Service and Teaching

The First Few Weeks

Alright, guys. Instead of writing a full synopsis of the last few weeks, I will share with you the progression of my Facebook statuses since pursuing my new job while filling in the blanks with narrative, in italics.

July 26: Guys guys guys guys!!!!! I applied to an incredible charter school today!! So pumped.

I had been introduced to the idea of this charter school through an Uber driver while my mom was visiting me in DC for my birthday. About three days after applying I was told that they saw my experience was mostly with  PK3-3rd graders and always surrounded English/Language Arts (ELA). Because they saw that, they wanted me to teach a math lesson following sixth grade standards. 

August 1: GUYS I DON’T THINK I CAN TEACH MATH. 😥

Ha, I was fucking terrified. I spent so much time (okay, one day since they gave me 2 days notice) on this lesson and I was freaking the eff out. 

August 2: I tried on a million outfits to figure out what I’m going to wear to the interview tomorrow and once I found the right one I sat down and finished my lesson plan! Let’s hope I don’t get all anxious and just yell “MATH!” really loud and then Tina-groan for 20 minutes.

I discovered that the charter school in question was a short walk from where my bff teaches in DC and I asked her to give me a ride. She agreed and I showed up at her apartment to practice my lesson pretty damn early. I went, I kind of rocked the lesson, I got along well with everyone I met and I felt good vibes from these teachers/staff members.

Also August 2: Thanks for the positive thinking everyone! I think it went well- will update you when they get back to me. 🙂

Hint: they didn’t get back to me for a while. They had said I would hear back by the 5th. 

August 19 (AKA NOT THE FIFTH): So for those of you following my job hunt I finally got contacted again by the amazing school I interviewed with a couple weeks ago. Last night I got a text at 10 and they asked me to come in for an ELA lesson today! Combination of feelings-so excited for them to still be thinking of me but also why tf are you giving me 13 hours notice bruh? Way chiller today with my language arts lesson than I was about my math lesson.

Also August 19: Second interview/lesson went really well! Will keep y’all updated.

Side note: holy shit yes I see how much I use Facebook. Don’t hate.

August 21: Who has two thumbs and starts her big-girl teaching gig on Tuesday? THIS GIRL. Say hello to Miss Reed, sixth grade humanities teacher!

August 22: OMG GUYS MY FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL IS TOMORROW. WTF.

August 23: Wtf have I done.

This change in narrative is not to be ignored. I was SO excited. I was told that I would have an entire week to observe, get to know the students/school, and set up my classroom space. Instead, I was thrown in headfirst with a substitute that believed since I was in the classroom she didn’t have to do her job. I was forced to teach on the first day- after specifically being told that I would not need to prepare a lesson, as the substitute was there and had plans for the week. Some highlights of the things that happened on day 1:

  • I was immediately asked if I am racist/ voting for trump
  • I was physically threatened by a sixth grade female. She held scissors to my neck and told me that I was white, she didn’t have to listen to a thing I said, and that I should remember that before she cut me.
    • I didn’t cry
  • My desk was flipped, my phone was stolen (later returned)

August 24: Can we just talk about the fact that anyone who wants to teach will never be prepared to do so in DC? You just can’t prepare yourself to understand it until you’re in it. Blessed to have this opportunity but damn if I haven’t thought about quitting every five minutes since my first day….yesterday. I am pro-adulting and in bed by 10:30, though, so that’s good.

Guys this is when my mindset started to shift real hard. I was incredibly excited to begin this opportunity. I also was super stoked to be teaching English, work with a fucking incredible group of people, and just be following my dream of teaching kiddos who come from low income families and have high emotional and academic needs. Sure, I had no idea that over 80% of the students were emotionally disturbed or that a large portion of them became explosive and violent when told to sit in a chair, but I was grateful for the opportunity to work in this school. 

On the 25th I was slapped in the face. 

August 27: Spending my day researching effective classroom environments and writing personal letters to my kiddos- both the students who behave the majority of the time and also to the kiddos who like to attack me on a regular basis. Oh, and then going to work tonight 😦

I was still working two jobs at the beginning- fuck my life. I researched a lot and I changed my room around. I wrote those letters and most of them still have the letters in their binder- I don’t think it did much in the beginning but I see them re-read the letters when they’re frustrated or bored. So that’s cool. The letters tell them some of the good things I had noticed in my first few days of working with them and shared some info about me. 

August 29: Guys. Is this even what I want to do. Fuck.

