Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Life Maps

I found this unpublished post while cleaning out my blog, written in my second semester of teaching.  While some things are dated (I am on sabbatical this semester), the ideas are still current.

Her study abroad semester in high school changed her life forever.

I teach an interesting group of students who bring a lot of energy and discipline to their studies. Recently I asked them to create a visual display of their life or goals, essentially a map of some kind to accompany an evaluation of said life (2 page paper).

Has decided that she wants to be a Chef.
I snapped pictures of the maps so I'd have a record for the grading later on, plus a photo of them holding their map so I could match up map to student. What I saw today (in conglomerate) was an interesting cross-section of maps, students and the faces of the other students in the background.

The only person I've ever known to get out the military just by asking.

We love to have her read in class; her British accent gives authority to whatever's written.

Built his map in a spiral, as he's alternately spiraled out of, then back into, control of his life.

Escaped with his family from Afghanistan, and is gearing up to be a physicist.

Took us on a treasure hunt of her life, having lived in one neighborhood the whole time.

Born in an Eastern European country, her story from her childhood captivated the class.

This is my sample, and because I'm older, I narrowed it down to the Voyage of Education--the islands representing different facets of the 32 year quest for an advanced degree; A=community college, B=undergraduate at a four-year college, C=graduate degree.

I sometimes wonder about my life now, how I don't seem to have much energy for new things, and feel captive to the grading and lesson prep. I try to get ahead, so as to have some time to create, read, and relax, but the responsibilities of this life I have seem to expand to fill the available time.

If I had to build a map of my life--the entire life--I would be doing it in hindsight. The single quality that captivated me about my students was their hope for the future. It was a nearly tangible quality that dangled in front of me, but out of reach. Their hopes are so specific: med school, become a chef, get a new car, have a baby, get married, have an interesting career. It's been interesting to compare their youthful visions with my oh-so-nonspecific hopes for the future: stay healthy, avoid injury, get enough sleep. I sound like I belong in an Old Folks Home, which is dismaying, because even my parents (some 30 years older than I am) seem to have more energy and drive and are no where near that Sit-in-Place place.

I feel like I'm using up my life. I always said that when I got the children raised there'd be no holding me back. . . but from what? Even then I couldn't be specific. I had certain dreams that I seem to have laid aside for safekeeping, but even Frost knew that way led on to way and there's no return to those mislaid dreams.

And now, when I have the delightful option of All This Time, I find there's not much I want to do. Or I find that there's too much I want to do. Or the other reality is that just contemplating what it is I want to do leaves me so tired, I don't even want to start.

And quite frankly, I'm jealous of these students, their faces reflecting this tangible future.

1 comment:

Judy said...

I hear you. In some way, I think most of our energy was willingly spent on the raising of our families and, as you note, paths chosen then eliminated other paths. Still, I love this tribute to your students' energy and hope.