Sleep

I had a nightmare
So real my muscles were frozen
And I was screaming in my mind
Maybe also with my voice

And I was alone in bed
When the last thing I wanted
Was an ocean of space by my side
And the first thing I wanted
Was to feel another person’s heartbeat

And when I woke up
I did the math
The first Hug I can get
Is a 3 hour train away
The second Hug is
a 3.5 hour train away

After that, I kind of need to fly
And that’s a long way to go for a hug
But maybe it would be worth it
Because 3 days later
I still feel it dragging its’ cold fingers
Down my spine

And a hug sure seems like
Fighting ice with fire
To warm my soul up again

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How did we get here?

2003: I am 16, President Bush has declared war on Iraq.
I am half-American, going to school in Brasil.
Hallways are full of teenagers talking about BLOOD FOR OIL
We sit at bars, teenaged mimicry of adulthood
Drinking beer and whisky drowned in soda talking about war
I become used to the idea that America is at war.
I become used to hedging about how American I am.

2005: I go to college in America.
I am used to America being at war overseas
I start to learn more about America being at war at home too
I meet people who are suffering from it.
People who were given a different set of rules for how to live
I learn which set of rules I operate within
I still call myself Brazilian

2009: Obama is elected
When he wins, people are crying, hugging and bottles of bubbles spill
His victory feels like our victory
We learn that Obama is not perfect or magical
But small victories still happen
The different rules seem to start being SEEN
The President has operated under different rules
He knows they exist.

I move overseas.
It becomes easier to say “I’m from America” than to explain
My entire life story

I don’t have to defend being American
We debate issues – everyone knows what’s happening there, after all
But we all have the same issues
And sometimes we can praise America
We can acknowledge the good things happening there
And Obama and Michelle are inherently good
We can respect their grace and personhood
Because they seem to respect our grace and personhood

2016: Trump was Elected President Last Night
I am almost 30 and an immigrant living in Denmark
A socialist country.
I find myself saying I am Brazilian again
The explanation is shorter than the feeling of alienation
From a country I cannot understand
And a President I did not vote for
And cannot respect
And the America that he represents
Which stands so far away from everything I have ever believed
Which is poised to undo and destroy progress
Which seems incapable of basic kindness and grace
Which seems blind in the face of injustice and inequality

How did we get here?
Where do we stand now?
Where do we go from here?

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Fire

Fear tastes like wet paper
Soggy and choking
In the back of my throat.

Bravery feels like swallowing fire
Gasping
Scorching my stomach
Making my hands tingle

I want to be brave like a forest fire
Usefully
Clearing the brush
Making room for fresh growth

I want to swallow the fear
That gets stuck
And leaves me where I started

When they come together
Somehow
Bravery and fear unite to
Scorch the earth
Leaving nothing behind

Smoking, barren and desolate
A ravaged landscape
A perverse fresh start

I’ve been down that path before
The hope that lives in my sternum
Heavy, warm and permanent
Knows the way back
And would do it again and again and again
But would rather not.

Here’s to being a forest fire
To raging with purpose and growth.

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Diary of an Excursion

Last week, we did a field trip to Berlin. This was the first field trip I have planned on my own (with a lot of guiding help from others, for sure!) – booking hotels, finding trains, creating an itinerary, calling museums, calling the hotel, calling the hotel, calling the hotel…

We had to convince the kids to go! And convince the parents to send them! Then finally, 3 months later, so many phone calls and a 7-hour train ride later, we were there! Nineteen kids aged 13-17 and four adults tromping around Berlin.

So what did we do?

Day 1 – Saschenhausen Concentration Camp. We needed to feel the memory of departed souls and face the reality of the horrors, so it could haunt us for the rest of the week and we could reflect and recover.
Then we hit the Christmas Markets and let the kids eat fried food and run mental spending money and being kids – lift the memories from their shoulders a bit.

Day 2 – Pergamon Museum (Babylonian artifacts & Islamic art), Bode Museum (primarily Catholic art), DDR Museum (interactive exhibit on life in East Berlin). OH BOY did this day tire them out. Many were not used to being dragged around and spending hours in museums – “Why are we in this museum? What does this have to do with Berlin?” “Nothing really, but it’s art! Look at it!” (Thanks mom & dad for making it so I never question going to a museum.)

