reflections of a first year teacher

When reflecting on this past year, I feel a lot of conflicting emotions. As much as I joke, I don’t want 2016 to die in dumpster fire. This year has brought mistakes and triumphs, heartbreak and friendship, solitude and growth. A lot of good things happened…and a lot of bad. Both are teachers and I hope to always be a student.

In 2016, I dyed my hair. I published my fourth book—my first on a major press. Poetry flew me around the world, coast to coast and across the ocean. I successfully produced a major youth poetry tournament, ran a summer writing camp for high school students, and finally signed with a manager and talent agency. At the same time, I struggled with depression, anxiety, body image, and authenticity. I was disillusioned and misguided, so out of touch with my desires that I acted poorly or hurtfully against others and myself.

In 2016, I started running again. Then, stopped. I paid off my student loans only to accrue different debt. I fell more in love with myself and also met parts of my personality that I hate. I turned 30. Went to therapy for the first time. Found a lump on my dog’s stomach. I couldn’t afford his chemotherapy, and even if I could, he likely would not have lived see the New Year.

To give voice exclusively to our successes (and not our failures) is a form of violence against one self, as it sets an unreachable standard and further misrepresents what it means to be human: flawed, wildly contradicting, still trying, still worthy. Instead of admitting we contain multitudes, we self-curate and isolate, hiding our pockmarks because they blemish the perfect picture of our life that we have painted.

The truth is: we are not always good and that is okay. At times, I was not my best this year but that does not mean I do not deserve another one. It does not mean I will not try to be better in the next.

Now, here is where the real work comes in: this is not enough. Forgiving your flaws and understanding your mistakes is not enough. I originally planned on ending this post on the previous paragraph—wrapping it up neatly with a promise to be better. How forgiving that would be, how safe and comfortable. And yet, we all know the greatest growth happens in unrest. If I left 2016 ruminating on the duality of life and my imperfect humanness, then I would just be parroting the same lessons I learned last year.

I want to evolve. I want to listen to my discomfort and feed my dissatisfaction with hard work, honesty, conversation, and practice. I refuse to feel helpless, as I am not a prisoner of my past or myself. I will not remain stagnant in this stage of soft reflection, as it no longer promotes my betterment. We all deserve forgiveness and gentleness, yes, but we also deserve to be uprooted. The self is best carved from displacement.

So, 2017, make me uncomfortable. Continue to challenge. Continue to give and take from me. Through this, show me who I am again and again—a hundred layers of messy paint; a blessed shedding of skin; a heart, both broken and whole, that can feel so much all at once.

Teacher Workload: My Experience

I’m sitting in bed mentally preparing to go back to work tomorrow, after nearly three weeks off for holiday break.  For the first time in my entire career, I did almost no work over break.  I made a couple copies and checked Instagram, but that big pile of work I took home…nope, none of that got done.  But I’m not worried. Tomorrow will be a great day.

I’m a fifth year teacher.  I’ve taught in the same school, in the same classroom, for the entire time.  I’ve taught 4th grade for all five years and am teaching 5th for the first time this year (I have a combo).  I feel like I finally have enough experience to reflect on a popular topic in the world of education: teacher workload.

It’s hard to talk about workload in general terms, because it is going to be different for different teachers.  It does depend on subject and school and experience.  But even with that caveat, I’m going to do a little generalizing…

1. Student Teachers: Prepare To Work A Lot

I believe student teaching is an amazing experience to prepare for having your own classroom (see my post here).  But in order for it to be meaningful, you need to be ready to put in the hours.  Spend as much time as possible in your classroom.  I know, I know.  You have class and assignments and credentialing requirements and maybe a job and a family.  But the more you experience now, the more prepared you will be for being on your own.  Be meaningful with your time…don’t spend time stressing over assignments and tests.   If you put your heart into it, you will pass and get your credential.  Almost everyone does, and complaining about silly requirements won’t do your spirit any favors.  Stay positive, but be prepared for student teaching to be your life.

2. First (and Second) Year Teachers: Prepare To Work Even More

So many people pressure first year teachers to have a “healthy” work-life balance.  They chastise early teachers for staying late and coming in early.  I’m going to advise the complete opposite.

Having your own classroom is hard and stressful.  But it is less stressful if you give yourself the time to truly prepare for each day.  My first couple years, I basically lived in my classroom.  I stayed ‘til 9 on Friday nights.  But when I was with the kids, I felt confident and prepared.  My room was organized and my lessons were well-planned. That allowed me to develop the skills as I teacher I still use.  Moreover, I started amassing a set of high-quality lessons and projects I could use in the future.

