Even if social media, widely available public Internet, and other similar technologies had existed, the hashtag #newyorkstrong would have been the last thing I would have wanted to hear or see on September 11, 2001. It simply wouldn’t have fit.
#newyorkstrong would have reduced the public reaction to the attacks to gimmickry. We would have been concerned and shocked, yes; however, however we would also have been visible, “on trend.”
On September 11, 2001, gimmickry didn’t exist. Instead, gimmickry withered in the face of…
Now, eighteen years later, the memory of 9/11 fades. The shock subsides. And perhaps I’m beginning to understand the natural and receding course of painful tragedy.
And there I was, simply her mom letting her be brave so she could develop this thing called courage.
When it comes to teaching our daughters to lead, how do we do that? How far should we go? Encourage good grades? Encourage career over all else? Do we teach them to forge ahead first? To seek and take advantage of each and every opportunity that comes along?
“The trick to building courage competency is to purposefully move outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis. Don’t move so far out as to become petrified with fear, but enough that your body starts to give you the physiological cues that you’ve become uncomfortable,” write the authors.
My daughter knows these physiological cues. Two years ago, she was completing a three-month internship in Venice, Italy at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a well-known modern art museum located on the Grand Canal. At first, her foray to the floating city caused much stress and worry, especially in the early days of her time there. She experienced stomach aches, anxiety, and a lack of appetite.
She also experienced environmental and social challenges: Venice’s maze-like corridors, the language barrier, new colleagues and workplace. And then there was the peeping Tom.
However, as her internship continued, she became accustomed to her experience there, and she was able to enjoy it completely. It was good to feel courageous despite the difficulties. I remember my daughter saying this about her day-to-day experience alone in Italy: “I became comfortable being uncomfortable.” She even said one day about a month after she returned home that she missed the feeling of discomfort she had become so accustomed to.
“Moving into your discomfort zone is how you learn and grow,” writes Treasurer. Believe it or not, true discomfort will build courage. And courage is at least part of the solution to overcoming the organizational biases that “inadvertently favor men” for leadership roles, writes Treasurer, Adelman, and Cohn.
Well, guess what? My daughter recently returned to Venice for two months for another internship… to help staff the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the renowned international exhibition of contemporary art from countries across the globe.
In the weeks prior to her departure, my friends and co-workers asked me how I felt about her return to Italy. They asked me:
“It’s so far away. That doesn’t bother you?”
“How are you handling it?”
“Aren’t you worried about her?”
I told them that I was fine with it. I told them that I encouraged her to apply for the opportunity.
And then I doubted myself and wondered…
Should I feel this unfazed?
Am I being careful enough?
Should I be so willing to let her go so far?
This was followed by a confident second or two when I asked myself, “Aren’t I just doing what mothers should do with their daughters?”
Shouldn’t I let my daughter be brave? Let her travel? Let her get so far outside her comfort zone that being uncomfortable feels comfortable? Isn’t this what the authors of The Power of Courage for Women Leaders are getting at? After all, aren’t I just allowing my daughter to grow in ways I was never encouraged to? Independently? Without commitments?
Don’t we encourage our sons this way?
And yes, I get it, she’s an adult and completely able to navigate across time zones, oceans, and mountain ranges. And yes, she did eventually meet up with a roommate. But until then, she was simply my daughter venturing forth alone in a big, big world. And there I was, simply her mom letting her be brave so she could develop this thing called courage.
So, is this the price I must pay—this apprehension and fear that comes and goes when I imagine her navigating Venice, alone, head down, leaning into the misty winds of early May? Is this the price I must pay to demonstrate to my daughter that she deserves to be brave and to venture forth into the world?
Is this the price I will pay to teach her to lead with courage? Will I go farther or have I gone far enough?
These are the wonderings of an anxious mother’s heart. Feel free to leave a comment to share your thoughts. Have you ever watched your child venture forth into the world, yet had your own reservations about watching them do just that? Follow my blog for more posts on parenting, travel, and education.
