The mind has the ability to digest any truth that is read, and in turn have the spirit chime in that, yes, it rings true. We are creations that have inherited The Truth of The Universe, which knows no language or form. By default we possess this inner knowing, and sometimes we hear and read symbols on earth that resonate with this wisdom, that sing the tune of Truth we feel deep in our chests.
We receive these signals, then we go back to work–the tending, the caring, the abiding by, the responding–we are left with our patterns: the coats we have tried on, the shawls left on a sidewalk for someone else to use, ones so invisible to us that we have adopted them as a part of our skins, some removed then recovered in a later time of life, others stumbled into, given to us, then coats our earth guardians have zipped up to our chins upon being brought into the world. Coats that distract us from the core of our knowing. Coats that we needed until we realized we didn’t. But there is always the return, the promise of moments in time when we remember who we are–when the sun rises and presents a color we haven’t witnessed before, yet somehow recognize, the slip of the tongue of children around us–their simple questions worth asking that tell us systems we deem as ultimate, are not so ultimate after all, and then when we read a message delivered in such a way, that it speaks directly to the God within. Moments in meditation when we reach The Realm of Simply Being, when chords are sequentially delivered from the divine, their melodies like the palms of heaven’s hands, cupped delicately over your ears, and then sometimes the moment is in those brief milliseconds upon waking, before remembering our bodies, our walls, our obligations. These moments present themselves all life long, and in between those moments we wear our coats, and try to move along as the world is moving along, between sun rise and sun down, stepping into footsteps, looking for pathways, finding temporary comfort in coats familiar.
Then there are chapters of times in our lives, where instead of living between these moments, we are among them, when we consistently remember we have machete’s to find a clearing in The Wild, we have our songs and our hands and our blood. Blood unlike, yet very much a part of, the blood that came before us, that created us, carried us, the blood of our neighbors, the blood in the winged above, the blood in the cold below. Blood of mineral and iron and stories–stories made of coats that were gifts, that were left behind, worn until ragged, made anew, dipped in spring water, buried in ash. We are actively alive and inside of every story made up of these Truth Moments, where messages were delivered, and Remembrance Rang through. All the blood before and beyond, given their very own messages of the same Exquisite Infinite.
May waves of these Truth Moments take hold of us all, and carry us for longer and longer amounts of time in all of time’s capacities. May we gain a way of weaving ourselves through our words and actions that are rooted in these Rememberings we all carry. And may we take the time to deliberately remember.
May mothers remember the daughters within themselves, and laugh with mouths so wide-open that they taste sun, and drink in moon–may our feet made-for-dirt and sky, find no inhibitions in our dances, our greetings, our runnings, our work.
May fathers remember the sons within themselves, and pause along pathways to ask their why’s, and how’s, and what for’s–may their throats thirst for Truth, and be quenched in returning to connectivity.
May all of our vessels be recognized as Holy,
all of us look one another in the eye,
in recognition of the sacred.
May our coats be disregarded and used only for good–
celebrated, transmuted, taken off when too heavy.
May we hold the infinite wisdom, as residing in messages abound,
and infuse it’s simple potency into the invisible of our daily lives.
For the world transforms into more balance,
the longer we swim in those moments of remembering,
In every corner of the Earth there are paramount changes occurring. Systems in place that govern our lives are being turned inside out and upside down, as humanity gains awareness in the ways we have been indoctrinated by false idols as to what is normal, what is forbidden, what is accepted, what is truth. We are no longer accepting a “that is just the way it is” defeat—blurred lines between peace, and complacency. Every unspoken and age-old written rule stating “you must” is rebutted with a strong and sincerely posed question of “why?”. Why do we need to operate like this? Not only do we ask others these questions–we are asking ourselves why we have maneuvered, within each of our intricate roles, in the ways we have been maneuvering–contouring ourselves for the comfortability, easy digestion and consumption for a machine we can barely name for all it has infected, for far too long. Why are our priorities, priorities at all?
