Change of Direction

As the end of the year approaches in schools (and I say HALLELUJAH!), so does the direction of my life.  Come May 24, I will no longer be a teacher in the public school system.  My life is taking exciting, new curves.

I’m attempting to go back to school.  I’m changing my role in education.

I’m going to be pursuing a degree in school counseling.  I want to change what I do in the education world.

So the direction of this blog will also change.  It’s going to have an emphasis on education because I will be teaching preschool.  But it won’t be from the eyes as a regular ole teacher.

I’m happily anxious about the changes.  I’m ready to do this.  It really is rather exciting.

Truth Bombs

This is a really hard post to write because it’s something so deeply personal.  But I know I’m not the only one.

Do you know what it’s like to try and teach when you are depressed?

I don’t know exactly when it started but it has consumed me for at least the past three months at least.

Every day I dreaded going into work and to try and teach anything took everything out of me.  I had to be a disciplinarian without going overboard, smile even though it hurt, listen when I didn’t even want to hear anything.

My brain was a jumbled mess.  I cried when my middle school students were rude (which is kind of ridiculous since they’re middle school….they’re always rude).  I got home and just curled up in bed not because I was tired from work…I was tired from life.

When I looked in the mirror, I was hollow.  There wasn’t fire in my eyes.  There wasn’t hope or love in me.  I was so stressed out and hurt to feel anything else.  There was a hundred pound weight on my chest so it hurt to breathe.

I know that part of it was work that stressed me out, but mostly it was the suffocating I was feeling from my relationship.  My exboyfriend was in short, a tool.  He was rude, mean, angry, a bad person, controlling…mentally and emotionally abusive.  He consumed all that was good in me and I let him. How stupid I was.

When I found out that the guy I so deeply loved and let change me, was cheating on me, I collapsed.  It was a whole new crushing blow to my heart.  And the next day I had to go teach.  That was hands down, the hardest day of my life.  I couldn’t cry openly because that’s so unprofessional.  My voice was hoarse from crying all night.

The process of breaking up was made worse by my ex who wouldn’t let me move on for weeks.  I had to block his number because he wanted to continue to control me.  But, after I stopped crying and I just felt the moment, I realized that I had been suffocating and I was finally free.

It was the most liberating feeling.  One that I had forgotten.  I forgot what it was like to not be under someone’s thumb.  I was me again.

Since that moment, I’ve been rediscovering me.  The me that is happy.  The me that is joyful.  Laughing.  Smiling.  Bright.  Energetic.  Bubbly.  Loving.  Kind.

I have reconnected with friends that he made me get rid of.  I am singing showtunes and Disney songs all the time again.  I’m dancing in the rain.  I’m reading again.  I’m falling back in love with life and myself and my God.  All these things that were snuffed out because I fell in love with an abusive man.

This man never hit me, but he did make me someone I wasn’t.  I am on a journey to forgive myself for allowing myself to get to that point.  He brought all my feelings of insecurities that helped shuttle me into a deep depression.

I am so thankful for the people that have loved me through this.  I’m luckier than most in my situation.  I did lose friends who weren’t patient with me and I am so deeply sorry that I pushed them away.  However, my family and friends that have supported me and loved me in every way possible, they’re even more amazing than before.  Our bond is stronger.  I am surviving this.  I am waking up smiling.  And I’m teaching with joy once again.

This really is the most personal thing I have ever written.  I know I am not alone…I am one of many.  I am here to listen to anyone that needs it.

Liberation and Purpose

There’s this song I used to listen to in high school.

The chorus goes, “Everybody scream your heart out.”

Essentially, it is the anthem to just let go.  (Listen to full song here)

There’s a beauty in letting go, isn’t there?

Letting go of the doubt, insecurities, sadness, bitterness, anger, frustration, feelings.

It’s like a weight is lifted off your shoulders.  I remember hearing this and singing it as loud as possible because even then, I wanted to let go.

I wanted to let go of the expectations and standards that had confined me for so long.

Now, I stand on the precipice of the same song because it’s time to let go.  It’s time to scream my heart out.  It’s time to find me again.

Me.

Simple word.  BIG issues.

Finding yourself even at the best times in life is difficult.  Finding yourself after a breakup is refreshing but also an obstacle course.

