Michelle Bulla, November 2021
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.
Unfortunately, not a lot of writing.
It’s been hard to organize my thoughts into coherent groups of ideas that could swim under the same umbrella (yeah, I’m not doing well with the metaphors, either), let alone form sentences that could be strung together to articulate a concept others might be able to process.
I’ve been untranslatable, even to myself.
Mandates and refusals.
Skepticism and rage.
I’d say I stopped watching the news, but the truth is I’ve rarely watched it. I’ve always read it. But lately? I find it hard to do that anymore.
The world feels like it’s on fire. I know I’m not the first or the only one to say it. I also feel like there are lines of folks squared off with packs of flaming arrows ready to send them into any blaze that seems to wane. Maybe you feel that, too.
My fear is there is no squadron of firefighters or truth-seekers who are brave enough to face the ugly truths and misperceptions causing it to burn, ensuring it will keep burning. And even if there were, if we can’t face the truths together, can’t follow the hot spots, the smoke to where a blaze might have begun or might begin again – if we are barred from even noticing or talking about them – we can’t possibly keep it out, let alone acknowledge, accept, and act in restorative ways.
I am a teacher.
I literally (truly literally – not in the casually hyperbolic sense of the word Merriam-Webster has recently acknowledged as an acceptable use) cannot get out of bed in the morning to face my students and my colleagues without faith that the work we do has any purpose unless I believe in the plausibility of a better tomorrow. Of a world that is not on fire.
Oh, I can teach for today. Hope for today. Foster grace and compassion and learning and thinking and exploration for today.
But I need there to be a tomorrow, too.
A tomorrow where there is more good than bad. More optimism than pessimism. More opportunities than brick walls. More inclusive progression than exclusive regression. More truth and courage and integrity, and less lying and manipulation and greed, born of scarcity.
Fewer raging fires, more conversations, difficult though they may be.
So do my students.
And my colleagues.
And our schools and communities and nation.
And you, I wager.
I can find it. I can still feel that plausibility. That possibility. That undeniable faith that we – individually and collectively – can absolutely make a difference in the trajectory of our communal existence.
I see it in the unending creativity and determination of my teachers to facilitate meaningful thinking and learning and writing in our students.
I see it in so many students’ eagerness to learn, to be included, to be seen, to be heard, to be challenged, to be supported, to be part of the conversation.
I see it in the voluminous professional learning opportunities that determined folks in that realm have continued and created and transitioned to virtual spaces in order to keep fostering community and growth.
I see it in the writings of social psychologists and the podcasts of thinkers who are eagerly digging deeper than ever to tie the threads of human growth, human connection, learning, and meaningful living together.
I work hard to keep the feeling of it clear and present.
In my sun salutations.
Playdates with friends.
Creating and committing to projects.
And today, by writing to you.
Michelle G. Bulla is a high school English teacher and the 9-12 department chair at Monroe-Woodbury High School in southern Orange County, NY. She’s also a Teacher Consultant with the Hudson Valley Writing Project, and a member of the Executive Board for NYSEC. Find her on Twitter @china93doll or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments on this Post
I just saw this several months after you posted it, but I was moved by how you captured your inner life during this time in history. You were a mirror to my own feelings, and I walked along with you on your poetic path from the “untranslatable” to the promise of “human growth, human connection, learning, and meaningful living together.” Thank you for writing this!
~ Mary Sawyer