Monday, May 2, 2016

On Not Giving Up

I teach a remedial math class during third block.  At the beginning of the year I had a class of about 18 students with various levels of math needs.  Some had barely passed their end of year testing the previous year, and some weren't even close.  And there was one particular student who was driving me crazy.  He spent most of the class period looking out the window or bothering other kids or generally doing nothing.  We were only two weeks into the school year and I dreaded getting to third period and dealing with this kid.

A week or two later the other math people and I decided to rearrange these classes.  The thought was that if we could put the students with similar needs into the same class for this one period we could more effectively help them (by more specifically tailoring our instruction).

To be very honest I was excited for more reason than one.
1) Hopefully for at least one class period a day, some of the kids wouldn't feel like the biggest idiot* in the class.  Everyone needs to feel some level of success.
2) Maybe in the rearranging my class wouldn't have the pain in the butt, get nothing done, mouthy kid in it.  I know that's a horrible thing to say, but it's true.

I'm sure you see this coming.  We rearrange, and homeboy is still in my class.

And this kid has had highs and lows throughout the year, but he's become one of my most favorite students.  Is he still easily distracted? Yes.  Does he usually raise his hand? No.  Do I often find him out of his seat looking out the window?  I sure do.

But the things he's accomplished in math are amazing.  He participates every day.  He tries extremely hard to truly understand the material.  Last Friday we were doing an online assessment/game and he redid it three times until he had a perfect score.

Tons of the credit for that goes to his regular math teacher.  But I like to think that some tiny portion of it is because even though he was driving me nuts, I never gave up on this kid. Every day I went to class and tried to help him in whatever way I possibly could.  I encouraged and I helped and I tried to build him up.

I don't say any of this to toot my own horn.  You see, it's been an extremely difficult several weeks with my students for various reasons.  I've had quite a few parent/teacher/student conferences and all kinds of other craziness going on.  But on no day have I given up on any of these kids.  So when someone asks me if I'm relieved that I'll have a day off from so-and-so because they're suspended, the answer is maybe a tiny bit yes, but mostly I'm sad and wondering how I can help them make better choices when they return.  Every single day is a new one.  And when some kids continue to make poor choices or are flippant and disrespectful, I try to remember this one, and how he turned it around in no small part because a few teachers believed in him.  And then I try again tomorrow.

*I'm in no way saying any of these kids are idiots.  They're not.  But that's the way you start to feel when everyone (or almost everyone) gets something and you have no idea what you're doing...and then you shut down completely.

Monday, December 21, 2015

This Isn't Just About the New Black Hermione

Guys I'm having a lot of opinions and I'm trying hard not to rant on the internet.  I legit just screamed into a pillow (massively irritating my sleeping dog) to release some frustration.  I'd like to more calmly share some of my thoughts.

When I first read Harry Potter Hermione was a reflection of my own self.  She was smart and not the prettiest and irritated some kids, but was very well meaning.  And I loved to pretend I was her. And from what I'm reading I'm not the only one.  But this isn't about me.

This is about my kids (my students and the ones in my family).  Guess what these kids read and see?  Books and movies and tv shows with white kids and white people doing stuff and saving the world usually only with peripheral characters of another race.  When my niece dressed up as Hermione for Halloween she wouldn't say "I'm Hermione."  She said "I guess I'm black Hermione."

My students are from Mexico, El Salvador, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Palestine, Peru, Ghana, Sierra Leone, India, the Philippines, and many many other places.  And most of them aren't white.  And out of six little kids in my own family only one is white.  These kids need to be able to more easily see reflections of themselves in the media they consume.

So let's have a black woman play Hermione and an Asian woman play Cinderella and a Native American boy play Percy Jackson and a Mexican-American lady play Ryan Gosling's next witty and independent love interest. Nothing bad will come of it.

Also massively important and tangentially related, please stop spreading this idea that Islam is by nature a hateful religion.  It's damaging in so many ways.

