Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Semi-Grand Reemerging

This blog has lay dormant for years. I’ve occasionally checked in, and read through some old entries. Every once in a great while I would set an email saying someone had commented, only to find that it was bots who left copypasta comments about websites that no doubt led to viruses.

The silence was both intentional and not. I had a lot to say in the two years since I updated, but even though I had this platform, it felt unsteady, and I was afraid to put my words to paper- or screen. A lot has changed in two years. I no longer work in Philadelphia, or in a parochial school. I moved to Las Vegas in August of 2015, and I have been here ever since, at one of the largest high schools in Nevada. I love it, and I love the challenges of a diverse population, of dealing with the bureaucracy that public education brings, and being a figure in my community that my students look up to. Well- most of the time. J

I started this blog as a first year teacher- wide eyed and scared as I embarked upon a year of living on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation. The year I spent there literally changed my perspective on how I saw life and how I saw myself in the classroom. My heart still hurts that I had to leave after that year because I loved what I did, the community where I lived, and the school and students I grew quickly to love.

When I made the decision to leave, I joined the Alliance for Catholic Education as an English teacher and spent two years in school in North Philadelphia. This placement challenged what I knew about education, what I knew about my Catholic faith, and what I knew about the people I called coworkers. I blogged through my first year there, still idealistic and hopeful, still full of a youthful energy of a recent college graduate even as I began my grad school courses.

I stopped writing my second year there.

I began to feel the burnout. I began to see the fa├žade behind some educational policies and how people were treated. My heart hurt as I saw the career I had envisioned for myself since the third grade being dumped on constantly, from both outside and inside forces. It was a slow burn, and one that I am not quite ready to talk about. I saw this blog as a way to share my joys and frustrations- the titles taken from wise words of women of faith. There is a ton of stuff I wish I had recorded, and maybe I will take you down a memory lane of sorts- because there were joys mingled amongst the sorrows. There were highlights that made the bad days look good.

I am in a much better place now. It took a lot of courage to pick up and pack up my life to move to Nevada. I miss my friends and family back East. I gave up a lot to chase a new adventure. I missed the death of my Pop Pop in December of last year, as well as the passing of our beloved cat of 19 years. But, I fell in love with teaching again. That was important.

My first year here in Vegas, I wanted to open this blog again. I wanted to write about the challenges and excitement of a new city, a new breath of air in my career, But I was still afraid that I would fall out of love again. I wanted to give myself a year so if it failed, I wouldn’t have a recorded memory of being hurt again. And last year wasn’t easy. I cried a lot last year. A lot of time in my apartment, sometimes in my boss’ office, and sometimes after I had locked the door after the last kid left for the day. 

But I also laughed a lot. I met coworkers who mean a lot to me. I got to teach new and exciting courses that challenged me as a teacher and a coworker. I coached track again and saw what kids can really do when they put their mind to it.

I leased my first apartment by myself.

I made an actual paycheck.

I got health insurance.

I have a retirement plan.

This year I leased a bigger, better apartment.

I got a car.

I adopted the best kitty cat a person could ever ask for.

I’m one class away from my TESL endorsement.

I’m happy, and

I love teaching again. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Struggle is Real...?

It's strange to log in, thinking only a few weeks have passed, when it's actually been close to two months. This blog has lain dormant as well as my journals, and most social media accounts. I feel like an early winter is settling in on me and I am content to wrap myself up in a blanket and watch life go by.

But- I know that's not what is allowed to happen.

The ever popular term "The Struggle is Real" has always been applied to simple things online. The struggle is when you run out of mascara or your favorite coffee flavor is gone or the printer is out of ink. However, I've begun to feel as if "the struggle is real" in my own life.

I haven't fundraised any money for the JDRF this year, and I didn't register to walk this October, for the first time since 2007. And I am so tired! I am physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained. I feel less compelled than ever to try and get passionate for a cause that other people won't support. I am tired of spending hours and hours planning for an event that everyone blows off every. single. year. Family, friends. No one has shown up since 2008. And I am tired.

I could throw one hell of a pity party right now, and the temptation has been strong to do just that. I am tired of school and I see May, not as a beacon of hope on the horizon, but as a date just out of my grasp. It's the first time I haven't been in love with school. The first time I am looking forward to being done. And it's not me.

The crawl into a ball and wait for life to pass is not me, but over the past few months, that's who I have felt like. And I am trying to see the sun- push the hair out of my eyes, open the blinds, and blink into the glare- but it just hasn't happened yet.

