The Ballad of Busy

FAMILY

Somewhere in between the balance of this crazy hustle is a sweet, sweet spot.


My alarm on weekday mornings goes off at 6:40 a.m. — the latest I can sleep in and still have just a few minutes with Kelly, Julia, and Thomas before they hop in the van and go to school. They are often basking in a half-episode of screen time, often the only television they get during the school week, which gives Kel the chance to pack backpacks and find order before departure. Then: kisses and hugs and good wishes and goodbyes.

Annie is still asleep and hopefully will be for another hour. I pull on my sneakers and go downstairs to the elliptical. Someone I do not know figured out I was Mrs. Hogan’s husband recently, and when we bumped into each other downtown last week, told me that his elementary-school aged daughter saw me working out most mornings. (The elliptical is in front of a window in the back of the house, where East Elementary School Road car-rider traffic crawls by.) So I discovered I am the brief entertainment of hundreds of children through the week.

I watch the news while I work out for 25 minutes, then drink a glass of cold water, then feed the bigger dog and scratch her ears for a couple of minutes. Then, time for a shower and shave, time to get dressed (quick check of my calendar for the day to determine if I can get away with a polo shirt; Thursday I could not), time to wake up Annie, who was stirring anyway.

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Laboring Away

As of September 2nd, 2018, I am…

Relieved by: so far being able to manage work, board memberships, volunteer efforts, and graduate school requirements. It’s not neat and tidy, and I have never felt my life so full, but so far I’ve tightened everything down and tried to awaken every ounce of discipline and keep myself on task. It’s working. Perhaps I’m a little bit surprised–but only because I’ve never had this many balls in the air. I won’t waste too much time bragging on myself, lest I drop one.

Grateful for: the last week of open pools. This swimming season has flown by. We switched our pool membership this year, opting for the local club pool instead of the rec center water park. Fewer of Kel’s students show up–not that it’s a bad thing, but just that it’s less relaxing when you’re mobbed by little people incredibly excited to see you. Looking back at what I’d written just a couple of months ago, it’s remarkable to see how far our kids have come as swimmers. Julia and Thomas have both earned their own passes; both jump off diving boards and into deep ends with nary a flotation device nearby. And Annie gleefully jumps in and doesn’t want to leave. I’ll be sad (especially since the weather’s still hot) to not have this as a destination. 

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Education is an Uncomfortable Place

ACADEMIA

Portrait of the Grad Student at Orientation

 

Now, more than ever, I understand that my success as an educator depends upon my ability to discern and lead.


On my desk at Mitchell Community College is a stack of nearly one hundred letters dutifully composed by scholarship recipients. We ask those who receive financial aid to write to the benefactors of their funds, in part because it’s a compelling way to thank donors, but also because connecting them together is often a powerful experience for everyone involved. Reading over these letters is humbling for me; students write about adversities that range from homelessness to finances to learning disabilities. The futures they dream of are bright but pragmatic, and the goals they set down for themselves on paper are intimate in their candor.

These letters and the important lives behind them form the fabric of the decision for why I have spent my career in education. I think of these scholarship recipients as my neighbors. In a sense, I’ve always felt that tie to those education must serve. When I graduated from Western Carolina University in 2003, I was obligated by my Teaching Fellows scholarship to spend the next four years in the classroom. I taught with a youthful and crudely formed ideology for why I thought public education was important and a righteous commitment to teaching my students well. On every syllabus I handed out, I included my personal mantra: Education is an uncomfortable place.

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