Education is no exception in our quest of why, in fact it is an integral component of this shift, for education has nothing to do with institution.
In recent years in every educational setting I have been a part of, there is an incessant complaint of teachers concerned with students “always on their phones”, and I have always found the demonizing of cellphones in classrooms to be a missed mark. As a millennial teacher, with social media accounts filled with connections in various parts of the world, of all ages, paths, and backgrounds, it is clear to me that there is a vast gap between awareness of our connection to The Whole, and the linear perspective only reaching so far as what our Facebook feed and local news can deliver. From a single Tweet, Instagram post, and TikTok, we are exposed to the beliefs and experiences of people in the state next-door, country above us, camp below us. We see into the living rooms of leaders, of the privileged, of poverty. Hidden cameras and leaked screenshots reveal and expose. Heroes have become human. Protests in our country have been broadcasted on livestreams of the accounts of “ordinary” people, coinciding with the telling of the very same events from the local newscaster, both stories on the same night contrasting in severity, tone, bias, honesty. Livestreams depicting unwarranted and severe police brutality, organized and peaceful protest are depicted by news channels as being “riots”, placing authority on pedestals, aghast at such unruly behavior by “deranged” citizens. If we already had little to no trust in our systems in place, the contrast in the telling of events between people and paid organizations has only affirmed our disbelief.
As we move into the school year of 2020-2021 gaining knowledge and experience of available virtual learning tools, we add more to our ability to access and reach our students. As I dissect every impulse within me to hang on to the ways in which face-to-face instruction is better in any way compared to virtual instruction, I am left with the simple truth that given a student has a device they can connect to WiFi, they are able to take ownership of, and expand upon their learning like never before. As educators we have the opportunity to enrich and inspire, reaching far beyond the restrictions of campus protocols border-lining on unnecessary policing. The driving force remains the same–are we filled with the intention to prepare students for a world as it is, and as the limitless and versatile world it is becoming? Or for systems of rigidity and rules we don’t believe in–a world that doesn’t exist, that is hanging on by the fragments of operations long since proven ineffective?
The neuroplasticity and patterns of thought of our students will always differ from our own, just as much as generations after them will differ from their own. As I piece material together, create videos, insert links that reference information, add a gif, play with html, I am able to control the steps in which information will be received, and on the student’s end they can move at a pace comfortable for themselves. There are opportunities to expand upon information, then options for deviation from the lessons in order to practice a skill, or gain more awareness of prerequisite information not yet learned.
I feel challenged, yes. But I also feel empowered, more passionate than ever, and ready to connect with and reach students in a time where connection and the ability to discern fact from fiction, is crucial. I have never taken my role as “teacher” lightly, and consider it an honor and tremendous responsibility. After recently overcoming many internal doubts I had of myself, as an educator in the school I am at, during this virtual era, I am realizing that everything I have experienced up until this point has, as usual, prepared me for where I am, with the team and students I am with. For every complaint or frustration a teacher has about teaching virtually, I have a dose of a silver lining for them, and I don’t hold back in my delivery.
In the future I foresee teaching to be an “independent contractor” type of role, as more and more parents opt for homeschooling, and students themselves seek answers, truth, sincerity and authentic instruction. I am willing and able to adapt, grow, and serve my students, connect with people and enrich the lives I come into contact with, whether I am under a blanket of an institution or not. Because education has never been about the building, or the system, or the mandated assessments. Education happens to all of us whether we enroll in a course or take a year off to live and work on a farm. What cannot be bought or given a certificate for is the passion for truth, for uplifting–the driving force of an educator, then the reverence and sacredness of the relationship between teacher and student. And perhaps this shift moving us to adapt, to re-frame, to scaffold, to put ourselves in the shoes of our “clientele” will remind us all of what education, truly is.
