25 June 2016

Day Seventeen: Crowds and Inspiration

I do love the rush of a city. I love the resources and options and culture and life. I love being on the Tube and hearing about five languages and seeing so many different types of faces and cultures represented. I love the food and the museums and the passion.

I am also a certified introvert who craves quiet time alone. I love my house for that - I love that it's clean and decorated precisely to my tastes. I love coming home and seeing everything just so. I love the glorious view of the mountains outside my window. I love how quiet it is. I love watching the deer from my balcony.

Being in London makes our time in the Lakes and in the Cotswolds seem like another life. Was it really only a week and a half ago that I climbed Newland's Pass and felt like the only person for miles? Just me and the sheep and the waterfall for company. (Well, and Greg and Nicole, but still.) That whole world feels like a lifetime ago when you're pushing yourself through the Portobello market.

I wouldn't trade it for anything.

(But I'm also looking forward to the lower crowds and more peaceful elements of home.)

Portobello is such a fascinating place. I think if you looked hard enough, you could probably find Mary Poppins' bag there somewhere. You can find practically anything, and much of it at reasonable prices. (Prices do seem to have risen a bit of late - I read that stalls are so expensive to rent that some of the smaller vendors have been pushed out and others have raised prices, but it's still pretty great.) The only problem with Portobello (aside from the claustrophobia inducing crowds) is that there are a huge number of things I want to buy and can't, because who has room for a gorgeous working (almost) grandfather clock in their carry on (unless you can find the Mary Poppins bag)? As it was, I enjoyed looking at all the things for sale (at least for the first hour) and ended up leaving with a present for my sister and (of course) another book for me. Bleak House by Dickens this time - I've been dying to read it. I also got an amazing lunch from one of the street vendors - this potato and cheese and garlic and spicy conglomeration that was probably really bad for me but so good that I really don't give a (insert favorite expletive ((or "expletive")) here).

After the crowds of Portobello, we did get a brief respite by walking through Kensington Gardens. I love Kensington. The last few times I've been here I have stayed in west London and have been a frequent visitor of the parks. This time, staying in Greenwich (south and east), this has been our first time in the parks at all. It was a breath of fresh air to be back with the trees, to watch the dogs running around and chasing the pigeons. I think if I ever were fortunate enough to live in London I would have to come spend time in the parks on a regular basis. One can only spend so much time fighting crowds before one starts going nuts.

Of course my favorite part of Kensington is the statue of Peter Pan. I had such an obsession with Peter as a child. Truthfully, I don't think I can say that it's worn off. There is something so entrancing about that story to me. As a child the adventure and prospect of flight alone were enough to captivate me. I used to keep my window open at night in case Peter came. Even after I grew old enough to know that he wouldn't (because I was too old . . . and because he's fictional), I still kept it open for sake of symbolism alone. I love what that story teaches children about the bravery it takes to grow up. I love what that story teaches adults about the beauty in embracing childhood and not getting so lost in the business of life that things that matter most get shoved aside.

One of the most magical theater experiences I ever had was in Kensington in 2009 when they put on the Peter Pan play. I really can't describe the play in any justice, but it was stunning. The scene that really stuck with me was at the end of the first act. Peter has been wounded in his fight with Hook and doesn't think he can fly. He tells Wendy to leave without him by taking hold of the kite, but she is scared and doesn't think she can fly without him. In the end, he shoves her off the rock and the kite sweeps her away. This is a great scene for Peter, but it's really Wendy's story - that scene meant so much to me that summer. I was just weeks away from starting my internship as a teacher. I was about to be thrown into adulthood in a very real way and I wasn't sure I was ready for it. Peter Pan has always been a story that reminded me to be brave. I have to visit the statue when I come. It's a beautiful thing, set in a lovely location along the Serpentine River that runs through the park. I usually take about a hundred pictures of it, but limited myself to three (ok four) ((ok five)) pictures this time around. Not that I need more. But . . .

Caught in the rain after Kensington, we decided to go to the store to stock up on necessary treats to take home (seriously, America. Get your act together and demand McVities biscuits. They are the BEST EVER) before grabbing dinner and heading to the theatre for tonight's show: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

I first read Curious Incident in high school. I was utterly taken by it - I think I could say that it was probably the first "adult" (non classic) book that I read that was also particularly different. Told entirely from the perspective of Christopher, a boy with autism, I was thrown into a world that was so VERY different from the one I knew. It was magical. It was funny. It was sad and interesting and strange and enlightening. It changed me. It made me want to be a teacher.

I revisited the book in college in a class where we needed to read something about learners with disabilities.  This book was on the list, so I pulled out my copy and read it again.  Reading it from the perspective of a person just months away from working in her own classroom - it really transformed the kind of teacher I wanted to be.  I wanted to protect students like Christopher.  Not necessarily from themselves - I wanted to protect them from educational systems that held them back.

It's been one of my greatest privileges to fight to create a classroom where everyone is welcome.  Some of the students who have found the best success are those that learn in different ways than the "average" student.  (That said, I'd argue that the "average" student is a red herring and doesn't exist, but that's a discussion for another day.)  I've been especially lucky to work with students "on the spectrum".  They challenge me, but I love a challenge.  The challenge is so, so very rewarding.

Seeing Curious Incident tonight reminded me of how special (dare I say even sacred?) my job is.  The show was beautiful.  The technical elements were amazing - I loved the precision of it all, especially given Christopher's personal affinity to maths.  They told the story well and with great heart.  What I loved most of all, though, required no technology at all.  I loved watching Christopher's teacher advocate so fiercely and kindly for him.  That's not to say that Christopher didn't have other advocates - he was surrounded by them.  But in the end, it was his teacher to whom he posed the question "so - I can do anything?"  It was the voice of his teacher that he heard directing him when he was scared.  It was amazing.

You know, summers off are a true perk of my job.  Not that my summers off are ever purely "off" - there's loads to prepare for (especially this year in transferring to a new school and taking on Student Government and the like).  But my job does allow me to take three week holidays in Europe every other year or so if I want to, and that's a pretty big plus.  It can be hard (in June) to even want to think about all the work ahead.  After today, though, I'm excited to get back.  I'm excited to take up the challenge of reaching the student that no one else has quite been able to figure out yet, because that is what makes my job so very, very beautiful.

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