I am in the process of redefining me.  It’s different.  Hard.  Special.  Weird.

So me as a teacher.  Who is that?  What purpose do I serve by being a teacher?

I think that everywhere you teach, it’s a different atmosphere.  A different purpose.  When I was at my first school, my purpose was clear.  I was a constant figure for them.  I never wavered.  I made history fun for them.

Now, I find it harder because the public school system doesn’t seem to allow for that type of bond with your students.  Do I love my students?  For the most part.  Do they drive me crazy?  Almost always.

I think that with all the craziness that is public education, I think the most important thing for us as teachers to realize is that consistency and discipline are necessary.  And later on, these students will realize why we were hard on them.  Why we pushed them further than they thought they could.

You have a purpose as a teacher.  God did not call you to be something you weren’t meant to be.  I know that, even as I prepare to leave public school for a little while.  I know my time was well spent.  I don’t regret it.

Find your purpose.  Find yourself.  There’s only one you.  Be it.

Little Do You Know

“Little do you know I’m trying to pick myself up, piece by piece.”

True story.

I remember sitting listening to my friends talk about their breakups and their heartbreaks and I thought, man I could never survive that.

Well, I definitely have a flair for the dramatics.  Even though it is hard, I am surviving.

Throwing myself into teaching helps.  Some nights the ache is so powerful that I forget to breathe.  To keep moving forward.

One step at a time.

That’s all it is, after all.

So back to the subject of this blog, teaching.

There is a lot to be said about teaching, especially a class for the low performing readers.  They lose an elective people.  They come in my classroom door already on guard.

So to keep them from hating us even more, we decided to give them something they desperately need.

Open gym.

Those two words to middle schoolers are like Nirvana.  Their eyes got wide, their smiles spread, and the adrenaline in their body physically manifested itself.

We are now not the ones writing referrals, the ones fighting them to learn, the ones that are exposing their weaknesses.  We are the coolest teachers in the world.

And though being “cool” is not the goal, isn’t that relationship important?  Isn’t that what we are striving for everyday?  Let me tell you, this is working.

I’m hearing them say thank you.  Middle school boys don’t say that very often.

Teaching is so much more than the classroom….so much more.

A Little Bit of Encouragement

Truth be told, my heart has been aching lately.  It’s been filled with such frustration about the state of education.

I feel bogged down by paperwork and grading and policies and politics.

But then.  It happens.  That one little piece of assurance.

Today, a student that I poured hours of time and effort into; who I prayed for, graduated high school.

And breathe.

She is starting college next month.  She is turning her life into a success story.

And she FaceTimed me and told me that she couldn’t have done it without me and to thank me.  In her cap and gown.  No big deal.

It meant more to me than any gift I could have received.  Those words are something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I did something worthwhile.  If that is all my life amounts to, it is enough.  One student was helped and gave me credit for that.

I am beyond humbled by that thought.

And it is reassurance that I am doing the right thing.  I am making a difference.  I am not a terrible teacher that I seem to think I am.  I have made a difference.

My heart, full.  My soul, encouraged.  My eyes, full of tears.

Merry Christmas to me.

The Harsh Truth

I’ve been missing in action lately.  I swear I have a good reason.  It’s what this whole blog is about.

I’m a teacher.

This week is the last week until a blissful thing called winter break.

Can I tell you how excited I am???

Almost one full semester in a public school system and I have learned more than I even thought possible.  I’ve switched positions twice and now have been hired full time as a Reading teacher in a middle school.

My babies are low.  I mean low.  Phonics low.

It literally breaks my heart every time I watch them struggle with a word they should have learned years ago.  They’ve been given very little hope in their short lives.

I’ve also had some harsh reality when it comes to the politics of education.  I thought I knew before, but now I realize just how bad it actually is.  Teachers and staff that could care less about students, while others pour their hearts into their students.

The students themselves are entitled and pretty awful, but that seems to be the norm of this generation.

Let me rant about the students for a minute.  If I had ever tried some of the things they do and say, my momma would have beat my butt.  Some of these students are just plain mean and nasty.  I would love for one of my future children to try it.  They’ll learn fast that you don’t pull that kind of crap with me.

