I try not to think or talk about this too much because I feel oh-so-misunderstood when I bring it up, but I have a wild case of perfectionism that I have dealt with for quite some time. I'm sure I've blogged about it indirectly and directly because it's a burden that I drag about like a covered wagon... or something else that's annoying and unavoidable.

Anyway, I know perfectionism sounds like one of those fake-ass weaknesses you tell an interviewer, along with "People tell me I work too hard" and "My problem is that I'm punctual all the time. Only. Ever."

Honestly though, perfectionism just means that I'm anxious for most of my waking hours, and even my sleeping hours. Somebody get this girl a chill-freaking-pill.

I have trouble giving myself the "Look at how much you've accomplished, things'll get better from here" pep talk. I tend to see things as all or nothing. "Did I accomplish all of my tasks today? No? F*CK!"

For real.

Worse yet, I set impossible expectations for myself as a teacher and I get upset when I don't meet my expectations.

I'm workin' on it.

First things first, I went home after 4th period today. I pushed myself to go to school on Monday even though I felt sick. I pushed myself to go to school on Tuesday even though I felt sicker. And I pushed myself to go to school today even though I felt sickest. By 9:30 a.m., I knew that today was not going to happen. I still stuck it out until 11:30 or so even though the sub had already arrived and then I went home. I brought work home with me. That was dumb.

All I could think about on the ride home was the shame that I felt for going home. I thought about this for a couple of hours. 

And then I thought, "Damn. Maybe I'm a little too hard on myself. Maybe. Or maybe I should have pushed harder and stayed at school instead of going home."

Well. I'm learning to leave school at a reasonable hour even if that means leaving loose ends. I'm learning to pick my battles at school -- in particular, I only pick battles that I know I will win.

I'm reminding myself that "trial and error" means that I will be met by error after error. There's no room for a perfectionist in the game of trial and error unless I want to drive myself up the wall.

I'm reminding myself that life is not a series of 1s and 0s. It's not a matter of "I taught the right way today" or "I taught the wrong way today". I've been stressed out because every day has felt like a failure because I wasn't getting it 100% right or I wasn't getting my to-do list 100% done. I need to remind myself that I'm never going to get teaching 100% right. I'm not going to know what to do for every single student and/or I do not have the ability to reach out and address every single student in the exact way that they need. I can only do my best. Only. No more. 

And it is possible to get my to-do lists 100% done if only I learn how to make manageable, attainable goals for myself. The problem so far has been figuring out what "manageable, attainable goals" looks like. One thing at a time. I've focused my past several class periods on just the Do Now. That's it. Just the first 10 minutes of class. The rest of the 50 minutes has been cuhh-razy, but that's OK because I'm focusing my energy on the first 10 minutes of class. I've improved. My next goal is to focus on positive behavior narration. That's it. Just that. I won't lose what I've gained with the Do Now -- I'm only going to build in my small successes. 

Three positive behavior narrations followed by 1 correction. If I start getting overwhelmed and I need more time to correct someone's behavior, do 5 behavior narrations to give myself time.

I'm honestly not looking to be a stellar teacher anymore. I'm lookin' to get through the day. I'm lookin' to being able to put together some semblance of a lesson for my students and to make sure that they don't tear the room apart. 

That's it.

Oh, and also, no more bull sh*t in my classroom. I don't know what switched on inside of me, but I've definitely made what we call in the biz my "strong voice" stronger. Ain't no one messin' with me, my classroom, or my class. No excuses.


Morning in the Classroom Post

I'm so thankful for a 1st and 2nd period prep. So very thankful.

Today is one of those mornings where I feel like a fake grown-up wearing fake grown-up clothes, teaching fake lessons to real teenagers.

Lawd help me.


Evening in the Classroom Post

Something about writing "reflections" is a little intimidating to me, so I'll write here instead.

Yesterday was "one of those days", as they say... where kids were being disruptive, disrespectful, etc. etc... and I'm standing there sometimes shell-shocked, sometimes defeated, sometimes borderline yelling.

It's so hard to reflect after days like those.

My resident principal called me at 9pm last night after he received an "OH GOD I DON"T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING WITH MY LIFE" kind of email from me. Ok, so those weren't my exact words, but it was something to that effect.

Him: "We've been working on your Do Now... how did it go?"
Me: "It wasn't quiet."
Him: "Ok, but how did it go?"
Me: "Well, kids were doing it. So that's good. And they weren't wondering what they were supposed to be doing... it was right there in front of them and they knew that they were supposed to do it. The kids who want to be on-task are no longer confused -- I am able to focus on the kids who are off-task for other reasons."
Him: "Ok. Good. We are establishing a routine. Let's keep working on it. Everything else after the Do Now... don't worry about that."

