Scars

scar

According to Webster, a scar is a mark left after a wound, burn, etc. has healed.

This is my scar.  I’m only about a month into the healing process.  Will it always look like this?  Will it fade in time?  Should I do anything to help it fade?  Do I want to?

I have some interesting thoughts running through my head.  In a way, I don’t want to erase it.  It’s a reminder of my melanoma scare.  Hmm…  maybe there’s a reason why scar is just scare without the e…

My scar is a constant reminder that sun exposure, for me, is dangerous.  It’s part of my story.  But my cancer story is extremely mild compared to so many others.  Mine is so mild that I hesitate to even use the word cancer.

But the fact that I now have this scar got me thinking about the kind of scars that you can’t see.  I’d much rather have this one.

I think about the students that I’ve had.  Some are homeless.  Some are victims of abuse.  Some are even taken out of their homes and brought to shelters.  Many suffer emotional abuse that we haven’t yet figured out how to identify and help them.  It’s much more obvious when a child is physically abused.  But how do you really know if emotional abuse is happening?  How do you even verify it?  The sad reality is that many more of our students probably fall into this category.

So what do I do as an educator?  I provide a safe environment.  I try to make a personal connection with each of them.  I find out something special about each student.  I compliment.  I encourage.  I offer help when I can.  I listen.

I may have this 2 inch scar on my back.  But it’s a physical scar.  It will heal with time.  Given the choice between this physical scar and an emotional one, I’ll pick the physical one.  Hands down.

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Dream Job

If anyone were to ask me what my dream job would be, I’d say that I’d love to be a travel photographer.  I started traveling internationally when I was 17 years old.  Every since, I’ve been hooked on travel.  I love to explore other cultures, see how others live and just learn, learn, learn.

I usually try to flee the country every summer for someplace new and interesting.  Several years ago, I used to do it with students and I got to travel for “free.”  Free is a relative term in this case…  It’s one helluva lot of work to travel with teenagers!  My travels have brought me to every continent except Antarctica.  Antarctica is not making it onto my list of places to go, but I wouldn’t turn it down if someone else wanted to pay for it.  😉

This past summer I went to Tanzania.  In November there is a Fall event and there is a photo contest.  It’s only $15 to enter the contest and I know it’s going toward a good cause.  So here are my five photos…

I saw these two off in the distance while we were at the main church in Irindi. (I had uploaded this to flickr a while back, I did crop out the head in the lower right for the contest.)

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This is a Masai woman. I have no idea of her age. I just think she’s beautiful.

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Whenever we would come or go, we were always greeted with song and cheerful waves hello or goodbye. These are many of the children of Irindi who sang and danced and played with us.

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We had a wonderful interpreter. He is a retired pastor. He is the interpreter for many groups from my area, so even though the picture isn’t the best I’ve taken, the subject is the reason for the entry. This is the “Kiponda look.”

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There were five of us traveling together. Three were in the same family. This is one of my favorite photos that I took of them in Zanzibar.

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The contest isn’t until November 7th. It would be cool if I won or placed. But what I really want to do was share these wonderful images from Tanzania.

Perplexed.

I’m perplexed.  I’m sitting here, trying to think of a title for this post and I can’t come up with the right word.  As I think about this situation, I have a furrowed brow and tension in my forehead.  Since I just got home from yoga, I can tell that thinking about this doesn’t relax me…

We started homeroom this week.  We call it “advisory” and it is between first and second hour.   In order to make an effort to increase our reading scores, we use 2 of the 3 days for silent reading time.  Some of the kids get a little confused on which class to go to, etc.  If they walk into the right room, but the wrong time, they usually figure it out quickly and head to the correct location.

I have this girl in my first hour.  I don’t know if she’s new to the school or not.  I do know that she was recently dreaming about ghosts and when she awoke, some of her things were in a different location than she recalled.  Hey- I’m just making conversation when they come in…  She’s not the kind of kid that would kill a fly, let alone skip a class.

On Tuesday, she was gone.  I wasn’t alarmed or anything.  But then after first hour she showed up to see me.  Guess what?  She went to advisory instead of first hour.  This isn’t uncommon.  But she didn’t get up and leave when she figured out she was in the wrong place!  She stayed for the entire class period!

Head shake.

Do I mark her absent or not?

