Monthly Archives: June 2014

When You Leave

for the Charles S. Pierce Middle School Aquarius Class of 2014

When you leave these halls
that have echoed with your laughter,
your shouts, your whispered conversations,
you will take a piece of me with you.
You will always be a part of me.
It has always been so.

The piece of me you take
will differ for each of you,
much as you are different,
one from the other.
I hope that piece contains
what is best of me, though,
I know the other is there.
This, too, has always been so.

I have lost my patience,
lost my temper,
wrung my hands in despair
as I watched you make the mistakes
that you must make
in order to own your own future.

But the lost temper and wringing hands
helped tell the whole story:
that I cared about you,
worried about you,
loved you.

The lot of a teacher
includes loss.
We know you will leave.
It is our main goal:
to prepare you to go.

But we–
I–
always wonder,
how are you?
How is this life
I tried to help shape
for the better
going?
(Are you reading?)

When you leave,
you will take a piece of me.
But equally important:
you will always be a part of me.
A story you told,
a book you lost yourself in
will bubble to the surface
with the sound of your voice,
the shape of your face,
and I will smile to remember.

Though you leave,
I am never gone.
When you can’t
tell your parents,
when your teachers
will not understand,
when your friends
are no consolation,
I am here.

I will listen to you
as you talk.
I will bring you back
to the beauty
that is you.
(You are beautiful.)

I will ask you
what you are reading.

I will recommend
a good book.

I will remind you:
you
are
beautiful.

When you leave,
I will still be here.

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Endings and Beginnings

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“Placing a book on the shelf
is the end of a new beginning.
Picking up a book
is a start to a new end.”
       –Cate D.

Endings and beginnings are on my mind these days. And while leaving my students has made this ending hard, their words and encouragement and belief in me have eased the way.

Tomorrow is officially the last day of school. It is a half day, so not much gets done beyond the hugs and photos and yearbook signing. Today is the “real” end, especially for our eighth graders. The high-honors awards are in the morning, and then students divide by teams to receive content-area and other academic awards, along with their certificates of completion. I will never forget C’s joyous, jubilant reaction to the news that he was, indeed, going to high school. (He was pretty worried.)

At the end of the day, we return to the auditorium for the poetry jam. I am continually astonished by the words these thoughtful teenagers share. I know teenager-bashing is the norm these days (really, when hasn’t it been?) but if you could meet my kids, you’d know that the world is going to be just fine.

As a going-away present, the students collected money for me to buy a tree for the farm. I have been instructed to buy something beautiful, and indeed I will. Along with it, I will make something–some kind of sign–to indicate that my students were the contributors. A bench, to sit on while reading, seems appropriate.

Above that, though, they made me a book of their poems. They gifted me with their words–some chose a poem they wrote earlier in the year, others wrote new poems, just for me. I have already read through it twice. At the end of the day, the students I love recognized me in the currency I love: words. There could have been no greater gift.

What I Won’t Miss (an incomplete list)

Standardization

standardized tests

the use of an archaic points-based system for grading, because we can’t/won’t do the hard work of finding a better way (and because school districts won’t give teachers the time to do the real, hard work around rethinking assessment)

incompetent colleagues

incompetent administrators

uncaring colleagues

uncaring administrators

helicopter parents

absentee parents

the legislative belief that it’s only our schools’ job to raise children to be kind, thoughtful people

grading papers (though I’ll miss reading student writing)

the belief that it’s only the English teacher’s job to teach reading and writing

the belief that kids only need to read in school

standardization

overpaid administrative positions

being on the receiving end of the notion that teachers don’t deserve fair pay and benefits

bells

three hours (sometimes four) between bathroom breaks

standardization

What I Will Miss:

my students

 

 

 

 

 

