Grumpy Teacher

My students are currently typing, but I missed my normal weekly deadline (agh!) so figured I’d type along with them. I love their topic and want to explore it at some point myself (write about something you’ll never do/never do again). 

I’ve noticed lately I’ve been in such a grumpy mood at my kids. I don’t know if it was just that time of year or the honeymoon is wearing off (I suppose that more than a semester in isn’t bad for that to happen). It also tends to happen around progress reports, because they ask ridiculous questions (can I turn in this 2 month old homework assignment for late credit?) or act immature and entitled (I sent you my late homework 12 hours ago and you still haven’t graded it!). And I’m just looking at them like “OH REALLY.” Then I feel guilty for being angry at children (who I also love). Then I get annoyed and throw my phone across the room when I see their emails (props to my guy for listening to and loving me while I vent).

I still love them, though, and they still mostly crack me up and make me laugh. I’m going to try and refocus myself this week and get back in the game. It’s only four more months till summer, right? 🙂

Oh! Speaking of summer– I’ve accepted a position to teach two classes at my school and I’m so pumped. One is a “Little Journalists” class for 5th-8th graders, and one is a poetry and creative writing workshop they’re letting me design! I’m so excited to get to design my own class completely for the first time.

Okay okay. That’s all for now. Time to get them back on task too! 😉

Stargazing (A Brainstorm on Watching Children Grow Up)

A group of

A group of students looking out on a Waimea meadow.

Ok. ok. I am writing. This is a purely life-update-y get-stuff-on-paper post. I’m a little more than delayed. With Monday being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, then I got a horrible cold from students while on a speech tournament… things just got lost.

I also got to be a part of an amazing #educolor twitter chat today, which you can read more about here.

SO… things are good. No really. My friend Shuhei asked what was new with me and… I don’t have much to report. Things are good! Chaperoning the speech team was a blast! Things are generally nice and quiet.


So, my students, their speech coach, and I went Stargazing while we were in Kohala. It was absolutely gorgeous. I’m not a particular outdoorsy person (while I love hiking, I’ve never been camping), so I have very little context what it was like to be in rural anywhere, much less Hawai‘i.

It was… breathtaking. Even remembering it, I am nearly speechless. It was like looking up in a star-dome at a museum, but knowing that it’s completely real, having everything twinkle and fill the sky with a vividness never imagined is surreal. I looked up at what felt like millions of stars, and the students and I were quiet. They self-implemented a five minute silence rule, but they were quiet and contemplative for at least ten.

After, I was standing in the freezing cold with Bill, their coach and a 27-year teaching veteran. We watched the kids laugh and joke and talk about stars. They had just a complete joy in each other. In the brief time they had known me, they had made me feel like I was part of their family, like they genuinely liked me being around.

Bill looked at me and said, “This? This is why I’m still doing it.”

I looked at their backs while they were quietly looking at the stars, and completely understood what he meant. It’s easy, when looking up into the great oblivion, to perhaps feel lost. To think about what we’ve lost and where we stand in that loss, or what we are seeking and what are place in the world is. It’s beautiful, yes, but also perhaps a little terrifying. What happens now? What will this be in five years? Ten?

I looked at my kids looking at the stars and I just… knew. This was right. This was lasting. I was filled with such a sense of peace and contentment. I loved getting to just be around, watch them learn stuff, learn stuff with them and from them, talk story and just enjoy seeing them grow up.

I think beyond the whole idea of feeling good about ~sharing knowledge~ with kids, we forget to see one of the most basic and grace-filled things we have as educators: we get to see children become adults. We are witness to and take part in the actual creation of human minds. We get to watch them change and form and reform and fail and find so much beauty and life. We get to see them discover. We get to see them empowered. Hopefully, we get to help them do it.

Things, as they stand now, are right where they need to be in this moment. I am 27 and consistently on the precipice of something new and everything is in flux always. Except that it’s not. The instability itself, the moment we were in right then and even now are what stays. The stars I saw that night may grow or die out or change position in location from where I stand, but that’s okay. Things will move, but those stars were right where they needed to be for my students and I to just love them and spend some time finding joy in each other.

