Holding sunshine over the clouds in Ecuador
*Wipes off dust.* Tap, tap, tap, is this thing on?
It’s been exactly 498 days since I have written in this blog of mine. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year and a half, with super high highs and deep low lows. I’m happy to say I’ve recently been able to get off and catch my breath, which is good because I was starting to get super nauseous.
I can go into at another time, but 2017 was especially tough for me. It was the year that wasn’t. It was not fun. It was not a year of growth. It was not good. It just… wasn’t.
For example, in the fall of 2017, a friend asked me how things were going at school. Without even thinking. I replied, “I’m in the sunken place,” cueing a Get Out reference. I gasped and slapped my hands over my mouth at my response, but that’s how I honestly felt at that time while teaching at OPRF. My voice was silenced by racial equity leadership, and I was made to feel like I was no longer welcome to teach there by administration. Even with new additions to the school, it was clear that I was not going to be allowed to do racial equity work at OPRF, and I started to spiral. It’s hard to feel like you don’t belong in a place that used to be your home. And so I struggled with mental health, and even with therapy and changes in medication, it felt like I was sinking. And then 2018 came along, thank goodness.
2017 definitely taught me patience and pain, but thank u, next.
So onto the goodness of 2018. There were three major life events that have really taken the bitterness out of the sadness of the year before (I’ll put more amazing events in the pictures). I’m starting to transition from simply surviving to genuinely thriving, and for this, I am more grateful than I am able to express in the English language.
Reading at ancient Zapotec ruins.
Transformative Life Event #1: I Went on T.V.
Rewind to the summer of 2015. I had gotten back from New Zealand on my Fulbright, overflowing with ideas on how to eliminate racial predicatibilities in student academic achievement. Academy Award nominated film director Steve James and I were having a beer and burger, talking about the possibility of filming in my classroom that upcoming year. In my nervousness, I talked way too much about growing up in New Richmond, and my hardships of being a teacher of color in the building. Steve assured me that he was just going to film a couple of weeks, and that for a few teachers maybe a quarter or even a semester. But he made it really clear that he wouldn’t be in my classroom all that much.
Steve James getting ready to film my brothers and I playing basketball, while sound techniction Zak Piper mics them (this scene didn’t make the documentary. Thanks goodness because Danny dunks right over the top of me).
I chuckle at that now, as I ended up working with three out of the four film crews, and they filmed weekly the entire year, sometimes several times in one week. It became normal for my class and me to have a film crew in the room, and I could soon quickly and expertly get in and out of the wires of microphones between classes. Steve James and the rest of the film crew, especially Janea, Kevin, Rebecca, and Zak got me through that year. They were my constant cheerleaders–super excited about everything happening in my classroom and caring about all of the kids as much as I did. In a school where autonomy rules, it was so nice to get constant feedback and connection from people who actually seemed to care about me and the work I did in the classroom.