How To: Enjoy a Long Weekend in Texas

Step 1 – Meet old friend at baggage claim and awkwardly skip-run into each other’s arms. 

Step 2 – Use two different phones and absolutely no knowledge of Dallas to get lost for hours, venturing onto toll roads, back roads and m****rf*****g commerce way, until finally finding and touring Dealy Plaza. 


Step 3 – Stay in a fancy hotel for the night, planning to drink numerous a’Rita’s from the gas station, only to stay up late talking and fall asleep mid sentence. 

Step 4 – Enjoy continental breakfast, steal everything they won’t charge you for from the room. 

Step 5 – Go to friend’s house in Wichita Falls, see improve show, get drunk and talk about politics after being called a yankee and responding “my state wasn’t involved in that war…”

Step 6 – Go to friends hometown, meet her hilarious friends, go to lake to cool off and drink all the drinks. 


Step 7 – Wake up the next morning wondering why you are still wearing a swimsuit, why the words ‘crown royale’ make you nauseous, and where your toothbrush is. 

Step 8 – Go kayaking hungover. For five hours!

Step 9 – Drive a car for the first time in two years but just briefly. Feel 15 again and decide driving is still not for you. 

Step 10 – Go back to Wichita Falls, take a Benadryl because you are insanely allergic to Texas and konk out for the whole ride. 

Step 11 – Go hiking in Oklahoma on this trail, oh wait is that a snake, never mind, this trail nope that’s a snake, no, this trail, no snakes, awesome, wait where’s the trail?


Step 12 – Head back to Dallas for the flight home but magically find extra time and a Buccee’s. Buy tourist-y goods and delicious salsa. 

Step 13 – Say goodbye, promise to come back soon, know you will. 


Best of luck.

6 Things I Learned as a First Year Teacher

‘First Year Teacher’ has been a strange title to hold this year. While I mostly forgot about it at work, it was at grad school and district-wide events that it really shined as an exceptionally weird thing.

At grad school, surrounded by student teachers who I overwhelmingly liked but didn’t have a ton of time to connect with, I was sometimes ignored, something applauded, and sometimes confronted with hostility. To be honest I didn’t like any of those responses and regretted every time I brought up my teaching practice as a present avenue and not a future one.

When interacting with other teachers at professional developments and state exam grading I was mostly looked at with surprise and reminiscence, as though the very thought of it being my first year brought every teacher back to theirs.

It’s strange now that after this first year being such a big deal, none of my coming years will ever mean so much in name, to me or anyone else. Only a little over two weeks out from the end of the school year and I’m still trying to gain some perspective. Mostly I just feel a little bored, a little stressed (finishing my MA), and I really kind of miss my students.

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All that said, I did manage to learn a hand full of important lessons in as a first year teacher.

1. The People Around You Matter

I got insanely lucky with colleagues. I’ve heard the horror stories of apathetic and angry teachers, veterans who don’t care and newbies who think they run the world. I got so lucky with my school family – they are kind and smart and, above all, they care about the kids. Every time I was upset, I had emotional and practical support.

I also made my own support outside of school, leaning on friends and fellow teachers when times were tough. Having a support system, particularly one made up of other people in education is key to survival.

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2. Students are like Family.

You won’t always like them, sometimes you want to throw them out a window and, but you will still love them.

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Throughout the year, when I was unsure about an action I’d taken or something I’d said, I asked myself if the root of it was love. If the answer was no, I needed to apologize.

3. Apologies Hold Huge Power

No one apologizes to kids, especially not adults. Even when they’re wrong, terribly wrong, adults rarely apologize. Early in October I snapped at a kid, it was a passing moment in a bad day, but it wasn’t fair.

I thought about it a lot that night and the next day I pulled her aside when I saw her at lunch and said “hey, I’m really sorry I snapped at you yesterday, that wasn’t fair and you didn’t deserve that.” The look on her face was comically confused and unsure and then she broke into a smile, told me it was ok, and hugged me.

When you’re wrong, apologize.

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4. Self Care

All of the self care. In the beginning of the year, I constantly felt overwhelmed by the amount I needed to prepare and learn and grow and more then once I found myself at school way too late. I brought work home and I was killing my self to finish everything.

I was blessed with an amazing co-teacher  who really kept me honest about self care and cracked down on this. He told me to go home, he helped me finish things, he simplified my to do list, he reminded me that the first year is not about being the best it’s about survival.

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Sometimes it won’t get done but you’ll have taken a long bath and gotten some rest so that you can keep loving the kids and being a good teacher.

