My Dear Friend, Our Inspiration

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Coffee with Antonio Elias

Ah summertime. It is true. Many times in our lives, as a teacher, we would like to retreat toward that which would make life easier. Perhaps we choose to fall into a string of Netflix series, or our favorite crime show rather than take care of the busy work of maintaining our home, both the physical and mental. I’m guilty of that as I find myself in mid-summer, recognizing only too soon a school year ahead, whereby my focus will be on new students, new projects, new ideals. I feel fortunate that I have moments of clarity that are provided in my world to allow such priority to return.

Not a day ago, I was imagining the coming year, and felt great trepidation, a sometime normal response from a teacher sitting on their deck on a hot summer day watching the birds. The sun finally dropped, and I moved from the natural habitat of a backyard to my home, and turned on a baseball game, watched a Netflix series, flipped on my favorite crime show. Are you following the pattern? The reality is, I was actively trying to ignore the coming school year, knocking at my door as it does every summer right around the end of July. Today is July 27th, such perfect timing to have a coffee with one of my favorite alumni. That young man on my left is a former student who by his own actions  truly helps me and many of my colleagues recognize exactly why we chose our profession as teachers.

Since graduating high school in 2013, I have been fortunate to enjoy a coffee with Antonio at least once, maybe twice a summer. To give you a little background, this gentlemen was an exceptional student in the classroom, earning a modest scholarship to help solidify the start of his post-secondary education. Once out there, he realized a world existed that he needed to adjust to rather than let it mold him. He made difficult choices, took on wonderful challenges and today finds himself reaping the rewards of genuine effort and perseverance in ideal and dream.

When I first met Antonio he was a student in a writing class I had the honor to teach. We over the course of the semester became friends, he shared pieces of his life that were remarkable to me given the current state of our political demographic. I showed a movie in class once, and he later came up to me afterward, and in his polite demeanor, looked at me with a nervous smile and said, ‘Mr Amundsen, this movie, it is about my life.’ I was stunned. What began from that day was an opportunity.

I am grateful this young man was the product of a burgeoning English Learning program at Shakopee High School, whereby he would touch the lives of many over the years to come. I could not speak upon his merits without lauding such an incredible EL team that guided his education along with many other students under their tutelage the entire way.

Fast forward to today, a young man who has given graduation speeches both in our high school, and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, taken on non-profit projects that have only been met with success to together with a partner starting a challenging Spanish language only podcast that supported honest discussions around social justice and education. Currently he holds a position with the largest school district in Minnesota, Minneapolis Public Schools,  that continues to support growth and success in measures that are designed to provide educational and societal benefit to student and family alike.

When I first met Antonio, his main goal was to finish his education so that he could provide for his own family. He wanted to be that person to right the wrongs, or simply engage people’s lives in a positive direction. As we drank coffee today, it was evident in his smile and candor that that work in progress continues forward, as does his own idyllic outlook on life. What a delightful annual conversation with an intriguing and optimistic young man. I continue to be grateful to his willingness to share his life choices, and have an ongoing dialogue together around purpose and philosophy.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

photo permission – Antonio Elias

youR, a teaCher fer cryin’ outLOUD!

Wait, what, yeah,

you are right,

so correct, me,

cannot argue that.

Its, Its, Its,

stranglehold on my life

is like,

I cannot breathe today

because I woke and realized,

it’s, it’s, it’s,

July.

 

Wait, what?

I mean

the end of July

for crying out loud.

 

Man,

get it together,

you are sitting on a couch

watching birds,

and have not a desire

to do anything else.

Thank God your pup

just appreciates

.laying upon your toes.

 

You’re a teacher, for crying out loud,

and its, it’s, its reflection

of time,

is

well, it’s,

well

it is ok,

(because I saw)

a cardinal perched nearby.

 

What a beautiful day

it is to be alive!


