Things I Wish You Knew…

I’m currently reading Kids Deserve It – Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome.

I’m close to the end of the book, but there is so much to process (reflectively) on the art of teaching and just being a good person in general. There’s a lot of growth mindset and positive thinking attached to this entire book and in times of self-doubt, I know that I feel challenged to do both. I have been working through my own personal issues these past few years and though I feel that I have come a long way, obviously, I am still human enough to feel ponderous towards my progress, my goodness as a human, and my connectedness towards others. This book allows for good questions and space to reflect, so perhaps I’ll grow through to reflect on all chapters. The easiest one to share is on Chapter 15, Things I Wish You Knew…

To everyone who says “lucky you” when they know I’m on a break:
Summer (or breaks in general) cause me a whole pool of doubt. I doubt my usefulness, worthiness, etc from my couch as I binge nap and watch Netflix. Then, I doubt my ability to relax as I guilt trip myself into thinking that I should be doing more. Am I prepared enough for my students next year and as I idly browse through Instagram, have I utterly failed my students in the previous year? I miss having 28 + smiling faces every day and a reason to buy things at Target. I feel that my purpose has disappeared and I am teetering between panic (that I’m not doing work) and I deserve this (to actually having a break). I know I should just embrace my time off, but I really miss my schedule and having a reason to share my love & passion daily.

To my students I’m especially hard on:
I had a hard time in school myself, I didn’t have the best environment at home that allowed me to focus on school when I was at school and homework when I was at home. Sometimes I loose that empathy because I believe in you more than I want to believe that you will fall into the same trap as I did. You are loved and I believe in you, truly. It may take years for you to believe in yourself, but more than anything, I want you to know and believe that you deserve to be happy.

This book is making me reconsider this blog as well as incorporating an additional social media account for teaching. The first few chapter talks about sharing ideas and creating a community for teaching. I don’t really like to separate out my “lives” too much, but between my personal life, teaching, and yogaing, I feel like I might be sharing a smorgasboard of things and it would be nice to separate the two. I’m not good at hyperfocusing on one thing, but I will think aloud here and keep updating until I decide. All I know is that I would love to feel more connected and contribute what I can towards the things I love.

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.

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.

Observations and Prioritizations

Yesterday, I was thinking about how much working out and nutrition has become my PRIORITY in the past three months. To be honest, I’ve always been the type of person to prioritize work above all else. Part of the reason why I wanted to leave the food industry is because I wanted to start prioritizing my relationships with my family and friends. However, even as I went into teaching, work was still my priority. At the beginning of the school year, I would wake up, be at school by 6:40AM and leave around 6:00PM. Or bring work home and work until about 8:00PM and then start thinking about taking care of myself. On the weekends, I would still work and lesson plan for at least 4 hours a day. About a quarter of the way through the school year, I started feeling a little burnt out, so I backed off on my hours. I still worked 7 days/week, but by the time February rolled around, I could no longer keep up. I started thinking about working out again and committing to it as a way to get my energy levels up and de-stress.

I went to the gym a few nights a week with my (now) husband. Then I started really getting into working out and started working out 6-7 days/week. When Whole30 started, food prepping became a priority hand-in-hand with working out. If I didn’t work out in the morning, I would workout when I got home. I am now going into work at 7:30AM and leaving every day by 4:00PM (the latest). I share this because, today I was getting observed (which usually means someone from the district comes by to check in). I found out we may be getting observed on Monday. When I prioritized work, I would spend hours ruminating over what to teach, how to teach it, and plan extensively for lessons to make extra sure that I was doing everything I could to make sure the observation went smoothly. Yesterday, I noticed a huge mental shift because I rushed home to work out and made sure I had dinner before I even thought to prep for the observation. Old me would’ve freaked out, panicked, rushed home, spent hours looking for the “best” lesson and then another few hours prepping everything. I am typing this up today because I wanted to wait and see how the observation actually went before I went on to say what I’m going to say now. The observation went just as well as any observation in a classroom can go. I got kudos for doing what the district and principal is focusing on for our school and I didn’t feel unprepared at all. I say this not because I’m an experienced nor excellent teacher (this is my first year and I’m far from both) but because I’ve realized that work should never be the priority.  If I don’t spend those extra hours obsessing over the details of doing things perfectly, and I spend some extra hours taking care of myself and my relationships, I can still excel at work. In fact, the positive mindset that comes from having taken care of myself makes me do better at my job when I’m at work and allows me to relax when I’m at home.

