Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tread Marks

I think school administrators like a world that is black and white. They like problems to have expedient and inexpensive solutions.  So do all of us for that matter. Unfortunately most real world problems are complex and take some time to solve. The world can't be wrapped up into neat packages of right and wrong. Our imperfect world can be hard for the folks in charge. Too often they mistake being in Command for being in Control. All too often dishing out punishment gives them a sense of order and purpose. It makes them feel that they are doing something and therefore they must be in control.  Control is a myth. And lets be honest here, school administrators are in the business of covering their asses. Perhaps this is true of all of us at some point, but it certainly seems pervasive in those folks who gain authority over others.

Far too many administrators I know are guilty of this kind of thinking. They are not, in fairness, bad people. Just flawed leaders living in a flawed world. The problem is that courage or conviction of purpose gets trumped by survival every time. In their world success is measured by how much they can appease the squeakiest wheels. This system, as you might imagine, has created a lot of squeaky wheels- all trying to out squeak each other for attention. That is when the hyperbolic chorus of privileged suburban parents tends to run amuck. When the rhetoric hits the fan the survivalist administrator reaches for the most expedient solution to appease the swarm of suburban privilege. That solution inevitably involves throwing a  teacher under the wheels of the bus. After ten years in my system and seventeen years of teaching, I've got the tread marks to justify my cynicism.

Once, just once, I'd like to hear a principal acknowledge that this is the way the system works. Just once, I'd like to hear someone say, "I'm sorry, I know this sucks, but it's the only way I can get this crazy vindictive person off our backs".

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A footnote on the One Week Challenge

I was initially disappointed in the results. I had no idea that following a few days of recovery I would discover that an authentic change had occurred. The “after burn” of calories is still with me almost one week later! Bottom line: By the end of the week following the challenge I saw a dramatic improvement in energy, stamina, and strength. Rethinking the lessons learned- adding patience to the list.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rumi and Husam, revisited

After completing the self-indulgent "One Week Challenge", I have decided to re-post this piece. I have added MEW's comment to the body of the text. It's the day before returning to school and a healthy dose of humility is in order as I return to my classroom. -C. 

I just read something about Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, and his friend Husam[1]. The story goes that Rumi pulled a piece of paper from his turban and read the first lines of the Mathnawi, which he had written that morning to Husam. 

                  “There must be more”, said Husam.
                  “If you will write for me, I will continue”, replied Rumi.

Twelve years later Husam had scribed six volumes containing over fifty-one thousand verses of poetry. Husam recalls that, “He [Rumi] never took a pen in his hand while composing the Mathnawi.” I can’t help but wonder at the remarkable sense of humility Husam had achieved. I’m not sure how much Husam is ever mentioned in discussions of the great poet, but I have to wonder if there would have been a Rumi without a Husam? Husam replied to Rumi, “From this moment, I am your servant” after hearing the promise of more poetry to come.

         I’d like know Husam a little bit better. Was it love? It had to be. My 21st century brain wants to know if it was romantic love, but my second thoughts dismiss the question as irrelevant. Did Husam have an intuition that there was twelve years of brilliance hiding in Rumi’s head? Did he recognize his own contribution to the creative process? Without a witness, without a scribe, I don’t believe Rumi could have produced the body of work that he did. His words would have been the proverbial tree falling in the woods. Husam reminds me of how different people draw out different aspects of us. What was it about this seemingly humble man that liberated the master to delve so deep into thought? Did Husam care for Rumi, feed him, cook, and clean , and serve?

         I think the Husam’s of this world go uncelebrated, and perhaps they prefer it that way. They are, after all, a modest and humble group. But, they make the world work. They make room for the genius to happen. They make the container that can hold the creation, which would otherwise spill onto the floor and be lost. I have no doubt that the world would be a better place if there were more Husams in it and less aspiring Rumis. 

MEW'S Comment:
as teachers aren't we all Husam? we get things out of others that might never come to light if we didn't ask for them. yet our role in their creation is never the focus of the final product.

[1] The Longing: Poetry, Teachings, Stories, and Letters of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne