At a park in Miami, desperate people shovel sand into garbage bags and pile them into shopping carts while we wait for Irma.
Any teacher worth their salt will tell you straight up that she’s learned as much from her students as they have from her.
But, every teacher will concede that learning has become more than just a challenge.
I have two children and I’ve taught thousands.
So, when I began teaching, I wanted to be the teacher that I’d want for my own children. I wanted to be someone who cares about students and who will ensure students learn as much as possible about the subject matter.
I so naively thought, How hard could it be?
I found out.
It’s never as simple as it could be.
Looking at the world we live in today, education feels more like a battleground for a teacher than the simple act of opening a book.
For students, it’s no longer an avenue to learning as much as a road block.
Students can’t sit still and, when they do, they lose focus so quickly that a vigilant teacher hammers out questions within a minute of reading a paragraph let alone a passage.
And, if the problem was only with the students, it might be easier to turn around, but the difficulties are compounded by overworked parents who are just as addicted to electronics as their children are and oftentimes clueless about the damage electronic devices do to students who have to go to school and read mountains of information in order to graduate.
It would be nice.
It would be nice to be able to take a usb and insert it into students’ hard drives (if they had one in their brain) in order to transfer the information so that they could then take that and create or perform new tasks from that point on.
We aren’t there yet. And, really, do we want that? I don’t know.
I do know that I tell students that I can’t do that. They have to open the book, open the document, visit the website, and read.
I’m their least favorite teacher.
I know this.
I’m fine with it.
But, it is a challenge. So, I take them to the movies.
Take them to the movies.
Of course, these movies are inside their heads. I use the information already uploaded to their limitless hard drives and give them something to connect to.
No, it doesn’t work right away. I reconnect at the beginning of each week, especially after long weekends like this one and forget about how hard it is to connect after winter break and then spring break.
I do it anyway.
We talk about where movies come from. We talk about how they begin.
From books, from a written word, from an idea, from an education.
But, it’s still not that simple.
Students get excited. They fantasize. They proclaim. They set goals. Then, they go home.
At home they are met with iPhones, iPads, desktops, laptops, televisions, movies, YouTube, apps, apps, and more apps.
Parents are tired and stare at the same thing.
So, who educates whom?
To meet teachers just introduces parents to someone who will attempt to use technology in order to bypass the distractions that every student must face this year.
Teachers from all backgrounds and ethnicities will plunge full-force into the curriculum deemed correct by the state and departments.
But, who will educate whom?
Will students teach teachers or will teachers teach students?
It really is a conundrum if there’s no exchange of power. At the core of learning is the ability to ingest information but not to just regurgitate it. If the teacher can truly spark the desire to learn in any student, then the student needs to be able to return the spark with a fire that can’t be put out the minute he or she enters a home.
The learning needs to continue, whether that’s answering questions about science, mathematics, or about a novel or an article read online. The student then needs to be able to then create something new, write an essay, a story, or create a robotic arm.
All of this requires focus and inevitably demands freedom from distractions.
So what can teachers learn from students?
They are smarter than anyone gives them credit for.
They actually have access to way too much information.
So, knowing just these two things, makes teachers the perfect avenue to guide them. And, if parents and teacher actually worked together, they could influence children more than they ever imagined.
Who holds the power?
Students will teach parents and teachers by default. The interaction makes it so. However, instead of raging on about the damn electronics, how about giving them power over their devices.
Teach them that the devices are just tools to get what they want. But, then, they would need to know what they want.
That’s where teachers find their power. Our job really is that simple and, yet, more difficult than ever.
Our power lies in showing students their own power.
You see, they think it’s in their devices. Many students don’t really think about the fact that humans made these devices. They don’t think about why they made them.
So, when it comes right down to it, teachers need to understand that empowering students through conversations full of questions and debate in every subject in every grade level is the key to conquering what feels like a black hole of endless distractions.
What have you taught the students in your life?
