Sunday, August 28, 2011

Happy New Year!!

All teachers know that the year begins when school does.   Newly sharpened pencils, uncluttered supply closets, curriculum still uncomplicated by personal interactions with students: these are the shiny artifacts of hopeful anticipation.   Each year, I make resolutions that celebrate new ideas, and proactive approaches.  Never am I as open to possibility as during the Teacher's New Year.

I have been at this long enough to know that situations will emerge to test new resolutions.  A parent might insist that her child is royalty.  A student may balk, or rage. Some Tuesday morning, everyone in class including me might wake up on the wrong side of bed.  Furthermore, it is probable that at some point I become overwhelmed; a project---- so simple to plan in July, might devour October evenings.

Things will get messy; they always do.  I still celebrate the New Year with positive thoughts, new pencils, and a shining new slate.  Happy New Years to those of you lucky enough to still be in school!!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

White southern woman & beyond

I first became aware that I was a Southerner in college.  A girl on the track team from New York thought that I had a southern accent; the others agreed with her.  It was an odd thing to hear, because I thought that I had a "normal" accent.  Sure, at age ten I'd come home from living with my dad in Arkansas saying things like warsh instead of wash, and July with an emphasis on the first syllable, but those days were long gone. I was sure that a couple of weeks in my mother's house had eradicated my paternal grandmother's accent.

I was born in New Orleans, and by college had also lived in Texas, Arkansas, and Virginia.
  I  had often seen my grandad enjoying the delicacy of cornbread crumbled into pot liquor and buttermilk,  knew that my highschool wasn't integrated until 1965, and grew up hearing Waylon and Willie in the house. Still,  I had never thought of myself as being "the other" simply because I was born beneath the Mason Dixon line.  On my junior high/ high school team, I was the white one.  Being a racial minority was a different way of being "the other", and one that challenged my thinking on racial issues.  Likewise, after living in the South for 17 years, it took being surrounded by Northerners to feel my "otherness" as a Southerner. I began to think about what being Southern meant to me both individually and culturally.  A small taste of "otherness" made me more aware of who I am, both as a white Southern woman and beyond demographic lines.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Moondance therapy

Once I danced with the sun. It scalded my spinal chord, fried the white fat that keeps eyeballs tight in their brain space, and furrowed delirium into my thought process. The sun gifted me with newly invented colors and starry nights, but also cursed me, letting stars stomp me into flat grey mud whenever colors accelerated into high speeds.

Now I dance with the moon.  Same bittersweet solar rhythms, but the moon doesn't rip away my opposable thumbs or stereoscopic vision.  What experience from childhood do you most recreate in hopes of resolution?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Camp Opequon 2

We've been home from camp for a few days and I think I'm finally getting back into the usual groove. Haven't mowed the lawn yet, but I did catch up on reading the newspapers.  London burning, but there was no indication of this from camp.  One day, a visitor told us that congress raised the debt ceiling.  That's all the news that I heard from outside.

Each summer I cook at camp to help pay Joni's camp tuition.  For the last two summers, Joni has cooked with the rest of us, helping to pay her own way.   I always have a good time at camp.

I  resented going to camp this summer.  Even good memories of  camp cooking didn't put me into a more positive frame of mind.   I wanted to keep enjoying my lazy summer schedule at home.  I wanted to finish setting up the new classroom, work on the Spanish curriculum, but mostly I wanted to vegetate with a few good books and iced coffee. This last school year was the most stressful and taxing in recent memory.  When it was over, I didn't want to do anything else.

I didn't want to pack. I didn't want to drive almost all the way to West Virginia.  I definitely didn't want to set up the tent, sleep in the tent, or wake up in a tent.  But I did these things, and yes, I had a good time.  Camp magic smooths those real world hard edges out quickly.After the first few twitchy days and nights,detoxing from technology, I felt mightily at peace. I even had time to read a couple of books, make rough curriculum plans,and to relax with fabulous people. Observing Joni's competence, maturity, and great attitude in the kitchen was a bonus.

This is Joni's last year as a camper. She is not grown, but she is well on her way towards adulthood.  Tzippi won't start at camp for two more years. At some point in the summer it hit me that as soon as Joni makes it through adolescence,  Tzippi will be beginning a similar joyful and challenging journey.  Thinking about doing it all over again overwhelms me. Eight more years of cooking at camp, Bat mitzvah preparations, driving lessons, hormones activating,  the inevitable scrapes and emotions: Daunting to think about, but I'm here for the duration, and will take it one day at a time.

Back from camp, and summer is dwindling.  Soon the pears will be ripe and school will begin. Again and again and again.