WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE

I wrote a letter to one of my students today. He has been having a particularly rough few weeks since Spring Break. I have given him the benefit of the doubt many times. I have worked hard with him to support him and reach his goals. I hold him to expectations, but I help him get there. To me, this is love. This is support. This is me doing my job.

To him, that is not it at all. Love looks very different to him, and he does not want this kind of love. So, here is the note I wrote that meant nothing to him, but it is still in his desk, just like all the other little notes my mentor teacher and I have written to support him throughout the year on tests and during tough work periods, so perhaps, one day, it will mean something. I really hope it does.

While some of this letter may seem strangely blunt, I have built a relationship with this child where he has, in the past, greatly benefitted from me addressing things which are holding him back, such as his image of himself.

WAKING UP

I have been reading the amazing book, Waking Up White by Debby Irving, for several months now. It hasn’t taken me this long because it is bad. It is excellent, but unfortunately, time gets away from me a lot.

The book discusses what Debby does to make herself more culturally aware in her life. It is painfully honest, and at the end of each chapter, she poses a question to the readers to answer about themselves to not only understand others, but to also understand themselves and how they fit into the entire narrative of race. Today, I’ll be answering the question at the end of the chapter “Headwinds and Tailwinds,” which discusses advantages people are born with that they do not even realize and have little to no control over.

Consider each of these tangible and intangible aspects of your life: work, sense of belonging, social connections, choice, education, healthy food, legal protection, housing, transportation, medical care. How easy or hard has it been for your to attain each?

Work: It has been fairly easy for me to attain work. My first job at the age of fifteen was at a day camp that was already familiar with my sister and her strong work ethic. It was a family-run business, and the owners developed strong relationships with their employees. This being my first job, I was able to move up to higher positions as I aged and gained experience. By the time I graduated high school and needed a letter of recommendation for childcare jobs I was to attain in college, my bosses were more than happy to write letters for me. This set me on a path of ease to obtain work throughout my schooling due to my mounting experience.

Sense of Belonging: This one is trickier. As an introvert who did not really know themselves until between sophomore and junior year of college (aka, an anxious, bisexual, androgynous person), I had a hard time finding people I fit in with because I did not even know what kind of a person I was. I wanted to be the “best girl,” as if that would make me feel like a girl (spoiler alert: it didn’t.) Now that I know who I am for the most part, I find it a lot easier to be myself. The only issue is that I can get along with people really easily, but I still do not know a lot of people who are… like me.

Choice: Right now, my choices are restricted by money because of my internship. Overall though, I grew up in an accepting and empowering house, meaning choices were encouraged. My parents ALWAYS gave their two cents about what they thought of my choices, but I still had choices.

Education: Man, I was set up with education. My parents settled in a highly rated school district, and I got amazing education all through my elementary and secondary years. This allowed me to get into a good college, too.

Healthy Food: Another thing that’s restricted by my limited funds right now (as well as my picky pallet and the fact that my favorite fruit is out of season), but for the most part, all of my local grocery stores have a wide selection of fruits and vegetables that are more affordable with store loyalty cards (thank God).

Legal Protection: TECHNICALLY my legal protection is a-okay right now. IF I decided to go legally public with being androgynous, things would definitely get tricky due to the state of how gender is being handled in our country right now. A lot of things would… stop being protected, I think. And that’s scary.

Housing: I have always had safe neighborhoods to live in, and though I cannot afford my own rent alone right now, my parents are able to split the cost with me, so collectively, I am able to live in a stable environment where I do not fear being attacked, robbed, or that I’ll be kicked out.

Transportation: I have a car. But I need to park it very far away from my apartment because of the cost of parking at my apartment building. Getting to and from school every day (which is 12 minutes from my apartment) becomes a 40 minute commute of various modes of transportation including walking, the free bus system, and my car.

Medical Care: This is up in the air sometimes. I have been switching insurance about one a year for the last three years, based on which of my parents’ insurance is better. This means it is really hard to get a consistent price and coverage on psychological services and my anxiety medication. It would become increasingly harder if I ever decide to act on my androgyny.

