Stretched Like Yoga

For the first time in 5 months I am writing in the blog that I have had since college. The weird thing is – 5 months ago feels like yesterday. I find myself feeling the need to write and yet, the words don’t flow as naturally as they used to. I suppose that is how I feel about life right now too. Life, decisions and changes are not flowing as naturally as they sometimes do. I am the stick ,moving with the current of the river, that momentarily gets caught on a cluster of rocks.  I am in a place of waiting, a place of not knowing, a place of questioning.

I think back on past moments like this one. I feel very confident that two years ago, I made the right choice. The last two years have stretched me like yoga, into uncomfortable positions, causing me to ache and hurt, to lose balance at times, and every now and then to surrender my head to the mat and just breathe.But then the lights come on after “namaste,”  I feel invigorated because I have accomplished the difficult and it only makes me stronger. Two years is over and I am only stronger. This work has made me a better person. These relationships have grown my relationship with Christ and shown me sides of Him and myself I did not know before.

But two years are up and now  I lay on my mat in the comfortable space and wonder: do I stay and rest on the mat for a while? Or do I namaste? Do I leave? Do I move on? Or is my work unfinished here? I struggle. My heart flips occasionally, and where I was once sure, I doubt. And even when I don’t doubt, there is uncertainty beyond my control. The stick can’t choose the direction it moves in the water. To large degree, I do control my moves. But the current must still be taken into consideration. I don’t know what I want, much less what the current will do.

I pray that God give me good work, but not easy work. I pray that I continue to stretch and grow in all relationships and through all circumstances.

 

A Reminder

I was feeling defeated. And then I unlocked my classroom this morning.

The last several weeks have been incredibly draining. Yes, the second year of teaching has been vastly easier than year one, but still…I am so tired, tired beyond explanation. I am so drained. Teaching in South Dallas, holding the department chair position, plus taking graduate classes, tutoring a fourth grader as part of grad school, and trying to be a good wife, friend and daughter is an enormous weight. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I am just not very good at juggling this many responsibilities.

At school, I get so frustrated. I know why students act the way they act. The stories I hear make me angry and heart broken… it isn’t fair that children have to experience some of these things… I want so badly to teach them, to help them. I want them to want to learn. It comes down to it and they are teenagers and a lot of them have never seen how education can pay out. Or they have so many problems outside of school, that school just seems trivial to them. Lately I have wondered if I am just spinning my wheels. I want the world for them, but they have to want to world for themselves. I wonder if it is hopeless. I know that some of them will be just fine, will be successful. But, there are these kids on the edge that could go either way, and I can’t stand the thought of them going the wrong way…It’s so difficult.

I ramble. The point is, I was feeling defeated, and then I walked into my classroom this morning. My desk was clean. Funny, I had left in a frantic rush to make it to a meeting. Then I noticed a note taped to my desk: “For the best teacher ever.” I questioned who had cleaned my desk…the handwriting looked like a kid’s. But how would they have gotten into my room? I figured my instructional coach’s daughter, who I tutor, had come in while the custodian cleaned. Then I walked into my storage closet, which was a mess after school started. I just hadn’t had time to reorganize. It was spotless. It was perfectly organized. The table was clean. The floor was clear. The shelves were organized. Tears filled my eyes. Who had done this for me? It could not have been the little fourth grader, because things had been nicely stacked on the very top shelf. Who? Why? I was overwhelmed.

I asked my coach; I asked other teachers; I asked everyone I saw. Who had done this for me? My spirits were so lifted. In this time of doubt, someone had organized a little piece of my life.

BestDay

At lunch, I went to the security office. I asked the officer if they had seen anyone in my room last night. She thought something bad had happened, but when I told her the story, she was just as curious as me (I taught her twin boys last year). She pulled up security footage from last night. There they were. Two figures walked past my door, saw that it was open and walk in. They stepped back out, pointed to my room, spoke to the janitor and walked back in. The tape showed they didn’t come out for over an hour. They walked out, had a custodian lock my door and then they left.

The two figures were two freshmen boys from two different classes. They are two of the quietest, sweetest, smartest and most respectful of my students. I often worry that I don’t give them the education they deserve, because I have to spend so much time with behavior management (they are both in my two largest and most badly behaved classes). I worry they don’t get the attention they need, the instruction they crave and deserve. And here were these two boys, these two quiet boys, doing the nicest thing for me that anyone has ever done for me as a teacher. And they said I was their best teacher ever? They can tell, even through the chaos in their classes, that I care about them and want the very best for them? They don’t feel overlooked? Thank God, they can see I care. I do not struggle in vain.

A few days ago, I had I joked with a friend that it is the quiet kids, the outcasts, the nerds and the misunderstood that gravitate to me, while the “cool kids” favor her. This morning, another student, who is caring and considerate and underestimated, looked at me while I was assisting him with his work and said, “Mrs. Myers, I’m glad you are my teacher.” Is it a full moon tonight? Twice in one day students show me they are glad I am here. God must have planned this timing.

