I hate mornings. In my mind, the ideal working day would start in the late morning and end sometime in the late evening. So, I often reflect and ask myself – why did I choose a job that requires me to wake up much earlier than all of my friends do? Why do I make it a morning habit of visualizing my “best self” for the day? What am I bringing to my students every morning that is so important?
For me, the answers to these kinds of reflective questions are varied and always dependent on many different factors. All in all however, there is one common thread that shines bright through the storm of my morning contemplations – community.
Entering my first year of college at UCSB, I fostered a strong internal confidence in my understanding of what community was. I had for two years in high school been involved with “youth in government”-type work in my small town, and was more than ready to bring what I’d considered my robust set of skills to any community-based club or work group I could find in college.
I was about to realize that if “community” were an iceberg, I was miles and miles away from even approaching the tip.
There were problems. Problems within the bubble comprised of that beautiful seaside campus and the adjacent neighborhood of Isla Vista (which was mostly, though not entirely, inhabited by college students). Real problems that deeply affected UCSB students, Santa Barbara City College students, families with children that lived in Isla Vista and countless other residents of my new home. Sexual assault. Dwindling crucial resources of many sorts. Substance abuse. Violence. Dangerous 60-foot high cliffs that claimed the lives of a growing collection of souls. I was fascinated by how widespread, impactful, and TANGIBLE these issues were…but also by the way they persisted though the many individuals and groups that were tackling them.
The fire that ignited in me burned hotter and more consistently than any I had felt before, for any reason. I wanted to dive into this ocean of issues headfirst and struggle with them below the surface using all the time, energy, and fight I could summon. I didn’t know if I had the skills or supports necessary to be successful, but I didn’t care. All I could sense for nearly four years was the motion of my running feet and the urgency for addressing the problems in my community.
As I felt gravity pulling me more and more strongly downward to “the real world” with every day passing of my senior year, I began to reflect in the mornings. How in the world would I harness my immense passion for improving life in my home community, outside the structures of the student government positions that allowed me to do so? Where would I move that would feel like home? Where would I find the unyielding bonds of family I had shared with my neighbors and co-workers in college?
These problems begged a solution. As it turns out, I found what I needed in the very city (and neighborhood) I grew up in – San Jose. After I was offered the opportunity to teach in the place I’d called home throughout my childhood, I reflected upon the challenges that students (my siblings included) therein were likely facing. I thought about how Rocketship actually focused on leveraging the massive strength from which I knew the San Jose community had been built.
For some, education meant building community inside and outside of the classroom. It meant diving headfirst into an ocean of problems and needing to find a way to swim because with a class full of students to be responsible for, sinking wasn’t an option. I knew that I had found a challenge I would love to grapple with. Once again I was a first-year learner, relentlessly eager to make a change that mattered. Once again I began to feel the motion beneath my feet, as I prepared to embrace my hometown as my solution and my motivation.
I am a Rocketeer because I’ve witnessed the power of unity. I have been a part of the unique love that prevails when a community comes together in the wake of tragedy. I am a part of the gains that can be made when teachers, students, and families, share a goal. I am a Rocketeer because I know that the fire that comes in sharing a powerful experience with someone can burn bright enough to illuminate even the darkest, coldest mornings. So, I do hate mornings. I hate them until I finish my drive to school and walk into my classroom where I’m reunited with my home and my family – the community I feel so honored to be a part of. And there, the brightest minds redefine community for their teacher every single day.
Rhandy Siordia teaches fourth grade on the founding team at Spark Academy in San Jose, CA. He graduated from University of California, Santa Barbara with a BA in Psychology and Communication. Rhandy was born in San Jose and spent his first few years in the neighborhood where Spark Academy is now located.