When it comes right down to it, I would rather marvel at a Greek monastery than my kitchen.
The linoleum flooring in my kitchen is really old. In fact, it’s no longer white. It’s now off-white with an uneven pattern of nicks and dings that has, over the past twenty-four years, resulted in a floor that looks ugly, dirty, and tired. The linoleum, with its four-inch gray grid, was patterned to resemble white ceramic tile. And it did resemble that for the first five years, which was as long as we had originally planned for the flooring to last.
But, if you’re a homeowner, you know how that goes. Often, those initial fixtures outlast their welcome. And for us, that has especially been the case because we’ve never been in a financial position to update our flooring AND pay our bills.
Owning a ceramic studio, freelance writing, college adjunct positions, public school teaching, and an array of part-time retail stints have always managed to pay our basic expenses, but rarely anything additional. Hence, the ugly and outdated off-white linoleum.
So what does one do when one has a dream but also needs new kitchen flooring? My answer: go for the dream.
Yes, in our case, the practical solution would be to update the floor… to build value in the largest investment my husband and I have ever made. But we also know that paying for a new floor will only defer our creative goals. In other words, practicality has its limits and we have quite a dream: one month in Greece next summer.
Staying anywhere for an extended time requires money, and no, we don’t have the funds right now to go, but we are saving. We have ceased eating out on Friday evenings, for example. We are putting away what we can, and plan to have the majority of our trip paid for before our departure date.
Of course, that departure will lead to a return date. Once home, when I step into our kitchen, flip the light switch, and see the same old linoleum, what thoughts will cross my mind? Will I be glad I still have that flooring because keeping it allowed me to write in a new environment and experience new cultures and people? Or will I scowl at the floor, its ugliness reminding me of what I will still have in my life: uncertainty, bills to pay, the meager income that results when both spouses teach?
Will I be grateful for the dream that we chose to chase? Yes, I think so.
In the end, I believe that one can afford what one wants to afford. And when it comes right down to it, I would rather marvel at a Greek monastery than new hardwood flooring. If I can’t have both, I’ll take the dream.
Many things have happened since I originally published this post last fall on Medium.com. My husband was offered a full-time position at a nearby university, and we are moving from our home (with its aging linoleum) later this summer after our stay in Greece. Since we’re moving into a new home, we’ll pass on upgrading to new hardwood flooring.
The classic children’s book caused me to feel and understand the tragedy of the fire when I wouldn’t have otherwise
I don’t possess any personal connection to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. I’ve never even been to the City of Light. I don’t have a selfie to post or a brochure or keychain from the grand gothic masterpiece that was nearly destroyed by fire last week.
At least, the book supposed to be here. I vaguely remember stowing it away in a box several years back in the attic for safe-keeping with other beloved and well-worn children’s books my daughter and son read with me in recliners and on couches some twenty years ago.
It was a sweet story to savor about the adventures of Miss Clavel and the eleven little girls plus Madeline, who wasn’t afraid of mice and “loved winter, snow, and ice.” The story’s closing lines, “‘Good night, little girls! Thank the Lord you are well! And now go to sleep!’ said Miss Clavel,” ended the tale every time with poignancy and satisfaction.
Because my only association with the cathedral is through Madeline, my thoughts returned to the 1940 Caldecott Honor-winning book upon hearing of the fire that swept through Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15.
Somewhere within my copy of Madeline, if I could find it, is Bemelmans’ illustration of the cathedral’s front facade with its nearly identical towers. I remember that the picture looms large on the over-sized page and appears dreary, especially since the church is depicted during a downpour.
Like thousands of others last week, I was saddened by the images of the violent flames raging through the ancient timber roof, toppling the spire, and bringing a centuries-old structure to its knees within minutes.
Seeing any building burn is difficult, but as I watched Madeline’s cathedral burn last week, it was especially so. And yes, I realize that part of my endearment to the cathedral could be chalked up to nostalgia for my kids’ childhoods; however, there was much to lose in that awful fire when one considers…
Despite the damages and loss of important areas of the cathedral, however, I do know that I gained this: a deeper appreciation for the power that a children’s book can possess. Last week, Madeline helped me to connect with others around the world saddened by the cathedral fire.
