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misseducation

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Twentysomething, transplant to Chicago, 2nd-year-ish elementary special education low-incidence teacher in Chicago Public Schools. These posts and reblogs (often queued) are thoughts about the special education teacher and person I am growing to be.

Hints of wellness and social justice throughout (and considering my own female/cis/New Yorker/Chicago transplant/Asian/bilingual/2nd-gen American/low-income background/well-educated/ intersections of identity through my posts). misseducation23[at]gmail[dot]com

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    I Resist TFA.

    I don’t want anyone to mistake my views, I post on this a lot because I care a lot, I’ve been caring what other people think a lot instead of standing firm, and I’m going to post this as a declaration- I am against Teach For America and actively working to bring it down.

    I don’t care that there are a diversity of some good, some bad experiences, I don’t care that many actually do get their start teaching (good for them, really, but that’s the minority). I care that Teach for America exacerbates and perpetuates the broken education system that is continually stratified, that supports testing, charter school expansion, all while claiming that it is politically neutral, and all while it takes money from organizations and corporations that have specific views of education reform. I care that it is dishonest about its actual impact and its mission in the American education system, spending millions of dollars on this message while refusing to release meaningful data about its own impact. I care that the implicit messages of TFA are that the public school system is broken, that we need large changes and enthusiastic energy to fix it, and that someone else has the solution somehow- leaders like Michelle Rhee are dangerous to the education system, for example, and not all TFA people think like her, but the large impact is frightening. I care that TFA exploits young people into believing its message while pushing out veteran teachers and teachers who actually want to be teachers- I know multiple teachers who were ed majors who had to go through Teach for America to get a job. I care that Teach For America actively promotes the deprofessionalization of teachers and is union-busting by putting teachers into non-unionized charters (incidentally, many are now unionized or unionizing, yea!). Unions are necessary to protect workers conditions, especially teachers who can be very easily exploited- say what you will about them, but for teachers and all laborers they are necessary. I truly believe that Teach For America puts itself first, teachers and students last with its work.

    I did not start with this stance. Just look at the research, the real research, not the Mathematica studies, etc. etc. Really, truly, then look at our schools, which really, really need resources. It’s all right in front of you.

    We are focusing on the wrong priorities as a nation- we need to be actively pushing teachers to stay, pushing out testing that is serving to attack teachers, schools, and ultimately closing them. We should not be spending millions of dollars funding charter school experiments. We should not be spending millions of dollars on testing and teacher evaluations. And we should not be investing millions in Teach For America. We need to be investing in schools and teachers we have, giving them direct professional development that will actually help them, providing resources like curriculum, not making them test for weeks at a time, not using those (often faulty and bad for our kids) tests to declare bad teachers, bad schools, not writing them off as failures. (some testing is necessary, but the state of testing in schools has gotten ridiculous, where I’m spending days and weeks testing my kids instead of teaching). And no, just because some good teachers do come out of TFA, just because there are some good principals or leaders that come out of this, just because these issues of lack of support, resources, intimidation pervade in many urban school systems, does not mean that Teach for America is allowed or ANY WAY OKAY. Teach for America is exacerbating that burn out. This is not real education reform. We should be thinking bigger than that.

    I have a lot of fb friends who are corps members or alum on here- we need to be thinking about more than just our isolated experiences as teachers. I am challenging you to think about what the whole education system should look like and even consider that what Teach For America is now can fit into that. For me, it cannot. We need to be thinking about the whole impact of the organization. I want a just, equitable education for all children. I don’t see TFA doing that- I see it going against that in all ways.

    — 1 month ago with 26 notes

    #ResistTFA  #Teach for America  #Corporate education reform  #Education reform  #Personal  #Life  #Education  #Charter schools  #Testing  #Corporate funding 
    "Students first."

    I’ve come a long way in the past 2.5 years as a teacher and a person- I realize you can’t really be a great teacher unless you’re practicing things in your personal life that align with your beliefs as a teacher. You also can’t be a great teacher if you let things slide. I’ve worked a lot this year and last on holding myself up to my word, being trusting and capable of success, and in making sure I take care of myself WHILE also taking care of students.

    I couldn’t be a good teacher unless I knew what I was going through first. It’s kind of like what my financial coach has told me about getting financial affairs in order- first, you have to get your money management in order; then your emergency funds and making sure you have them in place in the case you run into trouble; then deal with your debt; then retirement to make sure you’re set; and then building your own wealth up. You gotta keep building yourself up and up, dealing with issues you face and creating that cushion for yourself for when you will inevitably face obstacles and fall, before you can really begin to make transformative change, to be able to not just survive but thrive.