Still a question I ask myself, though things have started to get a bit better. I sincerely questioned my entire life’s path during my first few weeks at this school. I was convinced I had made a terrible, terrible mistake. I went home each night sincerely hoping that I might get murdered or hit by a car so that way I could just be dead and not have any stress to deal with the next day. I wanted to die. I didn’t necessarily want to kill myself but I wanted to end everything. The stress was so much. I have a student who saw his father die, a student in foster care who was left alone as a child for years in the streets of New York. These children were/are going through and processing things I have never had to deal with and I commend the shit out of them for showing up. But it fucking weighed/weighs on me. All of the stress. Just all of it. I wanted it to stop. 

September 1: That awkward moment when you can’t leave your room to get your lunch because there are children throwing chairs/scissors/staplers down the hallway and trying real hard to enter any and all classrooms to destroy all things possible.

This still happens. Too often. I can’t send kids into the hallway to go to the bathroom because they might get hurt. Sometimes I can’t open the door lest a student from another class barge in and disrupt (best case) or destroy (more likely) the class. So hard. 

September 3: Brunching by myself today, I think. The possibilities are endless when I have a WHOLE WEEKEND OFF!

Week two was done. Week one of me being the only one in the classroom. I really needed someone to process my time with but nobody was available for company. Which was a bummer. I ended up staying at home all weekend and getting sort of drunk. A lot. 

On Labor Day I brunched with a friend. She had a lot she was dealing with so I was happy to ignore my depression and instead focus on her. I saw a past colleague and excitedly told her I finally got a teaching job! She said “yeah but it’s not like you like it, all I see is you complaining on Facebook all the time.” 

First of all- fuck you. Second of all- eight million things happen in one day at school. Teachers have to make the most decisions per day versus any other profession. I have to do and act and process while doing and processing and reflecting. It’s fucking HARD. Of course I complain on Facebook. I also show up to this job every day with the big grey cloud of depression and suicidal thoughts above me. So fuck you again for telling me I must not be happy about this job. 

September 5: Just as a big, clear FYI: I have sincerely battled killing myself every night this week because of my job.

Went out with my BFF and her roommate to our local favorite bar and got a little drunkypoo. I got upset thinking about the colleague who told me I must hate my job and I admitted to my friends and our bartenders that I had been suicidal for a few weeks. I cried. A lot. And I went home, angrily scrawled this on facebook, and proceeded to break down on my kitchen floor for like an hour. Thank goodness my housemates are amazing and they did a great job helping me settle down. 

September 7: Trying to write a blog post about secondary trauma. >,< Edit: instead, I completed the Anxious Teacher’s worst fear: calling all of my students’ guardians and leaving FOURTEEN VOICEMAILS. Coming from the girl who couldn’t call for her own pizza until…..ever bc the internet.

Secondary trauma is so real. I have experienced it day in and day out through these kids and their actions. Additionally, only five of my fifteen guardians/parents seemed to be willing to speak with me so I don’t have support from home. 

There are more Facebook statuses I could add, all the way up until a few days ago. I started this blog post like two weeks ago and I haven’t been in a good place until recently to start writing again. I now have some really great things that I’m focusing on outside of work and I also am finding my stride in the classroom. Like 60% of my kids kind of like me now. I’ll take that as a small victory.

I have to remind myself every single day that I need to take everything poco a poco… little by little. I am holding fiercely onto my hope and I will soon be writing some posts (hopefully) about funny things in the classroom or happy things my kids do instead of telling you how much I hate my life from 8-5.

Thanks for reading. Reach out with questions or support. Please. Support is really helpful for me right now.

 

Serving is a “Real Job”

This one goes out to all the haters.

It goes out to all of the “professionals”- the office workers, executives, teachers, doctors, etc.

This goes out to the people who can make their six-month internship look like gold on a resume by marketing all of the transferable skills they learned.

This goes out to the employers who don’t see 3 years of serving as “professional experience.”

But mostly, this goes out to all of the people who scoff, roll their eyes, and/or ask the infuriating question “okay, but when are you going to get a real job?”

Serving. Is. A. Real. Job.

A “job” is not confined to a 9-5, desk-working, high-salary occupation. A job is a place or trade where one can go in and exchange labor for dollars. That’s basically it. Obviously serving falls into that category.

But beyond the basic “job” definition, let me explain a little bit further.

Servers are expected to have a near-complete grasp of company policies and procedures as well as menu descriptions in as little as 5 days, with a total of roughly 15-20 hours of training. Servers are legitimately tested on their menu and restaurant knowledge throughout their training. Like actual sit-down-and-write tests.

Both during and after training, servers hone their hospitality, math, communication, prioritization, and organization skills. In one six-hour shift a server can take on as many as five different roles in a restaurant, from host to busser to food runner, even occasionally to bartender depending on the restaurant. They are the kings and queens of wearing many hats at work.

