We All Matter

Equal

I don’t know when we got to a point that having open discussions in which we all discussed our own opinions and philosophies became so taboo.  I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely talk about my religious and/or political beliefs because it always leads to trouble.  Everyone is so easily offended these days that it becomes nearly impossible to exchange ideas.

We’re so afraid of the unknown.  We don’t trust people that we can’t understand.  But how can we come to understand them if we can’t have open discussions and ask questions?  Even if we do ask questions, there are so many of us that have already made up in our minds that whatever the answer is, it’s going to be the wrong answer.  It’s incredibly saddening to me and we are restricting our potential as a growing society.  We are digressing and it scares me to think what the children today are going to grow up believing.

APTOPIX Confederate Monument Protest

Flowers placed down to honor Heather Heyer she was killed by a driver during the protests of white supremacists in Charlottesville, SC

Nelson Mandela put it perfectly when he had stated that we are not born hating.  It is something we are taught, and if we can be taught to hate we can be taught to love (something that is so much easier to do).

As a teacher, and a human being, I think it’s important to teach the importance of differences.  When opportunities arise, I try to let my students know that we all think differently and that it’s perfectly okay.  We solve math problems differently: some of us need to draw pictures, some of us break it down, some of us use math facts we already know and build from that and some of us still count on our fingers. But it doesn’t matter how we solve the problems, as long as we can get to the correct answer.

My first year teaching I taught students who almost all spoke Spanish as their first language.  For the students that didn’t speak Spanish, I had told the class they need to speak English in the classroom.  However, I wanted to let them know that I thought it was wonderful that they were bilingual and I was okay if they wanted to speak Spanish at lunch, in the halls, etc.  When teaching lessons and breaking down the meanings of words, I tried incorporating the Spanish I did know into the lessons to make it relatable.  I wanted to celebrate their differences and let them know that it’s okay to come from these different backgrounds and speak different languages, so long as we are respectful of those that are different from us.

I want my students and future students and the people of today to feel comfortable having discussions with one another.  I love finding ways to incorporate debates into the classroom because the kids truly enjoy it.  It’s a safe place for them to exchange their ideas.  I have had it where throughout the debate I have allowed students to change sides of the room if they change their minds.  It was fun to sit back and watch.  It was exciting to see the students admit that they liked a different argument or thought process and it was also exciting to see the other students who stood by what they said and believed.

I understand that when it comes to religion, we are taught to share the good news.  I understand that people want to save one another from damnation.  However, at the end of the day if someone doesn’t want to believe in the god you believe in, how does if affect you?  I struggle to understand why people become so angry that they feel they need to forcefully push their beliefs upon others.  If they don’t want to share in the riches of your faith, then they are the ones missing out.  Nevertheless, so many of our religions have so many similarities.  Many of us believe in different variations of the same story – differences in which define our religion.  My understanding, generally speaking, is that Christians believe Jesus to be the son of God where is Muslims believe Jesus was a messenger.  In addition, Christians believe in salvation through faith where as Jewish people believe in applying the correct conduct (i.e. rituals and practices).

Regardless of what religion you practice (or don’t practice), at the end of the day most of them preach love and peace.  That if we cannot come to agree, at least we can love thy neighbor.  Perhaps through our actions, our neighbors may start to see what it is that we believe and cross to the other side of the room, so to speak.  If they don’t, then at least they stand by what they believe and are hopefully willing to defend and explain their thinking.

We are so adamant about being right and having everyone agree with us. We are so stubborn to admit that there might be another way.  And we are so quick to become offended.  I was speaking with some friends recently who stated that becoming offended is a choice.  We choose to let the opinions and ways of others bother us.  It is a choice to be upset by the way someone lives or we can be happy knowing that someone found another way to solve their own “math” problem.

