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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Two-minute Little Things

Fill your day with positive little things by using the 2-minute rule:

Give yourself 2 minutes to do a positive little thing and do it now. Not later --- now.

2-minute things I did today:

  • blogged
  • read my book
  • walked two late students to class; bonded with them while making them hustle to class faster
  • checked in with 3 teachers in-person (2 minutes each)
  • checked in with 2 teachers on the phone (2 minutes each)
  • called 5 parents (maximum 2 minutes each; in some cases, less)
I win.

"You Give it More Than You Think You Can Give"

By mile 8, you think that you'll be completely done at the end of mile 9. Because of this, you aim for the end of mile 10.


Just Little Things

Went home yesterday thinking, "F- this. I don't know what I'm doing with the kids tomorrow. I don't care.  F- teaching. F- them. I'm going home and going to sleep." Mind you, this was 5 pm.

I spent the evening laying on the couch. I then decided to get boba. Spent an hour or so at Sweethearts. And was in bed by 8pm.

It was glorious.

I went to school today still having no idea what I was going to do. Ended up showing an educational video with an accompanying worksheet (thanks, BrainPOP).

Today was still crazy (one kid danced in her chair, another kid danced on top of the table, and a couple of kids wanted to start fighting each other -- the fighting kids are 6th grade boys, both of whom are about half my size, so whatevskis).

But there were a few good things that happened, too -- I observed my kids in their other classes (I left them Post-It notes with positive comments). I thanked a teacher for helping me out today; she wrote me back later this evening telling me that my thanking her turned her mood around after a bad day. I also helped a new teacher get ready for her new job as a math teacher.

I met with several other teachers today about strategies that are working for both of us with our students.

I brainstormed with students and other teachers about providing "advanced" science work for students who need something to do while their classmates are acting a fool.

I shared half my lunch with a kid who forget her lunch and shared my microwave with a couple of kids who needed to heat up their lunch.

--- It's the little things like these that I need to hold on to to remind myself why I teach. And it's the little things like these that other teachers do for me that help me get through days when I can't remember why I teach.

Hoping for another day full of little things tomorrow.


Working on:
Letting things go
Making parameters for myself
Reminding myself that growing as a person means coming across obstacles that are more difficult to overcome than the last obstacle. Also reminding myself that I thought I couldn't do it last time, but I did. So even though I think that I can't do it this time.... I can.


"Instead of focusing on what did "NOT" happen, let's focus on what "DID" happen. So what happened?"

-kids were in their seats... only one student at maximum were wandering around at a time.
-I'm here. I showed up to school.
-I sent less kids out today.
-There were some instances of 100% even if we could not hold on to it
-I used positive behavior narration
-college-going atmosphere talk: learning both content and behavior

I'm breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.


Ran my first 16-miler over the weekend. 'Twas good. Couple days later, I ran a 4+ miler hella hard.

I went through a bad lull in running over the summer/beginning of the school year. I kept putting off running because I thought I was too tired to do it. Then, when I did go running, I had all the mental blocks of a first time runner. I let it get to me. I almost stopped running altogether thinking that it just is not  possible with a first-year teacher schedule.

And then I just did it -- I went from running 3-5 miles here and there to running 8 miles in one go. It wasn't great; I didn't get that nice, "in the zone", plateau feeling until about mile 5 or so when it usually kicks in after mile 2. But I got there eventually. That was exactly what I needed to be reminded of to get me back into running. A few days later, I ran a 7-miler in the middle of the week, which is the longest mid-week run I've ever done.

And then I ran the longest weekend run I've ever done. w00t.

That run gave me a lot of time to think and not think. I won't get too into the whole not-thinking that happens when I run right now. We'll save that for later. For now, here are my thoughts:

-I'm no longer afraid to push my body to its limits. I'm not afraid to run until I'm panting, gasping, and heaving for air. I spend a lot of days out of the weekend being afraid of what will happen when I get show up to work. Running is a time that I get to not be afraid of something that I know will challenge me.
-There's no such thing as an imperfect run. Every run -- fast, slow, long distance, short distance -- just is what it is, and is good for my mental and physical state .
-Taking a long break from running did not set me back. I'm picking up exactly where I left off, mile-time-wise. My time isn't great, but I'm lookin' to improve myself. On the one hand, I could look at it pessimistically and say that I'm behind schedule and that I should be a much better runner than I was in March since it is now September, but on the other hand... I don't really care. Whatever. I'm proud of myself. Go April.


Trying not to get angry/upset because 1) It's not productive/effective and 2) I'm wasting time. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

4 more periods to go + after school tutoring.

No matter how these next several hours go, 4:30pm will come eventually. And then I'll have a quiet room to prep in until about 6:00. And then I will go running. And then I will eat leftover dinner. And then I will sleep.