Restaurants are fast-paced places. Impeccable timing is necessary to make a restaurant run efficiently. Servers have to be sure to greet your table within 60 seconds, deliver drinks within 2-4 minutes, and keep an eye on the kitchen to make sure your appetizers, entrees, and desserts all come out at the right times. But servers don’t just have one table to take care of. Remember, you are not a server’s only guest. Prioritization is key in a server’s life. They must quickly learn how to delegate tasks to bussers and/or other servers with a few free minutes so that they do not get stuck “in the weeds,” a term for being overwhelmed.

Beyond the logistical hell that can be a restaurant work environment, servers also have to interact with up to (and sometimes over!) a hundred people each shift. And you know what? So many of these people are assholes. 

And servers can’t just make the assholes leave. They have to smile, bear with it, and even apologize for doing absolutely nothing wrong because their fucking hourly wage depends on their guests liking them. Servers have to connect with their tables and develop a working rapport within 60 seconds. They have to calculate how often they think you’ll want them to check back at the table, how much you’ll want to chat with them, and dear lord they have to learn very quickly how to gracefully excuse themselves from your conversation because they just got sat or they need to run drinks at the bar.

Talk about transferable skills, yo.

Full-time servers work anywhere between 35 and 60 hours a week. They have the potential to make more money than those who work in an office full-time and definitely often make more than teachers or other professionals.

“But there’s no room for professional growth as a server! Once you’re a server you’re stuck there!” Ha! Or not. Restaurants often hire from within. A great server can quickly climb the ladder to General Manager. GMs can further climb up the ladder. Seriously. Work hard and don’t suck at your job as a server and you can do a lot in the hospitality industry.

Just because servers work in an environment without a fixed schedule or salary and have flexible, creative job descriptions does not, in any way, mean that serving isn’t a real job.

Check yourself the next time you’re about to ask your friend or family member when they’re going to quit waiting tables and “get a real job.” Because you are shaming them for having a great job. You are saying that because they choose to be in a position that provides incredible service that they are somehow subordinate and/or less of a person than you. And that is hella silly. Because when you go to a restaurant you want a good server, don’t you? And what kind of a person is going to be a great server if they show up to work thinking they don’t have a real job?

And don’t forget, folks- always tip your server. You can fuck up at your job and still get paid the same salary, so don’t take it out on you waiter if they’ve had a bad day or forgot to bring you your ranch. 

Failure

Well, friends. I’m well aware that I’ve been pretty MIA for the last….two months. Let me get you updated.

I moved to Washington, D.C. to enter into a teaching fellowship- an alternative certification program through which teaching certification is available to those who pass. I moved down here the last weekend in May and settled down to ride the wave that my summer would become.

I got a serving job, because the fellowship was unpaid. I worked very hard at the serving job to make sure they knew I was worth the scheduling conflicts I had because of the fellowship. It worked. They love me….because I’m a great server.

I began my training… AKA teacher bootcamp. I entered so positive- I was so excited to finally be able to legitimately do what I loved to do! Through reading my posts on here, and through knowing me- y’all know I fucking love to teach. I love kids, I love showing them what opportunities are available to them through education and perseverance. It is 100% most definitely a deep passion of mine.

During this time I also became very close with my housemates and coworkers at Mexican Restaurant! They’re great. I also realized that it was going to be very difficult and taxing to train from 7a-6p everyday and then to work at the restaurant from 6:30 until close two weeknights and work double shifts every Saturday and Sunday for eight weeks. But I was ready.

I wasn’t too excited about the program after a few days…for some reason many of their ideals and standards didn’t quite mesh with me, but I brushed off the feeling because the program was a means to an end, you know? I wanted to teach, this would make that happen.

I met my co-teachers, my team, and my kiddos. And I was in the right place. I was in love. I showed up that Monday of the third week- our first full week of teaching summer school with a happy heart and so many ideas in my head about how I was going to bust ass and kick ass all summer long.

By the third day of that week, I was getting a bit drained. I had worked until close the night before and I woke up at 4:45 AM every day just to get to school on time. But I was hopeful. I was gaining skills in my lesson planning and instruction. We had our first evaluation that Friday and my scores didn’t suck. My housemates celebrated a week of teaching with me by having a 4th of July cookout at our house and a day at the beach. It was great to relax. I was still excited about teaching.

I can’t honestly break down the next events into individual days or weeks. It became a downward spiral/blur really quickly.

