Saturday, August 23, 2014

Take Me To The River

There is this ancient Greek dude who wants us to believe that you can't step in the same river twice. Heraclitus was a philosopher whose central tenant was that change is essential to life. All is in flux, nothing abides. Unless you happen to be the Dude. Not the Greek Dude, but the Dude who, you know. abides, man.
I may have strayed from my original point: There is wisdom out there that suggests that you can't step in the same river twice. I find this a little confounding, since I am about to step into that same river for the eighteenth time. I recently finished my seventeenth year of teaching at the same school here in Oakland. I don't tend to phrase it that way, however, since I find it more impressive to announce that I am "starting my eighteenth year." I don't believe this gets me any extra credit or puts me any closer to retirement, since that measure comes at the close of the school year. That wacky way that my calendar straddles a pair of years, and when I head back, it's still really the same year. Or it will be until December when everything starts to feel like it's sliding downhill.
At least that's the way it's been for the previous seventeen years. Standing in this same old river, I get the gist of what Heraclitus was saying, but it doesn't make my feet any less wet. The water around me is personified by the kids who fill the classrooms and playground. In the halls they have a distinctly river-like movement. Still, those third graders used to be second graders, and the fifth graders from way back in June have moved off down around the bend to middle school.
So maybe I'm not really standing there in the river so much as a metaphorical rock in the stream, altering the current as much as being washed over. Yes, there has been some erosion, and the banks feel just a little wider than they used to be, but it sure feels like the same old river. Change is everywhere, so change is a constant, and if I provide a long enough time line, I can see that my feet in this river don't amount to that much after all, only in comparison to those who have been there less than eighteen years. And since it just so happens that we house six years of elementary education under our roof, that means that I am finishing up my third full cycle of Kindergarten through fifth grade. The river of children that has flowed around me has moved downstream to a point where I probably wouldn't recognize most of them. In their place are a new crop, bubbling and frothing about, anxious to find their own way. Hold on while I commence to wade into that new river.

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