2011/12/31

Whatever you do, do it with resolve!


~2012~
I resolve to…
Read lots of books.

How I plan on doing it…
Read at least a page a day; always keep a book by my bedside and in my purse.

How I know I’ve reached my goal…
Keep a list of books by my desk; cross of each title as I finish the book.
  
.
.
.

I resolve to…
Write one piece that I am proud of.

How I plan on doing it…
Sit down and write for a solid 40 minutes at least once a week.

How I know I’ve reached my goal…
By the end of the year, I will have one writing sample that I enjoy referring back to.

.
.
.

I resolve to…
Hike at least once every two weeks.

How I plan on doing it…
Plan where and when I want to hike a few days ahead of time, including the time that I need to be out the door; write it down on a posted calendar in order to hold myself to it.

How I know I’ve reached my goal…
Check off accomplished hikes as I accomplish them.
  
.
.
.

I resolve to…
Learn how to cook.

How I plan on doing it…
Helping my mom prepare dinner; choosing recipes… actually buying the ingredients and actually cooking the dish.

How I know I’ve reached my goal…
I cook dishes for my parents rather than my mom still taking her time to cook dinner after a long day at work.
  
.
.
.

I resolve to…
Use Facebook less.

How I plan on doing it…
Take Facebook off of my phone; designate an allotted time for Facebook.

How I know I’ve reached my goal…
When I stop comparing myself/my life to what my friends post about their lives.

2011/12/28

Non-Teaching Lessons Learned (While Teaching)


Compassion: I don’t buy the argument that some kids fail because they don’t want a good life for themselves. Every last kid wanted to succeed. Not every kid displayed their desire the same way if at all, some kids had more foresight than others, but every kid wanted a good life for themselves. Period.

Letting go of the reigns: Your life, your performance at work, ... are not “supposed” to be a certain way. You can only do your best and you can't control inevitable external factors. You are not “supposed” to be in a certain stage of your life, you are not “supposed” to have accomplished X amount in Y time. You have what you have, you are what you are, and you have not fallen short of any expectations. This contradicts notions of destiny and fate, but this also frees you to venture onto paths that you would not have otherwise considered. You are free to experiment… to ad lib, to live outside of the box, and – in a way – set variable expectations for yourself.

Strength: You are stronger than you think. You can make yourself look a lot stronger than you feel. I watched a teaching video of myself a few days after it was filmed. In my opinion, I looked and sounded confident, purposeful, and even stern. After watching the video for a few more minutes, I suddenly realized that that was the day that I stepped out of the classroom for a minute to cry and then re-entered with what felt like a very fragile demeanor. In actuality, I did not appear to be on the verge of tears. I need to keep this mind the next time the I feel nervous; I have the ability to fake courage and the strength to push through difficult situations.
  
The 6th Sense: Kids are more attuned to people and their feelings than are working adults. At least my kids were.

The Present: “Right now” is “the next thing”. Each day, I tiredly assured myself that what happened today did not matter because what did matter was that I put in my hours for my first year of teaching. I thought of my first year of teaching as nothing but a stepping-stone for year two and beyond: aka, “real teaching”. After quitting, I anxiously sat around and waited for the next chapter of my life. What I should have done was realize that every day of teaching was a day for itself as well as a stepping-stone for the next day. My year spent earning my teaching credential was a year of lessons for itself along with an investment for my future. As soon as I quit my job, the next chapter of my life began. I will appreciate the moment for what it is as well as dream of an exciting future. I will appreciate who I am now as well as continually work to improve myself.

Two-minute Things: Two-minute positive things can help turn your day around when the bigger things in your day aren't going right. Call a friend to say hello; write a thank you note to someone for their good deed; jot down some ideas for a journal entry, blog post, or book; read an article in the paper. These two-minute little things make you feel good for much longer than the two-minutes that it took to complete the task and they quickly add up. The sum is much greater than the parts.

Sleep: A good night’s sleep is the best investment that you can make for yourself. No explanation necessary.

Humility: Time spent criticizing others rather than analyzing and improving yourself is time wasted. I am greatly humbled by this experience and I regret my being overly critical of others; we all experience struggle, we all are allowed to have these experiences and are allowed to make mistakes, nobody’s perfect, and in the end, self-improvement is more productive than pointing out others’ faults and hoping that they will change.

2011/12/23

Tell-All

"Why did you tell them the whole truth? I would have just lied. Or at least left out some parts of the story."

I can't help it! I even told you everything about you-know-what. The truth has always been more interesting to me than any story I could make up. I can't keep a secret to save my life and I can't bear to spare the details. I can't even give the coffee guy a boring, simple answer to his question of "so, what do you do here in the city?"

What I should have said: "I work at ********  for *****"

What I said: "Well, I'm working a temp job right now, but like, super temporary because I'm moving to Hawai'i soon. I'm actually a teacher. Well, I was a teacher -- in Oakland -- until I quit my job. Then I was out of work for a while, but my friend helped me out and got me this temp job in the city. In that building right over there... It pays the bills, you now. Anyway, that's what I do right now. I'm temping."

Coffee guy: "Oh. Well. Would you like room for cream?"

What I should have said: "No, thanks."