I became fed up with our bullshit classes after teaching. I became fed up with feeling as if I was on the outside of an inside joke that I wasn’t worth knowing. I became so incredibly sick of feeling as though if I didn’t meet these 3 points on a rubric that I was a terrible teacher and a terrible person. I was tired. I was tired of busting my ass only to get negative feedback with no plan of action to fix it. I practiced every single day and I got no validation.

I worked so hard to implement every single piece of feedback I was given. I asked questions, I asked for help. I worked 91 hours a week, including my time at the school and the restaurant. I was commuting 13 hours a week. I was sleeping maybe 30 hours a week. That left me with 34 hours a week, the majority of which were spent lesson planning, cooking, eating, and crying. I felt as if I were at the bottom of a deep, spike-lined hole with a rope, but the rope only started halfway up. There was an end in sight, and probably a way to get there- but no help.

I felt helpless, hopeless, and entirely unacknowledged.

I kept showing up for the kids. They were so bright. They were so intense. I taught in Southeast….what is known as probably the most “urban” or “disadvantaged” neighborhood. Basically it was rough, unsafe, and underdeveloped. Walking to and from the metro, I was probably one of maybe 5 white people in a mile radius. I stood out.

My kiddos didn’t have the best home lives. Some showed up without being bathed, some without being fed, etc. My heart broke for them. I showed up to make sure they knew that someone cared for them and had high expectations for them.

My scores got better. My attitude got better.

I got attacked on my way to the metro from school one day- a group of teenagers threw rocks at me, spit on me, tried to pull me to the ground, and claimed “you aren’t welcome here, snowflake.”

I showed up because my kids were worth it.

I kept working at Mexican Restaurant- which took up my entire weekend of potential lesson planning time. I lesson planned on the metro, the bus, at every turn you could see me scripting that shit. My housemates can attest to the fact that I practiced my lessons on them- they hated it.

I got punched by a student. I got bitten by multiple students. I, very literally, got stabbed with a pencil by a student.

I showed up because the four minutes that they sat in their damn seats and fucking listened to me made all of that completely worth it.

I kept practicing. I began to practice more than my lessons. I was practicing my smile, I was acting my attitude. I got really low. Really fast.

I felt alone, useless, and helpless. The program began to make me feel as if it were designed to squash the originality and creativity out of individuals. It began to seem as if they didn’t want us to be us. That was disheartening as fuck.

I began to contemplate stepping in front of the metro every morning.

I began to wonder…. if I could just get shot, or hit by a car, man… I would have a legitimate excuse to not show up and I could get some goddamned sleep. 

I wanted to die. Every. Single. Day. Because I didn’t feel like me.

But I showed up. Because the kids made me forget that. The kids brought me life- through their terrorizing behavior and incredible endurance.

My scores plateaued. Information was withheld from me. I was blatantly ignored.

Today I was informed that I failed the program.

At first I was incredibly upset. I was so sad that I couldn’t just pass the program. I must be a terrible teacher. I obviously will never be able to teach, etc.

And then I became angry. I did everything they asked. They counted arbitrary things against me.

And now, I say fuck it.

I didn’t fail.

Those kids learned this summer. They learned content and character. I did my job.

I learned this summer.

I may have moved to D.C. for this program, but I’m now staying for the relationships I’ve built and for further opportunities. I will not let this wreck me.

I may have failed a rubric, but I really don’t care. I grew a lot from this experience, and I still know that I want to teach. I succeeded in pursuing my passion, and nothing is going to stop me.

Teaching is Learning

I’m frustrated, guys. Super frustrated.

I am a lowly AmeriCorps volunteer in an elementary school here in Cleveland. I work very hard every day to make sure that these children are supplied with the tools they need to become efficient readers and good people. I get paid next to nothing to do this. But this is not where my complaint lies.

My complaint lies with all of the teachers I’ve met (at this school as well as others) who seem to believe that as soon as you have a teaching certificate then you get to stop learning and adapting.

What kind of logic is that? Education is continuously evolving, and we need to evolve with it. I’m not even a certified teacher yet and I know this. I know that as our world changes, so do our children. And as our children change, so must our methods.

Teaching is learning. You must learn about your students, their proficiencies and obstacles. You must learn about new methods of monitoring students’ progress and you have to freaking adapt to all the things you’re learning.

You’d think that people who choose a career path solely focused on learning would remember that learning is the key to progress and success…forever.

/end rant. Thanks for reading. Until next time, folks!

How I Caught My Wanderlust

Before high school, I had never really traveled much. We went to Pennsylvania to visit my dad’s older sister, we went to Maine once to see my brother, and I went to Texas a couple of times. I had only ever traveled to see family; it seemed there was no other reason to travel.

