sometimes, it's hard to stay quiet, and sometimes going public hurts. I have had two interviews and sample teaching lessons in the last two months, and I have been hired for neither position. For the second, I was applying to take a classroom at the school where I teach now. When I met with the assistant principal today to talk about my application, and she told me why I hadn't been hired, I was immediately full of tears. Because, on the one hand, she may not have been right about one or two things, but on the other hand, the observations she shared from the interview committee were so dead on.
People, it's all about being authentic, and about living out in the classroom what I espouse in the faculty meeting. And in the moment, under the eye of other teachers, feeling like I am in a classroom with students that aren't mine, I fail. Over and over again, I fail. I have been making the wrong people my role models, again, because (and I wish I could get this through my head) they are not me! I have to stop using other people's tools. They don't work for me. The minute I put up a box for children to earn "points," the minute I take down names, the minute I threaten to call someone's mom, I HAVE LOST. I've lost it. I lose my cool, my resolve, my nerve, and all my fine talk about being a relational teacher and seeking to connect first? Like unto dust in the wind, dude.
I'm trying to see it as a gift: the gift of being the co-teacher again. Of not being in charge of planning. Of not having to be on the front lines of parent communications. Of getting to just be me.
Have I been me in the classroom? No. I've been me in my small groups, mostly. I've been choosing books I know the children will love, having them practice with movement and art and games. Now to find the balance between teaching lessons I didn't write, and chucking it all out the window to dance and paint all day.
I have four more days with this class as their leader. Four more days to turn it around, to give them my best. To actually dare to try something, instead of grinding -- GRINDING -- through the day, feeling nothing but regret and exhaustion at the end. Four more days to try to figure out why it is that the two African-American girls in the class are the two I am having the hardest time reaching; I have so much to unpack, so much to examine.
And it's hard. And it hurts. Every day hurts. I'm trying to trust that I am learning, and that I am in the right place, and that they want me to continue in this role, because they see potential. The school sees that I have something they need, and I need to find a way to let that shine out more.
Nothing feels easy with this job. I need to roll it all back in, and really figure it out, because if I don't it will eat me alive.
Sometimes, I really hate learning. Learning is HARD. Growth is HARD. And what happens again and again, is that I see that the path forward, is really a path back. It's a path that reminds me to be what I am, teach how I teach, and trust the children.
I need that tattooed on my forehead. Or on a BIG poster paper in my classroom. (doing that tomorrow. yep.)
It's never easy to start writing again. To sit still and let the words come as they will. I've cut myself off from the words, from the writing and the making and the creating. Creativity is like some kind of magic spring -- the water only flows if you let it flow, and the well becomes dry if the water cannot flow out of it.
I haven't been telling, or consulting, or writing. I've been teaching, but finding my way in a new school, with such different structures and parameters from those I'm accustomed to... And I feel adrift. Sad.
Did I let it go too easily, that life of creating, that took me to warm beaches and let me share my deep joy and love of story with people? I asked the Source for stability, and to put me back in the classroom. And I got what I asked for. So now what to do with it?
I'm going to offer another story/reading course later this spring. Just two weeks, because four is too much. I'm stepping away from strictures around what I can make, and what I can support, and doing what I can. There's been no activity here on the blog for four months, and nothing new offered since diving deep and coming out of the forest -- which was MAGICAL, people; simply MAGICAL -- so maybe I'm forgotten. That's okay. I'll be doing what I do here, and trying to find myself again under it all.
I'm asking questions these days -- How can one be a Waldorf teacher, teaching out of the wisdom that comes through anthroposophy, but not be in a Waldorf school (not even homeschooling)? Why, in the midwest, is Waldorf only available to those who can afford private tuition? And is a rigorous, academic-focused curriculum, focused on "data-driven" goals, really the best we can offer children affected by systemic oppression? Really?
How can I bring storytelling, beauty, music, art, practical activities, developmental movement, and reverence into an already packed school day?
Is there value in sharing stories, music, art, poetry, with children who may lack the background information to fully comprehend and learn from the piece?
Are things only of value if they instruct, and if we can teach children to analyze and comprehend? To GRASP? Or is there something intrinsic?
If eyes were made for seeing, is beauty really it's own excuse for being?
And how on earth has bedtime gotten so late at my house?
There's no end to the questions.
And I find myself wanting to hide, even here, even now. I'm afraid to be seen -- being a teacher is so very public. Can I write about my faith? About my spiritual practices? About my struggles?
Are teachers allowed to be whole people?
