Capsize / Catalyst

New Beginnings (daily, weekly, hourly)

A few weeks ago for several silly reasons I took a weekend kayak class, which as it turns out took place in the university pool. I love kayaking and canoeing, but felt like an idiot paddling around the pool wearing a bright yellow helmet. However, in the end I did pick up a few skills, after some anxiety about being underwater strapped into my kayak. Strangely enough, the solution to flipping has nothing to do with panicking or trying to get to the surface as quickly as possible – forget the kayak, forget the paddle, just get me out! Alternately, while still upside down under water, you should reach up and thump the hull three times – thump, thump, thump. I – need – help. Then you should wait – just wait, don’t panic! – run hands along the hull, looking for the bow of someone else’s kayak. Grab it, push with arms, but don’t right yourself so fast that you go rolling over on the other side, back underwater. Head on hands on bow. Flip hips to right the kayak. Hurray. You are a kayaking rockstar.

My day-to-day life doesn’t include a lot of capsized kayaks, but it does include being tipped over, head hit on rocks, submerged. Metaphorically.

First week back from break was brutal. It was a combination of middle school profanity, fifth grade bullying, 2nd grade violence, stomach flu making the rounds (with disgusting results) and just miscellaneous craziness… oh, and final quarter grades due. Oh, and write a huge unit for grad school. That’s what I’ll be doing this weekend, I guess.

Yesterday (Friday) I turned down the chance for beers with coworkers to stay at school late to finish the last of the grades and to talk to parents, and then the next thing I knew I was in rush hour traffic heading home, and the grades were done, and the please-call-me-your-son-threatened-somebody messages were left, and the week was over. I always am surprised when I get things done. Most of the time I operate under the feeling that it is all never going to be done. (It’s not, of course. I still have to finish that grad school project, and plan for the coming week, and… and… and…)

Then there is the bow of another kayak, and my palms pushing me upright again.

The thing is that every time I surface from the chaos, I still want to dive back into it. Better prepared, better at managing things, maybe after a breather and maybe some bourbon, but I still want to go back into my classroom and hold out for the minuscule victories. My craziest classes (5th grade, this year) have made the good days in those classes – even just the good 10 minute intervals – feel practically miraculous, where they aren’t griping or threatening each other, they are being creative and joyful and LEARNING SOMETHING. Sometimes it feels like that only happens every few weeks. But I can appreciate it when it does. And I have never been so thrilled as I was yesterday to see a certain first grader walk (not run! walk!) into my room, put up his backpack (not hit another kid with it!), and sit in his seat (not run around his room!). I was so proud. He’s been in my class for 10 weeks now and this has never happened! Progress!

(Then he leaned over and threw up into the garbage can. Maybe more stomach flu than progress.)

Still. For a moment I felt as though I had witnessed a miracle. So I’m going to dive back in on Monday. 9 more weeks; I can take it.

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