And you might find something priceless.
One of the beauties of being married to a Hispanic man is that I’ve gotten to learn about his culture through his eyes.
I had grown up in Miami before I met him so Spanish was all around me. Many of my friends were Cuban, but they wanted to be “American” and most of them were already losing their handle on their language, creating what we know now as Spanglish.
He, on the other hand, came from Venezuela, which at the time was nothing like what you see on the news now, but there was enough violence that moving to the United States was a dream come true for his family who had seen victims of shootings on the street and who had been robbed of their gifts for Christmas.
His father is a journalist and was offered a job with a major news organization so they took the opportunity and ended up in New York.
I met him after he’d moved to Miami because his father was working at El Nuevo Herald by then.
And, after all of the years of living in Miami, studying Spanish and hearing Spanish, I couldn’t speak it.
But, he introduced me to the Telenovela: A wickedly colorful version of what we “Americans” call Soap Operas.
I had seen my friend’s grandparents watching them but the crying and screaming freaked me out.
It was simple enough that I could understand what was happening and hear the Spanish language delivered by children.
Within the confines of this little school, you would laugh and cry and the language would live and breathe inside of you.
There were the rich and the poor. There were the outcasts and the popular kids. There were the mean and the nice kids. Everything related to you and yet you learned about their culture also.
My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, showed me it because it was a good show, not because he wanted me to learn the language.
I watched it for the same reason.
So, when the thought occurred to me that I could actually learn how to speak Spanish from this, it didn’t feel like I had to work very hard at it.
The children expressed themselves with their bodies and expressions as much as through the language itself.
How Did It Change My Approach to Spanish?
When I ordered food, I would ask for the item in Spanish more often.
“Dos empanadas de carne por favor.”
When I listened to Spanish I understood more.
Sientete aqui really became Sit here but I didn’t need to stop and translate it into English like so many have to do.
Mostly, though, I just felt at ease with the language.
Por qué siempre hacemos aprendizaje tan difícil.
So, I ask you: Why do we make learning so difficult?
Her eyes bit the screen as the camera zeroed in on her face. Her grandfather’s love split from her own when she realized she’d found herself slapped in the face with betrayal. It wasn’t the reaction of a spoiled child having a toy taken away. It was the reaction of pure love being ripped from your heart.
If we were unsure whether we wanted to watch this movie, we no longer were after that intense moment portrayed by Actress An Seo Hyun who plays Mija in the Netflix original film Okja directed by Bon Joon Ho.
Our stay-at-home summer has given us ample time to check out Netflix. When we started looking at different categories, we found Okja. We were skeptical as always because sometimes you stumble upon something you connect with and other times you enter a downward spiral and just keep watching because you already started and can’t look away.
You know the feeling. Then you spend the rest of the week watching movies you know are good just to get that movie out of your mind. That wasn’t the case with this movie.
An Seo Hyun (Mija) lulls you into her world set in the mountains of South Korea where she lives and breathes her life along with Okja, a “super pig” temporarily given to her grandfather who is a farmer.
You fall in love with Mija and Okja after the first fifteen minutes or so.
I have proof of this because I live with a house full of cynics: an eleven year old who sounds like a lawyer, a fifteen year old who will be focusing on her film strand this coming year, and a journalist/online producer who won’t watch Alice In Wonderland directed by Tim Burton because it’s “not realistic.”
By falling in love with both of them, you feel the bite when Mija decides to find Okja who’s taken away from her by a large corporation that plans to use these super pigs for its own profit.
Mija runs, flies, punches, kicks, and takes a real beating on her quest to reach Okja. Her <a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/moxie/”>Moxie</a> makes her the perfect heroine for such a wildly fanciful film with a heavy message that delivers layers of frightful beliefs and behaviors we all embrace on a daily basis.
So, if you haven’t experienced this, set aside some time and watch what happens to your mind.
