Tough Stuff

You know when i write a blog post like this that it was a tough day..


ways i've improved/changed
-I haven't cried after class in.. well, at least a month.
-I'm LESS afraid of meetings with parents and RSPs
-"there is no 'should be', only what 'is'"
-I (try to) focus on the help that others are giving me rather than the help that I think I am not getting
-there is no perfect teacher, only teachers who revise what they do daily with the intention of better serving their students
-i've learned to "own up", apologize, welcome criticisms openly rather than shoot them down defensively,
-I've learned that it's more important for me to show up and have a tough day than chicken out and hand the class over to someone else; the kids are not necessarily better off with someone else than with me
-I've become more patient and willing to incorporate wait time rather than talking over people
-I don't raise my voice any louder than what is necessary to hear me over a respectful classroom. if you can't hear my voice, our classroom must not be ready to listen.
-I only say things to the whole class that are important to hear as a whole class rather than in small groups or individually -- because it really is difficult to get 22 8th grade kids to sit still and idly listen for more than a few minutes and i don't want to waste class time constantly punishing them for something that is very difficult to do

things i've noticed
-i rarely LOOK upset even if i'm boiling up inside. this is interesting because my students truly are responsive to the emotions of others' -- their peers, their teachers -- if I looked deeply upset or frustrated, i know my students well enough to know that they would notice.
-that being said, I'll take it as a strength that i do not appear angry or frustrated with the class. Instead, I can focus on implementing concrete repercussions... I don't want students to "behave" to keep me happy. I want them to have the self respect and respect for their classmates to exercise their right to an education. Yes, I know that I am working with young, squirrelly 8th graders, but I also know that my 8th graders have goals and dreams for themselves and I want to do what I can to help them get there. I know that they care about what their peers think of them. I know that they like to help each other out when they can.

areas for improvement
-"telling" is not "teaching": I've already known this fact when it comes to learning knew concepts, but it also applies when learning what it means to be respectful in class and learning the procedural expectations in an assignment
-emphasize schema building
-be early to school -- clean up the classroom, set up materials for the day, "feel" ready for the day even though you really never know what the day has to offer
-be clear on what it means/looks like to "be respectful to our peers and guests in the classroom"
-be clear on why it is important
= = =

-good wait time -- it took longer than i would have liked to get the class quiet, but the hope is that it will take less and less time in the future
-good catching up with new student immediately; good to know that she has some background in what we've been learning

areas for improvement
-be clear on what the consequences are
-do not let anyone slide -- regardless of their class reputation
-for real, if all we're going to be doing is freaking worksheets and art projects in a science classroom for crying out loud, then I don't blame the kids for acting out. boring and tedious worksheets and art projects on complex shiz they don't understand in the first place is prime reason to act out


From now on, there are no "bad" days, only "tough" days. the two are different because on "bad" days, you wanna quit. you complain. you blame others. on "tough" days, you wanna be better. you learn. you get stronger.


I write because...

"I love her, but... when we talk, she makes me think too much. It kinda makes my head hurt."
--Quote about me, as said by a good friend, which was not intended for my ears
I write because...
folks think I'm too serious as it is,
because I always rehearse stories in my head before telling 'em,
and I'm over sensitive if you don't listen a certain way,
and neither of us seem to have the time of day to converse rather than chat,
and because the words never come out right the first time.
I write because my thoughts are unfinished and connected to previous thoughts,
and it seems to be too much work for anyone to get caught up in anyone else's ever-forming story.
I write because...


5 Abstract Steps to Teaching (or: 5 Concrete Steps to Living)

- - -

Step 1.
Reflect. Know your values. Trust yourself.

Step 2.
Plan. Make careful decisions; have trust in your decisions.

Step 2.
Act. Have the courage to act upon your decisions.

Step 4.
Commit. Learn from your actions and how it influences others.

Step 5.
Revise. Have the courage to act upon what you learn.

- - -

Repeat as necessary.


Strangers in my Dream

I had quite an intense dream a few days ago.

I'm talkin' being able to physically feel objects in my dream, feeling flooded with emotions -- guilt, happiness, ecstasy, confusion -- story lines, allusions to "real life"/"waking life" (whatever you wanna call it), allusions to other dreams...

And you know, they say that we don't dream about strangers, but there were definitely strangers in my dream. I don't know how they got there, but I don't care what anyone says, they were definitely there and talking to me.

I'm also convinced that the friends/non-strangers who were in my dream had to have dreamt about me too that night because there's no way that they could have been that present, that realistic, and that interactive with me unless our brainwaves were somehow in sync with each others'.