    In terms of my teaching, I have built myself up- figuring out those pitfalls about myself that hinder me from doing my very best as a teacher (asking for help, getting enough sleep, knowing my content knowledge, skills, curriculum; being able to present content well; freezing yet overworking at the first sign of pressure; organization). Once I knew these things and addressed them, I could build forward and actually start being proactive about my students- having those working structures in place to run my room, having paraprofessionals anticipate problem areas and working together to solve problems, having behavior plans and whole-group plans ready for my students, group rotation structures, etc. And my class has been running pretty smoothly, and I’ve been able to focus on academic content and making sure they’re learning. We’ve made a lot of progress as a class, and I realized I was beating myself down for everything I didn’t know. It’s okay, as I’m teaching a primary cluster program with students with autism and other low-incidence disabilities, and I’m not going to do everything perfectly this first year. I’m definitely not doing everything perfectly, but we’ve made a lot of progress thus far.

    I think the last thing I needed to do was stop caring so much about myself and just care more about my students. I think some part of me had internalized the constant paperwork as my job as a special education teacher rather than focusing on the students. As Chicago Public Schools tries so hard to convince itself of (then denies through budget cuts and their overall strategy to fund its system as little as possible), students do come first. And this past week I’ve been focused on remembering that MY KIDS ARE KIDS, that things will happen, and that I need to be proactive and ready for those things happening. No more being frustrated every time I lose an aide to some school thing, no more being frustrated by testing, by IEP meetings, by surprise pop-up meetings, by after-school committees, by the fact that we have no school-wide reading, math, or social studies curriculum, by everything that comes up. THINGS COME UP. WE’RE TEACHERS. I have to remember that I’m there for the kids, not to react reactively to every situation that comes up. It was a mindset flip that could really only happen once I realized that s*** will always come up. I can’t really do much about that. What I can do is just prepare for things to happen. As a teacher in my ESL cohort said, we just have to go with the flow sometimes.

    And this week has been pretty great, and I’ve been just more relaxed. I wasn’t really mad this week at all, I got my work done, my kids were more joyful, I was more joyful, I didn’t let the small things irritate me, and I listened more. I let my kids do more, take more charge of the classroom, but also made sure they did all their work, held them accountable, and made sure they did their best. I have been better about incorporating their own needs in the classroom and making sure the supports I’ve put into place happen every time, that I call no bull, that I’m not going to raise my voice (unless there’s violence or something serious involved, most situations don’t require that). Yes, I’ve been doing all of these things throughout my time in the classroom, but kind of sporadically. I’m holding myself to account- I need to be more prepared for my students, I need to just do my job for my students, and I need to provide the expectations and supports that will have them all succeed. They all can. I just need to be actively making sure that’s happening every single day and not letting everything about being a special education teacher get me away from that mission- my students come first.

    Of course, I still have to take care of me, too. =)

    — 2 months ago with 5 notes

    #personal  #teaching  #life  #original  #education 
    It is freezing in Chicago! So what did I do the past two snow days off? Get all of my Chinese New Year cleaning done! And get ready for the rest of the week!
- rearranged a bit of the furniture
- wet swiffered the floor
- put away things in the right places
- did the laundry, folded, and about to put it all away
- washed all the dishes
- changed the shower curtain liner
- wiped down the sink in the kitchen counter
- cooked and packed lunches and dinners for the next three days (thanks partly to some of the leftovers from my aunt from our Chinese New Year dinner)
Have to fix my lesson plans now to accommodate for only 3 days of lesson plans and instruction, not five- will do that during the State of the Union Address tonight. Still have a lot of junk in my apartment but I will wait till spring break to take care of that. For now, my apartment smells like lavender soap! I am feeling good about life. It is like Mother Nature wanted me to get all this done :-)

    It is freezing in Chicago! So what did I do the past two snow days off? Get all of my Chinese New Year cleaning done! And get ready for the rest of the week!

    - rearranged a bit of the furniture
    - wet swiffered the floor
    - put away things in the right places
    - did the laundry, folded, and about to put it all away
    - washed all the dishes
    - changed the shower curtain liner
    - wiped down the sink in the kitchen counter
    - cooked and packed lunches and dinners for the next three days (thanks partly to some of the leftovers from my aunt from our Chinese New Year dinner)

    Have to fix my lesson plans now to accommodate for only 3 days of lesson plans and instruction, not five- will do that during the State of the Union Address tonight. Still have a lot of junk in my apartment but I will wait till spring break to take care of that. For now, my apartment smells like lavender soap! I am feeling good about life. It is like Mother Nature wanted me to get all this done :-)

    — 2 months ago with 5 notes

    #Snow days  #Snow day  #Chinese new year  #Productive  #Personal  #Life  #Original  #Cleaning  #Cooking 

    Aha, changes! I’m going back to school to get my ESL endorsement! I told myself nine months ago, when I finished my Masters, that I wouldn’t be going back to school anytime soon while also teaching. We’ll see how this goes. However, I couldn’t turn it down- Chicago Public Schools is sponsoring it, and it’ll be under $2000 for the whole thing, which will take a year and a summer requirement to complete. I have a lot of ELL learners in my class who also live with autism and other disabilities, and I think having that experience and training will really help me learn how to work with my students. As someone who is Chinese and grew up in Chinatown, NYC, I know the importance of being able to hold onto language, culture, and to also feel welcome and accepted in the classroom environment for both those things. I was blessed with people who appreciated both in my education, and, while I was not an ESL learner myself, I know how important having access to an ESL-certified teacher is. I want to make sure my students have someone who can help them with that, too.

