Small Pebble

I’ve finally gone through the cycle of my first parental complaint. The small pebble, that these past weeks has ballooned into stress eating/can’t get out of bed/depression triggering boulder.

It started with a parent coming to me a few weeks ago because they were upset that I mentioned retention with their child. Then, it escalated to the same parent coming to me upset because I sent home an unsatisfactory notice after the conversation we had about retention. So, the parent asked me to set up a meeting with the principal. I asked the principal just to reach out to her directly. Said parent went to the principal with a typed up letter about things like “unsupportive environment” “public shaming” and “bullying”. Plus a whole other slew of quotes around things that I had supposedly said.

In teaching, there are two separate powers: teacher recommendation and parental consent. Ultimately, parental consent wins, so what has unfolded has felt like a twisted and passive aggressive form of power play. Even though the parent always has the upper-hand (as they should be advocates for their children), she was using it to discredit me. As a teacher, I am obligated to notify a parent if their child is performing well below grade level. It brings me no joy to send home these notices as I already feel like I’ve failed (in some ways) as an educator if I can not bring these students to grade level at this point in the school year. In this case, an unusually high number of absences also were in play. However, I feel that a bruised ego is what caused this much hoopla over something that I wish the parent would just come to terms with the fact that their child has fallen behind.

As a parent, I’m sure that reality is distressing. But not once did I say “Your child isn’t smart”, but I’m assuming the heart of the panic and anger comes from having heard that as a subconscious thing. Or similarly “Your child isn’t special”. Which turns me into the bad guy by simply saying “Your child needs help/ extra support”. Because at the end of the day, when I say that it puts the responsibility back on the parent to assist their child in said catching up. As a teacher, that is not an easy thing to say to parents. In fact, I know teachers who would prefer to avoid that conversation, but I adamantly believe that is not in the best interest of the child.

I feel that I am writing this out because it has been this huge boulder in my life these past few weeks. For anyone reading this who might have a kid, just know that teachers take your complaints very seriously. And that they are sorry to have been the cause of your stress or worry. In return, please don’t pull a power play because you’re unsatisfied with your child’s academic progress, just accept responsibility and partner up to find the best plan to help. Your child is special, smart, and amazing. I believe in them just as much as you do, but that does not make them invincible from falling behind without your consistent support and guidance.

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Connectedness

This post will highlight my general social anxiety and how it turns me off to feelings of connectedness through technology. In general, most people my generation love to connect through social media or technology because it is easy. I too, enjoy being able to connect with people with convenience and ease (especially when I am busy). However, my experience with this (through the lens of my social anxiety) looks like this:

Group Messaging: 
I love the idea of having all of my friends in one place when I want to shout something out to them or shoot of details to a plan. But it feels awkward to have chain of random thoughts pieced together throughout the day especially when I am in front of a classroom full of students. I go through this weird feeling of guilt knowing that most likely the sender knows I saw their text/yet I decided to ignore it. Most of the time, I really do just see it in passing, tell myself I’ll respond later, then forget to respond. For this reason too, I have all of my group texts muted. I actually have my phone on silent mode ALL THE TIME because the notifications make me jump (even on vibrate). So, even seeing my phone light up with constant notifications of text messages gives me anxiety because my brain sees it as an emergency that I need to address right away.

Text Messages (in general):
My husband and I rarely text. When we do, it’s usually because I need to know something and occasionally, when we fight and I get anxious. In which case, I fire off rapid alerts to his phone (sometimes in the form of the devil emoji) hoping to get a response to alleviate the panic of “HE’S NOT RESPONDING HE MUST WANT TO LEAVE ME!” (Just Kidding! Who does that???…..). In reality, just as much as I hate feeling required to answer to him, I know he hates having to answer to me. I always prefer sharing my thoughts with him in person about the things that happen than via text. To be honest, I rather hate most conversations over text messages. I would much rather prefer to schedule a time to hang out and talk or spend face-to-face time with someone. First, because I usually don’t have much idle time to sit around and think about what to write back and secondly because what if something comes off as bitchy on accident?

Facebook/Instagram
I much prefer Instagram to Facebook because I enjoy taking pictures and seeing pictures. I use Facebook and Instagram as my end of the day treat, it’s like popping candies into my mouth going through and liking everything/commenting on some things. I mainly like to see what my friends are up to and use it as a way to see what they are most excited about or passionate about in the moment (because that’s what most normal people share about). I also follow comedic people (for entertainment) and teachers that I aspire to one day be like. I myself, like to share about my adventures with my husband/ love for food or nature/ and classroom ongoings. But my one rule for both is, I will not follow anyone whose posts make me feel like shit. No, seeing everyone getting married/popping out babies/popping out six-pack abs/traveling/living their dreams does not make me feel like shit. In fact (especially at this time in my life) it gives me hope that other people are taking the plunge into committing their lives to happiness and inspires me to do the same. However, seeing other people bring up only past memories/complain about things/brag about things that are not real accomplishments makes me upset. Because, there is more to life than living in the past/everybody goes through painful or uncomfortable experiences/ and the last one, duh. So, I just unfollow or scroll quickly past those kinds of people and flood my feed with all of the babies/rainbows/couples/body inspiration/a** kicking mother effers out there.

So, in the big picture, my thoughts are: If someone’s interactions with me via technology outweigh their interactions with me in person, I see them as disingenuous. The exception is if they live far away from me, in which case, I tend to value interactions we hold through social media/technology. The other exception is if someone has undergone or are going through a life changing event and requires the efforts and energy to adjust to those things. I guess these are my personal feelings and if I’m truly accepting of all humans (with compassion) I can grow to accept everyone (still trying). In an attempt to stay grounded, however, I still feel that the people I feel most connected with, are the ones who I spend the most time having conversations with. Like true conversations and not an endless exchange of banter and inside jokes (although, these can be fun). Ever since I have realized I wanted more in-person connectedness, I’ve seen my friendships with people who make the effort become stronger. I hope to continue navigating real life conversations and being mindful of technology’s illusion to connectedness.

