Sunday, November 12, 2017

Life is brutiful: Vulnerability, Love, and Connection Part I

In her TED Talk, "Lessons I learned in the mental hospital", author Glennon Doyle says that "life is brutiful"--both brutal and beautiful on any given day.  This statement couldn't be more true when I reflect on my life as a teacher working with my students.  Here is one example with more to come in future blogs.

This weekend two of my former students celebrated their five year wedding anniversary and their 16 year anniversary since they met as high school students in our poetry club.  Actually they were the founders of the poetry club.  Both of them were budding poets and held a deep appreciation of the art.  They were looking for an opportunity to belong in our school community--a place where they could celebrate their passion for poetry and meet other students who shared their sentiment.

Emily and Jeremy are wonderful human beings who as teenagers had "old souls" that I respected.  I remember the first week of Emily's freshman year; she came after school to ask me about helping her to start a poetry club; she also shared some of her poetry. Emily was so insightful and mature that I thought she was one of my upperclassmen!  Her willingness to be vulnerable by sharing some of her personal art took such courage.

So we started WHS's chapter of the "Dead Poet's Society", often meeting weekly to write, discuss, and process what was going on in their student poet lives.  Jeremy was a year ahead of Emily and was an artist as well.  Our club soon grew with other students interested in a safe space to connect.  Over the months of meetings, I could see Emily and Jeremy had a mutual respect and admiration for one another.  It did not surprise me when later they started dating.

Flash forward a couple of years, and I shared a most vulnerable and emotional moment with Emily and her mother Priscilla. My mother suddenly passed away in September 2003.  I was also newly pregnant.  As one can imagine, I was heartbroken over the loss of my mother, nauseous from morning sickness, and overwhelmed that it was the start of the school year.  I was beyond touched at my mother's wake when I saw Emily and Priscilla (a now retired Westbrough teacher and a mentor of mine) walking through the line to offer their was a brutiful moment of vulnerability and connection...based on a loving trust, loyalty, and gratitude for one another as educators and students--and even more so, in this moment as fellow humans.

Like all of us, Emily and Jeremy are living their brutiful life journey; five years ago they asked me to participate in their wedding ceremony by reading a couple of poems. It was so fitting given the memory of how we all connected in our poetry club years before.  I was honored especially because as teachers we often do not see former students--let alone over a decade later.  So to bear witness to Emily and Jeremy's love over the years has been a gift for which I am beyond grateful.

Reflecting on the gracious teacher/student relationship I had with Emily and Jeremy and now mutual friendship reminds me that often in education we can get caught up in grades, state testing, and rigorous expectations.  However, if we look at the bigger picture, we will really see how important vulnerability, connection, love and belonging are--as it is in those moments that ultimately we learn.