We are the same. Things may will change, but all we can ask is to find the peace and contentment to see how we are affecting this moment. Right now– and likely for a while– I am a teacher. I am a guide. I am (hopefully) a friend. Right now, I am finding joy with kiddos, and it’s exactly where I need to be.

People Are Terrifying (An Apology)

I have done this. And I’m sorry.

“There’s just too many people here,” I whispered to my mom at the beach earlier today.

“I know,” her nose crinkled like mine does, “but it’s nice to share.”

“…Maybe I just don’t like people.”

I promise, I’m familiar with the term “introvert.” I’ve written about being an introvert for Teach For America, and why I think introvert students need to be cared for. I’ve identified myself pretty strongly as an INFP (I even have a hat) for a few years now. Susan Cain’s Quiet (and its TedTalk) meant quite a lot to me.

So, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying my own needs. I’m glossing over a bit because, frankly, I’m worried that my friends and loved ones are tired of hearing me talk about it because I talk/think about it so much. I even feel like “revealing that you’re an introvert” is a cool thing to do now, something that people post memes about on tumblr and say, “omg this is so totally me!”

And maybe it is, and that’s good. I don’t want to be jaded here. I’m glad more people are thinking about what they need and how to advocate for it. That’s clearly a good thing.

It’s good for me to even check myself, since we’ve come to the crux of my matter: I don’t come across as an introvert. When I first wrote about it, I had quite a few people tell me they couldn’t believe it. That’s fair. I teach for a living now, so I’m around people for about 85% of my day (which, I’ll admit, is tiring. More on that later though).

Here’s the thing: I love people. I enjoy, generally, being in front of people, and I try to be a good conversationalist. When I’m in the right mood, I love hearing stories and learning more about people. I am always so grateful when people let me into their lives.

Still, something about new people, when I’m not in the right mood (and honestly, it’s like a 50% chance I’m not), is completely and utterly terrifying. And exhausting. What if they don’t like me? Or I don’t like them and it’s obvious on my stupid, Muppety, heart-on-my-sleeve face? What if they keep asking me questions? Or I don’t know what to say? Or I say something dumb? I’m just tired, and I already deal with people a lot. Can’t I stay home and quietly watch something? Or read? Or even tweet, which is the most introverted way of being extraverted ever?

50% of the time, that’s honestly what it is. Terror. Anxiety. Now, being in a job that requires me to be around people, the stakes feel higher, even if it’s different. I mean, my students have to be around me, so I care a little less if they like me (though obviously I care). Since so much of my time, though, is spent worrying whether or not I’m acting the right way, my me-time only feels more precious.

Looking back, though, on people I’ve met, on friendships I could have formed, on the people on the cusp of friendship I have now– I know what often stands in the way is my own mini-anxiety-attack about people. I have missed out on or straight up avoided seeing people or picking up phone calls because I am worried that I won’t be able to handle the emotional toll of that interaction. It is, often, easier to stay home quietly and avoid the 50% chance that I screw everything up. The only pass is my guy, who (like my students) I hope loves me even when I am a terrible human. Even then, sometimes we have nights that are separate or silent, because we both need it.

He sees me all the time though. What about the people that I’ve given every reason to give up on me because it always looks like I don’t care? I promise I care. I promise I’m grateful, and that I probably think you’re great. I just have no way of telling you that because every time I think about randomly letting you know my throat seizes and my pupils widen in panic.

I wrote in my last post about trying to find balance, and I guess that’s what I’m trying to figure out as I type. What’s the balance between accepting your introversion and not completely cutting yourself off? At what point is claiming “introversion” just a shield for “anxiety about meeting people”? And how do I figure that out?

Anyway, I promise myself in 2015 (resolution post to come!), I am going to try and be better about this. I am going to try and find that balance, to move past my own anxiety and love big and crazy.

And to anyone that might have felt blown off by me, I’m really sorry. I promise it wasn’t you. It was 50% of me.

Over-Planning and Keeping the Adventure

Hello again. It seems like I got a few followers from my last post. Cool! Hi! *wave*

Anyway,  I just set a 5 min timer. I’m going to try and write for at least as long as my students have to. That seems like a good start (though I’ll probably go over).

