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?