I hope that somehow we can turn this all around.  That we can take all this hatred that is going on right now and use it as teachable lessons for our students.  I don’t want to sweep this under the rug and not address it.  We need to teach the children of today why this is wrong, that we need to stand up for one another and love one another, and we need to teach them to embrace each other’s differences and embrace each other as human beings.  I hope that from all of this hatred and poor leadership, that we actually become unified.  Through this one common enemy, we are able to put down our religious and political walls and come together out of the sheer recognition that we all deserve better than this.  I look forward to a new day where we can debate and laugh as we exchange different ideas and beliefs and walk away knowing that it’s okay to disagree and it’s okay to think differently.

 

 

 

Life never seems to go how we think it will.  We all know this.  I know this all too well.  My dad always told me, “We make plans, and God laughs.”  No matter how much planning we all do, no matter how much you think it is all figured out, it takes the blink of an eye for life to throw a curve ball.

My school year did not end how I thought it would.  It was certainly a year of trials and tribulations.  I found great friends while at the same time learning about necessary boundaries.  I learned the necessity to think before you speak (something I have struggled with my whole life) and how to stand up for myself.  My last semester I cried a lot, but through that I was still able to find the humor in it all.  It was a year of growth and I learned a lot about myself along with what exactly my priorities were.

Throughout the ups and downs, I also learned that my greatest coping mechanism is humor.  Through the tears, anger, frustrations, and celebrations; I found that laughing at myself and the situations made it easier to get through.  I kept cracking jokes and it just made anything that felt heavy, a lot lighter.  I’d like to think that I address issues like Chandler from Friends – an awkward transition followed by some sort of joke (my jokes are often hit or miss).

With all that being said, it made it easy for me to realize that I was not where I needed to be.  I hadn’t found my perfect fit yet.  It’s frustrating that it didn’t work out how I had envisioned it.  However, finding out that you need to make a change in your life is still good information to have.  It’s just one more way of helping me navigate through life so that I can get where I need to be.  It is almost a freeing feeling.  I can let go and be okay that things didn’t work out.  I can take with me the positive of what this year brought, and I can walk away knowing that it just wasn’t meant to be.

So, I moved on and managed to lock in a job.  I thought to myself Man, it really does all work out.  This will be so perfect and these are all the reasons why… it’s crazy how it all worked out…  Then, the day after I signed my new contract, my husband received a job offer that would relocate us across the country.  Within 24 hours of my things feeling settled in and perfect, life flipped everything upside down!

This last year has given me this “all in” approach.  I’m over trying to plan everything out. We have bought 4 houses in 4 years thinking we will grow into the house with lots of little ones and grow our community, only to leave a year later.  So I told my husband, “Take the job.  I haven’t started the school year yet, we’ve only been here a year, let’s take this leap before we get too attached.  We don’t have anything to lose and this is too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

This is the second attempt life has tried to get us to Arizona and it’s just clearly where we need to be, right now.  This is our mulligan.  I’m not going to go in with the attitude we’re going to live here forever or we’re going to be in this house for years.  I’m going to focus on what is happening now.  I have no idea where this will lead.  So I’m done trying to plan accordingly.  Whatever happens, happens.

With that being said, our next house is going to be what we need right now.  We don’t need a big house that we might grow into one day.  It’s just the two of us. So let’s get a smaller house (not to mention it will be so much less to clean!!!)  We’re focusing on all things that this opportunity will bring us and trying to embrace the change rather than becoming overwhelmed and being scared.  There’s no use in being scared and focusing on what we are leaving behind because it’s not going to change anything.  Yes, we have made some amazing friends.  But that doesn’t mean these friendships have to end.  It simply means that there are more friendships to be made.

We are moving. Period. And from this experience we will continue to grow. I will cry and laugh.  It will be one more guiding factor that will lead us to where we’re supposed to be.  It will lead me to the school, community, and life that we have been looking for.  It will be a huge change for us, but change can be a good thing.  Change is a necessary thing.  And, with the right attitude and some humor; you just might find yourself laughing your way through it.

