Do What You Do…

I had an interesting weekend.

Let’s start with Friday.

I assist with my school’s speech team.  If you are not familiar, speech is also known as forensics in some places but not the Dexter Morgan Miami Metro type of forensics.  More of the debate team type of forensics but without the all of the debate and a whole lot more kids acting like schizophrenics.

Anyway, on Friday we had a trivia night fund raiser.  Teams of 4-8 combined to win big cash prizes, and we made out OK too.  BUT, and here’s where it got a bit yucky, every one of the fifteen kids that said that they were coming to help…bailed on me.  Running the event was five adults: three coaches and two significant others.  It was beyond frustrating, but we got through it.  I had my words with the team today.

Then on Saturday, we had our event at the Oak Lawn Public Library.  It was a day of professional development that myself and members of the CEO, with the help of the amazing people at the library, set up.  The list of events had been up on the front page of my site until this post, so if you want to check out what we had offered, please check out my last post.

We spread word around to many of the middle schools, high schools, and local colleges; however, our attendance was very low.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some great people that came, and we made some meaningful relationships, but considering the amount of press that we got out, attendance was low.  Actually, the number of teachers that came from my three high school district was astounding: zero.  That’s right, besides the few fantastic people from my district that came and presented with us, the number of English faculty that showed up in support was zero.  Believe me, we noticed…

Sad or depressed boy sitting in playground swing

I know that people have things going on.  I do know that.  Kids, family, sports, dates, other jobs, etc.  I also know that one person could have found an hour to drop in to see what we had enthusiastically put together: hours of panels and workshops meant to better the classroom.

At the end of the day, walking to my car, Mike Espinos and I got into a conversation about teaching.  He began telling me that he was catching heat from some people about doing too much.  This conversation reminded me of a chat I had with my wife less than a week ago about the difference between “working” and “what you do.”  You see, Mike, the other presenters, and I do not see what we do as work.  It’s just what we do.  Heck, I’m flying into NYC one day next month, and flying out the same day in order to present a handful of panels at NYCC.  So when I catch heat at work for staying too late, coming in early, taking on too many things, most of the time, I’m catching heat from people that see what I do as “work.”  And while I get that it’s a ton of work – believe me – I (as well as many, many of you out there) see what I teach and what I coach/facilitate as “what I do.”  For some of you it’s parenting; for some of you it’s coaching; for some of you it’s writing.  For me, it’s living in my school building and trying to help kids in as many ways possible.  That means that I struggle at times.  Actually I’m really stressed right now; I’m running speech stuff Mondays after school; Chess Team Tuesdays and Wednesdays; Game Club on Thursdays; and Friday is soon to be Improv.  That’s not to mention my committees, being evaluated this semester, and starting a bunch of new PD.  Yet, this is what I do.  I’m happy to have found what I do.

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I’m disappointed that zero of my English colleagues showed up to the library on Saturday, but I did meet a small bunch of educators that did show up and were excited to learn from us.  I guess it becomes a disappointment when we find out that what we do is not what others want to do.  In the case of Saturday, it was teaching with comics and gaming.  And I know many of my department peeps had legit things going on, and I’ll get over it.  I’m writing this for those of you that, at times, feel the same way as me right now, not to make anyone feel bad.

It’s easy to feel that your niche is quiet.  It’s easy to feel that your work is often undervalued.  You need to know that you are not alone; you just need to find that group that supports what you do and grow that group.  People will jump on the train.  This Saturday, I met a librarian that works an hour away that’s really excited to talk more with us and get the ball rolling on a few things.  I met a special education teacher that we hopefully opened a few doors for.  Most of all, I got to hang out with my friends (new and old) as we attempted to “do what we do” in the face of a few.  And we’ll do it again.

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A woman at the symposium asked us what she should do if she starts teaching with comics and the students love it to the point of calling out other teachers for not doing “cool stuff.”  To that we said, “Do what you do, and if you end up raising the game of other educators, good.  If they talk smack, try to let it go.”  Passion is a good thing.  And I hope some of these dang speech kids can find some passion by the end of the season!

Do what you do.  Be passionate.  Fight the good fight.

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I won’t get into the English Department Chair that would not share our event with his staff because teaching with graphic novels is “silly”; yep, that happened a lot to us over the last two weeks, but you already know how I feel about that.  I mention it to remind you that we are here to offer you support and data to prove why that mentality is dated and expired.  Let me know what you need.  I got you!

Happy reading, ya’ll!

@comics_teacher