Yesterday, that grit that has kept me trekking through some of my longest struggles abandoned me and left me panicking.
I’m the one with the fight. Everyone expects it.
But, sometimes, I just fail at what’s expected of me.
When I got the call, I just started breathing these long, deep breaths from the gut. Meditate. That’s it.
Then, it all just hit me in the gut.
The grit was gone.
A heavy pounding pumped my chest and I knew the only way to survive this one was to cry. We’ve been so worried about this happening that the moment it happened, it felt like I’d used up all my grit just holding on to nothing.
My husband lost his job, not because he’s a terrible employee, but because the company was bought out by another company who wants to streamline things. You can fill in the blanks for the rest of that story.
But, don’t worry I’m still working. I don’t make much money because, well, I’m a teacher. Need I say more?
He, however, is in the news business, an online producer, social media specialist, you name it. He has an immaculate background that includes loyaltyand hard work, but sometimes I wonder if that’s what employers even want anymore. I mean, doesn’t it just come down to who will work for the least amount of money, at least in the online news business?
There’s punchline in here somewhere.
I guess I’m the punchline because he just went to the bedroom and shut the door. He started looking for work immediately. I, on the other hand, turned on Spotify and listened to Prince songs (“Let’s Go Crazy” was the first song to play), randomly freaked out my kids with wild screeching noises, watched a couple of old episodes of Modern Family, drank three espressos, went running in the middle of the hottest time of the day in Miami, then told him to get ready because we needed to go to Happy Hour somewhere.
If you rewind through that list of crazy, seemingly random activities, you’ll see how I got my grit back or even better my grit turned to grace.
A good cry gets rid of unwanted crap.
Prince has grit, in death and life.
Singing liberates you, even if you can’t carry a tune.
Laughing about problems grounds you.
Espressos fuel you.
Exercise refreshes you.
Sweating cleanses you.
And, Happy Hour reminds you that life’s supposed to be fun and crazy.
At Happy Hour we played with a link on Facebook that morphs you into an old Hollywood star. He became Clark Gable and I turned into Grace Kelly.
We remembered that we were once just kids and we’re somehow still in love despite some really scary moments in life. We’ve done a pretty good job at making a life for ourselves and our kids and, frankly my dear, there are worse problems than this.
Please stop making faces!
Beautiful hair, shiny, long, short, doesn’t matter–I mean the kind of hair that girls envy and say so out loud, right to his face.
But, I’ll be damned if he gives me one good smile for a picture. There’s always a face, a different one for each shot. The creepy guy face. The cool guy face. The demon face. The goofball face. The sad face. The smiling but really crossing my eyes face. Or, just smiling with crazy eyes.
He’s been like this since he pulled the Houdini act of climbing right out of his crib before he could walk.
When we go out, I need a few cups of coffee to keep me alert. There are days when I wish the coffee was something else, that’s how fast I need to be. I’m ready to jump, spin, grab, block, catch, you name it.
Somewhere inside every maniacal act of bouncing to his own beat, I laugh amidst the frustration of taking one good picture.
When we visited San Francisco, there were so many moments when the pictures were more than perfect, especially if he didn’t know I was taking them. Often, the theatrics made the pictures so much better, the exaggerated extension of his legs when climbing the uphill battle of getting back to the hotel made it oh so much more than just a good picture.
Walking through Chinatown and finding a brilliantly colorful dragon drawn on the side of a building, we stopped for a picture.
But, ten shots later, my perfect picture almost didn’t happen.
He insisted not only on theatrics but also on making sure he picked the dragon’s nose by sticking his hand in its giant nostril. With a smirk and a flick of the eyes, his sister pulled his hand down and we got something.
The dragon seemed fine with it.
In hindsight, I think the dragon was in on the whole joke.
Ironically, he hardly ever says I’m just joking.
He used to pontificate about pranks, which happen to be one of his favorite YouTube pastimes. Recently, it’s just weird drawings on the teacher’s whiteboards. Thank God they also have a sense of humor.