I also understand a whole new level of tired.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been teaching consistently (summers and all) since February 2014.  Or maybe it’s because I just tire easily.  I go home after work and I look around at the laundry I need to do and the dinner I need to make and just want to cry.  My apartment looks like a tornado attacked it and I just haven’t cleaned up the debris yet.  It makes me question the ability to do this as a mother.  I can barely keep up with my relationship.  How about when I have a home and children to add to that?  It is a terrifying thought.

I’m also inspired daily by my coworkers.  They are constantly coming up with new ideas to manage their classroom, teach students, and make learning fun and engaging.  This year will either make or break me.  At least I’ll have amazing people to work alongside.

MERRY CHRISTMAS YOU CRAZY TEACHERS!!!!!

Teaching at a Public School

My life has taken some serious turns in the past couple months.  I have finally gotten the opportunity to teach at public school.  I have fallen in love with a pretty spectacular fella’ (insert heart eyed emoji here).  And I have learned so much about myself and God.  It’s been quite the page turner of a life.

I’m definitely changing and growing in so many ways.  But there are some truths that I have learned about all these changes.

  1. Change is not always bad, but it is difficult.  I miss my smaller classes sometimes and I do miss the staff at my old school.  It was incredibly tough to do what I did, but I had an amazing support system in place where I was.  There is a support system where I am now, but it is a lot bigger.  It’s hard to find that niche at a new place for sure.
  2. Sometimes you need to be humbled in order to succeed.  I think that just in general life has humbled me lately in a few different ways.  But I consider it growth and change that I needed to experience.  It’s a learning experience for sure!
  3. Dreams do come true.  Let me just say that love is exactly what I expected and nothing like I expected.  I am ridiculously happy.  And for the critics who say that I haven’t gotten out of that stage with my boyfriend, trust me when I say, we have endured a lot together already.  But overall, we are building a life together and growing in our relationships with Christ together.  It’s a beautiful thing.
  4. God always has my back.  When I put my faith in God and fully let myself trust in God, my life is a lot more enjoyable and wonderful.  It’s less stressful and far more fulfilling.  If God is for me, who can stand against me?

Standardized Testing

Let’s get real for a minute.  Let’s talk the dreaded words: STANDARDIZED TESTING.

Cue ominous music.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or neither, you need to realize that we as an American society are in grave danger.  We have become completely obsessed with standardized testing and the results that come from them.  Our education system is drowning with standards and producing positive results.

Need proof?

What about those teachers who just were sentenced to JAIL because they were holding cheating tests parties??

Look at Common Core.  Just look.  Don’t understand it?  Neither do the teachers.  Seriously.  I get hives just trying to read it.  And I’m a TEACHER.

Students of all ages are beyond over it.  Need proof of that too?

Every single junior at a high school in Seattle refused and boycotted their standardized tests.  Every single one.  What does that say about the test they are supposed to take?

Let me give you an example.

A student with a 3.9 GPA that has been in advanced classes since middle school.  She’s in tenth grade and in Pre-AP Language Arts.  She goes to take her state standardized test and receives 4 points above a failing score.  She has historically done terrible on tests because she gets massive anxiety and can’t function.  She is then told that she may need to be put in intensive reading next year because of her score.  At the same time as AP Language Arts.  Is there something wrong with that to you?

That girl went on to graduate with honors and receive a scholarship to attend Florida State University.  That student is me.  At the same time that I was reading Anna Karenina for fun, I was almost put in intensive reading.  Not because I couldn’t read; but because I couldn’t test.

There is a HUGE difference.

I had a problem with standardized tests then, but now, it has taken on a whole new meaning.  It has taken on a whole new form of evil.  There is nothing good coming out of something that is causing anxiety, physical symptoms, and tears from students.  What is it accomplishing?

The tests are not only ridiculously hard, but they make no sense.  As the video above says, there are times when the question itself doesn’t make sense.  I have a friend who teaches second grade.  On a practice test (in Florida), it asked what word best describes the feeling of when a subway is going under your feet?  Ummm…how is that Floridian who barely knows what closed toes shoes are supposed to answer that?  Ask that question in New York; absolutely.  Florida though?  Really?  That’s like asking a kid who lives in Oklahoma City what the ocean smells like.