If you research the benefits of sunlight, there are medical websites that tell you about Vitamin D, it’s mood-enhancing and bone-strengthening qualities, and the way it responds to every cell in your body. Information, stories and discussions on the absorption of moonlight is predominantly affiliated with folklore, tales of turning into a werewolf, tarot sites, spiritual, mystical, and ultimately, separate from the scholarly and scientifically accredited playing field. Hardly a trace of experimentation, research, or any sign of minute inquiry can be detected from academia and science, into how, and then why, we are affected by the moon.
There are Ayurvedic1 studies done on the cooling impact moonbeams have on our nervous system, moonlight being beneficial for inflammation, regulating menstrual cycles, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, increasing fertility, and more. Ayurvedic medicinal practices and herbs are not recognized by the pharmaceutical world. Western medicinal practices relying heavily on pharmaceutical advancement do not highly favor or take seriously the traditions and holistic remedies of the earth. Where a bottle of turmeric powder says “anti-inflammatory”, “increases brain function”, “rich in antioxidants” there is a requirement by the Federal Drug Administration to place an asterisk next to those claims, disclaiming “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease”, discrediting long lines of work done by medicine practitioners, not-so-coincidentally of indigenous and non-European origin. Where is the inquiry, or the tests run, or at bare minimum the acknowledgment of preventative and highly-effective medicine? At this point in time more people are becoming aware of the flaws in the FDA, the invalidity of claims made in the past, claims made only to further an economic agenda or government interest.
We absorb the particles of our environment–fumes, compounds in our water, the type of light we are exposed to. Our skin is an organ that is constantly taking in what we expose it to–even the soap we use to wash our sheets and clothes is taken in. Toxins are released and our bodies work hard to assign everything consumed, to where it would be most useful. Nothing goes unaccounted for, and everything matters. Therefore, the light of the moon, like the light of the sun, is no different. It’s silver blanket and hypnotic radiance is absorbed, and where does it all go? What role does it play in the cells of our bodies? Through the blood in our veins, to our nervous system, what effect does it have on our brain? It moves our wombs—but why, and how? As we gaze into the piercing white light what happens behind our eyes? Moonlight illuminates the plants as they grow, the soil, the earth, so by way of the food we eat, and water we drink, what role is the moon playing? What effect does it have on the animals of the sea, the desert, the birds in the sky?
For the last two nights I was with family tucked away with no street light to disrupt circadian rhythm, and took a significant break from the light of my phone, just letting it completely die without a sense of urgency to charge it up right away. The moon peaked over the mountain around 10pm, to reflect off the water and beat down like a stadium light over a football field. The brightness entranced me–every leaf on the trees around us were as visible as if it were sunlight. Quarter-sized translucent frogs could be seen along the banks of the river; I could read the notes in my music book, and if I wanted to could have written pages upon pages under her glow. With the safety of having family nearby, and being far away from the busy suburbia of my apartment, I slept outside directly underneath the moon, legs sprawled out, hands crossed under my head, as calm as the animals sleeping around me.
As a reiki practitioner of seven years, becoming more and more attuned to the way my body responds to the environment around me, to what I consume in any way, to the way various energetic exchanges make me feel, the moon was medicine I didn’t know I needed. Nothing in the world could have stopped me from laying there, open to receive, cradled in silver.
