On The Hill

Yesterday was a busy day. I am in Washington DC, and I got to go to The Hill to advocate for education on behalf of the National Writing Project (@writingproject).

The night before we had a briefing of what we would ask for. This year we asked for money for SEED grants and for money for states in something called LEARN which brings money to individual states. It’s a lot to remember- but as the core is the notion that the funding our congress people sign for makes a difference in individual classrooms and for individual students.

For instance, one of my colleagues was awarded a grant through the National Writing Project which will be used to train teachers in teaching argumentative writing. But more than that I have been able to bring this information to my classroom. 

In order to ask for the money, what I realized, we have to create a connection to our students, show our representatives what the money is being used for in a very tangible way.

Yesterday was a busy day. I am in Washington DC, and I got to go to The Hill to advocate for education on behalf of the National Writing Project (@writingproject).

The night before we had a briefing of what we would ask for. This year we asked for money for SEED grants and for money for states in something called LEARN which brings money to individual states. It’s a lot to remember- but as the core is the notion that the funding our congress people sign for makes a difference in individual classrooms and for individual students.

For instance, one of my colleagues was awarded a grant through the National Writing Project which will be used to train teachers in teaching argumentative writing. But more than that I have been able to bring this information to my classroom. 

In order to ask for the money, what I realized, we have to create a connection to our students, show our representatives what the money is being used for in a very tangible way.

The Biggest Short

On my way to Washington DC today I watched the movie The Big Short about the Great Recession of 2008 and how the housing shorts pushed the whole crisis. The story is about those investors who predicted the crisis, shorted the market as a result, and made a ton of money betting against the housing market. 

These investors knew doomsday was to come. They invested against the American economy and were rewarded monetarily. At the end of the movie there is a voice over that reflects on what value really is. He questions the true value of something while an earlier character, now homeless, chases his child around his car. 

What holds value, he asks.

Another character points out that in tough times poor people and immigrants are blamed, but the voiceover adds teachers to the list. Teachers were blamed for the crisis. 

It makes sense if you think about it. Blame the teachers- they have created this mess. After all, they are the ones who educated these bankers.

However, I don’t know a teacher who teaches for any other reason than to make the world a better place. The money certainly does not bring people into the profession.

The truth is: those of us who get into education do not place our bets in funds or markets. No- we place our bets on the future- on our hope for greater things to come- our children.

Commitment

The students walk in groggy-eyed, dreading what is ahead of them for the morning. I walk in to the library and the juniors and seniors are milling about, some in pajamas, others in yoga pants, or sweats.

The first year I did this I worried about behavior problems, but in the seven years I’ve done it I have never once had a student melt down or give any kind of problem. After all, putting 70 students into one room is normally not a great idea.

I was lucky this year because there were other people in the building facilitating another event, CREATE. I didn’t feel quite so lonely as I watched students bubble and bubble and bubble, and then write their hearts out.

 

This morning I proctored 70 students as they took the AP Lang practice exam our school offers. I have never had that many students take this exam. We arrive at 7 in the morning and are finished by 11. We offer this experience so that our students understand the endurance involved in taking this exam. I was exhausted afterwards, and I didn’t even take the exam.

These students? They’re committed.

The Great Oblivion

As I mentioned in my post from Tuesday, my students conducted a technology fast over the last week. While I allowed students to define which technology they would fast, most of my students conducted a cell phone fast.

The day their essays were due, I had my students stand in a continuum around the room: “I had no problem doing it, it wasn’t a big deal” all the way to “I couldn’t do it and I had a breakdown about it.” We also conducted a class discussion about what happened for them.

It took a bit for the students to get rolling, but those who struggled had some commonalities. These students stated the were afraid of boredom. When I asked them to define what boredom means to them, they said “It’s when you sit by yourself and you get the feels.”

I kept pushing, and I proved, “What’s wrong with the feels? I thought it was good to have feelings and to be engaged in your world in that way.”

You know their reply? “It reminds me that I’m alone. I can’t handle that feeling of being alone in the world. I want to know people are out there with me and if I have my phone it reminds me other people are there with me.”

The class named this feeling “the Great Oblivion.” They concurred that it is simply too scary to explore.

This is the exact reason it’s necessary philosophy is taught to juniors in high school. When the explore philosophers, they begin to understand they are not the only people with “the feels.”

The Dilemma

I have a constant battle that occurs in my mind. I try desperately not to let it steep out, but it is every present. The battle goes something like this:

I want to savor my life. All the small moments matter. All the things that are intangible hold great significance. Those pieces that make up each day…those matter.

But I also want to be “caught up.” I want to feel like my ever-present to-do list is complete…or at least complete enough.

Each weekend I spend time thinking about how I can procrastinate just one thing, how it will be okay on Monday morning if this thing is not done. I convince myself I need to spend more time with my family, that my daughter only has 3 1/2 more years left to live with us.

So you see, the dilemma is rich and is a no-win set up: if I savor, there is no time because I am catching up. If I am “caught up” there is no time to savor because I’m constantly working.

So how about this? I don’t procrastinate. I savor my moments when they come, and I get done what I can. This feels so much kinder and gentler. After all, why does it HAVE to be one or the other?

Please comment on how you survive this dilemma in your own life.