So later on in the day, I talked to the teacher whose class she had attended.  When he saw her in the morning, he asked, “Pa, are you in this class now?”  She responds, “I’ve always been in this class.”  He didn’t think much of it.  We’re still at the point where they’ve made some schedule changes.  So Pa sits there, for the entire class, paying attention and learning…  Get this…  she even did the assignment.

When kids figure out they’re in the wrong place, most of them get up, laugh at themselves, give a little explanation and out the door they go.  What would possess a kid to stay in the wrong class?  I don’t know if it’s extreme shyness, not wanting to make any kind of a scene or what?  I hope she learned that she should get up and leave in that situation.  There are all sorts of spins I could put on this.  But a kid needs to have the courage to get themselves out of situation where they know they don’t belong.  For her sake, I really hope she learned that lesson this week.

Exciting Week

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On Tuesday, my brother and his wife had a baby girl. This is their first child. That night I got to go to the hospital and see Addison for the first time. She was only about four hours old. She’s being held by her Grandpa in the photo above.

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I’m really excited, because Addison only lives across town. It takes me about 40 minutes to get to her house. My other nieces and nephew live 11+ hours (in a car) away. Today I got to go to her house and hold her while she slept and hang out with her parents. I think I could just stare at her for hours.

There’s nothing like a new baby.

Translation Included

I got a nice little piece of paper in the mail yesterday.

Skin, right back, re-excision: Central biopsy site reparative changes, excised, negative for residual melanoma in situ (skin cancer has been removed).

I think I could have figured out what it all meant. But I’m glad for the part in parenthesis!

The M word

I was thrown for a loop last week. I found out that the scary M word was now attached to my medical record.

Before I left for Tanzania I had a skin scan. It’s basically an appointment with a dermatologist where they look at your moles. When the doctor said that she wanted to remove some moles I asked, “Does it matter that I’m leaving for Africa tomorrow?” Yep. So I had an appointment for two days after I got home. I had five moles removed.

Less than a week after their removal, I found out that one of them was a melanoma in situ. If you’re going to have a melanoma, this seems to be the kind to have. In situ means that it grows only in the top layer. The next day, I was booked for an excision. My doctor removed an area 5 mm around the mole. In order to be able to fit the skin back together, the sample is actually the shape of a football. Since it’s in the top layer, it’s not very deep. I have 5 inner stitches that will dissolve and 7 outer stitches that will be removed next week.

The trickiest part of this whole experience is the bandaging. At first I didn’t think I was going to be able to change it myself. It’s on my back. One friend joked, “If you could reach it, you would’ve had sunscreen there!” 🙂

I can just barely reach my stitches. I was so relieved when I figured that out. I had many people who were willing to help me with my wound care, but it’s a little tricky when you have to travel before you bandage. With practice, I’ve learned to lean up against the wall to get the adhesive to attach to my skin. Now I’ve healed enough so I can use a couple of the big band-aids.

My future will include check ups every six months.  This is completely fine with me.  It will give me piece of mind.  The funny thing was that the doctor told me if I notice something odd before the six month check, to call her directly.  The scheduling people won’t know how to fit me in.  She will.
So even though I now have the M word attached to me, I feel pretty good.  I am very comfortable with how this was resolved and how to proceed.  One thing I do know for sure…  There will be lots of sunscreen in my future.

My two cents

President Obama is going to make a speech on the first day of school.  Apparently he’s going to encourage the nation’s youth to do well and succeed in school.  This message is not political.  It’s common sense.  It needs to happen.

I just spent 3 weeks in a country where they actually value education.  They know that the only way they are going to get ahead is through education.  Teachers are respected.  Students aren’t misbehaving.  I saw no evidence of ADD or ADHD.  At Image Secondary School, I saw what the mathematics teacher was teaching.  CALCULUS – integrals with trigonometric functions. I was extremely impressed with what they were doing, especially with so few resources.  And you can bet those kids really know their stuff – they don’t have calculators readily available.

What was the debate team working on?  “Science and Technology have brought more harm than good to third world countries.”  I would have loved to hear that debate.

It is a privilege to go to secondary school in Tanzania.  It’s a boarding school situation, so the students have to be very responsible for themselves.  They have dorm rooms, they do their own laundry, they study, study, study.  They take their education seriously.

So if President Obama wants to encourage our students in the US, I see absolutely NO problem with that.  I’ll be tuning in.