Monday, January 30, 2012

Reminders Why I Love My Job

Today I received a reminder why I love being a teacher.  My students were asked to respond to a random, expository prompt to help them begin to prepare for their next module test. I think this can speak for itself, without me needing to provide any insightful commentary.  Mostly, this just makes me smile a whole lot.

The subject I like best is...
The subject I like best is English, because it's way more fun and exuberant for me. English is also my favorite because Ms. Herring is young, nice, fun, and teaches us in a more fun way.  We are having fun and learning new things in English. I have English 8th period, which is awesome because it's the end of the day, but my classmates and I get a little noisy.  But Ms. Herring always warns us before she puts the D-Hall list up. English is more fun because we do mostly activities for all of our learning, but we have to listen and control the noise level, or we can do the not fun way. That's why English is my favorite.

There is no better way to end a Monday.  Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, January 27, 2012

You'll do things for me that you hate

I had a blog basically written and saved, but I deleted it in favor of a more pressing post that's been on my mind.  I feel like the time since I came back to school from Christmas break has been a type of controlled chaos that I have only controlled on occasion.  I initially found that things were unexpectedly hectic for me at work.  However, I quickly came to the realization that it shouldn't have been unexpected.  "Benchmark" could be heard buzzing in the brains and mouths of students, teachers, and administrators.  As unassuming and typically gloomy as the month of January has always seemed to me, a new day has dawned in my "teacher life."  January is now synonymous with "get down to business and teach those kids something they'll remember on a standardized test" time.

My personal life has also been unexpectedly chaotic  in the post-Christmas season.  I make it a rule of thumb not to discuss the intimate details of my personal, family, and social life in this blog.  I am a private person for the most part, and my life isn't terribly interesting anyway.  However, it seems to be one thing after another this month.  I love my real family, my "friend family," and my work family, and I'm thankful for all my families everyday.  I think we all have a divine or at least fate-driven purpose for being in the right place at the right time with the right people at any given time in our lives.  I know that I have learned, and continue to learn, that I am perfect for my purpose.  Although, I confess, I am not always sure what that purpose is.

Anyway, amidst all of this stuff, and the exhaustion that has inevitably come from it, I started reading a new book.  I find that the two best mind-clearers for me these days are books and running.  Books take you out of your world and into someone else's, and running literally allows you to run away, even if it's only for thirty minutes.  I've been running a lot lately, but I also started a book by one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Safran Foer.  I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close around this time last year and fell in love with the beautiful sadness that Foer conveys in his writing.  That sounds weird I think, but I'm saying it anyway because it's true.  He creates these perfectly painted images with his words that are heartbreakingly gorgeous and strangely relatable.  I just started reading Everything is Illuminated,  and I found the same perfect honesty that I did in his other book.  There's one quote that especially struck me the other day:

"One day you will do things for me that you hate.  That is what it means to be family."

Now, I'm aware that this sounds harsh, but if you're really honest with yourself you know this is true of all of us.  We do things we hate for people we value, whether it's our real family, our "friend family," or our work family.  For example, I will teach test-taking strategies and open responses and writing prompt responses for my work family until I want to die from it, because I love my students and value the people I work with.  I once tried to watch a scary movie with my boyfriend, because he loves them.  I only made it through five minutes, but I attempted to do something I hated for someone I love....I'm still working on it.

This quote is particularly true for your real family.  When you're young, your parents make sacrifices for you because they love you.  When you're old, you will make sacrifices for your parents because you love them. This love manifests itself not only in sacrifices, but also in small submissions, like attempting to value your parents' opinion, even when you don't have to agree with it anymore because you're a "grownup;" like speaking up and staying quiet at all the appropriate times; like creating time instead of filling it with other people and things.  These aren't always things we "hate," necessarily, but they can be things we struggle with, both as children and adults.

Essentially, I think the key here, something I've been keenly focused on this week, is the attempt to put others first.  In all my own "chaos," it was easy to forget my purpose or forget other people and turn in on myself and my own wants and needs.  I think the lesson of selflessness is by far the hardest to grasp for most human beings-- it is a constant effort on my part to say the least.  So to close, I hope this week that you do something you hate for someone you love, no matter what family they're a part of.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How I Spent MLK Day

Martin Luther King Day, I now believe, is a necessary holiday for teachers.

