Wishful Thinking

This video popped up on my Newsfeed today.  Give it a watch.  It’s pretty powerful.

What would you write on the board?

Everything I’d write has to do with my career.  It’s hard to call them regrets, because I wouldn’t change any of the decisions I’ve made.  I don’t regret what I did in supporting my husband.  I love where we are now, and so much of that is because of the sacrifices we’ve both made over the years.  But I do wish that I’d been able to do some things that just haven’t worked out for me yet.

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It’s Not Just Me

I had a chance to catch up with a high school friend yesterday. What started as a few random texts and an accidental butt-dial turned into an hour-long conversation catching up on major life events and commiserating about the challenges of adult life. At one point she commented on how nice it was that, even though we haven’t talked in years, we could still be on the same page and vent about similar topics.  The mark of a true friendship, right?

(For instance, here’s one complaint we had in common: Unless she brings up the topic first, please don’t ever ask a married-but-childless woman if/when she’s planning on having kids. While the question seems innocent enough, the answer is often far too private and intimate for casual conversation.  It opens the door to personal, financial, and medical issues – all of which are emotionally charged topics.  After fielding that question for seven years myself, I more than understand my friend’s frustrations.  Dear world, unless we broach the topic first, please stop putting us through those awkward conversations!  OK, sidebar rant complete.)

After we finished comparing stories of uncomfortable conversations about family plans, the topic shifted to the working world. Keep reading!

Mass Judgements and Media Hype

We live in a world that thrives on media hype. Forget the details and facts. Forget context, background, and objectivity. Forget innocent until proven guilty. Instead, a video/picture/tweet of something offensive goes out and becomes viral, and suddenly the public at large decides it’s time to voice its outrage.

I’m going to try to write this post without sparking debate on any one specific current event. Is that possible? I’m not sure.  I want to discuss not the right and wrong of individual incidents, but the overall phenomenon of viral anger.

What gets me about it is that people’s lives are affected (ranging from inconvenienced to completely ruined, depending on the level of the media-based outrage) because the public decides they should be – and in some cases, the public is wrong! Check out this article about a waitress who claimed she didn’t receive a tip because she’s gay. If you have the stomach for it, scroll down and read the comments, all negative and often profane, all passing sweeping judgments on conservatives in America. When the story broke, the waitress received donations of financial support from complete strangers, while those same strangers hurled venomous hatred towards the supposedly offending family.

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Activism: Goofy Games and Guilt Trips?

I’m really bothered by social media based activism.  When did we as a culture decide we needed fads to inspire us to give?

I’ve had this topic sitting in my mind for a while.  I wanted to pick a good time to post it – not in the middle of any frenzy where it could be taken as a knee-jerk reaction to any one trend, but still close enough for those examples to be fresh in our minds.  As we come off the hype of the ice bucket challenge, I think now is a good time.

I’ll begin by saying that while I did not participate in the challenge myself (no one nominated me, thank goodness), my husband did.  He did it for a lot of the same reasons other people did – someone nominated him, and he figured it wasn’t a bad thing to do.  It became the topic of a lot of real-life conversations in the days that followed, though – how he was going to handle the financial aspect of the challenge, who he’d give the money to, and the involuntary aspect of being “nominated to give”.

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Finish what you start!

Now that summer is here, I’ve packed up my classroom and submitted my grades, I need something to fill my time and mental stimulation (besides the inevitable packing for the next move).  During summers and lulls in the school year, I tend to rekindle my interest in crafty-type activities. When we were in Alaska, I started a quilt.  More recently, during a school breaks, I rediscovered my interest in cross-stitch.  Thanks to Pinterest, all I had to do was buy the cloth and floss and pick my own design, instead of spending money on an expensive pattern that may or may not actually fit my style.   However, all these crafting pursuits are throw-backs to my childhood, and as I look back, I realize another common theme in my endeavors.  I really struggle with follow-through.

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Change Happens.

Life is full of change, completions and beginnings, starting over and moving on.  I attended a college graduation party this weekend.  We had senior awards chapel this morning in school, and in a little over a week, those seniors will graduate high school.  This is the time of year that we celebrate all that.  This is the time of year that we acknowledge achievements and impart advice for the next step.