Day 3 – Jewish Museum. We gave them maps and told them to get us there. Half the kids were competent, 1/4 were content being told what to do. 1/4 got very lost and almost ended up on a train to Frankfurt. Many didn’t realize the museum was so big and ended up racing through (note for next year: tell them to start at the top). They all came out interested and wanting to learn more. None of them actually know any Jewish people.

Then more map work and walking to the Berlin wall museum. 1.5k of murals – something for everyone.

More Christmas Markets – more friend, greasy food. By the end, the students were melting and grateful to be sat looking at their phones for a bit before going to see Blue Man Group. They came out of that B O U N C I N G with energy – many haven’t seen a professional big-city performance before and boy oh boy did they love every minute of it.

Finally finally finally day 4 – train home. 7 hours long, and they sleep for most of it. And make their way through their candy hoards.

No real disasters, no tragedies. A few tears. A few empaths being overloaded. A few grouchy and cold kids with sore feet. But overall – they did something new and it’s safe to say that they had a great time doing it.

I do not regret a minute of all the work that went into the trip – I can think of a 100 things to do better next time, but I know they won’t forget this, and that’s worth it.

Posted in education, personal, teaching | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Exams – a reflection

“Exams are a helpful measurement of student success and ability.” How far do you agree with this statement?

While I do agree with some elements of this statement, overall I find exams place too much priority on a specific skill set and can be a damaging and discriminatory method of assessment.

Exams assess for recall. This is an important skill that students need to develop across any element of their lives – the ability to recall facts plays a key part of being a successful adult. In different subjects, exams also give students an opportunity to show their growth or understanding in the application of theories and methods they have been taught. They are required to answer questions and solve problems that they have not come across before and cannot request assistance on. In this way, they are forced to solve their dilemmas and work truly independently.

Many will also point to exams being useful for placing students in high-stress situations that they will encounter in different forms in their adult life. High-stress situations that they need to become accustomed to handling and develop strategies for.

I will begin my disagreement here.  So far as I can remember, the last time I had that kind of mental stress placed on me was when I sat exams myself, eleven years ago.

Exams are a scale of proving success – not growth. They test recall – but what of curiosity, understanding, creativity?

I have students who proved they could remember that Germany received a loan of 800 gold marks from the USA in 1924. This is remarkable because I definitely did not force them to remember this fact. In fact, I might have forgotten to tell it to them as something they should even bother remembering at all.

My approach to teaching history is inherently flawed for an exam where remembering that fact is a measure of success. I’m more likely to go off on a tangent about how the art movement of the Weimar age was a reflection of distorted sense of self after the world was torn apart in WWI. How people were trying to find and express their new selves in a changed world. Much as we do today. Needless to say, the IGCSE doesn’t assess for this kind of understanding.

I have students who will never pass a history / geography exam. They walk into the gym being told “Take a deep breath, cross into the classroom, sit down and spend the next two hours trying to prove you’re not an idiot”, and get a low grade back that tells them they’re an idiot. And I despise that. And I despise my role in it.

These are students who have an eye on the world and a keen sense of injustice. They can talk to you and argue with you about historical events and ask deep and honest questions. They are curious and questioning about what is happening in the world around them. They sigh and laugh and close their eyes in frustration and understanding at the stories I weave for them. They understand it. They’re not idiots.

So no, exams are not a helpful measure of student success and ability. Not by my definition of student success and ability, any way.

Posted in education, history, teaching | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Shadows

I haven’t been able to sit and write for a while now
My thoughts have been trapped between my brain and my fingers
Like a paper jam in the damn copy machine.

So I’m forcing them out.

The short and darkening days have been
Flat
Full of moments that I can’t remember
In between laughter that feels fragile
Temporary and somehow
Hollow

Time feels completely intangible
The same thing either takes an eternity to complete
Or is over and done in the blink of an eye
And sometimes both

One moment present, joyous
In the next, crumpled up and dark
I am confident and bubbling
I sit staring into space
Vacant and weighted

Time continues passing
I continue
To get over it and move on
To piece myself together again
To chase out the shadows.

 

Posted in heartbreak, love, personal, Poem, writing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Almost

I’ve spent an age
Clinging to this precipice
Wind whipping my hair
Fingers straining to grip

If I let go
I’ll jump and fall
Without knowing
If there are arms waiting
And waiting
Below

I’ve spent an age
Almost letting go
Catching myself
So I don’t fall into you

At any time
I could stand
And walk away
Down the rolling valley below

So at what point
Does Almost
Mean I’ve already jumped
And just haven’t fallen?

 

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