There's no way that this entire world was constructed by me alone nor does this world exist only in my head: it was too realistic and called upon creativity and use of visual memory far beyond my own capabilities! Plus, how do you explain my having strangers in my dream?

Someone is trying to plant an idea in my head. Yeah, that's probably it.


Less than Superhuman

The following post was written on Jan 23, 2011. I was too embarrassed to publish it at the time, but I'm so excited for this weekend that I don't mind posting this anymore. Without much further ado, here it is: my insecurities and naïvete.

= = =

Lately, I've caught myself inviting friends to run with me and telling friends about the upcoming running festival.

Sadly, It's starting to get on people's nerves.

It's just that it's all I can think about. I keep thinking, "if I can do it" -- small, non-athletic, weakling, me -- then surely "you can too".

They tell me that they can't run 13 miles. Well, yeah, I can't either. Not yet, anyway. The point is that we work towards it. And you know what? I really don't know what's going to happen on race day. I don't even care. At first, I'll admit, I was in it for the medal. Haha. Maybe the t-shirt. But now, I'm in it for the training. The process feels so good! It feels good to have something in my schedule to look forward to. It feels good to be active. It feels good to try push myself in an arena where I never though I'd be. It feels good to achieve a short-term goal and then look at my schedule and ask, "what's next?".

This is why I invite others to join me.

I always saw runners and joggers as somewhat non-human, somewhat superhuman... mostly alien. I mean, right?! They wear funny clothes and run, run, run to no particular destination.

And now, I realize -- oh. They're people. And running is possible. And running is hard for them like it's hard for me (though to varying degrees). They do it well because they practice and work hard at it. This is a key point that never really occurred to me.

So maybe I can't run like them, but I can practice and work hard at it like they do and enjoy myself in the process.


Stealing from Friends

When I was a child, I overheard my parents lamenting to each other about how sadly impressionable I was. Apparently, they saw me as one who follows the actions of others, succumbs easily to peer pressures, and basically is a naive copy cat. So sad.

Sad that they thought this of me and sad that I overheard this conversation. Maybe it was all even true. I don't know.

When I look at my friends today, I notice that yes, I do have a lot in common with them. Am I the aggregate sum of my closest friends? Can the same be said for many people... or do I really have no identity of my own?

OBVIOUSLY right now you are thinking to yourself, "No, April, you are friends with people who share common interests as you. You gravitate towards people who have things in common with you."

I wish. In truth, I am friends with the people who are closest to me in proximity.

Go ahead. Let that sink and settle in your brain for a moment.

You are reading my blog because you are a friend of mine (I hope), and you are now thinking to yourself, "great, April is friends with me because I am in arm's reach... worse yet, she copies me. Good grief."

Hear me out: I'm not friends with everyone in arm's reach -- I screen out the bad apples. But all my friends are within my reach. I find it difficult to maintain long distance friendships; I also do not to go very far out of my way to make friends in other worlds beside my own. Rather, those whom I call my close friends are literally quite close to me.

With me so far?

OK. Moving on. One of Lenny's critiques about me is that I heroize people I come across quite freely. You, my friend who is reading my blog, hold a quality that I think is, like, So. Freaking. Cool. And well, I don't want to copy you or be you, I just want to take away from you One Freaking Cool Thing.

Contrary to my parents' early thoughts about my development as a human person, I try to not naively mimic the actions of others. I pick my favorites -- favorite people and favorite actions/habits/ethics/etc.

Anyway, I don't know where to end that thought, so I'll end it there. And by the way, based on my observations, no one (not even my sisters) seems to think anything I do is worthy of copying. How embarrassing. And mildly emo.

= = =

Upbeat, upbeat, upbeat...

Growing up, I would frequently be confused by a certain person who shall remain anonymous for the following reason:

Anonymous would ask me to do a Thing -- it doesn't matter what this Thing is/was -- which, OK, I would not do the Thing Right Then and There because my priorities lay elsewhere. "I'll do it Later," I'd say, "I just have this Other Thing that I need to do..."

Some moment between Right Then and There and Later, Anonymous would do the Thing him/herself. Then Anonymous would proceed to 1) get upset with me for not doing the Thing Right Then and There and 2) be upset for doing the Thing him/herself on top of all the Other Things that he/she had to do.

C'mon now. That's just not fair.

If you're going to be upset with me, be upset at the fact that I did not do the Thing Right Then and There, but do not burden yourself with doing the Thing if you are just going to be bitter about doing the Thing.

= = =

OK, flash forward some 10 years later... I need to follow my own advice.

Staying upbeat!

