I survived my first week with ten year olds. The first question everyone has asked is, “How are the kids??” Well, they are all double digit preteens so I would describe them as adorable, amazing, and awkward all at the same time. The girls are all much taller than the boys. The way you dot your I’s is a major form of self-identification. Fart jokes are THE funniest thing in the world. I love it. To recap…
This is my ‘river of life’. We did this activity with our students the first day to learn more about each other and explain what significant things have happened in our lives and how we came to be at Match. Mine criss-crosses across the U.S., hops over the ocean, and ends up in Massachusetts. One of the students asked where the map went after Boston. I laughed (future talk is funny not funny) and told him that even I don’t know the answer to that. Thankfully not pictured is where I spilled coffee all over my river of life (its on the back and somehow managed to not bleed through). Symbolic? I prefer that to clumsy.
Two of my students are first generation Americans. One of them wants to be a fashion designer and another one wants to be a professional you-tuber (just to make a ton of money by the time he is old and 20 and can then retire). That same little boy was completely unimpressed that I spent a year in India until I told him a monkey peed on me. Oh ten year old humor.
Day two we actually did some teaching and dove right in to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We have been characterizing and finding textual evidence all day every day since. On the cusp of a particularly tricky logical connection, one student put his face in his hands and sighed, ‘This is like a mystery from Scooby Doo.” I know, pal. School is tough. But when we got there in the end – there were some pretty big smiles. And Roald Dahl is just lovely. When he describes the moment the children step into Wonka’s factory he says,
All the most wonderful smells in the world seemed to be mixed up in the air around them — the smell of roasting coffee and burnt sugar and melting chocolate and mint and violets and crushed hazelnuts and apple blossom and caramel and lemon peel.
Those ARE the most wonderful smells in the world. Children’s literature in general is wonderful. Every Match Next student gets their own Kindle to use during independent reading time and – as tutors – we have access to the Kindle library online. As a result, I can’t stop reading Harry Potter. I re-read number one in India and have plowed through Chamber of Secrets and am on to Prisoner of Azkaban. Beloved childhood books belong to you in a special way and reading them is almost like going home.
Then again, Jamaica Plain is slowly starting to feel like home. My room is turning into a real room (an actual hamper instead of a pile of dirty clothes on the floor definitely helps) and I am falling in love with this little green part of Boston. We went to JP Licks, a happening ice cream place, for one of my roommates birthdays and there was a moment of sitting outside and feeling content.
Also, I can officially be like the little happy animals at the bottom of the picture because I bought a bike! Justin and I ran around town yesterday to get the necessary bits and pieces for her, but now I have everything I need and Cheryl (it seems appropriate) and I can hit up the bike trails of JP.
The rest of the week was a blur of vocabulary words, detentions, scarfing down lunches, and checking karaoke songs for inappropriate lyrics during Fun Friday (while a bunch of 6th grade girls sing to Taylor Swift and I wonder what happened to Disney songs). By Thursday I realized leaving work right at 5 is going to be unrealistic as is staying up past 9:30 (my eyes are closing as I write this). Friday I had to remind myself that friends are always worth going out of the way for, no matter how tired you are.
I got lucky this weekend and found myself surrounded by old faces. Justin finally moved to Boston, I got to cuddle with Monica and watch FRIENDS, and I even got to see two friends who volunteered at the same time as I did in India. I have been missing India this week. Constantly. Achingly. Often what is the case when you are nostalgic is that you miss who you were in that place as much as it is you miss the ones that are still there. You know yourself a little better when you are surrounded by people from the past and this weekend, in the company of familiar stories, I was able to remember.
It is half an hour past my bed time now and I have spent most of the day covered in lesson plans and school supplies (and reading Harry Potter). So far the days have both flown and crawled, but I already know this is going to be a special year. Today I read a few things that really spoke to me about what goals I should have.
As you integrate ignorance and failure into your knowledge and success, do the same with all the alien parts of yourself. Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself. Let your altruism meet your egotism, let your generosity meet your greed, let your joy meet your grief. Everyone has a shadow… But when you are able to say, “I am all of the above, my shadow as well as my light,” the shadow’s power is put in service of the good. Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of your life.
Parker Palmer’s words echoed what we – less eloquently – told our students the first day of school. Now is the time to fail. Do it fully and without fear because it is the only way to grow.
What I really mean … is be passionate, fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you. No one ever died saying, “I’m sure glad for the self-centered, self-serving and self-protective life I lived.”
Offer yourself to the world — your energies, your gifts, your visions, your heart — with open-hearted generosity. But understand that when you live that way you will soon learn how little you know and how easy it is to fail.
To grow in love and service, you — I, all of us — must value ignorance as much as knowledge and failure as much as success… Clinging to what you already know and do well is the path to an unlived life. So, cultivate beginner’s mind, walk straight into your not-knowing, and take the risk of failing and falling again and again, then getting up again and again to learn — that’s the path to a life lived large, in service of love, truth, and justice.
Brene Brown is the one who said the words in the title, which also seemed fitting (and a little more succinct). If I do it right, I am hoping this will be a year of failure. And going to bed at nine thirty.