“We are not good enough not to practice“, the title of Kiese Laymon’s essay, uses repetition with intention mixed with formal and informal language. I read this as both advice and anti-advice; a message contradicting itself at insections within paragraphs compelling me to read and reread and to write and rewrite. I am trying to love into my fears finding the intersections of contradiction. I am trying to love into many fears.
Fears at home, fears in friendships, and fears in education are palpable. They pulsate at three in the morning when the chaos of the mind lifts the lid of sleep. I’m trying to listen and feel, but right now, it might be too much. There are “reading wars” and verbalized doubt about the ability of the education system to successfully deliver professional development for destreamed English classes. There are forces “returning to normal” making me feel anything but. And, “normal” was never helpful. (But, that’s another essay for another day.)
While Kiese Laymon’s essay is clearly about writing, it might have well been about teaching. At least, that’s how I read it. The essay could be advice and anti-advice about the practice we enact in the classroom. “We are not good enough not to practice.”
I had the privilege of sharing in a circle conversation with an Indigenous scholar and my department this morning – my principal knows that this release time shifted our teaching practice last year. This time, with new members, we moved through conversation in different ways though similarly without a formal agenda, but with a vision to form a set of beliefs meant to guide our actions.
Part way through the sharing of a challenging situation, the Indigenous coach suggested that we do exactly what she was asking; we paused to write about our “why”, our honest reasons for wanting to teach. I know this matters. But, as I thought about Kiese Laymon, and I thought about that circle of new faces, I wish that I had the courage in the moment to ask some questions about fear. What are we afraid of? Now, I wonder, if we share our fears, might we collectively love into them.
I know that I am not good enough not to practice.