Friday, June 30, 2017

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: The D-Word

When asked about the inspiration for the diversity in the casting of the new Spider-Man Homecoming film, the producer Amy Pascal, answered “I would say the inspiration for it was reality.”

The word “diversity” engenders groans for some, inspiration for others, and confusion for many. It’s a word that some see as part of their identity and others find exclusionary. It’s a word that helps us understand our countries greatest struggles, failures and triumphs.

In early human civilization, visual markers like hair color and other cultural expressions like clothing were important ways to identify who was in a tribe and who was in a different tribe. This identification was often critical for the survival of a tribe. This is the frame that evolutionary biologist use to help us understand some of our instincts that bring us to stereotypes and prejudicial thinking.

Embracing diversity goes against some of our more primal instincts and in many ways makes creating a peaceful society more difficult. Consider the biblical story of the Tower Of Babel. God saw that people were making a tower and realized that when people had one language, nothing would be out of their reach. So he made it so they couldn’t understand each other and spread them across the earth.

People have understood for more time in our history than not that diversity makes life more difficult. Examples of people trying to make away with diversity are seen in the history of almost every culture. It’s not just in the Nazi Holocaust. It’s the cleansing cleaning in Georgia in the 1990s, and Mao Zedung’s murder of decedents. In every single era of American history we see effort to tamp down diversity from the Americanization of Native Americans, the discriminations of Irish immigrants, laws that limited marriage to being between white men and women and the current wave of anti-Muslim xenophobia.

Guess what? A lack of diversity in some ways makes teaching easier. If every single student in your class is at the same reading level, then you don’t have to spend as much times creating reading groups. If every single student in your class were on the same club soccer team, teaching soccer as a PE unit would be easier to instruct since many basics would be well established. And if every single student came from the same cultural background, lessons in social studies would be a lot more straightforward since all of the students would be coming to class with the same perspective.

If every music student came in with the same level of musical skills and the same learning styles, I could probably get them to perform more difficult and technically impressive music than with my current cohort of students.

Efforts to create a less diverse society have failed over and over again due to the tremendous efforts by courageous individuals that have inspired other individuals to embrace their own authentic identity. As our human society evolves, it has become unethical and immoral for education to not reflect the progress in our world to create more a diverse and meaningful educational experience.

You can put your head in the sand, and move into a gated community, only hang out with people who go to your same church, and try your best to only be with people that are just like you. You can try, but it’s a loosing battle. You want to have kids? They will likely mess up your perfectly homogenous existence. You want to make money? You will probably have to deal with people who aren’t like you. You want to experience art and culture? When you take away all of the foods, and television shows, that are influences by other cultures, there’s not a lot left. Forget music. It’s nigh impossible find a song to rock out to that isn’t an amalgamation of different cultures.

As the producer spoke about, diversity is reality. Our reality. To ignore what is the current state of our world is to reject what is factual, what is real and what is our shared reality.

Because you can’t ignore diversity is not the reason to embrace diversity. It’s a reason to stop trying to ignore it. The reason to lean into what is different is multifaceted and tremendously rewarding and meaningful.

When we think about the different facets of diversity in the human experience, the list speaks to every facet of the human experiences: race, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, socioeconomic, biological sex, geography, learning styles, political beliefs, heritage, careers, hobbies, philosophy, religion, exceptionalities, ideas, and physical ability.

In these ways, and even more, we are different from the each other. We rely on what is similar to find human connections initially, but it is what is diverse in our interactions that inspire thinking, interplay, conversations and the building of human relationships.

We come to a sense of comfort, a feeling of ease when we are with others that allow us to be ourselves, people who embrace our differences. Whenever we hide or hold part of ourselves back there is at the least mild discomfort, and at its worst, great pain and depression.

When we are told that parts of our own diversity are inferior, and not to be expressed with pride, it builds a level of insecurity that is far too often expressed through intolerance, and meanness. Our work to embrace diversity is as much about ourselves as the people we encounter in our lives.

Yes, it is work. It is difficult, it is inconvenient, and it is complicated. Being brave enough to embrace what makes you different, things that you were told aren’t right, is very difficult and it can feel very lonely. It means going up against the expectations of friends, norms of society and the words of the ones who claim to love us. Embracing diversity in others means learning to embrace discomfort, and seeing for people for who they truly are, not for what they are in our eyes. It means that we go beyond live and let live and move to truly living together.

