Ten Things You Don’t Know About Teachers and Teaching

Grading papers. Sitting in a cafe between two tables with chatty white girls on either side of me. I’m not trying to generalize or say they were basic, but could a conversation get more bland? Even unintentionally overhearing them, I craved a little salt on my tongue.

So the girl on my left, she starts saying that maybe she’ll become a teacher, and she, like, read this article about things you don’t know about teaching until you teach, and like, “I know you get the summers off, but I don’t know if I could go three months without a paycheck.” And I was like, girl, forgive my intrusion, but let me tell you how it really is.

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On the Cusp of Past and Future

It’s been 126 days since I blogged last. In that time, I have…

Taught approximately 360 lessons
Graded nearly 800 exams and quizzes
Used four of my five allotted sick days
Attended at least 40 hours of professional development
Spent about 60 hours preparing and submitting my edTPA
Written a 42-page, single-spaced, original research paper
Backed 23 new campaigns on Kickstarter (while not funding my own)
Listened to “Sky Full of Song” and “Hunger” over a hundred times, and
Worked out a lot less than I wanted to.

But all of that is merely the minutia of being a grad student-math teacher-advisor-TFA corps member-writer. Except half of that is suddenly behind me.

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The “Add” in Adversity

I love it when I get to use puns in my titles–it’s not quite clickbait, but it’s almost just as good. Anyways, stress. We often feel defeated by stress. We think stress is a sign of failure and inadequacy (and then we get stressed out for failing and being inadequate), but according to Kelly McGonigal, that perspective on stress is incorrect.

Instead, she says, stress makes us stronger.

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I Will or I Won’t

In an age of primetime scandals and uncertain politics, there are four things I like to watch: fun TV shows like Steven Universe and the Punisher, fun YouTube videos from creators like Lockstin & Gnoggin or Bird Keeper Toby, satirical news commentary from personalities such as Seth Meyers (if only he were single) and John Oliver, and TED Talks.

TED Talks, as it happens, also form the basis of the mindfulness elective I’m currently teaching. Inspired by the works of Kelly McGonigal and Brene Brown especially (my self-help gurus), this course strives to provide my students with a stress mindset intervention as well as strategies they can employ to conquer stress and shame and boost willpower.

Rather than a large number of quizzes and exams, most of the course is driven by self-reflective journals, and throughout this month, I’m committing myself to reflecting on each of these journals alongside my kids. Practice what you preach, right?

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2018 to life

Here’s a fact about gematria, the alphanumeric philosophy that relates words with numbers: In Hebrew, the word “life” and the number 18 are synonymous.

And here’s a random thought: 0, representing nothingness, is like a blank space.

So here’s a play on words: 2018 literally means “to life”!

Okay, okay, you’re right, it should be “two life,” but that’s not as much fun. And it raises significantly many more psychological concerns than “to life,” which is not only reminiscent of Fiddler on the Roof, but also a sign that this year is a year for living.

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Day of Freedom, Day of Lies

Celebrate. Celebrate the birth of our nation. Celebrate the unity of our people. Celebrate the independence we won from our oppressors. Celebrate the freedoms we all share.

And don’t, for one second, celebrate the lies we live by.

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Not My Student

I have a student who speaks badly about women, swears when he shouldn’t, and reacts poorly to perceived criticism and the consequences of his actions.

I ask him casually in the hall how his day is going and he keeps walking without even looking in my direction. I sit down next to him in class to check in and I have to say his name half a dozen times before he begrudgingly acknowledges me. I try to have productive, relationship-building conversations, and he actively shuts me out.

Then he grabs some chalk and writes insulting messages on the chalk boards.

And then he gets pissed off and storms out when he gets in trouble.

But he’s still my student.

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