that perfect hand…

In Ocean's 11, Danny said that "the house always wins. If you play long enough, never change the stakes, then the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big… and then, you take the house." Here's the hand I've been dealt, sometimes it's risky and sometimes it's safe, but all the time… it's perfect. It's mine.

immensity

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Immensity –> vastness, enormous extent; immeasurable, boundless.

I don’t know how I could come out of this unchanged — don’t ever believe someone who says that you can’t make a difference in two months. I’ve seen evidence of this, I carry it as truth. It also scares the hell out of me.

Ever feel like you’re playing witness to a situation or life from the outside? That’s the only way I can describe this confusing, can’t-quite-place-it, where am I, feeling of today: like I just spent two months as an outsider looking in on my own experience that I am now trying to comment on.

Really? Did that all just happen? The extreme is a bit audacious — one minute there are 93 students depending on me, the next morning there are none. It’s a fragile, life altering thing — teaching.

From day one, I felt set up for failure. There were stumbling blocks in my path coming every which way. Some I shared, and some I tucked into the crevasses of my heart — embarrassed and humbled and terrified that I just may not be able to do this. My first practicum was easy in comparison. I knew for months in advance what I was teaching, where I was going, how to work the photocopier, how to log onto the computers. This time? I knew for two weeks what I was teaching and did not have a computer log on until the second month. I felt like a yard sale on the first day, I simply had to trust that things would work out how they were supposed to — it’s the only thing I could semi-control.

But, like anything new, I learned more than I anticipated and was challenged the whole way through. I learned that what I cannot tolerate, I REALLY cannot tolerate… and thus, once in awhile heard a booming, stern voice coming from me even though I couldn’t recognize where the passion came from… this shocked me, and found me in the bathroom on a couple of occasions with tears! I didn’t know what I couldn’t handle until there I was, trying to handle it! Bullying each other and talking while others were speaking were the biggest ones — I felt my shoulders and neck muscles seizing every time one of my students was belittled, degraded, or ignored by his own peer. That is totally lost on me — how could they dare treat one another like that? The coolest part of my practicum was seeing this dissipate as my lack of tolerance for this behaviour and their trust in me made it okay to stop being cruel; to stop talking out of turn. There were good days and bad days but it was pretty powerful to witness progress…both academically and socially. Those kids were getting it and suddenly, the responsibility for themselves and eachother was quietly becoming their own.

Ask anyone and they’ll say they were blessed with the coolest kids. I would argue mine were better. 🙂 The demographic where I was opened my eyes to a truth that I’ve long since ignored — not everyone has parents like mine or families or homes or simple love. Slowly, but deliberately, my cozy haven of a world unraveled as I guided my classes into a collaborative, safe environment where they could share their truths — and some of those were really difficult to hear. I thrive on human connection and the weeks passed by with me not being able to leave the classroom at lunch because kids were forever stopping in to share. I wouldn’t say I am the most gifted teacher, I would argue anyone that would say I am any good… but I think my gifting and heart made the connections easy to form, yet how in the world do I walk away from them? Or do it, authentically, over and over again?

English was easy, social studies was hard. My teacher mentor for social studies fell ill and was unable to mentor me so I was teaching social studies 11 on my own, no guidance or insights into whether I was doing it “right” or not. It was an awkward, unfulfilled challenge — I felt like I was failing all over the place with no one to step in an catch me when I needed it. But someone trusted me and somehow, that was justified as ability. I couldn’t do it, could I? Immense.

Something else that mattered more that I thought it would was that I was not alone. My first practicum, as the only student teacher out there, my world felt so huge and full but some days were difficult to be motivated and confident in my ideas or concerns because I had no one to share them with. When I found out that Scott and I were placed at the same school, I think a few high fives were exchanged. Yet as the weeks progressed this fall, the privilege of teaching out there went beyond the kids and my practice but going through it with a good friend. I felt unworthy of the support, the drives along that windy road were shorter and shorter as having someone to share the experience with became a lifeline. It was hard and challenging…but I was inspired by Scott’s honesty and perseverance, especially when I felt like emotion and exhaustion were getting the better of me. I’m just glad it was him. Period. It was simply a privilege, having someone else to talk to, to listen to, to look forward to, who knew when things weren’t right, to care and share lunch with and remind me of my own truths when it all seemed to be too much; when it felt like I really was this outsider playing witness to something immense.

And then, having the rest of those I care about so close — it was really nice to teach “alongside” some of my favourite pre-service teachers…not in the same school, but being in the same city this time made hugs and conversations and Saturday morning visits and Friday nights to connect become a real dependency to know that everything would be okay. ‘Cause sometimes? It really felt like it wasn’t.

I am not quite sure what else I feel. I want that perfect song or right poem or rich cup of coffee that I can use to be a stand-in, something tangible, for an experience I have yet to grasp or really understand. All that I am sure of is that I am playing a role in something much, much bigger than myself and that in itself adds an element of grace to my life.

Feeling? Blessed. Tired. Exhausted. Sick. Thrilled. Inspired. Inferior. Old. Worthy. Unworthy. Stretched. Unsure. Able. Overwhelmed.

Grateful. I am feeling grateful. I learned so much. 2 months made a difference; all the difference in the world.

 

 

I am a teacher now. The immensity of that statement does little to understate my experience. It’s kinda cool though.

 

What now? “Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ~Gilda Radner

 

Cheers.

 

 



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3 thoughts on “immensity

  1. I love the quote about not knowing. I feel that for a long while I have been struggling against this notion of being unsure. I am used to feeling inferior to other people in the world who have it “figured out” as far as I can see. I am starting to understand that the uncertainty perpetuates and it is me who must change as this truth of not knowing will not.

    You’ve really nailed this experience in terms of the emotions that I am dealing with at this point. I suppose I’ve been looking for answers, and this may be cliche, but all I keep finding are more questions. I realize, in reading this entry, that it is me who must make the change; be the change. The most immense lesson that I have learned while trying to communicate lessons to others is simply this: Teaching is Learning. Whether I will end up doing it in a traditional way is still to be revealed to me, but I am blessed and grateful, as you are, to be a part of this amazing vocation in the world. My friend told me once that that word ‘vocation’ comes from a latin term for ‘voice’ and this experience will give us a voice in this world. How amazing is that?

    Most people would never consider attempting what we have just accomplished. Take that in for a moment. It is clear to me that you have a powerful gift in the giving of yourself. At first, i have to be honest, I was unsure how to understand that about you, but now i feel blessed to have been touched by it. Make sure that you take care of yourself, I think you would give it all away if you could, and that will leave you with nothing left. You MUST keep some love for yourself in order to continue to love others, otherwise your voice will be lost. One of the last things that my supervisor said to me before he left on friday was that he worries that I am at high risk of burn out. He said I am already too emotionally involved and that I need to learn how to keep my distance while still doing my job. This is something you and I will struggle with together.

    Who knows where this will lead? I am starting to feel more and more comfortable with the unknown – it is terribly exciting. One thing is for certain: It is all happening now. I’m so proud of you and I wish you the best success in the bright future that awaits you.

  2. Congratulations Ms. Stam!

    “Oh, the places you’ll go!”

  3. Pingback: insurmountable? « that perfect hand…

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