Teaching is the sort of profession that can wear you down. You don’t notice it happening. It might start with an extra cup of coffee and the next thing you know you’re crawling into bed at 8pm wondering what happened to your life. That’s why it’s so important for teachers to connect with each other around great ideas and renew our passion for our work.
I had carefully scanned the program the night before looking for just the right sessions to fill my Saturday. I arrived an hour early and the room was already starting to fill. At a quarter till people were lined up down the hall and negotiating sharing chairs. At five till I gave up my coveted chair so a guy on crutches could come in and I situated myself on the floor, halfway under the presenter’s table. This room was packed with people ready to learn, ready to write.
The session I most desperately wanted to see was headed by Penny Kittle whom I have just a teeny tiny teacher crush on. She’s just so real and she’s the type of person who makes you want to go back to school so that she will read your writing and comment on it. It was a session about writing and we were going to write.
The strangers in that room took a journey together. Our presenters became our teachers, modeling their process, sharing their notebooks and strategies, and opening their hearts to take us to a deeply personal place. I was reminded of the absolute power of words. Words that change minds, words that express your hopes, dreams, and fears. In order to be fearless writers we must face fear head on.
I sat on the floor, curled in a ball like one of my fifth grade students, and I wrote. I revised and I ultimately shared a very deeply personal poem about motherhood with two men whom I’ve never met before. Two strangers who became my writing safety net that day and who I may never see again. We shared our words and we will be forever linked. Here is the poem I wrote.
Dada, ahda, baba
her voice, her smile
I quiver, chills of joy
when she climbs into my face
whispers her words
then pulls my hair and gouges my eyeball
with curious fingers.
I fight away the thoughts
not unique, of course
How will I protect her?
How will I prepare her?
I am reliant on humanity
people who are both vicious and/or valiant
A dark fear
I can not say it aloud
That one day we will be parted
Even now, cities away, I am
incomplete (without her)
I shove these thoughts to a deep place
entertain them late at night
(When no one looks)
The rhythm of the chair strong
like her heartbeat next to mine.
I drown these thoughts underneath
her voice, her smile.