5 Things I’ve Learned in My First Month Teaching

I’ve officially been teaching now for over a month (6 weeks and 1 day, but who’s counting) and I learn something new everyday. I’ve had a bit of time to marinade on the big things, so I thought I’d share the top 5things I’ve learned on this magical adventure in exhaustion and joy.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-21476-1427232414-14

Being Authentically You Is Everything

I’m not the strict disciplinarian type, and I’m certainly not a cool kid. Struggling between getting control of my rowdiest class and wanting them to not hate me, I think I’ve finally found my own identity.

This is such a necessary thing, to be you, just you as a teacher. I can’t be really strict because it’s not who I am, I also can’t pretend to like everything my students like because that’s not who I am. At the end of the day, they seem to be a lot more open to me when I’m being who I am, not who I feel like I should pretend to be.

Lesson Planning is the Worst

About six months ago, when I was applying for jobs and doing demo lessons, I spent a solid two hours on a lesson plan and thought to myself “I’m going to have to get better at this.”

I’m starting from scratch on three different classes and trying to differentiate for four classes of kiddos. Turns out that means a lot of lesson planning. And no I’m not quick or efficient yet. But amen for google slides.

giphy

A Good Department Team Can Save You

The history department at my school is small but fierce. We meet twice a week to discuss and plan and it’s cut out a lot of unnecessary double-planning because we’re able to share resources and ideas with each other.

In teaching, sharing is caring, and stealing is quite frankly the only way you’ll ever get it all done. Everyone needs another lesson idea and someone else out there has it to give to them.

Grad School No Longer Applies

I’ve learned some valuable things in my almost year at Columbia so far. The chief of these things however has not been curriculum mapping or school structures, it has been that teacher education programs are too far away from reality. I knew this but until I started teaching and learning at the same time, I didn’t realize how impressive the distance.

Doing a teacher preparation program while full time teaching is like working at Starbucks while talking classes about the chemical make up of each variety of coffee. Sure it’s interesting and might be useful one day, but no one taught me how to make a latte, so I’ll just be over here burning the hell out of my hands while I try to teach myself.

giphy1

When Things Go Sideways, There’s Still Love

I’m amazed at how deeply I already care about my students. They are some of the funniest, kindest, strongest people I know. Do they drive me bonkers sometimes? Of course. But I want everything for them.

A couple of weeks ago there was a physical fight in my room. It escalated quickly but eventually it was contained. Truth be told, I’d been waiting for some big thing like this to happen. My mistake was thinking that I would be irritated or annoyed at the students involved. In reality I stayed up worrying about them: what would their punishment be? Were they ok? Had anyone stopped and talked them through their thoughts and feelings?

The students are fine now and things will be getting back to normal soon, but it struck me that even in the worst scenarios, there’s always love.

shrug1

So, that’s basically how you teach. As you can tell, I’m totally an expert now. Or something…Either way, I’d love to hear/read your thoughts, particularly from any current, previous, or future teachers.

Best of luck.

5-things-ive-learned-in-my-first-month-teaching-1

How To: Batch Cooking

I’m back!*

So a couple of days ago, a friend asked me for advice about batch cooking/meal planning. I’ve been doing it consistently for a while, mostly because it makes for fast lunches when I wake up late and quick dinners when I come home tired, but also because it’s hot as balls in NYC this summer and turning on the stove once a week keeps my teeny apartment stay much cooler.

Seeing as school is starting soon, fall is coming for us, and change is around the corner, it seems a good time to share some of my hard-earned knowledge.

giphy

Am I a professional cook? Absolutely not. Am I an expert of kitchen tools and food quality? Not even a little bit. What I am is a perfectly average cook with an interest in saving time and a propensity to walk away from a cooking session with at least two bandaids. I do not own a zester of any kind and for the last four years I’ve either cooked in the corner of a tiny studio apartment or shared a partially outdoor and entirely oven-less kitchen with a Peruvian family.

So why am I, the oft injured non-expert, writing about batch cooking? Because I can’t be the only one with a lot of interest and almost no skill. If we all read advice from only the experts, we’d start to get worried about our abilities. This one’s for you, average cook with very little time, I raise my box of bandaids to you!