    Sadly, though, because choir rehearsals are on Mondays, and also because it would be too much to spend 3.5 hours a week at choir rehearsals every week while doing school, I am quitting choir. I am going to miss singing for a year- hopefully I can get back to it soon. I’m taking something out of my schedule but adding something right back to it, so will keep busy.

    At work, I’ve been frustrated by the amount of paperwork and things. My case manager is leaving for a counselor position at another school, so there’s another facet. I’ve been complacent and pretty much exhausted at work and I just hate it. And a coworker of mine put it very bluntly- we’re tired because we’re continually being asked to do more right as the district is cutting budgets and not giving us the resources to teach. (By the way, it’s a slap in the face when you close 50 Chicago Public Schools in one year because of “50,000 empty spots”, then decide Wednesday to open 7 more charter schools, and right now charter schools have “11,000 empty spots.” Corporate education reform is a whole nother boat which angers me). That’s more of an urban education problem than my local school problem. And after thinking about that, I agree absolutely- that the lack of resources is killing the culture of schools all over. I also work with social and communication needs alongside behavioral needs all day long, such as making PECS books and social stories all day WHILE planning all my own curriculum and making all my materials, so it’s very exhausting. I have to examine for myself how to make things sustainable for myself as a teacher, because I’m feeling so frustrated and irritated and I’m taking it out on my kids by not using the right tone and getting frustrated in front of them too easily; they’re reverting back to behaviors from the beginning of the year because I’m not upholding those expectations, too, which I need to come back to. The social worker, who’s leaving next week by the way because he’s so fed up with the system and couldn’t wait until next year to retire, just tells me that my patience will come with time and to watch my tone sometimes with the kids when I’m in that state. He knows I can do it, and I know I can do it, but it is so hard to be that great person you want for your kids when you’re doing so much outside of work for them as well as for bureaucratic reasons that eats up time and resources that you want for rest. I need to still find that balance for myself that allows me to be my best in front of kids and get everything done despite my attitude toward the useless work I have to do. And I need to know this especially as I teach again on Monday.

    And related, today I spent all day at home. Will go out briefly for a drink later, but I realize I don’t spend nearly enough time at home. Forgot how happy my body is just lying in bed, watching Antiques Roadshow or America’s Test Kitchen, especially when I am exhausted and think I have a slight cold. I need to have a day at home at least once a week every week, I feel like.

    And as some of my friends know, Boy has been in the picture for about two weeks now, and I am very excited about that (it will be two weeks tomorrow that we’ve been together!). =) I realize I’m not one to play games or be overly flirty- if I like you, I like you, and if I’m not sure, then I’m not sure. And I am glad for a great guy like him thus far, even though it’s been a relatively short time. =) Been far too long since I felt like I liked anyone enough worth pursuing.

    Lots of changes and shifts in a small period of time, and I don’t want to overexert myself. And now, now onto a drink, then making these lesson plans of mine a little better. And learning and practicing that patience, slowly but surely.

    — 2 months ago with 8 notes

    #life  #original  #personal  #teaching 
    Updates on the teacher life-

    Haven’t been updating my tumblr as of late- been preoccupied being with my friends and my work. This tumblr has been really useful for the consideration of intersections of identity and what social justice can look like in every area, education especially. I am very glad to consider those issues and share others’ experiences. I realize though that I don’t reflect enough on my teaching, & I want to start using this Tumblr as a place where I reflect on my teaching practice, my lesson planning, the behavior systems I’m working on, and the social communication skills that I constantly reinforce in my room.

    Right now I am working on making 9 PECS books for my students, as all of my students receive speech services and eight have PECS as part of their IEP. Picture exchange communications systems books are books with Velcro icons that allow students to communicate. It’s going to be a lot of work, & I am scared of how I’m going to implement and teaching students how to use the PECS system- will have to ask my supervisor from CPS for guidance. I also and working on my collection of data and making sure I have appropriate means to assess my kids, ones where they are not going to shut down on me or wonder why it’s useful. I also need a good structure in my classroom to do it. I’ve really been avoiding it all year, proper data collection, & I can’t any longer. I feel like I’m a bad teacher avoiding those responsibilities sometimes, and then sometimes I think that there is just never ever enough time, especially for a new teacher. and then I realize I need to ask for help and make sure it gets done! At the end of the day, those things aren’t so important as the learning of my kids, and if I get that done, then I can do the teaching much more easily and without that stress.

    On a tangent, I have gotten so much more support this year than I did in my first year, probably because the students I work with have much more need than my inclusion and resource students from the past two years. I do a lot right now, and it’s nice to get ideas and supports from the people in central office who are providing special education services. However, I keep thinking that the things they ask me to do are mandates rather than good suggestions, & I have to get out of that story.

    lastly, during my post observation on Wednesday, my principal and assistant principal wanted me to make sure that I had my objective clear for my students and that they would know exactly what they were about to learn. I really have been so bogged down with making sure all my behavior expectations are clear and that my structures in the classroom are working that I really have not focused on the specifics of my lesson plans and actually delivering content in the way I want. That is my next goal, now that those behaviors structures are in place and working well. got to keep the kids interested, engaged, and learning!

