How to Be, Part I: Two Words

Gourd, Seton Village

Gourd, Seton Village

I am thinking of the two words for being in Spanish, ser and estar.

Estar is a temporary state.

Voy a Santa Fe tres veces a la semana. Estoy cansada. I’m tired of the drive to Santa Fe.

Estoy nerviosa porque tengo mucho que hacer. I have so much to do. It makes me nervous.

Estar is right now, in this moment. Estar will pass.

Ser is a permanent condition.

Soy alta. I am tall.

Ser tells the world what defines us. Soy de aquí. I am from here.

Ser says who we are, what we do. Soy Michelle. Soy escritora.

I am thinking of something I learned from Patty Lee, a master teacher who created the Teacher Renewal program at the Academy for the Love of Learning in Santa Fe. For the past three summers I’ve had the honor of working with Patty and a fine team to co-facilitate the Teacher Renewal Summer Institute, a professional development program at the Academy for teachers in Santa Fe Public Schools. Over three days teachers at all levels and disciplines release the school year, reconnect with the passion that led them to teaching, and challenge themselves to put into practice Patty’s words: We teach who we are.

I am thinking of the two spring semesters I spent as a teaching artist for El Otro Lado in the Schools in Santa Fe, one with seniors at Capital High, the other with fifth graders at Amy Biehl Community School. Those were early mornings, eating breakfast in my car, catching up with my mom on calls (hands-free) that would drop when I hit San Felipe’s Casino Hollywood. More than once I finalized that day’s lesson plan on the drive, cursing myself for not being more prepared, for always feeling rushed, for leaving behind the poem/photograph/thumb drive/song that would really land this lesson for my students. I’d pull into the school’s parking lot, take a deep breath, and check my teeth in the rearview mirror for remnants of energy bar or toast or—if I was lucky and Henry was up and at ‘em before I left home—breakfast burrito. Those mornings I taught tired. I taught nervous. I taught distracted.

And despite the me who showed up some of those mornings, there were moments of beauty. Asking a class of fifth-graders, “What’s the word?” and hearing twenty-five voices call back in their best Martín Espada impression, “¡Alabanza!” Confessing to a senior that the school’s kiln twisted the ceramic shrine she’d so painstakingly created and watching her shatter that deformed body, gather the shards, and re-fashion them into a mosaic that told a bigger story than the one she thought she wanted to tell. Though I was tired, I was able to drawn on deep reserves of poetry/photographs/files/songs and art and quiet moments carved out over decades of journal writing and long walks and solitude.

But my reserves were running low.

Next Week: How to Be, Part II

Published in: on April 2, 2014 at 12:34 pm  Comments (1)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. M, I reread this for the third time today and I actually feel like I am in the car with you. You convey what you are going through so beautifully and I could taste the burrito. I’d love to see the mosaic that the young student made. Thanks for sharing this. It makes me happy to be able to read your writings and think about what you were doing at the time. N

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Jennifer Givhan, Poet & Novelist

Landscape with Headless Mama

Demetria Martinez: Secrets of Joy

Author, Activist and Creativity Coach

marydudley's Blog

This site is the bee's knees

Stepping into Magic: an actor's journey...

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them" ~William Shakespeare

Julie Barton

Writer, Teacher, Speaker


a person regarded as a holder or receiver of something, esp. something nonmaterial

%d bloggers like this: