Thursday, July 30, 2009

clearing my head

I have had a sad week. Last Friday, I dropped my older son off at a birthday party. Not just any birthday party: a party that was essentially a mini-reunion of all his friends from our now-defunct progressive school. Big One was especially lucky in friends at our school; not every kid had a large group of kids his own age, and these kids all arrived at the school by age 5 or 6, so when the school closed when they were 9, they'd shared a lot of experiences. Going to school is about seeing friends for many kids, I think, and especially so at a school that nurtures the natural connections kids make with each other through classroom structure and curriculum. These kids were really tight.

I have had many moments in the nearly two years since the school closed, more than I care to admit, of blaming people for its closure. I blame administrators, board members, other teachers, even certain parents, each for playing a part in bringing the whole thing down. Some more than others, of course, but it's been such a big personal disaster for me that there's plenty of blame to go around.

I have had a creeping suspicion from time to time that all that blame pointed away from me must really mean that I blame myself in some fundamental way, but that I'm just not ready to look at that yet.

And then there I was at the party, standing around with the parents and kids I used to see every day, and it all came crashing in. I let in my feelings of shame and guilt, and rather than brush them away this time, I decided to ride them like a wave. It didn't feel good.

I wasn't always the best teacher I could have been. I sometimes blamed others for not taking care of all kinds of things, when it could just have easily been me. I got distracted, over and over, by gossip and politics. I sometimes forgot that my only real work, ever, was with the kids and the parents. I wallowed in anger and misery when I believed our precious school was being squandered by those who didn't really get it, rather than stepping up and trying to educate. Which was, after all, my job.

I stood there looking at these kids, so happy to see each other again, and I wanted to apologize, to them and to their parents, for all that I did and failed to do that contributed to the closing of the school, and I knew immediately that to attempt it wouldn't make any sense to them. Not only would they not have any idea what I was talking about, but it also would have been absurdly self-serving to take what was a joyful occasion for the kids and try to turn it into some kind of confession session for me.

And I wondered what I could do instead, and I thought of posting here. Some of the people who read this blog are former colleagues and parents at the school, and I think most of them won't understand why it's important to me to do this, here. Please know that although many of you have a great deal of faith in me, I am not blameless, and I need to say so, publicly.

I am hoping that this post may be a step toward putting the school and its miserable, ugly demise in the past, because I really need to find out where I'm going next.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

busy, busy, busy

Little and I have been doing a lot of this. We're reading the sixth Harry Potter book on the front porch, so that when we go see the movie he'll have a better understanding of it. We've just finished the sixth book, on to the seventh tomorrow morning.
The garden grows, with very little attention from me. In the foreground are dill, cherry tomatoes, and a tiny patch of lettuce that you can't see.
Here we have collards, brussels sprouts, more tomatoes, and I think there's a cucumber plant or two somewhere in there.
Full size tomatoes and basil in this bed. These plants started off slowly in some pots that turned out to be too small, but now they're coming right along.
Here's some real work we started last weekend. Scraping all the fiddly bits on our front porch. When we moved in here, the previous owners had covered these all over with plywood. We were appropriately horrified when we discovered the lovely neglected fancy bits underneath, but we do understand why they did it. If we're still in this house when we're old, we'll probably cover it all up with plywood and forget about it too.
For now, though, it's actually good fun to be out here working on it together. It's our big project for weekends for as long as it takes, probably about the middle of September.
And this is how we'll keep busy when it rains. This Danish cord is going to become the seat for this Danish chair, and five or six more just like it. We got them at a garage sale for very very cheap, and it's a kind of chair we've always admired.
And now it's a project. We're not exactly sure how we're getting from materials to finished chairs. We've never done it before, and we're not sure the directions we've found are going to work. There will be some improvising, I believe.