the thing about teaching...

The thing about teaching is that you are really and truly affecting the life of every student you have.  For some, it is just a minimal impact. For others, it is huge.  I can't help but fall back to my favorite quote about teaching:

“I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.” -Dr. Haim Ginott

However, you never know.  In teaching, there is no instant gratification.  You may NEVER know if you had any sort of imprint on the life of a student.    It's hard to believe that I've been out of the secondary classroom for 5 years.  My first students are 28-30 years old.  Whoa.  A few have found me on facebook.  And I figure - if they thought enough to send me a friend request, why not accept it?  There is one in particular that really touched me.  I'll call her Sue.  

Back before facebook got all weird and I could actually follow along with what people were posting and saying, I noticed that she was an advocate for an Eating Disorder support group.  It became fairly obvious that she had struggled with - and then conquered - some sort of eating disorder.  While this would be a sad thing to read about anybody, it was particularly poignant to me - because Sue was a student in my Nutrition class.  (where we cooked.  and ate.  and did units of study over eating disorders...)  And I remember that she rarely (if ever) sampled the food that her group prepared.  (even though they were supposed to.)  I can't say that I knew she had an eating disorder - I wondered, but she was an athlete and seemed to be in good health.  So it isn't that I felt guilty, but I did feel like I *should* have known....that I could have made her life easier in one way or another if only I had probed a little more.  Or asked the right questions.  So not too long ago, I sent her a message via facebook:

Sue -  I've been thinking about this since we became FB friends last year..... I remember that you never ate during our Nutrition class, and at the back of my mind, I wondered if food was some sort of demon for you. (But I thought maybe you were a little OCD like me and didn't want to eat something that other people had prepared.... did they wash their hands? Did they cook it long enough? etc.) You seemed like the picture of health to me - always so tan and fit from [the sport you played!] But now I gather from some of your posts that my initial thoughts were probably right.... and I wanted to tell you I'm sorry that I never said anything. (And even more sorry if we ever said/did anything in class that made you uncomfortable!) You look like you're doing well now... but if there is ever anything I can do, please let me know. Better late than never, right?

She responded with:

Wow ...You just brought tears to my eyes! You were right, I struggled with an eating disorder from the time i was 13-14 until about 3 years ago. Please know how much I appreciate you sending me this message. I was in complete denial during high school times, but somehow kept it "under control" because I knew I had to at least minimally take care of myself in order to [participate in a sport.] I [was in a college sport] for a short time but ended up dropping out because things go so bad. I moved back to Austin thinking that would help, but after a few years that proved to be false, and I degenerated to my ultimate low and decided I wanted to live. I finally received inpatient treatment almost three years ago at a wonderful facility up in [a state.] Life is so much better on the other side, and honestly I feel grateful, in a way, for my journey through all of that. I returned to college about 2 years ago and am a junior [subject] major at [college.] Life is great. Ironically, I remember having moments of fun times in your class. Are you still teaching and/or are you still in the Austin area? You were a great teacher, something I will be soon! Thank you again for the email. For real!

Talk about something bringing tears to your eyes....

So where am I going with this story?  Well, Sue and I are also Pinterest friends now, and she pinned some of my recipes today.  And it made me happy. And I figure that even if I didn't make a difference to her while she was in my classroom, maybe I made a difference after the fact.  It's never too late to do the right thing.


the long post where I talk about SXSW

I decided that since I've lived in Austin for 10+ years, I should finally experience SXSW.  So this year, I went.  Five days of goings-on would make for a very long post, so you're just getting a recap.

Tuesday:  We went to pick up our wristbands.... got there at 8:50pm and they wouldn't let us in line since they were closing at 9.  Boooo.  So we found a couple of shows that didn't require a wristband.  The first place we tried was a tiny little place where the Heartless Bastards were playing.  We got inside and immediately headed for the door, as it was JAM-PACKED with a wall of people.  I don't even have claustrophobia and I was getting anxious.  It was horrible.  Pretty sure that was a fire code violation.

Wednesday:  Marathon day.... we went to stand in line for Fiona Apple.  We got there at 5pm and the doors didn't open until after 7.  Not to self- next time you stand in line for several hours in a line that is standing still, SIT DOWN.  Here we are early on:

Not the most flattering picture, but whatever.  We met some nice people in line - a photographer for Rolling Stone Mexico and a band named Body Parts.  Fiona was incredible - she is such a unique person.  (and tiny)  I really liked one of her new songs but now I can't remember what it was - I'll have to check out the new album.

Sharon Van Etten was after her.  Sarah and Dale had seen her last SXSW and loved her voice.  She is a great performer with a beautiful voice.  Glad we stayed to see her.

