Enjoy the Journey

Enjoy the journey.

That was what I promised back in August, while vacationing on the Rhode Island shore.  It seemed so simple, so clear then. Everyone who knows me knows I truly love the work I do; I was determined then not to allow disruptive forces to capsize my professional kayak.  I was resolute: I would protect my passion from pirates, piranhas, and politicians.

Enjoy the journey.

Then it was September. No sooner had the school year begun that stress exerted increasing pressure, rocking my little instructional boat, interfering with what used to be the joy of teaching.  I was paddling faster and harder than ever, but the current just kept pushing me backwards.  This was not the annual back-to-school angst or re-entry.  For the first time  since I was a novice,  I felt unanchored. It was simultaneously  frightening and frustrating. The safety straps of my professional life jacket were giving way under the constant strain, and from early September till now, I have been navigating uncharted waters, fearing that I might be swept away by roiling tides beyond my control, afraid that this was preventing me from doing what was best for kids.  It was all I could do to keep my craft afloat.  I found myself sailing in circles, desperate for nonexistent channel markers to show me the way.

Enjoy the journey.

But I am an optimist, a the-glass-is-half-full kind of girl.  So I continued to take great joy in the moments of smooth sailing on this traumatic voyage. At the heart of each day were the kids, kids who had never read The Pearl or met Ponyboy and the greasers, kids who were rightfully outraged by the hatred and shamed by the inhumanity of the Holocaust, kids who discovered their inner poets and essayists, kids who spun their own narratives and met their future selves.  I used every tool of the trade to keep us all buoyant in an alphabet soup of distractions and disruptions–MAPs, ELAs, APPR, RTTT, AYP. The seventh grade and I took an expedition to the Harlem Renaissance and we documented our visit to Langston Hughes in a DVD.  The adventure was fraught with unexpected obstacles–technology almost sank our raft–but in the end, we made it safely to our next port of call, stronger and smarter for the excursion. With the eighth grade, we traveled to the scariest of all destinations: ourselves, using the experiences of those more accomplished than we were to fuel our mojos. From Colin Powell’s Thirteen Rules, we derived our own guidelines for safe sailing; Sandra Cisneros dared us to do the impossible; Sonya Sotomayor’s abuelita showed us the power of unconditional love.

Enjoy the journey

What truly save me from death by water, though, were the people in my own corridor. I have been continually inspired and humbled by the strength and smarts of my colleagues who have been busy maintaining their own vessels under pressure equal to or greater than the waves that have threatened my ship.  I am amazed by their stamina and their courage.  Every day the people I am privileged to work with labor endlessly for the common good of the kids they are responsible for. Their lessons are creative and challenging and I could never, ever have survived this perilous journey–much less enjoyed it–without them.  I have learned so much from their skillful maneuvers and from their grace under pressure. Being among such seasoned souls has made me more able to conquer the choppiest of waters.  Being among such very fine people has allowed me not to lose faith in humanity.

Enjoy the journey.

After a year of hurricanes and squalls, sand bars and rip currents, we will soon dock.  My little craft will show the wear.  There will be places where rocks have ripped the hull and where sea water  has washed over the gunwales. It is my fervent hope–there’s that optimist again–that by August, I will be healed and will once again be able to make that new school year’s resolution to enjoy the journey.       

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3 thoughts on “Enjoy the Journey

  1. Your analogy of a ship on rocky waters-or a voyage beset with obstacles is so fitting for the school year. You are truly a wordsmith-but more important your ability to teach is extraordinary. I am sure your enthusiasm for teaching will return after some R & R this summer!

  2. Sonya Sotomayor’s “abuelita”? OK, you got me. I had to look this up. I still miss being there with you Grandma.

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