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Helm of the Heart

We are the ones we've been waiting for

I love Persian cats. They always have this expression that is simultaneously pissed off and blasé. I find them oddly serene. Their expression really captures the essence of what I’ve felt lately.

Yesterday (Monday) was challenging, as is a constant theme lately. I think that being surrounded by like-minded individuals and getting to delve into what I am passionate about leaves me flying a little too high, come Monday.

Not that I dislike my job. I mean, not many people actually want to teach Special Education to middle schoolers in East San Jose. In fact, it was never really my dream, but Teach For America placed me there and I figured if they thought I could handle it, why not? I mean, I got through teaching summer school in Watts. Really, how hard could it be?

I’m now in my fourth year. I think my first year I went home and cried almost every day. But it got easier. I got stronger, smarter, and probably crazier. All of my colleagues say that you must be a little crazy to teach middle school, and I completely agree.

Anyway, my job is a bag of mixed blessings. I’ve seen kids grow 3 years in reading in one year. I’ve seen a 12 year old pregnant by her step-father. Once a student released a bottle of bees in my classroom. I’m still not sure how he managed to get them all in the bottle. That is the magic of middle school.

Most of my students hate school and they have never felt any pride in their school work. Converting even a small percentage of my students to enjoy reading and to invest in themselves is truly a victory. I know this, but I can’t help but ache when my students are expelled and begin what might be a life long journey through our penal system. They use Special Education numbers to predict prison growth for a reason.

On Monday, my fellow teachers and I wore black and picketed at the District Office, protesting the fact that our benefits have gone up 40% in the last 2 years. Along with the millions being spent on lawyer fees fighting grievances (that the district never wins), the millions spent of outside consulting agencies (supposedly to raise our test scores, but I have never found them useful or helpful in any way), and the fact the we haven’t had a contract for over a year, moved me to speak at our board meeting. I was very nervous, but I wanted to voice my concerns about the fact that they are not going to retain young teachers with these types of insults. Before I was in my classroom, my students had over 13 substitutes and spent the year coloring. If teachers are not valued and respected, they won’t want to stay in low-income areas that are challenging to begin with.

I’m tired of fighting.

I’ve noticed a change in myself with my more challenging classes the last few days. They were acting like feral children and I couldn’t even be moved to struggle with them. It actually freaked them out, my non-response. The silent writing of referrals.

Something has changed in me. It’s not that I don’t care, I’m just not accessing the reactionary responses that I am accustomed to.

Another example: things have fallen apart in my crappy apartment. I say crappy, because it is so poorly built. Like most structures now, it was built with the idea that it will be torn down in a few years. No one invests in creating something worth preserving. The cabinets have broken off their hinges, the pipes leak, the fire alarm randomly beeps and buzzes at 4am.

Thanks to Daniel (husband and interior genius), the decor is nice. It’s my home and I really try to make it my sanctuary. If only it didn’t feel like a crumbling death-trap.

Today was particularly interesting. I came home, opened my closet, and found that the hanging racks had fallen from the wall and everything in the closet was in a heap. Strangely, I didn’t feel myself become upset. I thought “well I have too much stuff anyway”, and giggled.

It has become so difficult for me to fight. Not because I don’t care. I care so deeply and profoundly. But not about the mundane material distractions. The best way I have found to channel my concerns is through devoting myself to yoga. Giving it up to the higher, surrendering my attachment.

It’s a beautiful way of being.

Dark chocolate helps, too.




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