What I said: "Oh, it's OK, I like my coffee black. Plus, I've heard so much about your coffee that I've been dying to taste it and you can't get the real taste of coffee if it's all contaminated with cream and sugar."

...Damnit, April. Shut up.

I guess this explains the wearing-my-heart-on-my-sleeve bit about me and the fact that I blog.


2011/12/19

I'm in Hawaii, Trick.

It's 9:04 A.M. HAST, which means that I am approximately two days and 4 minutes behind on my workout schedule: two days because it was the weekend (family time, yo) and 4 minutes because I got stuck reading out on the front porch, browsing the classifieds (in search of a job), and reading blog posts. Now, I'm in the mood to blog, and every blogger knows that when such a mood strikes, one must act, lest is eludes you once again, never to return until the next task worth procrastinating is nigh.

Anyway.

I felt a particular need to blog because I want to bottle up this current emotion of "done feeling sorry for myself", "ready for the next challenge", and "surrender to God and the universe, because all will be alright with life" before I succumb to another sorry state of self-pity.

What self-pity? Huh, who, what, why?

Yes, I was feeling very sorry for myself because I did not live up to my own expectations in various ways. But my dad says to let the recent past go because there is nothing that can be done about it anymore. The kids will be OK and I will be OK. Life moves on, I gotta move on with it.

Sounds good, Dad. OK, I'll try. I mean, I will.

I still kind of can't believe that I actually live here in Hawaii. What was a wistful fantasy only two months ago -- one week before quitting my job -- is now a reality. I've already met some (OK, one... or two) pretty cool locals, one of whom is an educator (is it I who is drawn to educators, or vice versa?). I eat a lot. I bask in the hot weather (I think I've mentioned before how miserably hot weather pleases me more than miserably cold weather). I exercise, read, and write. It really is everything that I thought living in Hawaii would be.

I moved in with my parents -- a move which, a few months ago, I thought signified some sort of failure. But then again, I also thought that quitting a job signified failure. I'm finally overcoming my closed-mindedness in that arena. Sh*t happens in life. You can't control it all, no matter how much you try. I'm accepting my circumstances for what they are rather than looking upon them (or myself) with an overly-critical eye.

I'm also learning that when I am separated from my loved ones, I tend to imagine that they are leading the same lives that they were leading when I last saw them; this is not the case with my family. My parents have rediscovered some sort of youth and happiness (or maybe they were always this way, but I was too much of an emo teenager to notice) and have picked up new hobbies. All family members in my household are grown up, with their own interests and priorities. Learning to adjust at home has not meant learning how to grow "backwards" and become the girl that I was when I last lived with my parents. Rather, I am adjusting to a brand new lifestyle -- how to live with new kinds of roommates, how to commute about a new neighborhood, finding new forms of entertainment in an environment where not everyone is a hip, young professional... It's new, and God knows I love new. I can't believe that I ever thought that moving home would be a bad thing -- I love my family, I cherish the fact that I have an opportunity to get to know my parents better while they are still young (they're not even 50 years old!), I'm living rent-free... and I live in freaking Hawaii. Like a boss, yo.

Alright, time to get down with Shaun T. I'm eager to log not only one half marathon, one full marathon, and one bike ride across the Embarcadero and Golden Gate Bridge with my beloved running shoes, but 60 days of Insanity, as well. Operation: 6-pack and Strong Arms for Rock Climbing is in full swing (pardon the double meaning; unless the double meaning was too subtle for notice, in which case, carry on).

2011/12/16

I Still Kind Of Sort Of Believe I Can Be a Writer One Day

Writing in a personal blog with a few invited readers can have its limitations (no offense; thanks for reading, by the way). I've had many lovely creative urges to write lately, but this blog didn't seem like the right medium.

I wrote a few lengthy posts on AnonCon this year (can't get enough of that thing, even three finals seasons after graduating) and I've had a lot of positive responses. In some posts, I wanted to share ideas for "life lessons" that I'm thinking of including in a self-help book, if I ever write one. We'll see. I'm feeling pretty good about audience reactions so far. Nothing beats anonymous readers saying things like... 
"I'm an undergrad right now, sophomore, and this really spoke to me... This is great. Thank you." 
"Thank you for the words of wisdom." 
"omg why didnt you give the commencement speech at the spring 2011 graduation? ...."
I also wrote a few stories/excerpts of my life. I was not looking for pity or attention; I may have been looking for a bit of a release or closure, but I mostly just wanted a chance to tell a story in an (hopefully) interesting and heartfelt way. Responses to these different stories include,
"This makes me happy :) Thank you for sharing..." 
"This story is so sad..." 
"This story gives me hope."
"This story is both adorable and surprisingly hot..." 
Yay :) I hope to one day have enough life experience (or imagination) to fill a book. A whole, entire book. Watch out for me, world.

2011/12/14

Be Happy

When I look back on my time at Cal, I regret spending so much time being unhappy. I look at old photos and old Facebook posts from friends and I realize that I made some of the best friends that anyone could ask for and actually did have a lot of fun experiences, yet I stressed out so much about finals, grades, big life questions, etc...

