Cody Cosay, a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, died last week, almost 13 months after his second lung transplant. He was in my 8th grade language arts and newsletter/yearbook classes for the small portion of the 2007-08 school year that he was able to be in school. Vivacious and full of laughter and energy, he drove me crazy with his constant chatter and laughter in class, but I loved his creativity and passion. He'd always leave a trail of tissues and markers and papers behind him, forgetting his binder here or book there, and then he'd laugh at me when I'd try to lecture him. In fact, it was impossible to be angry with Cody; he was a hero.

He was sick as a baby with bum lungs, and he fought his whole life for his health and peace. Last year, I was as prepared for his death as I think I could have been. He'd had his first lung transplant when he was in 7th grade, and he rejected those in Aug. 2007. Around Christmas 2007, when I went to visit him, his mother told me before I saw him that he was dying. And it sounded as though Cody was ready for some peace. But he continued to fight, and on Feb. 17, 2008, he was given a second lung transplant. He returned triumphant for the last month of school, and I was grateful for every chatty moment and bit of laughter that I got to share with him. I was especially thrilled to celebrate with him his 8th grade promotion ceremony from Canyon Day Junior High. We also told him that we'd be there when he graduated from high school.

Cody, our Geronimo (your hero), I can't believe you're gone. Go in peace, angel.



Today I feel discouraged, but hopeful in my discouragement. Without these low moments, how would I grow? I'm trying to ask the right questions so that I might discover the right answers.

I feel discouraged by the majority of my students who lack any intellectual curiosity and front a total apathy to the world around them, confronting me with statements like, "Persepolis [the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi] is boring," or questions like "Why do we have to learn about Iran?" I'm discouraged because if I were a more inspiring or articulate person/teacher, I wouldn't have to be bombarded with such attitudes. How do I inspire them to learn for the love of learning and to inquire for the desire to know? I watched "Harold and Maude" last night, and thought, wow, what spirit, what curiosity, what joy at the unending mystery and beauty of life. How do I convey that to my students?

For one, I have to live it. I have to be it. And I can't criticize my students when I'm not inquiring, when I'm not feeling grateful for every moment of being and every mystery of the universe and every puzzle there is for me to solve. I need to be inspired in order to inspire, and honestly, sometimes I am, and sometimes I'm not. It's like seeking enlightenment to seek that constant feeling of blessing and joy and gratitude for life!

And I'm discouraged because of the students I don't know how to help. How do I reach the students who don't try to succeed? How do I help the students who just sit there, tuned out, not seeking my help, especially when I have 29 other students in the classroom and 20 of them are raising their hand? How? I want to help them. I need to help them. Or else I doom them.


The Temp

This weekend I went out with some coworkers, and I asked one of them if she'd heard any buzz about me in the English department as the newbie since I sometimes feel a bit invisible. I was seeking positive or constructive feedback, but she said no, there was no buzz. In fact, she said, everyone's so worried about what's going to happen to his/her job next year that they just view me as "the teacher who's not going to get her job back next year." Or that I'm viewed almost as "a student teacher": here now, gone tomorrow.

This comment was a bit brutal. Is it the stigma of being "temporary" that makes me so easily dismissed or is it something lacking in my work/work ethic? (I think I'm doing a stellar job for coming in at the middle of the year and teaching four courses and replacing the most popular teacher in the school and being liked by my students! Boo yah!--That was a little self-encouragement that sometimes I forget to give myself. It's easy for me to take to heart unintended criticism.)

But I wonder how people who profess to the desire to build community and solidarity at this time can be so dismissive of anyone. Rather than take this personally, I have to consider that in their eyes, I won't be around long, so what's the point in building a relationship? I understand that. I get that. I will try not to be like that, though, and to always make others feel welcome, wanted, and appreciated for their time, effort, and hard work. Especially when they are most obviously working hard.

As for that particular crew, a combination of social studies and English teachers from a couple of schools, who cares: I didn't feel like I belonged with their crowd. Several of them were quite friendly, smart, witty, but overall, I got this feeling that they were a pretentious group, proud of themselves for their ability to use erudite lexicon and several of them greeted me with all the warmth of an arctic blast. Hot air and cold air: I'd rather have fresh air.