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All posts for the month December, 2012

Altared Perceptions: October 2012- “Honesty”

Published December 26, 2012 by Susan Woodward

This was a very difficult topic for me, as I have a tendency to be dishonest with myself.   I set goals that sound great at the time, and I truly believe when I am making those self-promises that I can fulfill them…and then reality steps in.   I make myself busy, busy, busy…so much so as to avoid taking the time to take a good hard honest look at myself and my life.

Well, I un-busied myself this summer.  As I took a hard look at myself and what I want to do with the rest of my life, I found that being honest was extremely hard.   When I looked at all the busy-ness of my life up till July,  I knew that I honestly was not giving my best to everything.  How could I?  I was running here, there, and everywhere, involved in this, that, and the other thing… and most of it was to distract me from the personal work I knew I had to do.  I had to withdraw from a lot of things that once gave me pleasure, but had begun to seem more like a time-filler, in order to do a lot of thinking and a lot of examination.

I can honestly say that looking in the mirror was hard.   Helping to build the decor for the church gave me some contemplative time as we glued small mirrors to the ribbons that were suspended from above.  The central piece of the decor was a huge “distorted” mirror made of crumpled foil.  This was to represent the distorted view many seem to have when they look in the mirror.  For me, though, it was a more honest representation of what’s in the mirror… I saw someone I really didn’t like all that well.  If that is the image I see, then I had to ask myself what others honestly see when they look at me.

Folks on the Creative Team probably notice that I am pretty quiet… not because I don’t want to talk, but I was immersing myself in the whole concept as we were building it.  It’s also the one month that I actually forgot to take pictures because I was so immersed in what I was doing.

In an effort to be more honest with myself and others, I made some tough decisions about my involvement in many of my activities instead of hiding behind the many masks I was wearing.  Giving myself the time to reflect has helped me to focus on things that are truly most important to me.  Stepping back from commitments can allow others the opportunity to come forward who are more honestly able to do a better job.

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Altared Perceptions: Summer 2012- Cultivation

Published December 26, 2012 by Susan Woodward

Better late than never!!

What a great theme for our summer spiritual assignment!  The creative team worked July through September building a progressive decor as part of our cultivation.  The idea was to create a growing passion-flower, beginning small and climbing up the wall throughout the summer.  It also included the plant bearing fruit.

What a wonderful idea!  I love the choice of the passion flower for the summer assignment… what are we cultivating?  How can we not only make something grow, but how can we grow ourselves?

This was a great challenge for me.  Although I didn’t write about it, I did work on my challenge throughout the summer.

summer Altar 3

Summer Altar 1

 

 

My choice for growth came through the Symposium on Mythology in Santa Barbara, California, sponsored by the Pacifica Institute and the Joesph Campbell Foundation, as well as serving on the planning committee for the Celebrating the Mythic Life Conference held in New Paltz, New York.  My work with mythology is not only limited to what I do with students in the classroom, but in my personal journey.

In Santa Barbara, I had the opportunity to share the myth-centered work I do with my students.  My hope for the presentation was to bring ideas to other educators to use in their own classes, particularly the creative writing project that we do.  Since that time in September, this has grown into an online blog featuring pictures of my students’ work, and the possibility of working with the Joseph Campbell Foundation on a 9-12 curriculum that features mythology while meeting the Common Core Standards and the PARCC framework.   Myth is such a strong part of who we are and how we relate to one another.

summer altar 6

As the church decor “grew”, so did my hopes for expanding upon what I consider to be very important work.  As the fruit began to appear, I started to see some of my dreams regarding both the Symposium and the Conference begin to come to fruition.

The Celebrating the Mythic Life Conference in New Paltz brought me growth of a more personal nature.  Partaking in ritual, listening to fabulous speakers, and actually immersing myself in mythology helped me to learn more about the archetypes that reside within me.  After having withdrawn from the world for some time, it was a way for me to begin to ease myself back from the cave.   It is still taking my some time to figure out what it is I really want for myself at this point in my life, but I do know that the work of Joseph Campbell will play a huge role in whatever it is that I will do!

