Sunday, February 27, 2011

The end of winter

Our crocuses bloomed today. A tiny horseshoe crab, smaller than my thumbnail, crawled out of the Delaware Bay. The day lilies are rising again, like Phoenixes from the snow's ashes.

All of this is more real than the nonsense that passes for discourse in the education world. I can still close my classroom door (though I rarely do) and tackle whatever problems we care to tackle that day.
Why is my plant wilting? Hey, sow bug babies! I think my slug drowned.
How come the starfish hasn't moved in three days? Are those mosquitoes?
Look! Peas!
We got kids from Somalia, from Sierra Leone, from Poland, from China, from Ghana. Not third generation, not second. We're talking off the airplane (Newark Liberty International Airport) and into the brink. I taught a child who spoke only Bengali.

And we thrive.

We thrive despite the mandates, the tests, the current climate that forgets the roots of the word public, "pertaining to the people." Our town supported the last budget, despite the struggles of family after family after family.

Families that come from desperate situations know education matters. Families that come from desperate situations value teachers who care about their children. They put their trust in our hands, in our classrooms.

So while the elite press on about this magnet school, that philosophy, the myriad ways to use (and abuse) technology, scouring the US News and World Report for college rankings (and the NJ Monthly for state rankings), most of the rest of us go about our business, getting children ready for loving, happy, and (yes) productive lives.

But never just productive.

I work for Bloomfield, and its families, and for its children. I do not work for Arne Duncan, I do not work for Governor Christie. I give my all every day, because I want my lambs to be happy, in the Jeffersonian sense, and I want them prepared to pursue whatever dreams they hope to pursue.

I wiled away a good chunk of the afternoon on a jetty poking into the bay. I stared at barnacles for a bit, mourned all the oysters scraped off the rocks by this year's ice. The water was exceptionally clear, revealing thousands of comb jellies, floating in with the tides, then floating out again.

My happiest moments are spent on the edges of the sea. 

I stumbled upon the horseshoe crab, not much different than its ancestors that wandered these same shores when dinosaurs still roared. It may be still alive, it may be in the belly of a gull now. Tomorrow I will share its story with my students, because for them, these stories still matter.

And then I will test them on meiosis and synapses and centromeres and chromatids, to get them ready for the state exam in May. Those who finish early will be allowed to study their terrariums, their aquariums, to see how their critters did over the weekend.

 And the day will not be completely wasted, the last Sunday of February, as the light returns, and all things, all things, again become possible.

All photos taken today.
 First one crocuses, then the tiny (and live) horseshoe crab, then the points of a dead horseshoe crab, 
then barnacles hanging out waiting for the next tide, 
and finally, light as seen through the compound eyes of a horseshoe crab.


Mary Ann Reilly said...

Such elegant & wise words. Hard to reconcile your work as a teacher with all the bluster that comes out of Trenton. Makes me want to shout at our Gov. "See, see what you tried to wreck when you told NJ voters to vote against their school budgets."

Your edge of the sea has me thinking about Gatsby, and the green light at the end of Daisy's dock.

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further... And one fine morning -

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

doyle said...

Dear Mary Ann,

First, thank you for your continued encouragement.

Gatsby's one of those books that I fear is wasted on the young--we try to throw so much at our students before they wander off into the world.

If we get this thing right, and one day we will (OK, maybe Fitzgerald was talking--scratch that--warning us about the hopelessly optimistic), we will trust our lambs to get to Gatsby and Lear and Guernica when they come of age.

If nothing else, I pray they get to the edge of the sea, whatever defines the sea for them.

Kate said...

Thank you for these beautiful photos.

The crocuses - so white - their golden centers shine in those pristine cups.

Life is all around us. It breathes, it lives, it dies. And every year the crocus and the daffodils return, joyful in gold, green, white, and lavender.

We are practicing resurrection.

doyle said...

Dear Kate,

We are resurrection, every moment we breathe. Even long after we breathe, we're still all a part of this thing.

Whatever this thing is.

Kathryn J said...

My happiest moments are also by the sea. Unfortunately, there are not enough of them. Thanks for sharing your day!

I too teach some of those students just off a plane. My school is a magnet for newcomers and their hard work and respect for education changes the culture of the school. Unfortunately, many don't graduate in the amount of time prescribed by NCLB sooooo - we are to be phased out, renamed, reformed, or whatever.

So tired of all the rhetoric and BS.

doyle said...

Dear Kathryn,

The NCLB is inherently unfair to children from other lands.

It is amazing that after all these years, so many people still don't grasp how NCLB is designed--it ultimately guarantees that most public schools will fail, and certainly all public schools with recent immigrants who do not speak English as their first language.

And we dare call it "reform."

Susan E said...

That horseshoe crab is so darn cute. I showed the students a picture of witch hazel and winter hazel that I took at Van Vleck just for them--winter is loosening its grip--and also showed them a picture of a Hooded merganser because, well, as long as that amazing duck is here, so is winter. It didn't have quite the effect that I was hoping for...oh, well. Seeing the real deal is much more impressive, I s'pose.

btw, I would never have read Gatsby if I was not forced to in HS. And I definitely would not have picked up Crime and Punishment, which ended up being one of my all-time favorites, if I again wasn't forced to read it.

Leslie said...

Susan--I mounted a spirited defense of Gatsby as not being an old people's book to Michael. But then, I'd happily sit through GATZ, given the opportunity, and he thinks that's, um, mystifying.