SoDak it Hurts

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 07 2010

What It Takes To Begin

I am a big fan of a tradition my friends over at Those Awake started: every Christmas for the past two years they host a gathering where attendees can reflect on relationships and the season through readings and song.

This past December, there was a call for submissions for a ‘zine on the subject of Winter. It was a very rewarding process to contribute and read what others shared. As I returned to South Dakota, I knew we had to replicate such a project here.

There is a morning ritual I follow pretty religiously in order to function at the level I believe my students deserve – it is this pattern of early morning quiet, coffee, reading, writing and intentional conversation with my roommates that pushes me toward my classroom.

I imagined each of my colleagues had a similar practice whether it be early or late, before, during or after school that helped put fire in their bones. I figured we each approach the way we prepared for interactions with our students differently – and I thought it would be beautiful to hear the ponderings of others on this idea.

So, we had an open call for submissions that reflected on the idea of What It Takes To Begin and we received poetry, prose, photography, paintings and even an original song – the collection is lovely. We are holding a reading at my house this evening to reflect on a year of teaching through the beautiful contributions of fellow teachers.

Below is the cover art (a photo taken from an original wall mural a teacher on Pine Ridge painted) and an excerpt from the introduction.


Always make sure you are looking for the next hardest thing; remain within earshot of your last terrifying moment.

As we consider what it takes to begin, we consider not only the morning march toward teaching, not only entering a dark classroom (still with sweaty palms) – but what does it take to begin something new inside each of us? What moves us toward the small changes that make us more familiar with who we are and what we are meant to do? What does it take to remain, what does it take to leave, what does it take for us to do anything? And more importantly, why? Why do we do what we do and why do we choose to begin each day in South Dakota growing with our students?

The following pages are our nervous, quiet and evolving reflections on the small shifts we find and create inside of ourselves. For, it is quite possibly those small shifts that point us daily toward what it takes to begin.
April 2010

4 Responses

  1. Beginning (Again) | SoDak it Hurts linked to this post.
  2. child

    This is depressing

  3. Telling Our Story | SoDak it Hurts linked to this post.

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About this Blog

I taught 10th Grade English on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota between 2009 and 2011. Currently blogging at

South Dakota
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