I so appreciated Maureen's invitation to write about community for Spiritual Journey Thursday. One of the special aspects of the community where I work is that we get an annual summer reset. Students, teachers, administrators, and staff members all get two months of time that our school is not in session. Students get an eight-week reset, professionals get varying amounts of time to get away and recover from the work, and the building itself has several weeks of silence.
When we re-open, it's with excitement for moving up a grade or, starting a fresh year of teaching, a new classroom, locker, or office. It's a celebration.
I've been taking an online course, Digital Detectives, with Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins. It's fantastic and I highly recommend that teachers take one of their free courses (just need to buy the book). We were discussing all the ways that technology in the hands of students is good and bad and I found myself commenting to the group,
"We have to play the game we're in, not the game we would love to play."
I find myself coming back to that phrase today as I consider the journey to be a trustworthy member of my community.
Yesterday, I asked a student their name. This led to manipulation and defiance on the part of the student. I could get upset with their refusal to give me their name. Or, I could understand that a gaping hole of mistrust lies between us and attempt to bridge it.
If that student and I can work together to repair that pothole in our path, we become stronger for our community. We help others be safe and strong too.
After a chat with the school's head principal, I walked the student back to class. I was stumped as to how to begin a relationship. I began abruptly, I have a cat. His name is Ira.
The student looked sideways at me through slitted eyelids.
I continued, when my cat sits on my lap he purrs so hard it tickles. I love it.
Do you have a pet?
The students said in a voice so quiet I could bearly hear it...I have a guinea pig.
Oh! Do you like to snuggle your guinea pig?
Building community is very much a "pantser" experience for me. I just have to do what I can at the moment to repair and build with few resources at hand. Today, I will make sure to say hello to this student by name. I will ask about the guinea pig. I will find something new to say.
I thank God that my path to teaching has been something possible for me. These moments reinforce my spiritual journey and remind me that I'm doing good work, work I should be doing even if it's baffling at times.