Friday, December 11, 2015


At the end of last school year I was miserable.  I was not enjoying my job.  In fact, I was failing at my job.  People would kindly (though possibly insincerely) tell me it wasn't me it was the kids, it was the parents, it was the tests, it was the environment, etc.  That didn't change the fact that several years in a row I was not effective (no matter how hard I tried).  Test results would come and I'd go into the bathroom and cry.  No doubt I worked hard, but it didn't work.  

So I sought help.  I contacted old professors.  I talked to local professionals. I read articles.  And I still didn't feel good.  I felt like I had wasted my scholarship on a career I would never be good at or enjoy again.  

Then one night I helped my brother with math.  For six hours straight.  And he was able to graduate high school on time in no small part because of that.  The weirdest part was I mostly enjoyed it (even though my brother and I don't get along very well).  

I decided to give it one more college try.  I'd get certified to teach math and find myself a job.  I'd leave the school where I loved the people, but couldn't succeed for somewhere new.  Getting certified was easy.  I'm a good tester and love math.  Harder was finding a job.  My county made it extremely difficult to get a transfer.  Then came a call for a school I'd never heard of in a county I wasn't that interested in. 

When I got there my heart dropped a little (I'm ashamed to admit).  Another mostly broken down old building.  I don't know why I have the tendency to judge a school by its cover, but I do.  I interviewed and felt pretty confident that I'd get the job.  After a few more tangles with my previous job there it was.  A job offer.  My last hope.

This is my classroom before I actually had stuff on the bulletin boards. 

And I LOVE it.  I love these kids more than perhaps any other class. (I don't know, my first class was very special).  I'm concerned about their personal worries.  I want to know what little (and big - see previous post) things are troubling them and potentially keeping them from achieving.  I feel so sad when they don't succeed.  During the weekends I think about them and hope they're happy, warm, and fed.  I'm a little worried about Christmas break because of my time away.  And I have passion for my subject! I get excited to teach things and I'm seeing eyes light up and it's wonderful.  

And some stuff still sucks like data meetings and state tests and dealing with seemingly stupid requirements from VDOE.  And my job is hard.  It's hard and tiring every single day.  But I didn't fail.  I didn't waste my scholarship.  This is not the end of my life as a teacher.  And perhaps for the first time in a VERY long time I feel like it's actually the beginning. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Be Kind...

I've heard over and over and over, "Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."  I mean, this is the internet.  Everyone loves to post a thoughtful inspirational quote that may or may not mean much.  This one does. I've never thought so much about it (except like hell yeah I'm fighting some battles) until this year (and especially this week).

I changed schools this year and I LOVE my new job.  It's amazing and I love the kids more maybe than I have any other group.  Middle school suits me.  But man, these kids are dealing with a lot.

These kids look forward to the days they can come to school on Saturdays because that means they get lunch that day.  One missed breakfast the other day (everyone at my school gets free breakfast) and was near tears in my class because he hadn't eaten since the snack he got at the after school program the previous day.  And then today I called a child to the hall to ask him why he hadn't come to after school math help.  I said "____, what happened to you yesterday afternoon?" And the kid fell apart.  I spent most of the period in the hall letting him talk while I listened.  And his stuff is TOO much.  This kid is 12 and has dealt with more in his life than you or I could imagine.

And so I think of that quote.  And I want to remember it before I fuss because a homework assignment is missing or worry that maybe one kid or another might not pass the end of year test.  Because these kids are fighting insanely hard battles.  And honestly, who cares about math homework when you have so much more at stake.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Anxiety Sucks

I have anxiety.  I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that before and most people I know are aware.  I mean, I just tweeted something about being anxious two nights ago.  Anyway, I'm getting really sick of it, but it's just getting worse.  It's all the rage for celebrities to be honest about real life struggles so I thought I'd add a real life person with a real life struggle to the mix.