There is nothing more heart wrenching than watching your students give up on their standardized test before they even walk in.  Their mentality is, “I’ve failed before.  Why will I pass this time?”

They spend hours a day testing.  Hours.

People, we need to take a stand.  We need to shout NO MORE.

Teachers, we know our students.  The business people that make these tests DON’T.

They don’t know that Susie’s mom died a month ago and she’s still traumatized.  They don’t know that Anthony can’t take an exam next to Paul because they play.  They don’t know that putting a girl who has been sexually assaulted by a man in a classroom with a male teacher is NOT going to result in good test scores, even though she has a high school reading level.

They can’t possibly know our students.  They don’t know how much time and effort it takes to gain their trust.  They don’t see when they come into our classrooms and lives, dejected, rejected, their self-esteem about as tall as Tom Thumb.  They don’t see it.  Why are they the ones deciding about our testing?

Why have we let this become our lives?

I want America to be the best.  I’m a very competitive person.  I want to see my students succeed.  But frankly, I don’t think that testing is going to get us there.  I think that it’s time to let the teachers be teachers.  We are not monitors for testing.  We are not human proctors.  We are teachers.  We have been made specifically for this.

Let’s look at the facts about standardized testing.

I’m not making this up people.  I am legitimately concerned about education and the future.  It is time to stand up and say something.

However, teachers are fearing for their jobs.

Teachers are not given job security until after test scores have been released.  But when you do this, you give a teacher a standard that may not be able to be met.  When pay is given to a teacher based on how a student tests, you are judging a teacher’s worth by one test and one day.  Is that one test the actual character of the teacher? (http://www.nea.org/home/36780.htm)

Think about yourself for a moment.  Picture you in a class with your siblings and/or friends.  Are you all exactly the same?  If you say yes, you are a liar.  What are your strengths?  What’s your learning style?  Can you memorize dates?  Are you a visual learner?  Do you need to do things before you grasp the concept?

These are the questions that I have to take into account when I teach my students.  No two of my students are the same.  Standardized testing makes teachers need to teach to the test and it makes the student suffer.  We as teachers will always lose at least one student if we are only teaching to the test.  You are taking away our creativity.

Not to be stereotypical or anything but I don’t know many school teachers who don’t love being creative.  We get giddy when we get new colorful pencils.  Glitter makes me act like a toddler.  New erasers that have SHAPES?  Oh my gosh, let me breathe.  We get excited about organizing and being creative with our students.  We love when we have one of those days where the students were engaged in the lesson and having so much fun.

You make me teach to that stupid test, I no longer can have fun.  My students are being stuffed with knowledge that they aren’t really learning.  Then they get nervous as the test gets nearer because the teacher is getting nervous.  It’s an endless cycle that gets worse every year.

The cost of living is not decreasing.  It’s increasing.  Then you make teachers compete with each other more so we can get more money and keep our jobs?  C’mon guys.

I’m not saying don’t hold us accountable.  We need to be held accountable.  It makes us make sure we are teaching what we are supposed to be teaching.  But there has to be a happy medium.

I am tired of watching my students come to me after testing and tell me it was too hard or didn’t ask anything they actually knew.  I’m a teacher and I’m tired of this.

Want to read more about the pros and cons of standardized testing?  http://worklife.columbia.edu/files_worklife/public/Pros_and_Cons_of_Standardized_Testing_1.pdf

A Reminder

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Friday morning started off like every morning.  There was nothing special about it except that it was Friday.  I got to work and was told that a teacher would be out, and at my school, we don’t have substitute teachers.  So we split the students amongst our own classrooms and pray for the best.  My mood deflated slightly because these days can be challenging to say the least.

The day started off really smooth.  I was shocked.  Third period had the potential to be daunting as I had some of the most challenging students in my class.

This period ended up being one of those moments.  One of those out of body experiences where you see everything and just smile.

I was working on some paperwork, Pandora was playing, and then it hit me.  It was quiet.  Quiet is never a good thing when you didn’t ask for it.  I looked up from my computer.

All fourteen students were working.  Silently.  All were engaged in their history textbooks.  I had a couple working on projects for World History.  Two were reading their books, and who can be upset at a student for reading?  My classroom was on task and clean.  They had kept everything organized.