No, I haven’t been to Paris, but a classic children’s book–and not a selfie–transported me there. Thanks to Madeline, I felt and understood the loss of the fire when I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Books can provide more than just entertainment. Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment and follow my blog for more stories on travel, art, and education.
Knysna wanted to tell us a story, but there simply wasn’t time.
We were nearly ready to leave when the winds began howling at 34 South, the seafood eatery where we had dined on oysters, beef, beer, and cheesecake. Raindrops swiped against the plate glass windows. A gust of wind rocked the rafters. The bartender looked up from his pour. A squall blustered through Knysna, “the jewel of the Garden Route” in the Western Cape of South Africa.
Locking arms, my daughter and I left the restaurant and headed out, hunch-shouldered, toward our waiting minivan that had been rented for our two-week tour of South Africa’s Garden Route.
Pushed by violent gusts of wind, bistro chairs scooted across the wide concrete sidewalks of The Waterfront of Knysna Quays. One flipped and careened across our path. We shrieked. Maritime flags above us whipped and ripped in the straight-line winds.
We found our van and climbed inside, allowing the wind to heave the doors closed. Rain poured and pounded against the roof and windshield.
Our host headed back to Leisure Island, an idyllic residential suburb surrounded by an estuary. We crossed the causeway and looked forward to the warmth of our hotel, Cuningham’s Island Guesthouse, one of many quaint lodges nestled along the isle’s manicured avenues.
We climbed out of our minivan, splashing on the asphalt driveway. Lifting our jeans above our ankles, we bounded down the complex’s brick-lined paths through water four inches deep.
Once near our respective rooms, our party—my in-laws, husband, our daughter, son, and our professional hunter who had planned this portion of the journey as a prelude to an Eastern Cape safari—escaped the rain, retreating to our rooms without the customary pleasantries. On a calm night, we would have discussed the next day’s plans and determined a time to leave in the morning. However, not tonight.
The next morning we would breakfast on eggs, sausages, and tomatoes, and then emerge from the cocoon of Leisure Island.
We would travel the tidy streets of Knysna and notice the affluence of well-maintained homes surrounded by emerald green lawns.
Moments later, we would pass impoverished townships and notice women sorting through piles of clothing on dirt streets that stretched into the distance.
We would wonder at the disparity. We would question the two extremes.
We spent too little time in Knysna back in 2011. One night anywhere is never enough. This beautiful city wanted to tell us a story—but there simply wasn’t time.
The next evening, we would be in Tsitsikamma, further east on our Garden Route tour. The forecast called for more rain and blustery cold, common for the winter month of June.
I visited South Africa in 2012 and now wish I had written more then about my experiences there. This post is my first attempt to record some details of what I remember. Follow my blog for more stories from this trip.
The quiet rebellion of women who take pictures anyway
When you visit the island of Torcello in the Venetian lagoon, you observe a sign inside the basilica that forbids photography. Ugh, you think. But it’s so beautiful. Inside, the apse—a half-dome of sorts—is encrusted in gold mosaic. The Virgin Mary resides in its center, alone, regal, royal. It’s graphically arresting and elegant in its simplicity; it contrasts with the opposite wall, a riot of colors, shapes, lines… Biblical scenes of the Last Judgment.
The cathedral is exquisite. One simply must have pictures to remember. So you plan to purchase them in the form of postcards from the adjacent gift shop when you leave. Problem solved.
Why then, the click? Why then is that woman over there snapping away? Lost in thought, she roams the chapel, gazing at the art, studying the expressive scenes, recording her visit on her sleek 35mm Canon.
Your immediate thought: she must have special permission. She must be a researcher working on a project. You explain as much to your husband. No, he says, she’s just ignoring the sign. His nonchalance startles you. As if this is just what people do, and in this case, a woman.
