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.


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immensity

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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a lot to say goodbye to…

My practicum ends tomorrow. I will talk about the overwhelming and unexpected feelings I have over that. For now, I am glad the stress and exhaustion and microscope-observation is ending, but I am going to miss those represented by these:

A lot.


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six in six

Finished six weeks of practicum so far, starting the seventh in about 2.5 hours and I’ve learned six things that I plan to elaborate on:

1. Being firm is difficult — I scare myself sometimes and have made myself cry (not in front of the kids, but later).

2. Support is invaluable; friend(s)/mentors who understand exactly what I am going through is an understated blessing.

3. I teach and lecture using my hands a lot.

4. There’s a balance between being selfless and selfish that I’m close to understanding — I am learning to care without getting emotional.

5. Sometimes being constantly challenged is not healthy (or so it feels, as I can barely keep my eyes open and it’s only Monday).

6. There is nothing cooler than adolescent youth.

 

… did I just say that?

 

Cheers!


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inspiring

I forgot the feeling of student teaching — learning a lot, not excelling at much. As I finished my first week, I was overwhelmed by all of the change and all of the pressure and importance and emotion of what I am doing. I don’t know how someone couldn’t do this without being overwhelmed. But it was fantastic… that teacher’s high of standing in front of the room, showing students something they might not have seen before (or showing them something they’ve learned a million times and have them teach it back to me). I wish I could tell you I hit it out of the park and the first week was a dream come true, but where is the fun in that? It was hard and tiring but worth every second and I am excited about week two. More on that later.

Monday was a professional development day and interestingly, one of my favourite educators and slam poets ever was one of the keynote speakers at the event! It was quite the event indeed, Scott and I were bewildered by the music and people and entertainment, it felt like a teacher party (at 9 am on a Monday). Anyway, when Taylor Mali shared some of his poems, the inspiration was electric and his passion magnetic… so I wanted to share a bit of it so you know what I mean. It felt like being in the presence of a celebrity that you’ve looked up to for a lifetime. Not that there are any celebrities I feel that way about, except for maybe Sean Connery when he rides up on his white horse as King Richard in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. So in essence, Taylor Mali was my Sean Connery for a moment. Take a watch/listen:


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here i go again

Tomorrow it starts all over again. However, this time I am teaching 2 English 10s instead of 1 English 11, Julius Caesar instead of Macbeth, Social Studies 11 instead of SS 9, I’m one of four pre-service teachers instead of the only one, have a fall wardrobe instead of a summer one, and driving 25 mins NW instead of 25 mins NE (just kidding, I don’t know the direction but the commute is the same). I am unprepared currently — tomorrow is a Pro-D day and we get to go to a seminar instead… but it’ll come. I am much more relaxed this time around. Doesn’t mean it won’t be overwhelming and daunting and tiring but the actual ‘unknown’ isn’t as worrisome as it was once before. I’ve been waiting for this forever so I am excited. I also hope it doesn’t go SO fast that I don’t have time to process it. I am thrilled that Scott will be there, teaching bio and physics right downstairs from me… so if you think of me, think of him and hope for some greatness/success/patience/resilience to come our way!

It’s so close now, the end, I am so excited for the next couple months… if it’s even a fraction of as incredible the first practicum was, I am going to be blown away!

Any wisdom or advice for me/us? I would love to hear your thoughts… what was the best part of your high school experience…or the best part about your favourite teacher?

Cheers!


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sleepless

because he bends down to listen…

If publication of this post included the ‘time’ it would say 3:45 am. I can’t sleep, my mind is running a marathon, and I don’t know how to stop it so I’m producing something tangible from those thoughts in effort to slow it down.

I had my meeting with my mentor teacher for my up-and-coming practicum today (more accurately…yesterday). I was confident going in but a bit paralyzed coming out. I will be teaching two English 10 classes to the tune of writing composition and, cue the trumpets, Shakespeare. Again. Coupled with my fear that I would be teaching Shakespeare again is the overwhelming honesty and confidence of my mentor. I know it will be a good fit and I know that I will be challenged by her but I am left sleepless by our overwhelming differences. Expectations are high, expectations for failure were voiced and anticipated, and expectations for a sleepless eight weeks were guaranteed. Maybe tonight is just my training period? In other words, after meeting my last mentor, I got excited to teach. Cathy made me feel safe and assured and confident from the second I met her. I think it was because we are so similar. So this new challenge of different personalities and ideas might be overwhelming right now, made worse by the fact that I only just met her when my practicum begins in ten days. 10. I like humility, I appreciate being humbled by someone who has wisdom and experience and focus. But I also wanted a glimmer for assurance that it would be okay. I’m terrified (in this case, dramatics are not exaggerated… nothing ever keeps me up at night like this!).

Second, I have yet to be placed with someone for my Social Studies teachable. There is someone in the works but nothing has been confirmed and this, too, is something I am nervous for. This whole practicum experience is showing me how deep rooted I am by my faith in my plan for my life. Thus, if everything occurred as per what I think would be best for me… having mentor teachers way in advance (not one week), knowing my content better, having much more time to prepare, a mentor as fantastic as my first one… then I would be a rockstar teacher in no time. Doesn’t work like that. My plan isn’t working. In fact, I would testify against myself if that went to trial. However, I am awake in a bit of purgatory between hoping for the practicum situation that I anticipated and desired, yet didn’t get, and trusting the one that is in place; trusting the one that is not one made by my hand.

Yes, I’m not an idiot. I know I could be eating these words in a few short weeks and you know if I am wrong and my fears prove entirely unnecessary, I am good for admitting so. But for now, it’s 4:00 am, I’m feeling like my world got very, very full all of a sudden, and not just with my pending return to high school, and I am a little bit unsure of what to make of it.  You know that feeling when you’re winded after going for a nice long run and your heart is racing for awhile after your legs have slowed down? The opposite is the best description for right now… my heart and brain have been kicked into overdrive, hoping the rest of me is going to catch up. I know change is imminent, but like I said, the new fullness of my life has caught me completely off guard. I could use a couple more days of a little slower, and safer, pace. Is that too much to demand?

Haha ‘demand’. Like I even have a say in the matter. Think of me?

Goodnight.

i will pray as long as i have breath
psalm 116.2