Book 9 of 2021—don’t judge how far behind my goal I am. Packing and moving killed my reading this spring and summer. It turns out sitting around and reading when there are boxes to pack made me feel like I should have been packing instead… anyway.
On to Book Thoughts:
I enjoyed the read; I read it in about a day and a half. For some reason I’m not mourning the characters as much as I usually do, but I think that might be because either (1) the title mentally prepared me to lose them and / or (2) I didn’t identify with the characters a whole lot. I don’t usually read books with teen male protagonists, but it was really neat to be in their heads. At the end of the book, the author writes an essay addressing some aspects of the book (including criticism over the title), and he reveals how much he identifies with one of the characters. The thought processes are authentic. It’s not someone guessing “if I were a teen boy, how would I feel?”
On that note, I’m basically the same age as the author and he is on his 4th book. Nothing like reading about his book tour in Denmark to make me feel like I’ve accomplished nothing in my life 😅😐
What stands out? Oh my goodness. So much. First, the concept. I wouldn’t put this book in the “dystopian” genre at all. It’s our contemporary world with one simple change: around midnight on the day you die, someone calls you to let you know, so you can make the most of your last (up to) 24hrs on Earth. What would you do with a day if you knew it was your last?
Next, the concept of connection runs deep in this book. If you don’t pick up on subtleties on the first read, definitely read it a second time. Every character, every action, every moment is connected. It’s a good reminder that our actions impact others.
Lastly, what you probably already know is a theme in the book: Don’t take the moments for granted. The moments matter. Our culture robs us of moments. Consumerism, materialism, capitalism: these systems work together to ensure we have the best, the most, the newest, but they also rob us of time. We are all guilty of chasing the money or the promotion or setting aside our family to do the job that will get us the money or the promotion. Why? So we can have the resources to enjoy the moments, later. Always later. Until one day, later is gone.
I found out this morning that a student of mine lost his dad earlier this week. Writing helps me process, so here:
The day your world turned upside down, the day your heart was ripped into a million pieces, the day you learned your parents aren’t infalible immortal superhumans like you thought they were when you were 4? That day always comes too soon.
The day the black hole in your heart is formed and feels like it might suck all of you in with it, the day you learn the depth of loss and just keep falling, the day you wonder if the vacancy you feel today can be healed tomorrow— it’s the day you can’t think of moving on because there is no image of the future, no template for what tomorrow looks like without them there.
Tomorrow comes anyway, without regard for yesterday. And one of these tomorrows when the pain is still there, you’ll get up anyway. And it will still hurt, but that’s not the point. ❤️
The other day I was asked how long I’ve been speaking Spanish. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that I started learning Spanish 15 and a half years ago. I remember that exactly, specifically. I was a high school sophomore signed up in the only foreign language class my 1A high school offered. I didn’t know I’d be walking into a class that would change the course of my life, offer me relationships across the globe, give me opportunities I couldn’t even imagine at that point in my life. I DID know that the majority of my classes bored me to no end. I knew that this one would be a challenge; it would be new. It would be, if I am completely honest, a much needed distraction.
I had just spent the summer working full time on a peach orchard under the table. I was racking up ag hours, but I was also using my paycheck to buy groceries because my mom was sick and couldn’t work much anymore.
And again, if I’m completely honest, in those classes that couldn’t occupy my mind, I spent my time thinking about things I couldn’t fix. And dancing around a truth I couldn’t yet see. And pretending I was ok.
So when I walked into sophomore Spanish 1, I wasn’t expecting to go from learning “hola” to teaching hundreds of students at every level of Spanish K-12 and Spanish 1- AP Spanish Literature. I wasn’t expecting to have a teacher who somehow when I wrote “Yo tengo el taco” read: actually, my mom is dying and I’m not as ok as I seem, oh, and I’m going to move 1000 miles away and might need a rain jacket— but she did.
So for over half my life, I’ve been bilingual. And tomorrow marks 15 years since my mother passed away. And, if I’m honest, Spanish is part of the reason I made it this far in (mostly) one piece. And a teacher, one in a long line of teachers who made a difference along the way. That, and a rain jacket.
P.S. Here is a picture of me in said jacket, 6 years later in Costa Rica with Billy Ray Cyrus, looking like a dork because I fell backwards directly into him right was as the picture was snapped.
I think we all have moments as parents when the weight of parenthood truly and suddenly sits on us. It happens in cycles: the weight of keeping the kids alive, the weight of keeping them safe, the weight of protecting their minds, guiding them through the many crises of life. It can be heavy.
That’s the weight educators on every level are feeling right now. We all feel the weight of educating the minds of our children in a time when circumstances aren’t ideal. And it’s heavy. It’s chaos, but we need to provide order. It’s distant but we need to make it feel like home. It’s being given every tool and material from Lowe’s, but we need to build the house and everyone on our team is constructing one on their own lot too, so while we can share the tips and tricks, we’ve got to do it ourselves. It’s building the plane as we fly, (and pass out the snacks). And the whole time aware that the mission is critical and the people on the plane and in the house are children who need you and you can’t break but you are broken and it’s time for take off and you never learned to rivet, but by God, planes need rivets.
It’s triumphs over little things and tears over big things and the diligent hum of everyone hammering out things as we learn and building and rebuilding because sometimes it’s wrong.