Ok. I get that. Class is about 1 hour long -- if I can establish a solid routine for the Do Now, then that's 5-15 minutes out of the class period that can be successful. I'll focus on that.

Improvements I've made on the Do Now so far:

-The Do Now always involves writing because it is more engaging than "have materials out" and it leaves no room for question as to whether or not they are doing the Do Now
-The Do Now is lengthy enough to still take at least 3 minutes to do even if you know the material forwards and backwards
-The Do Now is always sitting on their desk so that they do not have to search on the board for the Do Now or ask me or anyone else what they are supposed to be doing

We are still establishing this routine in class, so it does not look perfect yet. I'm still "putting out fires" during the Do Now. I'm still chasing down students to make them get to their seat. I wish it didn't take personal invitations to get students to sit down and get to work, but if that's what it takes to do it for now, then I'll do it. They need to know that this is how it will be. After each Do Now, I break down the "anatomy" of the Do Now procedure to show students what went well and what we need to work on.

I need this Do Now time because I need to check to see who is keeping up with their homework, I need to take attendance, and I need to see where our understanding is with the material.

= = =

Today, the Do Now went surprisingly smoothly. There were also 2 adults in the room observing me, which leads me to believe that the students were self-conscious of an extra pair of eyes in the room. My teacher friend tells me that if a class is being good because you are being observed, I should take it as a sign that the class likes me and they don't want to make me look bad. Ok. Whatevz, I'll take it even if I do not know if that is the case here.

After we transitioned to the classwork, the 2 adults left, and the kids started to lose it. It got to the point were kids were throwing crumpled up pieces of paper across the room -- and at me -- and I could not figure out who was doing it.

I decided to let it go because I did not know what to do. I did not want the students to see me try something and fail. So I ignored it. I went into individual tutoring and helped students with their classwork and homework. I'll take the fact that those individual students learned something today as a victory.


Growth Mindset

"Growth Mindset": this is a term that has been said from one principal to a teacher and from a teacher to a 6th grade student. It's not until that term was used by the 6th grade to student to me, a teacher, that the meaning started to sink in to me, though.

"Don't beat yourself up.": funny how the simplest pieces of advice/cliches from the teachers I respect so much can have such a deep impact on me. OK, sir. I will not beat myself up... and thank you for catching that, because I did not realize that I was.

Other things I gotta remember:
-I am doing what I always wanted to do. Throughout college and grad school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I was striving for it. Now, I am a teacher in Oakland. In fact, I'm a science teacher to 6th and 8th grade in an Oakland charter school. This is exactly what I wanted, and I got it. All of the hard stuff -- the back talking, the acting out, keeping up with parents and meetings, keeping up with my students -- this is what I signed up for.
-Another thing about the hard stuff: it is exactly what it should be. Things are not "particularly" hard for reasons xyz and I am not a particularly bad teacher. The hard stuff is exactly where it's supposed to be for a first year teacher.
-Classes are 1 hour long. I will continue chipping away at just a few successful minutes at a time for each day.

Hard times

It's funny trying to learn how to teach while still learning how to be a grown-up. Not to mention still learning about myself, how I respond to difficult situations, and how to improve how I respond to difficult situations.

Munch munch munch.


Quickie Post

Need to remind myself to never be afraid to fail. There's no shame in failing and much respect for trying.

Also need to remind myself that 30 minutes of running is worth the 30 minutes.

And finally... do not put off the things I need and love like running, yoga, seeing friends, blogging, and even going to church for the sake of trying to make my work life perfect. Because my work life will never be perfect, my work life is not my whole life, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot possibly fast forward through my first years of teaching by throwing away my non-teaching life for the sake of my teaching-life.




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Relaxing Goals

My "relaxing" goals for the quarter:

1. Go out at least one week night per week
2. Spend a full half of a weekend not doing/thinking about work

...and most importantly: not feel bad for taking breaks!


Input, Output

Spending a lot of time playing catch up and trying to wrap my head around everything. I guess that comes from being an "Input" and "Strategy" person (not to mention recovering perfectionist). I need to get a move on and start producing something ...even if only a rough draft so that my leads can have something to work with... not to mention my students. Gotta remember: at some point, I just need to turn it in. Even if it's not perfect. Even if I don't think that I have all the information that I think that I need. Just do it. Just do it! Trust myself!