I used to extract crazy bouncy balls, a quarter at a time, from the metal machine between the gumballs and the clear, round, plastic containers of spider rings at the drugstore. I would buy as many bouncers as I had quarters, twisting the metal dial slowly, hoping for a bonus, free, second ball. Then I’d slam them–sometimes a whole handful of them at once–against the ground, jumping up as I threw them down in short-shorted glee. I would delight in the path, dig them out of the grass, behind trees, chase them rolling down the driveway, then do it all again. 

The most fun was finding spaces to increase the zigzag, slamming the smooth, neon, chemical smelling surface against a room with a low ceiling, the basement hallway with all the doors closed. I would cover my eyes or my ears or my head, turn and crouch, anticipating the bounce hitting my face or chest or knee. Full of glee, full of controllable danger. Entranced by the random, but self-directed mayhem.

This memory is crazy with metaphors about life. 

About teaching. 

We’ve heard a lot about resilience lately, bubbling up during the pandemic and in response to COVID’s after-effects. I can’t get my head around the term, the word itself. Resilience. It sounds too hard, too long-term. It makes me thirsty and tired. Resilience, and the research and strategies around it, may be effective, but I need something this hard to also, just maybe, have an element of play, or humor, sprinkled with a tiny bit of bouncy ball fun.

Brene Brown uses the word “bounce” as a synonym for resilience: bounce back, bounce off, bounce around, bouncity, bounce bounce. It reminds me of my favorite Pixar short, Boundin’, where a fluffy lamb learns to bounce through the embarrassment of yearly sheers of his lustrous coat. 

I think a lot of teachers feel sheared of their shiny coats.

Consider what it might look like to take a crazy bounce from the tensions teachers have been carrying: 

  • Laugh at the new dress code that seems–to some!–like a no-dress code.

One person’s modesty is another person’s power. 

  • Shrug when the standards change (again) and know that key disciplinary ideas and cross-cutting critical thinking processes you’ve developed for years are a great place to start. 

Babies and bathwater. 

  • Listen when the complaints from exhausted colleagues waft near your ear. 

Compassion weighs less than complaining.

  • Build a small, safe bounce house where you can fling around, unobstructed; bounce up against ideas, people, trials, and know you have the space to bobble until you come to rest, or maybe roll down the driveway in your own sweet time. 

Resilience doesn’t have to look like rising from the ashes, digging out, or clenching our teeth until the trouble passes. I don’t mean to be pithy about it or minimize true strain, trauma, or burn out–my therapist can attest that our shit is real. But a sense of humor often saves me, and for just a little while this fall, I’m going to move, shift, duck and cover, and maybe get a bouncy ball that glows in the dark. 

Published On: September 13th, 2022 / Categories: Blog /