First-Year Reflection

As the end of the school year approaches, I find myself getting more reflective and more excited to plan for my next year of teaching. I know it’s not quite the end yet, but my students seem to be starting to think so. Additionally, my first-year review was finalized yesterday and so I feel like it’s reinvigorating me to the same excitement I had when I was planning my classroom last year. This time around, I have a whole school year of experience in my own classroom under my belt to decide what worked, didn’t work, and new things I definitely want to try. Since this blog has become a cluster of thoughts about all the things in my life I’m passionate about, here are my cluster of thoughts about my (almost completed) first year of teaching.

1. I LOVE TEACHING!!!!!

My first year of teaching has not been the nightmare that many people have painted it to be. I know what a nightmare job is to me (it’s so different for everyone). I came from my nightmare job (that I thought was my dream job) to pursue teaching and I could not be more grateful that I landed in the school/ grade-level/ and profession that I did. There is not one ounce of me that feels like I can’t be myself in the classroom or at school.  I enjoy everything from mulling over how to manage a student’s outlier behavior to making copies to watching my students joke around. That is not to say, I do not have days (consecutive sometimes) where I’m tired and I feel like I have no more energy left to help a student out (who is asking me for the 6th time what they are supposed to be doing). Or days where I feel ineffective or inadequate as a teacher. However, I enjoy every moment of my job in the sense that no matter how much work goes into it, it does not feel like work. I feel like I’m also utilizing every last talent that I possess daily, and that challenge energizes me. That challenge also allows me to own my work in a way I have never been able to before. I even feel a sense of tingly inspiration when I see other teachers kicking ass (in a really non-envious, yet ambitious goal-setting way to look for the steps to get there).

2. I am not Inadequate, I am just Learning

Obviously, it’s only my first year, and obvious human thoughts lead me to feeling inadequate. However, when I watch seasoned teachers, it gives me hope that there are strategies and options that I have not yet even touched on. I think any feeling of defeat this year stems from me feeling like I’ve run out of things to try. BUT THERE IS ALWAYS MORE!!!! Thank the planet for experienced teachers, teaching blogs, and Instagram. Which gives me this feeling of “I get knocked down, but I get up again!” And this feeling is especially amplified when I think of the possibilities of the plethora of things I can try on my class next year. So, it’s exciting to me when I have the chance to sign up (and attend) a new training, research a new strategy, pick another teacher’s brain. It gives me the same feeling of playfulness as I used to have when I got to try out an extracurricular activity like swim or tae-kwon-do.

3. I don’t really think about they pay…

It’s odd how before, I used to obsess over my paycheck and whether I had enough money left to save for the month. Or whether my efforts were “worth” the money that I was getting. I guess this is a sign that I’m a sucker for following my dreams over making a buck and there may come a time where I regret saying this. In any case, my paycheck comes, the same time every month with enough for me to pay my bills and save and I never question if I’m getting paid a fair wage. Teachers get a lot of attention for how “low” their pay is. And of course, if they increased our wages, I wouldn’t be complaining. But, I’m not complaining now and I find solace in knowing that we get a steady increase over time and we get a lot of benefits that are practical. I’m sure if there were budget cuts/etc. my mindset would change. Which leads me to…

4. Self-Care has become my Priority!

Without getting into the politics of how detrimental privatizing public education would be (especially for students), I am eternally grateful to be working a job that I love because it energizes me. Because this job energizes me and I feel financially taken care of, I am driven to do my best daily. If I sacrifice any area of my physical and mental health (even if I’m sacrificing it for work) I am sacrificing my ability to teach the next day. So, I sleep on time, eat good foods on time, workout on time, because it makes me better at doing what I love. I just pray and hope that public education will always be protected, but I guess a new reflection would come if anything were to change.

Compassion and Friendships

Recently, I started to go back to meditation classes from my wedding planning frenzy hiatus. The topic last week was about compassion and extending compassion to strangers and enemies. Of course it is easy to be compassionate towards our friends and loved ones, but in this class our teacher shed light on treating everyone like a friend. This idea of opening up friendships and not creating tiers for people in our lives has been at the forefront of my mind for a while now. I have been thinking a lot about friendships over the years and how the older I get, the more my friendships evolve. I think when I was younger, I would tier my friends out, now I really genuinely feel like I can have strong feelings of kinship towards people I just met. In addition to these thoughts, for the past year I have been asking myself, “How do I create more meaningful connections to people?” in conjunction with “How do I distance myself from toxic people?”

I’ve learned, the answer to that question is to treat everyone with compassion and an openness that you normally would a friend. It’s obvious that by treating strangers or even coworkers with a little extra kindness will give everyone feel-good feelings. This week, I’ve been working on asking other people about themselves and sharing more about myself to create an openness that I am normally too shy to.

So, how does that help me with toxic people? Well, I’ve learned toxic people react to people’s kindness in two ways. Most toxic people do not like other people’s’ happiness and generally like to complain about other people. So, the more I treat these individuals with the hopes that they reach a sense of contentedness and inner peace (happiness), the more they distance themselves from any real progress from that happiness. The second way they respond (which is ideal), is they see the light and make small changes towards happiness. So, either way I am fighting negativity with positivity and in a sense, positivity wins in both situations.

I find the more time I create opportunities to create a meaningful relationship with myself, the more meaningful my relationships with others has become. I’ll keep updating as meditation class thoughts come up. I also should post about my trip to Bali soon.