Art. Community. and Inspiration

Every so often we are lucky and get to participate in something bigger than ourselves.  We become wrapped up in a group, a community, or an idea.  We are one tiny ripple in a pool of change.

For me, one such opportunity has come from Color Carlisle.

The Color Carlisle: Mural Project is an unincorporated group formed to address needs of focused attention on safety and building maintenance/upkeep as well as providing targeted measures for increased safety and awareness in various neighborhoods in Carlisle, PA. The goal, through a community art initiative, is to create sustainable living spaces by updating strategic locations with public art. Through the creation of public art, we can enrich the community’s presence while also enhance an individual’s personal health and positive mindset about their neighborhood.

In less formal terms, Color Carlisle is formed from a group of volunteers with connection to the town of Carlisle – teachers, parents, church members, professors, and more.  In times of political and human strife, we hope to bring together the many and diverse communities of Carlisle.  We will celebrate the beauty and diversity of our town through the creation of public art, more specifically murals.  Murals will begin this fall with the first mural set to be completed in November 2017.  Murals will reflect the people, communities, and heart of Carlisle and will be a true all hand-on deck effort with community fundraising and paint days.  

Tonight was the kick-off for Color Carlisle with St. Paul’s summer block party.  The energy was palpable.  People from all walks of life came together to share a meal, play carnival games, create art, and pass conversation.  We had everyone from basketball-playing elementary boys to affluent older community members.  People from all corners of Carlisle were represented.

The highlight of the night was the actual creation of our mock murals.  We started with 6 huge blank canvases.

With the help of Carlisle High School art teachers, those canvases slowly transformed as the night went on.  It was a sight to see!

By the night’s end we had 6 completed canvases,  6 works of art, and one preview of the mural work that will be done on the walls of buildings throughout Carlisle.  For now, these panels will be displayed at the high school where students are set to work on designing and creating our first mural, in empty store fronts throughout town, and at upcoming community festivals and events.  I cannot wait to see what more will be created by the community of Carlisle.  ❤

Learn more about Color Carlisle at https://www.facebook.com/carlislemural/

Follow us @Color Carlisle on Instagram

Donations can be made to the

Downtown Carlisle Association 
c/o Greg Guenther, President – Color Carlisle 
53 W. South Street 
Carlisle, PA 17103

Make checks payable to Downtown Carlisle Association with a memo to Color Carlisle.

or to https://www.gofundme.com/color-carlisle/

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Back to School

Back to school brings a flurry of emotions.  I’m starting to believe that no matter how many years you have been at it, each year brings its own unique set of emotions, challenges, and promises.  This year I am reaching out to those of us that are struggling.  You need to know, you are not alone.  We are not alone.  

Each person has a unique set of baggage that they bring with them to the classroom.  It might be hard to go back leaving your baby at day care for the first time.  Maybe you are in a new position and missing the school you used to call home.  Your teammate who could anticipate your every move may have left and you’re now working with a brand new teacher.  Maybe you are just tired.  Tired of this never-ending job.  Tired of bearing the weight of these little children’s worlds on your shoulders.  Tired of viewing the fleeting innocence on your students’ faces knowing that the world around them seems to be crumbing down.

 

For those that are struggling, reach out.  Find someone.  Do not cry in your classroom by yourself.  This burden is not yours alone to bear.  There is a difference between spreading negativity by just complaining and finding comfort in those closest around you.  We were not meant to be solitary creatures.  We don’t teach in a one room house.  Turn to those around you who can understand your burdens because they live them by your side day in and day out.

To the teachers who are hitting the ground running and full of optimism about the new year...I ask that you be gentle with us as we inch towards optimism.  I ask you to stand as our support.  We may need you to lean on.  Your smile and kindness means more than you know (even if we are not ready to return it just yet).

And if you’re struggling to figure out how you will meet all those bright, cheery faces Monday morning, I will say this.  Tonight was our Kindergarten Back to School Night and those kids…THOSE. KIDS. MAKE. IT. ALL. WORTH. IT.  I know it is hard.  I know this job asks the impossible.  But those kids also made it impossible to not leave with a smile on my face and just a little more joy in my step.

Hang in there teachers, hang in there. ❤

Teaching, Coaching, and Decisions

I may just be one of the lucky ones. I have found my life’s passion and career in one. I feel like teaching is exactly why I was put on this Earth.  For as long as I can remember, I wanted to grow up and be a teacher.  In teaching I am in my element. I find so much joy in helping kids grow, in mending their sometimes broken spirits, and in being the shaper of little lives. The near miracle is that I can spend the rest of my life making a living off of this purpose. I am so lucky.

