love is…what I got.

I’m not a parent. And I hate to give advice to parents because I don’t think it’s fair to give advice about something I’ve never done.

However, for the past eight years, I’ve seen the results of parenting–both good and bad. And quite to be quite honest, by the time kids get to me (fifteen to eighteen) a lot of the work, for better or worse, is done. 

In the off chance that this might help just one kid, I just want to say tell your kids you love them. Every day. Hug them. Listen to them. 

You might think they “know” you love them because you feed them and house them, but the tears come when they admit that their mom hasn’t hugged them in two years, that they don’t know what they did wrong, and that they wish they could be “better” so their parents would love them.

I don’t think they would ever tell you. I don’t know that they could. But please know that everything you do and say or don’t do and don’t say affects them so much. And it’s absolutely heartbreaking as a teacher to hear that a beautiful young person doesn’t feel loved.

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with much disappointment…

…comes great joy.

And I’m not saying this to be trite or to make myself feel better about something.

Do you ever think that possibly the universe doesn’t “let” you have something until you’ve earned it? I think I learned today that this is exactly what happens.

I think—I know— that I made the right decision today. And a huge one at that (so I’m doubly proud of myself for making it rationally and logically).

No sooner was the intention stated as the one thing that I’ve been praying for for the past three months occurred. Bam! Just like that.

And no it’s not my house. (That’s the disappointment part.)

But I learned today that hoping and planning for things is meaningless. Praying with and for love is pretty much all there is.

So along with my disappointment, I my heart has been filled with an immense amount of love.

everything happens…

…as it should.

Think about the paths that have made it so the three of us are sitting here having to dinner tonight.

It’s so strange to think about sometimes, and you could have such a hard time if you thought of everything in life that way. I think of it often, but not always.

And I needed it last night.

Suddenly, it was silent. And I could see these two guys and the battle they were having across the table from me. Their glances across the table to see if I would agree with one or the other were the perfect source of amusement. I could see the laughter of the young girls across the table from me. Their teasing. Their hugs.

I love listening to people who love what they do–even if I don’t understand it all. And even though this dinner wrapped a 12-hour day, I was filled with energy. A shorter countdown. And a belief that there are more people who work like I do.

See, it’s not about logging painful amounts of hours. It’s about believing that what you do is a part who you are. There is no separation for me. So, sometimes the line blends between who I am and what I do, and I love that. There is no “outside” me. It’s just me.

And it is wonderful to think about the choices in life that lead you to a dinner table after a  work day, still smiling. Listening to the excited voices of those who love you in their own way because the light you convey in your work loves them.

ideas.

My baby brother is exactly ten years younger than me. And he’s scary smart. Not an engineer or one who knows a wealth of useless facts. No, he’s philosophically smart. I love talking with him because we can have conversations that I can’t have with anyone else.

Last night, we had an interesting discussion on the concept of ideas. And by discussion, I mean I did a lot of listening.

He was saying that it bothers him that people try so hard to get credit for their ideas. He went on to say that people who write seem to be obsessed with recognition.

Hmm.

I thought about that for a while and about how happy I was when I started my three pages-three months challenge last year. Two people read my book, and I want to re-write it because I think I can tell my character’s story better, but every time I get to that discussion about selling, I just don’t care.

And I got quite an earful from a couple of people about that. Like it would be any less of an accomplishment if it wasn’t published. And that kind of killed my joy. Maybe I have no writing talent at all. Really. But the simple truth is if I don’t do it, I get lost. I’m not one of those people who struggles to write. I love everything about it. I love teaching it. I love talking about it. I love re-writing. I love editing. I even love grammar. I’m not an author. I’m a writer.

That was why I was so selective with who read my first draft. Not because I was scared, but because the people who I wanted to read it understand what it meant to me. It was about that moment of my life. And what I was meant to be doing.

Personal legend.

It would just be nice if the world wasn’t so obsessed with owning things. Especially ideas. Our whole damn country is based off of giving power to people who own the most, so it’s too late.

And in the true spirit of “owning” things: that’s MY brother.

As I make decisions right now, I’m thinking about all of my ideas. All of the options and possibilities. Everything that has changed. Everything that I want to remain (I can count those things on one hand).

I was re-writing my resume. Yes, again. It just gets longer and longer. And I realized where the changes came from. I reevaluate a lot. I do it almost every day. It’s probably the nature of teaching. You have to or no one would learn anything.

I’m doing it now. With a lot of things. Not just work. And damn. It hurts. I think I’m in the healthiest position ever to do it, but it still hurts. The cleansing process is brutal.

I’m not afraid to admit that I cry. I get angry. I curse. I change my diet. I change my patterns. I do everything possible to remove myself from what was and ignore what is to make myself see what will be.

But oh, dear God, I love the ideas. I love every single idea that pops into my head–the exciting ones, the stupid ones, the scary ones. I love with every essence of my being.

I love the energy that comes from sharing ideas–especially with young people. I love when they take what I say, and they spin it. They reinvent us both when they do this.

As a joke, I recorded about three minutes of my class today. Every single moment of it made me smile when I watched the playback. I can hear my excitement as we talk about what we can print and not print. Who should say what. Who should do  what. And I laugh an awful lot. Not hysterical, mocking laughter, but genuine happiness.

You’re beaming, she said when I arrived at school today.

I just laughed. It wasn’t about anything to share. It was about an idea. And idea that’s not mine. A collective idea. A stolen idea. And the smile was the radiation of the love from that idea.

Maybe ideas aren’t ours to keep. Or ours to claim. But they’re ours to radiate.

Freedom Writers

I never intended to watch this movie. I hate movies about teachers as much as I hate TV shows about teachers. Much like my father refuses to watch anything that takes place in a hospital, I have refused to watch anything that takes place in a school. It always just seems so contrived and grandiose. And the moments of pain are so trivialized. You could never really portray that on a screen, because the simple truth is that if you teach, you fall in love. But it’s a different kind of love, and there’s no way a movie could appropriately convey that.

When I was talking about my students to a friend, he said it perfectly. He said that it must be an amazing feeling to watch someone grow, something that he would never experience or understand. Unless he had children, but that it would be different. And he’s right. There’s no way I could every find the words to explain it.

My students in one of my classes begged and begged and begged to watch this movie. And because they have done everything I have asked of them all year, I allowed them to show it to me during our last class meeting of the year.

The “cute” parts annoyed me as I predicted. But what I didn’t expect were the lines Gruwell, the teacher, heard from her father, the administration, her husband and her co-workers. They were all things that I have had heard during my teaching career. And it stung, badly. I kind of hoped that those negative thoughts were somehow unique to the places that I have been. Since I see that they are not, I am saddened for many more kids than I used to be.

And the worst part of all?

Not in the movie at all.

But when the closing credits started to roll, one of my students a bright, cheery girl who refused to do anything for the first semester this year, and who has mastered the 5-paragraph essay as of last Wednesday, stood up.

And all she said was: “We needed you to see that because you need to know that you’re an amazing teacher.”

They really have no idea.

No idea how amazing they are and how it’s me that needs them to know that they are amazing people. Because I’ve never created learning. I’ve always just been privileged enough to watch it happen.

Even now, as I write this, I can’t help but cry. My anger and my exhaustion and my frustration are not about the situation anymore. That ended a long time ago.

I’m just quite simply heartbroken.