They lifted my spirits. The two boys, who often go unseen in our wild and crazy school, stepped up, without asking for recognition. Another just said some simple words and showed me that I am not spinning my wheels. I am so tired. I get so frustrated. But ultimately, I thank God that I am here. “I am glad you are my student.” These students reminded me why I need to thank the Lord for where he has me. I am not spinning my wheels. There are students who are quietly grateful and quietly happy that I am there. I am doing something meaningful. I just might not get to see it or hear it everyday.

I now I need to grade papers and plan…

Adoration: A Poem

I should have been writing my essay, but instead I poured those creative juices into a poem. Tada:

Foggy Sunrise View

Adoration

The first days of warm sunshined skin,

That arm nook of his where my head lays,

Swift wind on a hot day and a downhill ride,

Paint covering canvas, shaded fingers to toes,

Savoring a first bite, breath stolen, eyes closed,

Aching abs from chuckling with rooted friends,

Slow phone call conclusions of an “I love you,”

Talks, long, about nothing, with my mother,

Eyes opening reluctantly on a new day’s color,

Furry warmth and tailed fluff panting close,

Opportunity holding novel skin and a runny nose,

Papered words, conscious, plotting in my soul,

Frustration, adoration at not knowing

When I know He knows.

-WMyers

Flower and Book

Kissing Dry Land

I am a mere 14 days away from completing my first year of teaching in South Dallas: in a school submerged in poverty; surrounded by a food desert; drowning in a perception, both imposed by others and often self fulfilling, of defeat and hopelessness; a school full of children struggling, left behind, but full of potential and self worth. This year has been, and I say this with no doubt or hesitation, the most difficult year of my life. In perspective, my life has not been so hard, which is why I thank God for bringing me here. Through this small adversity, I have grown tremendously.

For the first time this year, I woke up with a full tank of energy. 5 AM and I can’t sleep. I am awake because I realized that I have reached solid ground. Like Odysseus lost a sea, I have found my Ithaca. I often said this year that I am underwater. One friend even described his similar experience as drowning at sea, struggling to gasp breath at the surface…and then someone throws you a baby. Not only was I struggling with my own skill, ability and emotional stability, I was struggling with the knowledge that on my shoulders was the responsibility for the education of 150 of my city’s most at-risk youth. I had been thrown a baby, and for a time, we had to hold our breath beneath the waves. I used to cry tears, longing for the day when I would tread water and breath fresh air. With 14 days left, I kiss the solid ground.

Yesterday, I locked my classroom and headed down the stairs to my car, but on my way I was stopped by a student, sitting on the stairs with several other girls. We will call this student M. M needed help on a math project. If you know me, you know that I am not the person to ask about math homework. I teach the miracle of the written expression of human word, not the mystery of numbers and data. But in this case, M had contracted help from the right teacher. Her project involved writing a paper to explain the data she collected. I was able to explain that this was, in essence, an expository writing piece, which we had focused on in my class all year. And the beauty of inter-curricular education took place right there in the stairwell, during a 30 minute impromptu tutoring session.

The other students saw this interaction. J, another of my students and a friend of M’s, then said something to me that pulled me ashore from the sea.

“Mrs. Myers, I feel like you should work at a rich school where everyone cares about their work and respects you. These kids are so disrespectful to you. You’re a really good teacher; you deserve better.”

OK – first of all – OMG did that just happen? Did those words just come out of a student’s mouth? Say more, keep going, stroke my ego and make me feel good. But pause…”You’re a really good teacher; you deserve better.”

I looked into her eyes, every other set of stairwell eyes on me. “But J, do YOU deserve a good teacher?”

The slightest pause for thought. “Yes”

“Then that’s why I’m here.”

The look on her face, the realization that she, in this place, deserves a quality education, that she deserves an equal shot in the world, that she deserves people that care about her and her future – solid ground, hallelujah, solid ground. That is why I am here. That is why I am here. I have asked myself so many times – why am I here? Can I really make a difference?….and THAT is why I am here. THAT is solid ground. Hallelujah, solid ground!

But wait, there is more.

The writing of math data into expository form continues, and the other girls sitting around touch my Tory Burch shoes, asking the brand and price. “Too much.” They ask to look at the wedding ring on my finger. They ask what my husband’s ring looks like. They ask how much it costs. “Too much.” They discuss whether or not I might be cheap (because I do not reveal the cost of my things). They ask if my husband wears his ring everyday. They ask If I ever want to take my ring off. They ask, “even when you see another cute guy?” They ask if I ever get bored in my marriage. I tell them the truth. I tell them that marriage is a choice, a commitment.

My mom once told me that no one is perfect. You have to find someone who has things about them that you love. But they will also have things about them that you dislike. The key is to decide what bad things you can live with and work through, and which ones you can’t. If you can look past a person’s faults, and they can work through yours, and the things you both love about each other outweigh the bad, then you both make a choice – a choice to love each other and a choice to be faithful to each other; a choice to move through life together as best friends and partners. And the result of that choice is sometimes hard and sometimes boring, but in the end, rewarding and beautiful in its comfort and stability. I explain this philosophy to the girls.

