Monday, June 23, 2014

Walk Cheerfully Over the World

Full Journey Moon

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This was written as a first word for my Quaker community, West Hills Friends. First words are a 3-5 minute report on how god is moving in your life right now. As the school year ends I have been thinking about my first year as a teacher, and this is definitely how god is moving in my life right now  :)


I made it. The last days of the school year are over and done with, grades entered, last paperwork filed and it is summer time! My first year teaching was hard. I mean, everyone said it was going to be hard, I knew it was going to be hard, but I had no idea it was going to be HARD. Like, really, really hard. Looking back on my year I am left with ambivalent feelings about how our public schools work, but I came away crazy in love with my students and with the science I have been trying to introduce them to this year. We go into teaching, especially teaching middle school, in the hopes of changing our students and changing the world but I walked out of my school that June afternoon knowing that I had been changed as well. In 1656 George Fox wrote a letter from jail in which he reminded Friends to "be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your life and conduct may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one; whereby in them ye may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you" 


I did not walk as cheerfully as I would have liked to through this first year of teaching. I showed up at school the same day the students did and felt like I was behind the curve every day. The schedule and pace of a modern middle school are grueling and I didn't yet know how to hold time and space for the kind of human interactions I always wanted to. I got tired, depressed and even angry sometimes. But that of God in each of my students cheerfully stepped forward and blessed me each day.

Middle schoolers are intense people. They are growing so quickly that their abilities, preferences and priorities change daily. Their emotions are right under the surface, but their defenses are high. Each and every one of them was a strange, amazing and special spark of light in my life this year. S--, a beautiful, tall girl who was so worried about failing that she wrote notes to me on each test about how sorry she was that she didn't know anything and was going to fail - and got As on all her tests. C--, a guy with a round freckled face and dark hair who came dressed as a zombie baseball player at Halloween and cried when I told him I was going to email his mom because a big project was still missing. Mom was not pleased, but didn't make a big deal out of it - just made him do the work and show it to me even though I said I wouldn't score it. D--, who couldn't sit still or control his voice for even 10 minutes at the beginning of the year and by the end of the year sat quietly while other's spoke, raised his hand and waited his turn, and shared his very thoughtful comments on natural resource use and robots. I love these kids in a way that I can't even understand, like the way I love god.

I might not have been the pattern or example I wanted to be every day. Modern public schools can be inhumane places where the schedule is more important than the people. I told kids to sit down and be quiet more often than I would like - but what are my alternatives when I have 38 thirteen year olds in a room with exactly 40 seats and twelve learning targets to "get through" in 9 months. But I must have been pattern enough to be a blessing and be blessed. Late in the spring, A--, a smiling faced, touseled hair guy who was always full of "did you know..."s, held the door for me one morning. I thanked him and he replied "Anything for my favorite science teacher!" I waited a beat, and then mock exclaimed "hey! I'm your ONLY science teacher!" M--, a tall, studious and quiet sixth grader blossomed socially this year in my class. At the beginning of the year she had a really hard time being in a group with a couple rowdy kids and at parent teacher conferences her mom said "You really saw Miranda and that made all the difference for her." By the end of the year she was holding her own against all the rowdies in the room. E--, a troubled young man who also loved science but shut down with any pressure to do work, agreed to a deal with me at the end of the year. If he wrote a paper on a topic of his choice I could give him a passing grade. He did, much to everyone's surprise - and it was good, and on time. His support teacher complimented me, "He has done more work for you this year than for any other teacher in this school this year or last."

George Fox wrote "Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your life and conduct may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one; whereby in them ye may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you" I guess this is why we become teachers, right? To be the kind of teacher we hope every kid can have, to change the world one person at a time. To be a human oriented person in a schedule oriented system. There's no guarantee that it is going to be easy, but in all the countries, places, islands and nations we can, with our life and conduct, walk cheerfully over the world and answer that of God in every one. Everyone, like B--, and L--, and O--, S--, and K--. George Fox claims it will bless them, and I know it has blessed me just to try.





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Full Journey Moon 2012: Splendiferous Adventures

Full Journey Moon 2011: June is Pagan Values Blogging Month

Full Journey Moon 2010: The Journey Moon

Full Journey Moon 2009: A Journey for the Journey Moon


This post is very much about my Quaker identity. Check out my other posts labled Quakers for more on that aspect of my spirituality and life.



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feistycuffs said...

Hi there! I landed here from your old blog about Food! :)
I clicked on the Jessica Prentice link and it took me somewhere slightly dubious: some kind of 404 message, with Asian alphabet (sorry, I don't know what language it is), and some ads that were a bit adult in nature. Thought you might want to know!

Cheers,

Lisa

Alyss said...

Thank you! I just fixed the link :)