And to their parents, too.
Senior Year is not easy for any of us.
You want so badly to be gone, but you are terrified to go. (I know you won’t admit it, but we know it to be true.)
Your parents want you to spread your wings, but they are terrified to let you go. (You know they won’t admit it, but part of you believes it to be true.)
The teachers want the best for every one of the students, but they get mad at you for leaving. You’ve become part of our family too. (You think we can’t stand you and we want to retire, and if we retire this year, it’s because of you. It’s not. We actually love you dearly.)
It’s a pretty painful cycle no matter how you cut it.
In all of these ways, there may be variations, or different sets of circumstances, and it might be that my experience is different from the high school experience of teachers at a hundred other schools across the nation. But after twenty years of doing this with seniors and their parents and other teachers, I’ve come to recognize that there are very real patterns of behavior that surround the uncertainty of a child’s future. And with that, comes conflict. For all of us, really.
Compound that, this year, with a shelter at home order that shuts schools down. It foregoes any opportunity for kids, parents, teachers, support staff, administration, security guards, and any other person who might touch a student’s life to say goodbye. That cuts deeply. And for many of us, it blew our minds and even as we struggled with it, we couldn’t understand it.
But the reality of any situation, is that as a student or a parent, or even as a teacher!, navigating this uncertainty is something you have to do on your own, quarantine or not. I can’t give you a guidebook. I do, however, try to encourage you to remember that we all receive this stress differently, and we react differently depending on our own experience or upbringing. When I’m meeting my seniors for the first time, we always talk about how fast this year goes, and then we talk about what their experience with their parents might look like. Often, I have two fists pressed together to show that it is a combative relationship at best. It’s not that we will fight, but it is definitely that the tension exists for all of us. For students who often don’t have the strongest, time tested coping abilities, it can result in tears and fights. It can result in an early move-out with new expenses and new responsibilities. It can result in really bad choices and really early adult decisions. Or it can result in this really cool bonding and growing experience on a multitude of levels.
My job as an educator is to keep it from going to that nasty extreme. I would prefer students were in a pretty good place so that the learning can be engaged. Sometimes I can navigate that with them, but often they are in a place where they don’t trust me and don’t want to navigate conflict resolution and growth in coping mechanisms. This is for many reasons. Maybe they heard I was mean, or that I was soft, or that I was hard, or that I was easy. Or maybe, they don’t like how I look, or how I dress, or how I wear my hair. Or maybe, they think that they are smarter than I am, and that I have next to nothing to offer them. Or maybe they think I’m the smartest person they’ve ever met. Every situation is different.
And then there is this year. Suddenly, all of the old standards are compounded by the threat of disaster. According to one of my students, 40% of American households are one financial contingency away from bankruptcy. Now, we have a virus that has effectively shut down all the things we know. Never in my life has school been canceled. So it’s different for me, but I can only imagine how different it is for my seniors. “But this will help them be more resilient,” I keep telling myself. I hope that is true. Right now, you can only see that the last few months of your schooling is less academic, less purposeful, less hopeful. You can only see that your Prom, your senior week, and your graduation is “postponed” and worse, “canceled.” You see your senior year as canceled. You can’t compete in your favorite spring sports, your teams are “canceled.” You see that you can’t spend afternoons hanging out at your favorite coffee shops, or restaurants, and you can’t go dress shopping for that perfect Prom dress.
I can see ways you can still be unique and innovative with this experience, but that’s because I’m not faced with the devastation that happens when the dreams you’ve had since you were a little girl turn into nightmares. Because for a lot of you, that is what this is.
For now, we’ll ride this wave. You kids will come out ahead, and you will bounce back. And maybe you will create new traditions and find new ways to celebrate the milestones of life. And this is probably the greatest opportunity for you to carve new pathways in the bedrock of American heritage. This is your time to shine, to create your future, to define your meaning and purpose. I challenge you to throw the conflict away—let it rest in the past. I challenge you to redefine who you are, and become the best at what you decide fits. I wish you luck. I wish you the best. I wish you hope.
Sincerely, and with deepest love,
Writing about COVID-19, that is. But I don't really want to. Many ideas have germinated (ugh..see what just happened there?) and then I've crushed them, mostly because it's all already being said.
This isn't like 9/11 to me. This has "Cold" War written all over it. I mean, that was my brother's joke when I wrote it first, but hey. This is really like the Cold War. People are panic buying, rationing is beginning in some areas, and for the first time in my 45 years, education has been canceled.
