I Took a Personal Day and I’m Not Sorry

Monday was a long, but overall happy day. Tuesday, however, was much worse. We’re talking “no-good, very bad day” status. I won’t even go into the details but we’ll just say I left school after a long after school meeting, fuming. I walked to the subway half-furious, half-devastated and entirely exhausted. I did that weird little public half-cry where you wipe tears away before they really drop and try to pretend you’re not crying.

On the way home, I tried to find comfort in anything I could: I’m a good teacher, it’s almost the mid-point in the week, we get a break in two weeks wherein I’ll get to see my family and friends, I love my sweet smiling students so much…but nothing was sticking. Until I offered myself the possibility of a personal day. Not a concrete plan, just the option.

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A little backstory: in January, two of my colleagues in the history department had a little meeting without me and discussed an important topic; my continued full supply of personal and sick days. They’d both realized that I’d never taken a day off and thought it was ridiculous. As veteran teachers with 6 and 13 years experience, they are very protective of this first year baby teacher, a fact I’m endlessly grateful for. So it was no surprise when they both came to me separately and then together to convince me to take a day for myself.

They told me that it’s important to take care of yourself. They lectured me about self care and burnout. I laughed and told them I would consider taking a day in March because that’s the death month with no days off. And then Tuesday happened and I hit the end of my rope.

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Giving myself permission to call out on the subway gave me so much relief that I just continued thinking about it. Eventually, still undecided, I texted my co-teacher and told him there was a chance I’d be out. I wanted to see his response, since he’d be teaching alone the next day if I wasn’t there. He immediately texted back, telling me I deserve it and I need to take care of myself since it was a hard day. There were many emojis, he was excited, it was very sweet.

So I took a personal day and I still got up at five. I spent the day catching up on lessons and doing my homework. I went to therapy in the afternoon and spent the evening drinking tea and spending time with Boyfriend. By seven that evening I felt good, I felt ready for a 7am-10pm day with work and grad school.

And then de Blasio called a snow day. Excellent timing, de Blasio, excellent timing.

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Previous to taking this day off, I’d only taken two days off from work in my life. One for when I was so sick I couldn’t walk without passing out and the other was the day that an ex walked out on me. The idea of taking a personal day just to get my head on straight seemed weak. But my colleagues (and every other veteran teacher I interact with) have taught me just the opposite. Weakness is not listening to yourself, it’s not taking care of yourself. It’s easy to be in the building every day, it’s much harder to be present. And sometimes you have to be absent in order to be present later.

I refuse to feel guilty about this personal day because it was something I needed to do. I needed a reset and re-focus. And the snow day, well, that was just a bonus.

Best of luck.

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Success! Finally Being Good at Something

I’ve been decent at a lot of things in my life. I’ve been a decent musician, a decent student, a decent retail worker, a decent volleyball player.

Ok that last one isn’t true, I was pretty awful at volleyball. Your girl does not have hand-eye coordination.

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My point is, I’ve felt like I’m ok at so many things and truly, comically awful at a few, but I have rarely really felt like I found my jam.

Until now.

Before winter break I had two teaching evaluations. One was in October and came back with pretty typical results for a first year teacher: a mix of developing and effective marks. The second evaluation was in December, right at the end of term one. I got those results recently: all effective and one highly effective mark.

It’s ok. You can say it. I know. Daaammmmnnnnnn.

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Now this one evaluation does not mean I’m perfect and I’m also not about to place my worth as a teacher on it. But it made me come back to a thought I’ve had many times in my four months teaching:

I have room to grow and learn and I always will, but damn it if I’m not a really good teacher. I’m good at this. This is my jam. I always thought people who claimed to have found their calling were liars, but then mine came out of nowhere and body checked me.

I only wish I could go back to retail me and paraeducator me and food service me and college me and tell them that they’ll get there. The suffering is real but it will pay off. You will get to your dream one day.

And it will feel so damn good to be great at something.

Best of luck.

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Classroom Portraits: Pete, Javier & Mercedes

I’ve decided it’s time for me to introduce some of my students and celebrate the magical moments of my profession. I’m hoping this will be a regular series, so please let me know if you enjoy it.

Pete

I had Pete in my government class first term. He was always sweet but spent a lot of time trying to sleep through class, begging to be given a task that required less effort and in the end, he barely skated by.

Going through this brought us pretty close. Every single day he comes into my classroom after school and we do our patented jumping high-five, where we back to either side of the classroom and run at each other, jumping and high fiving mid-air in the middle. Every time he exclaims “now my day is complete!” and runs out the door.