The final stages of the decor, with its upward-stretching branches, reminded me to continue nurturing the work that I have been doing.   As I watched the vines grow, so did my spirit and my resolve to keep myth alive.

summer altar 7

 

 

 

summer altar 5

 

 

Still Emerging… Bit By Bit

Published December 3, 2012 by Susan Woodward

I haven’t written anything in a long, long time.  For some reason, I have found it hard to sit and do the thing that I actually love to do… write.  I’ve felt unmotivated, dry, and actually a bit dead inside.   Maybe a part of me has died.   I spent the entire summer working on rebuilding an entire curriculum based on the Common Core Standards and the PARCC framework.  It was completely unlike what I have done in the past with my students, and seemed as if it would be so overwhelming to them and to me.  And my heart sunk.  My creative spirit felt sucked out of me, and I wondered how I would be able to inspire myself to keep going, let alone inspire kids.  With that went my personal spirit.

My heart has not been in the things I have loved for so long, and I am not sure how to overcome that.  It has been dark and dank inside that cave, and some of that darkness has crept inside me as well.  I want and am trying to emerge from it, but every time I reach that entrance, I run into a situation that sends me scurrying back inside– usually a situation of my own doing.  I say and do the wrong things and then feel guilty or angry with myself, so I retreat.  It’s a hell of lot easier there.  With a few exceptions, I have spent most of the past six months inside not reading, not writing, and not really connecting.  Just existing.  And worrying.  And fearing that I wasn’t going to be able to meet the demands that I knew were waiting for me in September.

At first, I was just taking a break from the hectic end of the school year.   I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was rest.   I told myself that I was going to finally write, write, write… and then nothing.   I’d open the files and my heart wasn’t in it.  And so I just shut it down…and after a bit, shut myself down.  The re-boot button came with the new school year, and I have thrown myself into this new mess of APPR, CCSS, PARCC, SLO, PLC, and a host of other acronyms.  All those capital letters are like someone shouting at me, screaming across the screen, and I push and I push myself to try to live up to what “they” in Albany want.  I have managed to do what I need to in order to be in compliance with all that is required of me, but at the cost of my spirit.  Compliance.  Not the best word to describe someone who really is passionate about teaching… but I felt the life getting sucked out of me in order to meet these new demands.

All I really want to do is teach literature.  I want to teach poetry.  I want to do all the things that I have done in past years that have gone successfully with the kids.

I’ve tried my very, very best to take it all in stride and make the necessary adjustments.  New lesson plans for new units, all being presented in completely new ways.  Non-fiction, informative texts as prescribed, with as much literature as I could weave in and still be in compliance.  I modeled everything I did after the PARCC framework and made sure that I hit as many of the Common Core Standards as humanly possible with my lessons.  The first quarter was daunting and exhausting.   My lessons were meticulously aligned, but it didn’t feel like me at all.  I felt robotic, and even though I tried to be enthusiastic, I felt so overwhelmed.  The amount of writing assignments I gave fit the PARCC to a “T” and I tried to be diligent in grading them; however, the harsh reality is that with the 4-6 analysis pieces, the research paper, the narrative writing, the persuasive writing, the routine writing, the vocabulary work, and the reading quizzes for over 120 students, the paperwork turned into an avalanche that buried me.   Evenings and weekends became practically nothing but papers, papers, and more papers.  I pushed myself to finish by the deadline, and I was nearly dead inside myself.   I didn’t see the meaning in making kids jump through all these new hoops and I found myself crawling through an ever narrowing tunnel that threatened to squeeze the very life out of me.  And I began to shut down even more.

And now we are in the second quarter.

I know from past years that I have done good work with my kids.  I know that my passion for the work of Joseph Campbell has fueled my lessons, and I know that I have had kids come back in later years to tell me that I did a good job.  So this quarter, I am going back to what I know.  I can tweak things to make sure all the Standards are being hit, but I am not going to put my kids or myself through those PARCC hoops again… at least not until it becomes mandate.  For right now, I am trying to reach in and bring forth the teacher that I have been in the past.

And fortunately, good news has arrived.  It’s possible that NY State might reject the framework after all!  Oh happy day!  I can finally see a ray of light at the mouth of my cave, and maybe, just maybe I can re-emerge.

But coming out of that self-imposed darkness isn’t as easy as I’d hoped as it has crept into my soul.   When I do leave the house other than for work, I find that I am anxious to just go home again.  With the coming of advent, I have once again inched toward the door, hoping that with the coming of the light will be the coming of my lost spirit.

 

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