I spent a rainy Saturday morning at the first Connecticut Council of Teachers of English conference.
Truth: I debated going. I signed up at about 5 am when I was sure the morning would be a washout. The breakout sessions seemed to be more geared to secondary teachers than elementary, and I really had to get behind myself.
Truth: Kate Robert and Maggie Beattie Roberts were the keynote speakers, and I knew they'd be funny.
Truth: They were. And they were also incredibly insightful and inspirational.A lot of what they talked about had to do with the damaging quest so many of us have to be perfect. I loved the reminder from Kate that "Imperfection is not what keeps great things from happening." In fact, we have to survive a whole lot of imperfection in order to grow, learn, and achieve. We have to try and fail, try again and fail again. I know that, but perfect still tends to be the skunk at my party.
They also talked a lot about the importance of activism. Maggie described a neighbor who required, as admission to her birthday party, a letter each party-attender had written in the spirit of activism. Maggie challenged us all to think about what we have to do, how we have to be, in order to have a civic voice. Pause and think about that for a minute.
In the room, we talked about it, and then she spoke for the group: be informed, take risks, participate... "When you're complaining, what are you doing to change it?" she asked all of us.
When I got home from the conference, I mentioned to my daughter about something that was really bothering me. Something pretty big, pretty universal.
"You can't change that," she said. "Everyone does it. It's like a whole world thing."
"And black people once rode in the back of buses and their kids went to separate schools," I said.
She stared. Opened her mouth, then wisely closed it.
Like so many parents, I'm trying to be perfect. Clearly, I'm falling short in the realm of activism, but Kate and Maggie helped me think about that, too, on Saturday morning. How to work on imperfections?
- Focus and name the goal.
- Take baby steps.
- Get help--have mentors.
So here's my goal: Make sure my daughters understand the importance of doing something when they have complaints. Maybe Saturday morning counts as a baby step. Maybe sharing some of Kate and Maggie's important messages counts as another one!