© Thom Amundsen 2019

I Teach While Learning

There is a humbling reality

while we try to understand

how our own brevity

can impact our command

~

Last night I dropped acid

on textbooks in minutia

my anger erupted an acrid

forced freedom in Ischia

~

We can so easily fall away

the choices will fuel martyrdom

I remember that one day,

I felt the earth in my kingdom.

~

but it slipped away as any

ego driven desire will go

I’d forgotten my way many

days before I’d begun to know.

~

Perhaps I’ll settle in the knowledge

We can bring them in off the ledge.

Why Do We Teach?

We measure our lives for the children,

whether we advocate

whether we understand

whether we accept

whether we gratify

whether we acknowledge

our own defeatist frame of mind

while trying to change lives along the way.

~

I faced an obstacle today, one that turned out

represented a state of mind,

a clear example of the human condition,

the reason I stand in a classroom everyday.

~

I watched as stubborn pride evolved into humility,

I listened as pain turned slowly toward humor,

even a chuckle that powdered the room,

an energy suggested we can return again,

to where it is we once stood,

that place we felt secure,

an opportunity,

a new door, that when respect

steps through with confidence,

becomes the road forward.

~

I faced an obstacle today, one that turned out

represented a state of mind,

a clear example of the human condition,

the reason I stand in a classroom everyday.

~

Could we step back and breathe,

might our lives find solace,

once the dust becomes an afterthought,

the cleansing has begun,

we might see truth

beyond our own selfish arrogance

lies in the eyes,

those are the needs of a teacher.

I’m Your Teacher

I wonder if you realize the time we imagine

the words we deliver might benefit the fine

beauty of the child,

taming of the wild.

We don’t ask to change a child’s life

we don’t imagine to understand strife

we offer all our time

with every bell chime.

The other day I walked outside and recognized

an error on my part is certainly ill advised.

Why would I choose pain,

what could be the gain.

I stand before you all daily in my classroom

I would welcome anyone until there were no room.

Yet I need to find an answer

I need to know the future.

I wish I could look you in the eye with a pleasant smile

suggest that what you worry about today is not your last mile

just another daily rule

to understand, why school.

We stand before you with hope and prayer and layered love

would not you think if we didn’t act to be your dove

we’d rather you be miserable,

we’d hold you inside a stable.

I stood in my classroom today and looked around the room

I wish the eyes I see today, could recognize truly the zoom.

this moment is a blip

in years your ideals flip.

Love in our future would be the goal of anyone needing peace

So please give liberty to the idea of some disrespectful release.

A humble teacher we are today

We only wish to delight your way

If Not For That

We wake to the morning

asking for our soul,

at least for a few hours,

protect the innocent,

that sort of thing that eats away,

asks you with a constant

urgency.

Do you have to be that way,

could you maybe perhaps

try it another way.

Does it always have to be,

the way you want it to be.

I feel a constant pressure,

at my back, in my face,

crawling along my skin,

each glance, each breath,

my takeaway is nothing short of,

really dissatisfying.

Yet, when I stop to breathe

(a rare reality)

I sometimes come to terms

with how base my society is,

how simple an analogy I could toss around,

and satisfy so many onlookers.

I have to consciously allow my life to unfold,

and when I do,

when that really does happen,

when I might feel the beauty of life around me,

rather than the angst of not having any energy,

when that occurs,

well, that’s really the best time to

teach.

Proud These Tears

There was that moment,

when standing,

holding court together,

we merged our simple lives,

with smiles,

I’ve watched you grow,

a calculated beautiful person,

we all knew you were from day one,

when I held you in my hands,

6:38 PM,

my life changed that day,

and yet I still managed to be human,

on far too many occasions,

Yet, today we stood,

we’d reached the end together,

a mid-stride for me

a certain beginning for you.

My daughter, you had me in tears,

the day I held you in my arms,

and today, I can love you,

as much as any other day,

I can see you living your life,

and you are just so damned beautiful.