Nobody tells Law School or Med School students and interns that they should work less or take it easy.  We understand that they are working hard and sacrificing things in their personal lives to develop the knowledge and skills they will use throughout their career.  I think we need to apply the same view to early teachers.

Everything I’ve written so far aligns with the idea that teaching is a lot of work and that work-life balance is a struggle.  But I have good news…

3. It Gets (A Lot) Better

During my third year, I worked a lot.  I came early and stayed later, but had more flexibility with my time.  I had to work some late nights, but could choose which nights.  If I had plans one afternoon or was going away one weekend, I made it work without much stress.

Then, this crazy thing happened my fourth year.  I slowly stopped working so many hours.  I had a lot of lessons already in my back pocket.  I was more efficient with my time.  I knew what my kids needed to know and what lessons would come next.  My classroom was well-organized.  I was teaching better than I ever had, but I was also working far less.

This year is even easier.  I’m teaching a combo and taking on a whole new grade, but I spend so much less time at work.  I still spend occasional late nights at work, but more frequently, I leave whenever I want.  One of my favorite things about teaching now is my flexibility with being able to do the work I need to do when I want to do it.  

Teaching has become sustainable.  I have time for friends and family (granted, I do not have kids yet!  That is a whole different topic!).  I work out frequently and sometimes (gasp!) go home at 3pm just to sit on my couch and watch TV.  I spent an entire vacation not working and am still totally confident about going back to work.

——

Everyone has their own experiences and things to balance.  But based on my experience, my advice for people going into teaching in regards to work/life balance and workload is…

Put in those hours early!  Invest that time in your early years, and don’t feel guilty for making teaching your “life”.  That investment WILL pay off (in less time than you think)!

Connect Call

Originally posted by oreilysamcro

Originally posted by painfulblisss

Request: Happy Imagine where you are childhood friends but you haven’t heard from Happy for years until you get a phone call from him in prison.

Type in bold is flashbacks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

High School Graduation. You had made it, despite all odds, you had finished high school. You stood in front of the mirror and stared at your reflection and took a deep breath. Today was the first day of the rest of your life. The graduation ceremony started in two hours and after that, you were free. Free from the shitty hallways and shitty classrooms. Free from the shitty teachers and your god-awful classmates.
The roar of the motorcycle pulling up outside bought you back to reality and you grinned before running outside.
He stood leaning against his bike, his black t-shirt clinging to his sculpted body.
“Happy!” You yelled as you ran towards your best friend.
He grinned at moved towards you and you leapt into his arms.
He twirled you around, with of your hugging each tight on the front lawn of your house.
Happy was your best friend. You had grown up together and you had spent every afternoon together, getting high down by the river or getting drunk and getting shitty tattooed and hiding them from your parents. He had dropped out of school last year, when his mom got sick the first time. And despite seeing him everyday after school you would spend all day in your classes dreaming about him.
You were madly in love with him, of course. How could you not be. He was loyal and caring. He had a good heart and he could make you laugh harder than anyone else. He didn’t talk much, to others. But sometimes you could barely shut him up. You dreamed of a life with him, despite what your parents thought, and despite knowing he didn’t feel the same way. You were like a sister to him, and it broke your heart silently every time you thought about it.
“Hey pumpkin.” He grinned at you and you rolled your eyes.
He had been calling you that for two years, ever since you’d gotten high with him at the river then gone home, eaten the whole pumpkin pie, and threw up all over your moms thanksgiving dinner.
That was the first time your parents banned you from seeing Happy, but you had rebelled against them, and they knew better than to try stop it these days.
“You ready?” He asked you, an eyebrow raised and a smirk on his face.
You tilted your head and looked at him questioningly.
“How mad do you think your parents will be if you arrive at graduation on the back of my bike?” He asked you, his smirk turning into a full blown grin.
You laughed and nodded. “Lets go Hap.”