And yet, I am sitting here writing 9 months after being out of the classroom. 9 months away from the career in which I found myself.

On my very last day of the school year, I was asked to step out of my second home for a different position. After many thought provoking and trying weeks, I accepted a position as a literacy coach. It was such an honor to be asked. With just 3 years in the classroom, others saw my potential. In many ways it was a promotion, a step up the ladder, something so incredibly rare in teaching.

But today, my heart aches to get my second home, my family of 20 little souls back. It seems wrong to give up something I was so lucky to have found.  Coaching is great. My influence goes beyond the students and families I get to call mine for 180 days. I ask the difficult questions to my superiors without fear. I can feel us ever so slowly breaking away the traditional foundation our education system has been resting on for hundreds of years. I am learning so much from others and there are even a few days when i think maybe I’m teaching my teachers a little something too.

But, it still just doesn’t compare. When I left the classroom, colleagues chuckled saying I’d never go back to the classroom, but there hasn’t been a single day as a coach, be it my best or my worst, that I’ve considered anything else. It’s now only the decision of when. I want to be fair to my new school and give them the time they deserve and worry a year won’t do the position justice. I don’t want my substitute to settle in my room until one day I pull the rug out from under her feet. I worry about the impact a single year in a position could make to my resume and reputation in the district. Above all else, I worry about the students I am missing, the ones I will never get back, and all the missed opportunities to work with them.

The year is coming to an end.  Big decisions lie ahead.

Teaching in a School Shooting World

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3 minutes.  From start to finish, they tell us that’s how long we will have.  3 minutes, 1 shooter, and a version of hell worse than any of us could have possibly imagined.

Today’s faculty meeting is different.  It is all about safety.  A seemingly logical and common topic for any workplace.  However, today we are going deeper.  Today we are planning for the possibility of an attack within our school walls.  We plan for a shooter that could enter into this sacred place of learning.

The motto is “survival is a choice.”  We are told that we need to plan today for an attack.  We are shown zip ties and duct tape, carabines and keys.  We are told that along with practicing drills with students where we crouch down in the corner, hidden out of site, teachers also need to practice.  If we need to barricade the door, what furniture will we use and how long will it take to move?  We consider what is best for breaking a window and should you hit in the middle or corner.  We are asked how many bullets are in a typical magazine and just how long will it take the shooter to reload.

The mood is somber as we all think through the possibilities.  How will I respond should this ever happen?  What will I say to calm these innocent children knowing I may be the last voice they hear?  Will I barricade myself in my own office or run into the hall to protect the students and put up a fight?

They are my least favorite days of the year: the days we practice security drills.  I know it’s necessary but the anxiety I face as a teacher is sickening.  This year there was screaming and banging in the hall as if a true fight had broken out.  The terror was real for us all, even knowing the voices were familiar.  Questions spew out of students’ mouths like a waterfall: Has anyone ever forgotten to lock the door?  What if they see us through the window?  What if they break through the door?  Slowly they spiral to be more and more absurd and have to be cut off.  It’s a fine balance – to help students understand the seriousness and preserve their childhood innocence.  So we assure them that this won’t happen in our school and we just practice to be safe…hoping that these words will forever remain true.

So I will bring a metal bat to school, I will consider what I can tie the door to, and I will go on teachingt.  Hoping each day is filled with smiles, laughter, and the inevitable smart remarks rather than fear, hatred, and gunshots.

Hard Lessons, Bright Futures

If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that our national reflection isn’t as pretty as we thought. Admit it, we’ve all passed a lot of judgement on others but hopefully did a little self reflection as well.  2016 was a year of many kinds of losses but we hopefully learned some hard lessons.

In 2017 it’s time we start expecting better. In the past years, decade, and century, we as a country have made impossible feats come true. The technology age has exploded beyond our wildest imagination. We have driverless cars and touchscreen phones. We have internet connecting us to nearly anyone and any piece of information at the drop of a hat.  Our social norms are changing. In 1920 women got the right to vote. In 2008 our first African American president was elected.  In 2015 we took away gay marriage and finally gave everyone the right to just name love as it is in a bond of marriage.  In 2016 millions of American finally believed that a woman could lead our country.  100 years ago people would not have believed we would progress to where we are today. But here we are.

This is why i think it is time to start expecting better. Far too often, we still fall into the comfort of saying that’s just how it is. Well yes, that’s how it’s always been, but it’s not how it has to be in the future and WE will be that change.