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Javier

Javie and I also had a rough first term together. He’s known for leaving class suddenly and disappearing for half the period, cursing out teachers who call him on his behavior, and generally keeping everyone off task. This term, after so many good days, bad days, and long meetings, he’s in my class again. He has grown up a lot in a few weeks.

Last week we held a Class Court for the case of NLRB v. Jones and Laughlin. Many of the more engaged students participated in the court early on and I watched as Javie alternated between talking to a student near him and listening to the other side. I would have been happy with this behavior, but then there came a booming voice from his side of the court.

Javie spoke clearly and with all the professionalism of an attorney defending the rights of workers and the role of the government. He stayed calm when questioned by the judges and stood for his team when challenged. At the end of the period I stopped him and told him I wanted to see this every day. He grinned at me and said “I’ll try.”

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Mercedes

Mercedes is a very sensitive kid whose hurt usually turns quickly to anger, cursing, and fighting. She struggled through the first term but passed. She says hi to me in the hall everyday and has this infectious, crooked smile that I just can’t describe.

At the beginning of January, she came into my classroom at lunch and talked to me about her second term classes. She complained about biology and English but said she liked art well enough. She turned to leave and get some food but then turned back enough and said, “I never got a chance to thank you for all your help last term, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

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These precious moments with this amazing young people bring me up from the very drudges. The best advice I’ve received so far as an educator is to write down this good moments, these students showing you their best selves and cherish them. These moments can save you from the very worst days.

Fellow teachers (and others), do you have any of these moments you hold on to?

Best of luck.

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One Lovely Blog Award

Chrissey over at Unabridged Sass was kind enough to nominate me for the One Lovely Blog Award! I’m super honored and excited to participate; thank you Chrissey for thinking of me and this silly little blog of mine.

I absolutely love Chrissey’s blog, it’s a glorious mix of all the things a lifestyle blog should be without all the BS that so many lifestyle blogs lean towards. She’s honest, she’s witty and, probably most importantly she delivers the appropriate amount of sass.

So go check her out, like right now, I’ll wait. Do you need the link again? Go, I’ll be here when you get back.

Here are the rules:

  • Thank the person that nominated you and leave a link to their blog
  • Post about the award
  • Share 7 facts about yourself
  • Nominate at most 15 people
  • Tell your nominees the good news!

 

Seven things about me:

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1. I learned to straighten my hair on accident.

In 7th grade, I was curling my bangs*, with my mother’s lime green curling iron from the 1970s. I pulled the rod downward on accident and the piece of hair came out straight. It was magic and I spent hours experimenting.

2. I’m obsessed with my cat.

I talk to him all the time and treat him like my baby. He’s a perfect little flop and I love him more than most people.

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3. Boyfriend and I say “peekaboo” when we pass gas.

It started with a video of a bird saying peekaboo. I don’t remember why. But it’s been two years of this.

4. I have an overactive imagination.

It’s what makes me both a good writer and completely unable to watch horror movies.

5. I have no modesty when it comes to bowel movements and stomach stuff.

I spent most of my Peace Corps service stomach-sick which made me take a lot of desperate actions I’m not proud of**, so I don’t hesitate to tell people I need to poop or I’m going off to poop now.

6. I’m an introvert.

But not necessarily that shy, those aren’t the same. I actually like other humans and I spend my day talking in front of young humans, but I need alone time to survive.

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7. I collected spoons from different states as a kid.

I don’t remember how it started but I had 44 spoons by late middle school because my family traveled a lot. I think they’re in a box in my parents house now, but they’ll probably end up on my wall at some point.

And now to spread the love, I’d like to nominate:

Best of luck.

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*Oh, middle school Becca, this was such a bad look for you, my friend…

** I’m referring to 100% crapping my pants. Multiple times. And also the one time I couldn’t take another pants-crapping so I found a bucket in the corner of some shed. There weren’t a lot of bathrooms, ok?

I Couldn’t Hate Them If I Tried

Something I’ve learned many times before but continue to learn every day is that nothing in education will turn out as expected. The “solid gold” lessons won’t be received as you imagined (or hoped), the “total crap” lessons will hit some just right, and the emotions and break-downs and fights you expect will not happen when you expect them.

My first term as a high school teacher just ended in December and nothing went as I expected. Kids I thought would throw fits over failing didn’t, kids I thought would fail pulled it out at the last second and some that I thought would pass lost their momentum too soon.