Freshman year of high school I joined Key Club. It was one of the best choices I’ve ever made for so many reasons. One of the best perks of KC was the international convention  hosted annually in one of many awesome cities in the U.S., Aruba, British Colombia, and other assorted countries affiliated with Kiwanis which I can’t remember. That year, it was going to be in Orlando, Florida. I had never been to Florida, I had never done a lot of service or volunteering, and I had certainly never traveled for that purpose. I was intrigued. When I learned that those who went on the service trip to the convention got to go to Disney World, I was hooked. I begged my mom to let me go. It was a pretty sizable fee to go, but she caved and funded me.

I am so incredibly grateful that she did.

It was the first time I was on a plane, the first time I had traveled without my mom. It was a lot of firsts. I was a little bit anxious but mostly I was thrilled. I was asleep on the plane in ten minutes. I fell asleep during takeoff. Who does that on their first airplane ride? Apparently me.

When I woke up I was in another world. It was hot, there were palm trees, and it looked nothing like Ohio, Texas, Maine, or any other state I’d been to already. It was incredible. There was a tingle in the pit of my stomach and it didn’t leave the whole time, it just grew and grew until I nearly burst with excitement, happiness, and general astonishment.

It was a four-day ordeal. I had almost no money, but I didn’t care. I was able to attend so many cool workshops at the convention and I participated in some pretty bomb service projects. I was in my element- an element I never thought I would have. I was discovering a passion. Uncovering desires I would never be able to sate. I remember it so vividly- that first service trip.

I returned in a tizzy. I was more excited about just being somewhere different than I was about being in Orlando, staying in a super swanky hotel, or even going to Disney World (gasp!). I was in love with discovery. Exploration was my inclination.

(Now, before I finish, I want to point out that I love to travel with my family. I love visiting new places and seeing family members who live far away. I adored my trip to New York with my mom, Chicago with my dad, etc.  I dig traveling with my fam- but this post is about how I caught my own strain of the travel bug, and my experiences without la familia)

I didn’t travel without my fam again until college. It was the summer after my sophomore year and we went to the Texas-Mexico border to teach and support the youth in border communities. It flared in me again, that old flame. The one that says, “go somewhere new, learn a new culture, meet new people, and breathe air a little different than the air over here. Go. Do. Be.”  We were there for a week, but I wished it could have been longer. I made incredible connections with people I had never before known. It was so amazing.

That’s also when I learned how peoples’ true selves come through when traveling- another curious insight I love about going new places with people I don’t know; the kindred feelings of trepidation and adventure on which our bodies soar when traveling somewhere for the first time.

My junior year of college I flew my happy ass to Spain. Across an ocean. The longest (and furthest) I had ever been from home. On occasion I did miss home a little. I missed the physical comfort of my high-school sweetheart. I missed my mother’s embrace, her kind words, my sister’s quirkiness, my father’s comforting voice. I missed home a lot. But it never bogged me down. I happily discovered a new side of the world and a new side of myself in tandem. I loved being away from home. The independence I felt was mind-rattling. I had to rely on people I had never met before to make sure I was safe, happy, and taken care of. I met some wonderful people and forged incredible relationships. I yearn to return to Spain, to walk the streets of Los Remedios, my neighborhood, one more time. To see the torre del oro or the bullfighting ring. I ache for the smell of roasting chestnuts on busy calle tetuan while I briskly walk to school.

You see, Orlando, Florida was the kindling for a much, much larger fire. I found out while in Spain how I thrive on being out of my comfort zone, in an alien land with things so familiar but just a little bit off. Spain was another first for me- the first time traveling on my own, without the end goal being service. My trip to Florida and my trip to Texas were both service trips. Spain was my first taste of actually living somewhere else. It was astonishing every single day.

I then went on a service trip my senior year of college to Jinotega, Nicaragua. I taught English in a church the size of a common garden shed. I taught children on dirt floors and a gravel front yard. For one week.

It changed my life.

I was surrounded by a community so vastly different from anything I had ever encountered. On top of that, I was enveloped in kindness and embraced with smiles and kind words at every turn. I remember telling Profe, one of our chaperons, that I was “SO HAPPY” to be there. All the time. I said it every day. She grinned each time I did. My adoration of our adventure was palpable in every comment, movement, and breath of mine. I was smitten with our service trip.

As soon as I had returned to the states, I had to go back. Just freaking had to. So I did. Less than three months later I was back in Nicaragua for twelve more weeks. I blogged about it all the time on here. I loved the people, the culture, the children, the food, nature, beauty- everything. I was in my very literal “happy place.”

