Game changers…

29:15.  That was my time.  Believe it or not, 15th for men, 41st overall in a 158 person race, and yet, with better shoes, better breathing practice, better training, I feel I could have been at least in the 23ish time bracket.  Five minutes difference is a whole race in your mind.  Yet, it makes me hungry that I have caught the running bug once again.  Having my picture in the conference papers at the 5k at the beginning of the race, makes me look better than my time was (laughing), the soreness in my legs reminds me how much work is worth the gains you experience later.

As I watch the film onboard and hear this line,

“Delusional Self Methology – whole farming town fantasy – without the plant, without the industry, there was nothing.”

It’s funny, as I travel back to Mexico, I find myself rather nostalgic about my time here (Chicago).   This quote above sits in the recesses of my thoughts and makes me realize, there is something bigger than what money, fame, and the expectations of others or what people think of you or your actions can do to a person.

Exactly, one week ago, I left Mexico City for a Chicago I had come into 2 years ago in the dead of winter.  This time, familiar-like and nostalgic, I fell in love with the gardens, slow walks possible in a huge city, high landscapes, and the embracing sentiments of a once country boy amid a huge city.  I threw myself into two million people, celebrated the Chicago Blackhawks (not my team), yet still happy for them.  Add to that meeting some amazing celebrities, talking with them as long lost friends, and acquiring a new list of friends and contacts that will allow others to grow from and use and hopefully, hopefully, pass on.  This is the problem, well not a problem but a personal worry, a pet peeve so to say:

Remember when there was a saying that your parents might have told you way back when:  People can be jealous of you, so that explains why some people do the things they do, say the things they say, and think the way they think.  Hence, in lieu of conferences, which are great, meeting new people even better, but if it ends there, IF IT ENDS there, what use is it?  If each of those uses are maximized,  the small moments we have with the experiences capitalized upon, people and opportunities we have to grab a piece of something that will make the opportunities we spend with others more valuable, isn’t that what should matter?

I get disappointed, as I am sure many are, when there are many more critics of what others  (myself in this case) do, when the critics themselves do nothing.  I remember a word of advice from one of the many amazing people I met that struck true to me.  You surround yourself with people that support you, raise your spirit up and not hold you back, hinder you, etc.  I will go back in my notes and find the person, be it Oliver Stone, Octavia Spencer, or Janis Ian, but whether the person matters or the timeframe it was said matters, what matters most is the action that resulted.

I realized one thing, the hardest day I every had was the day I stood up for what I believed in, and walked away from a history of building a community of people that will grow into the future; members of society that pass that pattern of giving back to the community and not making the 80% of action be how it can benefit yourself.  Leaving a family of Cross Country runners, PAVE members, yearbook staff, Key Club members, and so many more, as a difficult day but a change for the better, I just did not know it!  The very conferences I try to go and make presentations to, meeting as many celebrities and celebrities that are not known yet celebrities due to the fact they impact so many other students,  that contain a spark that will be left behind for future generations to do the same.  With that perspective, leaving a familiar situation was/is not so hard if you try, at least try, to go on and protect those same people, follow them, and continue to want to nurture them with the actions of reaching even more people to set that spark into a flame, exciting people about what is possible.

Back to my pet peeve- when people take my going to conferences and take my actions to be self serving to put my name in the spotlight with famous and soon to be famous people, or just to draw attention to possibilities that can be created, it eats at me, lol, then I am afraid, people do not know me.  A personal statement about this, these conferences are an opportunity to spread the chance of tooting the accomplishments of all those amazing students that I had been lucky enough to spend time with them.

Overall, this is my deal.  How many of you remember that one class moment, that one classroom moment, you will remember FOREVER?  I remember so many, SO many, that I am one of the lucky ones. I have many of those moments and not the ones that require me to reach into my memory and try to remember  a classroom opportunity that just involved passing out the same tests, the same papers day in and day out.  I fight inside against that kind of teaching.  I have never been the shushing, be quiet kind of person, be it a librarian, a teacher, or an educator.  I have always been and forever will be the supporter of wanting to see things happening, occurring, sometimes loud, and sometimes quiet, never passive never settling for the minimum, but striving and reaching for the maximum.

