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Certified PreK-6. Masters in Child Development. Advocate for play, teacher & children choice, & the family's voice. Believe in volunteering as social justice.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Journey On

"You cannot change your journey if you are unwilling to move at all." (Ally Condie)

New Year's Eve has come to represent new beginnings. It's a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the future. As a teacher, I used to mark the start of a new year by the academic calendar rather than New Year's Eve. This made sense as I spend time preparing a classroom and anxiously waiting the moment when I would meet my new students and their families.

To an extent, I still mark the start of a new year by the academic calendar. September seems to be another time of new beginnings as school starts, a new semester of grad school begins, and volunteer projects jump into action. And yet, seven years ago I also began to mark New Year's Eve as a time of new beginnings. Seven years ago, on New Year's Eve, I moved to Chicago for a new teaching job. This was a significant point in my journey. I was moving past the comfort of living within close proximity to my friends and the safety of working with a mentor teacher in the same school to a large city that I had only ever spent brief moments in without knowing where I would live or having the safety of having my closest friends nearby.

I can still vividly remember arriving at a college friends's apartment in the dark and snow and craziness that tends to reign on New Year's Eve. More scared than excited, I brushed it off and sent my parents on their way. I remember thinking, "what have I done", as friends counted down to the New Year. I spent the week in a haze and then all of sudden Monday was upon me and it was time to venture to a new school, a new set of colleagues, and a new set of children and families.

I've learned a lot since that crazy move seven years ago. I have learned how to navigate life in the city, how to grocery shop when you rely on the train to get around, and I learned how to teach. In the past seven years, I have learned the type of teacher that I want to be, what beliefs I hold about education and young children and their families, and how to fight for what I believe to be the best for my students.

And now, on the eve of another new year, I reflect on all I still need to know, on the things that I still need to wrestle with and make sense of. Seven years after nervously leaving the small city where I went to college, I am on the verge of graduating from grad school. I feel poised and well equipped to move onto the next stage of my journey. If only I could figure out what that next stage will be.

I am so fortunate to be at an internship that allows me to try new things and allows me the opportunity to get to know faculty and staff at my grad school more deeply. I am blessed that the several part time jobs I hold are at such places as a large not-for-profit that works in support of young children and at a children's museum. I know that these opportunities are amazing and are preparing me for the future and I am so lucky that these opportunities have also made my presence known to many influential people in the field of early childhood education.

And so now it is up to me. It is up to me to reflect on my journey and to open myself up to the future. Maybe I'll end up back in the classroom. Maybe I'll end up overseas. Maybe I'll end up as a teacher coach. The possibilities do seem endless. And maybe that's okay. Maybe it now becomes my job to filter these possibilities and allow myself to pick a direction. Because it seems that whichever direction I pick will be a good choice and will help me continue to work in defense of play, learning, children, and teachers.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pushing Past the Darkness

"It is the small things, every day deeds from ordinary folk, that keep the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love." (Gandalf, The Hobbit)

Like everyone in the nation and across the globe, I am devastated by the school shooting in Connecticut last week. This devastation felt especially hard in the education community. As I sat and watched the news, the toddler that I teach and care for on Fridays was safely asleep in his crib, peacefully unaware of the evil that can permeate the land. I sat in his living room sobbing; heartbroken over the fact that our youngest children were attacked and grateful for the teachers doing all that they could to protect the children.

Even in their own incredible fear, the teachers continued to put their children first. This is what teachers and other caregivers do every day. They put their children first. Day after day and year after year. And I will always be grateful for this. I will always champion and support this incredible love.

At the end of the day on that Friday, the toddlers parents came rushing in to the house, relieved that their baby was safe and spared from tragedy. I left among tears and gratitude for keeping their most precious baby safe. Then I went to an event with a set of friends not inside of the education world. Saddened beyond comprehension, I was hesitant to go, but was hopeful that the company of friends would help. Not one of them knew what had happened in Connecticut. Not one of them was sad or scared or heartbroken.

And I then felt so terribly alone.

I left the event early and went home and cried myself to sleep. The next day I took to Twitter for distraction and found a community full of sadness and fear and confusion. I found those people that I always find to remind me that I'm not alone in the feelings I have. Those wonderful and varied educators and parents that make up a global learning community. I later read @happycampergirl's candid blog post that you can and should read and felt as though it would begin to be okay.

Not right away and not all at once, but I will be able to help my broken heart heal. We all will slowly heal. We won't forget. We should never forget. But we will begin to heal.

We will begin to heal as we do when every crises and small moments of fear and sadness envelop us. We will begin to heal by doing good. We will continue to do the little things every day that push the darkness away.

For classroom teachers that means that you will continue to teach and inspire and protect and love your students. You will continue to do everything you do that makes your student's days a little brighter and a little safer. For administration this means that you will do what you can to support your teachers and students and to do it all in love and hope.

The small moments of love-the smiles, the hugs, the little notes to let each other know that we are not alone-these will be the catalysts to chase away the darkness.

And then we will continue, or begin, to do the big things that will further encourage hope and light. We will serve others in need. I often tell people that the reason I volunteer so frequently is because social justice is not an option, it is an obligation that we all must participate in. I believe this more than ever and have to have faith that in our large and small acts of social justice that we will begin to heal and that we will begin to enact change.

For if enough of use are able to heal and then bring that healing to others, think of all the change and hope that can arise.