Steel-Souled Shoes

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.

Care: The Seed

“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.

 

Did You Know You Are an Angel?

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.