Boxes

Like a cat held tightly–a cat with claws–I generally chafe at being boxed in, metaphorically. I’m not easily labeled.  I prefer organic flow, flux.

Litha Pull

Grrrrr

Except when it comes to tasks.

I’m one of those people you read about who can’t clean the sink because then the whole kitchen needs cleaning, and what’s the point of doing that if you can’t change the sheets and mop up the basement, so the sink doesn’t get done.  I can’t grade just a couple of papers and then move on to something else; I’d best get them all done or nothing.  This is probably why I can’t do daily cooking chores, either; it’s either got to be a full Thanksgiving spread or I order out for ‘za.

I compartmentalize, and I can’t move from one compartment to the next until the first one’s empty and put on a shelf.

It’s not efficient, it’s not pleasant, and it drives my husband crazy, but there you have it.  I’m forty-five years old; change comes hard.

This probably explains why, when I’ve spent the last two months in total limbo over whether or not I’ll have a place to live by my new job, I can’t quite open the “plan for new school year” box until I have the “now completely settled in my new house” empty (save for a scrap or two, perhaps) and put away. As we hope to close on Wednesday (two days from now, but that’s not even settled), and as we’re planning on the actual moving process (I have very little to offer, what with the tendinitis and fibromyalgia and all), so we’re needing to line up help.

My husband, wisely, has said, “Well, it might take a while…we could do it [names possibilities weeks down the road] since we don’t even have our current home on the market, yet.”  Perfectly reasonable.

Unless you’re ME.

“AAACCCKKKKK!  No!  I need to start getting together with my new English colleagues and go over curriculum!  I need to plan my new courses, and get my room ready!  AAAACCKKKK!!!”  (That would be my reply.)

“Um–,” patient Husband responds, with puzzled look, “Can’t that overlap a bit?  I mean, you can still get together with your colleagues even if you’re not moved in, right?”

WHAT?!?  That would mean HAVING TWO BOXES OPEN AT THE SAME TIME! That’s CRAZY TALK! Nonsense!  I have to be moved in, with pictures on the walls and the right rugs on the floor, and everything put away, before I could possibly meet and discuss CURRICULUM and OUTCOMES! What, is he speaking GREEK?!?

Yeah. So that’s where I am right now.

And speaking of open boxes…my house is full of a bazillion of them as we slowly sort and pack. And people wonder why I’m a raving lunatic right now…

Don’t Clip My Wings

There’s been a lot of ink (digital or otherwise) sacrificed over the last few months about teachers’ work. Their hours, their work ethics, their supposedly exorbitant pay and pensions (don’t even get me started). So many times, we see outsiders quantify our work with the number of days we’re on official duty during the year, making it seem like we’re part-time employees.  Those who are teachers, or who live with teachers, know that the job (read: obsession) of educating goes far beyond contract days, and, like with many professions, just because we’re doing other things in life doesn’t mean we’re not actively planning and organizing for new and better lessons.

Case in point, this blog entry from one of my favorite inspirational sites, “Learning Like a Hurricane,” by Marsha Ratzel. Her stated experience of spending June reflecting and August honing is recognizable to most of us.  I like having an afternoon commute because it gives me time to mentally sort through what worked, and what didn’t, during my day, and plan ways of directing the next day’s lessons.  The last couple of years have been even better because I’ve gone to and from work with my husband, so an actual, exterior dialogue happens daily on school events and lessons.  While that won’t be happening in my upcoming teaching year, I’m quite capable of having quite vociferous internal dialogues of my own, thank you very much!

I’ve often thought that teaching is like art in many ways; everything experienced, seen, heard, felt becomes fodder for lessons (or parts of lessons). Just as we now realize that part of the reading gap in young children is due to not having the varied life experiences that carry with them vocabulary and frames of reference, so, too, would teaching come hard to someone with a very narrow focus and little imagination.  To be effective, one needs to be able to view things from various sides, transcend disciplinary boundaries, speak on many levels, and balance content and method.

As Ms. Ratzel exhibits above, the catalysts come at the oddest moments.  Anyone who’s ever lived with, or spent time with, a teacher will recognize that spark when the eye brightens, the back straightens, the tail twitches (okay, okay, this latter is probably just because I live with cats…). The teacher has an IDEA. And…she’s off and running.

This is another reason why I could never teach with a canned curriculum, or scripted lessons. I want the freedom to bring in my own fodder and relate it to the objective of the lesson, based on current events, my personality, and, mostly, the personalities of the kids whose butts are in my classroom and their eyes on me. Just as art exists in the space between artist and viewer/listener/reader, so, too, does education occur in the interaction between teachers and students (and that education is multidirectional, mind you).

Having my ability to shape content clipped would, indeed, keep me–and my students–tethered to the ground, when so much of life is elsewhere.

P.S. Thanks to Marsha Ratzel, and I wish I were a student in her classroom!  What an amazing teacher!  More thanks to Clay Burrell, also linked, who’s long been an amazing voice for quality education.