Not Irish

I was an Irish Dancer for 14 years.

“Why did you do it if you’re not Irish?!”

I had tried all the other types of dance. They didn’t engage me. My mom said that if I didn’t stick with Irish, I wouldn’t be a dancer at all. So I tried it. And I was a dancer.

I loved that my feet could do something beautiful, intricate, and mesmerizing while my body was still. I loved the feeling of finally understanding a move and being able to execute it flawlessly. I loved the way my velvety dress felt beneath my fingertips as I subtly grabbed on to keep my arms from flailing.

I loved dancing on city streets and bar floors. I loved the urgency of quick shoe changes, when I’d go from a graceful reel to a loud and proud jig. I loved plastering a smile across my face because it wasn’t really plastered there at all, I just really loved what I was doing.

And now.

I love that my ankles don’t look quite the same because of my career ending injury. I love that I get to share the magic of dance with my students each year. I love that though I am not Irish, my heart will always belong to the rhythms of a people with feet of fire.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, dear reader!

Road Trips

Admittedly short post tonight –

I’m on a road trip with friends to visit my best friend in New York City. My favorite thing about traveling is the snacks, the music, the sunset, the bitching about other drivers. I love the feeling that something amazing is waiting on the other side of this journey. I love that my phone might die, and that I don’t really care. I love the feeling that what happens in this car for the next 5 hours is sacred between the travelers.

What is your favorite part of a road trip, dear reader?

Home

Aren’t houses strange? This place that is carpet and drywall is a living, breathing piece of your history. My housing journey has been pretty straightforward – childhood home, college dorm, college apartment, then a few apartments through my early 20s. But they’re not just places, are they?

My childhood home was the shelter for Beanie Babies, the place Santa still visited through 2014, the site of prom pictures, the sanctuary to cure homesickness (thanks in part to home cooking and four different dogs), and the foundation for three little girls to follow their big dreams.

My college dorm was where I had my first hangover, where I got to try being an “adult,” where I downloaded Spotify, made my first Dean’s List.

My college apartment was the place of eggy sandwiches, meg bongs (beer!), the third generation hand-me-down couch, and the place where my best friends refused to be without me in their lives. Forever.

My early 20s apartments were where I first cried over a student, where I confirmed my love of wine, where I hosted pregames and Game of Thrones watch parties, where I took home my angel, Fin the mutt.

And now. My sweet, quiet apartment. Where I came after I got engaged, married, and honeymooned. Where we’ve hosted parents, siblings, and dear friends. Where my husband and I have made countless vodka sodas just because. Where we’ve spoken words we’ve never said to anyone. Where we’ll soon be leaving.

And that’s it? I’m just supposed to give this place filled with love, despair, hope, and humor to whomever will sign a lease? I’m just supposed to look at a house, decide I want to buy it, and make it mine? Whose precious history lies in my future?

Drowning

Suddenly, I remember to breathe. Had I been walking around, talking to students, eating my lunch two hours late, redirecting a child, THAT child, and forgetting to breathe? My lungs were sore. My body, too. As if they had been continuing on about their day without my brain giving it much thought. My brain, of course, was elsewhere.

My brain was, is, will be on THAT child. We’ll call him Mick. You know Mick, dear reader. There’s that sweet side, asking while replacing his k’s and g’s, “Mrs. Chai-toe wanna hud?” There’s that untapped potential when you hear his extensive understanding of a book read aloud he only half listened to. And then, there’s…everything else. The stomping. The repeated and forceful physical contact on himself, peers, and me. The shrieking. And the most recently, the confusion in his eyes. Just when I think I’ve figured out what Mick needs to be successful, he pulls the rug out from under me and laughs in my face (I wish this was an exaggeration). It feels as if this small child can see my darkest insecurities – as a teacher and as a person – and manipulate them to fit his desires for the day. My assistant or I spend the entire day one on one with Mick.

There’s frustration. There’s guilt. There’s nineteen other impressionable, thoughtful children in my class (over half with high language needs) that are craving my attention. Attention I can’t give them. As they watch me get repeatedly kicked and screamed at.

There’s a lot of love and support for Mick throughout the building. There’s a lot of faith that the strategies my colleagues give me will work, and that I will also be able to serve the rest of my class simultaneously. There’s a lot of pressure on me to do everything with a smile. But I don’t feel happy. I have the feeling that you get when you’ve held your breath too long underwater. Like you’re in a nightmare. Like your life is flashing before your eyes. And you don’t know how far it is to the surface.

I know I should be grateful – I have a job, I have great colleagues, I only have 20 students when I could have 27, I have a large team supporting me………….and I am. I am grateful. But do they realize how many little moments I miss? The moment when Soren used a reading strategy for the first time. The moment when Tommy actually stayed engaged for an entire read aloud. The moment when Dave said his first words in English after being receptive for three months. The moment when Elizabeth solved a problem at recess independently. It’s not Mick that’s keeping me underwater, it’s the immense guilt of being trusted to shape young minds and only really being there for part of it.

ABCs of a Tuesday

Awake already? Better get up, this is a busy day. Can’t the dog walk himself? Don’t forget to run to the grocery store. Especially since you didn’t pack lunch. Found a few things I needed, what’s next on the list? Get going! Haven’t you checked the time?! I am SO tired. Just the second day of daylight savings has me feeling unlike myself. Keep pushing through this day. Let me check on my friend. Maybe he’ll follow directions the first time – just this once? Nope. On to the next child who needs my love and encouragement. Please can I get one second to myself? Quite the day I’ve had…Right now, I still have three things on the to do list. Squat, lunge, kick! This laundry will never end. Uh, did she really just text me that?! Very likely I’ll overthink this situation all night. Wine seems necessary at this point. EXpecting my husband home soon. Yet, this moment alone is refreshing. Zoning out time!

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the post on Two Writing Teachers yesterday about stories and band aids. I know this is a band aid, dear reader, but I feel like this challenge is pushing me creatively and productively, and I know my real and true story will come. I’ve given you so much of myself without writing a story that I keep pushing it off. Forgive me and thanks for always accepting me and reading me anyway!

Commentary on Cultural Proficiency

For purposes of this slice, my definition of cultural proficiency is: The knowledge, skills, values, beliefs that enable effective interactions with those who differ from us.

How can one moment make you feel both so big and so small?

I gave a staff training on cultural proficiency to the whole staff today. Alone. When I shared the last slide, that big feeling came over me.

Then the weight of the day’s topics set in. I’m a white woman giving a presentation about respecting, amplifying, and understanding other cultures. What on earth did I do to earn this powerful role?

Professional development always makes me feel this way. There are some amazing ideas I can practice right away, but why wasn’t I already practicing them in the first place? How are my biases making me an ineffective teacher? Are my own blind spots to certain cultures or belief systems affecting my interactions with innocent, impressionable children?

Upon reflecting, here is what I know about myself: I am an effective teacher. My students feel safe in my classroom. I have strategies and activities in place that celebrate my classroom’s families and help them understand other cultures. I am careful about my vocabulary in front of students – “difference” and “acceptance” have certain connotations, as if I am the person who grants the students the power to be on my team. As an ally to my school’s cultures, shouldn’t the power lie in the strength of my students as teammates? Shouldn’t I be the fan with my face painted in the stands?