= = =


6:30 am - alarm rings
7:30 am - hit Snooze for final time, get out of bed. make coffee, eat breakfast, make lunch, wash dishes, clean kitchen, get dressed.
8:15 am - get ready to leave for 8:30 parent-teacher meeting
8:20 am - receive phone call about 8:30 parent-teacher meeting cancellation
8:21 am - grade papers/finish lesson planning/enter grades/set up Do Now, Learning Goal, blahblahblah... and teach.
11:00 am - grade papers/lesson plan/enter grades/do attendance, blahblahblah...

Somewhere in between - eat lunch, do homework, complete loan counseling, attend to bajillion emails...

2:30 pm - attend class. as a student. i.e., chillax.
4:00 pm - run 5 miles.
5:30 pm - make and eat dinner, clean room.
7:00 pm - homework, grade papers, attend to bajillion emails, lesson plan
9:45 pm - clean bathroom.
10:35 pm - blog. i.e., chillax.

The Justice League wanted to add me as their eighth member or whatever, but they had trouble identifying just one superpower that I could be recognized by. That's fine. I'll just continue to be known as all-around awesome.


The Second Good-bye

You say good bye, jump in your car, and drive off to college for the first time. You glance in your rear view mirror -- your childhood friends followed you outside of the house and are now waving good-bye from the driveway.

You pass through security for what feels like the millionth time, glance down at your boarding ticket and up at the gate number signs, and gather your belongings. You do a quick shoulder check -- Mom and Dad are still standing there... waving good-bye.

You give 'em a quick hug and a kiss, ask them again if they have their IDs, and tell them to call you when the land. You wait as your sisters walk through security; you intend to wait until they walk around the corner and out of sight. As they walk away, without warning, they turn around. They wave good-bye.

He kisses you and hugs you in the car as you pull up to the curb. You ask him to pop the trunk so you can grab your luggage. He does so, then steps out of the driver seat and walks around back to take your luggage out for you. He hands you your suitcase and hugs you again, longer this time.

= = =

There's something about those second good-byes that grip at my heart harder than the firsts. It's like the first good-bye is for acknowledging that you or they are leaving... the second one is for saying "I love you", "please take care", and "I'll miss you" all at once.


Run run

12.6 miles today. Hayyyyyy.

Half-marathon ready!


Run Post

I've been lagging on keeping track of my progress.

Personal Records.

My longest run to date was a 10-miler last Saturday. It felt fine despite the fact that I was running on 5 hours of sleep and did not have time to drink my morning coffee.

My longest solo run was 5 miles. To be honest, 5 miles doesn't feel very different from 4 miles. My favorite 5-mi path so far is a round trip from home up Ohlone Greenway to Solano Ave. I take the first couple of miles one at a time with 1-min walk/stretch break in between, then run the last 3 miles nonstop. The only two traffic light intersections to worry about are at University Ave. and Marin Ave.

Meditation Hour.

I'm pushing my body to new limits, yes, but I also never thought I'd be able to mentally sustain myself for an hour of solo running. A friend recommended to me that I let my my mind wander during these solo runs. On the contrary, I found that I enjoy focusing my thoughts like on things like...

1. Swing.
Am I propelling my body forward with each arm swing?

2. Breathe.
Am I breathing through my nose or my mouth? What feels better right now? How many strides do I take with each breath? Big breaths or small breaths?

3. Relax
Are my fists clenched? Unclench 'em. Are my shoulders tight and bunched? Drop 'em.

4. All in Good Stride.
Downhill = small steps, first mile = small steps, traffic light turning red! = big steps!, Do I feel it in my calf muscle right now? My hamstrings? Gluts? How's my posture?

5. Keep it Up.
I love my knees; I wanna keep my knees in good condition. Run with an upwards motion, not downwards. Keep it light. Keep my knees up.

6. Pace.
Still creaky, keep it slow. Mid-run, change it up: speed up, slow down. End of run = balls out!

7. Sweat.
...Oh how I love it when I break a sweat. Especially when it's all drippy and nasty. Mmm.

It feels so good to think only of these things. If any other thoughts enter my brain, I zap it out quick with one of these thoughts. These 1-2 hour runs are my present to myself -- the one time in the day that I allow myself to not do or think of the daily pressures. No wonder I look forward to these runs so much.


Goals for the Day:
  1. Cut off activity at a sensible time, regardless of whether or not everyone has finished the activity.
  2. Make Think-Pair-Share the main activity of the day in order to direct students' talking and chattering in a productive manner.

How I will Achieve My Goals:
By not thinking about how much fun this weekend was. Focusing on the moment. And not thinking about how much work I have this week.