Contrasts and Contradictions from Literature to Life

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Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC)

The challenge is to write all 31 days of March.

Day 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about the signpost of Contrasts and Contradictions from the Beers and Probst book Notice and Note. As I think about the contrasts and contradictions I find in literature and how much students can learn from them, I also think about how contrasts and contradictions teach us about much more than the plot; they also teach us about human nature and life in general. Schools and those of us who fill them are full of contrasts and contradictions.

Now, as I am writing daily and seeing the wise responses from slicers, I am taking a look at my thoughts and seeing the mass of contrasts and contradictions that happen all around me each day.

By nature, I am hard on myself. I cannot stand my weaknesses. When they are exposed, I shudder and beat myself up. When I messed up the other day by neglecting to get a sub for my district level curriculum planning, I feared angering my principal because the last thing I want to do is “chap his hide” (that is his expression, btw).

Apologetically and sheepishly, I approached him the morning I realized I had messed up the day of my district level curriculum planning and that I had no sub for that very day, and I offered him a partial solution.  Proactively and calmly (without anger–his hide did not seem chapped), he met my partial solution with a complete solution, by figuring out how to get me coverage for the day. The secretary who handles procuring last minute subs was out that morning. Even left short subs, he handled it with composure and didn’t get upset with me. I was waiting for some sort of chastising, some sort of comment of disappointment, but all I received was a calm “it is what it is” attitude and efficient handling of the situation.

When I met this new principal of mine, I thought I was getting one of those good ol’ boy social studies teacher coaches as administrator type of leaders, and I assumed he would know little about instruction and that he just wouldn’t get me. During my 20 minute meeting with him last spring as an incoming principal, he calmly listened and commented as I shared with him my two page bulleted list as to how I thought we could improve the school. While I was thinking, that he thought I was a neurotic and babbling teacher, he was thinking (as I recently learned) that I cared about the quality of instruction, that I was knowledgeable and passionate about my field, and that I was a person of action who would challenge the status quo.

As I was stereotyping him, he was seeing the good in me. During the summer, he called me and asked me to be his ela department head. Really, I thought he was just listening to the recommendations he was given. I had no idea what his thoughts had been from our spring meeting. 

The school year began, and he and I butt heads at our first meeting with both of us walking away wondering if we would be able to work together for all our contrasts and contradictions. The next day we came to terms as allies, realizing that we would need to deal with our contrasts in a different sort of way. And now, I would say we are more than allies, we are collaborators working to do what is best for students, and we work together to do what is best for kids in a symbiotic sort of way. I need his practical ways, his logic and common sense, his knowledge of how to slow down, step back and gain perspective. And he, well, he needs my visionary spirit, my willingness to take instructional risks, my passion for ela, my dedication to literacy and finding what works, and my content knowledge.Being that we are in middle school, we need the witty banter as well (yes, I must say this principal is not the average good ol’ boy–he is quick witted, knowledgable and proactive–in spite of what I originally thought). 

Yesterday he and I discussed my snafu, and he told me with all that I do well every day he can handle the occasional mistakes. I expected disappointment, but his words and actions contradicted that and showed appreciation for all I do. He and I  went on to discuss our visions for literacy and ways to bring those visions to fruition. He is showing me how to take a step back, get perspective, slow down, and get buy in. 

At the beginning of the year, I was truly afraid that he and I would not be able to work well together. What I once saw as a contrast and contradiction is more of a balance, and I am thankful for the people in my life who keep me grounded and help me find my way. I am beginning to realize that those people who keep me grounded are thankful for my visionary spirit.

I am also realizing that contrasts and contradictions are opportunities for change and growth.

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7 thoughts on “Contrasts and Contradictions from Literature to Life

  1. I love the positive attitude you take to the contrasts and contradictions in your school. It sounds like you have a great relationship with your new principal. I’ve been fortunate with our principals the last fourteen years. I will definitely remember your approach as our middle school is facing many changes coming soon.

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  2. Check out my post on finding what we’re looking for. This makes me smile as I think about a person who walked softly into my life this fall and surprised me by reawakening my spirit… And then walked back out. It was a living, breathing, fallible human who did not disguise any faults… And yet reached my soul as though sent from Heaven.

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  3. Paul

    William Blake: “Without contraries is no progression.” The tension of contraries creates dynamism.

    You sound a lot like me in terms of the standards you set for yourself. So let me give you some advice I will likely never take myself: relax, breathe, cut yourself some slack. Your Principal did, and he sounds like a pretty reasonable guy. 🙂

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  4. alwriting

    Maya, sometimes it is about complementary skills. Finding out about our colleagues is a bit like learning to dance- you stumble a bit at first, but in time you get your rhythm and start to operate more cohesively. Your piece possessed an honesty, capturing the reality of our working relationships as educators.

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  5. Your thoughts are quite uplifting and remind, once again, how much depends on our perspective. To view a contrasting perspective or personality as complimentary is to find what makes a community work and thrive. Thank you, Al.

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