I looked at my calendar last week and was stupefied that May was so close. It felt like the wording on the passenger-side side-view mirror: OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. I suppose it is a lesson, which I need to heed more often. I have a habit of letting things creep up on me; it is along the same lines as not reading the fine print or asking for directions. I asked myself how it happened, but I already knew the answer. Ferris Beuller said it best, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop look around once in a while you could miss it.” Life does move fast and sometimes the only thing you can do is look around.
I’ve been looking around a lot lately. My seventh grade ELA students finished their Mask and Identity unit and we are now on The Road to Perseverance unit to finish the year. There are four units – one for each quarter. The bad weather days in January messed up the schedule and we finished the third unit in the fourth quarter and started the final unit a few days late, hence my ‘closer than they appear’ observation. It has been a good year. The students have been great and I will miss them, but I won’t miss all of them because I found out after Easter that I’ll be moving with them to eighth grade. After fourteen years in seventh grade, I finally was promoted!
The move to eighth grade is not the only change,
I change content areas as well – I am moving to science and leaving ELA behind. When I learned the news, waves of emotion swept over me. When the shock wore off, I slowly began to wrap my mind around the idea and I am looking forward to it. US History replaces geography and the pupa will morph into the beautiful butterfly. How’s that for showing off my science prowess?
My colleagues rallied behind me to show their support telling me how surprised they were that I was changing and I let them know it wasn’t what it appeared. Though it seemed random, I am certified to teach science and I did begin my college career as an engineering student. I took chemistry and physics and did reasonably well in those classes; it was the calculus and engineering statics class that killed me in engineering. I changed my major and finished with a Liberal Arts degree in History. Then fifteen years later, I went back to school to earn a degree in Elementary Education and the rest is history, so to speak. Though I’ve never taught science, I think the transition will be a good one. It won’t be easy, but ELA hasn’t been easy, either. It will be challenging and the most important part is the kids, teaching kids.
I do speak science and have always approached geography as a science. The curriculum is chemistry and physics with astronomy mixed in, but the key element is the human element, the kids.
As part of the Masks and Identity unit, we asked our students to prepare artwork that reflected the unit theme –‘ is it beneficial or harmful to wear a mask?’ We prefaced the art by introducing “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. The concept fit nicely within the unit and students had to defend why they created their piece of art. Modelling is one of the most effective ways to teach – the first form of learning is copying and then making your copy different. I showed them an example and while they were working, I created my own piece of art. Seventh graders are always amazed when their teachers share a talent – especially a hidden talent. They see me one way, when in fact there are many layers beneath the exterior. Below is my work of art and my sample explanation, though it is hardly museum quality, it does conform to the guidelines of the rubric. My students did a fabulous job with their works as well, but they have grown so much this year, and my job as a seventh grade teacher is almost complete. We’ll be polishing a few rough edges in the final twenty-nine days of school. And, I’ll be working extra hard to make all of those days count. You know I will.
For my artistic project related to the theme of Masks and Identity, I chose to create a self-portrait of myself that communicates the important aspects of my personality that people often overlook. The self-portrait is entitled “Man behind the Moustache.” I got this idea by reading the lyrics to the song “I am not my Hair” written and performed by India Arie, which we listened to in class, I downloaded it to my iPhone and listen to it often. The song tells the story of India Arie as she grows from a child into adulthood and the chorus of the song is:
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within
Later in the song, she sings:
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better person?
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend? Oh
Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity?
I am expressing my creativity..
