5 Years

About 5 years ago I was packing up my Elementry classroom in preparation for my move to junior high. I was told that I would be teaching a “hard” group of grade 8 students. They had a reputation which often happens. I was warned. I am not a huge fan of those warnings. I think it clouds our judgment. We brace for the impact before even knowing it is coming. When I met the 8th-grade class they told me their past teachers hated them (not true but it was their perception).

As the year began I got to know all these unique little (at the time) humans. We read together, wrote together, laughed together. I was pulled aside that year by one of the Vice Principals of the school, certain I was in trouble for something. He let me know about a survey that the kids had to do and that so many of that rowdy “trouble” grade 8 class listed me as a person that they knew cared about them. I was not shocked they thought that because I did, I do. I was more shocked they wrote it down in a survey.

I didn’t get to teach any of those kids again for a few years. I still got to talk with them in the halls and visit in passing, but the classroom that we had built together was no longer.

This year I had the honor of moving up to teach 12th grade. My little 8th-grade students are all grown up. Preparing for life outside of school. We wrote a lot. They talk about their goals, their dreams, and their ideas. I find it is an honor to read the work they willingly share with me. There is a vulnerability in student writing. Like we get this little glimpse that they share of themselves that sometimes is not given voice. The worries, concerns, and uncertainty that the big unknown offers.

When I started teaching these kids I met artists, computer programmers, musicians, actors, singers, and athletes. They jumped right in with the hippie teaching ideas I hold so dearly and their work still sits in my cupboard in the classroom or scanned on hard drives.

I will miss them. They likely won’t see this, but I decided that as the year comes to a close and they get ready to graduate and take the next big leap I wanted to write them a little letter. So here it goes.

Dear Grade 12 Students (Formerly the Grade 8s),

I want to start by saying how proud I am of all of you. Your unique genius has been a gift to watch develop over the years. From the large-scale projects to the book talks to the notebooks and the writing I am grateful for the moments we got to learn with each other.

I have no doubt that you are going to go out into the big world and make a mark. You all have already done that for me.

Remember when things get hard, because they will, that you can do hard things. That you worked through a pandemic and got through a high school experience that was unlike any other. Remember that people have doubted you before and been wrong. They will be wrong again. Remember that there is so much more life out there for you to experience and breath it all in.

It has been such an honor and joy to learn from you these past 5 years. I can’t wait to hear how the next 5 go.

Congratulations on graduating. You deserve all the great things. Enjoy the next steps. Time goes fast. Trust me. It was just yesterday that we were going through a time capsule backpack or watching reenactments of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, making our own genre films, recording songs in response to stories… At least it felt like yesterday.

-Mr.G

Drowning

Sometimes I feel like I am in the ocean,
Just floating
Peaceful

Slowly but surely the water moves a bit more 
A slight shift at first
Nothing to worry about

Then a splash 
Creeping over my face 
Gasp for air

Another comes and another 
The Struggle comes 
So does the storm 

Panic
searching for reprieve 
Something 

Today the storm eventually calms 
The waves retreat 
I can breathe

Today

Back to the Poetry

The break is something always needed 
A moment to breathe 
To collect myself 
Tune Out 

There used to be an excitement in heading back to work 
I guess there still it but it is 
different 

The difference between a yell and a whisper 
There is still a joy but it is more subtle 
It is in the lines read 
The thoughts shared
The moments

Teaching is a journey
Sometimes we lose our way 
Sometimes we find it.

Day Nine- 30 Poems 30 Days

Choosing Joy

Sometimes I sit in the morning just staring at the mirror
How will the day go
So many possibilites 
The Multiverse of any given day 
Sometimes the person looking back is not one I am happy with 
Frustration
Failure
Weakness

There is that moment though 
Deep Breath 
Lift the weights 
Get to work 

Muscle gets stronger by breaking down and rebuilding 
Sometimes we gotta rebuild
Choosing joy can be hard

Deep Breath

Day 8-30 Poems in 30 Days

I was supposed to write yesterday but it was busy and after getting home from the hospital I just decided to lay down haha so today is a 2 for 1.

Dreams
I ask my students to dream
To ponder what would be the best case scenario 
So many dreams are so simple
Health
Happiness 
Success in future endevours 

The unique paths they all want to take

Mom
Athlete
Actress
Writer

They all seem so hopeful 
So driven

I wonder when the dream starts to dim?
I hope not too soon. 

Silence
There is a unique silence in a hospital room
The beeps and alarms just blend into the 
nothingness

Alone in our thoughts 
The clock just stops ticking
The world is on pause 
Their breathing becomes the only thing you notice
So peaceful. 
  

Day Six- 30 days 30 poems

Space

I saw a news story once
The headline read,
“Giant Goldfish found in lake”
Fish grow to fit their environment
Every year we re-pot some of our plants
They just stop thriving
Roots fighting over space and nutrients

Sometimes I think students face pots too small.

Early wake up calls
Rules they must follow
Do it the right way
No choice
Ignored voice

I think there is a better way


We reach our potential when given the space to do so.

Day Four-30 Days 30 Poems

(edit: I wrote this yesterday April 4th but forgot to post)

Today I have the day off from the classroom, spending a little time learning and sharing. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the conversations I have been having with teachers. I think a lot of people during Covid forgot about teachers. This isn’t to complain, there was just a lot going on. Our jobs changed and changed again, we are now “back to normal” but things have changed. The job at times feels infinitely harder to keep up with to keep our heads above water.

This past summer I felt that I was about to literally drown. I was at the lake with my family and a tube got away from my little niece. I was happy to swim out and grab it but I had no idea how quick the depth of the water changed. Tired from swimming I went to put my feet down and sank. I struggled and while folks just watched from shore telling me I was close to more shallow waters I truly felt as though I was about to die. It didn’t help after the fact that my sister said she had a dream someone was going to need CPR at the beach that day (Umm if that was the case why didn’t y’all stop reading and get your feet wet?)

Thinking about the current state of mind so many teachers share I remembered this moment. Anyway here is poem 4 🙂

Drowning
The water slides over my face as I struggle to keep my head above water
Legs tired
Arms drained
Gasping for breath 

I can almost make it but land is out of reach
People on the shore calling out directions 
Not interested in getting their feet wet to show me the way 

What failure means flashes before my eyes 
A final kick and my toes grazes sand
I won't drown today

"Aren't you glad we told you how to get to shore?"

Sure 

Day Three-30 Days 30 Poems

Inspire by Befoe the Internet by Phil Kaye

Before the Internet

Playing football in the school field 
the only timer was the sun
Knee Deep in the Swamp trying to catch frog
worried if the net would do the job
We would ride our bikes behind the old church
To the school playground just to sit on the roof and chat
Cards in the basement
Movie nights
Sleepovers

Running through the little forest across the street
Chasing rabbits and dragonflies 
No plan for if we caught them

Sneaking out from our backyard camping adventures
Creepy walks around the lake

It is funny how quickly these things just fade away
No kids playing outside anymore
Almost silence in the summer