So here’s what I’ve learned:

Life comes in seasons.  There will always be change.  There will always be goodbyes, transitions, and new starts.  I’ll admit that my life is an extreme example of this, but even without constantly relocating, life will never stay exactly as it is now.  And that’s OK.

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Let’s Fix it With a Petition! (…or not)

About two months ago, the principal made an announcement to the school informing everyone that he’d hired a former student to be a new English teacher next year.  Given my tentative situation as a long-term sub, all my students assumed that meant he’d hired another teacher instead of hiring me on permanently.  They came rushing up to my room after lunch, expressions frantic, asking “you’re not coming back next year?!”

The only answer I could give them was “I don’t know.”  It’s a complicated situation.  I’m still in the running, but I know he is considering other teachers for my position, too.  This new teacher he’d hired was a whole separate situation and had no bearing on my job.  However, I wasn’t at liberty to discuss most of the details with my students.  While I tried to assuage their fears as well as I could, I also couldn’t give them the certainty they wanted.  So they expressed their teenage outrage at my tenuous position and what appeared to be the hiring of my replacement.  “We should tell them that we want you back,” they announced.  “We should start a petition for them to keep you!”  And honestly, if I’d encouraged the idea instead of discouraging it, they probably would have done it.

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Practical Education

“Are you going to teach us how to do taxes?”

The question caught me off guard.  Taxes belong in a life-skills or applied mathematics course, not English.  However, I followed her logic and addressed her question.  We were talking about writing resumes (as part of their career research project), and in her mind she associated one adult life-skill with the other.

No, I’m not going to teach how to do taxes.  I don’t even do my own taxes.  I send all my W2’s and other paperwork off to an accountant who makes sense of all our relocating and student loans for me.  I said as much to my students, to which they responded, “What’s a W2?”

And therein lies the crux of their inquires.  They know they don’t even know the basics.  They know there’s a world of ambiguous “adult responsibilities” waiting for them down the road, and they know that traditional education leaves many of these responsibilities unaddressed.  Sure, we all had to figure it out and we did OK, but I get why they’re asking questions.  Adult life can be an intimidating prospect.

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Dealing with Naiveté

I had already started writing this post when three students came into my study hall asking if they could survey some of the kids in the room.  As they circulated among the class and asked their questions, it became harder and harder for me to simply sit quietly and listen.  The survey was on racism in America today, and in my eavesdropping I caught wave upon wave of the naiveté that inspired me to write this post in the first place.  These kids have good lives.  Their families are well off.  Aside from the handful of Korean exchange students, our school doesn’t have much in the way of diversity.  They’ve never seen the impact of racism in action – which led them to conclude that racism is now a non-issue.  I cringed inwardly, already mulling over ideas for bringing up the topic in class some time.

I love my job.  I love this demographic, though not always for the reasons people expect.  For the most part, my students are awesome – respectful, trustworthy, and motivated.  But man, they’re naive.

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The Tangents

Dear Students,

I know what you’re doing.  It’s nothing new.  You think you’re distracting me, skillfully diverting the teacher’s attention away from the lesson and starting me on some tangential discussion.  You think you’re somehow “winning” because we didn’t get as far as I’d planned in the lesson.

An Empty Classroom by anime-girl963

(photo credit: anime-girl963)

I love it.  You think I haven’t seen this before?  I know who you are.  I know what to look for, when to indulge you, and when to steer us back on course.  Don’t you understand? I want nothing more than to engage these discussions, to embrace your questions, and to revel in the spontaneity of learning!

Yes, learning.  Believe it or not, this is when the “shaping lives” part of my job takes place.  This is when I can talk to you about things that are real and relevant to you right now.  Not that my planned lessons are irrelevant – they’re important for reasons you probably haven’t even considered.  But the tangents are important, too.  This is when you get to see me as a real person, as someone who might have something of relevance to say.  This is when I get to see your personalities and quirks, which actually helps me plan lessons down the road.  The better I know you, the better I can teach you.  Besides, you hold on to these tangents, even if you don’t realize it.

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