Just Things

Things I'm trying to remind myself:

It was a short week last week due to being out sick. It is a short week this week due to the long weekend. It will be a short week next week due to PD.

That being said, I can't let how stressful yesterday was disillusion me into thinking that I'm not fit to be here. Yesterday was only a matter of 1) the students being out of sync with the routine we had going and 2) my forgetting how difficult every day really is and forgetting how I deal with difficult days.

One teacher down. I'm not next. I'm not. Every veteran teacher here has told me that they went through the process of wanting to quit during their first year. Every first year teacher here has told me that they have thought about it, too.

Nothing will get better if I leave, so leaving is not a better alternative.

Things to focus on:
1) helping a fellow colleague with interview stuff over the weekend. She not only proceeded to get a job offer, but has been invited to another interview with another school.
2) helping a friend in studying for her CSET
3) the fact that I ran 20+ miles this weekend, 16 of which was in one run. Go April!
4) Today is a new day.


Summer Reading List of 2011

Girl in Translation
Admittedly, I think this book was written for middle school students, but I found the content of the book to be very valuable, especially as a teacher of young urban folks. I related to the main character to some extent because she is a young, Asian immigrant girl who comes to the States as an elementary school student. It is similar to Fifth Chinese Daughter in this sense, but GiT is a fiction rather than a memoir or autobiography. It's beautifully written and insightful -- finally, a mainstream book not written in the All-American Boy in his Rite of Passage or Vain White Girl torn between Fashion, Frenemies, and Frat Boys perspective. This is one of those books where every other page is dog-eared to mark a beautiful quote for later reference. It's a quick read. I recommend it for a lazy summer day.

It seems really silly to read a book about trivia.. especially when you don't care much about trivia at all. You know. Because it's trivial. Hardy har har. This book is written by Ken Jennings, Jeapordy! champion. It's a mix between his life as a J! contestant and about the history and living history of trivia itself. He also throws in all kinds of trivia that I could rarely answer and have already forgotten.

One take away from this book is that it can be helpful to know "a little about a lot" in situations where you are meeting new people or trying to connect with someone whom you may otherwise have nothing in common with.

My second takeaway is that J! trivia is so culturally loaded that fact recall is but a tiny sliver of what it takes to be a contestant on J! You also need to have grown up watching J!, hearing titles of and authors of Western classics (though it is not necessary that you actually read any), and following American sports. Otherwise, you're S.O.L.

Lastly, bits of knowledge have the potential of being so interconnected and laden with satellite bits of knowledge, that memorizing something as small as the order of U.S. presidents (potentially a feat about as easy as memorizing all 50 states in alphabetical order, aka a 5th grade lesson) leads to tapping into an understanding of cause-and-effect, particularly in world politics and world history.

Little Bee
I'm a little addicted to books that take place in the Middle East and more so addicted to books that take place in Africa. I'm a bit ashamed of this fact because I don't mean to exoticize another culture for even a minute. I simply want to learn more about the other side of the world via an outlet other than NPR and sensationalized media outlets that feed nothing but clipped, chopped soundbites.

Little Bee was horrific and heartbreaking to say the least. It was another pageturner. I admit, I'm so ignorant of the politics it spoke of that I had difficulty differentiating between fiction and reality (kind of like when I was reading Kite Runner, although KR was even more confusing for me because all the while when I was reading it, I did not know I was reading a fiction. Whoops.)
Into the Wild
So typical, but I took the antagonizing perspective of "Pfft. Check out this privileged White kid" with this book. I forced myself to get past that affective filter though and open my mind to the man's outlook and philosophy on nature and life. I think it's interesting that in Chris McCandless' isolation and "oneness" with nature, his thoughts became less philosophical and more -- shall we say -- primitive. More geared towards survival. Did this man go forwards or backwards in his search for a pure life? Did he reach some sort of heightened enlightenment, or did he forgo his pursuit for it altogether?

The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy
OK, so I didn't actually finish this book. I got about halfway through it before I picked up Ender's Game. It has a very dry "humour"(as opposed to humor). There is very little plot development and even less character development. I'd be able to get past this if it were at least some kind of smart commentary on people, life, or politics, but as far as I can tell, it is none of these things. I don't know, I don't get it. I'll try to finish it anyway, one day. Maybe I'm missing something spectacular at the end. Kind of like how everyone loved Rent except for me, but I haven't actually seen it the whole way through.

Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenoxide, Children of the Mind, Ender in Exile
These are all books by Orson Scott Card, aka Bloody-F*cking-Genius. Truth be told, I'm only halfway through Children of the Mind right now, but I plan to finish the series very soon. The first book, Ender's Game was about as captivating as the Harry Potter series. Oh yes, I went there -- Harry Potter in all his enchanted, He's the One, glory.

Ender's Game is a book of adventure; it takes you to a new world -- or, at least, out of this one because it takes place in outer space.