I was not expecting to start my cycle for at least another two weeks, but on the same day as my brother’s wife, on the night I laid so openly under the moon, I started my cycle significantly earlier than expected. Her daughter was also on her cycle at the time. Where is the scientific and “administrative approved” information on something so widely accepted amongst women as just “something we do”? If it were something happening so closely in the lives of men, would we have more answers? While I am not hurried or demanding in any way to have an explanation, I find it “funny” that in matters such as these, we sweep it into a box of phenomenon not worth serious pursuit, experimentation, questioning, diving into the root and connection it has to all living things. There is still no certainty as to why women sync cycles when in close proximity to one another, or how or why the moon correlates. Ironically, as far as the “medical world” goes, a study lead by a woman named Martha McClintock at Harvard in the 70s2, found that amongst her dorm-mates, they were indeed syncing up and sharing cycles, but for that to be the closest thing to accredited knowledge for something so common and a part of our lives, shows how much more we need women, and I will also say non-white women3, to be in high ranking medical fields. We still have little to no information on the female orgasm, or on the variations of experiences we have with our vaginas in general–from menstruation to sex to miscellaneous occurrences, women have vastly different experiences from one another, which we are constantly uncovering variations of. While men have a very concrete understanding of their genitalia, girls scramble to exchange lessons taught to them, things they read on the internet, experiences had–even in this age of information at our fingertips, nobody really has a handle on so many mysteries of the ins and outs of life with ovaries, the same way we don’t really understand what moonbeams are good for, how they dictate our cycles, what is happening in the body when we absorb her light.
If we are dependent on peer-reviewed articles, or FDA-approved information, we would think the moon to be non-essential, not a vital part of life, not worth diving into. But we know better. The undercurrents of the psyche, hormones, a woman’s womb–the cells and electric currents of our bodies respond to moonbeams. I know it because I feel it, my body responds to the silver blanket over me, and the grass underneath me. There is a kind of charging and cleansing taking place. Tides are moved by the ocean, and surfers are able to predict where to go based on the time of year, based on the moon. Growing up we always knew that beaches would be filled with Portuguese man-o-war jelly-fish, or “blue bubbles” around the time of the full moon. The ocean would come up into yards, filled with debris from the shore–rocky and spewing. Then as nights pass and there is less silver, the tides return to being shallow, calm and still. Our bodies, and our wombs of gushing current are directly affected by her in the same way, reminding us we are a part of the earth, made of the earth, and return to earth. Rain falls and basins are washed clean, valleys of mountains are cleared, veins of the earth in motion.
I am ever-leaning in, to the space between worlds–between words written, words left out, words extracted, and that which cannot be explained with them. Across landscapes and cultures the moon is associated with feminine nature, and the sun associated with masculine. “Mother Moon, Father Sun.” Yin, (feminine, dark, still) and Yang (masculine, bright, moving) represent the dualism that is inherent in every living thing. As we restore balance on earth, and within ourselves, we lean into knowledge that has never left us. This Inner Knowing has always carried us–advantageous and feared.
Ayurveda is the traditional Hindu system of medicine, where everything you consume and absorb–every spice, herb, oil, and everything absorbed through the skin organ–is medicine and directly effects your organs and cells in your body.
I say non-white because many women of color have experiences, outlooks on life and background knowledge to offer that differs from what we think of as “normal” or “accepted”–often times providing more holistic and thorough approaches of preventative care vs. symptom treatment. We as human beings tend to operate within and by the means of the structures we have in place that we accept as-is. There are things in place that we question and want to change, then there are things in place we cannot possibly question because we don’t even see them as being in place at all, so acclimated to their positions in our lives. When we have people from different backgrounds and ways of life in positions of power, what we find is a more thorough and in-depth account of the subject. To take things further, we should question why current “positions of power” are more respected than if we encountered a medicine person without degree or title, in a place where degrees and titles do not equate to respectability, but I digress, per usual.
If it is a clean-shoe and giggling stroll through the park, on the crispest of days, you’ll always be yearning for fire, desperate for even a flicker. If it is wrapped in satin and bought at the mall, you’ll wonder what the cotton feels like that she made from pieces of her youth and drapes around her shoulders every full moon. If she sums it up with memes and words she never wrote, you’ll remember the maddening covet, propelling you from just a sentence once scribbled on your refrigerator. From the oval pattern of her steps leading to the passenger side of your car, to the song in her sighs, and sage oil in her hair, she is leaving you wishing to be able to explain the phenomenon, whether you are beside her, or watching her twirl under the water below you, 52 feet deep.