“Mrs. Myers, you and your husband seem like you have fun. Do you have fun?”

“Yes, he’s my best friend. We have fun”

Driving home, I reflected on the conversation. I recalled that another instructor at the school had told me that the students had been talking about me in another class. I asked what they said and she asked:

“Do you talk about yourself in class sometimes, like tell them about your weekend or your family?”

“Yea. Sometimes”

“They listen.”

That could have been a bad thing, except that I know that I do not cross the line in what I share about my personal life with my students. If I ask them about their weekend, I may tell them about something fun I did. If I am teaching something in class, like empathy, I may tell a story about my mom to illustrate the meaning of the word.

In the car, driving and reflecting, I realized that I had been inadvertently teaching my kids what healthy relationships look like, especially in the case of a marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Lance’s and my marriage is perfect. But, in a world of transiency and instability and insecurity, the kids heard me talk about consistency and stability and security. They heard me talk about the possibility of having a husband that cooks dinner for you, enough dinner that you can take delicious left-overs to work. They heard me talk about taking bike rides on Sundays and visiting family. They heard about a husband I am committed to, and who, from my stories and the food I bring to school, seems to adore me. They listened. I had no idea that talking about myself in little ways would stick with them.

And so…I am kissing dry land and counting down the days until summer! 14 days.

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Off The Grid…Where I’ve Been

The last four weeks have been the hardest four weeks of my life. No doubt. I feel like I am running an obstacle course in the dark with my legs tied together, and someone keeps strapping weights to my belt. I feel like I have been thrown into a tumultuous sea with only a zip lock bag full of air to assist me in staying afloat. I feel like someone is constantly adding more pressure to my chest, keeping me from a satisfying breath of air. I survive this struggle hour by hour.

The Thursday before school started, Lance fell playing kickball. I saw him hit the ground. I thought he had tripped while reaching for the ball. He didn’t get up. 20 minutes later, we were in the ER. 3 hours later we were looking at an Xray of his snapped right femur. The next morning we learned of the tumor that weakened his bone. That day, waiting for his surgery and biopsy, was so very challenging and stressful. Praise the Lord for my husband’s health, for that tumor being benign, for his so-far smooth recovery. School began that Monday, and that’s how the four weeks began.

“I need thee, O I need thee, every hour, Lord, I need thee. O Bless me now, Lord my Savior, I come to thee.” We sang this a few weeks back at church and I closed my eyes as they welled with tears. You may think that I am being dramatic. Teaching in an inner city school in a poverty stricken area, where I am – for the first time in my life- the minority, is the hardest thing I have ever done. Everyday, my heart breaks for the teens I teach. And most days, they try my patience to hot tears (after they leave and I shut my classroom door). All I do is teach and plan and grade and plan and revise and teach and stress and think about those 145 faces for which I am charged to educate.

I dare say, it may be getting easier, in a minuscule and unmeasurable way. After 4 weeks, my schedules are fixed and my class of 40 is now 29; I know the students’ names; I am getting to know them more; and I think they are beginning to see me for slightly more than their initial perception – a rich, white, thin young woman from Baylor. I try to share who I am with them, but the divide is not quickly scaled. I cling to the sweet kids that I know I make a difference for. There are three girls who I know I have reached.

Here is what I have learned:

  • My faith gets me through each hour.
  • My husband is a saint and my best friend. Next to the Lord, he is my rock and my safe place.
  • My family and friends are a blessing. I am so thankful.
  • I did not understand my privilege until I saw how much other’s lacked it. I still do not understand its unfair advantage and affect.
  • These children have experienced troubles I can not begin to relate to. Love them, even when they are infuriating.
  • Do not assume anything.
  • My teachers had a harder job than I knew. Thank you wherever you are.
  • This is going to be a difficult year.
  • I have to get more organized. I have to get more efficient. (ever heard of an Uncalendar?)
  • I am trying to learn how to compartmentalize stress and make sure I get what I need each day.
  • Time is finite, but energy is renewable.
  • Lots of slang…
  • The jersey numbers of a handful of JV football players.
  • Use hand sanitizer OFTEN.
  • Don’t forget to eat.
  • Classroom decorations are the least of my concerns.

I have a lot left to learn. In the mean time, I’ll pray for my kids and focus on getting better each day. Each day is one step closer to becoming the teacher I envision myself being. I just have to hold on.

Day 3 relief

Today I actually felt ok. Mainly today was a good day because I didn’t feel like I was going to physically fall apart. I was literally in pain yesterday. My lesson was a little messy today, but they had mastered the objective by the end and their response questions are looking a little better as far as showing comprehension and critical thinking. Grammar and correct subject verb agreement is still a far off dream at this point.

The kids started testing me today with behavior. I had to give the teacher stare a few times and redirect students to get back on task, but overall they were alright – better than the horror stories about behavior I am hearing from friends. My kids are just taking longer to back down. I know they are testing my limits. I’m getting good reviews so far though, so I am excited.

I better go to bed so that I don’t have a Tuesday repeat.

🐣