So, I guess what they’ve been saying all along is true. It’s important to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. Because I no longer miss a workout and am eating healthy 90% of the time (Okay maybe 85% if you count Almond Butter as a unhealthy food) I don’t feel guilty for letting myself down. Because I don’t feel guilty for letting myself down, I’m better equip to deal with all of the other things I may have to prioritize on a daily basis. So, here’s a little “Wohoo, go me!” I have a hard time telling myself I’m doing good, but I’m feeling it today!

 

Parenting Coach

One of the things that caught me off guard when I officially became a teacher was that, of the many hats I wear, I would have to sometimes be a parenting coach. This notion still makes me uncomfortable for two main reasons:

  1. I do not have my own kids.
  2. I do not like to tell other people how to live their lives, let alone how to raise one.

Unfortunately, I find myself kicking myself in the behind for not being able to say things to parents that they really need to hear more often than not. But, on my morning run, reflecting on how I could improve as a teacher, my brick wall is a handful of my students’ lack of motivation. I’ve tried everything I can from positive rewards, community circles, parent contact, punitive punishments like detention, letting them just showcase one item to turn in that week, more parent contact, but I’m running in circles. A few of the students have come a LONG way, but not far enough to my standards by this time in the year. But I’m stuck with 3 thorns in my side. My solution, just isn’t working and I attribute, in large part, to inconsistency from classroom discipline to home-life discipline.  Obviously as a teacher, I can do more and am trying new strategies all the time. But, I know that home-life plays a large role because all of these students also come to school saying things like “I’m lazy/stupid/not good at this/not smart enough”. I know for a fact, that I am not teaching them these phrases, but someone (probably at home is). So, parents, here is some unsolicited advice on what to do if your child’s teacher is calling you to notify you that your child ain’t doing sh*t in the classroom.

Use positive reinforcement. Your kids want your attention all the time. You can choose to give them positive attention for positive things they want or negative attention for messing up. However, providing them with negative feedback just reinforces negative behavior.

This should be a no-brainer, but please don’t use put-downs when referring to yourself or your children, they will pick up on these mindsets and start implementing them in their own. Be kind to yourself and your children.

Don’t make excuses for your child. It doesn’t matter if they are the “youngest” or the “only child”, they still need to follow through with the same responsibilities that any of your other kids, or students in the class, have to follow through with. Which leads to…

If you baby your child, they will remain a baby. Some of my 4th graders whine or throw tantrums like toddlers still when they get in trouble/don’t get what they want. All of them because they must get away with this behavior somewhere. All of these also happen to be only children or the youngest in their family (I swear!). But, not all of the only children or youngest children act like this, which tells me their parents tell them “no” sometimes. I’ve literally had a parent tell me her child would be “sad” because he wasn’t getting Pokemon cards because I gave her a negative update. She was asking me what to tell her son. That tells me that he’s probably used to getting what he wants and the parent has a hard time taking responsibility for making her child “sad”.  Hopefully him feeling “sad” will make him avoid the negative behavior in the future.

Your kids will not hate you because they didn’t get what they want. In fact, your kids will love you no matter what. You just need to stand your ground and take control. They need to learn that they have to earn rewards. Otherwise, you’re setting them up for getting rewards for not even achieving a goal. Kids will always try to see how much they can get away with, and if you’re allowing them to get away with anything you’re stunting their growth. If you don’t want to raise entitled, unmotivated kids don’t allow them to get away with entitled, unmotivated behaviors.

If one strategy doesn’t work, try another. Get creative, get to know your child (which I’m sure most parents do) and if you yelling at your kid every time the teacher calls doesn’t work, try something else. Ask your child to share with you their feelings or the reasons they won’t complete their work. Get involved and work with them to accomplish goals. Set and finish projects at home, like organizing their video games, painting their room, washing all of the dishes, or folding all of the laundry just to let your child experience how good it feels to accomplish a task.

With all of that said, my next steps as a teacher is to get better at partnering up with parents to come up with concrete goals we can work on together with their child. I’m going to go ahead and try to own that parenting coach hat when I need it on.