Oh, you reply, secretly envying this woman’s quiet rebellion that allows her a certain freedom that you will never claim. Disobey a sign that clearly states no photos? You shake your head. It’s right there in 96-point Times New Roman even. You roll your eyes at her audacity. This disregard for convention and rules astounds you.
You wonder how much inevitable damage each click does to the Byzantine masterpieces. Over the decades, who knows? She could be causing irreparable harm, you think. This should go down on her permanent record, wherever those are.
You ask your husband about the inevitable damage. Probably doesn’t hurt the art at all, he explains, adding something he read reported most cameras have filters that limit or remove UV waves. Doesn’t damage a thing, he says.
Here I’ve been, you think, following all the rules all this time.
You continue to stare at this renegade designing her destiny, staking her claim with a few flashes that you still cannot bear to sneak on your measly iPhone. It’s true, you think, this woman has shown you to be the fool that you are.
She clicks another shot and checks the tiny screen. It must have been good, you think.
Her crimes finally and fully committed, the woman strides purposefully across the nave, stuffing her camera into a turquoise canvas tote bag. On the side of the bag is a design: two kitschy, feathery angel wings protruding from behind a shield. The design is cliché and you abhor that about things.
Thanks for reading! This is another story generated by a week-long trip to Italy I took in 2017. There are more stories on the way. Feel free to leave a comment and click follow for more.
When the security employee at the gate asked me to step aside, I remembered. My pocket knife. Oh no, my pocket knife, I thought, realizing I had left it earlier in the little cosmetic bag inside my purse. I had forgotten to check it with my luggage and now I was at the gate and my knife was going away.
The uniformed employee explained in her thick Venetian accent, “We must take this from you. If it’s you really need, you go downstairs, fill out the form, and it be sent to you.”
Standing there, I knew we wouldn’t have time to make those arrangements. And besides, it wasn’t a valuable possession. But then again, it was.
For twenty-five years, I had carried that pocket knife.
Back in 1990, I had chosen it from a mound of identical ones heaped in a small cardboard box next to a cash register in the sporting goods department at a Kmart in Topeka, Kansas. It had cost my boyfriend (now my husband) an entire dollar. It featured a steel blade, a wooden casing, and bronze hardware that over the years, had polished to a golden shine from being nestled in my purse for so long.
Similar to how candy bars are placed at checkout stands to captivate small children, that box of $1 knives held equal allure for the fishermen and hunters who visited that department. Not that I was one of them. We had gone to the store to use the restrooms tucked away behind the restaurant at the back of the store. As he waited on me, he spotted the knives and bought one for me.
“Keep it in your purse. It’ll come in handy,” he told me. He was right.
That little knife had been many places… all over Missouri and Kansas, Nashville, Asheville, several cities in Maine and Vermont, Columbus, Atlanta, Sarasota, Highland Park, Phoenix and other Arizona locals, multiple sights in the Los Angeles area, Oregon and Washington State, Cape Town and other South African cities, DC, New York City, Taos, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Dallas, New Orleans. Over the years, we had journeyed across the country to attend annual family reunions, exhibit my husband’s ceramic art at festivals, and accompany him as he served artist residencies.
And now, its final destination would be Venice, Italy, where it would be left behind, a hindrance to a quick departure, discarded inside a gray plastic tub under the counter.
I regret leaving that silly little knife because it wasn’t just a pocket knife. It was a symbol of family life and motherhood and had been more often used for non-cutting tasks. That knife spread peanut butter on sandwiches many more times that it ever cut into a fish or snipped a cord on a tent or tarp. It was this mother’s indispensable tool. As such, it was always easy to locate.
My son and daughter both knew I carried a pocket knife and I passed it back to them at least once or twice on every road trip we took over the years. Need to break open a family-sized plastic bag of M&Ms? Get Mom’s knife. Opening a DVD? Get Mom’s knife. Got a stray thread hanging from your hem? Ask Mom to hand back her pocket knife.
