Tag Archives: Diversity

Situational Paralysis: Make a Good Plan

While I am visiting my parents this weekend, I came here to Gas City to a Starbucks, where I worked during graduate school which seems like ages ago now, to work on lesson plans for school next week. The school corporation where I work uses a system called PAR to evaluate all new teachers and also struggling teachers who have been teaching for a while.

I value this system, because every teacher should have other teachers observe them, and every teacher has room to grow and learn, which is facilitated well by conversations with a good, mentor teacher (I am lucky, mine is fabulous). Conversely I dislike this system, because it requires me to write formal lesson plans every weekend for every period for every class, and sometimes I just want my students to work on a project for a few days, but I don’t know how, in a formal lesson plan, to adequately express where I will be and what I will be doing for those days.

And sometimes, let’s be real, formal lesson plans seem like one more thing when you have a general trajectory for your students’ lessons, like they are taking time away from making the lesson happen, doing a bit of extra preparation for your students, grading their work and making meaningful comments, and all those things that really make a difference.

But, in American culture, what are we without a plan? We start planning our kids’ lives from before the time they are even conceived. We tracks students by their achievements from the time they are in preschool. We guide students forward on their trajectories all through elementary, leaving brown, black, female, financially poor, and queer kids at the margins (if you don’t believe me, a simple google search will prove my point; there are countless scholarly articles that speak to these issues as well). These groups spend far more time out of class, in the principal’s office, in the nurses office, and out of school for behavior or absences, and frequently they are left behind.

We start seriously asking students what are their plans for their futures in seventh grade (I’m 44 and I still don’t have a solid plan), but those same groups of kids (the marginalized) are largely at a loss for guidance as papers (lessons and punishments) are pushed their direction, sometimes in languages they and their parents cannot speak or read, sometimes for opportunities they and their parents do not understand, and sometimes with the lens of a cultural structure into which they do not fit. Twenty-first Century Scholars in Indiana, for example, must be applied for by the end of 8th grade, so students and their parents have to choose to go to college by the young age of 12-14. If they miss the 8th-grade deadline, there is no second chance.

So, yes, plans matter in the USA. And your plan had better be a good one, the right one. As a teacher, my plan had better be a good one, the right one. No pressure.

 

 

Lent Day 11: A Lesson in Love and Humility

Without giving too many details, I will just say I have learned a lesson in humility and love this weekend at AWP. To make a long story short, my insomnia didn’t, in fact, go away. It only got slightly less ferocious, allowing me five hours of of sleep for one night instead of three. When I don’t sleep, I get mean, curt, short-tongued. I have been all of those things this week, which led to quite a large eruption of misunderstandings last night between a friend and myself. The quarrel led to me moving down to the lobby of the hotel for quite some time, so I could recompose myself and not put my fist through the mirror in our room. See I told you I have some anger management issues, and I felt as if I could beat my way with small, tight fists through the thickest, heaviest punching bag on the market. I didn’t.

Instead, for a change, I left the room to recompose myself elsewhere. By this morning, after a conversation with my beautiful and sensible wife, some coffee, a session on queer YA fiction, and some prayer, walking, and meditation, I was able to calmly and rationally initiate a discussion of the events of last night. And, of course, we came out on the other side with love and grace, because I am learning that’s how things work out when you practice humility and love.

Here is the photographic chronology of my day:

Walking North on Michigan Avenue

Walking North on Michigan Avenue

A Coffee Shop I've Always Wanted to Try and Finally Did

A Little Morning Reading and a Mexican Mocha

Buildings Dating from the Mid-1800s

Do You Need Some Art Supplies?

Capitalism Block on State Street

I decided to go to church tonight, but I wasn’t sure where to go, so I literally typed the address of the Palmer House in the first blank of the “Get Directions” feature in Google Maps, followed by the word Methodist in the second blank. I figured I couldn’t lose since I live four hours away, and I’d never see any of the people again. I mean, it’s always a crap shoot when you’re a lady-boy lesbian and looking for a church in a different city. Each time I risk rejection from the body to which I’ve belonged since the age of four when I “gave my life to Jesus,” a form of rejection that breaks my heart again and again.

I walked to Temple Church (a.k.a. First United Methodist of Chicago) with low expectations and hoping that I wasn’t dressed too shabbily. I can never accurately anticipate the dress code at a “First United Methodist,” because they are usually the big, old churches that are trying to stand guard and keep from dying out. But that guard-standing usually comes outfitted in whatever is the latest fashion.  I always assume that the dress code is on the upper end of the spectrum, not jeans and the sweater I was wearing. But, as I mentioned, I’d never see any of these people again, so I pressed on.

Temple Church's History in Stained Glass

Destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire

As I walked past the beautiful arts garden, pictured above, I looked to my right and got a glimpse of the Chicago Picasso. I could feel that this hour of my life was going to be an adventure. Electric Jesus was in the air. I strolled through the revolving door and up to the security guard. Yes, you read correctly, I walked confidently over to the security guard, and said, “Can you please tell me where the church service is meeting tonight?” She pointed me up the stairs and through some double doors.

I was a bit disoriented as I walked through the thick wooden doors, because I was released into a space that looked like a storage closet, only without anything in it, too big to be a closet, too small to be a respectable hallway. The space was a hallway nonetheless, and I began to search for what I was sure would be a large stone chapel or sanctuary. Instead I found the small, intimate chapel pictured here. In fact, I had to ask the lovely man in the picture if I was in the right place.

A Tiny Church Service in a Huge Church's Small Chapel

By the time the service started with a greeting and then a hymn that none of us really knew, I realized I was experiencing the Body of Christ in a very real way. The mix of people was diverse: various ethnicities, social classes, sexual orientations, gender identities, and abilities. There were people there with children of varying ages, and older people who were there alone. The bulletin specifically spelled out that we were all welcome.

The service followed the liturgy while still being personal: we confessed as a group and then offered silent meditations of our own. When it came time for the prayer requests, the congregants shared intimately and without reservation, and then we prayed for those concerns. We passed the peace! Finally, we collected tithes and offerings and shared the Eucharist together. We stood together around the communion table and celebrated the Great Thanksgiving as we looked each other in the eyes. I could feel the Holy Spirit hovering there in our midst, like the soft breeze that blows off Lake Michigan in the summertime, and as refreshing.

Jesus’ body was broken, His blood was shed, and we were redeemed yet again. A glorious miracle.

Several times the intimacy and the beauty of it all overwhelmed me to the point of tears. Here, four hours away, is the type of community I long for each Sunday. Here, in a church I assumed would be too uppity for my jeans and sweater, I met my Jesus in the realest way I have experienced in years. Here.

Today was a beautiful mess. Peace.