Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 28 2014


For the first time in Caroline history, I solved a problem by not running.

There are two personal constants I’ve had since seventh grade that I swear by: running and writing. I know in my deep little flickering soul that these two things are the core of my stability, my well-being, my clarification and my passion. But these two things also provide a tangible escape from reality: running to avoid lesson planning, writing to avoid talking out a problem.

Yesterday, I stopped.

I’ve been training for a marathon on a crunch schedule, upping my long runs by two miles each week, my latest max being 18. On Sunday I was set to run 20.

Set to run 20 with a series of overdue grad assignments, with classroom planning that’s been behind since before Christmas, with a relationship strained from my lack of being present, with a Saturday Event for 20 first year teachers needing organization and attention. Twenty miles, 3.5 hours. So I stopped. I breathed. I prioritized.

I warned my totally wonderful southern counterpart that this year would be busy. That I had my priorities straight: work, running, second job, grad school, then relationship. Last year I jeopardized my sanity by not setting that straight on day one, and I’ve been determined to not let it happen again. But by doing that, and sticking to it remarkably well, my relationship hardly existed. My ability to do something unplanned, unexpected, not listed out with the potential for a satisfying line to be struck through it at the end of the day… it ceased to exist. I need to stop.

In college I did an exhibition called I Can’t Stop. It took up an entire gallery space, a rather large one, full of displays, color-copied journal entries, and artifacts from all the times I was propelled by ambition, by travel, by an insatiable appetite. For the first time in a long time I have this new, beautiful feeling of being full. Of biting off more than I can chew. Of needing time to digest.

So Sunday I stopped. While my other half rode my tiny bike, I trotted a comfortable 7.5 miles, a third of what I planned. I stayed in bed until two. I breathed and wrote my dad a letter and went to be early enough to wake up at five and get planned for the week. I came home from school Monday with a dead set “not going to run today” and immediately did 2.5 hours of grad school work, followed by 2.5 hours of second job work. I felt the boulders roll of my back one my one as my life got more in order and my building tasks were finished. Finally: breath. Finally: rest.

I walked into school today feeling comfortable. I laughed in class, I told my students personal stories for the first time in months, I listened to them list off the events they did last night, and I accepted a letter from Q apologizing for his disruptive recent behavior. A letter that listed the reasons why he asked his mom to request me for his teacher this year. My heart melted and I smiled. My students smiled, too.

My homeroom, two students in which have openly gay pen-pals, the class that knows I was in their wedding, the class that watched a movie about a hypothetical “heterophobic” world for their Christmas party– they watched the Macklemore performance on the Grammies for their first activity today. After I had four questions posted:

Social Studies lesson of the day:

  • If this is the major performance of the event, what can we assume the Grammies’ position on same-sex marriage is?
  • What do you think the message from this performance is?
  • Right now, 17 states allow same-sex marriage. Predict what will happen with same-sex marriage in the next 40 years. Where do you think Arkansas will stand legally? Why?
  • What do you believe about same-sex marriage? How should you act to both respect your own opinion and respect the opinion of others?

Being very careful and very explicit in communicating that they do not need to agree with the Grammies, but must understand they are witnessing the writing of history, my students engaged in discussion about what this means for America, what this means for Arkansas, and what this means for them. I heard so many comments about students who “wouldn’t care, would be friends with anyone” and students who “would leave them alone and be who they want to be, even if I don’t agree with it”. Afterward, I applauded their maturity and their willingness to be open with their opinions, especially the students who admitted that they definitely do not support gay marriage.

In my second class, as I graded homework and danced about the classroom, I knew stopping what just what I need to do when a student casually asked, “Ms. L, did you have a good morning?”

“I did! Why?”

“I can tell.”

Exhale. They can tell. They are resilient. I am resilient. They can tell. I can tell, too. Sometimes to get running again all I’ve got to do is stop.

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