Today, I got asked a question by a guest Professor that got me thinking about my life in a million different ways. He asked me: "Why are you here? Really, why are you here?"
He really asked the whole class, but his emphasis on the question resonated with me. Well, I'm here in New York City, pursuing an MA in Art, Education & Community Practice. I'm here because I was frustrated as a high school Humanities teacher last year and I wanted to be better for the kids and families I serve. School as an institution had begun to rear its ugly multiple faces at me and I wanted a better way. I wanted to teach in a way that engaged the community and the families rather than just individual students who were after grades. I wanted to blur the lines between the world and the space inside my classroom. I came to this program seeking tools to help me do that. I've always intended to return to my life as a high school teacher. It is an identity that I have found I love to self-identify as. I am a teacher. Sure, I make things once in a while, and I play music and I love to read in the solitude of my own mind. But I feel the most whole when I am in an interesting exchange with a student or a classroom of students. I feel the most comfortable in my own skin when I am wearing the hat of "teacher".
It is a hat I love to wear, but one I also love to subvert. I've always treated my classrooms as political places. I'm that crazy quirky teacher that you've heard of. When I taught in San Diego, I took my kids to the beach to write haikus and sing by the ocean after they built solar ovens to cook our lunch. I walked with my kids to Starbucks on Fridays and had conversations about life. My kids called me Carol. I learned from my students as much as if not more than they learned from me. To me, teaching is not one sided. To teach is to be in an exchange, to be inside a dialogue. To look at things with critical eyes, together and discuss how we are all seeing what we are looking at. There are great thinkers who I've been introduced to this year who put into words what I feel about teaching much better than I ever will. Paolo Freire is one of them. William Ayers is my favorite (if you're a teacher and you've never read Teaching Towards Freedom, it's a book I highly, highly recommend).
Today, I wrote a question for myself in my notebook:
What is my aesthetic?
Then, I started writing down words and phrases. Here they all are:
*reminders of our shared humanity
*opening and sharing space
*restoring humanity when people are turned into stereotypes or statistics
*a search for freedom
This is my aesthetic stripped down into bullet points. These are the spaces I come from and where I want to return to and where I want to work within.
So as I write in this blog and connect my life to my body... why am I so harsh with myself when it comes to my body? I find myself yelling at myself in my head and reprimanding myself for all my failures. Today, I resolve to be kinder to myself and to show myself more grace. I also pledge to make my Medifast journey one about kindness--about a way to show compassion to my body by treating it like a vessel.
PS. I was on plan for the most part today. I think I might have had a tad too much soy milk!