On the other side of this work is great joy, unimaginable beauty, and a society that is stronger together.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Parenthood: Week 210 – Thomas The Magic School Bus

Ollie carries it with him around the house and he lovingly cuddles with it when he goes to sleep.  He brings it into the car and we have to convince him not to bring it everywhere. It’s not a blanket or stuffed animal, it’s a Thomas The Train, pullback racer. It’s a plastic version of Thomas The Train, which is bigger than the toy that can fit on the tracks and it has wheels that wind back when you pull him backwards and upon releasing he moves forward.

I picked up this toy on a whim when Ollie was just about a year old and while it’s been around the house he has never shown great interest in this toy.  Something happened a couple weeks ago. I’m not sure what, but every since then, it’s been all about this toy train.

We have a couple theories about what may have led to his love of this toy. I think it may have had to do with his decision to stop sucking his thumb, but Diana’s theory is probably closer to the truth.

The story of how Ollie came to love and snuggle with a Thomas The Train toy after never seeing the television show is revealing about Ollie and our parenting style.

Diana and I were getting pretty tired of Moana. Ollie had been watching this film whenever we gave him his half hour of television time a day and was listening to the soundtrack all of the time. To get him onto something else, Diana watched the Pixar film Up with Ollie. The part of the up that stuck with Ollie the most was not the talking dogs, but the clouds. At a certain point in the film they describe the clouds as being "cumulous nimbus" and this stuck with Ollie.

What followed can only be described as a “study in clouds.” Ollie would sit down and draw clouds, over and over. We were getting backpacks full of pictures of clouds he drew at school. One day, I literally pulled out a dozen sheets of paper on which Ollie had drawn clouds.

To nurture Ollie’s interest in clouds, I showed him every youtube.com clip I could find that talked about clouds and the different types. Then I remembered a Magic School Bus book that talked about the water cycle that I had when I was a kid. I also remember the television show, which I never watched, but I new existed. Not having the book, and wanting to nurture his interest, I bought the water cycle episode of The Magic School Bus and showed it to him. Ollie loved the episode and when I explained that the show was based on a book series, Ollie got really excited.

The next day I took Ollie to the library and we checked out almost every single Magic School Bus book we could find. For the following week, Ollie was obsessed with the Magic School Bus books and the television show.

At some point, Ollie decided that this Thomas The Train toy was a good substitute for the Magic School Bus, so he stared to carry it around pretending it was the Magic School Bus. This pretending game would sometimes last for a solid ten minutes of Ollie running around the house, holding this toy and pretending that it was the Magic School Bus exploring space or the water cycle.

Now, Ollie carries that Magic School Bus toy around everywhere.  Now you know why.  We could get Ollie an actual school bus toy or explain to him the story of Thomas The Train, but right now he seems content playing with this toy as if it was the Magic School Bus.

It's somewhat baffling, wonderfully charming and awesomely four-year old.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The Letter

Next school year I am taking on a new role as one of my school's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator Co-Chairs.  The following is a version of the letter of interest I wrote to apply for this position.    

To Whom This May Concern

I am writing this letter to express my interest in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Coordinator Co-Chair position.

We are in a critical moment for our school. Our competition, much of which has lower tuition, or no tuition at all, is getting better. When we consider how we define our school’s place in the educational community, we need to think beyond test scores and technology initiatives. What sets up apart and what will keep us in front of the curve is our mission of creating citizenship through our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

When I first came to this school, the DEI work was an add on for me, like a ornament on the Christmas tree. Over the past seven years, mentoring and professional development opportunities have changed my educational paradigm. DEI work is now the tree — the basis for my curricular, instructional, and assessment choices. I am motivated by my success, my relationships in this community, and the school’s mission to contribute to the growth of other faculty members through the DEI Coordinator Co-Chair position.

My DEI work is found in my classroom, like with the 5th grade unit on the underrepresentation of women in music. It’s in my work as a department chair mentoring a teacher who when first arriving at Parker did not consider the race of the composer in choosing music, and who now actively considers racial representation in his curriculum. And it’s in projects like the Presidents’ Day Morning Ex, based on Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama, which included teachers and students from all of the divisions to celebrate DEI.

I have worked to create meaningful relationships with teachers throughout the school. I have the wonderful opportunity to work with five different grades over three divisions and regularly collaborate on projects with over a dozen teachers.

I have made opportunities out of unanswerable questions and I know how to make an individual’s vision into reality. I am excited to continue to learn about the fears that cause us to hesitate, the optimism that motivates us, and the passion that lies in every teacher at this school to make our school a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community.