Just prior to leaving Venice, as I buckled up inside the plane, regretting my decision to leave my knife, I recalled how six years earlier, I had flown from Johannesburg to Atlanta with a knife my son had purchased as a souvenir. Despite its massive four-inch blade, he had somehow forgotten to pack it in a checked bag. I offered to stow it inside my purse, warning him it would likely be confiscated at our first departure.
Nope. X-rays and inspections by hand never discovered it. Of course, that would happen to a brand new knife without any peanut butter experience. And of course, that knife has since been long forgotten, I might add.
As for my knife, I have since replaced it, but the blade on my new one is narrower and not quite as functional as the one left in Venice. I mean, you can spread peanut butter on a slice of bread if you really want to, but it’s the not the same as my Kmart special.
I’m one of those people who feels sorry for the last Christmas tree on the lot. So it’s no surprise that I’m still feeling nostalgic for my lost pocket knife… a year and a half later.
Somewhere in Italy, it’s languishing in a gray bin of confiscated sharp objects. Maybe it’s been recycled by now. Maybe it’s been donated to a charity. Hopefully, it’s performing some mother’s mundane tasks, making her life a little easier, and definitely more memorable.
Had an experience similar to mine? Like this post, follow my blog, and feel to leave a comment about any precious object that’s drifted out of your life. Thanks for reading!
Those spires. Those ledges. Those bluffs. Behemoths of weight and mass, rising from the high desert floor with quiet heft and bulk.
The space between them is as much a part of the experience as the monuments themselves. My perspective disintegrates. My awe overwhelms. There is no way to determine: how far is that from me? How much expanse between those mittens?
The valley appears surreal, other-worldly. The interior of a cave where the sky forms the walls.
I hear the purr of a single car traveling the dusty road, a red thread snaking in the distance. Other than that, nothing. Even the breeze is silent, its sound swallowed in the burnt sienna drapery of rocky canyon gowns.
The valley transforms me and I am small, insignificant, a dot of breath in the stillness.
We travelled to Monument Valley three years ago and I’m still thinking about it.
Click like if you enjoyed this piece and follow me for an occasional travel post. Also… I would love to hear about your own canyonland experiences. Feel free to comment!
Of tenacity and Easter cupcake sprinkles in Ravenna, Italy
Here’s a scenario: Your daughter requests sprinkles on the Easter cupcakes you’re baking. However, pretend the shaker needed to sprinkle on the dotted decorations has not been invented yet, and the only way to get the sprinkles perfectly placed and evenly dispersed on the cupcakes is not by scattering them with your fingers, but by applying them one by one… with tweezers perhaps.
Adding sprinkles to the cupcakes now will take days, weeks or longer. The task will be one of intense devotion and labor, simply because of the time involved and the perseverance needed to complete it.
One by one, each tile is placed into the scene. One by one, each tile forms a bit more of the image. This will take twenty years at least. It’s a painstaking process and creating the picture would be much faster with brushwork, but glass is the medium and a stunning mosaic is the goal.
Each tiny piece of glass—some are half the size of your pinky nail—symbolizes perseverance and an acute attention to detail and artistry, and—by extension—to Jesus Christ.
Cupcake sprinkles are the comparison that came to mind when I began to write about the mosaics inside the Basilica of San Vitale. My family visited the basilica in March of 2017, during a much too brief daytrip to Ravenna. The church, whose namesake was a Roman soldier martyred during the Christian persecutions, was begun in 526 and consecrated in 548.
The mosaics of San Vitale are so well-known in art history circles that they have earned the basilica the description, “the most glorious example of Byzantine art in the West,” according to Ravenna: City of Art.
On the morning we visited, the interior of San Vitale glowed in the sunlight that streamed in through the windows of the church.
As I stood in the grandeur of San Vitale, sheer awe at the handiwork overtook me.
…at the dedication and tedium.
…at the skill and collaboration it required to not only conceive the images contained in the mural, but also to source the materials, create the artwork, and execute their application and installation on the high walls of this old, old church.
