We Are Boston

I’m from Boston. My mother’s family has been there since they got off the boat. My father’s family has been at least nearby since well before the Revolutionary War. I grew up in central Massachusetts. Right now I live right outside the city.

My heart is breaking right now for my city.

My first thoughts when I heard about the bombs at the marathon were worry and fear about the many, many people I know running and watching. Frantic texts, facebooking, and calls later, I know everyone is ok.

My immediate next thoughts- what am I going to tell my kids? We’re on vacation now, but I know we’ll be talking about this when we get back in a week.

Third grade is a scary time. You’re old enough to know that the world isn’t just a shiny, happy, safe place. You’re young enough to feel confused, powerless, and left out of the loop. When things like this happen, they want answers from the adults in their lives. They want to know what happened, and why, and if it could happen to them. They want to know that if it were to happen in their town, their city, their school, you would keep them safe.

When the tragedy at Sandy Hook happened, I did my best. I tried to balance what they needed- information, without the terrifying details, but enough to make them feel they weren’t being lied to.

I told them that a person who was sick in their mind and wanted to hurt people brought a gun to a school, and people died. At night I dreamed about gunman coming in, looking my students in their innocent faces, and pulling a trigger.

I just heard that one of the victims of the bombing today was 8 years old. I don’t know anything else. Was that victim a boy or a girl? Where did they go to school? Was it in my state? In my county? In my school? Was it one of my kids? The odds are slim. But it could have been. It could be.

How can you kill another person? How can you kill a child?

How can I look my students in the eyes and tell them that this is what humanity is?

How can any of us move past this? Even if Boston isn’t your city. If Massachusetts isn’t your state. If the U.S. isn’t your nation. Chances are someone from your state or country was running in this race. Chances are something awful like this happened where you live at some point. This happens all over the world.

Here is what I do know. You can let it consume you- the rage, the pain, the fear, the grief.

Or you can fight it with every ounce of your being. You can push back against the darkness. Light your own damn fire against the awful truths that are out there.

That’s what I feel like I do as a teacher. As a lifelong pessimist, the most cynical person my friends had ever seen, the eternal nay sayer. Teaching changed me. You can’t come in every day and teach (regardless of age, whether they are 2 or 82), unless you belief in the future. Fervently, hopefully, against all odds or reason.

Maybe one of my students will grow up to be an EMT. A doctor or a nurse. A psychologist. A politician. An engineer rebuilding blown out buildings. A teacher, looking at their students and trying to explain. Every day I have my hands on the future. How can I lose hope?

have to believe in the good. I have to believe that humanity is inherently good, that the future is ultimately bright, that people, at their core, want to help others. Today I saw people run towards the blast site to help the wounded.

Anne Frank said, “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

I have to keep believing that. It’s my job. I have to hold to that belief, hone it, pass it on to my students.

Otherwise, the darkness wins. The evil triumphs.

Today, they tried to destroy my city. They blew out the storefront windows of places where my friends work. They left smears of blood on the sidewalk where I love to walk in summer. They left body parts scattered on the road near restaurants I have happy memories at. They tried to hurt people I care about, who trained for years to get to this point. To kill the people standing at the finish line to cheer them on. They tried to kill our spirits, our belief in the future, our hope.

I won’t let them. I can’t. I owe it to my kids.

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You know you’re a teacher when…

I sat down to write this on my couch, with a much needed alcoholic beverage in hand, and it occurred to me- You know you’re a teacher when at 9 on a Friday, you are writing about teaching and getting ready for bed.

I said it in my last post- it has been an incredibly difficult week. One of the hardest of my professional career. I love my class, but there are a lot of needs and challenges. My colleagues tell me I have one of the most difficult classes they’ve ever seen.

I started this blog to write the funny stuff. The hilarity. But to be completely honest, my job is not always laughter. This week i sat in my car and cried for a good ten minutes after my ten or more hour day ended.

I am drained. I am exhausted.

I love these tiny people. I love them more than it is probably safe or healthy to love 24 small humans who are not your own children. I can’t help it.

You know you are a teacher when you love too much. When you stretch yourself so thin that you cut out your own sleep, and meals, and relaxation to help them out. Whether to make them smile when their lives are falling apart, or to help them do a task they think is impossible, or to see them in a game or play they are so nervous of.

You know you are a teacher when you come home and immediately need to cry on your spouse or partners shoulder. (And you know you have found a keeper when that person listens to you, rubs your back, and tells you that you’re amazing.)

When you have to lie down at 7:30 after getting home at 6. When you are asleep by 8:30. When you sneak naps on the beanbags while the kids are at art.

You know you’re a teacher when you want to yell “If you can hear my voice, clap once!” in chaotic, noisy situations.

When you sing the alphabet, and your times tables. When you know everything there is to know about dinosaurs, and planets, and the revolutionary war, and birds of prey, and pilgrims.

When you stay late every Friday to play video games with a kid as a reward for good behavior, and because you know he needs someone to talk to. When you give up your lunch to talk about friendship problems. When you give up your prep time to console a crying child. When you sit bolt upright at 3 a.m. thinking “Aha!” about a lesson, a problem, a child you couldn’t puzzle out.

When you have to remind yourself to take time to eat during the day, even if during your non-work life you are the type of person to waste money on fancy deli meats, or go out of your way to find the perfect burrito, or eat a sandwich between meals as a filler.

You know you are a teacher when you overhear kids in grocery stores or restaurants or the subway talking in that weird code of inside jokes and pop culture, and you not only understand it all, but laugh out loud, and the other adults nearby think you’re crazy.

You know you are a teacher when you sit on your couch, much needed second (third? fourth?) alcoholic beverage in hand, writing these things down, wondering how you became a person that cared this much.

Lessons from the Trenches

It has been an exhausting few weeks. Here are a few important life lessons I have learned in that time.

Guppies breed insanely fast. Explaining why there are so many more guppies isn’t that awkward. Being asked to explain exactly what the word ‘breed’ means, AND specifically how guppies “move their bodies when they breed” is very awkward.

It is apparently impossible to move a clay figure of Paul Revere riding a horse without making it look like Paul is doing unspeakable things to his horse.

There is such a thing as a snake infestation, and it can happen on a playground.

If you allow a child who likes bugs to cover herself in beetles at recess, you will end up with beetles in the classroom.

“Tinkle berries” is a term boys use to describe what the good lord gave them.

It’s hard to explain to a child why you drink herbal tea with names like calm and tension relief without straight up saying “Because of you.”

Sometimes, canceling half of math so you can talk about how awesome mantis shrimp are is totally worth it.

Having nightmares about how bad your class is behaving is not a good sign. Being unable to remember what was from the nightmare and what actually happened is a very bad sign.

Kids can drive you crazy and drain all your energy, but it means a lot to me to be surrounded by people who chose not to judge me when I found lettuce in my hair, and continued not to judge me when I had no idea where it came from.