March 7, 2019

Super Heroes

You ever have one of those day where you feel like a superhero?

Your classes are mellow and calm, and on task. The kids are learning and you know because they show you and tell you and you see the growth. A nuanced claim statement, an outline that makes sense, evidence that proves profound points from books that were complex.

You speak to that one nervous kid and say things like, “Listen…look me in the eyes. I am not here to make you nervous. I am not judging or evaluating you as a person. I know you can do this stuff, so don’t panic when you see me. I am here to help you and teach you. This is the work we together in this space. Don’t worry about appearing smart or not smart, just focus on getting better from where you are. I am here for you and nothing else.” You see his shoulders ease up as he releases the anxiety and tension. He smiles awkwardly and you smile back. “You got this! What did I ask you to do?” He takes a breath, “Too add some transition words in my claim and make sure my reasons are aligned with parts of my claim.” He says confidently. “Quick, quick, get on that and get this task done before you leave today.”

You are relaxed and focused on every conversation with kids. You tell jokes. They laugh. You thank them. They nod knowingly. You and the kids are a team and you are winning.

You interact with your peers. Attend meetings. Contribute. You go to a PD on leadership and run two service meetings.

In Daraja you are working with small committees who are planning awareness raising campaigns on Consent and Feminism. At one point you say, “Hey guys, can I have your attention.”

But then catch yourself and explain to the group of mostly girls that you are sorry for calling them guys. “Oh we don’t mind. That’s not a big deal.” One says, so you say, “But you should care. Feminist online say we should pay attention to our language. When we live in a patriarchy, we have to realise the world was created by men for men, and even the language we consider normal falls under that system. So how do we question and react systems that were not build for girls and woman? How might we push back? What questions might we ask?” They nod. You’re not sure if this is too much or not enough.

After school you talk to another group of students about well being and working with adults with Mental Illness. Next week, the clients from a mental health facility will come to create art with these kids and you help them understand how questions are the key to learning. The group is calm and receptive. They seemed curious and engaged. You can feel this even through their fatigue.

It feels like you can do no wrong on days like this. You go to your daughter’s basketball game and come home too energised. You pace the house like a caged tiger. You make the lunches, watch Colbert, and then finally, you fall on the couch grateful you don’t work in a bank or at some company. You remember that this is what you work in a school. This is what you answered your calling. This is what super heroes must feel like.

November 15, 2018

homework

you bring
work home
every night.

it’s not
easy to
get done.

it’s more
than emails
planning, marking.

their problems
linger in
your heart.

one was
caught cheating
near tears.

the other
broken hearted
and alone.

one has
attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder.

the other
needs attention
can’t flirt.

one is
a follower
becoming lost.

the other
appears disrespectful
cripplingly insecure.

you bring
work home
every night.

their problems
linger in
your heart.

so you
make room,
go back
again tomorrow.

November 5, 2018

that girl

thank goodness for that girl       sitting a few rows back
nodding her head and making eye contact            letting you know

that even an ounce of what you are saying      about the power
of poetry       might be affecting at least one person

in your class      a glimmer of knowing and understanding
that might give her a key      to release her from every cage she’s ever

found herself in      the promise you are making is that
if done right       she too can arrange words to unravel the world

and piece it back together      like notes to her favorite song
or the prayers she’s memorised      and recently unearthed meaning in

without her engagement      the late afternoon gets sucked into a vacuum
of boredom and meaningless blather      teaching is the ability to share

love      oh wait      he gets it too over there in back
slouching      he seems barely awake       but you’ve seen the scribbles

in his notebook      the furrow in his brow      the chips on his shoulders
sometimes they trust      that what you say might lighten their loads

can you ever teach poetry        to someone who has yet to suffer
can any one of us understand a single word            if we don’t first embrace sadness

a few lessons ago      a boy when asked to share a poem
began to read a michael jackson song      heal the world

he first mumbled shyly          inaudibly        before he asked if he could sing
as if you had the authority     over the power of song

on that thursday afternoon      he gathered the courage
to share his truth       the others knew enough

to keep their laughter tethered     in their mouths        and the dream we were conceived in
will reveal a joyful face         and the world we once believed in

will shine again in grace          you’ll share this poem
with them      unsure where you’ll go next