Hello beautiful people!
First off, can we shout a hooray plus a hallelujah to the fact that school is OV-AH?! Towards the end, I think I made it very clear whenever students groaned about the remaining time that I was just as excited as they were. (Side note: I think that students think that we are devastated to see them go. To kids everywhere, we get a little sad to see you go, but NO ONE is gnashing their teeth. Except maybe your parents. Your turn now…suckaaaaaa!)
Seriously though, this week was one of many endings. On Tuesday, the 8th graders showed up to Morgan State resplendent in their white for their evening farewell ceremony. I’d joked that I would be the one in the back of the room doing a praise dance, but remarkably, I didn’t shed a tear. I really am proud of these girls and know they will go far. On Thursday, we had our awards ceremony and my Crew represented well: out of 11 girls, one received an attendance award, 2 girls were on honor roll, one girl is on principal’s honor roll, one received an award for Collaboration and one received a Mindset award. Thankfully, we bid them goodbye at 1pm, cleaned the room and tackled the updates on their files.
This brings us to Friday–for our staff retreat, we had a day of debriefing, planning, and learning at Art With A Heart‘s beautiful new office space. During one part of the day, we had to make word art on these little canvases that will eventually be combined into a mural in our school. The mural was the end result of us having to pare down a list of core values from its original state of probably 50, down to ten, five, and finally three. My three words that survived were Integrity, Belonging, and Joy. As we finished our murals and got ready for lunch, someone noted that my principal was still dutifully painting. Her response was “that’s ok. It will be beautiful when it’s done.” I immediately noted that that was an incredibly succinct way of summing up our approach as a school, but the more I think of it, isn’t that life?
When Damia said that, I immediately grabbed my phone to write it down, because even in the moment, I realized that that quote was profound in it’s simplicity. It speaks of faith, belief, and a desire to do work because the end result will be something greater than it was to start with. While prepping to write a blog post surrounding her statement, I came across the above quote. Buckminster Fuller was a teacher and an architect, even though he only went to school for the former. He enjoyed lecturing to large groups in the classroom, particularly young ones. He was a poet, an inventor, and a philosopher, and he bucked (har har!) a lot of the traditions of his time and simply decided to make his mark differently. His website says that he believed that “Humans have a destiny to serve as “local problem solvers”, converting their experience to the highest advantage of others.”
“Bucky’ here, also created the term “Spaceship Earth”, which meant that all of mankind needed to work together ‘like the crew of a ship’ in order to advance humanity as a whole. Expeditionary Learning’s (the system my school follows) motto is “crew not passengers”, because students are expected to take a large role in their own learning. Coincidence? I think not.
In the classroom, everything WILL NOT be pretty–and if we get caught up on that fact, we waste valuable time that could be spent teaching. Like my friend and colleague Amanda (you should read her blog here) said before, “this sh*t is urgent”. Matter of fact, if we are honest, if we put down the Pinterest boards, trainings, pep, pomp, and circumstance, teaching can honestly be eons of bull interspersed with magic moments, not the other way around. From the legislators who have never taught but make policies that affect educators, to teachers in other states (and probably this one too) who have to Uber and tend bar and waitress in addition to teaching in order to pay their bills. From kids who are overly exposed and underly (yes, I made that up) mature, to their parents who seem to care more about whether they look good than whether they ARE good. From schools that push ’em through, back to the legislation that makes it infinitely difficult to do anything but, regardless of whether they need it. From the “soft bigotry of low expectations” to the haughtiness of those that forget that grace and high standards walk this race together. And on and on and on.
Still and even still, take a look at what Bucky said; when I am working on a problem, I never stop to think about beauty:
When I am up late racking my brain for another way to meet a kid’s accommodations;
When a parent is yelling at me for 57 minutes at 8pm because a teacher that is NOT ME didn’t let her child bring home makeup work,
When I sit through the 4th PD this month on what feels like the same thing,
When my incorrigible Crew member or student has given me their most perfectly practiced eye roll as I remind them that technically, the work was due already;
When I am JUST trying to get this group to June with no casualties as my patience is fraying;
“But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know that it is wrong.” Beauty takes a multitude of forms. It could be 6 out of 11 of my Crew kids receiving school wide recognition. But it isn’t always that flashy, right? It could be a passing grade on that assignment that I had to nag about. It could be the teachers in another state’s school district who got the government to grant 11% increases (not enough, but still) because they got up and walked OUT of their classrooms wearing red—because they were tired of bringing home $34,730 a year in spite of their advanced degrees. It could honestly being committed to taking a mental health day–or walking away from the field entirely because as much as we believe in other people, our own mental health is most important.
Little black girls–magical, imperfect, and most likely sick of my shh–tuff (lol) cheering for each other as I call out awards, in a world that tells them that little black girls are catty at best and violent, overtly sexual, and statistics at worst. That’s beauty.
My partner in crime this year, on the last day of our officially working together as she moves on–taking a moment during our lunch hour to watch a coworker’s daughter show her super (shoeper?) lace-tying skills. That’s beauty.
A girl at the crossroads of SO MUCH taking time to squeeze the woman who has poured out her LIFE for her for the past three years at our school…can you imagine the love and tears and bitter sweetness in that embrace? That’s beauty.
A woman who has been a literal superhero to the City of Baltimore–healing, acknowledging, organizing, representing–speaking and pouring into a young girl who wants to heal her city just as much. That’s beauty.
A class of 42 newly minted ninth graders turning to look at the village that got them there. That’s beauty.
I don’t always know fully what “finished” is. On more grounded days, I have a vision so crazy that it takes my breath away. On others, I’m just trying to make it to finished without bill collectors on my tail and with some semblance of my sanity intact. I also don’t know what YOU are working towards; what blood, sweat and literal TEARS, you have invested in your purpose. I don’t know how many years are behind you, how many ahead. I don’t know if this is your barren season or if your fields are ripe for harvest. But I do know this: like my principal said, it WILL be beautiful when it’s done. Take heart, ok?