I should have enjoyed the moment more. "The secret to happiness is wanting what you have". Happiness is not a destination, it's a state of mind. I know now that my time at Cal was not merely stepping stone to something great: I worked my ass off for four years at Cal and one year in a one-year grad program and landed what I thought was the job of my dreams. I ended up quitting that job because I was more stressed out and unhappy than ever. I even moved 3,000 miles away thinking that the answer to happiness was elsewhere, out there, and that I just had to find it; that if I didn't find it, then I must not have worked hard enough to find it.

Happiness is not around the corner. It's now, if you'll let it be now. You can only be where you are now, so you may as well enjoy it. Of all the tasks that you put off for later, don't let happiness be one of those things. Don't look at your life and lament about what you do not have or what you are not doing. Don't buy into the fantasy of "if only ________, then I'll be happy" because that's a big "if". There are too many factors involved. Enjoy right now for what it is. Even if you eventually attain your big dreams of living in another country or meeting the right person and falling in love, know that when you arrive at that moment, there'll still be times of trouble. Perfection is an unrealistic future to stride towards, especially if your ambition blinds you to what you have right now. You are where you are meant to be in this moment.

Things not only "will be" ok --- they ARE ok.

2011/12/06

My cat doesn't know I'm leaving him

"Moving away" type of packing is difficult...

-because I've accumulated a lot of sentimentally valuable crap over the past 5 years
-I only have a tiny car in which to transport said crap
-I have no idea which things to keep in case they will be useful in the future, which things to give away to charitable causes, and which things to throw out
-I'm currently home alone
-...and crying. :(

Gunna miss you, Bay Area & Friends.

2011/12/03

Going Away

The following post was originally written on Dec. 3, 2011.

= = =

I was all set to quietly pack up my belongings and sneak off from California like a thief in the night. I wanted to dodge explanations for my decisions and uncertain plans about one day returning to the Bay.

I somehow let myself get talked into actually telling people that I was leaving. Maybe my friends would want to see me before I set off for unknown (by me) lands.

I am still overwhelmed by the turnout of last night's get-together. I counted about 35 folks who rolled through at some point in the night. Once again, friends from different times and places of my life came together under one roof to show me some love and, most importantly, remind me of my personal growth in my five years in the Bay. These guests, my friends, have been my family and support system for several years. They both helped me become who I am today and made me who I am today.

Many shared kind words with me about my personality and accomplishments. I feel completely undeserving of their words... I am still in a rut due to the whole quitting situation. I know that validation can only come from myself and that, in turn, will come when I'm finally doing something that I can be proud of again. For now, my friends are being the scaffolds that I need and providing the perspective about myself that I lack.

Dear...

You've lived a life that I fantasize about. You make me believe that I can have that life. You are helping me chase after it.

Dear...

You are so full of life. You, too, have lived in cities across the United States. I want to be like you, too.

Dear...

Thank you for your guidance. God brought me under the circumstances that He did so that we could meet even if only briefly. I learned so much from you... "We are most like our five closest friends", "The footprints we leave behind continue to inspire, even if we are no longer around to see the fruits of our labor", "Everywhere you go, you are with you. You can't escape you. Learn to be OK with you."

Dear...

Missed you. Still do.

Dear...

You became my closest friend in my time of need; keep up the great work -- you are passionate, hardworking, smart, capable, and very loving!

Dear...

See you in Hawaii! Somehow, I know we will keep running into each other over and over again in various parts of the world...




2011/11/30

Nameless

I've been working at an organization whose name shall remain nameless at an office job doing a lot of nothing and learning a lot of everything.

Namely, I'm learning a bit about life in the cubicle/office world. I have limited human contact; I impact few if any, and learn about the jobs of all (or, least, many). I'm an anonymous temp with a meaningless, mysterious background. I have a list of tasks; often, a very short list of tasks. I go to lunch whenever I want. If I decide I'm tired and want to stop working, I sit at my desk and do nothing. I'm replaceable. I'm not important enough for my own cubicle, but the only other available desk is in a private, spacious office.  I'm surrounded by people who make a lot of money. Their work is doubly, triply, and (in one case, honest to goodness) seven times valued to that of say, a first year schoolteacher in East Oakland.

I could work at an office one day if I ever had to resort to it. I guess. I wouldn't mind a six figure salary, an office with a jarful of candy. I guess.

Once upon a time, I was described by my peers as a woman of ambition and passion. I wrote it off at the time. Now, sitting in my quiet, barren office, I am beginning to understand what my classmates meant about me. I don't belong here. It's fine, but it's not amazing. I'm never content with fine. It's time to leave. I found inspiration in my past and am determined to find it again elsewhere. Due to my short stint in full-time teaching and shorter stint post-full-time teaching, I'm stronger and more able and willing to take on new challenges. I won't be afraid to jump back on the horse and try again. I won't stop taking risks and I won't stop chasing my dreams.

2011/11/27

Thankful


I am thankful to have spent Thanksgiving week in San Diego -- a city where I spent nine years of my life; a city which I have not visited in an entire year.

I am thankful for my friends -- my friends who are in my life because we consciously make an effort to sustain our relationship and my friends whose souls naturally reach out for mine -- and vice versa -- to connect and reconnect.