But I’ve found that wherever I travel tends to be my “happy place.” As long as I’m learning something new, meeting someone new,  or doing something meaningful to leave behind, I am perfectly content with myself. I am truly at peace when doing good for others or when learning from others.

Hi, my name is Jessica Reed, and I am addicted to traveling. It’s an expensive addiction that I just can’t appease. I itch all of the time for a new trip, a new discovery. Even going to a new section of Cleveland is enough to keep me sated for a day or two- but I’m always thinking about my next move. I’m always planning the Next Great Trip.

I hope I can take it soon.

Thanks for reading, folks! Until tomorrow!

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Combination of Posts I wrote Friday and Saturday, so this is post is 22/23 of 100.

I have no idea where that quote comes from. All I know is that  it’s one of the truest phrases I’ve ever heard in my life.

Last week something really terrible happened and it shook my world up somethin’ fierce. I was faced with grief of a magnitude I have never before encountered. I was a mess. But I went to work the next day, and I dove into my job, hoping to drown out the sorrow in my heart. And you know what?

It worked.

I didn’t forget about the pain I felt, but spending time with people I care about really helped alleviate it.  What drove the pain almost entirely away, you ask? Well, laughing.

As I’ve explained before, my morning HELPS second grader is one of the funniest kids ever. Just talking to him brightens my day, no matter how dark my mood. So my morning dose of his humor started my day after The News on the best foot possible. Following that, my high (as in, high-level) group second graders are sarcastic, curious, and all-around hilarious. Plus, we were talking about Vikings and it’s hard for me to not enjoy my time talking about Vikings. When I spend my day at Local Elementary School, I am surrounded by people I enjoy. True kindness, generosity, and positivity absolutely engulfs me and it is one of the best places for me, especially with my current stressors. The pillow of positive emissions helps cushion my sorrowful heart and I could not be more thankful for the people there.

At Local Family Restaurant I am equally surrounded by smiles and laughter. Whether it’s commiserating over shitty tables or being proposed to by 80-year-old guests, I’m always smiling when it comes to my serving job. The atmosphere is so friendly and I love my coworkers so much. They all now know what’s going on and they try doubly hard to make my shifts positive- they are so incredibly kind. I love going to work because I know I’ll be doing something and I’ll be happy about it. That helps hide the grief away until a later time.

Even outside of school laughter follows me. I met a pretty stellar guy a couple weeks ago and he makes me laugh more than anyone has in a long time, even more than my joke-telling second grader. This guy, we’ll call him IT, is seriously hilarious. Spending time with him is an absolute pleasure and I’m getting rock-hard abs from how much I laugh when I am with him. I am truly grateful for his positive presence in this dark time. I’d be grateful anyway, but it means so much that he is able to break through my rain cloud with his bright personality.

Obviously, when I’m not laughing and I’m instead faced with some alone-time or time where I need to focus on other things (like blogging, for instance), I sit face-to-face with my grief and let it wash over me. I let myself dwell a little bit in my time without laughter because I know that the more I think about it the easier it will get. I still miss Alex, and I will forever feel a strange void when I think of my childhood knowing that such a permanent part of my life is no longer there. But I know that the memories are still there and he can never be erased from those, which is a comfort. The funeral is this week and I’m actually looking forward to it. Maybe reconnecting with other childhood permanents will help. Maybe we can laugh together and grieve together and realize that every day things will get a teeny bit better.

Every laugh, giggle, cackle, every guffaw, every chuckle, every single smidgen of a smile helps mend the pain. And I’m grateful for all of the people in my life who make me laugh. Thank you, all of you.

I guess laughing when it’s time to laugh and crying when it’s time to cry is how I mourn.

Life Through the Eyes of a Second Grader

Post 19/100, written yesterday in my journal while at school. It’s really just a series of jokes/statements by one of my favorite children on the planet.

Every morning, for ten to twenty minutes, I get a dose of life through an wonderful child’s eyes. He and I read every morning together, and every day I learn something new about him, such as:

“Today I had soup for breakfast.”

“Something terrible happened over break. I can’t even tell you, it will make you sick. I can never tell anyone.” What happened!? Are you okay? “It. Was. Awful. It was everywhere!What was everywhere!? “I got sick. All over my nana’s carpet. It was just terrible, Miss Jess. Just. Terrible.”

“I do love spinny tops!”

“Do you want to hear a joke?” (I always want to hear a joke)

Q: What did the apple say to the poster?

A: Am I a poster, too? (GET IT?)

Q: What did the elf say to the shelf?

