When I started teaching (do you know how many of my sentences begin like this?) and began to feel that strong pull that was going to take me out of the classroom I ignored it. There was something there and I knew it, but I pushed it down, shook it off, and left it sitting dormant for years.
That is a terrible habit to get into and one that I have stopped doing.
Now, when something bursts open inside me I can't help but explore it until I've mastered it.
Mastery isn't always necessary, but it helps to quell the urges I get. Something right now is gnawing at me in a powerful way. It won't shut up and I'm not pushing it down or shaking it off or even considering the option of lying dormant.
As I drove home this evening from a day that included being able to go to my day job and then going to do something that I didn't have to do, I am struck by the ease of it all. It could have been more difficult, but it wasn't. It's not that had to do it. It's that I wanted to.
It all started with an urge that started with a manifesto that started on January 1 of this year. I wasn't going to write another New Year's Resolution list. Those never work out for me so I wrote down my beliefs instead. It began with writing about a time when I said something that I wanted to say at a time I wanted to say it. Too often, at least for me, I walk away from a situation and kick myself for not saying the thing that came to mind. "Ugh, I should have said THIS!" or "Why didn't I just say THAT?" The best comebacks happen too late when I'm home and alone and wish I could have a do-over so that I can just let fall from my lips what I wanted to say.
Just say it
That doesn't happen too often anymore. I just say it. Consequences be damned. It is what it is, right? My brain tells me, "What's the worst that could happen?" and since my mouth can't figure out a reason not to, I let it do its thing and all has been right in my world because of that.
I have a friend who teaches at an alternative school for students who we have failed in the traditional setting. Yes, I'm laying claim to the blame there because we continue to try to fit students into OUR version of what we think schools should be. These students can't make it work with our rigid rules and lack of creativity nor can they sit and get instruction. I think WE have failed them and not the other way around.
This friend told me about working with some of the teenage girls and how much he cares for them and hopes they realize their potential. They are smart and compassionate and somehow a massive group of educators hasn't reached them. One time I was trying to explain to one of my students that they have to learn to get along with their teachers because from grades 6 through 12 they have some 50 adults in their life who work in schools. That's 50 personalities that could potentially clash. That's 50 educators with different opinions about what schools should look like.
That's a lot for a student to take in during their school careers.
I know how hard it is to try to get along with them because I clashed a lot in school until I understood the hidden curriculum of learning How To Do School. While I hated every moment that I had to kowtow to a teacher who treated me like garbage, I managed to cuss them out in my head and do what they asked.
Because they had something I wanted and needed: a grade that would ultimately lead me to earning a diploma or degree that I would someday need for my job.
A Speaking Gig
I asked my friend if I could come in and speak to the girls because I'd been working on a curriculum of my own for teaching girls to take back the narrative and to write their own manifestos and to listen carefully to the messages that the world sends them.
They gave up their time so I could speak with them and Go Mighty helped push me in their direction. And the girls I met tonight? They were wonderful, smart, and engaged in the important conversation of being a woman who owns her narrative. Some of them are writing manifestos for themselves and they have promised to share them with me.
I cannot wait to read their words. I wish they knew how grateful I am to them for allowing me some space in their lives. They didn't have to give up their precious time right before final exams and I loved spending this time with them.
When I started teaching I came home and told my family how much I loved it until one day I realized I didn't do that anymore. When I left teaching and became a literacy coach I remember feeling guilty that I wouldn't have my own classroom of students anymore and that I would actually have all of the school. At the time, my ex-husband told me it was a mistake and that I'd miss it and that the girls I got to teach would now have a void.
At the time, my mother stepped in and stood up for me and disagreed with him.
"Kelly isn't going to miss out on reaching those girls and she's not subtracting from their lives. She's going to multiply herself."
Thank you, mom. I needed that phrase and have used it ever since.
I'm multiplying myself.
With whatever it is that I'm doing whether it's writing online or connecting with new people or getting out of my comfort zone.
Something is bursting within me and it's not going away. I want to do this thing where I talk to girls and visit schools that aren't mine and tell them how powerful beyond measure their voices are. I could see in their faces that they have dreams that are taking up space in their brains. I could see that they are working hard toward an unknown future of what it is that they want to do and who they want to be someday.
I think I finally realized what I wanted to be when I grew up.