Our relationships have stood the test of time. The best of friends -- the ones who stood out better than the rest -- friends from opposite corners of my life -- met and found themselves in each other. Found me in them. 

I also was fortunate enough to do what my friends and I love best: one-on-one everlasting conversations at cafes, over delicious food, and late into the night until the sun threatens to reappear for a new day.

I love our conversations because in it, I discover and reinvent myself and you. These conversations reinforce and challenge my beliefs; they open my mind to new possibilities and perspectives on the world and myself. I trust my self-discoveries and experimental versions of self all the more because they were borne from conversations with my most trusted friends.

I'm feeling particularly nostalgic because of my upcoming Big Move. Mostly, though, I'm glad that our lives crossed at all, rather than sad that much time passes nowadays before our paths cross again.

Til we meet again!

2011/11/16

I Was a Battery Borrower / Electronic Nostalgia

Remember the days when you needed a pair of batteries for, say, your



And all you needed to do was borrow batteris from your

or your

 or even the

for the

the
,

or the
?


Heh. Yeah. I was totally a battery thief. 

Tonight, I needed to borrow batteries for my


I searched through every junk drawer and forgotten shelf space in the apartment. I inventoried my electronics in search of borrow-able batteries. Hmm... What are my options?


Nope, nope, and nope.


...Ah-hah!


Three AAA batteries await me inside this addictive vessel. 

I'm glad that AA, AAA, and (God forbid) D batteries no longer are obstacles that stand between user and electronic. Also, I should have bought a bike light that charges via USB.

2011/11/03

The Ins and Outs

On bad days, I feel like a has-been superhero whose wings were clipped. Grounded.

On good days, I feel like a bird temporarily blown off course but on its way to an exciting, tropical paradise.

Most days, nowadays, I feel like a Joe Schmo'. Joe Nobody. These are also bad days.

I realize now that I have higher expectations for myself than I do anyone else... and that I expect more out of myself than does anyone else. This internal hunger for more out of myself got me where I wanted to be in life -- teaching in Oakland. This internal hunger also somehow got me out of that very situation. What just happened?

In all honesty -- all shields down, modesty aside, if I may be so forward, permission to speak freely, yadda yadda -- I always expect myself to be at the top of my game at all times. Period. Anything less is unacceptable. Through high school and college and finally, grad school, I upped my speed, gained momentum. I reached full speed as I wrote out life plans, rubbed elbows with the right people, studied, studied, studied, worked, worked, worked... and then slammed to a halt into a concrete wall. The abrupt and painful halt is what quitting what I thought was my dream job feels like.

Though I know what I did was right (for me), I still don't know what went wrong. Not that it matters at this point...

I'm not sure what "rebuilding" will look like in the near future because I do not have a clear vision in mind for myself. I do, however, have an unclear vision for myself. It's a work in progress -- kind of like how I'm a work in progress. It goes like this:

  • Be happy
  • Be healthy
  • Have confidence in -- and use my -- knowledge/abilities/expertise
  • Be financially secure
  • See the world
  • Do all of these above in a timely manner
Onward.

2011/10/30

Surprise!

So... I quit my job. Surprise! So much for all of those gung-ho, lezz-do-this-thang blog posts.

I am experiencing and have experienced a lot of emotions over the past 10 weeks at my school and 1 week of officially having resigned. My current net feeling is relief. No regrets. The only thing I feel guilty about is the lack of regret which I feel.

I did not blog during my period of resigning because I did feel guilty and, to be honest, pretty depressed, ashamed, and fully of self-pity. I worried over my kids and my former coworkers. I worried about my own future and questioned my capabilities.

It's impossible to package and write about my 10-week teaching experience at my school in such a way that explains an inevitable decision to quit. Those ten weeks do not have a single, traceable story line with a conflict, climax, and resolution. Rather:
  • I had some students who loved me and said I was their favorite teacher
  • I had many days that I called in sick because I either genuinely fell ill due to the stresses of work or I was too stressed/tired to show up to work
  • I had many coworkers with whom I developed very close relationships
  • There were many, many days that I cried after schools. Some days I cried before school and in between classes. I always stressed out on Sundays. There were also some days when I felt so-so. 
  • I found a lot of systems that did not work, and a few which I was slowly honing and refining
Instructionally speaking, there's no way that anyone can be "ready" to teach in their first year of teaching. I wasn't. That's fine. But I was also not emotionally and mentally prepared for this particular position at this time in the school's development and at this time in my life. That is the bottom line.

I thought it was part of the job to hyperventilate on Sunday evenings and dread coming to work every day. I started developing bad teaching habits. I was sure that I was going to become a bitter, unmotivated, resentful teacher whose only claim to success is that I didn't quit.

Well, I did quit. I needed to get out of the space. I did not stop to hash out a plan for what comes next. I'm trying to get myself invigorated by the open-endedness of my life right now. I will keep moving and   I will resist the urge to define myself by my failures. I need to keep moving in order to continue creating opportunities for myself.

Meanwhile, I'm taking in healthy doses of all things that make me feel good. I've got nothing but time nowadays. I've been reading, watching TV and movies, working out, getting sunlight, cleaning, writing, enjoying the company of good friends, and dreaming up possibilities for my near future. I have to believe that I'm on the right path towards something really good.

