“I Hate You, Beastie.”

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Allow me a moment to be with my anger.  I want to stew in it a bit today.  (Besides, anger can be powerful and transformative, and I just don’t feel like shying away from it at this moment.  So, this is not an apology if you were hoping for one.)

 

As I was driving to work, I was trying to shake myself out of my funk.  There are a lot of things contributing to it:  achy hips, a SI joint issue that is causing pain in my flanks and hamstrings, stress of writing lesson plans, getting all my grading done, knowing I have to face 140 students today and be “in charge” of their whiny asses, to name a select few.

I thought about turning on the radio and finding some good 80s tunes to jam out to, but I had a brainstorm, “Why not just be mad?  Why fake that I’m happy when I’m really not?  Why care what others think  of me as I walk about wearing my anger like a cloak?”

And so I got angry.  I allowed my anger to fill up my car with imaginary green smoke like Maleficent when she curses the baby Sleeping Beauty.  Imaginary horns grew out of my head and my claws became sharp.  I wasn’t about to retract them for anyone or anything, including the jerk who tried to inch his way into my lane as I was approaching the stoplight.

I got to work and a colleague opened the door like a true gentleman.  I had a polite conversation with him and in the end he made me laugh.  After my chuckle, I said, “Damn’t Nate!  I’m trying to be all brooding and pissed off here.  Get out of my space so I can be mean.”  He laughed too and said, “I’m sorry.  I’ll leave you to your anger.”

I scrambled to get my lunch put away and pull up my worksheets to make copies for the first hour.  The bell was close to ringing and my copies weren’t complete.  Frustrated, I mentioned to my friend Ashley that I would “have one of my buttheads come and pick them up after the announcements.”  She laughed and appreciated that I was being verbal with my anger as she too was feeling some animosity as well.

The villain/anti-hero inside of me started to grow into fuller form as my first hour class sat in complete silence while only a few kids stood for the “Pledge of Allegiance”.  They are a surly lot and rarely do they give me eye contact or respond with a simple “Good morning” when I cheerily greet them every day.  They choose to stare at their desks and not draw attention to themselves and do not participate in class or group discussions nor do they do the assigned reading, even when I give them time in class.  This morning, with my anger permission slip in hand, I decided to match their heavy, dark mood.   The moment of silence ended, and I wickedly said to them, “I’ve learned my lesson with this group to not engage you with even a simple ‘Hello’.  I’m not even going to ask you about your break.  I hope it was enjoyable for those of you that care.  Get out your notebooks and let’s start taking notes on Emily Dickinson’s biography.”

The downward spiral into the simmering pool of wrath continued as my 2nd hour group of juniors complained about having to do any schoolwork.  I gave them the my best Claire Huxtable head-twerk, stanky eyebrow raise impression I’ve got and my nostrils flared a bit as well.

And all would have gone seemingly well had not this one girl who has a daily negative attitude (and a permanent stanky-eyebrow raise, head-twerk, eye roll facial expression) approached me with an accusatory tone and gave me the “it’s you, not me” excuse by boldly saying, “You should give me an extra literature circle packet because I can’t find mine and it is all your fault”.  My dragon scales stood up and my hackles came out.  “Go sit down.  You were supposed to have this completed today.  Before the discussion.  You know this.  We’ve done this for 3 weeks in a row.  Go sit down.”  I cut her off as she started to complain some more.  (Later I learned I might have made a mistake and kept hers and others’ lit circle packets and forgot to grade them over the long weekend.  But, whatever.  Who talks to their teachers like they are a loathsome creature who is their lowly servant or slave?)

I was getting a little bored and annoyed with my anger by now.  It was starting to drag me down a bit, but it wasn’t completely through with me just yet.  I managed to get through a decent discussion with my 3rd hour seniors, but a know-it-all boy who was absent last week and didn’t have a chance to read the short story kept interjecting his thoughts on the character’s motivations.  He was off the mark the entire time.  I asked him nicely to just be quiet and listen to the discussion so when he reads the short story in class today he’ll have a better understanding.  He muttered, “I probably won’t read it.  You’re explaining it all right now anyway.”  My canine teeth grew another half an inch and my eyes felt like they flipped to the back of my head.  I curtly cut him off with a, “Stop it.  No one wants to hear your assumptions.  Just read it.  And do the work so you can get a decent grade on this essay.”  I finally got everyone back on task and gave them suggestions on how to take notes when reading the story for a second time.  Right then, he had the gall to ask me to go to the counselor’s office because it was an emergency.  I grasped the podium to brace myself in case my head started to spin around.  I firmly said, “No.  Do your work and figure out your life later.”  I walked away and went to my desk and began writing this blog post.

How is my anger now?  I will let you know after all these beasties are gone and out of my life at 3:25 p.m. today.  If I don’t devour them first.maleficent536acd244e2df

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Love Is Tough

Witnessing someone in pain is difficult.

You aren’t sure what to do.  What to say.  Exactly how to act.