    Before all that, I am going to do laundry, fix my cable, do some cooking for the next few days, fix up some of the lesson plans, clean a bit of house, answer some emails, and get things done!!! Yessirree!  :-)

    — 2 months ago with 4 notes

    #Teaching  #Personal  #Life 
    I feel like I’m in this relationship with New York- it’s my first love. I loved figuring it out as a kid in high school, trying to find the cheapest places to hang out and be amongst my friends at. Did it through college, too. And then I left it, and I’ve done so for a while. I visit twice a year from Chicago during my teacher breaks nowadays.
After 2.5 years of flying back and forth from Chicago to my beloved city, I finally got to see the skyline from the airplane window- I looked yesterday morning and just got teary-eyed. All those feelings about the courtship, the exploration, came rushing back, and I felt it was my city again. But then it’s not. Not really anymore. It’s increasingly becoming alien to me. I also looked out the window and had no idea about a lot of the places around the city-the baseball stadiums, the sets of projects I saw, just no knowledge of those places. That made me really sad. I didn’t get to explore it enough while I was here, as I was taking it for granted, really, because it was here and would always be here.
But now I’m not here anymore, and I’m not for it anymore. I’ve fallen in love with another city, Chicago, which I feel like I know better than New York nowadays. And the thought I face, the uneasy feeling I have, is that I won’t be able to come back here in a few years and think of this place as home. Looking at my skyline that I’d called home for 22 years for the first time, I felt like a tourist in my own city. That was the saddest part, that things just would never be the same, that New York was not mine anymore. And as I write, I sound increasingly like I’ve gone through a breakup with NYC- truth be told, these feelings are very similar to feelings of breaking up with someone I loved dearly in the past. I took for granted in some of my past relationships and I don’t want to, but it gets so much harder to appreciate something when you don’t see the city every day.  
And the even more uneasy feeling I got yesterday was that the more Chicago becomes my home, the more I build commitments and relationships and a family (figuratively, but I could just as well create a literal family here, if that became the case), and the more years I spend in Chicago, the more and more it becomes unlikely that I move back to New York. The more I settle, the more I realize I don’t want to upend my life again- it took this long to build roots in Chicago, and I am happy here- I don’t want to kill that. I have a good job in a good school, have good friends here, am part of organizations that mean something to me politically, professionally, and personally, and it just feels like where I want to be, where I need to be. And it becomes increasingly unlikely that I don’t move back to New York. And that’s becoming okay, even giddily happy to me. Maybe not to my parents, maybe not to my friends back in New York City, but to me.
And I have to become okay with that. And if I’m not okay with that, I change it. I just can’t be hopping around all over anymore. I’m becoming too grown for that stuff now. I guess I just have to accept that I will just miss “home” always, every place I make a home. And that will have to be okay, too.

    I feel like I’m in this relationship with New York- it’s my first love. I loved figuring it out as a kid in high school, trying to find the cheapest places to hang out and be amongst my friends at. Did it through college, too. And then I left it, and I’ve done so for a while. I visit twice a year from Chicago during my teacher breaks nowadays.

    After 2.5 years of flying back and forth from Chicago to my beloved city, I finally got to see the skyline from the airplane window- I looked yesterday morning and just got teary-eyed. All those feelings about the courtship, the exploration, came rushing back, and I felt it was my city again. But then it’s not. Not really anymore. It’s increasingly becoming alien to me. I also looked out the window and had no idea about a lot of the places around the city-the baseball stadiums, the sets of projects I saw, just no knowledge of those places. That made me really sad. I didn’t get to explore it enough while I was here, as I was taking it for granted, really, because it was here and would always be here.

    But now I’m not here anymore, and I’m not for it anymore. I’ve fallen in love with another city, Chicago, which I feel like I know better than New York nowadays. And the thought I face, the uneasy feeling I have, is that I won’t be able to come back here in a few years and think of this place as home. Looking at my skyline that I’d called home for 22 years for the first time, I felt like a tourist in my own city. That was the saddest part, that things just would never be the same, that New York was not mine anymore. And as I write, I sound increasingly like I’ve gone through a breakup with NYC- truth be told, these feelings are very similar to feelings of breaking up with someone I loved dearly in the past. I took for granted in some of my past relationships and I don’t want to, but it gets so much harder to appreciate something when you don’t see the city every day.  

    And the even more uneasy feeling I got yesterday was that the more Chicago becomes my home, the more I build commitments and relationships and a family (figuratively, but I could just as well create a literal family here, if that became the case), and the more years I spend in Chicago, the more and more it becomes unlikely that I move back to New York. The more I settle, the more I realize I don’t want to upend my life again- it took this long to build roots in Chicago, and I am happy here- I don’t want to kill that. I have a good job in a good school, have good friends here, am part of organizations that mean something to me politically, professionally, and personally, and it just feels like where I want to be, where I need to be. And it becomes increasingly unlikely that I don’t move back to New York. And that’s becoming okay, even giddily happy to me. Maybe not to my parents, maybe not to my friends back in New York City, but to me.

