The 2016-2017 school year is finally over (as of June 28), and I’m now in the Brandeis teacher leadership program summer component for most of July. This year has been incredibly rewarding in terms of growth as a teacher and as a leader, but I haven’t quite figured out how to reflect on that growth or figure out how to just sit down and write!
Changing habits is an interesting beast. The “run at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays” habit finally gelled for me this year, when I tricked myself into running before work so that I could hang out with my husband and son after work. That habit wasn’t as difficult to start as some others because I’ve been running since 1995, so I had some subconscious muscle memory going there. This year I finally wrote my first DonorsChoose project proposals after years of thinking “no one will fund that” or “I don’t have time to write that.” Turns out that encouraging words from a few colleagues and promising one that I’d pay him $5 if I didn’t post by the end of the day finally got me to do it. So, it’s time to trick myself into blogging and tweeting regularly (likely by telling friends “I’ll give you $5 if I don’t write this blog post”). I often store ideas in Evernote and say “I’ll blog about that” but then abandon it in favor of lesson planning or teacher leadership work, so here goes!
On September 7, 2016 (the first day of school), my dad wrote to me:
“We are confident that you are a good teacher like your late grandfather Romulo. I remember him walking miles to reach his assigned elementary schools and people always addressed him “Maestro”. Teaching is a noble profession and it is rewarding to see the learning eyes of the young. There used to be a poem titled the “ Clay of Youth” which enunciates how the youth is molded. It is a beautiful poem, see attached.”
I took a piece of plastic clay, And idly fashioned it one day, And as my
fingers pressed it, still it bent and yielded to my will.
I came again when days were past, The bit of clay was hard at last, Its
early impress still it bore, But I could change the form no more.
I took a piece of Living clay, And gently formed it day by day, And molded
with my power and art, A boy’s soft and yielding heart.
I came again when years were gone, It was a man I looked upon, My early
impress still he bore, And I could change him nevermore.
Two days later, this daycare newsletter picture of my son “teaching” his younger infant friends about the sun, clouds, and a heart made me smile. My dad commented “It is so nice to see Parker acting as a teacher! It is in his blood.”
That made me wonder more about our family history of teaching. Per my dad, both my grandparents were “educated by American teachers known as “Thomasites” sent by the United States in 1901. The Thomasites taught, English, agriculture, reading, grammar, geography, mathematics, general courses, trade courses, housekeeping and household arts (sewing, crocheting and cooking), manual trading, mechanical drawing, freehand drawing and athletics (baseball, track and field, tennis and others). This was the curriculum in 1902 – 1935.” My grandfather completed secondary education and became a teacher. My grandmother completed elementary school and then went on to raise seven children. I’d assumed she had been a teacher too because of her reputation as the town matriarch, but it turns out that she was the OG “mom-preneur” back in the day. She sent my dad’s two oldest sisters to Catholic school in a neighboring gown by managing my grandfather’s salary and earning extra income. According to my dad, “on occasion, she had to mortgage our rice lands if she was short of cash for school fees. She was very good in raising supplemental income by raising live stocks, like pigs, chickens, turkey, ducks, goats, cows and grow exotic orchids and beautiful potted roses for a good price to the wealthy folks in our town. She was able to own and operate a small convenient store which provided additional income to her family. Because we were barely making a good threshold of standard of living, our birthday celebration was to plant a fruit tree to commemorate the occasion. If we are not around, she will plant the fruit tree for us. The land is filled with fruit bearing trees which provide income from the sale of fruits.”
We don’t have any pictures of my grandfather Romulo teaching, but my dad sent this 1982 picture of my aunt Betty (one of his six siblings) who became a teacher.
Parker’s been to my 106-year-old school (as an infant during my 2015 maternity leave), so he’s used to visiting historical school buildings. I hope that one day he could also see the schools in which his great-aunt and great-grandfather taught (if they still exist), and to see the fruit trees from long ago.
One of my Brandeis classmates told me “we can’t turn our kids into what we want. They already have personalities and temperaments. We can get to know *who* they are.” Parker is still in the “moldable” clay stage and I look forward to learning what kind of learner he will be. As I head into the second week of my teacher leadership program, I hope to retain some of that moldable quality and keep an open mind for my tenth year of teaching.