I have had so many awesome people along the way to believe in that and willing to jump into something and get their hands “dirty”. When people try to conform me, question me, or complain about the things I do, the places I go, or the reasons I putting myself into that arena, remember this,  if it were for solely up to me, then I would not want to share the “sandbox” of  opportunity with anyone else (so to speak).  Yet, it is EXCITING to challenge others and get them excited as well.  It is hard for me to get past those comments, thoughts, or predictions of the amazing people or experiences I have been lucky enough to have been exposed to, and have an opportunity to brag about our accomplishments,  yet, the only reason they do happen is an open opportunity to share with others to build a larger base of possibility.   The energy and charisma that runs in my family’s blood, thanks to my Mom and Dad, and the striving for a better world all feed that energy.  If our future generations didn’t care to pass on that energy, have the willingness to go the extra mile, as well as the ability to see how they can take an experience, synthesize it, and then pass it on to another, then this has all been in vain; I would hate to think that would never be the case.  So there it is, my pet peeve wrapped up into a ball of external complicated situations and explanations, but at the end, a thankfulness for the amazing experiences that allow us to take these and transform ourselves into something larger than the idea of ourselves.

Somewhere along the line, I became sensitive to the perceptions of others but moreso, wanting my actions to benefit others.  If I feel the pressure of others thinking otherwise, I find myself needing to distance myself and working on how I can better do that; sometimes that means doing those things alone for awhile, yet ultimately, it is amazing to know, and appreciate, the many people that have been a part of my experiences, and themselves go on to achieve great things.  I think that is part of what a family legacy, as well as a personal legacy should be, at least for me, to pass it forward and push them more into the spotlight of success.

Leaving Chicago was bittersweet, I fell in love with the flexibility the city had with my many experiences the second time around.  Coming back to the states always has that effect, wondering, What if?  Coming back to the states for me,  I always see this as impossible, but in reality, the impossibility is me coming back to the states as an educator.  That door seems it has permanently closed, mainly because I want too many things to be different for our education to be better.

I can’t be cookie cut into a shape if I do not agree with the end means, and I want the best possible end means for my students.  I do not see that best end means for my students in a typical United States classroom currently.  Unless I can make that happen, then I can’t be in that setting, and I am glad I know that enough to not force myself to be in that situation; so Mexico it is for me, and believe me, I love Mexico and the chance to be reborn in that educational setting again.

If an opportunity ever presents itself for me to capitalize on the changes of education to make more permanent changes to the way education reaches future generations,  I can’t say I wouldn’t take it, but it would have to be a life changer, as the Mexico experience has been.   I have been given matchless opportunities in the past to values the unique characteristics of a variety of students that fell under my care, past and present.  I do feel people take the profession of teaching lightly, and when that profession is passed on lightly to others, not doing the all time best that can be done, I admit, I have 0% tolerance of that – so there is that about me.

However, I am growing and learning so much to make myself a better educator with the people I meet, the conferences I experience, when I am able hear others’ voices, I try to stretch that to many others; I hope that continues to help others out around me.  To me, that is worth it’s weight in gold.  Not with others’ opinions about why I am doing certain things I am doing, and trying to rationalize it, but with the true knowledge of who I am thanks to those that have become a part of my life, I am grateful to just keep going on and being encouraged to reach higher and try to meet and reach more people.   It is with these thoughts I come back to Mexico from Chicago, and try to disseminate to others, passing on so many and much of who I met and what I learned; to try and help and motivate others and give them a spark that will ultimately turn into a fire.  These opportunities come by once in a lifetime, and I am hoping to make the best of this one…having been a teacher  and felt cornered, everyone needs opportunities for a game changer in their overall plan!

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About Harry Brake

Employee of ASF in Mexico City, Librarian, Media crazy! :)
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