    And I have to become okay with that. And if I’m not okay with that, I change it. I just can’t be hopping around all over anymore. I’m becoming too grown for that stuff now. I guess I just have to accept that I will just miss “home” always, every place I make a home. And that will have to be okay, too.

    — 3 months ago with 10 notes

    #home  #home is where my heart is  #personal  #life  #original 
    Building and maintaining friendships.

    I was talking to a friend on the bus the other day, and we were talking about our friendships- how they’ve built along, how they’ve ended, how we’re building them. He told me how his relationships changed drastically once he moved, and that he’s no longer friends with many of his closest friends from home. And I thought to myself- that didn’t happen for me- my friends from home are still very much my friends today. And maybe I’ve been lucky in that regard. But I think it more comes from the way I handle relationships in general.

    I’ve always kind of been a friend nomad, where I hop from one friend group, one interest group to another. Part of me thinks it’s for the novelty, the excitement of being around new people, people who can teach me new things and help me grow. Another part of me thinks it’s to sift out who’s awesome and who I want to be around- which is a terrible way to think about relationships, but we do it every day- pick the people we want to keep in touch with. Since I’ve been in Chicago, I’ve realized a large part of the support piece here that I need to build comes from building friendships and the like. And I think I have done so pretty well, and I have lots of good friends around town.  

    But I do worry about how I build friendships and relationships in general. The holiday season has given me a time to reflect on how I build them. I was thinking about the gifts I was buying people or thinking about- not a ton, and that’s okay, as I’m not a big material gift giver myself. But then I thought more generally- do I “give” in my relationships? For all friendships, it’s a relationship of giving and getting- and you have to give to get something. And really, am I giving enough of myself, my spirit, my heart, to those I care about? For my friends in New York, where I’m from, and where my childhood, high school, college friends generally reside, I only see them twice a year at most, I wonder if that’s enough to sustain our friendships in the future- so far, I’ve been pretty good about keeping in touch, and with the advent of texting, social media, phone calls, it’s gotten so much easier to connect. But am I really giving myself, am I putting in the effort forth to be that friend, to connect, to share myself, make myself vulnerable? Or, really, am I doing it in the way I want to be doing it?

    I’m scared that I’m starting to do too much other stuff, “riff raff”, or that I put more time than needed into my work, my hobbies, rather than building up what is right in front of me. As much fun as those things I’m doing are, I need to be building myself and my friendships up, my anchors, my supports. Nothing’s bad now, and nothing’s as bad as it was a year and a half ago, but I know I need to build that support here in Chicago if I’m to thrive, build a life here. As something on a collage hanging on my wall says, “Sometimes building a home doesn’t require building anything at all.” And I have strong relationships here- it’s just about actually building them up, seeing people, sending nice texts, showing I am actually thinking about them. I’ve never been good about expressing my emotions and feelings to others- comes with an upbringing with my parents where I just didn’t share my emotions- and I’d like to change that. One step at a time.

    And this also translates into possible romantic stuff. I think the larger fear there is that I don’t really know what it means to give and get in a relationship- or, that I’ve forgotten exactly, after being single for a good two years now (excluding all the brief relationships, flings, fun haha) . I’ve been talking about a fear of being single or something on Facebook- or, rather, a fear that I will be single in the future. Guess that’s fair- I know I don’t want to be alone, and I know only in the past few years that it’s becoming more and more okay for me to feel and be alone. But I think my larger fear in sharing those singles articles and the like is that I won’t get the chance to share my life with someone who’s my partner through it all, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that someday. For now, I am pretty happy being single, meeting people who are cool, learning from em as I move forward- I really have a lot to learn about. Part of me wants to go on an active search of someone, but most of me knows I do much better when I meet people in person, am genuinely interested in them, build a relationship over time, and if it happens to be a romantic one, then so be it. Just have to be patient, do my thing, be me, strike the pose. 

    Biggest thing I have to take on right now- that I need to give in order to get. I need to share myself, and I want to share myself, and how to do that is now the question moving forward. After this week of teaching I’ll have a good nine days at home in NYC to reflect whilst amongst my oldest friends, then a three-day retreat in Chicago where I can reflect on how my life in general is progressing. Hoping some good thoughts, perspectives, philosophizing, action steps come from these things. For now, I’m a teacher who, while fully prepared with materials, plans, etc., wants to avoid the fact that there’s school this morning. Ahh haha.

    — 4 months ago with 4 notes

    #life  #personal  #friendships 
    Being that person.

    Beginning to feel burnt out again. Just want winter break to come. I think I just want some downtime to rethink these responsibilities I’ve taken on and make sure I can keep my commitments.