I say that, because I would have surely been lost without this lovely little "catch up day." After being spoiled with a wonderful Christmas break, I was thrilled to go back to school and see my students and get back to work.  But, man was I tired when that end-of-the-day bell rung.  Therefore, I was terribly unproductive after school everyday.  I went home with a big bag of work and the best of intentions, but you know where those intentions lead, and I could not make myself get a thing done.  Today, I went to school, even though we were out, and finished my plans for this week and entered grades and did all the things that I could not force myself to do on Friday afternoon after the children left.  I was also lucky enough to have an excellent best friend and little sister to drag along with me in order to get my classroom library alphabetized and back in order.  That was something that I'd been pushing to the bottom of the teacher to-do list for quite some time now.

So anyway, I used at least part of my MLK day to fulfill my dream of being ahead of the game, a dream which I have found to be one of those impossible dreams during my first year of teaching.  However, I think it is an honorable thing to strive for.  While I was at work today, I listened to and watched two of Dr. King's speeches in preparation for teaching my 7th graders about rhetorical devices and persuasive/motivational writing this week.  I literally sat in awe as I listened to Dr. King deliver a message so controversial for its time with such power and grace.  I think my friend said it best as she was alphabetizing my classroom library--"That man really was a genius."

After listening to his speeches, I decided to look up a Martin Luther King quote to put on my message board outside of my classroom for the week. This quote struck me as particularly important in my own life:

"Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase."

What a perfect image.  How many times in my life have I thought and thought and thought about something, to the point that I thought my way out of an opportunity?  How often do we avoid discomfort and ride the status quo because we can't see where the staircase leads?  When people talk about faith, I think the most prevalent image that exists is the idea of a "leap of faith"--jumping off into the great expanse of nothingness that is the unknown, and hoping and praying for the best.  I think it's completely human to be utterly terrified of what exists at the top of that staircase of faith, but I think what's important about this image is that, although you are unsure about where faith may take you, at least it's taking you upward.  Dr. King had to have had moments of doubt or fear about his own journey toward equality, but at least he kept working his way up.  I may not be the resolution-making type, but I do believe in striving.  I want to keep striving my way up that staircase, even when it's scary and even when it's uncomfortable.  I want to express more faith in myself and my abilities, more faith in my students, and more faith in the goodness and kindness of humanity.  So today I learned my own lesson from Dr. King, not about the past, but about the future.  I hope it's a lesson I don't forget any time soon.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Thoughts on a New Year

If you have read this blog at any time before, you may have figured out that I love Mark Twain.  Not only is he an exemplary Southern writer, but he also provides so many little snippets of honest wisdom in his letters and other short writings.  As I've been thinking about the New Year over the past week or so, a Mark Twain quote has, once again, summed up my thoughts for me: 

"New Year's Day:  Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."  Mark Twain

As we all know, the road to hell does happen to be paved with good intentions.  This year, I found myself musing more than usual about the reasons that we celebrate New Year's Eve and Day in the way that we do.  I mean, seriously, people refer to New Year's Day as National Hangover Day....I'm confused about how this connects to all those well-intentioned desires to eat better, exercise more, or quit smoking.  

Therefore, I have decided to write, this New Year's, about my favorite things in 2011 instead of my well-intentioned 2012.  I feel like somebody out there should pay homage to last year, instead of saying good riddance and moving on.

In 2011 I: 

  • decided to continue blogging, despite the fact that my reason for blogging technically ended when I graduated college in 2010.  It was a good choice, as it has been an excellent exercise in mind-clearing.
  • chose to be perfectly content with myself no matter what is going on in my life, while still gently pushing myself to be better every day.  I would say this has been a noble cause to follow.
  • learned to manage my time (at least somewhat better than before).
  • started taking yoga and running more regularly.
  • promised myself I would make a sincere effort to complain less about things that everyone complains about, and (kind of) succeeded (a little bit).
  • got hired and started my first "real" teaching job at a wonderful school with fantastic kids and an awesome group of teachers.
  • found a lot of people and things and situations for which I am so, very thankful.
In 2012, more than anything, I think I'd just like to maintain.  No need to set unrealistic expectations.  I think 2011 was a good start to many things.  And, as Mark Twain so kindly reminded me this morning, if I don't make resolutions, I don't have to worry about paving that ill-fated road of good intentions.