2011/10/19

Going for a Walk

I went for a run today... I got about halfway through and then started walking. The day was gorgeous and the wind felt nice. I did not tear myself down for not running. I let myself enjoy the walk. I did not think myself a lesser person. I'm not here to impress anyone. I need to enjoy my life because no one else is going to enjoy it for me.

Strength, wisdom, humility, perspective, and patience is not pushing oneself in search of one's breaking point, in hopes of self-gratification in the form of masochism.

More later.

2011/10/16

Mom says... Getting through it does not have to mean suffering through it... But rather taking steps to take care of myself while time passes.

Time will pass.. But how will i spend my time in the meantime? It's up to me.

i already knew that my hours spent working outside of work would be less productive and less efficient than if i were a veteran teacher... I
Think that for now, i need to also spend less time outside of work working than i want... I will not feel bad for cutting myself off...

Every time that i feel down, i need to remind myself that i've felt down before and then i got through it. I've wanted quit before, but i didnt... I got through it. This is that moment, too. Im sitting here, blogging on my phone... Wanting to quit teaching... But i wont quit. Just  like last time.

Every time that i feel down about not getting all the work done that i need to get done, life goes on anyway. This anxiety that i feel right now... This is that moment, too. Life will go on this time just like it did last time.

I need to remember the light at the end of the tunnel, even when my eyes are cast downward, even when the light is too small to see. The light is not three years of teaching experience, the light is not the end of my first year of teaching... But rather  it's the small moments of clarity that follow each instance of wanting to quit. When i start to lose sight of things, when i start to think about quitting all over again, i need to remember that that feeling will go away if i just go for a run or call a loved one. This moment will pass. I refuse to lose myself in self-pity.

I want this job to feel rewarding, yes... The only way it will be rewarding, though, is if it were hard first. This is the hard part. I will get through it.

2011/10/15

I am a Middle School Teacher in Oakland, Hear me Roar. Or Cry.

I barely managed to survive Week 9 of school. OK, so I'm being dramatic. A bit. That's my problem, of course. I exaggerate my problems. A bit. I think.

Another teacher has quit at our school. That's four down in 9 weeks. According to my unofficial and hasty calculations, a quarter of our teachers have quit.

I am the 75%.

Ha. Ha.


If I were to write a "Chronicles of my First Year Teaching in Oakland" book, it would not be a heartwarming, inspirational Oprah's book club book turned Oscar-nominated, based-on-a-true-story-starring-Jennifer-Garner movie. It would be pitiful and neurotic, teeming with baseless resentment with a touch of self-loathing.

I might become a bitter, hateful, un-teaching teacher. I wouldn't know when I crossed the line that separates green teacher with a bleeding heart and... well, sucky teacher. For now, I will push through Year 1 telling myself that I am as bitter and downtrodden as every first year urban middle school teacher there ever was. 

= = =

If I were to quit my job, I'd sell all my things and move in with my parents in Hawaii. HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE?! I'd get a job doing whatever... doesn't really matter. Anything to pay off my loans and dinner and lunch for the day. 

I'd go running every day.

I'd read books on the beach.

I'd probably be a little depressed.

I'd wonder about how my kids are doing... the ones who were nice to me, anyway.

I'd get to do my laundry (without having to scrounge for quarters) in my parents' nice washing machine. I'd separate my clothes according to its differing dryer needs rather than throwing them all in one load and hoping for the best.

I'd get a tan.

I'd have hour-long lunches with my mom during her lunch hour. We'd watch recorded Filipino soap operas with her at night and, let's be honest, on the weekends, too.

I'd get sick of Honolulu Cookies, the best cookies on the planet.

I'd go to the shooting range with my dad. We'd look for a new hobby; we'd consider digital photography, pinhole photography, golf, and water sports; we'd buy new equipment, try the hobby once, try it again three weeks later, and then forget about it altogether.

I'd go bike riding once in the hot, humid weather and decide that I don't like bike riding in Hawaii.

I wouldn't have any friends.

I'd want to go back to school as a student, but not to study anything in particular, only to have guided, thought-provoking readings and half-assed A+ papers because that's how I roll.

I'd miss the city scene of gentrified Oakland and the annoying self-righteousness of the Bay Area with all it's delicious and over-priced goods at the local farmers' markets.

I'd blog all day about nothing interesting, but feel good about it anyway.

I'd kiss my dreams of traveling the world during paid holidays, funded by a decent living wage earned all on my own, goodbye.

= = =

I'm writing a long, meandering blog entry because I am giving myself an emotional massage in order to pry myself out of my stressed-out emotional rut. 

I took a mini vacation this morning by: going to bed at 4AM despite my fatigue and better judgement; I got out of bed at 10AM to meet up with girlfriends; lounged by the Lake Merritt farmers market while eating expensive wholesome food and kneading lush, green grass and marveling at the uncharacteristically hot and sunny October Bay Area weather...

I vegged out in front of the TV by myself for 2 hours, finished a book, started a new book, started a load of laundry, stalked people on Facebook, and am now blogging...

I'm trying to fill my head with noise to sever myself from the stresses of work... that is, until I absolutely have to face said stresses again, starting tomorrow. Sunday. Lesson planning and grading day. Whoo.