A heart big enough

Dear Jordan, Shoilee, Shane, Colin, Peyton, Francesca, Caroline, Cameron, Cameron, Cate, Sean, Nirvana, Andrew, Geoff, Domenic, Miwa, Emmett, Al, Chris, Shannon, Bridget, Victoria, Bryce, Isaac, Joe, Serenity, Faith, Alex, Caroline, Isabella, Crea, Sawyer, Hannah, April, John, Brigid, Bergelin, Timothy, Ellie, Mary, Dylan, Knile, Austin, Isabelle, Hue-Ninh, Kaleigh, Thuy-Anh, Isaac, Madelyne, Arielle, Grace, Aidan, Annie, Akil, Annabelle, Jenna, Joey, Francoise, Billy, Nolan, Chidi, Jonathan, Jack, Courtney, Richie, Kayla, Dan, Serena, Victoria, Megan, Eli, Ashley, Jamie, Sarah, Andrew, Isabelle, Josh, Emmet, Mitchell, Julie, Colleen, Kelly, Colleen, Eoin, Isobel, Amanda, Nick, Olivia, Grady, Seanna, Andrew, Leila, Martine, Ron, Daydania, D’laijha, Allie, Kathiana, Danielle, Cassidy, Matt, Josh, Alex, and Danielle,

Your letters
     words
          love
will wallpaper
my heart
     forever.

Love. Always.
Christine

P.S. Sawyer, I mean this most without wax(ly).
P.P.S. Leila–yes. I will promise that, too.

I am.

The world right now is too big and too much. It is clamoring for my attention via email and student projects, meetings and phone calls. It is yelling at me with boxes and things to pack and drawers to empty. It is insisting that I get up in the morning, and stay awake all day. It worries me with the garden that is 300 miles away. It doesn’t recognize that I am six and a half days from unbecoming something I have been becoming for twenty-three years.

People ask, “How are you doing?” and I no longer know how to answer. I am doing. I am feeling. And both change every second. I answer by resting my forehead against the nearest wall, or shrugging a shoulder. The best answer I can give is, “I am.”

As hard as this feels, or as easy, depending on the moment, “I am,” is a lucky answer to give.

I am leaving teaching, but I got to teach for twenty-one years.
I am packing my room, but I got to inhabit that space for ten years and make it mine.
I am moving from one state to another, but I have wonderful homes and friends in each state.
I am packing my house, but I have a house full of memories and useful things to pack.
I am temporarily leaving my husband behind, but I have an amazing husband who has supported me every step of this insane journey.

I am tired.
I am sad.
I am happy.
I am terrified.
I am excited.

I am.

And it is enough.

Saucy carrots and ordinary evenings

We have 13 days of school left. I’m trying not to think about it too much, particularly since I’m split down the middle as to how I’m feeling. One minute I’m so excited I could weep, and the next minute, I’m so sad, I could weep. My classroom is mostly ready for my exit, except for the disaster area space behind my desk, and a week ago, two students helped me box and neatly label the books that I’m keeping. (Our dining room is a bit crowded these days.)

While at work I’m still so busy I can’t see straight, (final Isearch papers turned in today!)I seem to be just drifting through my afternoons and evenings. If I had to account for my time, I’d be in trouble, because I can’t tell you what I’ve been doing.

Let’s see: I read a really good book the other night, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews (I was snorting uncontrollably with laughter by page 150). I made some lemon blueberry cornmeal muffins last weekend, and I’m going to tinker with the recipe; more honey, I think. We went out to dinner at a restaurant new to us, M.C. Spiedo (good, though everyone was dressed like they were going to Walmart–Target, at best–and on their damned cell phones…neither being the restaurant’s fault, of course). We went to the SoWa Open Market on Sunday. I went to a student’s house, because they have chickens and were lovely enough to invite me to tea, and to see their set-up. Actually, I had a great afternoon there, and it’s probably the most memorable of my recent activities.

I won’t be winning any thrill-seeking awards, will I?

That’s okay.

Tonight, dinner was a happy somewhat-orchestrated-accident. Remember those lamb ribs, and the sauce I said I was going to de-fat and do something with? Tonight, I added some more dried fruit, about a cup of chicken broth, and some oil-cured Moroccan olives and simmered it until it was a loose sauce. I served it over bulgur wheat, with small cubes of lightly smoked goat cheese (that we got at SoWa) and slivered almonds (next time, I’d add thinly sliced scallions, and on mine, some cilantro). On the side, we had sliced carrots that I sauteed with some onions. Then I added a half cup of water, a heaping teaspoon of honey, and a heaping teaspoon of harissa, and cooked the water away until the carrots were tender and the harissa and honey glazed the carrots. When the water was almost gone, I added a tsp of butter, to make them glossy.

The contrast of the sweet and occasionally smoky and/or briny sauced bulgur with the spicy-sweet carrots was a good one, and we were glad we ate at home.

Sometimes, being a homebody is delicious.