I am excited about the opportunity of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator Co-Chair position. It is an opportunity to serve our school that I have examined with careful consideration of my other responsibilities at this school and the important and sensitive nature of DEI work.

Sincerely,

Kingsley

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

Parenthood: Week 209 - Father’s Day '17

I woke up not to the plastic edge of a Thomas the Tank Engine toy being pressed into the side of my face, or the feeling of a four-year-old pushing me off of my pillow. Instead I woke up to the peaceful sound of Diana breathing next to me. For the past week, Ollie has gotten up early. REALLY early. Now early for us is pre-5 AM. So, it’s not unreasonable for us to want to sleep in until, oh, I don’t know, 6:30!! At least Buffy, our dog isn’t an early risers. . .

I listened carefully for signs of an awake Ollie, but all I heard was the light clacking of Buffy’s nails on the hardwood as she stretched, walked in a small circle, and settled back down in her bed.

Excited at the prospect of beating Ollie up in the morning, I got myself dressed, had a great walk with my puppy and proceeded to go for a nice long run. I hit a personal best on distance (6.2 miles!), and felt pretty good after the workout.

When I woke up Ollie after cooling down it was 7:40.

Not a bad way to start father’s day.

Later in the morning, we met up with my brother, my sister-in-law and his two daughters, one of which I had never met before. We met up to go strawberry picking, which in Ollie’s mind is strawberry eating. We arrived there first and when my brother’s family came, I was overjoyed to say hello to my first niece and excited to meet my second one for the first time.

I remember the moment when I met my first niece. I didn’t really feel like I knew how to hold her. I was nervous but excited. She was simply amazing. I was overwhelmed with joy and pride, proud of my brother and my sister-in-law.

I reached my mom and she carefully handed me this wonderful little one. The feeling of holding such a little baby and how to support her head and the body quickly came back to me after hours of practice when Ollie was a baby. As soon as I got her situated in my arms, she immediately started crying. This didn’t prevent me from crying tears of joy meeting this special one for the very first time. I knew in that moment as a dad what she would mean to my brother and my sister-in-law, and how she would change all of the lives she touched. Fatherhood has made unclehood mean so much more.

In the afternoon, my brother came over with his daughters and Ollie played with the older daughter while we took turns holding the younger one. Ollie fed the baby a bottle a little bit and Buffy got some quality time sniffing the baby and cuddling with the baby.

At one point in the evening my dad took the baby, his new granddaughter to another part of the house. We could hear the baby crying from the other side of the house, but he worked with her and didn’t ask for help. Eventually the baby stopped crying and I walked over and saw him calmly singing to her as she lay sleeping. No one would have faulted him for tagging in my brother or my mom, but my dad kept with her and helped her get relaxed. In that moment I realized where I got my determination as a father. I’m proud of myself for being the kind of man that cares for babies with such patience and love. And I’m proud of my dad for being that kind of man and teaching me to be that kind of dad.

My brother left our house with his daughters and left a bag of stuff for his older daughter behind. He texted to me that he would come by later after the girls had gone to bed to pick it up. I mentioned this to my mom and without hesitation, she told me that she was going to drive over and drop the bag off at their house. She texted my brother and immediately left.

Earlier that day I was talking to my mom about how stressful it was when I would come home from work. There was so much to do to take care of Ollie, the house and Buffy. It seems like a mad rush to get things done, sometimes almost all the way up until Ollie’s bedtime and beyond. However, on these days, I go to bed feeling satisfied and proud that I took care of my family. She agreed that when you push to take care of the people in your life, you find meaning.

My mom quickly figured out that it would be less for her to drive over than for my brother. He had work in the morning, two kids at home and lots to do. So my mom did this thing for my brother reminded me that parenthood doesn’t end when your children reach adulthood. You might think that this thought would seem burdensome and intimidating, but in the context of seeing how my parents care for me and my brother and the love they share with their grandkids, being a parent of an adult sounds like a great chapter in the adventure of fatherhood.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 16, 2017

The 1000th Mile

[click here for previous posts on running]

Two 5K’s in two weekends.

One I thought I was doing for myself, and while my time wasn’t bad, it wasn’t a personal best. The second one the next weekend, I did for my aunt-in-law, and during that one I hit the personal best time.

During that 5K, I ran my 1000th mile.

