On Friday, the cafe con leche needed to be just right. The room needed to feel warm, but not blazing hot. The papers needed to work with the directions the students would be given. The prep time I had needed to feel uninterrupted and unbothered. The moon, the stars, and the energies needed to align accordingly.
On Friday, they didn’t.
While my coffee tasted great, and my planning periods went according to plan, I spent a full three periods wondering what I did that didn’t clique with the students. The task was for them to take the feedback they received and re-do their performance tasks. I had a usual flood of questions: should I have taught a lesson then given them time to revise their performance tasks? Should I have clamped down on seating arrangements? Should I have trusted the process less? Why am I so tired? What energies am I giving off that this doesn’t feel right?
For a moment, I want to ask questions of students collectively and individually. For a moment, I want to admonish them for their arguments with one another, their inattentiveness, their lack of urgency, and their lack of cooperation. After the moment is gone, I stop. I take responsibility for failures without fail. As I am wont to do.
During lunch, I went through a few minutes of self-loathing. I hadn’t looked at myself in the mirror, but I know my face. It must have looked dejected and disappointed. Before I ran out for lunch, a few students said on their way out that I wasn’t to be trifled with at the moment. I ordered a chicken cutlet sandwich and grabbed a banana. I ran back upstairs to my classroom to re-strategize for the remaining two periods. I would take a little longer to set the expectation for the period. I would hold off on keeping myself busy until the students were settled in their own work. The materials they needed would have monitors so I could spend more time sitting with struggling students. I would point the early finishers to new work after they’ve finished revisions.
Fall down thrice, get up four.
At the end of last period, I felt like learning happened. It didn’t need to happen as I dictated, but it gave me insight as to how I could improve the revision process. Before this blog gets published, no one but me will have learned that lesson. The expectation outside of my classroom is perfection. The priorities for everyone else still undercut my own. What does it look like for human beings to work in systems that ultimately dehumanize them, and all the mini-traumas we impart on one another? Why is the bottom of the barrel so seductive to adults who should know better? How much more do we need to negotiate our beliefs about the work of children before we’ve negotiated ourselves?
Whose world is this?
On days like Friday, educators with like minds and hearts see their own flaws and wonder whether to reveal them. They’re doing what effective practitioners do: owning their practice, opening their doors, staying a few hours to grade and plan, reaching out to parents, and devoting their time to students even when they’re not there. In a quest to rid schools of “bad” teachers, our operations also seek to wear down everyone’s resolve. The flaws keep mounting. The dreams and nightmares fluctuate daily, nightly, thoroughly.
We keep rising, though, because this passion of ours tells us so. And on Monday, these sleeves will roll. We will learn. The world is ours, the world is ours.
p.s. – If you’re in the mood to reminisce, Nas redid his whole Illmatic album at the Kennedy Center, courtesy of PBS. Check it out!