So, I guess the struggle is real. I am struggling to see the beauty not only around me, but in myself. It's a little bit more than mascara and coffee and printer ink. But I'm not sure what.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A summer wrap-up

First! Some exciting news! I submitted a story to "Chicken Soup for the Soul" a few months ago that talked about my struggle to go to school. A few weeks ago, I got notification that I had made it to the final round, and then a few days after that, I was notified that I had made it into the book. You can find my story, entitled "Redefining Limitations" in the book "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength" out in October of 2014.

I finished my capstone for my graduate classes. I still have three classes to complete for my full degree, but I am done with the physical teaching part of the degree with the completion of the summer reading practicum. I was so sad to see it end, because I loved working with my kids, but I was also a little relieved to get a break, albeit a small one, from school for the first two weeks of August.

I moved twice. And somehow ended up in the same house I moved out of. I wasn't overly pleased with that one, #gradstudentproblems, but life goes on, even if I still need to unpack some stuff (most of it, honestly).

I broke my knuckles. Not my entire hand, just my knuckles, which made using my hand a nuisance, but not enough of one to get it casted. The other guy looks worse. (Just kidding; it happened during Move #2)

I was assigned a new classroom, which means I was upgraded from a walk-in closet to a real room. However, part of me missed the tiny little old room, especially the fan with the chandelier lighting. I used to turn that on and the florescent off and tell my kids it was atmospheric. My new room is all or nothing for the overhead lights, so I think I might invest in some lamps. Luckily, the new room is big enough that I should be able to manage that.

I also discovered how many books I have in my room. A lot. Over 400. Ooof.

Less than a week until school starts!

Am I ready?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

An end to summer clinic!

It's crazy to think that the summer is already more than half way through. I have less than a month before I got back to my regular classroom, and today said my final goodbyes to my students from the summer reading clinic I worked at. We had six weeks of great fun, engaged learning, and lots of time spent on the commons of the college chasing small wildlife in an endeavor to "study" them. 

I worked with six kids, and another reading specialist to design instruction that targeted each individual student to help make them a stronger reader. Six weeks is a short amount of time to work with a child, but I loved each one of mine dearly, and was excited to see their growth in many aspects of literacy. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ten Years

I had one of those moments where I just sit back in my chair and go "WOW". My one group of freshmen finished all their work, but we still have 5 teaching days left. I don't want to just watch an unconnected movie with them, so I have been doing some short stories that we didn't do earlier in the year. I have a 30 minute video about "Harrison Bergernon" by Kurt Vonnegut that we watched and discussed (they are reading the text tomorrow) and about social stereotypes and the ideas of equality.
I teach in a high poverty school. Most of my students are African American, and the next largest population is Hispanic. I also have a lot of first generation and ELL students. So we started talking about racial and gender discrimination. I had a group of three boys who were goofing off and making off handed comments about why men should be paid more than women, throwing out some common misconceptions, etc.
I told them to settle a few times, and when they didn't, I said, "So which one of you is it going to be?"
They stop. Look at me. One finally goes, "What do you mean?"
I said: "Statistics show that 1 in 3 African American males will be locked up at least once in his lifetime. So which one of you is it going to be?"
They look at each other and shrug at each other. First boy goes, "It ain't me". Second boy says: "Nuh-uh". Third boy goes: "It's not gonna be me for sure".
I said, "I don't think it's going to be any of you. I don't think it's going to be anyone in this classroom. Because you are smarter than that, right? You know you have potential and you know that labels are limiting, right?"
They nod, eyes wide.
I said, "You know I love all y'all in here, even if you drive me up a wall sometimes. I know you are better than the stereotypes and statistics on our streets, but you have to want to be better! And being better means fighting those stereotpyes...all of them, not just the ones that apply to you. That means you see women as equals. You see people with different skin as equals. You see character, not shape or size or color or money. You got it?"
Nods. Smiles in the classroom. Second boy goes: "Daaaaang Ms. T with the deep thinking today. I like this class!"
First boy high fives me on the way out the door at the bell: "You know I'm not gonna be that 1 in 3, Ms. T. Imma get me a good job and a degree and a honey and come back here in 10 years and be like BAM, Ms.T, remember me?"
I CANNOT wait for the next ten years. Can't wait to see his degree, hear about his job, and meet his honey. Tears in my eyes at my kids and their ability to open their ears and hearts.