I can identify with India Arie and her song because for most of my life I tried to fit in. I cut my hair short, I kept my face clean-shaven or if I did grow facial hair, it was a conventional style, one that fit within the normal of society. A few years ago, I decided to let my hair grow. I am not sure why I made the choice, but it was a choice. The longer my hair grew the more attached I became to my hair. Most men my age keep their hair short, they choose to conform, or their hair is beginning to thin. Not me. My hair communicates to the world that I don’t conform, but deep down I do, I work hard to fit in and follow the rules, or follow the rules as I see and interpret them. Last fall, I decided to raise awareness to men’s health issues and join the Movember Movement, and grow a moustache for November. I shaved my goatee and began the month of November with a naked face. At the time, I felt I’d grow the moustache, raise awareness for men’s health issues, raise some cash at the same time, and when November ended I’d then grow the goatee back, but I haven’t. I’ve allowed the moustache to grow and grow, and seemingly, to take on a persona of its own. In a way, I can hide behind the ‘stache as it communicates non-conformism, like my hair, in a way it makes me stand out. People remember because of my hair and my ‘stache. However, there is more of behind the ‘stache and the hair. What people see is what they want to see and what they choose to see.
My ‘stache doesn’t determine who I am any more than any other part of my façade, my exterior. I am not my moustache, I am so much more, just look and listen, and imagine.
We’ve been busy this weekend and we did take time to smell the flowers. We visited the Morton Arboretum for our annual family photo shoot with the daffodils. The daffodils were in perfect form and the weather cooperated. It was clear and sunny. The trees are beginning to break out and buds were slowly opening. A couple more weeks and we’ll have leaves and shade. In the meantime, I had better get moving – I have few finishing touches to breathe life into this post and then a million other tasks before the sun sets. Today is gonna be a great day, a million and six times better than yesterday, but I’d better get a start on it or it will be history before I know it. Making the Days Count, one element at a time, especially the human element.
What ‘surprises’ have come your way lately?
20 thoughts on “CH4 and the last weekend in April”
Congratulations! You will make an imaginative — in science that means FABULOUS — science teacher.
thank you – I read your post about climate change and garlic and it made me think deeply about what I am doing about it… science is going to be fun and I am going to work to make it fun for the kids and myself. Learning should be an everyday occurrence and we need to be able to think creatively to solve some of the problems that humans have created for ourselves. thanks for stopping by and I wonder about garlic flavored milk.
Can we make you a regular on the evening news? I’m tired of hearing about housing starts, economic growth and the former owner of the Clippers.
Thanks – me, too…..America should get a ticket for driving under the influence – most of the crap we occupy ourselves with is really unimportant… collectively we are an incredibly creative group of people – as a whole we are made up of people who took a risk and migrated to our shores leaving everything behind – though some were forced to come – this inherent risk taking is why (I believe) we are (or were) such a creative force in the world…innovators, problem solvers, unique solutions – but lately it seems we have lost our way and been distracted by the unimportant issues facing us… feed garlic to cows? or harvest the CH4 and run generators to make electricity with it?
OMG! You are leaving ELA behind! Wow. I’m trying to wrap my brain around that one. You know, because your writing is so marvelous! That piece you did about your choice to stop worrying about what others think/expect from men regarding hair/skin, etc… to follow your own ideal of what you want for yourself. It sounds like such a small thing, but truly, that act is a brave one! It takes a lot of courage to do something “different” in our critical society.
The truth is, no matter what subject you teach, I know you will approach it with passion! Your students are so very lucky!
So glad to be able to be able to bop in on others now! Thank you for stopping over at my place – and for continuing to support me on my journey back to health!
Renee, Thank you. But, ELA is my second love, Social Studies is..it is sort of a forced marriage….but with the state of middle level education and the emphasis on literacy, social studies takes a back seat, or rather a trailer, or maybe, it is shipped parcel post. Whatever social studies is, it is not a big emphasis at the middle level. Coming out of education school I had three content area endorsements – Social Studies, ELA, and Science. I remember interviewing for teaching positions the summer after I graduated.. the endorsements opened doors for me but I was hired as a 6th grade English teacher for my first job. After that first year, I was promoted to 7th grade and taught social studies – geography for a few years. I’ve bounced between English – geography – and ELA as my main focus for fourteen years at 7th grade. I am excited about the change. I am nervous, too but it is a great opportunity and it will be different in very good way. I’ll still keep the blog going, who knows what will happen the following year. But, I still get to teach the kids and that is the best part.
