Part of my job requires me to administer Statewide tests to students and notify parents of the outcome. Today, I had the pleasure of notifying parents that their child met all the requirements for RFEP- which basically means that the student “routinely demonstrates fluent English proficiency in order to access grade-level content instruction delivered in English with minimal linguistic support.” Many students who speak another language rarely achieve this accomplishment, so it was particularly heart-warming to bear good news, especially in a time when many parents and children have been affected by distance learning. I know some cases where students are hanging up in the middle of zoom class because they’re confused by the lecture or assignment or families having spotty internet because they are living out of a friend’s garage, or many families relying on the school’s free lunch so that at least the children are fed daily. Many of these inequalities have occurred long before COVID, but surely the pandemic has exacerbated the disproportion of resources for many of our vulnerable families. So, although my conversion with families today didn’t necessarily provide an extra form of income, an extra meal or even a house, the news did bring temporary relief– that despite all the economical, social and academic challenges, their child is excelling and being recognized by their mastery level. I hope hearing this triumphant recognition was a much needed respite that so many families are in desperate need of hearing.
It’s been a very tough week for me. We’re finishing up our 6th week of distance learning, and just when I feel like I’ve got a handle on things, some thing else will come and a whole set of other challenges will ensue.
I find my work very meaningful and purposeful, and when I look back years from now and I’m asked how I helped with remote learning, I’ll be able to say that I may not have had all the solutions and answers, but I was there, helping teachers and students navigate their way through the most uncertain and challenging times of education.
I don’t know how long remote teaching will continue, nor do I know if I’ll be in education next year, but the skills I’m acquiring today will prepare me for other unexpected situations. Like the many teachers and students who I’m supporting, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and who knows if we’ll be prepared, but I know for certain that our resilience will prevail.
Just like anything important in your life, if you let it fall to the wayside, it’s even harder to come back. Admittedly, I have done that with my writing. As I sit here at my desk, typing these very words, I don’t feel the confidence I once felt during the “glory days”–when I was unemployed and dedicated most of my time towards writing.
But all that drastically changed when I returned to my job a few months ago. Rather than enrolling in classes about short stores, I enroll in classes about being a better teacher. I write lesson plans rather than short stories, and I attend parent teacher conferences, not literary events. I wish I could say no to these commitments, but it’s not that easy. One, they are professionally mandatory and two, I love my job. So, naturally it’s difficult for me to scale back.
Yet, I know that if I continue to perform this unbalancing act, I’ll continue to ignore a part of my life that is important to me, and eventually, in a matter of time, I’ll be filled with resentment. As a teacher, I’ve learned that it takes drastic effort to see drastic change, which reminds me of one of my favorite rappers, LL Cool J, and his song, “Mama Said Knock you Out.” In his first line he states, “Don’t Call it a Comeback, I’ve been here for years.” The story behind the opening line has left me with a lasting impression. Supposedly, during a time when LL’s popularity and success were waning and he was having difficulty with the direction in his writing, it was his grandmother who encouraged him to “knock out” his insecurities and critics. She simply told him to believe in himself and use his time off from music as a motivator. LL wisely took the advice from his grandmother which lead to the birth of an award winning song, eventually earning him a Grammy. Had it not been for his wise grandmother and time away from his craft, I doubt if the creation of the song we know so well well today would’ve ever been created. Like LL, sometimes we have to step away and hear some tough love to bring us back to our calling.
Today marks the 6th of November, and usually this time of the year is a special time for writers. It’s NaNoWriMo–national writing book month, when individuals pledge to write a 50,000 word novel in 3o days. It’s also NaBloPomo– National bloggers post month– when bloggers post a blog every day of November. If followed with fidelity, these challenges are supposed to encourage writers to elevate their craft of writing and encourage a daily routine. But I see them as LL’s grandmother giving me the encouragement I need in a time where I’ve lost my direction and need help to refocus.
It’s going to be a busy month–besides work, I’m applying for grad school, planning a trip to the Philippines, studying for the GRE, and writing a book or 30 posts in the month of November are commitments I won’t be able to invest in. Yet, like I stated earlier, sometimes we need drastic change in order to see drastic results. In the case of LL Cool J, the drastic advice and hiatus led him to one of greatest songs ever recognized in hip hop music.
Today, despite the odds against me, I pledge to participate in NaNoWriMo, which means I’ll have to write a book in the month of November. It won’t be an easy feat; challenges already lay ahead; for example, I’m six days into the month and I haven’t written anything, which means I’ve lost a lot of valuable time. Yet, I just have to take the advice of LL’s grandmother– if I continue to feed into the negativity and excuses and allow time to slip away, I won’t be knocking out anyone, including my skeptical self.
So wish me luck, it’s November 6 and the only thing I have written is the title of the book: ‘otherland. If I count the title, then my word count is one. 49,999 words left and 24 days to go. Time to knock it out.