It took 4 years, 9 months, 23 days. to hit this running milestone. In that time, I changed jobs, moved into a house, my son was born. There was one foot injury, ankle issues to work through, three foot doctors, two rounds of physical therapy with great therapists. It’s taken three pairs of shoes, one trusty treadmill, and a trusty iPad (that has thankfully not fallen off the treadmill). While many miles were on that treadmill, hundreds were ran all over Evanston and the campus of Northwestern University, a dozen miles in Bellevue, many more recently in Skokie and five 5K’s in Chicago.

I had an almost four month break from running as I dealt with a long lasting cold that led into pneumonia. After recovering, I looked the 5K’s dates and saw that I had two months. I decided to not sign up and see how training went first. I was happy with how I progressed. This wasn’t the first time I had started running after taking a break. Unlike previous times, I think I set my expectations well and was patient with myself as I got going. The first 5K was the one I had done in years past. It was the Bunny Rock 5K. It’s a nice event because it is family orientated, and pretty chill, but it is a chipped race, so you can get an official time. The second 5K was different.

One of my wife’s paternal aunts had been suffering from brain cancer and recently passed away. To show support for her, one of this aunt’s daughters organized a team to participate in the Chicago BT5K. My two brother-in-laws, who also run (they’ve both done a marathon) and most of her dad’s side of the family came to participate.

The Bunny Rock 5K went ok. The weather was hotter then I had ever raced in, I rushed into the starting area and ended up too far back when the race started. It was a race that didn’t feel great when it happened, and starting in the back of pack and spending so much energy and focus on passing people led to my third best 5K time.

I spent the next week debating what I was going to do at the BT5K race. I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to really race. I didn’t want to go full out and not beat my best time, but I really wanted to hit a personal best. It really felt like a cliché that I was living. Take a chance and go for it, and you could be happy, but you also could fail. While I know I could find meaning in not getting a great time, I had my doubts that I could be satisfied in failure. I felt really bad about not doing great during the Bunny Rock 5K and as much as I change that into a positive in my head, I couldn’t.

I don’t know what made me decide to go for it, but when I got there, and saw all of Diana’s family there and Diana’s wonderful aunt I knew it was the right decision. I got lined up early, started near the front and I went for it. I pushed myself, I attempted to keep up with my brother-in-laws (which I accomplished for about 5 seconds), and I beat my best time by 8 seconds.

When I hit the finish line, my brother-in-laws were there waiting. We decided to walk backwards through the course to find the rest of the family, many of whom were walking the course. What followed was a wonderful hour and talking, catching up and being together as a family. The idea of running a race to raise money for something really didn’t make sense to me before the BT5K. Why not just donate money directly and not spend all the time and energy organizing an event?

What I know now is that when someone you love is dying cancer, there’s very little you can actually do. The feeling of powerlessness is really hard to accept. Yes, you could just write a check, but organizing, racing, walking, doing something that brings people together can help raise funds to cure cancer. More importantly, as you run with people you love, for someone that you love, you feel connected to others.  You are reminded that simply being there for the person that you love is the most powerful thing you can do.

I got more miles in these legs.  I'm working up to a 10K and I am aiming to get my best times in my life in the future.  The more I run, the more I take with me.  What's amazing is that these things aren't weights, but rather they are wings that propel me.  They are miles the I've ran, the pride of my parents and my wife, the hope I have for the future, and now the memory of my Aunt.    

Monday, June 12, 2017

Parenthood: Week 208 – Number 2

When you have one kid, people really like to ask you about having another kid. . . .people like asking you about having a first kid when you are married. People just asking you about incredible personal life choices related to children. In general, I try to be polite and leave it open with something like, “maybe some time in the future,” however other times I’m a little bit more sarcastic, “so when are YOU having another kid?”

I would highly recommend that you don’t ask people about their plans related to having children, ever, unless it’s someone you are really close with that you know is thinking about it. Having children is a complicated issue that brings up very deep and someone difficult feelings about one’s one childhood and identity. While many people are blessed with having children without a lot of difficulty for many others, the journey to having children can be long and arduous. It’s best to play it safe than to ask a question about having kids that could trigger some very difficult emotions.

The decision to have a child is not simply a decision. It’s not like ordering a burger. It’s a journey, it’s a goal and in more ways than you can imagine, it’s something that you do not have complete power in making happen.

I also get that the many, many times I was asked about having another kids came from a good place (Diana was probably asked even more times about this than I was). More people than not love their siblings and more parents than not are glad that they have more than one child. One of the things I started doing was sibling answering their questions about me having a second kid with why they have more than one child. People talked about enjoying the baby process again with less stress. Seeing the interactions of the siblings with each other. More than anything else, people talked about a feeling of completeness.