I don't particularly remember dealing with extensive anxiety when I was a child.  Sure I was always a worrier and would feel guilty about stuff that didn't make sense (like leaving my cousin's shoes at the playground when I was 6 or 7).  I was a stressed and dramatic and moody teenager.  Life wasn't really easy or anything, but anxiety wasn't the boss of me.

Now my life tends to revolve around what won't make me anxious.  Here's an example of the progression.

When I was in high school I loved going to movies with my friends.  It's really one of the only things to do here and we went all the time.  In college I continued going to movies (especially the dollar theater, hooray!) and loved going to midnight premiers of movies I loved.  I didn't want to miss a single moment of these highly anticipated shows so I'd wait until just before the movie started and go to the bathroom.  So far, this all makes sense.

Something changed, though, and I started going to the bathroom at the last second before any event (basketball game, a regular movie at the dollar theater, etc) started.  I'd set a time when I was going to go so I'd be least likely to miss the beginning, but also not too soon so I wouldn't have to go to the bathroom again.

Eventually (with a few more degrees in the middle) I started feeling so worried about missing something I'd go to the bathroom three or four times between getting to a movie theater/event and the event starting.  Even during the previews I'd have to talk myself out of going again. Going to the bathroom seemed so stupid and  like a waste of whatever money I'd spent.  Plus then you have to crawl across people and in other ways disturb their experience.

Now the worry and stress leading up to an actual movie has become so frustrating I don't want to go anymore.  If someone invites me I dread going and can't wait for the date to pass.  Even things I really want to see I wait for DVD or redbox.  I have a $25 movie theater gift card that's been sitting around since Christmas so I can't even claim it's about the money.  I think it would be fun to go skydiving, but as soon as that idea came to me I could only think about what if I felt like I had to pee once I was suited up or in the plane or whatever.  So instead I don't go and I don't watch and I don't plan to skydive.

Well, this post got way longer than I intended it to be and I don't have a great way to wrap it up, but I wanted to explain a little bit about how I think.

The end.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Social Media

I was laying down trying to fall asleep with my post holiday/every day anxiety running through my  head last night and I was thinking about social media.  I like social media.  I like to get on facebook and twitter.  I've even been considering instagram (heaven help me).  But there are just so many things that you can't post anymore without being judged or openly hated and it's stressful!

- Don't post too many details of your life (over-sharing).

- No posts about how you're feeling without details (attention seeking).

- No online quiz results.

- Don't post about the weather in your area that other people are probably posting about.

- Definitely no writing about the sheer volume of people posting about the weather.

- Avoid too many pictures of your kids.

- Or pets.

- Pop song lyrics are out.

- Stay away from slang words people might consider annoying (like hubby or preggo).

- Don't ever type something political.

- If at least two of your friends have already posted a video/article don't post it.

- No commenting on significant world news/events/results of sporting events (woo many people are already doing that too).

- Never play facebook games.  They'll secretly post and request and notify for you.

- Don't link your twitter and facebook so they say the exact same thing.

- Oh, I forgot.  If you have kids don't post stories/anecdotes about things they said or did.

- Sonogram pictures are out.

- No fashion blog type pictures either.

- If other people are posting about a popular movie/song/show don't bother posting anything about it because you're just adding to the "noise" in people's feeds.

That list is certainly not exhaustive.  And truly some of these things drive me crazy.  Being the imperfect person that I am (I know, shocking) I've even complained about several (both online and in real life).  But what's the point?  To shame people into sharing only the parts of their lives we want to hear about or think they should share?  I don't know.  It seems to go against the purpose of social media and if you don't want to know those things about someone shouldn't you just unfriend/unfollow/block/hide posts from them?

Also, typing/sharing this may make me a hypocrite.  I haven't yet decided, but see my note about being imperfect above.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Baby Alice

First things first: Alice Rosalie is not named after Twilight characters.  My sister has never read the books and says she maybe saw the movie once, but can't remember.

Also, I was going to put the pictures all at the end of the story as a prize for finishing then I realized the text was quite long and needed breaking up.

