Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Growing up I watched my very motivated father work his fingers to the damn bone. If there was a retake needed by a football player, he’d stay until 6 to give it to them. If a parent meeting needed to happen at 5 am or 9 pm, he’d make it happen. If he needed to learn Spanish or trombone to get the information across, he’d do it.

Every evening I watched him get home late and fall asleep minutes after sitting down. And every single school break I watched him get horribly sick and spend his time off recovering.

When I started teaching I promised myself I would find a way to work for my kids, to give them every chance I can, without burning myself out.

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I have been blessed with a team of co-workers who are caring and understanding, who always look out for me. My co-teacher tells me often to take care of myself. The beginning of every department meeting is either a self care check-in (where we talk about our specific self care goals and what we are doing to reach them this week) or a self care practice (Tai Chi, guided meditation, etc.) My Assistant Principal meets with me once a week to lesson plan/unit plan/revise curriculum/talk about what’s not working and how to fix it. My in-school mentor meets with me once a week to talk about literally anything I need help with.

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I’m supported, much more so than a lot of teachers. I’m lucky and I know it. But still I got caught with a case of ignoring my own needs.

Last Monday I got up at 4 and laid on my couch sobbing because my head was pounding so hard I couldn’t move. I called in sick but by noon the fever, headache and general ick was so bad I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to the clinic in the afternoon (I’ll be honest I went mostly because I wanted to be at work the following day) and found out I had a high fever, a sinus infection, and an ear infection.

My point is: don’t do this. Don’t let it get this bad. I was sick, really obviously sick and tried to push too hard through it and for what?

Americans especially have this notion that if you are not absolutely killing yourself at work, you’re lazy. I can’t say this enough times: that’s bullsh*t.

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In Peru, we would work from about 7- or am until lunch, go get lunch and take a nap or spend time with family, and then go back to work from 3 until 5 or 6. Yeah, that’s a three hour lunch. We also took 20-30 minutes breaks throughout the day to sit and talk.

At first I was torn apart by the difference and went to the go-to argument so many others have used (or at least thought in their head): well maybe if they worked more, their country would be more advanced. This, my friends, is also bullsh*t.

The reasons that many countries struggle has more to do with internal structure and corruption than with amount of hours worked. Hard work may be important, but worker bees working their buzzers off with no break  will not improve a country or a city or a workplace or a person.

I suppose the moral of the story is: put in the work, do whatever it is you do the best that you possibly can, but remember that half of being your best is treating yourself well. Work hard, self care hard.

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Best of luck.

Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

I Went to the Red Carpet & Lived to Tell the Tale

It’s been a bleak few weeks for the blog, for a lot of reasons. The most important one is that I went on a vacation in which I mostly disconnected from technology, hung out with family (including adorable children), saw old friends for the first time in way too long, explored Seattle all over again, and finally ended up in LA, hanging out at the actual Red Carpet for the Oscars.

Also I caught the plague from previously mentioned adorable children and am still a snot factory and temporarily deaf in one ear. Turns out a terrible cold can turn into my very first sinus infection with a side of ear infection.

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But yes, you did read that correctly I was just chillin on (well, near) the Red Carpet with my new besties Lin, Taraji, and Dev. No big deal.

Except very big deal.

How? You ask. Well, about a month ago I got a mysterious email from People magazine/The Skimm saying I’d won first prize in the Oscars Fan Experience Contest. Naturally I assumed it was a scam, but I decided to research it further because the whole thing sounded vaguely familiar. Eventually I found that I had in fact entered on a whim and The Skimm verified that it was not only a real contest, but I was one of the winners.

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I didn’t win grand prize including air fare and hotel accommodations, but since I’d planned on being in Seattle already and have an awesome friend in LA, the detour only cost me an extra $80.

For the Oscars.

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I invited my friend from Grad School and we arrived at the Oscar Fan Experience location at 9:30 on Sunday, the big day. Well, 9:35 because the map they provided did not include all of the streets or the curvature of the main road (this is why we need to teach geography in schools).

I’m not going to lie, I brought a book because I definitely couldn’t figure out what we could possibly be doing between 9:30 and 2, when the Red Carpet officially opened. I assumed they just needed a lot of time to seat all of us.

