Digging Deep

I love it when the universe sends me all sorts of affirmations at the same time.  Truth bombardment is a cool thing, albeit overwhelming at times.  I have been given the rare gift of perspective with my job right now.  This is my 7th year here and there is something magical about the 7 year mark.  I don't know if it is really the bio-chemistry regeneration thing or something else mystical in nature, but it seems that there is a switch that flipped and I recognize things I didn't before.  Or it could just be that I am slower to get it figured out.  Whatever.  I'm sticking with the mystical universe thing. 

I believe that there needs to be a required class in an education degree (although an oxymoron) called, "Everything that no one can prepare you for" and it needs to be full of things like How to Wipe Noses and Not Get Sick, How To Talk To Crazy Parents, How To Call CPS and Use Language That Will Make Them Act Immediately, Where To Send Students For Housing When They Have No Home.  While I learn something new everyday in my job, I could teach a few lessons of that class, I think.  

This week's class is going to be How To Not Drown During Your Tour of Duty at an Inner City School.  These are the things that I have learned in surviving here.  In looking at the list, I think it could apply to anywhere.  Love it when that happens.

  1. There will always be a crisis.  It doesn't matter how hard I paddle, how much of myself I give, how many tears I shed, there will be another fire just behind the one I am putting out.  Pace myself.  
  2. The fact that these students come from the crummiest circumstances known to man does not mean that I should enable bad behavior because I want to "make their way easier".  Boundaries are healthy and necessary.
  3. While my personal relationships support me and my dedication, they did not sign up to pay the cost of my working with at-risk kiddos.  If my personal relationships are really a priority, then they should get the best of me (at least most of the time), not what's left. If I am emotionally bankrupt, I fail everyone, myself especially.
  4. Change is necessary.  Whether it is furniture in a room, or job duties, or administration, or improving scores, we have to "lift as we climb".
  5. There is sweet spot in between empathy and sympathy.  Find it as quickly as possible.
  6. Clear and consistent consequences are your friend.  I do not have the right to decide which rules I am going to enforce because those rules were made on the backs of those that were in the trenches long before me.  To quote Wendell Berry, I do not know where I am going if I have no idea where I have been. 
  7. None of the baggage the students bring in is about me.  Quit acting surprised and taking it as a personal failure when they melt down cause they have been "Doing so good lately".
  8. I am not the only one in the building that is overwhelmed.  Support systems in the building are necessary.  Find a crew early and hold each other up when you need to.  Laughter makes up for a multitude of "daily grind" sins.
  9. Small victories are everything.  Find what I can celebrate daily.  They may not happen again for awhile.
  10. While I think I am a creative genius, I most certainly am not reinventing the wheel.  Thousands of people have done this job before me, worked as hard as me, fought the same bureaucracy as me, gnashed their teeth at the injustice just like me, cried the same tears as me.  Oftentimes better than I am doing it now.  Respect and honor those that made the journey before.

This building is a really remarkable place.  I was fortunate enough to have an amazing group of women include me in their crew early on in my "tour".  We were able to lift each other up during some really dark times here.  Everyone else is somewhere different now.  There are still gatherings, but it doesn't feel the same to me and that makes me sad for lots of reasons I won't go into here.  Earlier in the week a brand new group of women said that we needed to have a girls' group and had the same criteria as my earlier group and in that moment I felt both sad and lucky.  When I was telling Steven about it later that night I said I wondered why that particular building prompted those relationships more than any other place I have worked before.  Of course he knew.  "Baby you all leave it all on the court everyday in that building.  You have to have someplace to refill the well."  He is so smart.  It's one of the 694,823 reasons I love him; he just gets it.

This time of year begins the GIANT uphill push to June.  The well starts to run dry right about now.  It's time to start digging deep.  I am blessed and fortunate that I am surrounded by those that share the load with me.  Blessed that I have a crew to fill me up, and blessed that "perspective is reality", as my mother says, and I have the benefit of 7 years of history and amazing souls that helped to pave the way.   

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