In the sunlight, the golden tesserae dazzled.
These are actually pieces of gold leaf sandwiched between pieces of clear glass. When they were pressed into place by medieval workmen, the gold tiles were angled to best reflect the sunlight, or the glow of a candle or lantern.
As we took our self-tour, I stared up and pondered the mosaics and felt nearer to those laborers and artists who spent many years of their lives creating these mosaics. I marveled at their tenacity to produce these works without power tools and machinery, electricity, plumbing and other conveniences.
Would this sort of devotion be practiced today?
I don’t think so, but then maybe it was different for these medieval workers.
Even though creating the mosaics may have been their “job,” would the tedium of producing these masterpieces have been more endurable for those to whom the time of Christ was only four hundred years earlier? True, four hundred years is a long time, but wouldn’t the time of Christ have been within their mental grasp?
To compare, would I find it easier to devote myself to glorifying the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock? I don’t know of anyone from that era, but I do feel a connection of sorts. I know about their concerns and their motivations. I can identify with them to a degree, while I find it nearly impossible to identify with people of Biblical times. Perhaps medieval workers could.
As I continued in my thoughts, my husband and daughter sought the two mosaics-within-the-mosaics below.
The mosaics of Byzantine Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora are considered the masterpieces of San Vitale.
The first photo below shows Justinian surrounded by his court, clergy members and soldiers. The emperor holds a bowl that contains bread for the Eucharist. Justinian never visited this basilica, according to Dr. Steven Zucker in this Khan Academy video lesson, but this mosaic was his way of asserting his power and authority from Constantinople, the Byzantine capital.
The figures in both mosaics are highly stylized. Laura Morelli, art historoian and author of The Gondola Maker, explains it this way:
“A more eastern aesthetic characterizes the mosaics completed in Ravenna during this early period. Elegant, slender, flattened figures on a shallow spatial plane stare out with huge, staring eyes.”
The two famous mosaics clearly reveal this style.
The mosaic of Empress Theodora rests on the opposite side of the apse and mirrors Justinian’s mosaic. In this piece, the empress carries a chalice of wine for the Eucharist. Wearing a finely detailed gown, Empress Theodora is surrounded by her imperial court and attendants. She wears elaborate jewelry, and, like Justinian, is surrounded by a halo.
Ready to finally move my gaze from the brilliance of the gold, I focused on the frescoes that cover the ceiling of San Vitale.
They were completed much later—in 1780—by artists from Bologna and Venice. While they are beautiful, they cannot compare, in my opinion, with the luster of the mosaics.
I felt our visit was coming to its end, and I noticed that even the floors of San Vitale were intricately decorated. Minuscule marble tiles did their best to distract me from the golden “eye candy” above. Over the centuries, the floor tiles do show some wear, but are amazingly colorful and durable. The most wear is to the floor surface itself, which, in some places within the basilica, contains depressions from heavy traffic patterns from worshipers and tourists.
The detail in the flooring reinforced my thoughts about the devotion of those early medieval artists; they spared nothing—not even the floor—in their pursuit to create a beautiful place to glorify God.
As we exited the basilica, we took photos of its rustic appearance and its unusual structure of two stacked octagons. Its unusual shape does not follow cathedrals designed in the typical shape of the Latin cross, but instead evokes eastern influence from Byzantium.
From the outside, one would have no idea of the grandeur within.
Visiting the Basilica of San Vitale was a lesson in humility, reverence, and connection.
As I walked across the same floors, gazed up at the same artwork, and whispered in the same hushed tones that countless others whispered down through the ages, I knew that my visit was not about sprinkles on Easter cupcakes.
It wasn’t even about the magnificent golden mosaic masterpieces. It was instead about connecting to Jesus Christ and historical Christianity… and in a broader sense, to humanity.
Thanks for reading! Please click “like” so others can find this post more easily. Feel free to leave a comment about what your mind wanders to when you gaze at something truly beautiful.
Sometimes my students become really angry. I can relate.
