Of Teachers and Tarot

Educator Evelyn Sideri reflects on life in the classroom and the lessons we can learn from a deck of cards.
Evelyn Sideri

She’s a Witch!

I’ve always been a bit of a witch. I have been able to see people and read them in a way that they, nor I, am always comfortable with. I have known when the women who are closest to me are pregnant. I often know the gender of the child. I read my students and their problems with razor-like acumen. They wonder how I figure things out and once they figure me out, they share information to enlist my guidance.  I think they figure out very early on that I am an effective safety net. My own children will tell you that I’m a bit overbearing, but they too know where to go when they find themselves in a pinch. I took on this writing assignment from a former student to write about what it is to be a teacher, a mother, a confidant, a guide and a scholar. 

My experience with tarot cards may tell some of the tale. Tarot predicted my pregnancy with my son and it guided me to the realization that his college admission would turn out the way it was supposed to and not necessarily the way we wanted it to. As I look at that part of my life in the rear-view mirror, I notice that the feminine cards in the tarot deck have shown me what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mom and a teacher. As we develop, we unwittingly become the feminine parts of the tarot deck.  We do not have to force it, we do not have to strive for it, we just have to be, for that is enough, we are enough. 

The two feminine cards that intrigue me the most are The High Priestess and The Empress. They embody feminine power and mental strength. If we can think about trusting our intuition and our hearts, life becomes easier and we worry less. 

Women of the Tarot

“The High Priestess: Time and life are her teachers. Through them, she understands the secrets and reasons of our very presence in the world. That’s what the book she is holding is about. It is a book that can only be understood through intuition and experience.

The Empress is all about the mental and intellectual realm…Her authority is natural, her mind is sharp, her life is under control.”

No, I’m no occultist! I always wanted to know what would happen next, so I would not have to worry about it. Worry takes up so much of my day and has wasted more than a few hours over my lifetime. Having my tarot read, while not allowing it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, gave me some peace-of-mind. As I round the bend toward middle age, I have learned a few things that I wish I could have told my younger self, although I doubt she would have listened. 

“Better, stronger, faster” is a myth. We spend our time reaching for some unreachable perfection. Am I thin enough? Do I have the right answers? Am I earning enough? Am I in the perfect marriage? Are the kids stylish? Are they well-behaved? Are they smart? Are they kind? Here is the truth, if you lead by example, and you strive to be the best person you know how, the rest will follow suit.

This Might Actually Work

So, I’ll try to help you young, gentle reader. The world will expect much of you and you do not have to be everything that the world wishes you to be. “Better, stronger, faster” is a myth.  We spend our time reaching for some unreachable perfection. Am I thin enough? Do I have the right answers? Am I earning enough? Am I in the perfect marriage? Are the kids stylish? Are they well-behaved? Are they smart? Are they kind? Here is the truth, if you lead by example, and you strive to be the best person you know how, the rest will follow suit. The future isn’t predictable. So, the tarot cards failed? No, my trust and faith in myself, and the future did. I needed to know that my future  would be ok. If I worked hard, the rewards would come, even if I did not know how or when. Faith in yourself and your role as wife, mom, teacher and mentor, that is where the future lies. What will be, will be, whether we worry about it or not. 

What does Life in the Rear-view Mirror Look Like?

As for me, my role as a mom is ongoing.  The kids are growing, graduating and living their best lives. (Sort of graduating…COVID cancelled both college graduations!) My children are kind, caring, and strong. They have the respect of their family, friends, and co-workers.  Is it easy now? The short answer is yes and no.  They are moving on after their undergraduate degrees. One is gainfully employed. The other is continuing his education. They have mentors and what I like to call “Fairy Godparents” from their colleges and other experiences. I am actively trying to let them fly and it is not easy. I have learned to trust them and my intuition about who they have become.  Have I stopped worrying?  No. Do I worry less?  Yes.  

How Do I Live Life as a Teacher?

My life as a teacher; it ebbs and flows.  Mostly flows, thank God! I have been blessed by teaching some of the most fantastic children that have ever lived.  They have been kind, gracious, and patient. Being the adult in the room with them is often loaded with who they have encountered before me, and who they anticipate meeting after me. I have been able to travel through time with them. I have my current students who make me laugh and cry every day. I keep it real with them and they respond in kind. I try to connect the literature and the writing to what is current in their lives.  Discussions are lively and the discourse is civil, even when we do not all agree. Letting them talk and interact is what allows me to be the teacher I am.  They realize my desire for them to do well is in their best interest and that the content has value. They compliment me, much to my chagrin. When a teenager says, “You raise us up and transform us,” I don’t know what else there is to say. (I just let the tears flow, and march on!)

As for former students, I see them for coffee, I visit them at college, I attend their weddings, and I hold their babies. Does life get any better? The magical connection is permanent. I know that bettering the life of a child is reciprocal.  They help me to love myself, when I can see myself through their eyes. When they trust me, it is, by far, easier to trust myself.  I care for them, they care for me.  I see that I can touch the future, but again, because I am seeing it in the rear-view mirror.  Experience is a fine teacher.

Advice from the Ancient

Young teachers, be gentle with yourselves. You are enough! Do your very best, and you will bring out the best in your pupils. They will see you trying, and they are learning.  The results may not be immediate, but trust in yourself and the future, and the rest will follow suit. What reading program, falsely generated standard, or administratively imposed rubric means absolutely nothing once that classroom door is closed. The human connection rules. In Covid times, it is hard to recognize, but do your best! Try new things and I think things may never go back to normal as we once knew it, but have we grown? Have we tried new things? Spread our wings just a bit? Hopefully, for you, the answer is yes. The answer for me, this year was awful, painful, lonely and lovely.  I found myself trying new things in my desire to connect. I might have had Joe Gatto, from Impractical Jokers, Zoom-bomb my class. I may have invited an author to join us for discussions about his book. Never did that stuff before! Would never have thought of it! Live and learn, that’s the motto.

Evelyn Sideri is a wife, mom, teacher, mentor, National Honor Society advisor, AP Grader, crafter, and overall tired human being. She has a Bachelors in English and Education and Masters in Liberal Studies from SUNY Stony Brook as well as a Masters in Educational Technology from LIU Post. As a thirty year veteran of the classroom, she takes pride in watching her students grow and prosper.

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