A good political Christmas song from a band that started right next door in Drew, MS
First Christmas in the South (Almost a Charlie Brown tree, and it may have been pirated from the side of the road, but it’s got the spirit)
At the Dahomey National Wildlife Management Area outside of Boyle, Mississippi. Some great birds, and a great sunset.
The cool breezes of fall are starting to reach the Delta, bringing the temperature and humidity to a more manageable level. The first quarter is coming to a close quickly, and I am entering my ninth week teaching social studies at Solomon Middle School. The days are long and the work feels never ending, but it feels good to be connecting to my students and presenting them with lessons that broaden their understanding of the world and connect them to the history of different cultures. It is fun to see my students beginning to understand where human creations like writing, law, farming, and government began. They experience the world through such a small bubble of understanding and experience, so it feels like anything I can do to widen their perspective is a small success. I have covered the progression from early hominids to farming societies, and the civilizations of Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. The conversations about the archeological facts of evolution were tough at times, and I did my very best to reconcile how this needed to be taught, while respecting the beliefs of very Fundamentalist form Christianity that permeates the beliefs of many of my students. Covering the early civilizations was less controversial, and a little bit more tangible for the students. We wrote in Cuneiform, followed the trade routes of Phoenician traders, and analyzed how Hammurabi’s Code might play out in today’s society. My favorite part of the day is the investment pieces that I open each lesson with. We do “Motivation Mondays”, where we have looked at everything from a Walt Whitman poem to Shaq talking about getting his PhD in Education. We do “Tuesday Newsday”, where we have looked at the current events that affect us and analyzed the presidential election. We do a Person of the Week on Wednesday, where we have studied people like Medger Evers, Nikola Tesla, and Nelson Mandela. We do music of Thursday, and have listened to historically relevant songs by everyone from Bob Dylan to Gil Scott Heron. On Friday, I give them a short French lesson for “French Friday”. With these mini-lesson combined with the main content, I feel like I can say that I have helped the students to broaden their perspectives on the world, understand people that do and have lived very differently, and helped them to see the relevance of social studies to being a human being on this planet. This is not to say that I feel particularly effective yet; being a first year teacher in the Delta is definitely a struggle each day and there is a lot more I need to do to feel like my classroom management and lesson delivery could be called effective.
The weekends are a great salvation that allow me to focus on some of the things that truly make me happy and keep me sane in a lifestyle that could be dominated by thinking about, working on, talking about, and stressing about school. I love spending Saturday afternoons in the hammock and learning songs on my Ukelele. My girlfriend, Megan, and I have found time to take adventures to kayak on Lake Grenada, attend the Highway 61 Blues Festival, see a poetry reading the Da House of Khafre, visit a Cyprus Preserve, and just explore all the history, culture, and sometimes absurdity that the Delta can offer. I am fully at peace when I can separate myself from the work that consumes much of my time, and just enjoy a beer and a good conversation at the Gin Mill or play some tunes on the porch. It is those little moments that give me just enough of a recharge to go forth into another week and say that I am truly enjoying everything that I am doing in the Delta. I miss my family, friends up north, mountains, craft beer, and so much else about New Hampshire and Vermont. So much that it pains me to see all of the beautiful pictures on Facebook of friends hiking in the White Mountains, my family attending our annual Lobster Bake in Maine, or the start of a new school year at Green Mountain College, but I know that what I am doing now is where I need to be, and if I can help a student get on a path for success or help them feel more connected to such a vast world, then what I am doing is good.