“Clean up on aisle two.”
You sighed as you stacked the last can on the shelf. You had ten minutes left of your shift and it was just typical that there would be a spill just before you finished.
You walked to the cleaning closet and pulled out the mop and bucket and pushed them in front of you as you walked to Aisle Two.
You looked at the open can of soda on the floor and the fizzy puddle surrounding it and swept the hair out of your face as you began pushing the mop around.
You hummed along to the music as you mopped.
Once you’d finished you walked back to the closet and poured the soda in your bucket into the basin.
You watched it pour down the drain, and couldn’t help but think the soda was a metaphor for your life.
You’d been working at the grocery store  for four years now, and you knew you were wasting your life.
You used to have such big dreams for your future, for your life.
You wanted to travel the world, have a family and make a name for yourself.
But that had all turned to shit years ago.
You rubbed the wedding ring on your finger for comfort and leant against the wall.
The smell of bleach filled your lungs and you closed your eyes, wishing that you could just disappear.
37. You were 37 years old and widowed. You had no kids, no friends, you worked in a grocery store, earning just enough money to pay the rent in your one bedroom apartment and keep yourself alive. Living the dream, you thought sarcastically.


You scanned the room, eyeing the men clad in leather and the topless girls.
ACDC blasted through the speakers and the scent of weed and pussy swirled around you.
“Lookin for me, gorgeous?” A voice slurred and an arm draped over your shoulder and the breath filled with alcohol was hot on your air.
You shrugged the arm off you and glared at the man.
“In your dreams.” You said with an icy stare.
The man shrugged and walked away, leaving you standing alone in the doorway of the Sons Of Anarchy Tacoma charters clubhouse.
You looked towards the back of the room and finally spotted him.
It felt like acid poured through your veins, or knives ripping through your body.
There he sat, your best friend, Happy Lowman, with a topless red head in his lap, grinding into him.
You fought back tears and swallowed before waking towards him.
You cleared your throat as you stood at the end of the couch but he didn’t even look up.
You fumbled with your hands awkwardly before clearing your throat again.
This time he heard you and he glanced up at you.
“Hey pumpkin, you came!” He smiled at you and the sight of his smile almost made you forget the whore in his lap. Almost.
“Happy birthday, Lowman.” You said, trying to sound normal.
He smiled at you.
“Can you come outside? I have something for you.” You said and rubbed your neck awkwardly.
Happy hesitated and looked at the girl in his lap.
“Maybe later pumpkin?” He asked awkwardly.
Your heart sunk and you nodded slowly as four burly men came over and crowded you.
His attention went to them and you slipped outside without him noticing.
You ran to your car and jumped in before pulling out of the lot.
Tears streamed down your face as you drove home and you felt empty, knowing that you’d left your heart on the cum stained floor of that clubhouse.


Beep-beep-beep.
You stood and walked to the kitchen, the smell of instant macaroni filling the room.
You walked to the microwave and opened the door,and reached into grab the tray.
Ever since your husband had died six years ago you had been practically living off frozen microwave meals. You had never been good at cooking and your husband Tom had cooked every night. You were married for two years before he died, an innocent victim of a drunk driving accident. You’d never forget that phone call. You had been sitting on the toilet, a pregnancy test in your hands, tears of joy streaming down your face as you looked at the two pink lines.
The phone had rung and you’d practically ran to the phone, hoping it was your husband on the line.
But it wasn’t Tom, it was the hospital. You didn’t remember driving to the hospital, and you didn’t remember getting the car.
All you remembered was the two police officers with solemn faces, standing outside the emergency room. They told you that your husband had died and you had fallen to your knees, sobbing on the floor of the hospital.
You loved him, you knew you did. But you were always filled with guilt knowing that you loved someone else more.
Things had never been the same between you and Happy after that night. He was always busy with the club he had joined and you were busy working your ass off to get enough money to get the whole out of that place.
You used to spend every minute together but then you’d go weeks without speaking, and you both knew you were drifting apart.
Some friendships just seemed to have an expirary date, and for you, it was Happy Lowman’s 19th birthday.
You had almost fallen asleep on the couch when the phone rung.
You groaned as you stood, wiping your eyes and waked across the room to the phone.
It was probably work, wanting you to come in on your day off or someting.
You answered the phone and pressed it to your ear as you stifled a yawn.
“This is a collect call from Stockton State Penitentiary. Inmate Happy Lowman is trying to contact you. Dial 1 to accept the call. Dial 2 to decline, or hang up.”
You froze, the phone pressed tightly to your ear.
The message repeated itself and with shaky hands you lowered the phone and pressed 1.
You heard a click as the line was connected and your heart almost beat out of your chest.
The familiar raspy voice sent shivers down your spine.
“Hey pumpkin.”

