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I’m not as read up on my transcendentalist poetry as I would like, so my first thought upon reading the phrase “barbaric yawp” was not Whitman, but Seuss. In Horton Hears a Who, little JoJo cries out from the flower “YOPP!,” making himself heard to Horton’s friends and saving his tiny Who-world. Despite the difference in spelling, I’m sure Dr. Seuss knew both the meaning and the literary baggage the word carries. But it is used to somewhat different ends in these two texts: Whitman’s “barbaric yawp” is an almost palpable, powerful expression of animal self, while JoJo’s “YOPP!” seeks affirmation of his existence while managing to assert it on his own.
I bring up these different yawps because I’m currently in a phase of life where I’m sounding far more “YOPP!”s out into the world than “barbaric yawps.” And, I’d like to think it has to do with something more than feeling small. Having just completed my first year of teaching, I can see that it has been (and will be) an ongoing process to figure out my place in education. I have a sense of what kind of teacher I am, which I “YOPP!” through the choices I make; essentially asking “Is this okay? Am I doing this right?” and I continuing forward with each positive response (maybe a little like echolocation?). Here are some of my most recent “YOPP!”s that I think give the best sense of who I am, and what I’m out to accomplish.
I “YOPP!” as I transform from an English to Computer Science teacher to meet the needs of the school. I have a MA in English and now teach computer coding, which I basically learned along with my first class. In the fall, I will be offering the new AP Computer Science Principles course. I love learning about technology, and I had room in my day (and the time for PD) to make it happen, so why not give it a try?
I “YOPP!” through the partnerships I build between the school and the local community. I am “born, bred and wed” Talkeetna, so many relationships were already in place, but I’ve jumped on every chance to bring the community into the classroom and vise versa. This was especially useful as we developed a Customer Service/Tourism class. The relationship is mutually beneficial and serves the area as a whole, so I say work it!
I “YOPP!” in support of work/life balance. Truly, I’m still figuring out what this one means to me. I spend an inordinate amount of time at school or thinking about school completely by choice. In my free time, I take classes myself (that are usually about school). When you love your job everything kind of gets jumbled when you try and delineate work from life. I also have a really nice husband and a dog that deserve more of my time. I think this “YOPP!” is looking for confirmation that it’s okay to say “no,” which I may be too stubborn/single-minded to hear at the moment. So, I’ll just keep trying to “YOPP!” it into existence.
There is probably something a little unhealthy in the “YOPP!” concept if you look too deeply. One shouldn’t bank on the affirmation of others to define themselves. But bringing who you are to the table and asking for some affirmative guidance has been helpful as I try to locate and assert myself in this new phase of life. As far as my career goes, I want to be like JoJo—pushing yourself to stand out, in hopes of finding your place in the bigger picture.