I'm open to conversation around any and all of these questions. And if you can tell me a story along the way, I'd love it. My well is feeling very dry.
FLASH SALE! Until tomorrow night, I am offering a flash fairy tale Story/Reading. Just drop me an email and let me know you're interested, and tell me anything that's coming up for you right now, and I'll choose a fairy tale just for you. I'll send you a link and a pdf of questions and prompts. It's like a New Year's oracle reading, in fairy tale form! And it's just $15!!! I'll send you a paypal invoice, and we'll go from there.
I just finished recording Mother Holle for our Story/Journey together that starts THIS FRIDAY!! I am really looking forward to this. We have room for a few more -- signups are open through tomorrow, so come on! It's going to be amazing.
there's one week before the story/reading journey, diving into the well and coming out of the forest, begins. we will be exploring two wintery tales, full of magic and wonder.
We have room for a few more companions on our way. Spend as much or as little time on it as you wish. All that's required, is that you listen to the stories, and listen to your life. Go deep, or just trail your fingertips in the waters of the magic well. It's up to you.
I'm offering this course in the winter, at the turning of the year, because it's a time of reflection and looking forward. Two-faced Janus stands in the doorway of the new year, and asks us to see into our own pasts, and to make our plans and dreams for the future. What better way, than through the voices of the long past, telling stories of once upon a time, a time so long ago that perhaps it never was? What better way, than to dream through stories that read like dreams themselves, where anything is possible?
No experience is needed, except the experience of being human and living on earth. No materials are required, except what you wish to use to explore your new dreams and new understandings -- pencils, paper, computer, crayons, playdough, clay, paints, fiber, felt, leaves, stones, your body, your voice . . .
Imagine pausing in the midst of your day, and noticing that you can see whatever situation arises, as the call to adventure. Imagine seeing your loved ones on their own paths through the woods, and having your heart fill with wonder at their courage.
Come with us.
I believe in this work. I believe in the power of fairy tale work to change lives. This is a way to make shifts that are deep, powerful, and affirming of your story.
However, this is subtle work. I've been asked, "What will I really get from this work?" and it's so hard for me to describe. I've tried. All I can ask, is that you try it. And maybe for you, it won't be that big of a shift. You may find only a tiny glimmer of light. When it's really dark, tiny lights are so bright.
Having done this fairy tale work, using it daily to re-examine my life story and my current place on the journey, I can truly say that it works, that the little changes add up, and that the deeper I go, the more amazed I feel.
This work can change your relationships. It can open new doors. It can alert you to something you've been overlooking. I want you to experience it.
For all these reasons, I have chosen to drop my price for this course. Not because I thought the price was too high -- It is worth every penny -- but because I want it to be accessible and available.
We are going to start later, too, as I've heard from a number of people that December 26 is just too much in the thick of things. I understand. Let's wait a bit, and I'll whisper these stories into the quiet of the new year.
$27. I'm holding space for you throughout the deepest darkness of the year, and as the light returns, we are going to make this journey together. Won't you come along?
What does it mean to read your life like a fairy tale? We can point to the Hero's Journey, or the Heroine's Journey, but how do we listen to the story our own lives are telling and determine what part of the arc we are at?
The complication that makes this work so worthwhile, is that the story can be said to begin at so many places in our lives. We can read the arc of every relationship, of every job or career move, of every change of place, as its own distinct story. Each strand of story is woven, braided with other strands to create the multicolored, shimmering, living rope of your life.
Let's take a familiar example of Little Red Riding Hood. We can say that the adventure begins with the girl setting out into the woods with her basket. but perhaps it really begins with the red hood itself. We can read this story, and say, "oh, this is like when I went off to college, and I met that guy in the quad..." That assumes that we are the heroine of the story, that we are the central character. And it's not wrong. The scene of Red's encounter with the wolf in the forest is the turning point of the story, the moment of decision. You have thought of a moment in your own life that felt that big, and seemed to push your life down a path you hadn't wanted.
Once we identify this piece of story, this potent scene that stands out so sharply against the rest of the narrative, we are ready to begin working with our own story. It's important to identify the work to be done here. Do you feel shame over the encounter? Maybe you are wanting to understand what happened next. Perhaps the emotion that arises with the story is one of rage, and perhaps it's a gentle, happy wonder -- "Look what would have been different if I hadn't met him! I would be someone else."
We can look for echoes of that moment -- where did it happen again? And again? And where is it happening RIGHT NOW? Where are you giving the time of day to someone or something you know to be destructive? Where are you taking a risk to move beyond prescriptions?