There will be a part 2 😘

WEEK ONE REFLECTION

The first prompt for 2016

ECL310

When I was in grade three I remember my teacher reading to the class Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. We sat in silence absorbing every word, it was fantastic!. The teacher read Roald’s next book Charlie and The Glass Elevator as well and it was also a big favourite. Years later I was lucky enough to be teaching my own grade 3 and 4′s when the Harry Potter series came out. Once again a class sat in silence absorbing very word as this time I read the novel to the grade. 

For your reflection this week we would enjoy discovering your memories of being read to. Preferably this would come from your own classroom experiences, otherwise it can be a reflection on what a parent read to you, or if that doesn’t fit, you can share what you would like to read to a class when you have the chance.

All of the ECL310 team look forward to sharing in this,

be creative, make a video, a Wordle, a sound recording, a cloze activity, anything you like!

Good luck!


The ECL310 team!

Confessions

I’m a first year teacher. With that being said, I’ve been reflecting and carrying something around on my heart that I’d like to share in hopes that it reaches out and provides comfort/solace/peace to other first year teachers out there. As we approach the week before Thanksgiving break, a week I’ve been counting down to since Fall break… I’ve come to a few realizations. First of all, I am NOT a great teacher. This is not to say I’m not an effective teacher, or that my kids are going to leave me at the end of the year and struggle, or even that they’ll leave with educational deficiencies. BUT, I know that I am not a great teacher. Could my academic time be spent more efficiently? 100% Could my lessons be written/planned/executed to where I reach more kids? Definitely. Could I be more effective with my classroom management? Absolutely. However, I am a first year teacher. Most people become teachers because they love to learn. Teaching is a profession where you NEVER stop learning. I love my job because I get to reach out to kids and impact more than their academics. I think a lot of first year teachers get bogged down and spend all their waking time absorbed in their classroom or school because they feel a certain obligation to BE the best. If they aren’t the best they feel as though they’ve failed their students. I’ll admit I spent my first 6 weeks of school caving to that pressure, spending all my weekends at school or bringing home school stuff to do at home. But what I realized, was that my patience for my kids was thinner, the joy I brought to the classroom was diminishing, and I was already falling into the habit of resenting my job. I chose to become a teacher. I made the decision to make that my lifelong career, and not even a semester into it I was already starting to hate it. I remember thinking, “I have GOT to make some changes.” So I did. I started leaving at the end of the school day. I started writing my lesson plans at home on the weekends and copying what I needed for the day the morning of or the day before. Are these solid teaching practices? Not completely. Do they work for me right now and where I am in my career? Yeah. They do. I MADE the choice to have a life outside of school. To take my full weekend as a break away from school related stuff and to allow my batteries to recharge. Do I understand that it impacts my job? Yeah. If I were to spend my whole weekend dedicated to carefully planning and preparing lessons for my week I would definitely have an easier week at school, my lessons might be more effective or interactive or fun. But I’m okay with them not being Teacherpayteacher worthy. I’m okay with them being just okay lessons that get the message across. As long as my kids are learning I’m okay with figuring out how to manage my classroom time. I’m a first year teacher. And with that I need to give myself a certain level of grace, forgiveness, and time. I’m always looking to grow and I frequently ask coworkers, friends, family and my administration for ways to grow, improve, and get better. One day I will be a great teacher, one day I will be the most effective teacher, and have the best managed classroom you have ever seen, but that day won’t be today or tomorrow or the next day or next year. But you know what? That’s okay. And I know that I’ll get there because I gave myself the TIME to get there. And I got that time because I didn’t wear myself out my first year trying to be awesome coming out of the gate.

4

one gifset per appearance → visit to bethlem and maudlsey hospital school, beckenham (10/02/2015)

The Duchess of Cambridge visited pupils and staff at Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School in Beckenham. The visit was private and was not publicised in advance. A Kensington Palace spokeswoman said: “This visit was arranged through Place2Be, of which Her Royal Highness is Royal Patron, after learning about their work during the Place 2 Reflect conference last year to further develop her knowledge of the sector.“

The Duchess listened to the school’s head teacher Dr John Ivens, an educational psychologist; speak at the Place2Be conference on children’s mental health in June. Dr John Ivens said: “The Duchess’ visit went exceptionally well… The visit came as a result of a talk given last summer on the work that goes on both in the hospital and the school. The Duchess’ three hour visit showed this was of keen interest to her.”

Whilst at the school the Duchess recorded a video message to support the UK’s first Children’s Mental Health Week (16 – 22 February 2015).