Last Friday we had our annual staff retreat. I don’t know how the day has been spent in the past, but we had a lovely day. Earlier in the year I remember at a staff meeting people spoke up that they wanted less being talked at, more chance to talk with. (Go figure) Well, message received, I suppose.
We started the day by going to Mass together. It was the feast of St. Catherine of Sienna. I’m no scholar of the Church by any stretch, but one of my favorite quotes is attributed to St. Catherine: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” While some (ahem, Justin), may think this means God would like us all to be arsonists, I think it means that if we are living our truest life there is nothing we can’t do. If we are living our truest life, we will inspire others. I hope this is the case. I mean, I don’t think of myself as one to really inspire people, but I hope that I am at least someone that my students can look to as someone who is true to herself and what she values. Jury’s out, I guess.
Anywho, after Mass we were meant to go to our 8th grade teacher’s house down the street for breakfast and games and watching a documentary, and then we would head out for lunch. We got to the house and breakfast was being prepared. I found myself sitting on the couch by myself. All around the room there were conversations happening. For the 3rd time in the last few weeks I came to the same realization about myself – I cannot handle crowds. It’s not even that I necessarily don’t like them, more that I feel invisible in them 😛 While I most certainly didn’t feel ostracized from any of the groups, I just didn’t see a place where I fit in well. As much as I like to think I love being part of a big group of friends, it turns out I really don’t. I really want to, though. I even had a hard time one night with this at NCTM when I was with some of my most favorite people. For breakfast I did move out to the patio where I enjoyed sitting and chatting with 2 of the other teachers.
After breakfast we watched a documentary called “The Human Experience” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1252298/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1). The documentary is basically about these 2 brothers who live in a group home. They go out into the world to come to understand different aspects of the human experience. For example, they left their home to live amongst the homeless in the middle of winter in NYC, then they went to a home for abandoned sick children in Peru, and finally they went to Ghana and visited a lepers colony. In each of these situations they met people in some of the worst experiences I can imagine. However, in each, they found happiness radiating from all they encountered. I think that most of us were pretty cynical about sitting around watching a documentary at 10am, but we were all quite moved by it. We were spread around the living room and kitchen. At first no one really knew what to say – were we going to talk about it? Could we even talk about it? One thing we knew was that we all felt awkward heading out to a very nice lunch after that! Finally one of the teachers broke the ice and we did spend some time sharing our thoughts. I was still quite choked up by it, and couldn’t bring myself to say anything. Another teacher made a comment (I forget what it was, exactly), but Robert’s Shadowcon speech (http://meetings.nctm.org/2016-annual-meeting/empower/) came to mind. I’d wanted to share this with the staff anyway, and this sort of gave me my “in.” I couldn’t even talk about it because just thinking about the documentary, Robert’s talk, and this blog post (http://karimkai.com/how-can-i-help/), plus my general speaking in front of people nerves, had me on the verge of tears. I just told people to expect them in an email! We shared final thoughts, all expressed the elephant in the room – our guilt about going out to lunch, but then headed out anyway.
We enjoyed a great lunch out on the patio of an old Mexican restaurant. Fortunately, as I was one of the first to arrive, I avoided “middle of the table syndrome.” Lunch was lovely and it was nice just to be able to enjoy the company of the rest of my staff. I don’t usually eat in the teachers’ room because I usually have students in my room. It was nice to have the time together.
Today I shared Robert’s video and Karim’s blog post by email with everyone. I hope that they will take the time to read/ watch. I think both of them are very relevant to what we watched and the conversation that we were having afterwards. I hope they engage in conversation with me about either/ both, and how we might share some of these lessons with our students.