A: Am I an Elf on a Shelf? (GET IT?)

Q: What did the door say to the bell?

A: You’re too loud! (GET IT?)

So, you see, he’s got some work to do on his material, as every time he goes to tell me a joke he says he needs to “look around for inspiration.” Basically he takes two objects and makes them talk to each other. It’s never funny, except in his incredible delivery in which the punchline is always followed by “get it?!!” To make sure that you understood the joke.

This child is incredible. He always shines light on my day. I don’t think he knows how grateful I am for his unyielding life and light.

They’ll Do What You Do, No Matter What You Say

“Do as I say, not as I do,” something I’m sure many of you have heard (or maybe even said!) at least once in your life.

As a teacher, I find this phrase maddening. Of course children aren’t going to do what you tell them to. They’re going to do what they see you doing- because that’s how freaking learning works. Modeling, people, is the easiest way to learn how to do something. And if you think any different, let me give you a quick analogy.

Say you need to find out how to get a broken light bulb out of a socket. You have two options: you can look up instructions and/or call Cletus the Electrician for advice and try it that way, or you can go straight to YouTube and see how it is done. If both sources are giving you the same information, fine,  that’s great. Either works.

But, if the instructions you’re reading(or hearing) give you a different way to do it than the video, which one are you more likely to rely on? Ding ding- you guessed it, the video! It’s way easier to see something done and copy it than it is to read or be told instructions and follow them. This is why it’s so important to model activities, worksheets, and even behavior in the classroom. Because that’s the easiest way to learn, and it’s something all children do. Children are modeling machines, copying all sorts of actions no matter the consequences and no matter how irrelevant the actions.

Today I saw a teacher at my elementary school come out of the bathroom stall, rinse her hands for maybe 5 seconds, and walk out. What? What is that? I know it’s not a huge deal but come on. We plaster infographics on how to wash your hands on nearly every surface in bathrooms for these kids. Sing happy birthday twice, count to twenty, make sure to use hot water and scrub under your fingernails. A student comes out of the bathroom at an elementary school and the first thing their teacher says is “did you wash your hands?” I’ve heard this teacher say that to her students- so why the hell didn’t she wash her hands?

I see things like this all the time, from little things like washing your hands (thank goodness her students didn’t witness her not even touch the soap dispenser) to a mom with cigarette in mouth and comical plume of smoke exiting her lips saying, “don’t you ever pick up cigarettes.” Well, lady, aren’t you just a pile of conflicting information?

In order to better the next generation, we need to show them how to be better. We need to be less angry, less afraid, and more engaged. And dammit we need to start washing our hands more.

Changing My Mind After Graduation

Hey, folks! Welcome to post 9 out of my 100 days of blogging!

Today I’m going to talk about some stuff and then maybe talk myself into a decision. You’re very welcome for that detailed description.

Officially changing my major to History in 2012.

Officially changing my major to History in 2012.

So, I have a Bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in Spanish. I was one credit hour away from also having a major in Psychology, but I didn’t want to take a summer class or have to come back for a semester just for a freakin’ bio lab. Since my sophomore year I have had my heart set on being a History professor at a small(ish) liberal arts school. That goal still stands; however, after a summer giving myself to a better cause and after getting my current tutoring job, I am not so sure what to do next. I have yet to apply to a single grad school, let alone take the GRE- which doesn’t actually bother me at all. I see two (or three..) clear possible paths ahead of me.

I don’t have a degree in Education, and even though I am fully capable of instruction I couldn’t for the life of me get a teaching job in the states. So, after my AmeriCorps contract is up, do I go into a teaching fellows program? I’ve found some pretty sweet deals in DC, Baltimore, and New Orleans that will all let me get teaching certifications without a degree in Education. Is that what I want to do? I love to teach and these three programs offer teaching English as a Second Language and Spanish as a Foreign Language opportunities…that sort of hits home with me after my time in Nicaragua.

I have fallen in absolute love with volunteering. I have found some pretty awesome jobs that have to do with recruiting volunteers for incredible programs. I’m good with people- I am enthusiastic and have proven to be pretty good at taking my passion for something and sharing it with others, so I feel that I’d be pretty good at recruitment- especially at universities! But, again, is this what I want to do?

There are some stellar opportunities overseas for teaching English as a Foreign Language…some that will even pay me to do it! (insight: my summer in Nicaragua was not a paid internship) I have found jobs in South Korea and Greece that both seem too good to be true, but I have been assured are the real deal. Travel, teaching English, and getting paid to do it? Sign me up! But is this what I want to do?