 

Dear Parents…

I would like to preface this letter with the fact that I am not a parent myself and do understand that when you have children of your own, your perceptions do change.  With that being said, it seems today, that parents have this internal conflict with trying to form such a positive relationship with their child that they don’t know where to discipline and where to provide some leeway.  They have this vision of being best friends with their child and fear that providing boundaries and consequences will some how hinder their vision.

As a middle child, I certainly did not make parenting easy.  Despite my dramatic cries and tantrum throwing efforts, my parents managed to maintained a close and positive relationship with me.   They both made an effort so that I was comfortable coming to them.  I was never scolded for being open and honest and they did their best to truly listen.  At the same time I knew what their expectations were.  The expectations my parents held for me at home carried across multiple platforms.  These platforms included sports, friends’ houses, school, and even work.  I was to be respectful and help where I could; say please and thank you; be responsible; and not talk back to any adults.  These expectations helped me navigate through life and taught me a sense of right and wrong, moral and immoral, and that there were consequences for my actions (both good and bad).

I feel it is important to hold our children to these same expectations.  Children need to be aware what is allowed and what is not allowed.  They need to be taught these expectations so they can practice them and be successful in the real world – whatever their endeavors may be.  By having firm boundaries, children know what to expect.  They aren’t left in a gray area uncertain and questioning if they are going to get in trouble this time if they didn’t get in trouble last time.  This is where consistency and followthrough are important.  Threatening children with consequences and then not ever enforcing them teaches them that they don’t have to listen because those consequences won’t actually happen.  This could easily have a negative impact as time goes on if not corrected – just imagine Bobby in the work place not believe his boss will truly fire him if he doesn’t get his paperwork completed.

I also feel it is important that our children not only be held to these expectations, but made aware that these are universal expectations.  Children need to realize that they will be held accountable in all aspects of their life and that there will most definitely be consequences for their actions.  If you are disrespectful to your parent, you very well may be grounded, lose a privilege or be given an additional chore.  Likewise, if you are disrespectful at school you will lose recess (this is a debatable consequence and can be discussed at a later time); lose a privilege or be given an additional task. On the other end of the spectrum, students should also learn that if they work hard, are helpful, and go above and beyond that their efforts will be acknowledged (whether it be through a sticker; verbal acknowledgment; or even a natural, good, internal feeling).  I feel that if we want our children to be set up for success, not only do they need to understand these expectations but also understand that humility is an admirable thing.  Their ownership and honesty should be acknowledged when they take accountability (they should still have consequences enforced, but recognition for their honesty is a must!).  Accountability in the classroom is something that I see lacking greatly, today.

In order to ensure our children are set up for success emotionally and academically, we need to let them know that we are a team.  We need to recognize that despite the fear of burdening a parent-child relationship, there is probably some fault that the child can take ownership of.  We as a team, need to communicate with one another about what we are witnessing at home and in the classroom.  We need to acknowledge problems that are arising and positive behaviors that are also being observed.  We want the child to see and be aware that we are on the same page and that our expectations will be enforced across different domains.    Therefore, as a teacher, I need you to have faith in the integrity of what I am telling you.

As a teacher, I am in no way trying to tell you that your son is a horrible human being.  I am in no way trying to tell you that your daughter is the only guilty party in a given situation.  I apologize for any negative experiences you may have had with previous teachers, coaches, and/or parents of another child.  But please try to recognize that the majority of adults truly want what’s best for your child and are simply trying to reach out for help – help in managing a situation your child can learn and grow from.  Please do not automatically assume I am out to get your child or pass judgment on him/her/you.  And lastly, if you promise to not believe every single thing your child says about school, I promise to not believe every single thing I hear about home.

We are in this together.  In order to ensure success for our children we need to help them navigate them through life so they can be independent and good human beings.  They may fight you along the way, but I promise as they become adults, they will thank you.  But furthermore, they will respect you.

Sincerely,

A loving teacher trying her best

 

Making the Right Decision

life is sum of all decisions determined by priorities

My previous post discussed the frustration of having to interview.  For the most part, I feel I interview well.  I may come on strong, but I think it’s because I am not shy.  I don’t hesitate to answer questions and I try to come off knowledgable.  Most of the time, I feel this is accurately conveyed.  Fortunately, it was today.

