I love standing by my door during passing period and seeing my old students pass me. It’s often followed by big smiles on both end, a quick hug, or a pat on the back. Some enter my room and take their seat for another year together, while others keep walking to new classrooms where they will have a year with someone else.
I think about the ones who pass by often. How they are acting. What they are learning. If they remembered our year together.
As much as I hate to use TFA catchphrases, the idea of long term traits and mindsets is very real. If my students cannot remember the basics of what I taught them about being a good reader and writer, as well as about what it takes to work hard and push through struggling times in their school work and life, then I was just another year…another teacher…another face…that did not make a difference.
So when I hear from many of their current 10th grade teachers that my students have a solid foundation of knowledge, that they have a strong voice in their writing, that they are behaving, or that they can tell which students had me last year without even asking, it’s the kind of joy one can only appreciate in reflection. To know that my handprint has endured, that it was remembered and not washed away, is the biggest teacher victory of them all. The work of the gardener is hard when the plot given to them is shallow at most. Yet even in the shallowest of dirt or none at all, roots that hold fast can grow.
Numerically evaluating my life there are a few important numbers right now.
6, the number of days I’ve been back in Miami and 2, the number of days I’ve actually felt like I was grounded in being back to my life here.
3, the number of times I have sat down and had a relaxing drink with friends who made all worries disappear and 1, the number of times I have actually made myself something to eat in my house since returning.
10, the number of lengthy life chats about returning for year two of teaching in Miami I have had with close friends.
8, the number hours I have slept in the last two days as the school year draws near and I thrash in the water of school decorations, expectations, and meetings.
But most importantly
The number of my students I saw today who I had last year and I will have this year. 5 students who in the midst of a hot, frustrating day made me smile with hugs and chats of looking forward to a second year with me that made me remember why all these long pre-school days are always, in the end, worth enduring.
Last night I turned on to an all too familiar street and felt the usual bubble of laughter rise up in my throat as I glanced at the cross streets of my apartment: Bruce and Wayne. One can’t help but love living at the corner of the Dark Knight himself. It’s just one of the many things I love about my life in Miami. But I also have a love-hate relationship with this city.
Maybe it starts from the feelings of this being such a temporary city. It’s less that my program is for two years and that the entire vibe of the city, it’s focus on tourism the lack of a built-up pool of young professionals, makes Miami resonate with the fleeting nature of something that is here today and then gone tomorrow from your life. And then there’s the feeling of excess. The inflated looks of superficial body parts enhanced at a whim and those who make South Beach and its neighboring islands their playground, next to some of the most have-not panoramas in southern America. It also doesn’t help how worked up I can get over Florida education policies that I see fall flat almost every day in the classroom.
Yet, Miami is also the site of a building filled with children who have taught me some of my greatest lessons in life, and reaffirmed my career ambitions. It’s the current home of people who proved to me that some of my closest life-long friends could still be made post-college. It’s the city that reminded me that life begins again in the summertime and how to fall in love with the ocean.
That’s why Miami will always stick with me as one of my homes. Miami makes me feel. I’m not passive towards this home. It makes me shout and curse and rest and relax all in a single roller-coaster day. Miami’s dichotomies are its pain and its wonder. And as my second year of teaching begins next week, I’ll once again begin the job of figuring out just how this tumultuous relationship will work itself out, as it always, so magically, seems to do.
You need not to find a cure for everything that makes you weak. -City and Colour, “Against the Grain”
I remember when I first discovered the soothing voice of City and Colour, and especially when I first heard the beautiful words of the song “Against the Grain.” The singer tells the listener that when things go south of where you wanted them to be, you don’t have to be perfect and get everything completely back together all the time. Sometimes you just need to follow your heart–knowing that there are things that won’t glue back together perfectly. Yet, loving the soft animal of our bodies without walking through the desert repenting as Mary Oliver urges, is not the simplest of tasks.
One of the reasons I recently thought of “Against the Grain” is because of hearing Jason Mraz’ “Details in the Fabric” on my Pandora a few days ago. Two of the lines in the song have resonated with me these past few days as I begin an unknown second year of TFA, in which I have no idea what my new roles hold in store nor what I will do after my commitment is done, and as it was revealed to me the new chapters beginning in the lives of some around me after unexpected door and window closings. In the chorus Mraz sings:
Are the details in the fabric, all the things that make you panic? Are your thoughts results of static cling?
We have to face whatever it is that is hurting us. But everything during those times often seems complicated, now knowing where to start to fix everything that has gone wrong or is part of the issue. The intricacy of what must be done feels overwhelming–a weight too heavy to lift, leaving feelings of panic. It’s then hard to shake the view that you are just never going to be able to overcome the current situation. And its especially hard when you know that these details in the fabric have all been brought on by personal choices. But moving forward takes one part forgiveness of yourself and two parts the will to find a different path. Just because one door closes, doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways out of the room.
Everything will be fine. Everything in no time at all. Hearts will hold.
I personally have to believe that all things turn out fine in the end; that even if time can’t make us forget, it heals enough wounds to allow us to continue living. The fabric of life is certainly messy. All the strings and threads jumbled together to form what can sometimes seem like disastrous patterns. But when you turn it around, you have to trust that it’s the design of someone, something greater. A story that can only be written and told by a great storyteller, who knows how everything, indeed, will be fine in time.