The End

I’m going to roll the last two essays of Dear Teachers into one reflection and close this first year’s journey off. It’s the end. Or, an end.
In Week 39, I wrote of the importance in seeing those tiny good things in life: life’s sweetnesses. Ends make them stand out more.
There has been a ton of vitriol on social media this week. Perhaps not new, but the education community has been sucked into this phenomenon as well. Earnest people have been burned. Stances have been challenged. Flames have been fanned. You know the whole routine. Between these behaviors and my own personal struggles, I’ve been in an odd place wondering about what we (I) are doing. Then, I had a short, but surprisingly deep conversation with a clerk at a store. It really moved me. I found myself genuinely thanking him and wishing him well as we finished our business. I honestly felt a tiny moment of sweetness there that captured that wholeness and togetherness of which I’ve spoken of throughout this book.
Week 40, the …

Part of the Greater Whole

Some schools are done! Some teachers are already jumping into summer work, rest or relaxation. Others have a bit to go.
Previously, I said May’s essays were about “wholeness”: our whole selves, surroundings, and need for gifts (opportunities) from others. In Week 38, I reiterate: we are part of a whole. The schools that are still open and the ones that are closed. The teachers who are still winding down and the ones moving to a new challenge. It includes all the parents, other staff, and citizens of our cities and towns. Our wholeness is ALL of us.
When I originally wrote Week 38, I wrote from the direct perspective of our need (teacher and student alike) for nature. Symbolically, however, “nature” is that wholeness of this globe. We all need a break from our routines. Why? Because of what Shakespeare says: we need to remember we’re kin. Our routines focus our attention on us. Vacations- breaks of any kind- help us escape our ego’s emphasis on self and return to seeing that we are tiny …

Love, Choice & Opportunity: A Strong Web

When I wrote it, Week 37 felt like the most controversial essay of the whole book. I wonder if you agree? I wrote it to both the educator within us and to Humanity.
Yes, I was drawing an analogy. Wherever I used “squirrel”, insert “person” or “student”. Yes, the story of the squirrel follows Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. None of us can think big if we can’t get beyond fulfilling our basic needs.
The fundamental notion that we need to dramatically address our social contracts (not just the ones teachers have with students) has grown in my mind over the intervening time. Since I penned this essay, I’ve learned more about the different struggles that students face in their daily lives. My view on how incredibly broad the range of experiences is among the youth of today has become more clear. In many ways, that scope is the result of how our social contracts have been written and practiced across the board. I have spoken with adults across the United States and around the world, who deserved…

The Flow of Our Niche

I can’t believe the time is almost here. Doing these weekly updates will be ending in just a few weeks! Soon, there will be the dead halls and the empty smells and hollow sounds that can only be found in a school after a busy year.
This school year will end. This book will come to a close. There will finally be a “wholeness” to it.
May’s essays focus on the big, kaleidoscope of “WHOLENESS”. What does that term mean, exactly? Where are we whole or not, both as individuals and as a group? What actions can we take to be both more effective and more satisfied players in that bigger whole?How can we affect conditions for as broad of a group as possible- to reach a bigger and more overarching WHOLENESS?
This week, I suggest that part of the answer is finding a rhythm that fits us. I enjoyed taking a trip to the beach through Marlene’s photo. I could picture the sounds of the waves, the smells on the wind, feel warmed by the sun, and hear the cries of water birds in this shot. It's a rhyth…

Offer Your Colors and Flavor

The family saw Avengers: Infinity War yesterday. Believe it or not, I saw big connections with this week’s essay in Dear Teachers: Offer Your Colors and Flavor.
I won’t go into detail, but this movie centers around collaboration. As I wrote in this week’s essay, we all have a flavor: our color of our bloom. It’s our decision on if we hide it or expose it to the world.
I operate one way. You operate in another way. T'Challa works one way. Black Widow works another. The important part is this: trying and encouraging others to do as well. Together.
“Sure, we put ourselves at risk when we do this. We may be ridiculed or targeted with malicious intent. Yet, whether we are a vibrant monarch or dust-brown moth, the universe is a more beautiful place with our presence and participation.”
Spoiler alert: There are no guarantees!
We may fail. Repeatedly. We may have to battle the fear of failure or of offending someone by our choices. But, if we ourselves remember to be open to the whole garden,…

The Heart Within

I just finished writing a big essay on my main blog, called Spring and the Death of Denial. It was in response to a fantastic conversation on a philosophical radio program called On Being. Now, I’m hopping back into Dear Teachers, and am struck by how this week’s essay, the last of the April focus on what’s really there, connects to that.
When we don’t want people to see who and what we really are, we throw up defenses. When we don’t trust the people that surround us, we again build barriers. Within those walls, we are one thing. Outside of those walls, we are something else.
To grow, we first have to admit the walls exist within all of us. They come from our families and traditions. From our own pasts. From our own needs. From our own fears.
In this week’s essay, the image from Marlene that I chose was a close-up of a lily in full bloom. The center of that flower is bright yellow, while the outer edges are a deep red, trimmed in that same golden hue. We don’t get to see the full complex…

Rising Higher and Higher

This week, I’m including the full essay from my book, Dear Teachers. In addition, I’m going to share a link to a beautifully written blog entry from a teacher I’ve met on Twitter, which I believe resonates with it. It’s Julia E. Torres’s An Open Heart, which talks of the need of being both true and there for all our students.
The picture I used this week wasn’t the normal nature scenes. It’s a balloon, whose pattern reminded me of rainbows and seagulls, flapping across the sky. The word choices I made were influenced by BTS’s Outro: Wings, a powerful song about hope, belief, and  the need to support each other.
All my April essays focus on really seeing what is. Especially now, we may be too exhausted to see either our or our students’ progress. We may be disheartened by personal or larger-scale setbacks and feel swamped by negativity. But if we find time to look, we’ll see our balloons are still rising and we can make changes to help them rise further. There’s hope! All by working and …