This blog post does not belong in a blog titled "Quest for Inspiration". Or maybe it does. Whatever. Here it is.

2011/10/10

Forget keeping my head above water -- first year teaching is like trying to build a ship while stranded in the middle of the ocean... and trying to keep 160 students afloat on said ship (plus myself).

Supposedly, 2nd year teaching is miles easier than 1st year teaching. I also assume that things gradually get better over this first year leading into the second year. Improvement is not a step-wise function. I think.

It's Week 9, and in a tiny, tiny way, Week 9 teaching is easier than Week 3 teaching.

I haven't quite pinpointed what has made it easier, but my hours spent working are more productive and efficient now than it was 6, 7, and 8 weeks ago. Whoo.

I am letting myself down in several ways that I cannot blame the kids for. I have an ideal classroom and lesson in mind and have never come anywhere near my mental image. I'm still getting my ish together in terms of figuring out what to teach 6th graders. I am just now understanding "I do, We do, You do". I am just now wrapping my head around procedures and am nowhere near successfully (100%) implementing procedures. I'm practicing staying patient with students, exerting my authority on students, being consistent and explicit in my expectations... yeah, all that stuff.

I don't do great every day. In fact, I kinda suck every day. But I'm moving forward an inch at a time. I'm learning. I'm learning the hard way, but the best way. I'm trying not to permanently damage any students along the way.

One last thing -- just when I had another round of "screw it, what's the point anyway?" failure feeling wash over me, I received a text message from a former student of mine thanking me for helping him in chemistry. This was a year ago and I had almost forgotten about him because we only had a few tutoring sessions here and there... I pulled him out of class once, went over homework at a cafe after school twice, and took him home once. One year later, he thanks me telling me that it meant a lot to him...

It's the small things. I gotta teach for the small things right now. Maybe the small things will lead to big things one day... that one day is neither here nor now. That text message was a thank you for a small thing; that text message is a here and now. I'm teaching for the small things.

Alright, Week 9. Let's do this.


2011/10/03

FALL BREAK

'Tis the season to be restful.

The two main charges that my coworkers and bosses gave me for this fall break is to 1) rest and 2) lesson plan. Grades are also due right before we get back, so of course this means grading and entering/finalizing grades.

On top of all that, I want to make about a million system changes, but fall break is only 1 week long: hardly enough time for 1 million system changes.

= = =

Tomorrow is only Tuesday of fall break and my tummy is already queasy thinking about the rest of the semester. And school year. 

I am currently living the hardest year of my teaching career. Isn't that crazy?! Possibly my life. Hah. However hard things are right now... that this is basically as hard as it gets. And lemme tell you... it's hella freaking hard. Every day feels like battle. Every night feels like preparing for battle after having fought a battle. Every weekend is spent recounting the previous week's battles in hopes of conjuring up new strategies for the week following. 

I'm living the hardest year of my career and yet here I am ready to return to school come Monday. Bring it. I need to get the other end of the year one way or another, and as far as I know, the only way to get to the end of the year is to teach through it. No way around it. The year is going to be messy and ugly, but come what may, it will happen. And I'll inch along in my progress along the way -- I don't have to wait until year 2 to get better because I get better with each week.

I'm living the hardest year of my career and yet I am not giving up. That's awesome. I'm awesome. Yes. Go me.
Things will get better, slowly but surely.

2011/10/02

My Sub-20-Miler

~19.2 mi in ~3:45.



Today was the best I've ever ran in distance and in pace. I only stopped a couple of times for water; other than that, I kept up a 10min/mi pace for the first time ever on a long run. 

That is, except for the last two miles. I stopped into Sports Authority to buy (and down) a couple of packs of Mint Chocolate Gu (love that stuff). Afterwards, my right knee totally gave out. I had no phone and no money for the bus, so I had no choice but to start walking home on a bum knee.

As I hobbled down San Pablo, an old man with a cane approached me and commented wistfully on my bad knee. That was kinda funny to me, despite the fact that I felt so pathetic.

All movement was painful, but I tried running rather than walking anyway because I figured if I was going to go home in pain, I might as well get there sooner. After 1 block, my knee gave in from under me, though, causing me to nearly fall over, so I slowed down and continued limping.

I prayed to God for a friend to drive by and spot me in order to give me a ride home.

And my prayers were answered. Two blocks after my prayer was sent to the heavens, I crossed an intersection and heard a voice call out to me. Tony Wu was in the car waiting at the intersection. HALLELUJAH. This is the boy whom I have not seen in months and months, and there was he to my rescue. He took me home and all was well.

Thank you, God. And Tony Wu.

2011/09/27

I should be encouraged, not discouraged, to write my lesson plans because:

1) I'm closer now than ever before with my students' zone of proximal development
2) I am closer and closer to knowing what is realistic in terms of time frames for activities
3) I've had practice writing better and better objectives that align to standards and that use Bloom's taxonomy of learning domains.

= = =
I almost threw the baby out with the bath water today by letting myself feel completely dismayed and hopeless after 1 rough day (OK, not 1 rough day, but rather 7 rough weeks). I know so much about teaching, I'm building positive relationships with some students, and some students are learning some things in my classes. It would be a shame to quit while I'm ahead, even if it doesn't feel anything like you would think being ahead feels like.

