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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Never Enough

Remember when I posted about reading that book about vulnerability? I stopped reading it the next day. Yup. You read that right: It was too much and I gave up.

Well, at least for a little while. I needed time to mull over what I had read and let it sink in. If I want to attain lifelong growth from reading this book, I can’t read it in one sitting and expect my life to change immediately. No, it takes more time than that.

So after that first excursion, I decided that two of the nonfiction books I’m reading this year I’m going to read often in small bursts: First is the Sefer Yetzirah, which I’ve been reading one verse at a time, because unpacking each verse when it’s literally steeped in thousands of years of mystical philosophy demands a slow yet attentive reading schedule, and second is Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. The vulnerability book.

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wordlost

Sometimes I want to write, and perhaps you do, too, but the words won’t come.

Sometimes I want to settle into the story, bask in the sunlight of another world, and witness as my characters walk across the page. But sometimes they don’t.

And sometimes, I want to write about myself, but all my words escape me.

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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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When It Hits the Fan

Today starts our mini-unit on self-compassion in the mindfulness class I’m teaching. It’s a hard unit, even as a teacher, because so much of our culture says we need to be hard on ourselves–and probably much harder than we already are. It’s almost painful to be self-compassionate, and it’s about as awkward to talk about it to kids.

And on top of that, I’m still feeling sick. I got to bed a few hours earlier than usual last night, and I woke up feeling so much better–but my throat is so dry it’s raw, and I can barely open my mouth to talk without feeling the pain of it. I was talking to myself last night, and I know when I’m feeling sick I have the least amount of willpower, so all my normal challenges look like massive mountains right now.

So it’s the perfect time to talk about self-compassion.

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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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Precipitate/Solution

Distilling wonders into words, says my “about me” page, since two thousand ten.

While true, and catchy, and a play on the blog’s subtitle “Words and Wonders,” I’ve never taken considerable time to actually say what these four words mean.

In times of continued self-exploration, I often find myself thinking, “What do I value?” Today, these two questions seem more intertwined than distinct.

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