It has been a while since I last posted, and I'm sure those of you reading this (all two of you, if that) are wondering where I've disappeared to.
To say that a lot has happened since the last time I wrote here would be an understatement. But I'm not here to talk about that.
I'm here because it would be a crime to let a day like today go undocumented. Where do I begin?
It all started sometime in early November when I came across a Huffington Post article titled, "Mommy, I Promise We Will Never Be Hungry Again." The economic (and social, because the two are inseparable at this point) situation in Greece has had a big impact on me for years now, but it was this article that got me thinking... and doing something about it.
I threw a crazy idea at my parents the next morning at breakfast: "What if I could teach some Greek kids here in Astoria how to knit? And what if we could auction off their work and donate the money to an orphanage in Athens?" I'm a firm believer in the power of knitting to do good in this world and if a sweater can actually feed a child, well, that's a sweater with superpowers. I am, of course, all for this.
My mother passed on the idea to Deacon Eugenios at St. Irene's Church in Astoria the following morning. Deacon Eugenios was also a teacher (now principal) at St. Irene's Greek School. He was moved that a young professional would offer up her knowledge and time to a project like this. (It didn't hurt that he really wanted to learn how to knit as well.) So the next weekend, he gave me a class of about fifteen middle school students. And we began.
I have mentioned before my love and appreciation for teaching. And I never took for granted the honor and privilege it is to be able to teach, and teach children/young adults at that. But teaching this class is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.
It's been well over a month now. We have had many challenges. My kids are not... tame. They are brilliant, sharp, and funny. They are also unbelievably wild and tireless pranksters. I have never been a confrontational person. I do not like to yell, and I do not like to fight. I am far more comfortable interacting with people one-on-one than in groups, much less rowdy and fragmented groups.
You can tell where I'm going with this.
Amazingly enough, I had a couple students genuinely interested in learning and exploring the subject matter on their own during the week. These were the students that not only remembered what we had done the week before, but had actually moved ahead. I did not want to kid myself - their learning was more their doing than mine. But one of my mentors told me that even if I could teach four kids how to knit by the end of this, then I would have done a great job.
Four out of fifteen is not great odds, but given my mentor's years of teaching experience (and the fact that she is a mother of two young kids herself), I knew well enough to believe her.
This morning, like every Saturday, I went to school. Like every Saturday, I knew whatever plans I'd made for class during the week would go out the window in the first five minutes of class.
This was quickly becoming a non-workable situation (and unfortunately not the only non-workable situation in my life at the moment). But, as it turns out, I was not the only teacher for which this was the case.
I will spare you the details. What it came to was a conversation I had with my class at the very end, a conversation where I shared with them exactly what I've shared in this post with you - the article I read (and yes, I cried talking about it, just like I cry EVERY time I talk about it), my dream for this project, the importance of making a difference in people's lives. I spoke to them the way I would speak to any of my friends, family, coworkers. I asked for their help to make this happen.
I believe that my kids are capable of greatness, even when they turn the classroom into a volleyball court (yes, that too happened this morning.) I believed in them since day one. If anything, I am genuinely curious as to why they do the things they do, because I was never like that as a child. But I was also invited into this school to do a job, and fulfill a mission.
After my heart-to-heart a young gentleman came to sit at the front of the class. He is one of the wildest of the bunch, and had even started giggling as I poured my heart out earlier. (I do not hold this against him - maybe I would have laughed at the crazy lady crying about sweaters and feeding kids too.) All of a sudden he asked, "Am I doing this right?" Not only had he cast on a number of stitches - CORRECTLY - he was knitting. KNITTING.
I had no idea he had even gotten past making a slip knot.
I do not know how far we will get. I do not know whether next week will be any different. But I am thankful for today.