Schools across the country are scrambling. And some of us are still doing this educating thing, and some of us are being told not to. And many of us are just struggling to come to terms with the fact that even though our kids are at home with many resources, others are not. Or at least, not with resources. And many, without food, too.
My classroom has moved online. It's better, probably, with this group of kids. We were getting close to strangling one another, but we also were really beginning to love Hamlet. So now I'm trying to show them why I love him--through a computer screen. (Though I still refuse to video myself talking about him.)
I shared soliloquies they can wash their hands to, and I've given challenging assignments that may take them 10 minutes, or maybe 1 hour. It's up to them. I'm trying to be flexible. Then Jasmine tells me she left her textbook at home while she escaped to a cabin in the woods. Oy vey, kid.
But that's what we are up against. A lit book is probably not the first need when being told, "pack your shit, we're going to the cabin." It would be mine, but it isn't Jasmine's. That has to be okay with me. I felt comfortable lecturing her via text, because she's my Jasmine, and she's kind of like my daughter, but I let her off the hook and took pictures of some of the pages she needed. That's what I can do. I can still love them, I guess. Even if I can't see their beautiful faces.
So there's the rub.
I did it again, only this time:
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
perchance to Dream; aye, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor's wrong, the proud man's Contumely,
The pangs of dispised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o'er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.
So. Hamlet lives and breathes within all of us, and teaching it from home might give it new life after all.
We will see. Time will bear this one out.
COVID-19 scared us, but maybe we needed it.
Much love, homies. I'm sorry it's been months since I last shared my thoughts. I have at least 3 weeks to rectify it now.
Today is the first day in almost a week that I've turned on my computer. I'm forming a love/hate relationship with it. Every time I turn it on, it's because I must work, rather than play with words.
And so I'm beginning to wonder if I should stop blogging. It's a lot of work. It's hard. The ideas are still there, but they come and go and I don't really spend time writing them down.
We all know I'm a doer--I've always got something going on. Today is no different. I should be finishing my laundry room renovation. Instead, I'm watching Netflix and drinking coffee. That's fun too, though.
So, the question is, do I stay in this blog, or do I go?
I know that it is a valuable tool for warming up when it comes to getting down to business, but clearly I've not done that much lately.
My hope is that January brings some difference when it comes to my creativity. I'll be finished with some projects that are consuming my energy. I'll give it some more time, yeah?
In the meantime, hang in there, homies. 2019 was good, but we're entering the 20s.
I don't write much. I pay a lot of money to host this site, and yet, I avoid my duty to share with you my ideas. I'm busy, but I read and write fast. BUT, dear readers, do I think fast? Do I think fast enough to make this worth your time? It's a question I should value more than I currently allow.
I'm in Baltimore. My favorite spot. I met a great colleague from the Baltimore schools, and I've tightened a relationship with colleagues from my own school. I've not felt that this conference has done me much good, but it's been okay. I have another day to see how it goes, I suppose. But my life is grand. I am so blessed, and I am lucky. I've worked hard, but in the end, the hard work is ultimately gone, and ultimately, hasn't been THAT hard. Maybe in the minute it is. But right now, I feel good. I have good health, good sight, good sex. Truly. It's nothing I want for. My roof occasionally leaks, but I can fix that. Nothing in my life is lacking.
So where do I start? Tomorrow I meet with editors and look at ways to enhance my craft. Tomorrow I see my dad's brother and I love that experience. Tomorrow, I live again.
I'm lucky. It's not where I start. That's already passed. It's where I am. Where I'm going. It's where I will be. And no matter what, it is good. It is as good as I choose to make it. That's what that is. Let's see what I write tomorrow, homies.
I tried teaching satire by using “A Modest Proposal” and two boys critiqued the assignment as worthless. I just want to say that when they can’t validate an argument for its use of logos, ethos, or pathos, they can’t say I didn’t try. And in this contemporary climate, I wish them luck. I’m so glad their brains are so well developed and they have all they need to get out of high school and go live their lives already.
It could be that I was inspired by the videos I see on the internet, or it could be that I just really enjoy making a connection with my students, but I've begun shaking their hands in greeting every single day. It's interesting. I can gauge their mood, check to see if they want to engage with me, and force them to think about proper etiquette. Turn in your essay? Sure, after we've shaken hands.
I say, "It's nice to see you," or "Welcome to class," or "How are you feeling today?" and they love it.
I've taught them to look in my eyes, and I'm working on the right tension in the grip. It's in progress, to be sure, but it's so fascinating to me, and it is making me understand them differently. These kids are great. They make me bang my head against the wall on a daily, but they are also so adorable. And they like it. They truly enjoy the fact that I want to meet them every single day.