    I was thinking of my first year of teaching and how I just wasn’t someone who you could trust to handle the work that was given. And after writing a bunch about the first year experience over the past weeks, I realize I have so much guilt over why I was rightfully let go by my old school school, and that I have been working this past year and a half mainly for redemption. I want to push to be that committed person and trustworthy person. I don’t want to see myself as that depressed mess who made excuses. I was that, and while I know that part of me will stay with me and always be a part of me, I also know that I want to be better than that, for my coworkers, for my students, for myself. While I was also overwhelmed that first year of teaching and wasn’t truly certified in special education (Teach For America will do that to you), and while I was also in a new city that was also overwhelming, I also am pushing myself to reveal my own role in my failure to teach my students my first year, to be that committed person, to be trustworthy, to be useful, worthy to teach. 

    What helped was actually being able to sit back and reflect, and not keep doing, doing, doing. I have been meeting a lot of teachers lately who have been beating themselves up about not working every waking minute. For me, that was another part of the exhaustion, the burnout, the messing up, the anxiety, the freezing that made me paralyzed and not get the work done, the not wanting to wake up and face my failures, being late to school when I was in that state, the crying, the search for supports but not having time or energy to carve that out. I am tearing up just thinking about that time. I was just the worst version of myself, hiding away, thinking if I avoided things then they would disappear, they would just not have to get done. And when you’re in that state, you are a shell of yourself and can’t get things done. Which triggers another spiral and another spiral toward your inevitable doom, which you know is coming with the improvement plans, your coworkers and admin giving you mixed messages, etc. 

    ANYWAYS, got lost there. What helped was a summer to think, to realize my faults, my strengths, build up, redeem myself. And it’s so hard to reflect when you’re in the middle of it all, when I know myself well enough to know I self-criticize myself most of anyone. My admin at my current school are happy with me now and even commented at my evaluation that I self-criticize too much. I just hold high expectations for myself, but as I learn every day with my students, if those expectations are too high or low, those expectations can hurt you so profoundly and make you quiver in self-defeat. And I don’t want my students to feel that- I know I don’t either. 

    I have high aspirations for myself as a teacher. I have to keep growing, making my craft and my artfulness better, learning from the career teachers around me, ask questions, be proactive, while promoting self-wellness. I am in love with myself, and I have to keep that relationship up. It’s just hard when you also are having that relationship constantly with your work, too. Being the person I want me to be is hard, hard work.

    — 4 months ago with 5 notes

    #original  #personal  #reflection  #life 

    Just looked through some old cards and documents, and found a Target gift card and a Christmas lottery scratch card…boy, am I behind. Haha

    — 5 months ago with 4 notes

    #Oy  #Life  #Cleaning 
    Updates on the teacher life-

    Finally, my work laptop has boardmaker, and finally I have it installed to the color printer in my room. Yeayeaa!!! For a low-incidence special education teacher, all this is gold. Along with my 5mm laminating pouches and laminator, I’m set- besides all the work it takes to do all that prep work.

    Been slacking this week. Need to get more prepared and less sleepy.

    Had my post-observation today- doing well, and I know what I need to do to get better! Yessss, actual teacher feedback and evaluation! Wanna up my expectations, guiding questions, and generally the way I present the lessons. I think I’m good at planning and making meaningful lessons and work for the students to complete, and it’s all based on what they need- just need to make sure when I’m presenting it all that I’m clear and leading them to their goals.

    Busy weekend ahead, but I am excited for all that is to come!  :-) Still really tired, though, and have hours of work ahead of me, but still- good to be reflective and keep pushing myself healthily along as a teacher.

    — 5 months ago with 3 notes

    #Teaching  #Love  #Life  #Original  #Tired 
    The subtle difference-

    There is a difference between doing something because you want to/are excited to do it and doing something because you’re lonely. Generally I know the difference and have been pushing myself toward the former, but sometimes I need the reminder to hold myself up to a good standard and make sure I’m doing things for the right reasons.  :-) Nothing wrong with the latter, just want to make sure I’m aware and that the former is in place as well- that I want to be doing it and am excited, too.

    — 5 months ago with 1 note

    #Personal  #Life  #Loneliness  #Higher standards 
    The small things say a lot.

    Been building a nice friendship with the security guard in my school as of late- he drives on the highway and goes my way home- if I’m working late sometimes he’ll drop me off instead of have me wait for the CTA bus. Super affirming man- always there to pick me up. And as the security guard he knows a ton on how the building runs. More importantly, he trusts me and I trust him in not relaying info we talk about back to school. This’ll make a good relationship as I’m learning the school- only been there since May.

    Yesterday I was out an aide and was so stretched- and feeling generally down about the system of CPS and how I just lose resources I need on a day-to-day basis. Then, while waiting for me to finish so we could drive off into the sunset, he tells me about something yesterday afternoon- “Mr. _ (the principal) asked me today (after lunch) to go to your room and make sure you were okay. I said, “No problem.” And I go, and I come in, and you’re okay. Your class is okay. And then I left.”

    I take a step back and think of how awesome that was of both him and the principal. I really don’t ever think people in the building prioritize me sometimes or think of me that way to try to help me out, so I was surprised to hear it. And I tell him, “That was really nice of (the principal) to think of me today.”

