Thursday, October 22, 2015

THIS is why I love teaching: I teach to empower. I teach to show love.

This fall semester, I finally went back to teaching. If you've followed my posts on facebook or twitter, you've seen my posts about how much I love teaching. But I wonder if I've explained well WHY I love it so much.

Teaching is a gift. I get to share a space with my students where we get to explore the world we live in, find ways to challenge the information we receive, and constantly engage with each other and ourselves, question our realities, and embrace our agency in creating change in our new world.

My students are brilliant. No, they are not perfect, but it is not my job to judge their perfection. My job is to see their brilliance and reflect it back to them. My job is to give them the space to explore their own intelligence, curiosities, and wisdom. To think about their own lives, to explore their own identities, to realize they ARE a bigger deal than they are told, and to OWN that power for themselves and learn about how to be responsible to the rest of the world for this knowledge, this wisdom, and this critical role in our creation. No, I'm not stroking their ego. I am hoping to open a space where we face the world we live in realistically--both accepting the faults and chips in the painting, and understanding we can shape it. We hold the pen that writes it, we hold the brush that paints it.

So my biggest hope after my course is that my students understand that their words have value, their voice is power, and their thoughts are important.

Yes, I teach the mechanics of writing. But the reason I teach that is so my students will have the tools to go out into the world and make their voices heard and their spirits soar.
Teaching is an exercise in exponentially growing strength of heart and mind.

THIS is why I love teaching.

Today, (thank you,​), I showed this video in class. We discussed it and opened our eyes to the power and influence that writers have in the world we see and live in. Today, I told my students, "one day, you will be writing those Hollywood shows. Now we understand these truths. Now we can make change."

For a version of that potential change, check out Julio Salgado's version of some favorite TV sitcoms if people of color were more present in the writers' rooms.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

'But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that's had the same guiding effect.'

In the years since my last blog post, I have done a lot of living. I moved from Miami to our nation’s capital. I worked at my favorite organization for 8 months, and at another great organization now for over 9 months. I have grown and learned and hustled and enjoyed so much living and so much love and so much fun. There have been struggles, there have been joys. It’s been a full almost-two-years. As always, I am grateful for the living I’ve done—both the good and the bad. Like Allan Gurganus said,

"Know something, sugar? Stories only happen to people who can tell them."

One of the things I am most grateful for is finding All Souls Unitarian Church here in D.C. At All Souls, I’ve found what I didn’t know I was looking for. It has contextualized my spiritual path and put my whole life into a meaningful story. While struggling, things still make sense. While suffering, there is still hope.

At All Souls, I’ve participated in a variety of activities in the last 8 months. One that was particularly poignant and eerily relevant was an Adult Spiritual Development class on Vocation that I took in May. Not only did I meet an incredible, loving, supportive group of people in that class, but it also spoke to me at a critical time about my own path to find a vocation.

In those conversations, we read and discussed Parker J. Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak. This is a small book, barely noticeable at a bookshop, but earth rattling if you give it the chance. In it, Palmer tells the story of living in a Quaker living-learning community and a conversation he had with a woman named Ruth. Palmer kept receiving the same advice in this community regarding his vocational path: “have faith and way will open.” Then he spoke with Ruth and she got real with him:

"' sixty-plus year of living, way has never opened in front of me.' She paused, and I started sinking into despair. Was this wise woman telling me that the Quaker concept of guidance was a hoax? Then she spoke again, this time with a grin: 'But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that's had the same guiding effect.'"

The concept of “Way Closing” is challenging and freeing. What I learned in these conversations is that when we face difficult situations in life (and not just in work-related circumstances), these can be seen as challenges to overcome and grow from, or as life showing you a way closing that you can leave behind.

As I said, in my almost-30-years of life, I have done my fair share of living. Fear lurks at times that committing is difficult for me. Judgmental voices in my head tell me that the way I have chosen to lead my life might sometimes be considered “running away” and “quitting when things get tough.” But Parker—and this class—showed me a different truth. The truth that sometimes, the courageous and frightening thing to do is to step aside and let a moment go. Sometimes, the leaving is the brave deed.

I have now lived three full decades. Minimal in comparison to some, and a lifetime in comparison to others. But undoubtedly enough time to have learned, to have failed, to have fallen, and hopefully most importantly to have gotten up time and again. What this quote and this way of thinking says to me is… it’s all ok. In BrenĂ© Brown’s truthful words, “I am enough” however I am. In fact, the failing, the misstep, the quitting may actually be serving us a much deeper purpose. It may be shielding us from a path that would only hurt us and/or those around us. It may be guiding us to the bigger and better we are meant to do.

Way closing—it's a cheat sheet! Life’s way of giving us the answers.