It's important to create these scenes as vividly as possible -- recreate that moment in your mind. Feel what you felt. Smell what you smelled. Hear the music. See if there are details that you thought you had forgotten. Can you shift the view? Can you see the story through the wolf's eyes? Through the hood's eyes (if hoods had eyes...)? Are you, in your life, in one of those other roles today?
This is just the beginning.
If something comes up that feels too big, let it go, or take it to a professional. I'm not a counselor, social worker, psychologist, or pastor. I'm just a fellow traveler.
Are you intrigued? Here is a link to a group journey with two fairy tales -- Mother Holle, and Baba Yaga (tale 1). I'd love to have you along. You can also sign up to do some individual work with me, using a story I will choose just for you.
You story is waiting, and yet, it is running even now. You are in this story. Let's take a look around together.
This summer, I got to go to the National Storytelling Network's summer conference for the first time. It was amazing to be surrounded by storytellers from around the country, and some from other countries, who were exceedingly welcoming, supportive, and kind.
The day before the official conference opened, I took part in the Healing Story Alliance's pre-conference workshop, led by Lani Peterson. Lani does deep, world-changing work in Boston with people who have experienced homelessness or incarceration, and with other community members, facilitating their understanding of one another through storytelling.
There was a lot A LOT of stuff that I took away from that workshop. I'm not a trained psychologist, so much of it went over my head, but there was a part of the morning when we talked about helping people to tell their stories in order to re-construct their sense of self, helping them to "thicken" their stories. We go from the old normal -> through an experience of liminality and "undoing" our story -> to arrive at a new normal, where we are intentional in our responses. We then can return to the beginning of the story and help others.
This is the hero's journey, folks. We get to take that fairytale, mythic path every single day.
But it goes deeper.
We get to take that path every single moment of the day. In the pause between stimulus and response, where we make a conscious choice, we are responding to the call to adventure. That moment is sometimes briefer than the blink of an eye.
In every breath, in every response to our children, in every time we choose to speak up against hatred, and in every moment that we respond out of choice and not out of habit, we are heroes. We can have a thousand epic journeys in every day.
Those tiny, miniscule stories are woven together into the novel of our lives, the huge bildungsroman that tells of our journey from innocence to knowing, and then, we hope, into wisdom.
There is so much more to pull out of those few short hours, and I hope to bring you examples and insights over the next few weeks.
If you missed last night's facebook live, I have the video for you right here! Enjoy!
Thank you for reading. For commenting. For clicking. For listening.
Thank you for supporting me and my work.
Thank you for living in this world. For working and playing and cooking and tending and stitching. For building and tinkering.
Thank you for feeding people. For teaching them. For opening your doors and hearts and hands.
Thank you for all you do and are.
I know, I know. It's the holidays. You are, maybe, frantically checking your bank balance daily to make sure that you can cover all the food, feasting, gifts, events, clothing... Or maybe you're super organized and have it all in hand, carefully budgeted.
I want to encourage you to give yourself this gift. A gift of a new way of seeing your life story, and your path into the new year.
Mother Holle and Baba Yaga are well known in their home countries. They are powerful expressions of the wild feminine. Both have been pointed out as expressions of pre-Christian goddesses hidden in tales for children. Mother Holle rewards the good and punishes the bad. Baba Yaga, in her chicken-legged hut, provides information, wisdom, and initiation, but only to those who follow her rules and don't get themselves eaten in the process.
What will you get out of this work? A stronger sense of your own power to understand and choose your life story, artistic and writing invitations to take you deeper into the stories, and a potent technique for shifting your viewpoint when you feel stuck, overwhelmed, or lost in the woods.
We will be exploring two stories together over the course of four weeks. Want to know a little more about the kind of work we'll be doing? Check out this post: A Taste of Story-Reading.
Maybe you feel a little lost or fearful, or maybe you are downright terrified. Maybe you are searching for a new start, or a new way forward. Maybe you feel lost in the woods. Or maybe you feel like you are finally coming into your own.
I'd love to support you through story. My Story/Readings are an opportunity to explore your life story through the lens of fairy tales. Together, we venture down these ancient paths to find the wisdom you seek. From high, far-off cliffs and from humble cottages in the woods, we find a new perspective and new possibilities.
I've lowered the price on my story/reading sessions and simplified the offerings. It would be an honor to work with you.
Want to try it? Click here!
Questions? Comment below and I'll answer!
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.