I hope that while you lick batter off of your fingers, you momentarily feel as though they are my own, and that the .02-second-moment leaves you mute for the entire day. When you are slipping on your smile-for-the-picture, teeth-baring grin, which you have practiced since the 1st grade, and you’re standing near the entrance of a cafe built in 1943, I hope that the melody to escape the splinter-ridden doors cradles itself onto your skin, and follows you home. You place it into the box of items you don’t have an answer to, a file cabinet, a category, a label for. And you continue to play it, long after you’ve forgotton all names.
She is entrancing you on your living room floor, adoring your heart by way of devotional movement. You wake up and wonder where your mind had to go in order to conjure such gestures. In your waking hours, in the layer of reality just under what can be seen, you spend your time looking out for anything as tantalizing as what you see in your dreams.
I hope she writes you poetry that scares your name out of you–yes. If she doesn’t invoke The Absolute Entirety of Your Heart, she isn’t the one. The Unravelling of The Fabric of All You Think You Know, waking up cooled beneathe branches of spider-webbed new, and dying-sinking trees, on earth men have not paved or trimmed for your ease or your liking, the truth swiftly moves to sit it’s page on your forehead: you have never fallen in love with The Woods, for how could you, if you’ve never set sail to meet her?
In all the tender reasons we fall for people, may The Ability to Fly be one of yours.
I know you like simple, straightforward and logical sequences that fit into an understanding militaristic, routined, and packaged. I know that a psychology textbook brings you momentary relief from the incessant plea for rationale–the ever-liquidating “Live, Laugh, Love” mug you hold in your hands. False Order giving you temporary satisfaction. This is not a homely or agreeable Tale of Good and Evil. Predictability will not suffice. A torn page in your Book of Being is in tatters on the street, and you’ve tried in vain to make your story meaningful without it. Kept afloat by definitions, you peel away at life vests you’ve been prescribed for too long. You long to be brave, to gaze deeply into the faces you don’t want others to see.
In my ELL classes we have been talking about words nationality and culture, exploring what they mean to us, having discussions in and outside of class, interweaving stories and perceptions from other people around the world by way of clips, Ted Talks, and reading about perspectives outside of Hawaii. Today’s discussions were exceptionally meaningful. Maybe because we have already been discussing these matters, so the kids have been warming up? I have been learning to ease into projects, and expose them to as much as possible before dropping the project rubric on them. We watched Ted Talk by Hetain Patel entitled Who am I? Think Again. In his talk he has dancer Yuyu Rau translate for him until he finally joins her in speaking something other than the repeated Mandarin paragraph he “learned by heart” during his visit to China He proceeds by using various accents, emphasizing his many experiences and suits of culture he has tried on for himself, bringing him closer to his own authenticity. Throughout the lesson we looked at the transcript, discussing words like assume, assumption, authentic and authenticity. Other words were gone over and of course each class was differentiated in our explorations, according to who was in class and what questions they had. (I had little to no input in discussions). Here are the highlights:
One boy, who is Vietnamese, said he is assumed to be Chinese when he goes to Chinatown with his aunty, and sometimes he will be spoken to in Chinese. He also said in a different part of class that he thinks more people in younger generations have a harder time answering questions about where they’re from or what their culture is.
One girl expressed how she wishes she did know more about her culture, often feeling left out in one group, then not completely a part of any single group. Springing from this we talked about what it feels like to not belong, and how there must be so many people in the world who feel this way.
In all classes, speaking about the word “assume” surprisingly brought on discussions about what we assume when we meet people, and why we construct those assumptions. The classes came up with clothes, skin color and then of course accent and language being main causes for our assumptions. We started to then go into why these assumptions are made and why they are different for each of us.
I split the class into groups of 3, having one person as recorder, one artist, and one leader. They had a blank white sheet of paper, a computer, and markers. Going through the transcript on the Ted Talk, (which also can be translated, and which was helpful for my Chinese, Korean and Japanese students) they had to record and illustrate all of the things they found that make Hetain who he is, authentically. Collections of visuals, quotes and words were written and drawn on the sheet such as “Born and Raised in England” “Bruce Lee philosophy” and “Indian clothes not COOL” and they each had to share their creations with the class.