Today, I interviewed for a 5th grade position about an hour away.  I was hesitant about the location but figured interviewing couldn’t hurt.  Practice makes perfect and it’s important to be open-minded.  At the very least, maybe I would make new connections that could lead me to where I am meant to be.

While driving home from the interview, I received a phone call asking for permission to contact references.  Of course this was a good sign.  The principal did not hesitate to call all three references and got back to me within an hour or so.  As you have probably assumed while reading this, I was offered the job.  Despite my gut instinct, I asked for time to discuss this over with my husband and get back to her which she had no problem doing.

I rarely ask for opinions on Facebook.  However, I put it out there to get feedback on if an hour drive is a crazy commute.  I think it’s good to have different opinions and perspectives (in all areas of life) as it allows you to see things differently.  It pushes you to evaluate your priorities and has you question how best to represent yourself and your morals.

Driving an hour there and an hour back adds up quickly.  However, I would get to have my own classroom and do something I’m truly passionate about.  I’m eager to perform well and learn as much as I can – and I could do that here.  But the man, who would be my co-teacher, specifically said he is hoping to find someone who will be here and commit to this family of teachers.

The most popular response on Facebook suggested that I take the job, and if something better comes along to turn it down.  Although it is true this is just business and this happens a log, it makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t want to burn any bridges and I don’t want to screw anyone over.  I would hate to leave them scrambling at the last minute to fill the position.  At the same time, it’s a job – I could love it.  It would help bring in money so we can finally have the funds to adopt a child of our own.  Maybe it won’t be too bad if I find podcasts and music and use that time to decompress.  However, in the winters the roads are horrible…. and this mental debate goes on and on and on and on….

I think at the end of the day, when making a decision like this, you have to go with your gut instinct.  Despite needing the money, I think it would be unfair to take the job.  I can’t commit to being apart of the community long-term as I assume after a year or so that drive would eat at me.  I would much rather have a job close by and I think I need to have faith that it will all work out how it’s supposed to.

For me, it’s important I walk away feeling good about how I handled the situation.  Hopefully, the principal will appreciate my honesty and maybe even pass my name on to someone in my area.  I need to just trust that it happens for a reason, and the job I’m meant to be in will fall in my lap – even if the school year is inching closer and closer.  My priority is being with my family, holding up a good reputation, and finding a job that I want to be in for years to come.  Therefore, I think I have concluded this isn’t the best fit and I will need to respectfully decline the offer.

Silver lining: At least I’m in a position to turn down an offer.  At least I have an offer.  At least I had an interview and hopefully there are more to follow.

To Know Me is to Love Me

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I adore teaching.  It is truly something I am passionate and I feel lucky to have found it.  I was so excited last year because I found a school I fit in, a team I loved, a community I loved, and best of all… I wouldn’t have to go back to job hunting.

Early in our careers it seems like all we do is interview.  As a new teacher, it is normal to get bounced around from school to school.  Maybe you were a long-term sub, maybe they didn’t have the FTE to keep you, or maybe it just wasn’t the right fit for you.  Whatever the reason to be, that probationary period really sucks.  I hate that time of not being 100% sure if there is a job for me next year, if I will get renewed, if I’m doing all that I can be doing.

So naturally, that is where life has led me. Back to the interviewing stages.  The worst part of this process, now, is that today everything is done electronically.  Although it makes it more convenient, it’s hard to stand out from the 100s of applicants that are applying to the same job.  As my mother has always said, “To know me is to love me!”  And it’s true! I personally make the best impressions, at least professionally, is to meet me in person.

I remember my first interview right after student teaching.  I was asked about RTI (response to intervention) and didn’t know the acronym.  I was so nervous and right before the interview itself, my husband had accidentally taken my keys along with his to work.  So I was stranded.  Which left me knocking on my neighbors door in a panic asking awkwardly if I could borrow her car.  I left that interview knowing instantly… “Welp, didn’t get that job!”

