assistant principal to unlock the door of the classroom where I was to spend the day in someone else’s chair. I thought about the lack of a key, and how locked out I feel right now. The difference I wanted to make does not go away with the absence of a key. Without a chair of my own it would be easy to feel not quite a teacher, and not just a babysitter either.

What makes you a teacher? What makes anyone what they are? Is it the key that fits in the lock where they work each day? Is it the chair they sit in? What about the papers on their desk? All of those things I no longer can call mine, but I still feel like a teacher. I still hold teacher credentials. Are those the key? But I’m reminded of the months I was still in school to get my teaching license, and I was an intern at a local elementary school. Even then I felt like a teacher. So, a teaching license doesn’t make a teacher a teacher either.

I think what makes you a teacher can’t be tangible. I think of Jesus sitting on mountains, roaming around with followers. He had little with Him. He needed no Promethean Board, paper clips, or red pens. He didn’t need a textbook or a list of important words hanging on a wall. He had followers, or students, because of the example He gave. He taught with kindness, loaves and fishes, and a fisherman’s net. He taught with stories, ones that made you think. He never held a teaching license, never had a key to a building, never graded a stack of papers, and never had a chair to call his own. His teaching was nomadic, but clearly effective. I have to wonder if He knew the difference He was making. I’ve always heard that if a student didn’t know how much you care, he won’t care what you know. I’d say Jesus probably understood this better than most.

So I guess I am left having to take a note from what Jesus never said, but instead did. I’ll travel from classroom to classroom sharing a chair with some great teachers. My message is different, and not as important, but it is what I am supposed to do. I’ll do it with a willing heart knowing I don’t have to have a key on a key ring, a red Swingline stapler with my name emblazed across the top, a bookshelf full of curriculum, or a chair to call my own. After all, the greatest gift a teacher can give his or her students is to never stop learning. So far, I’ve learned a lot about teaching from students, content that I normally don’t come into contact with, and about myself.

Who needs a chair? Real teachers never sit down anyway.

Not Quite Found, But Safe and Sound

When I was about 13 years old my friend Kelli and I decided to walk to another friend’s house.  It didn’t seem like that far of a walk, there was safety in numbers, and we thought we were adults. (We were really really wrong.) Really long story short, we got lost.  We thought we knew where we were. We had our landmarks, were in the woods, and after walking for at least 2 hours we never made it to our friend’s house.  The woods simply got the best of us that day.  To make matters worse just as I stated that things could not get worse the heavens opened and poured rain and we heard a sound of thunder.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this the last few months.  You think because you know your way around somewhere and you have landmarks,  you are safe from getting lost.  This is just not true.  I got lost on my way home this year, metaphorically speaking, and I felt like I knew exactly where I was going.  I felt like I had a plan on how to get there, and just when I thought I had it all figured out, the metaphorical rain started pouring from the sky.

Every little piece of us makes up the whole.  When we feel broken, we forget that even while we are broken, our parts are still there.  You can be broken and still be a whole person.  Sometimes we find the pieces of ourselves in the places we wouldn’t think to look, and for me the place I wouldn’t have thought to look is in the rear view mirror.  While I’ve been feeling lost I’ve come into contact with a few folks that I felt like had already come into my life and had gone out of it forever.  I think sometimes people are in our path to remind us of who we were before we got lost.  We all can use a reminder sometimes.

When my oldest child started middle school she joined  a club sponsored by my former 8th grade middle school teacher. She came home and said she wanted to join a club, and she told me the teacher’s name.  A few weeks prior to that the same teacher and I had a conversation at the front of the school on registration day.  This teacher played a huge part in why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place.  I was a teacher’s aide for him in 9th and 10th grade during my study hall because the schools were right next door to each other.  I was allowed to grade papers, decorate the bulletin board with wild abandon, and help students if they needed extra help sometimes.  So, here I was, fresh out of a teaching job because my contract wasn’t renewed, and here he was reminding me of the things that caused me to want to teach in the first place.  I needed that reminder, and I’m glad to have crossed paths again. I’m blessed that now his legacy will extend to my child.  I picked up a piece of myself that day that I had neglected to think about in many years.

This week I was substituting my final few days  in Algebra 1 and my 7th grade homeroom and math teacher walked in the door.  She smiled a big smile.  She came straight over and hugged me, and said my name.  She said my name, and I hadn’t seen this lady in 22 years.  She was one of my favorites, but more importantly she was the first person that showed me what it meant to be in a middle school.  That was a scary time, but she helped me grow my confidence, and her sense of humor always made math fun.  I knew she was important to me, and she held relevance to my life.  But it was her that said my name first.  That meant somehow my life in her class hadn’t been forgotten.  After she left I found myself smiling the biggest smile and tearing up at the same time.  A teacher makes a huge impact, and to be remembered brightened my day.  It made me hope that one day, I will remember a student’s name I run across, even 22 years after they sit in a classroom with me.  It was just a moment to her, running across a long lost student, but I picked up another piece of me.

Some pieces of ourselves aren’t pretty.  Some pieces have doubts, confusions, hurts, anger, and failures.  It’s the rare person that can tackle those parts of us and not grow weary, but another person I knew from long ago came back into my life last year and did just that.  This friend is the reason I told my students in Algebra on the first day to be very nice to people this year because you never know if your friend that can help fight your worst battles in a few decades will be sitting near you in Algebra class.  Some people don’t just give you one piece of yourself back.  Some people hold up a mirror and make you see the whole person again.  You just can’t put a price on that.

Some words aren’t big enough.  Some words attempt to convey meanings, but never can cover exactly what you are trying to say.  Sometimes your heart is so full you can’t fully impart upon others the exactness of the spirit of your words. I have had moments in the past year that have helped me pick up pieces and decrease the amount of lost I feel.  I am surrounded by fantastic people.  Grateful doesn’t quite cover it, and even when you are still kind of lost, grateful feels pretty good.