I’m just full of thoughts.
I’m not sure I’m a “glass half-full” or “glass half-empty” or “there’s water in that glass” or “it’s 2020, don’t trust it!” Kind of person. But I do know this: I’m struggling. And I don’t think our profession will make it through this without some much needed honesty going forward.
Today was a day I desperately needed. It was a good day.
Problems are being solved. Did we order enough digital accounts for my students to have access to the digital curriculum this year? Yes. Did anyone think about how all these kids are going to charge their chromebooks in the building? Yes. What happens if I can’t post my digital lessons in time for today? Don’t worry, we’ve got a solve for that.
I got to see human adults. I got to socialize. In a group (socially distanced and masked up). With people who aren’t my children. PRAISE THE LORD.
I felt affirmed. Someone told me I had a good idea. Then I told it to someone, and they listened. Then my boss told me he believes in me. That’s a damn good day.
The boys both got to meet their teachers–and we won the teacher lottery with both, FOR SURE! I work in a different district than my boys attend. Even when we were together, I never stepped in and requested a teacher. I didn’t this year, but for the first time, I did meet with the principal to share some of the concerns I have about my incoming first grader. I feel heard. I didn’t ask for a specific teacher, and we would have taken whatever we got, but we did request someone calm and patient (but firm). And we got it. And I know God had His hand in the mix.
THEN, we went to meet the duo that will teach my 3rd grader. I’ve been nervous about my little asthmatic changing classes in the age of COVID. Why couldn’t they be self-contained??? BUT. Again, it was handled. His teachers are the pair that are taking on the virtual class. So while he is with his math teacher, the reading teacher will be virtual. And then they’ll switch. So, he won’t have to enter a room after lunch that 24 other kids were siting in just 25 minutes prior. And on top of that, they happen to be an amazing pair. I couldn’t have asked for more!
I’ve been a ball of anxiety because the future looks so uncertain at every turn, but I’m feeling better. Why? Because I’m surrounded with good people at work. And my kids are going to be with good people at school. And I don’t just mean “good people”. I mean GOOD people–the best people– who are going to go the extra mile and make sure everything turns out in the end. And I know that whether this year is a breeze or a mess of chaos, we’re going to be ok.
p.s. Pic of the gift we gave each teacher tonight! If you didn’t know these existed, you do now!
Tomorrow I go back to work (physically, no more working from home!) exactly 5 months after our building was closed for COVID. #AllTheFeels
If I’m being honest, I have reservations about going back…
But more than every reservation, I’m excited. I’ve spent the summer drooling over curriculum and planning. I’ve spent the summer wishing I’d gotten those extra months with my students. I’ve spent the summer (and extra-long Spring Break 2020/ Crisis Schooling 101) remembering why I work outside the home 😅. I’ve loved being home with my boys… and now we’re all ready to get back to a new normal. Hopefully a safe normal. Undoubtedly a challenging normal. But I’m. R. E. A. D. Y.
Ready to see my coworkers and joke in the hallway. Ready to collect on my free lunch from a bet we made in June. Ready to train on new tech. Ready to plan. (And re-plan when the plan doesn’t go to plan 🤷🏻♀️) Ready to meet my kids. (The un-biological ones I get a new batch of each year) Ready to teach someone that isn’t obligated to ignore everything I say the first 50x (like MT and JL are…)
Ready for my staff meeting burrito. 😋 With green sauce. Because #Eagles gotta eat.
Back to those reservations. Pray for all the teachers and staff of your schools. We are all going to be working incredibly hard to give everyone (online and in-person) an equitable educational experience. We’re going to spend weeks training on new tech so we can DO. IT. RIGHT. We’re going to be training on a million and one ways to keep kids safe in-person. We’re going to add a whole extra layer to our jobs as we teach online and in-person simultaneously. We’re going to take on exposure to easily over 100 people a day in the name of learning. So yeah. Pray for us. A lot. Every day. Without ceasing.
Take a journey with me, to a land far away, a land of dreams and nightmares…
I’m in a classroom surrounded by all my anxieties about the upcoming year. Teaching in person and online simultaneously. Getting Covid. Spreading it. Being too lax. Being so uptight it breeds fear. Not having enough time to do it all. Not being my best for my students. Failing them when they need me.
I stop. I breathe. I calmly affirm that I’m ready. 2020 has thrown almost anything it can at us already. We’ve got this; I’ve got this. I stand at peace with whatever comes next.
Suddenly I’m roused awake by chaotic barking. 6:54 am. I hear the back door crack open. Matthew sets the dogs loose on whatever it was. Then, from behind the safety of the screen door, Matthew screams, “SKUNK!!!!!”
I’m out of bed. Bobby is yelling, “get the dogs in! Get the dogs in!” But it’s too late. I arrive at the back door in time to watch the dogs rolling in grass and drooling profusely in an effort to clear the stench.
America is not a place. She is an idea, an ideal, something we strive for and often fall short of. To all who have served in any capacity, as soldiers, as first responders, as civil servants, as educators: THIS is the thing we try to create, the thing many have given their lives for, dedicated careers to, the thing so many abandon their homelands to seek: America in all her glory. She is not a place. She is an ideal.