Friday, January 31, 2014

Like Moss...

I try carefully not to overtly discuss education in any forum, but then my frustration will get the better of me and I'll let it all out to whoever is willing to listen: Facebook, my husband, my students (only when I feel like they need to know for the sake of THEIR sanity), etc...and I'm not sure that's the right thing to do. I always feel guilty and conflicted after a tongue lashing; yet, I suppose I'm human and am granted this fault from time to time.

Recently, I was reading in Writer's Digest (Jan 2014) and I came across an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert (Author of Eat, Pray, Love). The focus was not her previous book, but the research she did for her current fictional novel, The Signature of All Things. It follows the story of level-headed Alma Whittaker and her quest to find happiness in life. Set in the backdrop of the 1800s, it's a book I can't wait to read. I'm hoping to talk The January Book Club into it in March? The research article contained an excerpt from the piece about moss. Ordinary, simple, over-looked moss. And I felt like you could insert "teacher" into almost every sentence and the selection read with the same fervor, intensity, and dignity.

It states, "Mosses were typically defined by what the lacked, not by what they were...mosses bore no fruit...had no roots...could not grow more than a few inches tall...Mosses did not even engage in sex in any obvious manner. [They] kept their propagation a mystery to the naked human every way, mosses could seem plain, dull, modest, even primitive...But here is what few people understood: Moss is inconceivably strong. Moss eats stone; scarcely anything, in return, eats moss...Given enough time, a colony of moss can turn a cliff into gravel, and turn that gravel into topsoil...Moss grows where nothing else can grow...moss is the first sign of life to reappear on land that has been burned or otherwise stripped down to the barrenness. Moss has the temerity to begin luring the forest back to life. It is a resurrection engine."

And I felt like moss after reading this. Teachers are constantly being defined by what we are not, followed by a slew of things we aren't doing, can't do, or don't do right. Our propagation in our own careers right now remains an absolutely mystery, to ourselves and to each other. We are all desperately trying to teach these children and keep our jobs at the same time - a concept that the new evaluation system and testing rig-em-roll seems outright desperate to destroy. I've never worked in a climate with so much fear and hostility. We are viewed as plain, dull, modest, even primitive in the most insulting ways - our intelligence, our expertise, our wisdom, our degree. And the state keeps pushing us. Gravity no long keeps me rooted in my profession, it pushes me down, not pulls.

"Ay, but "[here's] the rub..."

Teachers are unbelievably strong. We eat stone - in whatever format it is thrown at us - and can turn it into dust. And we can grow anywhere, with any child, at any time. We can become a colony of stone eating awesomeness with just a few kids and a book. We grow where NOTHING else can grow. For our students, we are the first sign of life many of them encounter after a desolate existence in their own homes. We bring back to life what has been burned and it isn't through SEVENTY-EIGHT steps in a math problem that actually takes TWO steps to solve. We reappear again, and again, and again to rebuild what has been stripped to barrenness; to include ourselves and our students. We posses the temerity to bring the world back to life. We are a resurrection engine.

My teacher friends: be like moss.

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