"Do the Right Thing"

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I have spent the last 48-ish hours helping 150+ high school students make sense of the political chaos that now surrounds us. I talked with all six of my classes about the results of the election and I prefaced each talk with I am not here to tell you what to think. I also told them I would not share who got my vote (although I did admit to voting mainstream), I would not comment on my thoughts of Trump as president, and I felt Hillary conceded the presidential race in a very classy manner.

We live in North Dakota, a solidly red state, but that does not mean we unquestioningly follow the doctrine of a certain political party. I am not here to say I voted red and I am not here to say I voted blue. I will say that I chose to cast my vote as I did because I researched, discussed, and agonized over how to make the best use out of the political voice that was given to me.

What ensued in all six of my classes was any number of questions, some of genuine wonder, some of well-intended misunderstanding, and some with no other purpose than to just stir the pot. In one of my senior classes, a young man, who has been vocally pro-Trump for the entirety of the school year, commented that he couldn't believe a Hillary supporter was standing at a protest holding a sign that said "Do the right thing!" He couldn't believe how somebody could hold such a sign in that particular circumstance. My heart skipped a beat and I honestly had tears come to my eyes because I was sitting at the front of a room of completely silent high school seniors, some of whom voted in this election, looking at me for a comment and reaction. I looked this young man straight in the eye and said,

"You sure as hell* better do the right thing."

I continued with some form of "Regardless of who you voted for or who you desired to win, you have the responsibility as a decent, contributing human being to do the right thing in every situation life places before you. Your political affiliation cannot, under any circumstance ever in your life, dictate your decency as a human being. You owe it to yourself and to those around you to do the little things each day to make this country the best it can be and, in turn, the world the best place that it can be. I would fail you as a teacher and as a fellow citizen if I did not expect that best from myself and each one of you simply because an election may not have panned out as you desired."

I am not proud of myself for using such language, but I was so caught off guard. I am still sad, and at the same time I still feel the bubbles of anger in the pit of my stomach, that I have 17 and 18 year old young men and women who are processing this election in terms of "right and wrong," "good and bad," and "me versus you." That is exactly where our country is going to fall. As a Christian, as a teacher, as a female, as a white person-- I now feel a greater responsibility than ever before to cultivate a next generation who is not only competent, but caring. And wise, gracious, aware, discerning, responsible, and all those other good qualities we want in our fellow citizens.

I really don't even know how to end this post. I just keep chewing on this conversation and so many of the others I had with my students these last two days. I feel a greater responsibility to live my life with even more intention because (my relatively) little ones are watching. Granted, the "right thing" may look different for each of us at different points in time, but human decency is pretty much always the same. If we don't want to have this same mess of division and accusation in four years, that change needs to start now.

**Now, part of the beauty of teaching seniors is that they really are young adults and sometimes the language reflects the more mature age (even though the seniors aren't as mature as they think). While this was not my finest moment as a teacher, I have come to understand it may be one of my most effective.

A Midweek Brain Dump

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It's been a month since my last post and I feel like it's been only a couple of weeks!

I am sad to be missing Blogtember this year. I followed it for a couple of years before I participated in its entirety last year. I had every intention of joining in this year, but it just hasn't happened. I've been working really hard, for once in my life, to let myself go more slowly than usual. And, for right now, that means no Blogtember. However, I am going to make the effort to start blogging once each week. First, I miss sitting down and having some "fun" writing time and, secondly, blogging is just a fun way of connecting with people. And, really, third, the English writer part of my loves having a journal to look back on and, in a culture of oversharing, why not make my journal public for the entire world to see, right?

Part of letting myself go slower than usual is choosing to focus on doing a couple of big things well and then make time for a few smaller things as time allows. My current graduate program (which I don't think I have ever actually talked about) has been much more challenging than I anticipated and I have not risen to the challenge on all occasions. This semester I am taking a class on literary criticism and, so far, I am really enjoying it. Lit crit was one of my favorite classes as an undergrad and I attributed it largely to my professor. Whether or not it was entirely him, I am really enjoying my second go at this class as well. Getting my Master's degree in English was something I never anticipated doing, but I am grateful for the opportunity as it has presented itself!

Maybe it's the fact I have started my sixth year of teaching and have finally figured things out a little bit, maybe is the nonconventional class schedule that actually gives me time away from students during the day (I promise that's not as bad as it sounds), or maybe I'm just riding a stroke of luck, but I am not feeling entirely overwhelmed by my job at the beginning of this school year. Things are not perfect by any means at all-- heck, I'm already dreadfully behind in grading in two of my classes and I basically flew by the seat of my pants this last week as (virtually) every free (and not-so-free) moment from Wednesday to Friday was filled with meetings of one sort or another.

After I stepped off the plane from Dallas, post-Poland, this summer, I was of the mindset that the next time I stepped on a plane better not be in the next decade. However, I have made it about two months before the Wanderlust and desire to "Go" has reared its beautiful head again. I fly to Pittsburgh next month for a work conference, so I'll get my airplane fix. But that won't satiate the desire to "go!" Although I did "go" to Grand Forks this past weekend to celebrate Kelly's birthday! Currently inter-continental travel destinations include Seattle and Banff National Park. Current global destinations include Iceland, Sweden, and back to Thailand. What I wouldn't do for some passionfruit, pad thai, and murgh makhani right now.