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Overwhelmingly though: I am continually floored by how much I love these kids. How much I want to hug them when they cry and tell them it’ll work out even though it feels terrible right now.

I push them hard every day, nobody is allowed to take the L. I expect greatness from everyone, no one is mediocre. I don’t hand out good grades until they’ve been earned. I get called mean on the regular, I’m always “extra” and “doing too much.” I get mad sometimes because CAN EVERYONE STOP TALKING OVER ME?

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But still, when they celebrate, I celebrate. Nothing is better than seeing that smile they tried to hide when they find out they passed.

And when they cry, I cry. Nothing is harder than seeing the despair they’re trying to hide when they find out they won’t pass.

There was this small part of my brain that thought I’d feel justified and righteous handing out failing marks to those kids that have blown off the work and made bad choices. Because I’m teaching them lessons in social studies but I’m also teaching about consequences and professionalism. I thought somehow it might feel good to give a well-earned failing mark.

I was surprised at how much it hurts me when they hurt, even when the pain is necessary.

I’ve known these kids for three months, but something clicked in the hall with Elle while I held her and let her cry through my sweater. Something clicked when Steven laughed out loud at the news of passing my class and couldn’t stop grinning. Something clicked when Kam came in late to study hall and begged me to let him finish his work and pass, and his relief when I let him.

These kids are magic. And I am forever honored to be connected to them in even the smallest way.

Best of luck.

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Election 2016: A Plea for Sanity

***political post: if you don’t care to read about politics or my opinion on politics, kindly skip this post. And don’t worry, there’s plenty of non-political content coming. See you again soon :)***

This election is reaching its due date. At less than three weeks out, all we can do is practice our breathing and hope they’ve got the good drugs if this goes sideways.

There’s a lot on the table this election and I’ll admit, there is no perfect candidate. There is no Obama ’16. Oh how things would be different.

Politically I’m pretty liberal, but I try to stay close enough to moderate that I can still see the line. I try to think from varying perspectives because I know I have an enormous amount of privilege. I don’t vote with my gut, I seek out facts. I’ll also note that I’ve been a Clinton supporter for years, though Bernie was my top pick in this election for a while there. I’m guilty of laughing off Trump as a fool and ignoring him.

I teach government and history to high schoolers so while I know that I’m never entirely unbiased, I try to show them every side of an issue and force them to justify their own thoughts with evidence. In my classroom, saying “yes” or “no” or “that’s dumb” isn’t good enough, you have to give me a “why.”

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But all that aside, the end of this sh**storm is getting close now and I’m scared.

I’m terrified of the racist and sexist comments I’m hearing from not just Trump but his supporters. Of slurs I’ve been lucky to miss throughout much of my life. I’m terrified that this election is becoming the pinnacle of “boys will be boys.”

I won’t even go into what might happen if he’s elected because I honestly don’t know. I don’t want to know.

What I can tell you is that I’m not on the fence about Trump being a threat to the American people. There is no fence. There is no saying that he’s fair or kind or empathetic to all of the people of this country. That’s just a bald faced lie.
There is no covering all of his ignorant hate up with applause for his honesty. You know what honesty is when it delivers unnecessary pain to specific populations? It’s hate speech.

What really makes the bile rise in my throat every time I think about this election is what I hear from my students.

I teach at a school in Brooklyn that is almost entirely black and Latino. My students have all been held back at least twice before ninth grade, that’s the requirement to attend our school. (The overlap of race and grade retention should also tell you something about racism in the school system and our country).

I teach topics that easily lend themselves to the election. And yet every day I fear talking about it. I fear the pain in my students eyes, the distress that they express at the possibility of this man becoming president. tumblr_nebz73cmsw1rk1f5to1_500
On Monday a student said he wasn’t concerned about Trump’s policies on education because “if he wins we’ll all be slaves again anyway.” Comments like that come up every day and while students try to laugh them off, they’re too true to be brushed off that easily.

This man, this sexual harassing, bullying, bullsh**ting, lying monster of a man cannot become president. He can’t.

I get it if you don’t like Hillary Clinton. Ok. She’s got some flaws, she will not be perfect. She is a politician and I know a lot of us are tired of politicians. I’m not even standing for her right now, that is no longer what this is about.

If you decide not to vote because you don’t like Clinton, it’s a vote for Trump. I wish our system didn’t work like that, but it does. In not letting your voice count, you’re letting it shout “Trump!”

That’s my final word on this: go vote, take down the monster.

Best of luck. To us all.

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