Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Central Park, June 2011

How to describe
the way the light filters
through overlapping

The leaves collage
and shadow each other
Exposing four unique
shades of green.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Buffalo Dusk

Carl Sandburg

The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and
how they pawed the prairie sod into dust
with their hoofs, their great heads down
pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.

My class is studying Manifest Destiny and the Mexican-American War and the Trail of Tears and one of my students brought this poem in.

As always, I am moved by repetition.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

24 Years: A Retrospective

As I sit to write this it is the evening of my 24th birthday. It is remarkable that another year has come and gone, and it has made me think of the gift my dear friend Anna gives us each new year; a written reflection of the year that's passed.

I passed my 23rd birthday finishing my first year of teaching and celebrating with my incredible fifth grade class about the stunning growth they made.Feeling great confidence in my ability to teach I accepted a position at my school teaching 7th grade Language Arts and Social Studies, knowing I would be teaching with my dear friend Kevin, who teaches math and science.

Straight from my first year of teaching I shot across the Atlantic Ocean to meet David in England. He had just finished his Masters degree in History at Cambridge, and was graduating in July. We went on a fast and food-filled tour through Munich, Prague, Berlin, Stockholm, Paris, and Amsterdam before joining David's dear parents in Cambridge for the graduation. After watching the ancient-seeming graduation (all in Latin!) we went on a driving tour through England, to Stratford-Upon-Avon to visit Shakespeare, Bath to spy on Jane Austen, and to Stonehenge. We even found David's ancestral homeland, Priddy and enjoyed drinks with locals. Then, David and I went to meet his friend in Scotland, before returning to my second homeland, Ireland.

It was amazing to leave "Ms. Aplet" in Chicago, to rejoin David after a year of a trans-Atlantic relationship which, though filled with postcards, was really quite lonely. It was also amazing to see so many new things with the man who has truly become my best friend.

Chicago has been a mixed blessing for me, and I returned with a heavy heart. I didn't yet know I would be entering an incredible challenging year. I figured that my first year of teaching was over, and everything would get better.

On my last night in Dublin, I received an e-mail that the Director of my school had been forcibly removed by the head of the Charter School Network. With his dismissal, the rest of the leadership team left the school. The team that had promised to support me though the challenges of 7th grade were now gone and I was left with a brand new team that didn't know me.

After a tear filled censorship battle, hours of struggling and battling to maintain autonomy in my classroom while maintaining professionalism, hours and hours of planning and working and grading combined with the hormones, drama and smells that come with 7th grade, I am proud to say that I have (almost) survived 7th grade, again.

Another challenge hit me in the beginning of December at a Hanukkah party when I fell and tore a ligament in my right knee. Without knowing the full extend of it, I had torn my ligament very slightly in high school during a hip hop class. I had been walking with this injury for the past five years unbeknown to me. Friends rushed me to the emergency room for a painful bracing of my leg until I could have surgery two weeks later.

Gratefully, my parents rushed to my side to support me through the surgery and stayed with me in a very cold and snowy Chicago December. After the surgery I was returned to near infancy and my dear parents were forced to perform tasks they hadn't been responsible for 20 years.

I took this bit of "down time" to apply to graduate school at the University of Michigan School of Information.

I returned to work January 2 after spending a hobbly week in San Luis Obispo with David's family. For the first several weeks I had to teach sitting down with my leg in a full cast elevated on another chair. Although seventh graders are no where perfect behaviorally, they were incredibly supportive and helpful, and we were able to quickly make up for lost time in December.o

After a month of physical therapy, we realized that I was not recovering as planned. Scar tissue had grown around my knee and locked it in, preventing me from bending my leg more than 20 degrees. I therefore had to return to the surgery table, and during the worst blizzard in Chicago in the last 20 years (19 inches of snow in just 24 hours) I underwent a second surgery to break up the tissue.

I had a wonderful physical therapy team, who worked with me three times a week on late evenings after school, and I have continued to progress, finally losing crutches at the end of April. I joked that I might be unique in my mission to earn a Masters Degree (in Teaching, awarded in May) and learn how to walk at the same time.

Whew, what a year.

Tonight I attended my first Yoga class since the surgery, a Bikram Yoga class with my dear friend Traci and for the first time since surgery I feel hopeful that I will make a full recovery. It is frustrating not to be back to 100 percent after so many hours and weeks and months, but at least I know I will get there.

My mantra during Yoga was aimed at unblocking all of the stagnation in my life. I have been feeling so stagnated with movement, with relationships, with emotions, with goals and I am ready to release all of these things to get some fresh air and excitement in. I am ready to embrace the future.

And what a future! This fall I will leave the classroom to become a student once again at the University of Michigan. I am joining the School of Information to study Library Science and Archival Management, and I am thrilled. I will be moving to Ann Arbor to join David, who is busy earning his JD at the Michigan School of Law. I look forward to new friendships, new movements, new books, new contacts with old dear friends, new recipes, new experiences, and time to enjoy it all!

This weekend, my dearest friends joined me for a delicious birthday dinner. Over a toast I compared my last two years to Dorothy's journey on the Yellow Brick Road. I am so grateful for all of the people who have joined me a long the way, and grateful for the person that I have come to Chicago.