Mid-July in New Orleans is a challenge. The air is so humid that even my cats won't go outside. The sky is usually dark-dark-dark, and the streets flood, and for all the heat you really can't go swimming because the windy rainstorms fill all the pools with sticks and twigs and oak leaves. And then there is the whole matter of school starting again, and everything that comes with that.
I returned from my summer adventures two weeks ago. Satchmo (the cat, not the late jazz legend) was so mad at me for leaving for a month that he started peeing in the bathtub a lot. (To be fair, he is probably also mad that I recently adopted ANOTHER cat -- Coltrane -- who is just a huge bully and very mean-spirited. Since I left, Coltrane has quadrupled in size. He is twice as bit as Satchmo is now. When Satchmo goes slinking by, Coltrane jumps on top of him and crushes him and bits his ears. I adopted Coltrane to be Satchmo's friend. This is the kind of mentality parents of only children have when they decide to have another baby. It's completely incomprehensible to the one who was there all along, previously enjoying all the attention. "WHAT KIND OF SENSE DOES ANY OF THIS MAKE!? YOU ARE HORRIBLE PARENTS. I'M RUNNING AWAY AND PEEING IN THE TUB.")
I spent the first week in a kind of haze, settling back into everything. There were long, winding hours just sitting out in the garden trying to chart the growth of this huge sunflower that has gotten out of control in the last month.
And then last week we started professional development for the 2012-2013 school year. It's fascinating how my attitudes about teaching and schools and What Is Important For Kids and What Is Not Important For Kids changes fundamentally with each passing year. I am not going to say it's surprising -- change is one of those inevitable things. But you can never anticipate what it will be. You just have to know it will happen.
Then it's amazing, too, how stubborn we are. This is something I need to remember right now, maybe more than anything: in a year I will believe something completely different. Right now I believe that I know exactly what is right for the children I work with and I have strong convictions about emotional literacy and art and how those things can work together. I have ideas about common language and about restorative practices. I have ideas about keeping teachers around and unions and charter organizations and families and reading intervention programs and the benefits of RTI and special education and everything. I feel like I could write a book about all of it, that's how sure I am about it.
But the only thing I know for sure is that in a year nothing that I believe right now -- I mean, almost nothing -- will match what I believe then.
So, my Back To School Supply List is necessarily a little bit hokey and metaphorical. Here goes.
Be Sure To Get One Of Each, Plus A Back-Up In Case You Run Out In November:
1. Some Play Doh or pipe cleaners or something to move around in your hands. Listening is difficult, but important. It can help when you have something for your thumbs to do while your ears and your brain are so busy being actively still.
2. Felt Tip Markers. Obviously.
3. Whatever it takes to spend a while breathing. Breathing in and breathing out are so often overlooked. I like to sit on the floor in the morning and spend some time just focused on breaths. Which is called "meditating" in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres. I wish it wasn't, because there's a stigma to that word which is difficult for people to shake. I read a "Choose Your Own Adventure" once that caused me to conflate meditating and levitating. I think actually a lot of people do that. Meditating does not mean that you come off the ground, ever, at all. Just FYI. In any case, I always think, "How lucky those breaths are, to have all this attention... and how deserving, too." It's a beautiful, useful strategy.
4. Pie. When Hannah came home, she started making gluten free vegan raw key lime pies from the tree in the back yard (it is just BOWING from the weight of fruit right now). We've had neighbors over for pie afternoons. This is my life right now. I have no complaints whatsoever.
(Fail-proof gluten free raw vegan pie crust: 2 Cups of almonds, 1/2 cups of dates, 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut, 2 T coconut oil, sea salt, a little agave nectar. Throw it all in a food processor, make sure it is good and tacky, press it into a pie crust, and put your filling in there, and throw it in the fridge for a few hours.)
5. Gouache. MAN! Gouache is such a fun art supply. Someone should have told me that when I was younger. I can't stop using it. I'm addicted to gouache.
6. A Change On Purpose. I think you should purposely change things regularly, just to keep yourself in check. You should give away the clothes that don't look that good on you, you should buy a new kind of perfume, you should change your curtains (do you have curtains? Maybe you should get curtains). I cut all my hair off. I did it just because sometimes you have to move yourself along. There is a danger of getting stuck if you don't change enough things in your life.
I wish MySpace was still a thing because I have Taking A Myspace Picture Of Myself nailed down. See how I didn't even bother to take out my headphones? And BONUS: I took most of thos pictures of myself in a coffee shop. I'm ready for 2001!
Let's talk again soon.