Originally posted on August 2, 2011 at yoteach

Where have I been?!  The short answer: I lost my voice in December.  This was a bleak, brutal year, survived only by my inability to “speak.”  I missed being able to write, to talk, to unravel the knot of anxiety, and fear, and anger, and anger, and anger sitting tight in my chest.  But I believe that knot was the only thing holding me together, and I’m so much less productive if I’m falling apart every day.

Other things that fell by the wayside this year, I taught and planned and taught and planned and tried to keep my head above the ever-mounting demands of attempting to be the newspaper and yearbook “editor”: my yoga schedule, teacher book club, tango lessons, any regular work on my personal writing, the vast majority of my weeknight plans, and the teacher-research project I had foolishly signed onto in my first year at a new school. Through the New York City Writing Project, myself and a small group of other teachers resolved to identify an area of our teaching in which we felt need for improvement or development, or around which we felt tension. Entering a new school to a chorus of headlines and tirades about the laziness, villainy, and uselessness of teachers, my entire practice strained under the tension of self-doubt. Everything I did, I was convinced, needed improvement, development, or a complete overhaul. I had no time, I bounced from one awful thing I did to another with no productivity to speak of, and always in the background screamed a smear campaign that began to convince even me that I was greedy, that I did not work hard enough, that I did not deserve this job.

Thankfully, my mentor is a great teacher, the kind who recognizes that students are individual people and deserve unique approaches, and she rescued me from my panic with the suggestion that I use this space to respond to some of that media-roar.  So that’s the plan.  If nothing else, maybe I can quiet the din in my chock-full brain.

I’m starting high, with this video from the Save Our Schools March that took place in Washington, D.C. this past weekend.  Diane Ravitch’s address was one of many inspiring, invigorating speeches, and I’m posting it to remind myself to take heart. Response tomorrow!


Yet Another Teacher Blog?

Originally posted on December 15, 2010 at yoteach

I’ve been reluctant to start a blog like this. The Internet seems brimming with teachers who are also bloggers & I don’t know that I belong among them. There are those who write with passion & eloquence about how they love their students, about the magic that happens in their classrooms just because they care, about their evil, heartless principals & coworkers. Their posts read like montages of their hopeful smiles, tearful eyes, & bowed backs in dimly lit, sparsely decorated kitchens, where they sit alone & plan & plan & plan. “Gangsta’s Paradise,” of course, plays in the background.

Then there are the blogs of those who came through Teach for America & New York City Teaching Fellows (of which I am a lanyard-carrying member – Cohort 12 holla back). These bright young things tend toward two themes: the I Just Want to Help (If Only These Kids Would Let Me) blogs & the Funny/Appalling/Ridiculous Shit My Kids Write blogs. The latter category can easily be renamed “These Kids Are Dumb.”

But there are great teacher blogs, as well. I have been moved, inspired, encouraged, & entertained on the bleakest of days by some of the brilliant writers (who are teachers who are bloggers) lighting up the Internet. In fact, I think it’s those well-written teacher blogs that have kept me away. I’m intimidated, questioning the value of my voice. What can I have to say that isn’t being said already, & by better writers?

This goes against everything I believe as a teacher of writing – that everyone has a story to tell, that the ease & accessibility of self-publishing today must be taken advantage of, that perspective transforms a piece no matter how often it’s been told – but that’s my constant struggle. I have to struggle to take my own advice, as if it will work for everyone except me.

It was a trip to Disney World that turned me. No mouse ears for me, though.  I was there for the 2010 Annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), a conference I refer to as “English Teacher Spring Break” & that my students dubbed “Ms. T WordNerd Fest 2010.” Yeah, they’re cute.  Anyway, at NCTE, I had the opportunity to hear from Peter Cunningham, a representative of the US Department of Education & Arne Duncan.  I won’t go into detail on that event right now, because I’d need days to organize my thoughts & stop myself from writing pages upon pages of rage (directed toward Duncan & co.) & awe (of the amazing teachers that refuse to be trampled by the stampede of anti-teacher policy & sentiment rampaging across America).  Suffice it to say, the anger that left me shaking & squeezing my hands into fists as I approached the microphone, along with the goosebumps raised by the stories of these wonderful educators, reinforced that same old song I serenade my students with: every voice, every story, matters.

I can’t promise that this blog will be of the moving, inspiring, encouraging, entertaining variety.  Neither can I guarantee that it won’t be the saccharine tales of a martyr or the “students r dum lol” type (but I can hope).  I’m just going to give myself a voice, & see if it rings true.