On April 2nd everyone knew Alice was coming soon.  I kept telling Heather that she had to wait until April at least because Gabe's birthday is in March and we're really close to filling all the months.  So I was checking my phone any chance I got to see if there was any news.  When the kids were gone to specials I saw Mom had texted saying to call her.  Turns out Heather was in labor!  Apparently she had actually been in labor all night (though her contractions weren't regular) and was already dilated 6cm by the time she got to the hospital.

I got super excited and bounced all over the school building checking with the other third grade teachers to see if they'd let me late bus kids wait in their rooms so I could go check on Heather (and give Billy a chance to eat or whatever).  They all agreed easily and by 3:41 I was out the door and on the way to the hospital.

I grabbed some chicken for Billy from KFC then stress ate biscuits all the way there (I don't do well at traffic lights when I want to be somewhere).

Alice and me a few hours after she was born.

When I got to her room Heather was almost finished her IV antibiotics (she has group b strep or something so they tried to get those into her really quickly so the baby would be healthy -- I don't know much about this part except they were worried the baby would try to come before they could finish the meds).  Right after that they started the Pitocin.  We had been chatting nicely, but she got really tired and I just hung around grading papers and distracting her (Billy was in the corner reading).

At one point I left the room for a second so they could check her and break her water.  Then over the course of the next little while the nurse kept coming back in and moving the baby around and more and more water kept coming (the doctors already knew Heather had about 6 liters of fluid which is way too much).  Then Heather started getting weirdly glassy-eyed and exhausted and said she wanted the baby to hurry up and get out.

Alice all wrapped and ready to go home the next day.

The nurse brought the doctor in and before I even consciously really thought about it I was staying in there too (this shocked me, I don't even like to watch baby story, gross), though I relocated from a chair near the foot of the bed to hiding somewhat behind the IV screen thing up near Heather's head.  Billy was, of course, there too.  They had Heather push a little and then stop for a second (she was kind of pissed about that because apparently that's super uncomfortable).  Then they let her push all the way (meanwhile she kept talking about how big the baby felt -- ouch) and out came baby.  I peeked at one point and saw the baby's hand and honest to goodness thought, "Wow, they have tiny latex gloves on her.  I wonder how they did that."  Obviously that was just the whatever it's called that's stuck all over them and for a baby to wearing tiny latex gloves when it's only half born is weird.

Alice with a giant Utah baby flower (that I secretly like in this case, |
but I think it might just be because I like Alice so much). 

When Alice came out she was kind of...floppy and blue.  The doctor and nurses were talking about how the cord was really short and how right at the last part of labor (even though she'd been checked tons of times) the cord wrapped around her neck.  The nurses took Alice to the side and Billy went with her to the other side of the room.  I held Heather's hand because she was really upset that she didn't get to hold her yet.  She kept almost crying "Is she ok?" and they just kept saying yes, but obviously something was wrong because they didn't give her to her momma.  It was kind of tense, Heather was upset, and I was taking cell phone pictures of her from my place by Heather's bed because she couldn't see her.  After a few minutes she started really crying (she had only been occasionally making noise so far) and they brought her to Heather.  And then I cried a little bit (but not too much because I'm well medicated).  The pediatrician came and checked her out and declared her to be healthy.

Alice was Heather's biggest baby at 7* pounds 14 ounces and 19 inches long.  She was born at 6:23pm (I heard them call it which was kind of cool -- just like on TV) and she's beautiful.

When Gamma (my mom) swaddled Alice and she
 looked perfect and vaguely Middle Eastern

There were some other gross parts I witnessed during the whole birthing thing that I'm not gonna talk about here (this has been a lesson in TMI already), but it was totally worth it.  Being there when Alice (partially named for me) was born was the coolest thing I've ever done.

All dressed up with nowhere to go for Easter
(she couldn't come to the party because germs).

*Originally I posted that Alice weighed 6 pounds 14 ounces at birth.  Please pardon this mistake.