I could regress to his obsession with moles that appeared everywhere, so much so that I had to threaten that the moles had better not appear on photographs or human skin without permission.
However, I think you get the idea.
It seems that to him life is just way too serious.
And, if I weren’t such an adult, I’d be picking that dragon’s nose with him.
There’s a new law I found out about recently and I’m fascinated by it., sometimes horrified by it.
I believe it exists but I’m not sure that I’ve embraced it. The world I live in for the time being.
This world of education tends to shout otherwise. We teachers demand that students perform the way we want them to. No, actually, we demand that students perform the way the Department of Education wants them to. My only solace in following through with those demands is to often make fun of the DOE and then twist everything around and show the students how they can use education to get what they want.
Education also makes it difficult to work with this law because it demands that I enforce consequences on a regular basis. I must be strict. I must enforce silence when students prefer to talk. I must look angry, more often than not. I must make sure that they understand how to behave and do so because they fear me.
It does work. Teachers who don’t offer a significant amount of fear face the consequences of chaos and in middle school, chaos is scary. Students don’t just throw paper airplanes. They can really hurt one another.
We all know that if we’ve heard anything about school shootings or even students using social media.
The law I’m referring to is the Law of Attraction. I’d heard about it many years ago and I gave it a nod then went about my business. I heard about it again a few years ago and again nodded and again went about my business.
Then, a few strange, seemingly unconnected events juggled me around to this law once again.
I watched a Netflix documentary on Tony Robbins and actually liked it.
What a strange person: I liked him but didn’t trust what he had to say.
I found myself driving my teenage daughter to school in the mornings.
She became increasingly distant and downright rude.
I started looking for inspirational videos to listen to after I dropped my daughter off.
Most of them started with Tony Robbins, then I listened to some of his radio interviews with took me to Deepak Chopra then to Dr. Wayne Dyer then to Oprah Winfrey then to Esther Hicks who I eventually learned was the one of the original speakers of the Law of Attraction.
I then looked at my phone and saw that my sister had given me a copy of the Law of Attraction and I remembered what she said, “This is weird but just listen to it when you feel frustrated, while you clean, stick it in your pocket, put your earphones in your ears and listen.”
I did, but it made no sense to me.
However, with my daughter’s distance even when we were sitting next to each other, even when I didn’t talk except to say I love you, this law became increasingly important to me.
I had also lost my grandmother a few years ago and it left me hating myself for not being able to do more, wanting to tell her how much I loved her and how sorry I was for having acted like my daughter was and is acting. I didn’t act that way all the time but I did act that way in my teenage years and then later I became distant because of work and her difficulties with dementia/Alzheimer’s.
So, these mornings of listening to Esther who speaks as Abraham who delivers the message of the Law of Attraction has changed my view of death, regret, love, and hate. Really, it’s changed my view of everything, even education.
We are magnets according to Abraham, according to the Law. But, we are not magnets in the traditional sense or the common understanding of a magnets capabilities. Opposites do not attract. The Law of Attraction tells us we “Like” attracts “Like.”
So, even if we don’t want something and we scream that we don’t want it, If we push against it, we will just get more of it.
This made sense to me because everything negative in my life seemed to fly toward me with the intensity of electromagnetic force.
But, understanding this sometimes makes everything more frustrating, especially when you tell someone you love them and a door is slammed in your face.
The idea is that you attracted the door slamming in your face. If like attracts like, then what the hell? Why not love in return?
Maybe the anger was stronger than the love, for both of us.
So, little by little, one day at a time, I attempt to work within the Law of Attraction. I meditate every morning or as many mornings as I can. I look for things to appreciate. And, more often than not, I lose my patience and restart the next day.
Being a teacher, a parent, a wife, and a writer, gives me a lot to consider when walking through life under the Law of Attraction.
What are your thoughts? Have you heard of this law?
© Lisa Chesser