Sunday, June 9, 2013

"The time has come," the Walrus said...


For the past eight years I have worked as a Language Arts and Drama teacher at a small, public school for the arts in South Seattle. The school’s community is highly diverse and deeply impoverished. It is, as they say, a “high needs” school. My work at this school has been both incredibly challenging and rewarding. I’ve had students drop out, succumb to drugs, give up, go to jail, a few have even died. I’ve also seen students graduate, gain confidence, grow up, go to college, find their callings, and fall in love with learning. I’ve had students inspire me beyond what I thought possible. In short, my experience as a teacher has been intense.

During this time, my life as a writer has also taken wing. I’ve snatched hours on the weekends to type feverishly in a coffee shop, and I’ve spent my summers frantically pursuing my "other" love. Since having my own children, this has become increasingly difficult, and like so many mother-artists, I’ve developed some amount of guilt about how much my work as a teacher and as a writer burdens my family. Often, I’ve had to drop my writing to respond to the needs of my school or family.

And so, it was with some amount of excitement (and anxiety) that I volunteered to have my contract reduced, or possibly eliminated, this year when budget cuts became imminent at my school. At the same time, I knew that I would stay at the school if there were any way to reduce my time and keep one foot in the classroom. There were a few turbulent days when it seemed I might get to have my cake and eat it too. But, in the end, I didn’t.

As of this summer, in four short days, I will be a writer first. I’ll be looking for part-time work in education, but I am not in any rush. I have plenty of work to do, and I have the support of my loving and generous partner (and his lucrative profession). I know that this is a huge privilege and I am so very lucky. In many ways. My next post will feature an exciting development in the writing direction, but this post is dedicated to the end of an era.

I will miss my students desperately.

One of them, a brilliant young man named Hang Thao, made me this video to say goodbye. I know I'll treasure it for the rest of my life.

(Warning: It's a bit long, and it may or may not include poop and other vaguely inappropriate humor...!)