I had to ignore the alarm I set on my clock to write each week because I got caught up in lesson planning. I’m pretty behind of what I thought I’d get done over the break, which I finally realized today. Definitely my own fault– I forgot to bring the books my kids are reading, which is about the dumbest thing ever. I blame the sudden and complete overthrow of productive-brain for vacation-brain.

So I started jamming today, and realized a few things:

1) The online app for student discussion I had planned on using with my students doesn’t actually fit my needs. Through a series of tweets, a facebook post, and even a G+ post, I’m trying to crowdsource the best response. BTW if you stumble upon this post and know one, I’d love to hear from you.

2) I need to give my students more formative assessment over the course of a book. They asked for it! I allowed my students to give feedback, and most of them said they want to do MORE while we’re reading. So, time to get crafty and figure out some great projects for them to do.

and finally 3)

I’m worried about over-planning, however, and ruining the sense of adventure and spontaneity that I can gain with my students.

Some background: I’ve never been great at lesson-planning, or just planning in general. It’s always been a HUGE area of struggle for me in my practice. I have the skills to create a good project plan, but when it comes to the doing of something, I’m a big procrastinator. This is actually a reason I went back to the classroom– the jobs that I had had were all fuzzy and “project based,” which I appreciate, but realized is not an environment I do well in. I am trying to own the fact that, unless I’m REALLY COMPLETELY hyped about a project, or someone is going to hold me accountable to get something done (like, say, 28 children in a classroom looking at me saying, “What are we doing today, Ms. T?”), it’s going to be completed in the 5 minutes before I need it.

Now, this has been generally fine this year. I did make a point to unit plan my year, and the school I work at has a daily English curriculum that we follow each day. Beyond believing in it as a curriculum, it makes my life MUCH easier as a teacher. That said, I am worried about getting lazy and falling back on this too much, something I think I may have done at the end of this semester, and lose out on the opportunity to do some great projects.

SO, I’ve been trying to get better about planning. What I’m worried about, though, is that if I over-plan now, I won’t leave any wiggle room for some fun projects I come up with on the fly. For example: after hearing some of my students talk about Instagram, I got the idea to have them create Instagram accounts for characters in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (my example). I threw the activity together that morning, which was nuts but often where my best ideas come to light, and the kids and I had a blast. They also did a great write-up.

In general, I am trying to leave things more up to God to point in my direction (I think St. Ignatius called this “spiritual freedom” or “ambivalence”). This morning, for example, I had planned to do a 12-mile long run. I wasn’t feeling it almost as soon as I started, but I tried to keep moving and power through. As I was running, I realized that there was a national park open I’d never explored before. I decided to head over and check it out. Did it screw with my splits and mileage? Sure, but it was really pretty and certainly fun.

So how do you find balance between good planning and the freedom to play? How can I make sure I don’t get lazy and not push my kiddos and myself, but still let us take the time we need? In an education environment so test-heavy and over-focused on scores (which I am always worried my school will become), I want to make sure I enjoy the fact that my kids aren’t hindered by this and we can take the time to explore stuff.

Anyway, beyond that, life’s good. Planning, writing, running, napping. Ah vacation, you are great.

I also, by the way, have a 2015 Resolutions post coming. I decided to submit something to HuffPost Hawai‘i though, so we’ll see if it gets play there first.

Running On and On

Oh hello world.

I haven’t written in a bit, and now here I am changing things up.

I spend quite a bit of time writing about race and education. I usually labor over those pieces: I don’t start writing unless I have a few hours (and a drink) set aside to write. I have to have a very specific reason to be writing. I have to know almost exactly where I’m going. Since I do write a bit about race, I make it a point to be very thoughtful about what I write. I stew in questions and angles to make sure I’ve considered everything I need to.

I like that about myself. I think it’s helped me produce some pieces I’m very proud of. Some pieces that I’ve been lucky enough to get a lot of good readership in my bubble. The issue is that I rarely write for pleasure anymore. I rarely write for the sake of just getting things down, flexing the writing muscles, and just documenting this crazy little life I’m living.

So I’ve decided to try something out. I’m setting aside every Monday evening (the night I normally try and set aside for myself) to just write. Document something. Maybe about running– I’m trying to sub-4 a marathon in 2015– or about teaching.

So here I am. 27, running on and on. I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.