Overall this was an interactive way to explore components of culture and discuss ways we’re authentic because of experiences, as well as the small and large pieces that make up our culture and identity.
I no longer say “Micronesian” when referring to any group in anyway; I list Chuukese, Marshallese, Kosraean, Yapese, Pohnpeian, Palauan, Woleaian, and there are probably more I’m missing. These are different languages, customs, traditions, and even dialects within the languages that sometimes don’t understand one another. As educators in Hawai’i we need to be more mindful and aware of the way we talk to, refer to, and handle decisions which affect students from these islands. We have to be careful we are not putting them al into the same “box”. We have to be careful about how we are making them feel about themselves. These kids are hurting for various reasons, from being separated from family members, being homesick and feeling suddenly deprived of all familiarity, then being mistaken for an identity they don’t understand. Some say they’d rather be referred to and thought of as “Polynesian” than openly share they are anything “Micronesian”. We have to take the time to learn about their thoughts. There are students who were raised here and speak English perfectly fine, yet they’re assumed to speak no English and are not called upon in class, or even challenged to rise to the occasion. I have had students tell me that upon arriving to their schools, their counselors immediately placed them into ESL classes without talking to them to find out if that was even needed. Students have shared that counselors question whether they passed classes in previous schools, and gave lower levels of math and science based on assumptions. Most students just let these kinds of things slide, eager to get by and not bring any attention to themselves. We have to take time to connect and get to know people we are handling and working amongst, despite the deadlines and procedures that surround us. The connection is what we are here for. When some first arrive, they are the kind of pure spirit that smiles and dances upon impulse, without shame or hesitation. They often love fishing, dancing and singing, and if you tell them to sit and work on something, it won’t be long before they’re looking out the window into the beautiful trees and at the birds. When they learn how to study for something, or understand a math concept for the first time, you’d be surprised at how they take that new understanding and run with it, excelling farther than you imagined. The structure of school does not allow them to show you everything they’ve got. Let’s change the way we lift them up and help them in a world they’re unfamiliar, (yet sometimes very familiar) with. Let’s let them be themselves and let them be proud of where they’re from. Let’s say their names right and over-applaud every small and big thing they accomplish. Let’s let them teach us. Let’s be real with them. Let’s simply love them and allow their innate desire to learn, express and excel simply be, without testing them with empty standards within a system which have no sincere meaning.
The above text was written after a particularly challenging week, and with a heavy heart about the way my students viewed themselves, and how many are being treated in and out of school. The following are links to articles with more information and depth into the issues they are facing in Hawaii.
This first link is from an article written in 2014 on Marshallese activist and poet, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, expressing views of being from these many islands of Micronesia, and growing up in Hawaii.
The second link is one I shared with my students, because I feel she is an excellent role model and example. It is her WordPress site, which includes her reciting her poem for environmental justice at the United Nations Climate Summit.
This fourth and final link is revealing just how open the public seems to be about their disapproval and racist remarks, to where at one point it was openly shared on the radio. I still hear comments and jokes made like this today, sometimes in the fun way we joke about ourselves here in Hawaii, but sometimes with intentions of being vicious, whether conscious or subconscious… It just needs to stop.
I return to this post and keep it close, sometimes adjusting wording but never deleting, because it reminds me of why it is important to keep your “mad spark”. Don’t you dare refrain from showing and pouring love onto anyone, while thinking of the lens’ of others. You Are Made For This. Looking silly often means you’re doing something right
my sweet, sweet hearts.
