Proof of Good

I smile, I do I do do. I can be happy. I can I can I can. Here's proof.

“Phew, for a minute there I lost myself, I lost myself.”

I saw Radiohead at Little Caesar's Arena in Detroit with a friend from Yuma, and the final encore ended with the sold-out crowd and Thom singing those words from Karma Police sans music, and it was UGH. It was nice to be seeing a show with a band that has always fought the good fight and could feel us as we were going through the times of Trump. After all, they had Thatcher. Well, and then Brexit. But we won't lose ourselves over that.

Something clicked in me today, where I suddenly realized that future good times are in my control.

Much of my mood has to do with what's happening at work. I am an elementary school teacher. An elementary school teacher with bipolar disorder and a moderate form of GAD. Since I play a role all day with my students, the residual effects of my experiences stack up something terrible. I have to intentionally recall and recount the good times; otherwise, I will hardly notice they've even happened. It's not as if I'm false to them, but I also have to be what they need, and I take that tremendously seriously. I have no time to be “down”, ponderous, or moody. They need to be resilient and positive about their outlook, so I have to be those things. The sweet spot a lot of the times in my teaching has to do with responding to adversity, as while I haven't experienced much external adversity in my life, the internal is hell and can still translate to most of what their going through, which varies between those two polar ends. I'm also good at celebrating their success, because it is legit really cool to teach someone something and see them figure it out, especially when they're combining it with prior teaching, their home/neighborhood life, etc. You see your place in that web. It's humbling, too, because you are just a node, and there are many more to come.

Anyway, I go through all of that, because we're about to start a VERY CAUTIOUS hybrid model of teaching my students that only applies to my class. I get to bring 5-7 back per day, and we get to see how feasible bringing kids back under strict, science-based provisions really is. If I thought any of my kids could be harmed, I wouldn't be in it. But I've been stressed about getting my classroom ready so quickly, if I have the right plan or format in place, and then it just dawned on me:

If this is so important to you, maybe your walls between work and leisure shouldn't be so solid and fortified. For instance, I want to put together some unit plans around Hyperdocs, which is a good distance teaching strategy that can also work brilliantly if you have kids live, as well. It's like an anchor; you teach the lesson, then they have the work linked in the Hyperdoc to continue their learning and complete exercises and digital learning products. So I can teach online, everyone gets the lesson, then they go to their Hyperdocs to continue to their work, and I can do small-group instruction with the kids that are there in-person. I get to thinking: Damn, this is kind of exciting, this might actually be worth cutting into my leisure time to do!

Thing is, so little about work since March and all the quarantine-in-place stuff has inspired me. My lessons are sufficient, mostly because hardly anyone does them, and for the kids who put in the work, the lessons are ACTUALLY sufficient. They're learning. Every couple of weeks I drive by the kids' houses and bringing them a traveling library and rewards they can purchase with class points for being to class on-time, turning on their camera, participating, etc. My learning activities are not overwhelmingly interesting, but they're not bad. But now, I get 5-7 at a time, and I finally do feel a little pressure, as I did before Covid and quarantining. How am I going to make this time worth it for them? The pressure is on, and for a moment, despair kicked in. Such little time, will it be worth it? But goddamnit I've gotten to the summit, at least of a very small mountain called Mourning the Way Things Were. At least there's a plan, I get to see kids in person, and now what am I going to do about it?

Something good. It doesn't have to be mind-blowing or perfect at all, it just needs to be something good.

Thus, I will finally implement Hyperdocs, and I will take some leisure time to really plan and do it right. I think in my office, among my framed movie posters from my favorites, I'm going to make a little collage of the kids I have taught or am teaching, and use that to remind me, Hey, this is something you do, too! It's not just work, again. It's better than that. You will have failures, you must learn from them, and you must go on. Don't wallow, don't sulk, don't think life is better when you're dead, because you're alive and doing something that no one else is doing, and you believe in it! You believe in it, that we know enough now about Covid that small groups of children can come to school safely with appropriate equipment (masks + face shields), spacing, handwashing and sanitizing regiments, and so on, you can do it!

And I will. If it's not perfect, it will be the best the school is offering. No pressure in that. It's a chance to show that I am a decent educator worth the time and attention, too. Yes, in part, it has to be about me. I'm the maestro here. I have never claimed to do anything for purely altruistic purposes. But mostly it's about this: A. Do the kids get sick? B. Are the kids better off coming a day or two versus being at home all five days? Damnit, A will be “No” and B will be “Yes”. I hardly have a doubt.

Teaching will go back to being a job-plus. Leisure will go back to being, honestly, just a little less than the tons I usually have. I can be happy this way. Now I just have to finish setting up my room and start.

You gotta find it. Even in a day as stressful as this.

When I asked Lily if she wanted to go on a walk, there was this pregnant pause, then a sudden “YELP!” as if this was the highest level of excitement she'd ever felt and tried to contain it, but with all its force it pushed its way out of her. Sudden. YELP!

Every time I watch a film by Hirokazu Kore-eda, it's proof of good.

Just about all of his films feature fractured or makeshift families trying to figure themselves out. Some are dark, some are sad, but all the characters are cared for, Kore-eda's empathy, ever-flowing.

Actually, this is true of a lot of movies. People say, when speaking of what seem to be obvious, difficult truths, “This ain't the movies,” but if movies come from real people and tell stories real people can relate to, then why can't we be so good in life? It's kind of a cop-out.

I watched one of the bleaker films from Kore-eda tonight, The Third Murder. But again, the humanism is ever-present.

If you want super duper Kore-eda proof of good, go with Our Little Sister.

I've come to the realization that no matter how idiosyncratic and weird my dog Toby is, he's still got a lot of life in him at ten years old. He's a small, 15-pound, wired-haired terrier mutt of one sort or another, and he lounges around this place like it's his palace. I nicknamed him King Tobes a long time ago, and it fits, to an extent. Thing is, he has this weird, hyper bark-and-wag thing he does when he becomes overwhelmed with desire, usually to be near you or get petted, but if you're just an ounce too rough with him, he whines as if he's been brutally assaulted. It's a very fine line. But funny. So we're delicate with him, but then I wonder if that feeds into his alpha-male sense of entitlement.

But the point is, he still gets hyper for his walks, still tries to boss the cats, still absorbs all of Lily's insanity, and still stands as regal as ever. Vet says he's healthy. That's more than kind of great.

When a child gets her grandfather back after a stint in prison way across the country, it's good.

I don't know the crime the man committed, and it's really none of my business. All I know is he served time and his family is happy to have him back.

It's delicate in cases like these. I've known many situations where the person – often a dad or a grandfather, who is also a dad – returns and it is not good for the people to whom they return.

I just know in this case, it is good.