Little Lists [17] – Summer

Today was the first day of school, which means summer is officially over (though the 90 degree weather and my many bug bites would beg to differ). The 5th graders were wide-eyed and the 6th graders were – for the most part – taller and more confident. It is scary to be in middle school, but at least they aren’t the babies of campus anymore. Today we tested some boundaries, ate some half-assembled lunches, and powered through a long day of getting-to-know-yous. Which when you are ten primarily consists of your favorite color/book/movie/ice cream flavor/animal and what you did over the summer. I condensed mine to: I went home for three weeks to sleep and hangout with my parents in Florida and then went to Canada with my best friend. There was no time to go into the million tiny memories between the lines.

Miami colors

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I rested and read and studied for MTELs. And then Chantal came to Boston, and we hit the road.

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We stopped in Maine, Quebec, Montreal, and Toronto. Most of the pictures looked like these, so I’ll spare you.

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I did make a video though. Three minutes is probably better than hundreds of selfies.

 

And now I am back in Boston, finally beginning to feel like I have a home here. I have a room of my own with a rug, friends I can count on for anything, the lay of the land and a few favorite haunts, the emotional energy for hobbies, and an unspoken sense of steady.

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But the most exciting part about this year is going to be getting to know these new kids and (hopefully) getting more letters like these (I sent them pictures of monkeys every day for a little while – I didn’t think they cared, but apparently they did).

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Aaaaannndddd the Match Next library is FINALLY (mostly) finished. I forgot my phone on the first day of school, so I didn’t take pictures. I will tomorrow. Day 2. I’m ready.

2016 Reading Challenge Update: Books #18-29

This has been the year I say to myself – Turn off the TV and read. Find the books you never finished and read. Build a list of every book you’ve ever dreamed of reading….and read. I anticipate grad school will make reaching 53 (a book a week and one for good measure) a bit difficult, but I’m going to try. So in no particular order, these are the books I have read since my last reading update in April.

The House on Mango Street

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“When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are.”

The Road to Character

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“Joy is not produced because others praise you. Joy emanates unbidden and unforced. Joy comes as a gift when you least expect it. At those fleeting moments you know why you were put here and what truth you serve. You may not feel giddy at those moments, you may not hear the orchestra’s delirious swell or see flashes of crimson and gold, but you will feel a satisfaction, a silence, a peace—a hush. Those moments are the blessings and the signs of a beautiful life.”

Lost Cat

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“You can never know your cat. In fact, you can never know anyone as completely as you want. But that’s okay, love is better.”

One Crazy Summer

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“We all have our la-la-la song. The thing we do when the world isn’t singing a nice tune to us. We sing our own nice tune to drown out ugly.”

For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women

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“In this first century of a new millennium, women can attain the critical mass needed to take their equal place among society’s decision makers. As they do, they will prove that it is possible after all to create a better range of options for women, men, and children – a world where expressions of community and caring, once considered the womanly values, move decisively from the circle of the family to stand at the center of society as the most respected human values.”

Lily and the Octopus

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“I have to be better about living in the not knowing.”

The Namesake

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“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”

The Thing About Jellyfish

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“There are so many things to be scared of in this world: blooms of jellies. A sixth extinction. A middle school dance. But maybe we can stop feeling so afraid. Maybe instead of feeling like a mote of dust, we can remember that all the creatures on this Earth are made from stardust. And we are the only ones who get to know it.”

Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide from the Authors of Craft Lessons

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“We should never forget that the central kernel of our work is not writing but real kids – their voices, passions, imagination, their original slant on the world.”

The Gutsy Girl

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When Breath Becomes Air

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“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”

Glass Sword

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“No one is born a monster. But I wish some people were. It would make it easier to hate them, to kill them, to forget their dead faces.”

The House on Mango Street had poetry in every sentence. The Road to Character and When Breath Becomes Air made me want to be a better person. Books are magical things and I cannot wait for the rollout of the brand new Match Next library this year. More to come!

“When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.”

Alton Sterling Matters.
Philando Castile Matters.
Black Lives Matter.

June

There is something sleepy about June that makes us linger. Everything is a little hazy and sticky and we pause, sad and confused, when we realize everything is about to change. For so long we’ve counted down to this moment – Summer! Freedom! Bigger and better things! – but now that it’s here we want more time. And so we rebel against the changes by holding on longer, hugging tighter, smiling more. We deviate from the lesson plans and admit to students how tired we are, because, by this point in the year, they understand that teachers are humans too. We stroll slowly past the neighborhood gardens, fire up the grill, and sit awhile. We make ice cream the priority of the evening, pushing work aside until later because we will be tired anyways – so why shouldn’t we stay up and cherish each other’s company while we can?

As a student, the end of the school year used to make me think forward – pool parties and summer (debate) camp, or being one step closer to vacation, turning sixteen, leaving for college, getting that internship. But now it makes me look back. Which kids did I fail? Where could I have done more? How could I have been better? There is a book called Among Schoolchildren and it’s about a year in the classroom of a 5th grade teacher in Massachusetts. I had to stop reading it when the days were short in February because her struggles were my struggles and it was giving me nightmares about homework and standardized testing. But the chapter about June, about the sleepy smiles and sweaty sneakers, resonated in the deepest part of my tired teacher heart. “She belonged among school-children. They made her confront sorrow and injustice. They made her feel useful. Again this year, some had needed more help than she could provide. There were many problems she hadn’t solved. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. She hadn’t given up. She had run out of time.”

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June is for graduations. Nostalgia, tears, and click-clacking suitcases along uneven paths. I was lucky enough to go back to India and see my favorite humans graduate. Four days was not long enough for all of the hugs I wanted to give and the conversations I wanted to have. How do you make up for a year of lost time? Their voices were deeper and their legs were longer, but their smiles were the same. We sang, laughed, cried, and swapped stories with our fingers and chins sticky from mangoes. I left almost as soon as I had arrived – my suitcase lighter, my heart heavier, my hands painted.

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We have five days of school left. How did that happen? Where did the time go? My Match 5th graders are going to middle school and my Shanti Bahvan 11th graders are two weeks into their first year of college. Sometimes I feel silly calling students ‘mine’. They belonged to me so briefly, so incompletely. What claim do I have to them? Do they know how completely I am theirs? Does being a teacher mean giving away 25 pieces of your heart every year? Maybe that is why teachers need summer. We need eight weeks to recover and rest – letting our hearts grow large enough again for the fresh faces we’ll meet in September. Maybe I am being overly romantic, but it is June.

Sometimes it seems like there is so much hate. So much killing. So many guns. So many things happening to so many people across the world and in our own backyards. So many things that don’t make any goddamn sense. All I want to do is hold these children close and keep them here. Here in this place where we anonymously write nice things about each other in our sweltering, safe classroom. Where I have nothing more important to do than help seven beautiful young women blow-dry their hair as they get ready for commencement. It feels good when you can get out all of the tangles. Because too often, we can’t.

Many people find it easy to imagine unseen webs of malevolent conspiracy in the world, and they are not always wrong. But there is also an innocence that conspires to hold humanity together, and it is made of people who can never fully know the good that they have done. – Among Schoolchildren

June could be regret and it could be hatred. Or June could be love. Love for community and children and hope and innocence and change. It doesn’t matter which kind of love. Because, like Lin-Manuel Miranda reminded us, love is love is love is love is love.