Of Ice and Eyes of Mary

Ice covered our region about a week ago and our community is still recovering. We lost power over the weekend, while half our town lost power for a week. At the farm, the electricity was gone only long enough to give us a deep appreciation for hot water and offer us some peaceful time cooking food on our wood stove and playing lots of Scrabble. The power outage was a lot less fun for most of the people in our town. Everyone down by the Connecticut River had to drain their pipes, move the contents of their freezers out into the snow, haul water from the river to feed their livestock, and take refuge in hotels or homes with power.

For all its challenges, it was a crisis in which people took care of each other and the power companies worked twenty four seven to get things going again. Everyone pitched in with kindness. It made me wonder whether this same generosity will rule the day with the other crises we face as a country right now.

This week the husband of one of the Green Hope staffers was let go from his work with no advanced notice. He came in to his job and was told to pack up his work station and go.

My own husband, Jim, was told that after fifteen years teaching sixth grade social studies and English, he would be teaching seventh and eighth grade math and science next year as a way to lower the school budget. I could walk you though the reasons given for this decision, but think I will dwell on other aspects of this situation.

Jim is very passionate about how important it is for sixth graders to have a world separate from seventh and eighth graders. It gives these twelve year olds one more year to be kids, before being blasted by all the peer pressures of an American teen. This new plan will see his sixth grade program swept into a sixth through eighth grade pod with him no longer teaching any sixth graders.

He worked for fifteen years to create a sixth grade program that includes such highlights as a curriculum based wilderness program in the White Mountains, a social studies curriculum dovetailing with books read for English, and class scheduling with long class periods to take his students deep into the creative projects he has developed over the years. Today for example, he has his kids involved in a very elaborate treasure hunt based on the constitution. With his fellow sixth grader teacher, he has created a sixth grade year where kids ask to have “working lunches” so they can keep on discussing Lois Lowry’s “The Giver”.

In the new configuration the sixth graders lose the White mountain trip, all read alouds, long class periods, recess, and Jim.

This is a personal loss for Jim as well. He is passionate about sixth grade and social studies. Fifteen years ago, after a stint in the much more lucrative field of hospital administration, Jim chose to return to classroom teaching, specifically the sixth grade classroom.

As he looks down the barrel of a whole new life, he knows that not only does he have to come up with four new curriculums for next year in subjects he has never taught, but he will have only three years to pass the science “Leave No Child Behind” praxis test in order to keep teaching the new curriculum he has been given. The praxis science test for a seventh and eighth grade science teacher is a test for 7th-12th grade certification and requires an expertise in all the materials taught in high school chemistry, physics, and biology.

Jim has never taught any of these subjects and has not studied them in thirty years. While several years ago he boned up on his calculus to get 7-12 certification in math, he does not feel any grade school teacher he knows could pass the “Leave No Child Behind” science test and does not expect to pass it himself. This means he can plan on teaching new subjects for three years, before needing to find a new job. And this is a man who has been in the classroom for twenty three years!

Besides needing to let off steam here, my point is broader than our specific troubles. In the days to come, it looks like this sort of sea change is going to sweep over a lot of lives. There are going to be opportunities for all of us to act and react from our most generous centered selves instead of our most fear driven ones.

In light of the economy and the way education in New Hampshire is almost entirely funded on property taxes, Jim and his fellow teachers expected reductions in staffing and other changes to come to their school. But they had hoped that they would be given the chance to brainstorm with each other and with administrators and school board members before changes were made. This did not happen. There was no communication or dialog before the changes were mandated.

Retroactively, they have asked to be given a chance to come up with some different staffing configurations that fit the budgetary constraints, but better protect the programs. I hope that this will be allowed to happen.

All this has me sipping a big glass of water with Eyes of Mary Flower Essence in it. I can get pretty fired up about who did what to whom, but I realize that my only option is to calm down, focus on how I can listen to Jim without pushing my own solution on him, and think how I can practice what I preach in my own life as CEO of Green Hope Farm.

Interestingly enough, it was Eyes of Mary that was the Flower that we chose to represent the Green Hope Farm Collection of Flower Essences. Eyes of Mary Flower Essence is all about seeing everything in overview, loving with detachment, and supporting people amidst their trials and tribulations without trying to “fix” things. I am leaning on Eyes of Mary right now to help me understand that the situation Jim is in serves his journey, even if, right now, the situation just makes me mad.

It’s a two pronged thing. I want to try not to act from any fear driven place in me that keeps a negative chain reaction going. I want to try and live from the same sort of generous place that prevailed in people in our town this week as neighbor helped neighbor when the lights went out.

I also want to try to remember how much I have learned from situations that are just like this situation Jim faces. I need to remember that this circumstance is giving him an opportunity to learn something his soul wants to learn more than his soul cares about job security. To take his teaching life into his own hands and stand up for himself and all he believes in is an opportunity for him to see his own courage in action. I don’t have to fix anything, just bear witness with love.

I had a funny dream last night. I was at a library sitting with a young mother and baby. The baby was just a few weeks old but tremendously strong with sparkling blue eyes and a presence that filled the room. She was the new wisdom in a room of old wisdom. In the dream, we knew that something way out to sea had been taken and for some reason we decided to send the baby out to sea to reclaim what had been taken. We set the baby up with a big motorboat. Quite a lot of attention was paid to getting her the right outboard engine for the boat, and then we sent her off, confident that she was the one for the job.

I feel this way about this time. We can’t go forward with the tired old wisdom and tools of patriarchy and expect anything to be different. What’s broken can’t be fixed by the culture that broke it. But the dream left me feeling encouraged. The new paradigm of the sacred feminine has been born. She may be young but she’s feisty, talented, and ready to roll. We’ve got the equipment to support her expedition. And she has already head off to sea to reclaim what was once lost. That’s all very good news.