One night during my undergrad years of multiple jobs and express buses, a high school student got onto the late-night Ewa-beach-bound route with her family, decked out in her cap and gown, neck and chest filled with leis up to her ears. She got on by the Blaisdell Center, and I found it really strange that on a bus filled with people standing and wiggling their way around bodies just to get off, only 1-2 people said anything to her or addressed the fact that she had just graduated. As she got closer I beamed at her and her family, standing up so she or her mother could have my seat, and beamed a loud “Wow–congratulations!!!” After that exchange, a man in her group told me to never, ever change, and that people like me are needed. At the time, really needing to hear that, it rippled through me and I have never forgotten the rush of appreciation that I was simply me and bravely wore my heart on my sleeve. There was a tinge of nervousness but I knew if I were this girl, or a member of this family, I would have wanted at least someone to show some enthusiasm. I also know what it’s like to arrive and depart from a memorable life-marker of an event, via public transit. I have experienced shame from being at a busstop, while people are leaving in their cars, from a party, a class, a dance, a graduation…
Recently I was told, in a joking manner of course, based on some writing I did, which he didn’t understand or have a response to, “They say that, people who can’t DO, TEACH!” It stung, despite me knowing in my heart of hearts that it was untrue. I remained silent, and now that toxic person is far removed from my life, and I have formulated a response that he may never hear, and that is okay because it is more important my soul hears it. Truth is, I am GLAD it was said, because it allowed me to remember my gifts, my purpose, and my strength. I have also endured a few brunches and dinners where people are baffled at why I “don’t teach college, or at a private school”–not there is anything wrong with teaching at these institutions, and who is really to say that one day I won’t? Point is, I don’t simply teach English because I speak English, and I don’t teach because I can’t do. I teach because I feel everything so deeply, and to a degree his higher paycheck does not comprehend. I teach because it has only taken a few people, saying a few things to me, to lift my spirit for years on end. I teach because I have the ability to look at trash on the street at A’ala park, and see opportunity. I teach because I don’t have any fear of walking through that park and speaking with, and hugging strangers. I teach because I can find a way to laugh even without shoes, in the rain, after missing the last bus. I teach because I am built strong enough to do so. I teach because I know dark places need as many candles lit as possible, in order for peace on, and sustainability of, our earth. Most importantly, I teach because I CARE. Teaching is not about me. Like creating art, it is simply something I have to do, not something I flippantly choose to pursue. It’s a calling only people who have given in to their own calls would be able to understand.
Standing in the back of the bus on that night in May, I did not think I was going to become a teacher, and my mind was still focused on journalism as I considered tutoring and teaching to be enjoyable, yet only part-time gigs. Now, still busy as hell, and trying to find as many thrifty ways to live as possible, yet more secure than I was ever before, I am so happy that I DO what I DO–teach. And to be honest, every time someone like him comes along I imagine them in front of my most challenging classes, and just KNOW they wouldn’t be able to handle what I did, and then I just giggle and walk away.
“I tried, but he just doesn’t care!” Statements surrounding student achievement that revolve around the student(s) having no concern or care for their success always sting the space between my chest and pit of my stomach, where anger comes from. It is usually the kind of sting that results in frantic collections of things I could say in defense. I could say “Yes, they do care!” which needs to be followed by justification, and which in my first years of teaching I have had nothing to say. Recently, as I have been more vocal and defensive in conversations around the motivation kids do/do not have, then also because of more experiences with students, I have come up with a solid defense. This defense either sparks a fueled and solution-based discussion, or it is what stops the discussion entirely. Depending on the nature of the meeting and who is present, I have said it in different ways, but it is more or less the simple statement:
We need to show them they do care, and then what their individual reasons are for caring.
Any business trying to sell something will do their absolute best to show you why you need their product. Television commercials are manipulated to seep into your psyche and tell you you are not complete, without this one material, that you have the opportunity to buy. Insurance companies will instill fear in your mind in order for you to feel that you need their policy. Boutiques will hand you a basket and welcome you into their store, sometimes even complimenting you, in order to make you feel like you belong there. Travel agencies will choose the best images and people to model the luxury you could experience in a place other than your own, flashing a price at the very end of the advertisement, after your desire for that experience is strongly in place. These tactics are used in attempts to stir your emotions up, and they often become driving forces in people’s lives, altering and forming decisions people make with their money, and ultimately, their time.