Potty Words

During my time working in the education field, I have learned that it is NOT okay for children to use potty words. So of course, children all across the country (I’m assuming) are giggling over “poop” and “pee”. So, when a kindergartener tattles that his rug buddy is using the word “poop”, I have to enforce this rule. For the record, I do not agree with this (among many other silly) rules that we teach children. There is so much taboo that we create in the lives of children. Children, by nature, are curious. So, when they ask questions and an adult makes the curious process uncomfortable for these children, children slowly learn that there is shame in confronting curiosities.

The shame carries on into adulthood, so instead of becoming educated on all “taboo” topics, most adults sweep their curiosities under the rug. Those feelings of uncertainty and doubt grow into seeds of prejudice and discomfort. I used to believe in the past, that it was offensive when somebody asked me “What are you?” Like, I was an alien from a different planet. Until those same potty-mouthed kids started asking me. I would feel discomfort, then I would become upset. Then I realized, I too, had been sweeping the topic of my culture under the rug. Sometimes, I tried to even sweep my pride for my culture under the rug. It wasn’t until I had to tell a kid that “poop” was not to be used in the classroom that I realized what I was doing. Instead of educating (which is my career path), I was creating this obstacle.

So, now when somebody asks me, “What are you?” I proudly tell them that I was born and raised in California, but my parents are Taiwanese. I don’t ask them to guess or create a barrier between what they really mean to ask and have them awkwardly fish for an answer. If they have the common misconception that Taiwanese means I am Chinese or Thai, I explain it to them.  I also create an opportunity to invite the person asking me to share what their culture is. All too often in the past, I would punish somebody for asking me by making them feel ashamed for asking. However, it is clear to me now that the only way to learn and to educate is to be honest and completely open. Obviously for some narrow-minded adults who insist to use this racial conversation as a way to share with me their prejudice and discriminations, I would rather choose not to converse with.

For now,  on the topic of potty words, I am in a position where I still am going to have to enforce the rules that somebody else gives me. However, if ever given the opportunity to talk about our digestive system in my own realm, I will definitely make kids see that poop and pee are natural things that we all do. Definitely something that makes people giggle, but it’s just as natural as eating and sleeping.

My Unicorn Plan

A little over a year ago, I decided to drop my career in the hospitality industry to focus on my childhood dream of becoming a teacher. My vision a little over a year ago went something like this. I’ll go through 18 months of schooling that I will enjoy while trying to make connections with teachers. This will be easier than my life in the hospitality industry because I love school and learning. My family, friends, boyfriend, and strangers will be so amazed by my passion. This is what I will call, the Unicorn Plan. I assumed by the time I quit my old job, I would bounce back to my old self in no time and flourish like all of my unicorn friends.

Today, I sat on the floor of my new living room crying my eyes out. I have a little under 6 months of the program left and this is how my plan is feeling. I got rear ended by a wonderful human *sarcasm* last week. My car is totaled. I’m so broke from going into a career that is notorious for underpaying and I can’t decide whether or not I should buy or lease a car. I still give way too may *ahem* concerns about what my parents want me to do to feel like a real adult. I have assignments piling up, I have things to tidy at the place I just moved into with my *gasp* now fiancé. I am engaged (!) and want to be excited about planning a wedding, but also feeling terrified that I will not have a job next year. So, not feeling very unicorny right now. Luckily, I still have my 3 F’s (friends, family, and fiancé)  feed me encouragement while tread this water as every stranger who walks by tells me that I’m going to drown.

However, the one thing that brings me here is this decluttering I have done before the move. Before my purchase of Marie Condo’s book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up… I had decluttered and tidied the F out of my things. Now I have the book and will have to see what tips she has to continue on my new obsession of becoming tidy AF. This is not a shameless book plug however, it’s just the journey that brought me to the realization that now I have the time to declutter my brain by doing what I love most. Writing. Not just any kind of writing- writing about my experiences, feelings, observations, and memories. And not just writing about them, throwing them into oblivion so others can judge me find, share, and create perspectives.

Adulthood for me right now, is this paradox of successes, failures, and uncertainty. I hope to share with you (whatever audience that may entail) how I am navigating. And to those of you who think getting engaged is this adulthood final destination to allofyourdreamscomingtrue should probably just leave now. More on that topic next time…