From there, we tried for a couple other bands, but the lines were tooooooo long.  We finally  landed at a place where we got to see The Oh Sees (with Carson Daly on the drums, which was random), Hacienda and Alberta Cross.  I enjoyed all of them - it was just really hot in the venue, so I had to dance while fanning my face.

We went to eat at 24 Diner, where Dale started feeling sick.  Sure enough, he had the flu.  Which meant that the rest of the week was just going to be Sarah and I.  (Sorry Dale, wish you would have been able to go the rest of the week.)

Thursday:  A friend sent Sarah her invite to the Entertainment Weekly Music Lounge party, which was a "VIP guest list" only.  So we felt pretty fancy when we walked up to the door girl and gave our names. This might have been the most fun part of the week.  Well - let's get this into the open - there was an open bar.  So the Tito's and Soda were flowing (for free), which you have to admit is pretty awesome.  But that wasn't even the best part.  The bands started with J Roddy Watson and the Business.  That dude can play the piano!  They were so fun to watch.  Next was Delta Spirit.  They were so fun to watch - every member of the band looked like they were having a blast, even though they had to be exhausted and it was like their 5th set of the day.  I'll totally go see them again.

We wanted to sit down to finish our drinks before leaving, so we found a table.  It had a reserved sign, but we could tell the guys sitting there were also table crashers.  They were ridiculous, but fun to talk to.
We popped into the photo booth on our way out:

From there, we saw Saint Motel, who were a little too "L.A."  They weren't bad, just not great.  Our last show was pretty far, so I convinced Sarah to take her first pedi-cab ride.  Since she has worked with people who have traumatic brain injuries, she was not very excited about it.  But we survived.

We capped the night off with another great show from Milo Greene.  They have a pretty unique, fun sound and I really liked them.  I hope they come back.

Friday:  Sarah and I started at this cute warehouse that had been converted into a bar for the week.  It was sponsored by HGtv, so it was really cute.  The back patio looked like it was straight out of a magazine.  Here we are sitting on the deck:

WATERS was the band, and they were fun.  Their set seemed really short though, so I would have liked to hear more.  We found another photo booth on our way out.
We should have stayed there, because everywhere else we went was ridiculously crowded.  We had ZERO chance of getting into the Jack White show, so we popped into Esther's Follies to sit in the AC and listen to a few comics.  (That is a good little trick - that place keeps the air REFRIGERATED if you know what I mean!)

We kept swinging and missing at all the shows we tried (because the lines were so long), so we were feeling dejected and decided to head out.  But first, I saw on the SXSW twitter feed that Citizen Cope was playing.  You know how I feel about Cope.  We got in (for the first time we got to feel what it was like to breeze past people because we had a wristband and they didn't).  We were in a little spot right next to the door.  It was a great view.  See?  Here he is, getting ready to go onstage.

However - there were some grade A jackwagons in the house that night.  The place was shoulder to shoulder with people (see fire code violation comment above) and the door guy was trying to tell us that we couldn't use the door we were near as an exit - when it was time to leave, we would have to swim through the sea of people to get out.  I said, "That door is clearly labeled EXIT, so I don't think you can tell us we can't go through it."  Sarah was getting a little panicky due to being claustrophobic, so she basically told the guy he was crazy and that we were going to be using that exit.  We listened to a couple songs, when all of a sudden another employee came up and asked us if we had wristbands.  When we showed him that yes, in fact, we did, he started stammering and was all, "well, this area is actually only for artists."  Whatever.  BS.  We told him we were going to leave and he backtracked, saying - "You don't have to leave, etc etc etc" But Sarah said, "We're leaving.  And we're using this door as an exit."  And we grabbed hands and busted through.  We tattled to the police that they were a fire violation on our way out, but I think they were a little more concerned with the ONE ZILLION people that were on 6th street that night.

Saturday:  We once again used our sweet "standing in line" skills for the "Big Easy Express" movie premeire and concert.  We waited in line for about 2 hours again, but this time we brought water and blankets to sit on.  The LBJ library lawn is an incredible place for a concert.  We parked it on our blanket and enjoyed watching the movie - it was so great to relive the Railroad Revival Tour.

After the movie, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes did a show.  They can work a stage - seriously one of the best shows you could go to.  They were followed by Mumford and Sons, who I could listen to any and every day.

You can't see it that great, but look at the UT Tower in the background.  (on the right side)  The music was incredible, but the setting made it even better.  What a way to end my SWSW experience!
Phew - it was exhausting just writing about this.  I don't know how I actually did it all. I left out all sorts of stuff, but this is just going to have to be enough.  Sarah, you'll have to pick up and add anything I left out.