I'll keep this up for as long as they will let me, I think.
I recently was diagnosed with anemia. I didn’t think it was a big deal. I knew I had been tired for a long time, but I also knew I had a brutal schedule. I teach 12th grade English, am an adjunct instructor two nights a week, I freelance for a technical writing firm, and I also work as a server at a hotel downtown. Top that off with a thirty minute commute from my house to any of those places.
I am often tired.
One night I had an epiphany that all of my friends were doing things after work that I just didn’t have the energy for. I forced myself to do a lot of it. I have forced myself to get to work a lot of the time. My motivation rests in being independent and reliable, but I wasn’t doing anything well. It’s no surprise, considering how busy all of my minutes in life were. But I felt like there was something else missing.
At my annual physical, I requested a blood workup to see if there was something wrong. I considered that it could be my thyroid because that is something that most of my siblings have dealt with, but the doctor wasn’t concerned with that. She thought maybe anemia, and I thought maybe anemia too. I mean, I hadn’t been able to donate blood recently because they called me “iron deficient,” which simply meant that I was just a bit low on hemoglobins.
My bloodwork came back with a count of 9 hemoglobins per unit of blood. Two years prior, I had changed my birth control method to a copper IUD, which was pretty great, except that I was on my period every 26-28 days for 5-7 full, heavy days. I went through boxes of tampons. It was awful. In the last few months before my anemia diagnosis, I was starting to skip work activities, and I would stay in sweats for the first three days and sleep. I’d get up, go to the bathroom, walk to the living room and turn around and go back to the bathroom. I rejected dates, I skipped dinner events, and for the first time in adulthood, I bled through my jeans while I was at work.
Fortunately for me, my new doctor was caring and efficient. She went to work for me. She put me on an iron regimen, suggested I change my birth control, and asked me to slow down. Nobody ever looks at me in the eye and tells me, “Elizabeth, you need to slow down.” Instead, they look at me like I’m crazy and they shake their head. They might tell me to chill out, but they don’t scare me into it, that’s for sure. It appears I need the fear of death to make it real.
That’s the problem with anemia. Many, many women, and men too, have had it. And they’ve been successful at continuing to do things. I was still relatively successful at doing things. But when I told Dr. Friedman that I was still playing outfield on top of all of my work, she had to work at steeling her face when she looked at me. “You are very close to critical, and you need to slow down.” I’ll never forget that. It did scare me. She was the sweetest thing ever, but she was worried.
My brother is a Colo-Rectal Surgeon. He wasn’t worried. “Oh, 9 hemoglobins? No problem. You’ll be fine. That’s not so bad.”
I told Dr. Friedman that he said that. “He probably sees far worse in his line of work, and so he’s right. You will be fine, but for right now, you are not in the best shape. Your body is only able to create juvenile red blood cells before it expels them during your monthly cycle. It needs time to let those cells grow.”
She encouraged me to consider not only changing birth control, but having an iron infusion, taking time off from work, and maybe even taking a season away from softball. What? Unheard of.
I kept doing all of the things I was doing, only now, I was taking about ten different vitamin and mineral pills a day. Then, Jessica called and asked me to dinner. Jessica is one of my closest friends and has been since high school, but we go months, and sometimes, even years without speaking, only because we both are so busy in life raising children, working, navigating this thing we call life. But we met, and when I said anemia, her face dropped. She had experienced it too, and she knew first hand the gravity of the situation. She understood my desire to just sit down on the sofa and fall asleep in front of the tv, half dressed, if I must. She understood my lack of desire to feed myself, to even shower sometimes. She got it that I pushed myself in the outfield, but that more and more, I was almost willing to sit on the bench and let someone else play. What she also understood was how emotionally devastating all of that was to me, partly because she has known me forever, but partly because she understands my drive to be the best, and the most, and the powerful. But she also understood that anemia is actually a silent killer and it kills all of the best things in life, if you survive it. Most people do survive it. But what most other people don’t understand, is how it destroys the quality of life in its host.
It's been a couple of months since my doctor let me off the iron regimen and I am a different woman. I can look back and see how low my quality of life was. I think about how other women deal with this and don't understand what they are experiencing, maybe because they don't have good health care, or maybe they don't know to look. I know that I didn't really care much about living or dying anymore. Things didn't hold the color that they do now. I was existing on this plane of neglect and fatigue, and all I wanted was a big fat steak and a bottle of red wine. Every single day. Anemia is no joke. It will destroy you if you don't know it's there, and that is the problem. It's silent, patient, and toxic.