I need to keep getting better. And I am. This is the best I've ever taught and I'm going to get better from here.


2011/09/26

The Good News: my fellow staff and administration could not ROCK any harder.

The Bad News: TEACHING could not be any harder.

= = =

I'm staggering to the finish line, dude. It's nearing the end of Q1 and fall break is just around the corner. I have no excitement, though, only fatigue.

"They" say that nothing can really prepare you for your first year of teaching. I've heard the powers that be say this over and over again until it has lost its meaning.

To put this cliche into terms I understand, I think about running -- on the one hand, teaching has had a lot of parallels to training for longer and longer distances.

On the other hand, instead of feeling like training, my first year of teaching feels like running my first marathon without any training whatsoever. I do not have muscle memory to recall. I do not know when to speed up or slow down in order to take care of myself. I do not have the benefit of thinking back to past successes to motivate me for the road ahead.

In fact, my first year of teaching feels like running a marathon without training and with a pack of hungry wolves close at my heels. In order to make it to the finish line and to safety, I need to just keep running and running and running and stumbling and quicklygetmyselfup and running and running...

= = =

To be honest, I'm only focusing on the crudest, most basic motions of teaching and on getting by with enough energy to want to come back the next day. These crude motions include making copies of worksheets, collecting worksheets, entering them in the grade book,  and every now and then, having an activity where I know all hell is going to break loose in the classroom, but at least I'm giving them an activity.
Keep up and do your work in the class, and you will have at least a B in the class. All of the classwork is very similar to the test and tests are worth 90 percent of your grade. 
Choose to goof off and you will fail the class. 
This is what I try to tell myself as students get off-task in class, but it's hard to live with that because these students take away from the rest of the class' learning. I try kicking out the kids who are off-task, but there are so many of them and not enough places in the school to send them. There is also too many of them off-task to attack anyway.

= = =

I am on-track with my pacing guide. That's good. All of the items that are being covered in the Fall Benchmarks have been covered to some degree. Some students are getting As and A+s in the class, and I feel OK about how they will do on their coming exam because the lessons and assignments that I've given require students to show what they can independently do. Some students have been doing pretty well independently.

Some students show up to school every day and copy down the board work without giving it a second thought. These kids will struggle with the test.

Other students show up to school and do and turn in almost nothing every day. These kids will probably turn in a blank test.

I'm not afraid to get into students' faces and take command. The problem, though, is actually yielding results after this confrontation. I will keep practicing.

Goals for tomorrow:

  • Pay attention to my foot pattern as I circulate the room. I need to own the entire room.
  • Less teacher-talk
  • Capitalize on beginning-of-period time for teacher-talk
  • Get enough rest tonight, come to school early again tomorrow.

2011/09/22

Today was an interesting day.

I've never cried before school before. 'Til today. It was morning, I was just finishing up my morning prep routine in my silent, empty classroom. I read an email from my principal commending the staff about what great strides we're making and that he knows it has been tough on everyone, teachers and students alike. That broke me down at 7:45 in the morning. I cried before the kids even had a chance to get to me.

"You just don't know how hard teaching is until you do it. Every day."

She's not kidding about that "every day" part. One day is tough as hell, but day after day after day... forget about it.

I didn't know how far up ahead my breakdown was... didn't know when I'd need to stop for gas... turns out it was today. Before school, of all times.

I tired to salvage my morning by squeezing in some 2-minute positive little things during my prep. I smiled and joked with a kid on his way to class. I love that kid, even though he's sometimes one of the worst behaved kids in my class. I made him laugh and smile while he was on his way to class, and that felt nice.

I observed four different classrooms of my kids in their other classes. I redirected some students who were off-task and acknowledged positive behavior of other students with post-it notes.

I walked into one of 8th graders' classes and was surprised to see one of my teacher friends at the front of the classroom. "Shhhhh! Shh! Just... shush!" she said. She walked around the classroom and said something like "eyes on your own paper -- put your arm over your work if you have to so that the person next to you is not tempted to look at your paper." I noticed brightly colored papers on their desk and markers. Mind you, this was math class.

I stumbled through my first period with the support of one of the leads. He had a video camera in the classroom in order to help me analyze my teaching later. He came in and observed 5-15 minutes of all except one of my classes today and helped me redirect a student here and there in each class.

I felt slightly most confident for my next period because I knew what potholes to avoid after my mishaps with my first period. At the bell, students started streaming in and semi-quietly going straight to their seats. This was the first time that ever happened. What's going on?

One by one, they handed me brightly decorated, colored cards saying things like "Thank you Ms. Angeles for being our teacher", "I promise to do better in science class." "I'm sorry if I ever misbehaved and distracted others from learning." I would have started crying again in front of the kids if it weren't for the fact that I've somehow trained my tear ducts to shut down whenever students are around.

Things were still crazy in the classroom at times, but every outbreak of behavior was met by "you guys, c'mon! We're trying to learn here, remember?!"

Twilight zone.

Class was still bumpy, but we're making inching along in our progress -- all of us: teachers and students alike.