I almost cried.

We had a rough week last week.  Problems were plentiful and it was draining.

But as I sat and looked around my class, I was reminded on why I chose teaching in the first place.  Why this is and always has been my passion, my love.

One student looked up and smiled at me, then went back to her work.  It made my heart soar.

Nothing could have knocked me off that cloud because in that moment, I was having a rare moment for a teacher.  We don’t get to have those moments where students want to learn.  Students were occasionally asking me to come help them with a question and they were eager for the answer.

When tomorrow comes and more than likely, I won’t have those moments again, I know I can cling to that one hour.  That one hour proves how influential teaching is and how much I love this job.

Teaching is messy, hard, tiring, draining, and completely wonderful.

Late Night Thinking

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I’m up late tonight (very late for a teacher).  I’m not up late for good things, but honestly my brain can’t (or won’t) shut off.  The past few weeks have been so hard.  I see all my teacher friends posting about testing and the end of the year approaching.  But I wonder.  Does the world actually know what and who a teacher is?  Do you know?

My brain is constantly turning anyways, but tonight, all I’m thinking about is my students.  They don’t leave the teacher just because the teacher leaves work.  That school comes home with us, whether we like it or not.  Whether we work our tails off to make sure that doesn’t happen.

I’m not a mom or a wife or a girlfriend.  Yet.  I can’t imagine how any teacher who isn’t single, function.  I don’t have much left after the work day is over.  I don’t have enough for my own friends.  Let alone a man or a child at home.

I think about my students and what’s going on in their lives whether they spoke it or not.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  I care greatly, but that is also my downfall.  But I know I’m not alone.  I have a close friend who is a 5th grade teacher.  Do you know what we talk about when we talk?  Teaching.  Testing.  Students.  Education.  I’ve also talked to her when she hasn’t left her classroom until 7:00 at night.  Her school gets out at 3:30.

I’ve started a piece of paperwork for school a half an hour after I was supposed to leave.  I’ve been stuck in a classroom with the same students for hours because of testing, codes, weather warnings.

There really is no order to this post because my brain is not in order.  My brain is mush as I lay here wide awake, knowing that tomorrow, my students will be waiting for me.  They are going to be ready to ask me questions (on topic or not).  Their eyes are going to search me to see if I really care, even though I’ve proved it over and over again.

I hear people say to me that teachers are important, should get paid more, blah blah blah.  You know what the sad part is?  Besides the fact that’s it true.  Our society does NOT value teachers the way they should.  You know how I know that to be true?  Well, first off, I am a teacher.  Second off, look at how teachers are treated.  We are judged by our students ability to take a test.  We are always the ones wrong when a child fails something.

Everyone agrees that teachers are important but NO ONE is doing anything to make a difference.  Still business men (and women) and politicians are forcing these ridiculous standards and assessments down our throats in order to make more money.  That doesn’t go to the schools.  It goes in their pockets.

Now some of you may say, well teachers need to stand up for themselves.  My question to you, with what time?  For those teachers who don’t work year round (unlike me), their summers are barely summers.  Let’s remember, doctor visits, times with family, trainings, professional development, packing and unpacking classrooms, everything has to be done in that time frame.  It doesn’t add up.

Oh and if we protest?  Who’s going to teach your children?  Who is going to shape their minds?  Who’s going to help them become who they are supposed to be????  I ask you, who but teachers can do this for our world?

I recently read something about how teachers are treated with honor and respect in other countries.  I challenge you to ask yourself, does your country?  Does your state?  Does your community?  Do you?

I ask and I write this because I need this off my chest.  I’m tired.  So very tired.  But tomorrow, I will put that smile on my face.  I will say good morning to every one of my students and call them pretty girl and sweetie, because they need that.  They need to know that someone cares about them.

Teaching is my passion.  My calling.  I am so beyond grateful and blessed to be a teacher but it’s hard.  It’s draining.  I have accepted that certain things are beyond my control when it comes to my life being pretty dull outside of work.  But I want to hear from teachers, from people about your thoughts on teaching.  Your thoughts on teachers.  Yes, we are not perfect.  We are by no means perfect.  But we care about your children.  Can you care about us?