May your week be blessed!

A Dizzying Start to the Year

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I remember one summer, I think I was a third grader or so, all of my older cousins came to North Dakota from Pennsylvania and we descended upon my grandma's hamlet of 100 (I think our family singlehandedly increased the town population by 25% the week we were there) where we spent so much time at the local playground. My older Pennsylvania cousins, who all happen to be male, were able to spin the merry-go-round the fastest I had ever experienced. All of my other cousins were eating it up and I wanted so much to enjoy what was going on, but I couldn't handle it. I hated it. The feeling of my head spinning and not knowing where my center of gravity had gone made me want to go home to grandma's and just read a book. You know, once the words made themselves still on the page and all. But I knew mom would send me back to the playground to play with everybody else so I tried to make the most of it, but I just couldn't.

All that to say, I feel like I am finally off the proverbial merry-go-round that was Thailand and now I'm back in the States waiting for my head to stop spinning.

As I alluded to at the beginning of the year, I was not sad to see 2015 go. We are almost done with 2016 and I have mixed feelings on the year. But, as a teacher, my "actual" year is just kicking off. I have switched over the agenda pages for the next twelve months and my fresh start in life is here. Maybe that's why this week really had me feeling so much joy and sorrow at the same time. I had a great first week at my new school, but I found myself missing the school in BKK. I full disclosure, I feel like I pretty much failed at my school in Thailand. I never felt like I was really on top of things and I expected much more of myself than what I was able to give or produce. I want to be clear, though, that I do not believe in any way that my moving to BKK was a mistake. I still stand by that it was 100% God's will at that point in my life. I just moved there to be a teacher and a not very good teacher is what I ended up being. It's a tough pill to swallow.

At the beginning of my own personal "teacher" year, I am at a place to start afresh. I talked to my mom this weekend and told her how, honestly, I wasn't excited to be teaching again. But (and I didn't tell her this part) when I find myself around students, I know it's right where I am supposed to be. I can't imagine myself doing anything other than teaching. Even when I think about what I want to do after my high school teaching career, I find myself considering adult education, preservice teacher education, third-world education, and the like. At my heart is a desire to teach. My purpose in life is to equip. But, right now, my self-confidence is shaken and, honestly, I'm a little (lot) bit scared. What if I fail as a teacher at my new school? I know not every day is going to be perfect and I expect to feel failure as I go through the school year, but what if I walk away at the end of this school year and my proverbial head is still spinning?

Much of my identity is as a teacher and, as a result, I am a little shaken in who I am. I did a lot of coping in Thailand, much of it quite unhealthy and I now have amends to make as a result. Right now I am feeling the resolve to buck up and make sure things end up better this time around, but I also find myself considering what I will do if some of the mistakes I have made cannot be rectified. What does that mean for the future? So many thoughts swirl through my head and so many feelings weave their ways in and out of my heart. I know I can't do everything at once, but working to do little bits at a time to get my overall self back in order is exhausting and painful.

When people ask how this first week back to school was, I smile and say all was fun and fine. After all, I got mistaken for a high school student again, and seeing as this summer was my 10 year reunion, I'll take it! Truthfully, this first week back was bittersweet and it was all my own doing.

I have no resolution in the way of either new year "resolution" or make things better "resolution" at this point. My only seeming resolution is to step away from teaching, but that's not an option right now. I have never been one to quit when things have gotten hard (even though I feel like I quit Thailand) and part of me is, honestly, looking forward to the grit of this upcoming semester. I want to dig in and prove to myself that I can do this teaching thing. This grad school thing. This running/health thing. This life thing.

But at this point, I need my head to stop spinning. It's almost there and then I'll figure out in which direction I need to take the first step and I'll go from there. One step at a time, with as many tears shed as necessary along the way.

Rectifying mistakes and shortcomings also means extending grace.

Even if I-myself- is the hardest person to whom I can give grace.

Five Friday Things: Getaway, Planning, Olympics, #TeamLuke, and Relaxing

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One. I finish my district's new teacher orientation yesterday and today I am off for a quick, but relaxing, overnight in Medora. We have been going every year since third grade and while much has changed in the twenty years (eeek... Seriously?!) we have been going, a certain charm continues to pervade the little cowboy town.

Two. I have three preps for this year and, for the first time in my life, I actually have a curriculum laid out for the entire year! I know things won't go exactly how I have them laid out but it feels good to have that big picture ready to go for the school year.

Three. I know I am far from alone in this, but my evenings have been spent watching the Olympics. Of course, I cheer for Team USA first, but Poland and Thailand are my backups. I have yet to see any Thai competition televised, but I'm pulling for them all the same!

Four. When I'm not watching the Olympics, I have been completely sucked into Gilmore Girls. I just started the third season and am way too emotionally involved. I am #TeamLuke and #TeamDean although I know that Dean is coming to an end soon. Sad day. I am also sure Kelly loves all of ridiculous text messages with my reactions and opinions.

Five. I am relishing this calm before the storm. This is the longest summer break I have had in a couple of years and, honestly, I wish it wouldn't end. But I am ready for consistent paychecks and a bit more routine than I have had as of late, so back to school we go! Next week. Still one more week of vacation.


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