Sunday, February 28, 2016

The "Never Will I..." List

When I was in my twenties, I had a list of things I swore I would never do. A lot of my choices stemmed from my studies in college and had a lot to do with feminism. I wasn't militant, or even radical, but I held firm beliefs that I thought I would never change. Then, along came my thirties, and I found myself revisiting my list and realizing much of it didn't speak to me anymore. The list of "Never Will I Ever..." included:

1. Get married
2. Stop being a vegetarian
3. Move to the South
4. Have kids

By the time I turned thirty-six, I had checked off more than one "never" prediction on my list.  In fact, I was already living items 1-3. I had made a comment in one of my non-fiction classes that in my twenties, I swore I  would never get married, and there I was, engaged and getting ready to marry.  A student, in her late-fifties, replied, "Welcome to your thirties, hon.  It's the time in your life where you do everything you said you wouldn't. It's ok, that's just how life is."  I had to laugh, because I was happy about all of the choices and new chapters in my life that were unfolding, but I wondered if everyone went through this.  The one thing that made me uncomfortable, was the thought that I had somehow become soft, that I was no longer politcal or defined by my feminist beliefs.  I still considered myself a feminist, I still believed in equality and human rights, but what did I really do to convey my beliefs?  I told myself that since my friends all had similar beliefs in regards to feminism and equality, and that we had regular discussions about injustice and politics, that I was doing a small part by putting my own philosophies out into the world, that they would somehow reverberate without my having to do any work.  But, wasn't that just my tendency to take the easy road?

When we arrived in North Carolina, I interviewed to be an assistant teacher at a local Montessori school.  The school only has 50-60 students from preschool-5th grade, and it is located in a renovated home that has little room or space to spare.  I immediately fell in love with the people at the school and their philosophy towards teaching: give kids as much knowledge and love of learning as they can absorb and teach them to become peaceful and compassionate citizens of the greater community.  I was offered the assitant position in the elementary aged classroom and jumped on the opportunity.  Now, I am surrounded by kids who have a strong sense of self and an age-appropriate knowledge of how the world needs to change. On a daily basis students come up to talk with me about how we need to protect the environment, help endangered animals, and make the world a place of equality.  Students are annoyed and can't understand why there are so many books about men who have made a difference in the world but a disproportinate amount of books dedicated to women who have also made a difference.  They have real ideas, solutions to make a difference that sound simple to adults, but clearly are well-thought out. My students now inspire me to be a better person. I see them on their good days, and their bad days when they have outbursts and moments of frustration, but, at the very end, the next day is a fresh start and we all begin again with a smile on our face.

My choice is to stay put, with this school, with these students, and do all I can to become a better person and educator for them.  I choose to further my training and learn all that I can. I choose to continue learning and become more confident in speaking my own beliefs, even if the other person disagrees or thinks I'm foolish.  I choose to become vulnerable and admit what I do not know. These are small but difficult tasks, ones that I hope culminate in to a greater desire to be bold, to speak loudly, and to live authentically.  It is the only place I know where to start.