Arm us.

When I became a teacher 15 years ago, I really didn’t think much about school shootings.  Columbine captivated my attention during college, but it seemed like a once in a lifetime type of tragedy.

Throughout my career I have always worried about whether or not I have done enough for my students.  Are they learning enough? Are they thinking enough? Are they feeling loved? Do they truly feel heard? Do they truly feel seen?  Some nights I lay awake worrying about them, wondering what else I can do to make sure they have what they need.

I believe my job as an educator is to create a space where students feel safe.  Where they can feel unafraid.  That has always been my number one goal because I understand that if students do not feel safe, they cannot learn.  I want them to feel safe enough to be completely who they are.  Safe enough to take risks, and safe enough to ask hard questions.  I want them to feel safe enough to speak their truths, and to share their stories.  I want them to feel safe enough to reach out and ask for help.

And to create this sense of safety, I do believe I need to be armed.

But not with a gun.

Not with a weapon.

Not with the power to end life.

Teachers need to be armed with resources.  With support systems.  With partnerships.  When one of our babies is hurting, we need to be armed with supplies to help heal them. We need to be armed with a mental health care system that doesn’t involve waiting lists, and red tape, and continual funding cuts.

Schools need to be places where hungry kids are fed.  Where disconnected kids are engaged.  Where kids struggling with anxiety, depression, and mental illness can be connected to free therapeutic services.  Schools need to be places where students who are struggling with impossible lives can learn about resilience, and hope, and bravery.   I know districts like this exist, because I am lucky enough to teach in one.

Teachers are on the front lines of this fight, so please arm us accordingly.  Expand mental health services, increase public education funds, and empower us to keep our students safe.  We can do this.

I never thought I would have to ask myself if I was willing to literally die for my students.    I never thought I would have to wonder if my own children’s teachers were willing to die for them.  But I am willing.  And I bet they are, too.

We are teachers.  We are called to challenge our students to think critically, to write, to speak up, and to dream.  We’ve been trained to educate them, to meet them where they are, and to inspire them to take leaps forward.

 

We are warriors, but we do not need weapons.

 

 

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Facial Warts, Flaming Hots, Feeling Fine

messy kitchenTomorrow I am going to be 39.  WTF.  That is only one year away from 40.

In some ways I still feel like I am the 18-year-old Melissa driving at night with the sunroof down, music up, and the open world spread out before me.

I still feel like I could take some tequila shots and dance my ass off at some sweaty club.

Actually, we could back it up to 15-years-old. . . I still feel like I could pop a tape in my walkman and rollerblade through the streets listening to Belinda Carlisle.

But here I am in my dirty (but beautifully designed) kitchen on a Friday night wondering if I should unload the dishwasher first, or get the load of darks started in the washer.

I mean the boys and I did go to Michael’s tonight to buy some beads to make necklaces.  And to Target for a Tombstone pizza . . . so . . .

39.

My forehead has gotten wrinkly, and I have lots of gray hairs that I sometimes spray with some mysteriously magic hair spray that turns them back to brown.  But mostly – I leave them gray.  And recently I got a huge facial wart.  I couldn’t get into a dermatologist so I just burned it off with apple cider vinegar.  (I may have also burned off some healthy skin. . . I guess it is important to read the entire home remedy article).

I think a lot about death.  This is a blessing . . . and a burden.  A blessing because it has increased the amount of time I spend actually being present in the here and now.  Like being aware of where my body is in space and time, being engaged in the conversation before me, and being utterly grateful for the simplest wonders of life:

Listening to the Lumineers.  Sipping vanilla coffee. Holding Alex’s sweet, 9-year-old hand.  Watching Andy reenact a Harry Potter scene.  Breaking Joel’s rule of no dogs on the couch, and cuddling our Ellie pup.  Watching Joel coach 1st grade basketball.  Singing to my students as their eyes roll.  Reading poetry out loud.  Christmas cooking.  Laughing at my silly friends.  Reading other people’s truths.  Watching meaningless TV. Taking warm baths with coconut oil and lavender.  Climbing into clean sheets.  Running.  Wondering.  Wishing with my eyes closed.  Praying.  Leaning against trees.  Studying the seasons.  Chicken soup. Cookie dough. Grapefruit. Moonlight. The sound of rain.  The sight of snow.  The smell of spring.

And I know.  That just like that.  It can all disappear.

Someone crosses the centerline.  You slip off the cliff.  Your heart breaks.  Your clot moves.  Your cancer metastasizes.

Just like that.

I hope I make it to 40.  But if for some reason I don’t.  I want to live. . . like really LIVE the best way that I know how.  For me that means making connections with people.  For me that means helping my students believe that they are beautiful, and strong, and that they are powerful beyond measure.  For me that means believing in things you can’t see.  And being painfully aware of my privilege, and teaching my white boys to be aware of theirs. For me that means trying to remember the canvas bags at the grocery store, keeping granola bars in the car so we have something to give the homeless man at the corner.  For me that means listening to people who disagree with me, and taking the time to wonder.  And forgiving myself after I yell (because seriously why are we STILL asking you to put your shoes on?????).   To me that means eating mostly foods that come from living things.  And then forgiving myself for eating Flaming Hot Cheetos,  cookie dough, and Tombstone pizza . . . all in the same day.   To me it means being brave enough to say what I think, and humble enough to know that I could be getting it all wrong.  To me it means investing in people.  And holding hands.  And opening my eyes all the way . . . so I can see unexpected miracles. . . just the right song on the radio, just the right sunbeam on my face, just the right wind in my hair, just the right words scribbled in a book.  To me it means sinking into sadness instead of fighting it, and holding on to joy like a snowflake that might melt.

Life is beautiful.  I am so happy to be here.  I am so glad that I get to turn 39.  Time to go clean this kitchen.  After all . . . it IS Friday night.