5. Take a Day Off

This goes with number four, but needed it’s own section. You get sick and personal days.  Use them. Not excessively, but use them.

Coming to school if you’re too sick, too distracted by something outside of school, or too wrecked to do a good job will only hurt the kids. Take a day, get your head and your body right and never feel bad about it.

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6. Nothing Will Ever be Fully Prepared

No, shut up, no it won’t, just stop. Just when you think you’ve created the perfect lesson and sink hours into making it just right, the whole plan will get thrown by a student question or a broken Smart Board (in May when the tech budget is gone for the year) or a fire drill.

I stopped putting hours into lessons because it only led to disappointment. Plan, absolutely plan and be creative and create cool lessons but don’t plan so long and so hard that you’ll be heartbroken when the plan inevitably gets derailed.

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Teachers, aspiring teachers, retired teachers, parents, students, and anyone else; I’d love to know your thoughts and any big lessons you’ve learned lately in the comments!

Best of luck.

6

The (Late) 2017 Bucket List

At the beginning of college I got my first credit card. Don’t worry, I’ve always been ridiculously responsible about budgeting, this story’s not going down that road. What I recall almost as deeply as the nightmares I had about the possibility of interest payments, is getting my first statement.

It wasn’t that I’d spent a lot of money, it’s that every line item on the statement was a fast food restaurant or something I ordered from the internet. My credit card statement was a story of me as a shut-in. It was not an untrue story.

I wish I could say I saw this sad story and immediately changed; went full Eat, Pray, Love and traveled the world, sky dived and moved to a new city, danced like no one was watching. I did none of those things, because isn’t life lived in the small changes and the tiny moments?

Yes, it is.

So I went to a few more stand up shows and plays, I made my meals out into dates with friends, and I traded a few pretty dresses for road trips and ridiculous midnight adventures. I learned to get back into the world and be a bit more brave and a bit less tied to things.

When I heard about Eventbrite‘s GOMO, or Get Out More Often, I thought “that sounds pretty baller.” And then I thought “damn, son, you need to stop picking up slang from your students.”

In all seriousness though, there’s a huge life lesson here and you know how I love those. So in the spirit of GOMO! (something I will be yelling randomly all over NYC’s subways), here’s a list of 10 adventures I’d like to have this year.

*I’m putting a couple on here I already did, because, well, I want to brag a little too*

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1. Go To the Oscars

I did this. So…

2.  See a Play

I hadn’t totally planned on it, but I did this today too. Casually went to see Hamilton with my students. More on that later.

3. Get Out of Town

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New York is draining, which is surprising since I’ve yet to live in a New York apartment with decent sink and shower drains. In our year plus here, Boyfriend and I have only left the city a hand full of times, mostly to fly home or get out for a weekend camping trip. This year I really want to go somewhere quiet, stay in a B&B and relax for real. I want to be not just New York relaxed, but actually relaxed.

4. Have a Picnic

It doesn’t have to be in Central Park or Prospect Park or any park. I just want to make sandwiches and pack them to green, nature area and eat them in the company of those I love.

5. Go Camping

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This tends to happen a few times during the summer but it’s something that I really like and Boyfriend LOVES. Nature is the great healer and no matter how hot/humid/disgusting this summer is, we have to get out there.

6. Write a Story

I’m keeping expectations low because I won’t even finish grad school until August. So, not a novel, nothing epic, just a story. I have ideas in my head all the time and I used to do a lot more writing them. Time to get back to that.

7. Do a Yoga Retreat

Yoga brings me as much peace as nature does and I’ve been wanting to try one of these for a long time. This year I want to bite the bullet and go all in for a weekend (or maybe a week).

8. Take the Train

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Not the subway. Dear god, never the subway. The actual train. I don’t even really care where I go, I just want to go. On the train.

9. Be Present in the Blogging Community

I have made a few great blogging friends and interacted with other bloggers and I genuinely love this community so much. Grad school and teaching tend to keep me from both blogging (whoops) and making deeper connections with other bloggers (double whoops). This year I want to get back to the blog and jump in to the community.

10. Get a Tattoo with Boyfriend

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I should note: I definitely don’t mean matching tattoos. I truly believe though that it’s an experience worth having with someone you love and Boyfriend has not yet gotten a tattoo. I’m working on designing one for him and as for me, who know, could turn out as anything.

Best of luck.

P.S. Eventbrite also has some crazy cool planning tools, like this one. Check them out!

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

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?