You provide a moment of safe space for that person to simply vent his frustration.  You think you are just being there for him, but then you walk away realizing his funk has now become yours.  Or his anger is stuck on you.  Your hips ache.  Your shoulders are tight.  It feels like some type of green slime has been smeared over your body and you feel sticky and stuck.

What do you do?  You’re now in pain.  Someone’s suffering has become your suffering.

Offer him tough love.  Or love yourself enough to get tough and shield yourself from the green goo of misplaced emotions that is starting to ooze in your direction.images

What does that look like?  It all depends, I guess.  I watched a friend give some tough love to his students today.  He was so angry with a group of freshmen students who made fun of someone’s “weirdness” yesterday.  They mocked him.  Teased him for his differences.  And my friend spent 2 hours of his work time counseling this student, getting him some help, watching this student rage, curse, and cry his way to a physical, mental, and emotional breakdown.

My friend was drained and needed to eat lunch so I agreed to spend the first part of my lunch hour in his room so he could eat.  I walked in the room and he started his class with a powerful, passionate, articulate speech about the treatment of a person who is going through a difficult time.  He reminded his students that it is his job to protect and take care of his students, and that means not just each of them individually, but students at this school collectively.  I can’t even begin to capture his words he so eloquently said to them, but by the end students’ heads were hanging in shame and you could feel how their emotions shifted from animosity to embarrassment to love – love for the individual who was mocked and love for their teacher who cared enough to be so bold and straightforward with them while revealing his authentic emotions in the moment.  It was beautiful.  And it was tough love in its fiercest and purest form.

I left his classroom later that hour with an open heart and a desire to be authentic.

I also knew that if my heart was open, I needed to carry an imaginary shield to fend of the emotional goo of others.  I didn’t want to get sucked into a deep, dark hole of someone else’s suffering, fear, rage, or sadness.  There’s enough of my own pain that I must tend to on occasion anyway.

I didn’t want to do battle, but I didn’t want to be in an open field during hunting season either.

How can openness and protection go hand in hand?

I guess it comes with acknowledging the other person, first and foremost.

After subbing for my friend’s class, I ate a quick lunch and joined another teacher for hall duty.  We stand out in front of the cafeteria during a lunch period and keep the herd from going out to pasture before the bell rings.

One student needed to go to his locker.  He was of Middle-Eastern origin and was wearing a black sweatshirt that read “Palestine vs. The World.”  He was not in dress code, so I asked him to remove his sweatshirt.  He was visibly angry, but decided not to test us, so he removed it.  I told him I would escort him to his locker (kids aren’t allowed to leave the area without a pass from another teacher).  He tried to antagonize me verbally.  I put up my shield and smiled genuinely at him.  He didn’t really know how to react to that.

He asked about my sweatshirt I was wearing.  It has our school’s diversity club logo on it.  Our club is called “Harambee” which means “Let’s all pull together” in Swahili.  I mentioned it to him and that I am one of the sponsors of the club.  He asked a bit about it and I told him some of the fun activities we do and our annual show we put on for the school and the public.  I then asked him about his sweatshirt.  He got embarrassed and said he wasn’t really sure what it meant, but that his older brother wears it and his brother is angry all the time and very political.

We talked about the possible connotations of the sweatshirt and how others may view it as well.  He said, “I really didn’t know what it could mean.  I guess it seems a little aggressive, doesn’t it?”  I said, “Probably at this time in the world’s trials, yes, but it is also a statement of pain and misunderstanding.”  He just shook his head in contemplation.  We started our walk back to the cafeteria after he grabbed what he needed from his locker and put his sweatshirt away.  I asked him if he had family from Palestine, and he told me he was born there and goes back every year to celebrate Ramadan with his grandparents and aunts and uncles.

He got so excited to share about his culture and was even more excited that I knew what Ramadan is and some of the customs that go along with it.  I asked him if he spoke Arabic (his English was flawless with no trace of an accent).  He smiled really big and said, “Yes.”  I told him I knew a few words, and he asked me what I knew.  I smiled and said, “Asalam alaikum” (which loosely translated means “Allah’s (or God’s) peace to you”).  He grabbed my hand in true Arabic fashion, pressed his other hand on top of mine and said, “Alaikum asalam” (“Peace be unto you as well”).

Before I sound too emotionally gooey here, know that after that a butthead freshman came along and tested my limits.  He was rude, crude, and obnoxious, and I wasn’t so open and understanding with him.  I got tough and let him get himself in trouble.  I wrote him up and realized that I couldn’t get through to him because he didn’t want to reach out to me.  Not my problem.  I chose love of myself for this one and put on my Wonder Woman bracelets and became a brick wall that he could only bounce off of.  The job of “getting through to him” would come later, from someone else.  Until then, he could go sit with his anger and animosity in the office, away from me and other kids who don’t have the skill to shake off his negative vibes.imgres

And the day kept rolling on like that:  open my heart, smile, use my words, protect with shield, or deflect with Wonder Woman bracelets.  Each student’s energy determining what form of love I would show to them, and to myself.imgres-1