    He responds back, “Well, of course. He knows how hard it can be. Just look at S in Ms. __’s class. It’s hard. But you got them. Every other year I’ve been here, the kids have been crazy. You know about M (one of my students) last year. Now he’s fine with you. You got them all. We all see it.”

    "Aww, thanks, I say. It can get so hard sometimes. Feel like I’m constantly, constantly working. And glad you and Mr. __ see what I’m doing."

    "And you know what it is? You handle it. You handle the situation before it goes bad. We all know you run the class. The aides take your lead. And you’re so good with the kids. You’re good."

    Then he goes on about what the principal sees in me- “You’re like his pet project. This [low-incidence special education] program started __ [short] years ago, and the person who started it ran away two years later. Everyone since has come in, looking all miserable when they come in when they’re running this class. And it showed on the kids. And then all of a sudden you show up. You just show up. (in May.) And everything’s good. And you just showed up.”

    I have a long way to go as a teacher, but hearing that…ooh, that made my month. That the principal sees what I’m doing, wants to make sure I succeed, even in small ways like bringing me a rug or sending the security guard in to check on my class, holds this vision of who I am and what I can become in my room, and is investing in me- that’s amazing. Sometimes having someone hold you to high expectations can be enough to push you forward- that’s what I’m trying to push my students toward every day, and it seems my principal thinks similarly. Also that people at school see what I put in and want me here. As I keep hearing from others in the building, the principal may not be perfect, but he picks his staff well and knows what he’s doing there. I would agree- everyone at my workplace has been amazing and supportive to myself and everyone around them, and I trust them generally. Glad to see that I’m actually appreciated at my workplace. The small things really matter at work, and the fact that I have a union, too, to back me up and protect my work conditions (not losing my preps, giving me a functional amount of time to eat lunch and wind down) make a huge difference- did not feel that at the charter school I worked at my first year. And I see the notice, the appreciation, in the eyes of the parents, who I generally have good relationships with, and the students, who know we have fun together but know I’ll lay down the law and stick by it when needed.

    I’m also glad that people see the joy I come in with every day and will let me know if I look up or down. They know I’m being truly honest in the building with myself- I’m not miserable! And they check in on me in the teachers lounge, just as I check in on them. I remember the teacher last year who came near the end and who was teaching my class. I checked in on her, asking if everything was good- she told me how she looked fine in the school setting, but (in the car ride home- apparently I learn more from car rides than at school haha) that she cried every night. Every night. What?! I thought to myself, wow, that’s nuts. Can’t even imagine teaching well like that. IN FACT, I CAN BECAUSE THAT WAS THE END OF MY FIRST YEAR TEACHING. I was so in denial trying to get through my first year that I wouldn’t admit my depression or sadness about it all. That feels like a lifetime ago!!! Man. What a difference experience, time, and a new environment make. Just glad I am honest with myself and know that mood and feeling affects my teaching and my work.

    So, so, so glad that when I’m here that I know what I’m doing and want to be here every day- waking up in the morning is no longer a chore, and I come in all excited now to do my work every day, knowing every day is a new day and that I’m building emotional, social, and academic relationships that are core to my students’ lives. I know clearly the difference I am making. Now gotta do what I gotta do to grow and actually stay on as said teacher. I really feel good about the work I’m doing and just want to keep up the momentum. And I’m glad to see it’s paying off with my students, and that, truly, people in the building notice. It makes a world of difference, especially when I’m feeling down about life and feel like I can never get everything done.

    — 6 months ago with 10 notes

    #teaching  #education  #feeling good  #life  #original 
    Happy anti-racist, anti-colonist day! Refusing to acknowledge the genocide of millions and millions of indigenous peoples today, but I will celebrate the fact that hard-working laborers like teachers have time off. And I celebrate today by adding onto the slaughter of many pigs (I try to be meatless at least a few times a week for environmental reasons- read Food Matters by Mark Bittman- but this called out to me). Going to be roasting this four-pounder for six hours and making me some beautiful, beautiful pulled pork a la this food network recipe! http://m.foodnetwork.com/recipes/23032 This will feed me for many days!!! Hopefully I well also get a lot of house chores done (cleaning, laundry, etc) and lesson planning! Woot!!!

    Happy anti-racist, anti-colonist day! Refusing to acknowledge the genocide of millions and millions of indigenous peoples today, but I will celebrate the fact that hard-working laborers like teachers have time off. And I celebrate today by adding onto the slaughter of many pigs (I try to be meatless at least a few times a week for environmental reasons- read Food Matters by Mark Bittman- but this called out to me). Going to be roasting this four-pounder for six hours and making me some beautiful, beautiful pulled pork a la this food network recipe! http://m.foodnetwork.com/recipes/23032 This will feed me for many days!!! Hopefully I well also get a lot of house chores done (cleaning, laundry, etc) and lesson planning! Woot!!!

    — 6 months ago with 6 notes

    #COOKING  #Cleaning  #Life  #Teaching  #Day off  #original 
    Following through.