Every single person who encouraged me to have another kid had siblings themselves. Part of our concept of what makes a complete family comes from what we grew up with. I can’t imagine being in a family with more than two kids, but Diana my wife can imagine three kids. This is probably due to the fact that she has two brothers.

There’s a degree of having multiple kids that comes from societal pressure. I hate the assertion that kids who are only children are somehow weird or messed up. In my anecdotal experience as a teacher for ten years having taught close to one thousand students, I have found that only children are not any weirder or less well-adjusted than children who have siblings.

We have friends who have one kid and are super happy with one and don’t have any others and they have been some of the coolest people to talk about having kids. They are totally happy in the choices they made, the size of their family and they are good. For some reason their security and happiness made me more resolute in our decision to have a second child.

In talking to them, there was no pressure, no expectation, just a very genuine, “we are happy with our choices, I understand your doubts about having another kid but we will be cheering you on if you go for it.” Like every other part of parenting, insecurity is around every corner, and there are no guarantees. A lack of judgment and a genuine expression of support can go a long way in overcoming these insecurities.

Lots of planning to do, lots to think about, but right now, when I think of the little one, more than the work that needs to be done, I feel proud of my wife and excited to meet this special little one.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Year 7: Week 37 – A Year Shaped By One Day

This is the year where I stopped waiting, and I stopped hesitating.

Units that I had been waiting for years to do, I pushed my doubts aside and just did. There was a dance to “Hoe-Down” by Aaron Copeland, which I taught and got up on stage and led my 3rd graders through on stage. Also there was the dulcimer project in which, those same 3rd graders made dulcimers from a kit in art and shop class. I’ve never taken a dulcimer lesson in my life and it took three tries before I figured out how to teach these kids how to hold a pick, but I figured it out and we had a great time.

Those 3rd grade ideas were things that I need a slight push to do, but I felt I could handle. There was a lot of learning that I had to do to get both of these things going, but I had been planning to do both of these things from the summer before.

Then there were these other projects. These were nuggets of ideas. These were ideas that I felt more comfortable waiting to take on because they needed development, and I knew there was only so much new stuff I could handle in a year.

One single event changed all of my thinking that pushed these ideas into reality, which transformed my school year it to one that should have been relatively simple to manage into one of the my most challenges years of teaching. It was a time when feeling overwhelmed and uncertain of outcomes became a norm.

After Tuesday, November 9th, the day after that guy was elected President, I committed to getting to work.

That night began months of planning, coordinating and music arranging. I pulled members from our entire school community to put together a Presidents’ Day assembly reading of Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama. I created a unit examining the underrepresentation of women in music leading up to a visit from some amazing women musicians for my 5th graders. There was the performance of My Shot thatI coordinated and conducted that featured more than two hundred middle school and high school students. I also collaborated with the choir teacher and the 6th grade history teacher to create a brand new 6th grade presentation that integrated our curriculums.

All of these projects, all of this work was a direct response to the election. These projects were about embracing diversity, creating equity and being inclusive. It was about citizenship, community, identity, and making our country more just, honest and fair.

The election was a harsh reminder that we have so much work to do as educators. It was a reminder that we can’t be complacent and that we can’t wait. We need to educate our students to be citizens right now. While this extra work was hard and less sleep was had, I never questioned the worth of what I was doing. In thinking about my students and what they needed, I also thought about my own son, Ollie.

I refuse to leave this world in a worse place than it is right now for my son. It has become clear to me that I can actually do something as a teacher to make sure that I don’t let my son down.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Parenthood: Week 207 – Krushing It

Dear Ollie,

Right now you are in your bedroom sleeping peacefully. You had your 4th birthday party this morning at the Skokie Exploratorium. At first you were a little overwhelmed but you ended up having a great time. In the afternoon you played with your friend Betty, while your me and your mom were at a funeral for Aunt Krysia.

I’m writing this letter to you because there are things you need to know about your family that you can’t understand right now, and there are thoughts in my head that I fear will be lost in time that are important for you to know. These thoughts and feelings will be here waiting for you when you are ready and need to understand what Aunt Krysia means to your life.

There have been so many times I’ve felt like an outsider in my life. While I hope that these times are you are few, I know that you will face these times and they will be difficult. However, these feelings are sometimes and with kindness can be overcome and lead to something amazing.