COUCH TIME

I’m still with Shelby, so this post will be quite short again.

I felt guilty earlier, because for the majority of the day, we have been sitting on the couch binging on unREAL on Hulu.

I like to move around, and I’m used to not really having any free time, so being on the couch makes me feel lazy.

But that’s okay. It’s good to relax. And I would be sitting down doing work all day anyway if I wasn’t here. You win some, you lose some.

BEING A FRIEND

Our friendship, for some

time, has been uncertain, waving

between inseparable and making

new friends that were, quite

honestly, nothing like the original.

But the school year has

settled and we have come back, as

we always do, missing

one another, but still unsure of how

close we really are. Until last

night, you told me that I make

you feel smart. The best

compliment you could have

possibly given to me as your friend. That

under normal circumstances, you feel

rather average, but with me

you feel smart.

It seemed solidifying, because

with you, I feel social

and comfortable

and seen

and appreciated.

But now it is tomorrow, and tragedy

has befallen your school. A lost

member to your own

third grade team, gone off

in the night while asleep never

to return to school to teach

the students who found her once

so permanent.

I did not know this teacher, but you

did. This teacher was part

of your every day life, a constant

in school when you did not feel

so adequate as a beginning

teacher. And now

she is ripped from reality.

I offered to talk, and you said

that I might get a call

from you later. It is

later now, and I am still

waiting, putting all on hold

just for you, in case the phone

rings. I want to be there. The friend

that makes you feel smart. I hope

I can still be what you need, because now

you don’t need to feel smart

but safe

and I want to help you feel that way.

So I will wait, putting

Jacob on hold and eying

the screen of my phone any

moment I can, just to see

if I can be the person

you need now.

TEACHERS WHO WRITE

I am sitting in my seminar with teachers from my district being tasked to write about my day so that I can further study how writing can impact teaching practices… by writing. And I am thinking to myself, “Well, this sounds awfully familiar…”

So, here I am, not necessarily writing about my day, but finding it interesting that this topic of teachers writing to become better writing teachers is becoming more widespread. These teachers wrote a book that they’re (slightly) promoting over the next half an hour, but I like this format, too. This interactive format or teachers helping teachers write through writing. Lots of repetition, but then also lots of reinforcement. I like the community-building across states and districts that hardly ever cross my mind. I like feeling close to people who are far.

I also am learning to advocate to teachers that writing is the best way to help with… writing. But, I think I’ll be sticking to this medium for now in order to help.

BEING AN AUTHOR

Writing every day for me has mostly been additional writing every day for me. As a self-published author, too, when I am not doing work for my intern program or planning lessons for my students, I am almost always drafting or editing my next book to be published. Due to my business with my top two priorities (aka, my kiddos and my schoolwork), I have not been able to write hardly at all for several weeks now. I carved out an hour and a half today, though, got cozy with a pen and a notebook (rather than a laptop), and began a new chapter right after a big turning point in my work-in-progress. Now, I would like to share a few short paragraphs of what I wrote tonight with you all in which you have no context for:

Tampo yanked the woven blanket from Elsive’s gaunt frame. Three days now without food. A mourning fast, or simply a lack of hunger. Such arbitrary terms for something so desperately debilitating.

“Today is the day you rise,” Tampo scolded, adopting the fierce tone that had not left since she had returned to the family tent with Shinse midday after Alphistan’s untimely death. She had said few words then, but enough that Fenish knew to make his presence scarce for the time being.

“I am still mourning,” Elsive muttered, curling in on himself. Any wisdom he possessed had abandoned him, and he had been reduced to a child. Just a boy.

“That has been your excuse for days now,” Tampo said.

“My mentor has been brutally slain, and my best friend has been stolen away,” Elsive said coldly. “So, I mourn.”

His mother planted her hands on her hips. “And I mourn the loss of your father’s faith in our own son, yet I carry on.”