Tuesday, June 9, 2020

re-recalled, with a side of queer eye wisdom

I was having a pretty good non-school school year, exploring a new life in which I sometimes struggled to explain what I "do" when not preparing to be a museum docent or volunteering to answer phones for public radio drives & local film festivals (not technically retired, not exactly switching careers, sometimes writing but not really "a writer"...). Overall satisfying though.

The ephemera from my former classroom that I couldn't bear to give away to students or leave for other teachers or take to Goodwill I arranged in the library at my school where I spent a couple of days each week organizing & checking out books, making posters for monthly themes & Renegades in history, helping design mini-lessons for Advocacy classes. I got to chat with kids before school and during lunch about what to read, how to revise poems, the importance of alone time, ways to deal with friends who weren't behaving like friends anymore; it was a lot of the parts of teaching I loved the most. I even attended staff meetings and offered useful input about some of the students I had taught before.

During my unstructured days, I went to art education trainings, wrote poetry, baked, made some collages, started metal stamping, and watched all of the Queer Eye episodes with utter tear-filled joy. What a life.

Yet. As much as I appreciated Last Year Me for recognizing her need to step away from a literal lifetime of teaching to explore A New Identity, I could not stop talking about how I had worked & connected with "my students." Every conversation seemed to veer into the land of dealing with people, trying to understand, empathize, and help. The more Queer Eye I watched, the more I felt like they [Karamo] were speaking directly at me - do I really know myself? What do I want in life?

As this year rolled on and into a pandemic, I found myself reflecting more on those questions. I relished learning to give tours at the art museum, though I also actually liked not being expected to leave my house. But other than making scones to leave on neighbors' doorsteps and/or eat in front of the TV, or constantly revising poems or stressing over my Submittable bio & cover letter, I spent the distancing time reading and thinking. I planned imaginary lessons. I wondered if my principal or colleagues would allow me to "guest teach" a few times. I felt a little sheepish about asking to go back after having cleaned out everything and made pronouncements about Moving On. But this is when I started to really listen to the Queer Eye guys [Karamo] - the past is the past, we decide what to do with it and how we go forward, it doesn't matter what other people think of us, it is okay to ask for help, it's necessary to take care of ourselves. I asked.

So here I am, getting ready to go back to my school, into a different classroom, to teach US History for two quarters; I'll still be able to give museum tours during my off-time plus write some poetry now & then. My days are now spent more on reading about the people who have been left out of textbooks + designing lessons to open students' eyes to the nation we have wrought, and hopefully send them out to create a new order.

I'm also watching every Queer Eye episode again. While eating scones.