I decided to stay in Cleveland, even when I had been offered a sweet job in Portland because I felt that I needed to get my shit together before hauling off again. In most aspects I’m very happy I did that- I have a solid amount of money saved right now and I have been able to reconnect with my family. At the same time, I am already restless in the CLE and I am still bummed I’ve never made it to the West Coast. The next time a job opens up somewhere else, I’ll jump on it. But which job and what course should I take?

I absolutely love my job at Family Restaurant- I get to work with people every day, I love the staff I work with, and I go home with cash every night. It’s a swell gig that has given me some awesome experience- now anywhere I move (in the states, at least) I should be able to find a serving job pretty easily to supplement low pay or to get me established prior to finding work  (if that’s how I decide to do it, which is probably not likely). I love my students at my tutoring job and I dig the people I work with, but I’m not 100% into the program or the fact that I’m not actually used for the reason I’m there. It’s good teaching and volunteer experience, though, so it’s not all bad.

So, what do I do? Do I apply to every opportunity I’ve listed above and see who takes the bait? Do I leave it up to potential employers and the universe to decide where I go next? Or should I narrow down my opportunities? I was planning on buying a car in March, but if I end up going overseas in July what good will a car do me? Do I use my saved money as a relocation fund? It’s much, much harder to make decisions regarding my future when I don’t have an advisor and a four-year plan ahead of me. Does it have to be only one of these paths forever? I think not- but I have to eventually choose something for my next move, and what should it be?!

I have a few more months to make a decision, but it feels like time is just ticking away. I should probably write some cover letters and update my resume… maybe I’ll do that tomorrow…or the next day.

Real life is hard, guys.

Reading is an Adventure

Hey folks, welcome to post 3 out of 100. Today I want to talk about one of my passions in life: the written word. Well, reading the written word, to be exact.

My mother and father did a great job of getting me to read and love reading at an early age. Before kindergarten I was able to read simple sentences and I could read newspaper articles by the time I was in the first grade. Also when I was in the first grade I was reading with third graders. When I was in the sixth grade, I was taken out of class to go read with the other “gifted” kids. I tell you this not to brag but to let you know that reading has been a huge part of my life (and I have been good at it) for quite some time. So that when I tell you how much I love reading, you can understand that I have been in love with books longer than I have had romantic interests. I have loved books longer than I have loved The Barenaked Ladies, and if you know me at all, you know that is a huge deal.

I greet a new book like a new friend. I am always excited to get to know it; I want to know what makes it tick. There are times when I get so wrapped up in a book that I don’t eat or don’t sleep just because I need to know what is going to happen on the next page. Books are our way of sharing adventures, morals, information, and secrets. Fiction, nonfiction, it doesn’t matter- all books are sacred to me. That doesn’t mean I’ve necessarily enjoyed all of the books I have read, but I have at least enjoyed the act of reading them.

To me, reading is the easiest way to go on an adventure. It’s the cheapest way to go to the moon. It’s the only way to fast forward to the future or rewind into the past. Books are incredible. They have taught me how to be a better thinker, teacher, student, friend, daughter, and person. They have explained situations and emotions I could never begin to imagine or understand on my own. They’ve helped teach me empathy. Books show me different cultures and different ideas. They use words, just simple letters put together, to tell the most elaborate stories. Whether a book tells me a made-up story about the Boy Who Lived or it tells me about the true story of a war-torn country, they always teach me something.

Because of my love of reading I get something more than a paycheck from my tutoring job. I get pure satisfaction from sharing my oldest and strongest passion with the youth of today. I get to show children who can’t read, don’t like to read, or who (gasp!) are told that reading isn’t important by their parents that reading can be exciting. It can be fun. Every day that I teach I feel as if I am one step closer to helping these children discover something they like about reading. Even if they end up not being good readers or not liking books all that much (much to my despair), at least they will have a better understanding of the importance of books and the importance of reading.

Right before Christmas break I gave every one of my students a book. I told them I wanted to hear about their books when we got back from break (tomorrow). They all said they were excited to read their books, but my second graders told me they wanted to hear about what I was reading. Which, to be honest, was awesome to hear! So, over break I started a new book and finished one I had been reading for months. Just finishing a book felt good- like I was back on track to being 100% happy. And this new one I started is incredible! I’m so happy they asked that of me because it gave me motivation to finish my book. I haven’t been very motivated to read as of late, mostly thanks to 9 seasons of Supernatual being on Netflix. These past two weeks have helped rekindle my ardor for books. And thank goodness for that- I don’t think I would have lasted much longer without my fix for fiction.

Well, thanks for reading my blather about books, y’all. Until tomorrow!

What books have changed your life? Leave a comment below!