The rest of the books exponentially pick up speed in terms of complex characters, twists in plot, and (most importantly for me) connections to and commentaries on world politics and war theory. I'm talkin' Cold War, WWII, Mesopotamia, Ancient China, Christianity vs. Islam, Game Theory, Othering of peoples,  theory of governance... etc. Oh, and let's not forget that the series is a science fiction, so these  topics are touched upon amidst faster-than-light travel, New Worlds, spaceships, and misunderstood sentient species.

I'm not wasting any time. Besides having collected all five books in the series (a series which, I might add, was written over the span of 23 years. The most recent one was just published in 2008), I've already bought all four books to the parallel stories called, The Shadow Series. Oh man. I'm so excited.
What I Talk About when I Talk About Running
This is a memoir written by a Japanese novelist named Haruki Murakami. I read it in two sittings because it's so short. I swear, I could have written this book myself. I don't mean that to sound conceited or that he did a bad job of writing the book. Rather, the entire book is about this man's relationship to running and the philosophies he drawn from the process. He is also a writer. He makes connections between the process of running and writing; he writes about how running sustains him as a writer. Other books I've read about running is all about process and technique. These books are interesting enough, but Murakami delves into the real joy that I've found in running -- that state of mental un-blank blankness; the sense of challenge met by accomplishment; runner's highs along with runner's blues. It's a little mind blowing to see my thoughts on paper as it is, even more so when the words were written by a man I've never met. The book inspired me to keep writing and to, of course, keep running.

Straightening Some Things Out

Home Again.

It's Thursday and I'm at home sick once again. What have I done to myself?! Maybe I should have stayed home at the first sign of being sick so that I could get better right away instead of having to stay home 1.5 days in a row. Oh well. What's done is done.

See, I'm getting wiser already. Staying home when I need to stay home and accepting the fact. Yippidee.

I need to be more careful about which comments I take to heart and which I comments I let slide off of me like water droplets on a duck's back (that was a terribly awkward analogy). In recent weeks, I almost internalized comments such as "Why should I listen to you, you can't even control your class?" and "I hate this class, I don't learn anything in here" and have completely ignored wiser, more constructive comments like "Go home, it's 8pm... You need to rest.", "You're a first year teacher, don't expect to get it all right right now, and don't beat yourself up when you don't", and "Stay home if you're sick. We need a healthy April at school."

Grow Up.

I mentioned earlier that it's tricky business learning how to teach and learning how to be a grown-up at the same time. Thankfully, I'm not the only young teacher at my school. Thankfully, I have many real grown-up teachers to learn from at my school.

My blog used to be titled, "From Growing Pains to Grown-Up Pains". This title came into being about 4 years ago or so, during my college transition. I don't mean transition from high school to college or my transition from undergrad to graduate school -- I mean the years during college which, really, was one gigantic transition. If being a little fish student in a high school pond is being in Mom's belly, and the immediate life-after-grad-school is  infancy, then college is Mom's birth canal.

Anyhoo, here I am at infancy.

Lessons on Being a Grown Up (aka, Infancy)

Damn those Dishes
I'm learning how to wash my dishes no matter how tired I am. This does not mean that I wash my dishes every day or even every 4 days. Truth. It's pretty disgusting in my kitchen. Learning how to wash my dishes no matter how tired I am just means that I no longer wait until I have the time/energy to wash the dishes, I just do it as immediately as I possibly can (which, OK, is sometimes every 5 days or so. Again, don't come over any time soon).

Adequate Sleep
Besides weekends, I've been going to bed between 9:30-10:30 every night. Yes, 1/3 of my days are devoted to sleeping. I'm not going to feel bad about it because 2/3 of my day is spent being 100% more efficient (and enjoyable) than if I did not get enough sleep. There's a math problem for you.

Work is Work is Not Life
I've blogged about this recently. I will afford myself roughly 10 hours of work per day, no more. Any ends left untied will have be left untied until the next day, the day after, or sometime later in the future. As I learn and as I get better (at life), my productivity within those 10 hours will increase.

Ironing Out Wrinkles
Literally. I have not ironed a single outfit for work yet in the past month  -- I've mostly gotten away with clothes that don't look too bad or wearing clothes that I bought so recently that they still have the nice creases down the front and back middle of each pant leg. I know how to iron my clothes, now it's just a matter of actually doing it.

Going to the Doctor When I'm Sick
Yay, benefits of my very own! It is time to allow this package to benefit me.

I'm Ignoring You
I'll be honest, I actually said this to a student the other day. "Ms. Angeles! Ms. Angeles! Ms. Angeles, did you check my homework? Ms. Angeles!" That's about when I said it, I think. I'm not sure, because I was ignoring her, so I wasn't sure what she saying. Luckily, she didn't take it personally. I'm learning to cut out excess stimuli in my life. I can't and I refuse to attend to every minor detail for the sake of addressing more pressing issues.