I write as a teacher and speak for the bright eyes looking towards the future in front of me.  At 6 years old Ruby Bridges broke the status quo as she walked through the doors into a newly integrated. It wasn’t what people were used to. It was scary. It’s was different. It wasn’t easy.  If she could do it, so can each of us.

Today our schools may be racially mixed, but we are perpetually dividing society along lines of class.

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We are taking the greatest free service provided to every single person in our country and using it as a tool of segregation. Why? Because that’s how it’s always been. Because the more affluent communities pay their property taxes. Because can you imagine if those poor kids came into our schools??

If you don’t work with “those kids” I don’t think you get a say. Let me tell you I work with those kids.  I’ve worked in 3 schools with 75-100% poverty. I’ve been there with large class sizes and limited resources. I’ve been there with over worked and under educated parents. It’s not the kids that are the problems. It’s not the families that are the problem. We are continuing to keep those at the bottom down. The next rung out the ladder is constantly out of reach because, for some reason, we are threatened by giving those people at the bottom the same opportunities we have.

I am not so naive to think that I can change the world. But Maya Angelou said it best, “Don’t underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world. Indeed, they are the only ones whomever have.” The first step is to stop accepting the status quo.
Admitting it’s not ok makes it our responsibility to take action. Most days I’m not sure I can carry that burden, but we have to stop saying “that’s how it’s always been.” We are so much better than this. We have flown to the moon and back. In a world like this, we need to stop using education to tear us apart. People rise to the expectation you set for them, high or low. Well, I’m done with low expectations. I expect more.

 

It’s on.landscape-1481582416-2017-new-year

Anti-Discrimination…How is this still an issue?

To the town on Carlisle,

Tomorrow night the council will be voting on an Anti-Discrimination Ordinance.  This article does a great job outlining what the Ordinance says, what supporters say, and what opponents say.http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/12/carlisle_anti-discrimination_o.html  The general idea is that the Ordinance would prohibit discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in terms of employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Here are some of the oppositions viewpoints: The Anti-Discrimination Ordinance would cause a divide within the town.  People currently and always will have different opinions.  No single law will ever change everyone’s opinions and we don’t want a world where we all have the same opinions.  However, our town is currently divided.  It is the minority LBGTQ community that is being forced behind closed doors and outside of the public arena.  You are correct that this Ordinance may not unite us, but it is a lie to believe we currently are.

Secondly, the bill forces people to participate in something they morally oppose.  I understand if churches have religious differences.  The Ordinance respects this.  “The ordinance states it shall not be a prohibited act for a religious corporation or association to commit any of the acts deemed discriminatory in the ordinance if it is based upon the religious group’s beliefs.”  But, this ordinance deals with employment, housing, and commerce.  You as a fellow human do not have a right to say a person does not deserve a roof over the head or food on their plate because of who they choose to love or identify as.  I refuse to respect your opinion when your opinion disrespects anyone’s existence.  

Beyond the issue of human decency, let’s all recognize that we have been here before!  So. many. times.  Remember when our society was lawfully segregated.  You could be refused service and harassed based on the color of your skin.  Whites argued that it was their right to discriminates against blacks, after all they were lesser human beings.  There was a time when women weren’t able to vote because we had a place behind the closed doors unless we were on the arm of a man.  6 million Jews were killed while the world stood by because Hitler decided they weren’t part of the superior Aryan race and he morally objected to them.  The list could go on and on.  And yet, these disenfranchised communities are still fighting for the most basic rights.  

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Tomorrow I will stand in solidarity with the other supporters of this Ordinance.  I stand as an ally for my friends and family from the LBGTQ community because if I become half the person many of these people are, I will be more than proud.  I stand as an ally for my students, may they grow up to live in a world a little more accepting than ours.

 

Make us proud, Carlisle.

A New Definition of Woman

He starts the conversation with
“You’re just such a strong woman and feminist”
And I almost can’t help but smile.
Because no matter what he says to follow that sentence,
I am not offended.

Strength.
A characteristic that our country and society has always held in high regard.
Strong in muscle
Strong in character
No matter, we do not praise others for being weak.

Feminist.
To me, that’s indicative of equality.
It is fighting for equal rights every day
It is searching out a voice for equal representation in government
It is knowing that my work is as valued as a man and shouldn’t be given a penny less.
It is wanting to walk hand and hand
Equal in status with every man.

He called me strong and feminist
And it proves my very point.
Never would you critique a man for being strong and manly.
It appears you simply need to learn a new definition of woman.
Bold. Outspoken. And willing to fight.

 

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Thank you to all the strong women in my life and the role models in the world.  Our fight is not yet over but this is surely not a defeat.  We will continue working towards a brighter future.  Stand strong and proud.