Rebel Yell

Daal!

I began eating independently at a very young age, I’m told. Even though half the food ended up on the floor, I still insisted, by screaming, to eat on my own. I smile every time my mom shares the story of me eating rice and daal for the first time. (Click here for an awesome Daal recipe!) “She was a rebel from day one,” she says. I always took pride in innately being a rebel. It showed my strength, it showed my need to be an individual–to never conform. As a teen, I was every parent’s nightmare. I did what ever I wanted, when I wanted, no matter what I was advised to do. As an adult, I have begun to see that this trait that lives deep inside of me, while it makes me a better person most of the time, can some times mislead me. Because you see, while I am a rebel to the core, I also have trouble with authority: If an authority figure tells me one thing, I instinctually want to do the opposite. Conforming has always been hard, even more so as an adult.

About a month ago, I had an opportunity to boldly share my rebellious spirit in a workshop.  I chose to share because I was so tired of keeping my mouth shout in these workshops, while screaming on the inside. During this workshop, we were to write our unit plans for Writers Workshop.  I chose to plan my actually idea which was to add an assignment that was slightly different to the curriculum. (Currently, mandated curriculum is the new fad that is sweeping the nation in education. By this I don’t mean curriculum that mandates a set of skills per quarter, but instead a curriculum that mandates skills, themes, books, everything to the point where it feels like you are a robot in the classroom.) Being the rebel that I am, it felt good to say it out loud and not hide in the classroom anymore. Most people whom I shared this with, agreed and validated my ideas about this assignment. On this particular day, however, I was scolded and asked “how was I preparing my students for their future as writers?” Shit!–It was the exact reason I had chosen to do the assignment: to prepare them for real world writing. (We planned to write a grant.) Then, I thought but by doing this higher order writing, am I not giving them the foundation they so need as academic writers?  Should I be ensuring they know the basics about persuasive essays instead of grants.  Am I asking them to run before they can walk?  I mean, what do 7th graders really need?  Foundation or inspiration?

It got me thinking about all those who fought for my rights as a woman and as a person of color. Was MLK Jr. a rebel in his time? Was Susan B. Anthony or Sojourner Truth? Wait, I am not saying that my rebellion or work comes close to the hard work of these inspiring activists, but I must say that it is rebels with a cause that affect change in this world. However, I am torn, conflicted really: the teenage rebel who will forever live inside me is screaming, “Do something! Talk to someone, Change this atrocity! Make the curriculum more relevant.”, whilst the adult teacher who seeks balance in her life calmly reminds me of how easy life would be if I taught the curriculum as is and moved on with my life. I could potentially accomplish more in my personal life if I did the mandated curriculum as is and jazzed it up within the lines.

It has been a challenging dilemma to live within. Do I fight not knowing the outcome or shut my door and rebel softly by adding to the curriculum or tweaking it here and there. Perhaps it comes down to what I can live with. As a toddler, doing as I was told was not an option. I had to color outside the lines, even if it meant that I wouldn’t get fed the right amount of food. Thirty years later, she still resides in me and is a powerful, creative, passionate source of energy. It is an energy that I struggle to quiet and even when I do quiet her am infinitely wondering whether she is right after all.

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