Alongside the stream of blaring ads, and subtle yet sneaky commercials, there is also a blatant interweaving of corporations using social media, music and television shows targeted at youth which enhance the aspirations to escape. Escape your natural image, and escape your surroundings. There is hardly a promotion of education, and oftentimes more disenchantment than enthusiasm for learning.
These are things we are up against as educators, particularly public educators. It is our responsibility to mold the intrinsic passion, which is apparent in everyone, and on an individual basis show them they do care, what their reasons are for caring, and what they can do with that care. The reasons are not the same for everyone, which is why we don’t reach every single student. Equally so, the things they do with the care are not the same for everyone. As we are entering into this new era of technology, ease of communication, and accessible information, the fusion of career pathways and skills will be employed more and more. Individuals have unique skills that they can use for distinctive positions.
The first step of any endeavor is activating that place that causes us to take action with intention of performing at 100%. A leader wanting to move people into action will prepare a speech, have people look it over, then practice. The speech is intended to stir people, and transfer the amount of care the leader has, to the audience. The root of consistently doing something well, is always care. If you are a company looking to hire a new employee, and have two candidates, you would hire the one most passionate about the field–one with the drive to carry out the lengthiest of tasks, over the candidate with more experience, yet no passion. You want your business to move, grow, and expand, with precision and attention to detail. This kind of consistent work ethic requires a high level of care.
What if educators had this business standpoint about selling education to our students? What if we had to market our classes to students in order for them to buy in? Would we then go to great lengths, and stir up the enthusiasm of our clientele? What if the first couple of weeks of class were spent showing and instilling the care levels, on individual basis’? Like a football team preparing for their last game of the season, which would mean a championship, what if we reached their hearts and filled them with the kind of momentum that would make them stop at nothing until they had their goal? What if we spent time learning what made each of our kids tick instead of immediately assuming they all did for the same reasons?
Also, what if we all revisited our drive to become educators, and examine our own desires, our own care. Education for all, and bridging the achievement gap, largely depends on this root driving force of care. We need to have gallon sizes of love and care for our professions, and with that we can pass it on to our kids. We can try all the tactics in the world, and then continuously strive to “sell” education to our kids with the overflowing amount of care we nourish within us.
The melody of their voices in unison, as they sing their song to perform, mixed up in sporadic giggling outbursts, will come into my mind when I am in traffic or having a particularly chaotic day. Young women tied together by culture and also a bond of understanding something essential to this world. They have no idea they are angels and I want them to see themselves in this light. As they practiced their performances, speaking in their mother’s cadences, and braiding coconut leaves for wrists and ankles, I let the sweet sounds surround me in awe. In my eyes they are proud, sweet, fierce and gentle. Their smiles and spit-fire genuine laughter and attitudes of ultimate sass bring me so much happiness. I wish to plant the seed into their minds and hearts of confidence and knowing they are capable of the highest and most incomprehensible dreams. The things they are angry about, and the issues that bring them sadness are meant to be used as fuel for teaching love and fighting for justice. They are crucial to the upward spiral we are on as a humanity. I wish to plant impenetrable seeds of pride in their language, culture, and origins, so they spread it and broadcast it for endless civilizations to learn from. From the delicate and bold steps they take, to the light in their eyes when they speak to one another, they demonstrate how to glow. I want to sprinkle tiny seeds of the strongest trees that grow fruits of independence and goddesses demanding respect, humility and divine love from any man asking for their hands in marriage. I pray their hearts are upheld in glory, and they treat their bodies like the sacred and stunning temples they are. It is my intention to enhance their understanding in learning that they are capable of their wildest dreams, and then beyond even those.