Teaching middle school is a tough gig. Kids in grades sixth through eighth grade can be loud, impulsive, and frenetic. It’s enough on some days to make me consider finding another vocation. So at the end of a long day when I’m telling myself that there is no way I’m teaching middle schoolers another year, it helps to recall that I, too, can be loud, impulsive, and frenetic.
In fact, I once was so loud, impulsive, and frenetic that someone should have reported me. Someone probably would today. What makes my story even worse is that my meltdown occurred when I was 26, twice the age of my seventh-graders. It’s embarrassing to recall how immature and idiotic I behaved. But, hey, at least I can empathize with my students when they have their own moments of anger.
Here’s my story. It was 1992, around 4:28 on a hot Thursday afternoon a few months after my wedding day the previous April. I was at the social security office located in a Phoenix office building to fill out a form update my social security account to my new last name.
I turned the knob to open the maple hardwood door. It didn’t turn. Didn’t even budge. So I knocked. No reply. I turned the knob again. Yes, it was definitely locked. I heard the shuffling of papers inside the office. The lights were on. There were people still there and they weren’t letting me in.
I reflected on the situation. I had taken off from work early to arrive before the 4:30 closing time. If the taxpayer-supported personnel on the other side of the door didn’t answer, I grumbled, I would have to do this all over again another day.
I was incensed. I felt cheated. I made a scene. I knocked again. I asked, “Can someone let me in?” I knocked again, this time more loudly. I asked, this time a little louder, “Is anyone there? Could you please just take this form?” It was just a silly form. A piddly piece of paper. Someone just needed to take it from my hand, I thought in desperation.
And so I pounded on the door. I couldn’t think. I was out of control and I didn’t care who saw me. I got down on my hands and knees—in my dress and heels—to look under the door. I could see feet moving around inside. There were whispers. It was now 4:31, a measly minute past closing time. No response. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled. I would be heard.
I stood back up and continued to pound the door. The adjacent window, conveniently crafted of obscured glass, revealed shapes and shadows within.
“I know you’re in there!” I yelled, continuing to pound. “I can see you moving back and forth! Take this form so I can leave!”
But they didn’t. No one ever answered the door. So I left, angry, red-faced, and embarrassed, knowing with disgust that I would have to return to this hallway within the week.
I came back a few days later well before the closing time and quietly and politely conducted my business. I didn’t even complain about the poor service of a few days earlier, which was probably a mistake in retrospect. Then again, they would have figured out I was the loud, impulsive, and frenetic woman from earlier in the week and might have called security.
Looking back now at my social security office fiasco demonstrates that anger can get the best of us… even those of us who know better than to throw a tantrum at age 26.
My past experience with such intense anger helps me to empathize with my students today.
And honestly, I’ve only witnessed one to two student meltdowns in my classroom during my years of teaching. I can usually ward off an angry episode with a quickly whispered conversation, or, for another example, an invitation to the student to leave the room to get a drink to literally cool off. Tactics such as these help to diminish the anger.
But anger does happen once in a great while and I totally understand where it comes from.
Sometimes students feel powerless. Been there. That’s exactly how I felt that day in that office.
Sometimes students feel they’re at the mercy of someone else’s priorities. Done that. At the social security office, my priority did not align with the office personnel’s at that particular moment.
Sometimes students yell. Check. It’s just a natural reaction when it seems no one is listening to you.
Sometimes they argue. Me, too. We all have ideas we want to communicate.
Yes, I can relate to the frustrations my students feel and how they express those feelings of helplessness and lack of control. In the environment of school–or any other setting where people with different priorities meet up–tensions arise and play themselves out in myriad ways… even so far as taking to the floor in your dress and heels to yell through the crack. Wait—at least my students haven’t tried that yet. Gotta give ’em credit for that.
Thanks for reading! If you found this interesting, please click “like” and feel free to leave a comment. I also write on my teaching blog called elabraveandtrue.com and Medium.com. Check out both sites for more writing.