By the near-end of the day, I didn't have the energy to get kids to take out their homework in my advisory class. I just couldn't do it, I was so exhausted. I whipped out some science materials and played with density blocks with them. We practiced using the scale balance by weighing everything we could fit on the scale. I let them play with some disposable pipettes, food coloring, oil, water, and the aquarium that I bought for the class.

I have 13-year old boys in my advisory; I had to stifle a smile when I them busily stripping down to their undershirts and comparing non-existant muscles. They challenged each other to arm-wrestling matches in our advisory class. I walked over to straighten out their unfair matches ("Put your elbows here. Now sit like this. Don't pull your arm in towards you, that's cheating. Lock other arms. There you go."). I mentioned to one of my boys that one of my headlights needs to be replaced. He hid a smile when saying that he's replaced plenty and wouldn't mind replacing mine if I had the new bulb. Another boy overheard and assigned himself to help out. They've been talking about it all week -- "Ms. Angeles, you drive a Civic, right? What color is it? Two-door or four-door?". They've been bragging to their friends all week about replacing my headlight tomorrow.

I'd be happier if it weren't for the fact that I'm so tired. I'd look forward to the improvements that I can make tomorrow if it weren't for the fact that I'm so tired. I'm going to rest now because at least I can do that right.

Good night.

2011/09/21

This is That Moment, Too.

This is mile 1.
This is stepping into your first period classroom on your first day of high school.
This is the biggest moment of your life.
This is a new beginning.
This is mile 1 and you've got 25 more to go.
You made it through first period, you made it through high school and beyond; this is mile 1 and this is that moment, too.

This is mile 2.
This is the mile you thought you'd never reach.
This is rock bottom.
You're huffing and puffing and, boy, you thought mile 1 was hard...
Mile 1 was rock bottom --
Mile 1 was rock bottom.
Mile 2 is rock bottom.
This moment -- mile 2 --
is the new mile 1.
This is that moment, too.

This is mile 3.
You're working harder than you've ever worked.
You were working harder than you've ever worked.
Now you're working even harder.
This -- mile 3 -- is mile 2 in disguise.
You got through mile 2.
You'll get through mile 3.
This is rock bottom.
This is a new rock bottom.
This is that moment, too.

Mile 4.
Mile 5.
Mile 6, 7, 8...
You've lost count.
You're tired.
You're on autopilot.
Does tiredness exist when you can no longer feel your body?
Mile 12.
Mile 13.
Mile 14.

Week 1.
Week 2.
Week 3...

It's now week 7.
This is that moment
That moment when you though you couldn't go on
Because you hit rock bottom
This is the old mile 6 which was the old mile 3 which was the old mile 1
 This is that moment when you thought you had nothing left, but you kept going anyway

This is it the hardest you've ever worked
That was the hardest you ever worked
This is that moment.


You're no longer thinking
You're not sure if your mind is perfectly clear or completely clouded
You thought marathon runners reach mile 26 with smiles on their faces and without breaking a sweat
You're exhausted and you're drenched
You're a runner
You were wrong
Running is hard, even for runners
Teaching is hard, even for teachers
This is that moment
You reach the end of week 7 -- still early in the year
You reach the end of mile 17 -- still early in your training
This is the success of the last day of school
This is the success of a finish marathon
You're further now than you've ever gone before
Mile 1 is mile 7 is week 1 is week 7 is hard is mile 26.2 is mile 1 is all the same is hard is all those moments, all rolled up into one.
No, you've got nothing left, but you kept going last time --
Yes, you've not nothing left, but you will keep going --
Yes, you will keep going.
This is mile 3 -- remember mile 3? When you thought you couldn't go on?
This is mile 3 -- mile 17 -- is mile 3.
Keep going.
Keep running.
This is that moment.
This is mile 17 -- this is also mile 26.2 -- this is your moment of glory.
Glory without grace.
Glory with sweat and tears.

This is week 7. This is the best you've ever taught. This is glory. You're tired and your anxious and you're ready to give up -- but you don't. This is glory with sweat and tears.

This is week 7, this is graduation, this is the best moment of your life and the run's not over yet.

This is my moment. This is mile 26.2.

Teaching on Empty

Today was one of those days where my gas light comes on
warning me that I'm dangerously close to empty
But I push through, thinking, "well, I think I've got about 20 miles left on the gas light... I'll make it. I won't gas up quite yet... I'll wait til the next one."

I'm not gunna stop. Not gunna quit. Even though I'm not sure how much energy I have left... I might be close to breaking down. But I'm not going to stop just yet. Not yet.

2011/09/20

Please Remain Calm

Today was another rough and tough day at school, but in a good way because I was rough and tough, too.

I was rough and tough in moderation. I saved my energy because I knew that I had a long day ahead of me. I'm putting up emotional shields and detaching myself from the craziness that is my classroom.

By the end of the day, I was responding to outright ridiculous behavior with oddly polite redirections: "J, please have a seat." "D, set down the table. Homework on top of the table. Table on the floor.""S, it is not nice to throw things because you hit T in the eye with that paperclip."

No anger.

Just calm.

It definitely is working in terms of my sustainability... and it's kinda working in making kids get it together, too.

Let's see how far this calmness thing can go.