    Sitting on the bus and thinking about who I was in college slash before I started teaching and who I am now. I took a huge leap moving here to Chicago, and what I realize is that I am essentially the same person I was before, just with a lot more awareness of my preferences, my needs, my strengths, and how I approach life, given the roller coaster of experiences I’ve had here.

    I have always wanted to be the one who does it all and does it all with passion, joy, and (now adding) sustainability to the mix. My biggest issue in college was whether I had a balance, and that will be a lifelong struggle, I think, that has so far hindered my commitment to things I once was so excited about and that has ended relationships with people before they got to blossom, or which I did not allow to blossom because I didn’t put forth the commitment needed. I’ve always been afraid of commitment to activities, afraid of follow through, afraid that doing one activity would essentially close doors to other opportunities. I overdid a lot of things on high school and college in my pursuit of it all. My room was always a mess because I didn’t prioritize my living space over the activities and work I was doing, for example.

    But what I’m learning in life is that doors, many more doors, open when you stick to something and people believe in you to follow through. And when you commit to being your best self and treat yourself well, too, like cleaning and maintaining your house regularly, and when you’re following through on your dreams for yourself, you, too, begin to believe in yourself the way others see you. At least, that’s the way I am feeling now about my life.

    I’m hoping my way of living now pushes a cycle of good connections and opportunities as I move forward in life. Hoping I keep on with the life resolutions I set for myself starting last new year, and I’m hoping the friends and colleagues around me become my accountability partners toward that growth. Because I have a lot of dreams, high (and realistic) expectations of myself, and this time around I’m following through on em, as much hurdles and unexpected occurrences happen. Teaching students has taught me that I have to move with a purpose in mind, not just wade through the waters. Got to keep pushing, and got to keep following through.

    — 6 months ago with 3 notes

    #Life  #Personal  #Goals  #Go me!  #original 
    Paralyzed by the possibilities.

    I should be asleep- I teach in about seven hours. But this whole day and tonight I’ve been feeling really confused and scared inside, like I could reach anywhere with the amount of materials and articles out there on the Internet…Facebook, Tumblr, and my phone have exasperated that issue for me over the past few months. I feel like I could reach anywhere, do anything, yet I’m also feeling as though it’s just too much, that my brain and heart are being overloaded by all my dreams, my passions.

    I’m somewhat romantic about the night air- sitting in Chicago, walking late at night and feeling the cold air rush by my shoulders makes me feel infinite, like I can conquer the world. And then I come back home and wonder how I felt that way when I’m feeling drowned, almost, by everything I must do and everything I want to do. It’s like a wave that rushes by and then wanes, and I don’t know where I’m left. The possibilities of meeting friends, taking up and loving interests like education organizing, singing, learning guitar, having the excitement of first dates and cool air rushing by our shoulders late at night…there’s so much in this world I want to experience before I leave it. 

    Another reason, by the way, why I love my profession of choice. I feel like the kids are growing through me, but at the end of the day I grow so much with the kids. I feel like such a better person after having taught my students, building relationships with them, and really knowing the kind of person I want to be- because I want those kinds of people in their lives. I want people who they can count on, who they can trust with their lives, who love them for exactly who they are. And it makes me want to become that person- a human version with all my flaws, but still that person for them. I have to remind myself not to fall into the trap of pursuing perfection in this, as there’s no such thing. I simply walk forth with the intentions that I want the best for myself and for them. 

    And with that, and with memoirs, realistic fiction, other books about the lived experience, I calm down, I reflect on what I want of this life, and it’s not to be on Tumblr and Facebook all the time searching out for things to do, not reading about others’ lives all day (although that’s another issue and guilty pleasure I have- I LOVE reading about other people’s lives). I just finished “Teacher Man” by Frank McCourt after about three months of reading on and off- it felt good to finally finish. I have maybe five other books I am in the middle of- now I need to finish them. They’re those possibilities. Instead of being paralyzed by the possibilities, instead of being scared of actually accomplishing things, of being the best person I can be, I have to make my goals concrete, have to let myself believe that many of these things can be accomplished, that I have to devote time to these things while making sure work and home are also tended to, and that I will inevitably fail at many of these things. It’s hard to imagine my life that way, to push myself to this point, but I know myself- I live much better with myself when I’ve tried and failed over not trying and living my life wondering whether I could have done it. 

    I’m scared for some reason. I really don’t know why. I’m scared of failure, I think, that I’ll fail yet again, that I won’t do the best for my students, by my family and friends. I also think I’m scared of accomplishment- what’s next, I’m scared to ask. But as Frank McCourt writes in the last pages of Teacher Man, education is the push to move us from one capital F to the next: FEAR to FREEDOM. And while he thinks no one gets to absolute freedom, education can get us as close as possible to freedom for ourselves. And I am getting that education every day. Just have to keep moving. And realize that “freedom” is an everchanging word, that what feels like freedom now will not feel that way in a few years.

    — 7 months ago with 3 notes

    #personal  #thoughts  #life  #original