When I first met your grandfather’s extended family it was very intimidating. There were more names than I could remember, and while everyone was very nice, the room was very loud. After all of the initial introductions, it was hard to know who to talk to, what conversations I could join. Before the apprehension to set in, Aunt Krysia came up to me, invited me to sit down with her and we talked.

Aunt Krysia asked about my family, my work, and my heritage. She responded to me like a person fascinated by a wonderful book, wanting to know more and being excited about everything she learned. Here she was spending her time at this family event talking to someone who was at that time, just a boyfriend of one of her nieces.

She never had to say that accepted me for who I was and approved of me being part of the family, she showed me that every time she saw me.

While that moment was amazing what followed the next fourteen years of our relationship was incredible. Aunt Krysia always made a point to talk to me during family events, never forgetting details from our previous conversations, asking about my parents, my life and joyfully sharing her wisdom and life experiences with me. At my wedding, she was the one, language barriers be damned, who talked to my Taiwanese grandparents and my other relatives.

Aunt Krysia understood that family is not a closed group of people connected by blood. She saw family as something that grew through love, that only had meaning through actively making others feel included and valued.  For Aunt Krysia what was different about me, my heritage, and my religion was what would make her family and her life better. It felt like she loved me despite our differences and because of them all at the same time.

Aunt Krysia was one of the first people that you met when you came into this world. She was so happy to hold you. As one of the biggest supporters of me and your mother’s relationship, her joy in holding you was proof that by being kinder than she needed to be, and sharing love with us was what made us a family. It seemed so fitting that the same person who welcomed me into her family, would welcome be one of the first people to welcome you into the world.

I am proud to call Aunt Krysia my aunt.

Never hesitate to ask about your Aunt Krysia.  The stories that you hear will only make you feel more proud of your family and your own heritage.  In these stories and in your heart she will always be with you as she is with all of us who were blessed to share our lives with her.

In that feeling of love and belonging that only comes from being with family you will feel Aunt Krysia.

Goodnight Ollie,

Love,
Dad

6/4/17

Friday, June 2, 2017

Year 7: Week 36 – To Be Human

Students do not see teachers as human beings. Often they don’t see anyone who is significantly older than them as having the same range of emotions and challenges that they do. This is why when students see their teachers in the outside world (outside of school), they usually freak out a little, “WHAT? What are you doing in the…GROCERY STORE?!!” Yes, teachers eat food too and need to go to the grocery store too, and the reason why such a mundane task can be mind-blowing is that most students don’t see teachers as being anything but a teacher.

There are times I let them into part of who I am. Almost all of my students know about my dog, Buffy, and many of them have seen pictures and videos of my son as a baby. These glimpses into other facets of who I am, helps make me more relatable, more interesting and more human. For the most part this is a good thing, but it’s not always a slam-dunk.

Sometimes students have fixated on Buffy and keep bringing her up in class at inappropriate times. I’ve had other classes that simply could not transition from watching a funny Buffy video to doing work in class, so I’ve had to cut out sharing these things. I’m always a little sad when classes can’t handle these things, but it’s part of being a teacher your kids need you to be.

While distance between teachers and students is necessary, efforts to cross gap in appropriate ways is important to help the student see some depth in who their teachers are and build empathy for them as human beings.

The fact that students do not see us fully as human being is essential to remember when students do things or say things that feel hurtful. I’ve had my share of students say things about me to me and behind my back that weren’t nice.  Also, I am constantly seeing students do things like tear apart a bulletin board display that I worked hard to create. It’s hard to not take these offenses personally.

As teachers we spend our energy to empathize with our students and take care of them. When students, the other party in this relationship don’t show empathy to teachers or don’t seem to care about how their actions might make a teacher feel, it can really sting. However as teachers we must remember that none of these things, no matter how personal they might feel in the moment, is about you as a human being, it’s about you as a teacher. And if, (which they shouldn’t) students saw and knew you as a full human being, they probably wouldn’t do things as often that are received as being hurtful.

Knowing this doesn’t meant that we don’t call kids out and push them to speak with more care and empathy, and knowing this doesn’t mean things that kids do, don’t hurt, even after a decade of doing this gig.  Sometimes we show that pain to our kids, but more often than not we need to mute it and let them see it in a way that we can control.  This is hard a lot of time and takes a great deal of energy all of the time.  It's what we do for our students, but it is what makes it essential that we have the rest of our lives outside of teaching to be known and cared for as a human being.