If someone you love is iron deficient, help them figure out a way to take their pills, eat their spinach, and rest when they need it. They can't help it, and they probably don't want to take the iron. It makes you feel nauseous if you don't do it right. Research it, support their health, and by all means, check in on them. Anemia will destroy everyone around an anemic if we don't pay attention.
Get your blood checked, homies. Love you, and, I'm back.
I'm sweltering on a boat in a cove in Honolulu, HI. My brother’s boat is moored at a small marina that is full of these beautiful yachts, catamarans, trimarans, and a variety of others, and I’m goal setting.
All my life, I’ve loved the ocean. I should have been born a mermaid. Several of my novels are set on or near the water, and there is always a character who longs for the waves. That’s probably because that is how I live my life, even though I’m land-locked in sweet little New Mexico. Hey, retirement is just around the corner. I can go wherever I want once that kicks in.
Iz just came on the radio, and I’m reminded of college, and a time when I was convinced that my life direction led me to yacht living. Little did I know that life had other plans. For a time. Maybe I am still heading in that direction, but I took a deserted path first. When Frost wrote about the two roads, I think he meant that either could be good, but it is what we make of it.
At any rate, I feel inspired again, and I have plans, people. I’ll never be made of money, but I don’t intend to let that stop me. Trust me when I say that most of the guys around here aren’t made of money, either, but they live a life they don’t regret. They have the sun, the pre-dawn mist, the parrot fish chewing on the keel, and within walking distance is a little watering hole. Who can ask for more? I understand Margaritaville now.
My favorite spot on this boat is the net that hangs between the hull and the third pontoon. I feel a little like I’m on a hammock, but more, I feel suspended in reality in a space where I am cool enough, peaceful enough, and if I’m lucky, I can watch the Naval Base send their jets out. Today, it was 6. Yesterday, 4. Both days, a C-130. I feel fortunate, calm, at peace, and happy.
It’s time to write again. Mahalo, folks.
It's been a long time since I posted...for those of you looking, I apologize. I've been working through some stuff, kind of writing, definitely doing a lot of work and a lot of healing and a lot of soul searching. I learned I had anemia, so I have a whole (lengthy) essay about that to post, but that's my excuse. I'd be so tired most of the time that I only had time for what I had to do. And, well, writing and blogging, as much as I felt I needed to do it, just had to be put aside for a bit.
Right now I'm working on a textbook project and I've been traveling a lot, so I'll get this blog updated as soon as I can see the light. I'm healthy once again, and I have tons of energy (which has been a LONG time in coming) and I'm very happy. In the meantime, have a fabulous day, and look for a barrage of posts soon! I miss this place!
I'm also giving you a Hawaii teaser below. Such vibrancy. I'm blessed.
Peace out, homies.
I have been talking about writing for a long time, and I've been writing for even longer. I used to hustle the freelance gig a bit, but Aidan was little, and it was far easier to take on a more permanent role as a sports writer for the local newspaper than it was to actually hustle articles for larger assignments. I'd had a few published here and there in various small outlets, but it was no big deal, and I definitely wasn't making a lot of money. It was almost more work than it was worth, and Aidan was seriously, just a little kid. So I took on more jobs as adjunct instructor instead. More money, fewer hours, but it did mean I was out of the house a lot. It also meant he was able to spend more time with his dad. In many ways, it was a win-win for all of us.
But I'd put freelancing aside. And recently, I've been so busy spinning my wheels in so many directions that I just haven't given the hustle much thought. Until the other day when I tried something my colleagues suggested in the classroom with newer technology.
Then I wrote an essay about it. Then I wrote a query. Then I submitted it. Then it was published.
This happened pretty much in the course of a single day. I'm mind-blown right now. I am so energized, excited, proud, and happy. I used to read this online magazine when I first became an adjunct instructor and was always a little nervous to submit. I mean, what could I possibly have to share with others? Well, it turns out, the person I've been reading since I was a young mom teaching at ITT Technical Institute decided that I had written a good enough essay to publish. One of the people I've most admired from afar, sent me an email that said it was "magnificent." Holy moley. Talk about an ego boost.
So that's what has happened this week. And I'm on fire.
Here is the link if you would like to see it. AdjunctNation is the source, and trust me, they are strong advocates for better pay for those of us who are on the frontlines at most universities.
"Using iMovie to Help Students More Deeply Engage with a Text"
Wanted: a good set of sentences to grab you from the depths of the internet. I keep trying to catch your eye.