Thanks again, I am glad you are back and able to bop about..
Sometimes life does throw us a curveball. Change might be good though. Challenging yet invigorating. I’m sure you’ll have fun as a science teacher. One of my favorite subjects. I earned my high school regents diploma in science and English. Also, yes, May has come quickly!
Thanks Phil – how was the Warrior Dash? Curve balls are good, we need them to keep us focused and growing. I loved my high school science teachers – chemistry and physics were a blast. But, deep down i was a history lover and enjoyed those classes. I get to teach US History (one section) next year and I am jazzed! It’s going to be fun next year. thanks!
Wow, very insightful stuff, Clay. Life just keeps chugging along doesn’t it, whether we want it to or not.
Love the portrait!
w/a Jansen Schmidt
Patricia, – life does keep motoring on, whether we want it to or not. Thanks, when I shared it with my colleagues – they told me the hair was too short! The kids loved it and were amazed that I drew it so quickly. They worked on their works painstakingly slow, but it was good. Thanks and have a wonderful day!
You’ve got me thinking about change and how sometimes there are happy surprises/reveals–and not just to others, but ourselves. I’m betting you’re going to make every day of your new teaching role one that counts! 🙂
I am very excited. I changed years ago from 6th to 7th and it was a good move, then. I am hoping t take the best of what i do now and apply it forward. I sat through my first sciecne department meeting yesterday and was full of questions. Change is good, for the right reasons. Have a great day, and enjoy a bit of chocolate with it!
Hi Clay, sounds like a great school project. Kids have so much to teach us sometimes! 🙂
Great drawing, by the way!
Yes it was a good assignment – the kids understood the content and showed they had improved their writing…. when I look back at some of the projects I assigned early in my career, I just shudder. It was fun watching them learn. Thanks, I enjoy sketching, it is a hidden talent and one I certainly do not do enough of…. have wonderful day!
I used to frequent the Morton Arboretum especially in fall. Fantastic place for a family portrait. Love the daffodils. Kudos to you for teaching middle school. Raising a couple of kids was challenging enough let allow dealing with this age group daily….you’re a saint 🙂
Thanks Ingrid – I remember the awkwardness of middle school and when I went back to learn how to teach I briefly considered elementary and high school but found my place in the middle grades. I began my teaching career at 6th grade and was promoted after one year and I’ve been at 7th grade ever since. I’ve heard (and experienced) that the odd grades 1, 3, 5, 7, . 9…. are the most challenging. I love the Arboretum… it is peaceful and relaxing… I always have more energy when I leave. I should visit more often!
I have always liked your hair long. You have nice hair. My husband would love to grow his hair long, but that choice was taken from him when he started going bald. I’m with you on convention and conformity. I have always been a nonconformist at heart, though it’s not always evident on first glance. I like the lyrics to the India Arie song. I am unfamiliar with her — I’ll have to go look her up.
Congratulations on movin’ on up! Your students are lucky to have you, whatever the subject.
Enjoy these spring days.
p.s. Did you mean *The Scream*? I once painted it on a tee-shirt for my son when he was about eight because he loved that picture. I think somewhere I have a photo of him wearing the shirt and holding his hands to the side of his face to mimic the painting. I’ll have to go look and find it . . . .
Yes I did mean “The Scream” and have since corrected it – thanks – I read and re-read the post and I missed it.. my mind is playing tricks again. I think deep down I am a conforming non-conformist! I would never have heard India Arie’s song if it weren’t for teach 7th grade ELA this year… there are several other ‘bonuses’ I have had this year. Learning never ends. Thanks for your comments – I am lucky to have the kids, too. They teach me almost as much as I teach them. It’s a fair trade. Have a great day.