But when we arrived we were immediately given a swag bag (notable gifts include a USB power bank, a seat cushion, adorable sunglasses, a billion snacks, and an Oscars Fan Experience t-shirt), donuts and tons of coffee. We were then directed to the various “glam stations” which included hand massages, a hair bar, photo areas and tarot card readings. This was followed by a delicious lunch. We were plenty busy until it was time.

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Around 1:50 we made our way to the bleachers and looked out upon the Red Carpet, the press, and the manic-looking assistants/interns/coordinators. I was told by an obnoxious* woman in front of me that we’d missed some big stars (Ryan Seacrest, who remained on the carpet all night, and some reality star dude).

It took about an hour for celebrities to really start arriving, but once they showed up they were there in droves.

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Because I can’t even describe to you all the feelings and excitement, here is a list of the celebrities I was within 15 feet of on Oscars night:

  • Lin Manuel Miranda (he saluted us)
  • Dev Patel
  • Jim Parsons
  • Busy Phillips and Michelle Williams
  • Trevante Rhodes
  • Taraji P. Henson
  • Chrissy Teigen and John Legend
  • Kate McKinnon
  • Felicity Jones
  • Emma Stone
  • Andre Holland
  • Dwayne Johnson
  • Octavia Specer
  • Darby Stanchfield
  • Mahershala Ali
  • Jason Bateman (he winked at us)
  • Andrew Garfield
  • Salma Hayek
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Sara Bareilles
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Halle Berry
  • Janelle Monae
  • Matt Damon
  • Kirsten Dunst
  • Charlize Theron
  • Ashton Sanders
  • Brie Larson
  • Ruth Negga
  • Emma Roberts
  • Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel
  • Denzel Washington
  • Meryl Streep
  • Ryan Gosling
  • Naomie Harris

There were others, I’m sure there were others, but my excited little brain stopped processing new information at a certain point.

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After the Red Carpet excitement, we were taken to the El Capitan Theater nearby where we were given food upon food upon food and sat down to watch the show. Even though we didn’t get to be in the real theater, watching the Oscars in this delightful old theater (while stuffing my face with free food) was pretty cool.

I know you’re wondering and yes I took pictures but honestly they are terrible in comparison to what you’ll find if you just use google.

You should know though that John Legend and Chrissy Teigen love each other that much up close and everyone else is exactly as attractive as you thought.

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Best of luck.

I Went to the Red Carpet

*Barbara from Ohio spent the entire evening in my personal space, leaning back on my legs to show me her pictures and asking who each and every celebrity was.

Celebrate Yourself

Last month I took part in Yoga Revolution, 31 days of yoga challenge from Yoga with Adriene. It was less a New Years Resolution and more an opportunity to get back to daily yoga after a few weeks off. Either way though, I really enjoyed the thirty minute daily videos from this hilarious and kind teacher. 

During the third week I was really struggling. I struggled to get to the mat. I struggled to focus. I struggled to breathe. I got mad at Adriene and at yoga and at my body. I cried in cobra and fumed in down dog. But I finished and then I came back the next day and life went on. 

A few days later Adriene hit a lot of the crap that had been holding me down. She talked about a friend of hers who has chronic back pain and wondered, “can you shift the language? Can you let go of this back pain as part of your identity?”

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She went on to explain that being kind to yourself and loving your body even when it doesn’t do what you want is the goal. Yoga isn’t about making shapes it’s about growth and making space. I had heard this, I knew this, I could quote this, but this time I actually heard it. 

Stop being such a d*ck to yourself and celebrate doing your best.  

I’m hard on myself, about everything, I’m never good enough and my body gets the worst of it. Growing up overweight I always felt that if my body wasn’t cooperating with me it was because it was inherently wrong. My fat body was the wrong body so it did things wrong. 

Can’t do that stretch? Wrong body, bad body. Can’t run as fast or long as you want? Bad body. Stomach ache, headache, joint pain? Bad body. It never occurred to me to accept my body and help it, support it to feel better. If my body is a dear friend instead of an enemy, life can be so much less painful. 

Life and yoga are about stretching, learning, growing. Not pain, not hurt, not hate. 

I learn the best life lessons while upside down.

Best of luck

** and check out Yoga with Adriene ***

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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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