"Omnia Sol" and the importance of teaching

The sun shines brightly today, an anomaly after a long and brutal winter. Driving east into the morning, I cranked my radio and listened to a choral piece, “Omnia Sol.” The refrain translates loosely to The sun warms us, even when it is far away. Suddenly, tears began trickling, then pouring down my cheeks; the music lifted memories, and though I am but one voice in the great chorale of life, I sang along.

This introspective mood perhaps arose from pondering our troubled times, with a video in which a young Ukranian woman cries for freedom from tyranny.  Perhaps, it began with another clip of a young man in Cairo, his hands held high in surrender, gunned down. Perhaps the approaching second anniversary of our local school shooting has triggered my pensive state.

However, my life is suffused with joy. For example, My husband, Wayne, pointed out some pussy willow shoots to me; my grandmother and I used to track through the February slush, searching for pussy willows and crocuses as the first sign of spring. Yesterday, a group of students, my costume crew for our musical, and I stayed late after school, fashioning beautiful crowns out of recycled milk jugs, and when we were done, they forgot their adolescent dignity and paraded around in the glittering, gold confections, speaking with “royal” accents, (Sherlock Holmes meets suburban Ohio). This week, a unique, individual, strong minded seventh grader of mine won the county spelling bee, and another unique, individual, strong minded former student of mine covered the story for the local paper.

We live in a world of small beauties, tiny miracles which poke through the pall of tragedy and turmoil like the crocuses pushing their way through the snow to the sun.

To recognize these moments, to share them with others-for this reason I teach. See, to teach requires you to sacrifice your heart. You need to invest not only your time and talent, but also your love. First, love your students. Then, everything else becomes possible. You will walk together for a year, or three, or ten, but then, as is the natural order, children grow and leave to live their lives. And, your heart breaks.

But today, as I sang “Omnia Sol, “ I remembered so many moments, and realized how grateful I am to have been part of my students’ lives and to have shared joy with them--a thousand little wonders-and spring approaches.

Go Make a Difference!

What difference can a kid really make? In this brave new world of cyber bullies, teen suicide, terror in the schools,  heroin and heartbreak, what’s a young person to do?

Miracles, that’s what!

Last night, I had the honor of working with a group of junior high students as they hosted a spaghetti dinner, dance, and auction. They planned, cooked, served, DJ’d, and they raised $3,200 to help abused children in our community. The $3,200 will send five children to sleep-away camp for a week, where they will be cherished and cared for.

Because of these students, children who have been separated from their siblings and sent to various foster placements will be able to reunite with them, to spend a week fishing, playing games, doing crafts, and eating s’mores with their brothers and sisters.

Because of these students, a ten-year-old child will receive her first-ever birthday cake and presents. The camp hosts a huge birthday party for everybody.

Because of these students, a child who does not own any shoes will lace his feet into his very own pair of new basketball high tops.

Because of these students, a child will catch her first fish, and she will show it off to a cheering crowd. She will hold it up for a snapshot she can keep forever.

Because of these students, a young boy who has been sexually abused will sleep safely all night, with counselors ready to listen when he wakes up, sweating and crying, from night terrors.

Because of these students, these children will be able to join a club with adult mentors, and they will have a place to go all year to find support and love.

Because of my twenty-odd students, all of these miracles will happen. I am deeply grateful to walk through life with such caring, generous, amazing young people!

Five New Year's Resolutions for Teachers (part 5)

After a few days’ hard teaching (end of semester plus high school applications plus school musical plus, etc.), I’m back to finish up my list of teacher’s New Year’s Resolutions

Resolution #5: This year, I will search for stories with protagonists from a variety of trades and professions.

At one Common Core leadership training, I saw a chart which blew my mind. I really wish I still had a copy, but this chart is similar:

Shares-of-employment

The speaker at the training explained the issue this way.

Basically, the “high skill” professions, (doctors, lawyers) those choices frequently pushed by parents, schools, media, and society, provide only 15% of job opportunities. If 50% of students train for these positions, the number of positions available does not increase, but unemployment increases because 35% of these young people will not find positions. This 35% is NOT trained at all for the “middle skill” careers, essential careers such as plumbing, welding, HVAC, mechanics, machining, nursing and teaching. Thus, the 35%, (and their student loans) end up competing with others for the “low skill” type positions which require little training such as food service and cashier positions.

If, the presenter postulated, 68% of available employment falls in this “middle skill” range, why do we, as a society, tend to revere the “high skill” positions and marginalize the essential “middle skill” positions, to the detriment of our students' future?

I have been mulling this dichotomy for a few years now, especially as my children are growing up and beginning to make their own career choices. How can I, as a teacher, present a more fair and unbiased view of the various career choices instead of elevating certain professions over others?

One step I can take is to consciously include short stories and novels with protagonists from a greater variety of backgrounds. I love teaching the novel, Bud, Not Buddy, in which one of the most positive and admirable characters is a porter. The other novels I teach either have “fantastical” heroes, such as Hobbits and dogsled mushers, or they have prominent, positive characters who are lawyers, federal agents, and college professors. I need to find some more age-appropriate literature to diversify my curriculum.

To read my resolution #1, click HERE.

To read my resolution #2, click HERE.

To read my resolution #3, click HERE.

To read my resolution #4, click HERE.