January 24, 2018


It’s a weird vibe and I’m in a stranger contemplative mood. I had a long taxing but fulfilling day, which I will get to in a second.

Right now, I am listening to Little Wing by Stevie Ray Vaughn and it feels like honey dripping from the headphones into my ears and brain and heart.

This music is magical and it is making me fly in through this screen and out of yours. Earlier in the car, after I picked up Kai from basketball ,and she sat in the back, exhausted and absorbed in her phone, when we were both too tired to engage in conversation, I was blasting The Doors, remembering how important it had felt years ago to break on through to the other side, and how now, how futile those youth dipped fantasies feel. Though I still hoped that the words were being absorbed through Kaia's skin like some kind of osmosis therapy.

But where did that tangent come from. I was speaking of this mood. I am drinking a glass of straight Cointreau because we’re out of wine; it is cold and syrupy and coating the inside of my mouth and throat.

Without going into personal student details, I spent today talking to students about how we need to deal with the diversity in our community. Two kids were upset that another student appeared to be getting away with behaviour that they felt inappropriate. I tried to explain to them that sometimes we need to make accommodations for members of our community who have differences, but this one student's views on justice and unfairness are so entrenched that she couldn’t understand why he might need different attention.

We sat and talked in the pod. She 13 me 43. Two humans in very different places in life. It is my job, I suppose to do this work, but I see these conversations as so much more than a job. How else can teenagers learn unless the adults in their lives value and respect their ideas and help them see how they might think differently or change their world view.

I do not think that she understood what I was saying or is willing to change her thinking right now, but these conversations, this mentoring is not immediate or sudden. As teachers, we must chip away at how kids see the world. Give them pieces, remove barriers and trust that they will eventual come to their own understanding. My talk with these girls felt like a failure. I could tell they felt unsatisfied with how I was asking them to behave. These little feelings of failure can be taxing.

In my other classes I was teaching Life Skills, where we have started the Puberty and Sex Ed unit. The authenticity of their questions made me so happy. I think about how terrifying the notion of puberty is and how confusing the onslaught of the sexual experience can be. They were so earnest in their inquiries. So curious and uncomfortable. I know many teachers who shy away from these conversations, but like most things that are difficult, I think they are so important. We middle school teachers have a duty to be more than the imparters of academic knowledge.

We are the web lines between parents and culture and friends and media. We help young people make sense of the chaos that is adolescences.

I apologise for the rambling. Iron and Wine is on Spotify now, and I just like the feeling of the words draining from my mind through my fingers on this page. There is little thought to structure or meaning just the emptying of a day hard earned. I can imagine a construction working coming home aching from the heavy lifting of cement and steel beams, but this work, the work we do everyday, lifting the material of teaching can be difficult to bear too.

These kids are not just names on an attendance sheet. And this has become so much more clear, now that Kaia is in Middle School. I see her changing right before my eyes. And while I might be some kind of expert at work, she might need more than my advice at home. I am relived to know that there are people at school who love her enough to be open and listen and care and help and push and protect and understand.

Thank goodness for good middle school teachers. I could have used a few when I was 13 and all I can hope is to be a one.

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