Your Worst Nightmare

It was a long week. I lay awake at 3am Wednesday morning. I wept on my drive home. I was so angry my fingers shook. I sobbed in my upstairs hallway.

But Thursday was different.

I realized yesterday that I’m your worst nightmare.

  • A woman
  • Well-educated, with multiple degrees
  • Minority
  • Non-religious
  • Feminist
  • Pro-Choice
  • Liberal
  • Anti-racist, equality seeker
  • Opinionated
  • LGBT ally
  • Informed
  • Voter
  • Unafraid
  • (and what the heck let’s add this one, too) Animal loving vegetarian

And I am your child’s teacher.

I am that list (and more) and I get up every day and teach your kids how to question, think, and read. I don’t tell anyone about the list of things that I am. I demonstrate a lot of it without saying a word. I am teaching your children how to write well and research but I’m also teaching them how to respect and understand people, to be a kind and tolerant human, because that’s what I demonstrate every day, quietly, in my classroom.

Some of your kids will grow up and adopt your same dying and narrow-minded beliefs. But just as many will learn from the kindness, love, and tolerance of teachers, mentors, friends, and communities and then, and this is the scary part for you, I know, there will be more people who have a list just like mine. I know that’s why this is happening now, this week, and for the next 4 years. I know that’s why you made the choices you did, voted the way you did, even if you don’t know it yourself.

But the truth is: You can’t change my list of things. You can’t stop me from being what I am. I can’t be scrubbed out. I don’t have to be loud to make a difference. I’ll still be teaching your kids in a year, in 5 years, 10, 20, and 30 years. There will always be hatred and intolerance but, just the same, there will always be people like me.

I’m your worst nightmare and I’m not going anywhere.

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One Reason

TeachingThe bell has just rang. It is the end of a long, tiring Monday. A 6th grade girl stays behind as the others leave.

6th grade girl: Ms. G., I can tell you’ve had a long day. I just want you to know you’re a great teacher.

And that right there is the one reason those long, tiring days are worth it.

Hope and The Closet Sap

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This way, sappy pants.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately.

At the school where I teach, one of our new  year themes is hope. Gallup defines hope as “seeing the future as better than the present”. Hopeful people, Gallup says, believe they have the power to make their future so. Gallup also has lots of handy studies on how hopeful students fair better in school and life than their non-hopeful counterparts. Admittedly, I haven’t read all of the studies or the book about the research, but I can’t really find much to scoff about here.

After all, what’s wrong with a little hope?

I can remember, as early as middle school, telling myself that what’s next would be better. I don’t know how I figured it out or why, but I just knew that once I jumped through all the hoops of school and the sorrows of adolescent longing and drama that life would become infinitley better.

And I was right. There were some ups and downs along the way, but all in all, every year has been better than the last. I don’t see why that should ever have to stop. I’m not afraid of moving forward. The thing that always filled me with the greatest anxiety was remembering the past too vividly. Nostalgia has it’s place, but I always hated that feeling of stuck. Stuck in what was, stuck in memories (The not so pleasant ones anyway. After all, do we ever relaly get stuck, unable to budge from the great ones? No. Those have a curious lightness to them. Easy to recall and easy to file away for another time.)

I’m still looking forward to the future. It’s the little things, the big things, and the everyday things all pressed together and indistinct before me that I can’t wait for. It’s the future things like: where we’ll live next year, and when we can afford a house. What color will I paint the walls? Will I agonize over them, or will I know for sure, without a doubt that this color will do much better than this one? Our first dog will be a corgi. I’m sure summer time dog training will be hot and muggy and drooly and I’ll love every minute of it. In less than two year the rest of my loans will be paid off and we’ll be debt free.  I imagine, weekly, the last time I have to press the ‘pay now’ button. There will be traveling and cooking and probably more school at some point (but that doesn’t really fill me with hope yet, I’ll be honest). There’s the flowers that I know Chris will buy me for no reason, date nights, and throwing grill out parties for our friends on our someday huge patio in our someday manicured backyard (now there’s a hope). There’s the potential for Chris’s new and better job (and universe, if you are listening, I know you will make this so) and all the wonderful yet-to-happen times with family and friends. There are the students who will come back and visit and I will be, I know, so happy to see them happy and healthy, and thriving. There is holding my husband’s hand until there are wrinkles along our knuckles and faces because we have too, too much fun together.

The day to day can be tiring and draining, but there is always the next day to look forward to, the next year, the next decade. I may be a closet sap. I may not like to talk to much out loud about the things inside my head and heart, but the future has always made me tick, and I think, I know, it’ll be better than today.

And really, today wasn’t bad at all so that most certainly tells you something.

Belief is a Five Foot Two Deoderant Free Child

SchoolI am not a religious person. Every now and again, I am faced with the question “what do you believe“? It is not a difficult question to answer, though it could be for lots and lots of tricky reasons that people like to get mad or sad about. But this is not a post about labels or lack of belief.

In fact, it is about belief.

I believe in people. Sometimes that’s hard to hold firm and to affirm. I believe and know that people are good.  Some days my faith in people is shaken, because I also believe and know that people can be bad. On those days, if you were to ask me what I believe in, I would say that I always, always, aways believe in kids. Always. That is one reason I teach, because above all else, I will always believe in my kids, your kids, the kids in the one room school-house, the kids who skip school, the hand raisers, the grade skippers, the ones who hate to read. I will always believe in them.

You probably think I am crazy. Kids? Middle schoolers? You rest your belief in something five foot two that hasn’t discovered deodorant yet? you ask. Yes. Yes, I do, and let me tell you why.

I believe in their potential to change the world in small, everyday ways. I believe that they will discover things that will change they way we live, save lives, encourage one another, change systems that are broken, and stand up for what a generation before them could not, tried to but failed to. I believe in them because the world hasn’t had the chance to try and turn them into “people” and they have yet to make choices that might weigh them down or might, someday, shake my faith in humanity.

I believe in them because when I teach, I see them thinking, creating, and wondering and they are so brilliant it makes me want to cry and hug them and shake them by their shoulders and tell them that the world is theirs, do good, work hard, you are my hopes and my dreams. And they are. They give me hope, especially when I start to lose my faith in the rest of the people.

They give me hope because they wave hello, they open doors for one another, they say thank you, or they don’t, but I catch the gratitude in some other way on some other day. They give me hope when they make me laugh, and even when they test my patience, when they talk too much or throw a standing ovation temper tantrum at 12 because I think, this is just the beginning, and you have so much more to give.

They give me hope when they are kind, as no one else but a child can be, when they put a hand on a friend’s shoulder and say, “Hey, buddy, you look down today. Are you doing ok?”

How can you not believe in the potential of people when you see that a foot in front of you?

So, I believe in kids and because of them, I believe in people and all of the goodness that they can do. And some day they’ll figure out the deodorant thing, I know it.