Lessons I Learned While Batch Cooking:

beyonce-gif-beyonce-29034924-490-276

Have a Plan

Sure this seems obvious, but until you’re splashing boiling water down your pant leg because you have thirty seconds to strain it and oh sh** you should have but the meat in before the greens and is that FIRE, THAT’S FIRE…you don’t understand just how little you can wing it.

This is particularly important in the beginning: planning not just what you want to cook but the order in which you will cook it and a rough timeline is key.

tumblr_n31csfcijp1rgje4po1_400

 

Mix Up Staples and New Recipes

This took me a while, but especially starting out, you don’t want to have to cook some new and impressive recipe for every meal. That’s 21 new recipes.

I don’t know about you but around 20% of the new recipes I try are sub-par. 20% of 21 is more than four meals. Four meals that you have to box up and eat later, knowing they aren’t going to be very delicious.

Avoid this by choosing 1-2 new recipes for the week and sticking to what you know for the rest. It’s also important to mix it up, cooking some full meals (ex: Beef Curry on Rice, Cracklin’ Chicken) and some things that can be mixed with other things (ex: boiled carrots, vegetable mix**).

homer_cereal_fail

 

Ask For Help/Take a Damn Break

Cooking food for the entire week is not a simple task. While I’ve gotten better at it, almost every week I end up either hurting myself or getting tired doing it. Boyfriend has gotten very good at stepping in about five minutes before I hit this wall to help me finish up and clean the kitchen.

If you don’t have someone right there to help you, consider planning in a place to take a break and sit down with a glass of wine for twenty minutes. This does not make you weak, it makes you smart and less likely to injure yourself.

giphy1

Choose smarts, not the emergency room.

 

I hope these tips help in your future kitchen adventures and may the odds be ever in your flavor (Yeah).

Best of luck!

pinocchio_156

 

*At this point, I’d like to say that I’m going to pick up the blog, cradle it in my arms, and rekindle my loving relationship with it, I would really like to say that. But I don’t want to lie to you. I’m starting the year of my life where grad school and full time work as an NYC public school teacher intersect and I’m still trying to figure out how to fit eating and sleeping in. But right now, I have a vacation and I’m going to blog, because even in the darkest times, something something, idk I’ll write when I can. But I do love you, you perfect cupcakes and I appreciate you reading the blog at all.

** Pre-cooked vegetables make for really fast omelets in the morning.

How To-

Procrastination Station

The Best Way to Get Things Done is to Just Begin

Hello, my name is Becca, and I’m a procrastinator.

In fact, as I’m writing this I am actively procrastinating. I was supposed to post this blog by midday…yesterday.

In my relatively short life, I’ve learned that procrastinating takes skill. It may look like laziness but doing it right takes serious knowledge. Not effort, mind you, but knowledge.

Specifically, knowing what you can potentially pull out in the last moment* and what you absolutely cannot.

One of my most memorable procrastination experiences was in High School; I remember having to do a project we called an anthology every year for English. It involved writing a series of book reports for 5-25 books, depending on the class, throughout the semester and then organizing them all into something classy and academic looking.

Naturally I waited until the last week to do it every year. Mind you, I skimmed some books throughout the semester, I knew what I was going to write about. I had an outline. But that last night before it was due I typically got an hour of sleep at best.

The consequences? I got an A- pretty much every year. Why? Because one of my strengths in life, I’ve learned, is my ability to write well under pressure. I know, because I’ve tested it, that I can write an A, well A-, paper overnight if need be.

Now all that bragging aside, there are a few times I’ve gotten myself in trouble. Most memorably when I waited way too long to get my references, and necessary forms for an application to a teacher certification program. I didn’t get the application in and had to wait a year to apply again.

Even though I eventually got in and decided not to go, that moment still haunts me. I had to forgo a great opportunity simply because I didn’t get my shit together in time.

I know that when it comes to application materials, I need the time, I need to start weeks, maybe even months early because there is a knack for organization involved that I simply don’t possess.

I suppose the point of all this is that life isn’t about being perfectly organized and doing everything on time. That’s impossible. It’s about knowing what you, personally, have the skill to push off until the last moment and knowing what you cannot.

Those things that deeply frighten you and keep you up at night? Those things you know you simply can’t mess up, that you have to get right? Those things your aren’t certain you can even do? Those are the things you should start on now, don’t wait. And when those things try to terrify you right back to bed, push against them, just a little, and start moving forward. One step at a time.

Best of luck.

*Heh heh heh