It can be a frustrating experience – especially when you know personally how good you are.  You have been told from administrators, parents, students, and other colleagues.  I by no means am perfect.  I’m still very new and have no problem owning my mistakes.  I have a lot to learn.  But I want to learn.  I’m eager and willing to learn.  I’m passionate about teaching and want to grow as a teacher.  I want to be that teacher students look back over the years and think to themselves, “Man, that Mrs. B really made an impact on me.”

I just went through my first interview experience while living in Michigan now.  I loved the  team.  The superintendent acted very befuddled when I entered the office asking me, “Are you sure you’re in the right place? Who told you to come here? What position?” Which left my heart beating and me in a panic knowing my interview was in 8 minutes.  He then cut himself off, ” — hahah I’m just kidding! They’ll be right with you!”

The community is small.  I like that.  The people were nice.  The superintendent was involved and made connections.  Unfortunately, I did not get the position.  But that is not to say I didn’t make connections I could use in the future.  They gave me a lot of positive feedback and it just came down to best fit.

My husband reminds me that it all happens for a reason.  I believe that.  I have to believe that.  But it still doesn’t make it any less disappointing or frustrating.  Time will tell.  It always does.  And I know I will look back and be like, “Isn’t it funny how things worked out?”  Now that I’m settled and I at least got one interview under my belt, it’s easier for me to stay positive.  Hopefully that perfect job is just around the corner.  Until then, I’ll keep chugging along! 🙂

Keeping an Open Mind

For the last two years, I have been a 6th grade teacher.  I’ve coached middle school volleyball and soccer and really found my groove.  Middle school is where I felt I belonged and I was committed to the idea.  The fact that most people couldn’t imagine the idea of working in a middle school further confirmed the fact that I was someone who was right for the job – that I was someone who could truly relate to the kiddos and make a difference.

However, transferring my teaching license in Michigan has been quite frustrating.  In Colorado I was licensed K-6 for elementary school.  In Michigan, elementary school is defined as K-5.  Despite the fact that I passed the Praxis test and was endorsed in secondary Language Arts, Michigan doesn’t care.  They will not simply accept a passed test but rather expects you to complete a program and either major or minor in the topic.  I already have a Master’s degree, so having to go to school for the same thing I’m already endorsed in (assuming I am committed to secondary education) seems silly to me.  Lastly, I have to pass two Michigan state tests in order to receive an official teaching license – one of which has three subtests.  Needless to say, I have been quite disappointed finding out all the hoops I have to jump through to be able to do what I love.

Because Michigan only approved me to teach elementary school, I’ve had to adjust my whole mindset.  It’s something I am no longer used to and have to just start accepting that I could still love teaching elementary.  After all, I have worked with kids of all different ages and have loved it.  I went to school to teach elementary school because clearly I enjoyed that age as well.  I think I just have forgotten how much fun that age is too.

I did a practicum in a preschool, I’ve done a practicum in a 2nd grade classroom, I student taught 4th grade, I taught for part of a year 5th grade, and then have done 2 years in 6th grade.  I loved 4th grade – in fact I thought for a while it was my ideal grade.  I loved the 2nd grade practicum – the students were cute, they felt safe with me, and I wanted to take them home as one of my own.

So despite the fact that the idea of teaching little ones scare me, I think it’s because I’m nervous I may not be as strong as I once was teaching those topics.  However, I have an interview for a 1st or 2nd grade position (it may have changed now so I’m not entirely sure) and I need to start getting excited.  There are a lot of benefits to teaching elementary school as well – particularly less grading.  Regardless of what I teach, as long as I have a good team and I have a sense of confidence teaching what I’m teaching, I know I’ll be successful.  I know I’m a good teacher.  I’m passionate about teaching, and if that enthusiasm continues, I know I will only grow to be a better teacher and hopefully become a major asset to any school I’m at.

For right now, I need to go with the flow.  I need to keep an open mind and just embrace where life takes me.  God has a plan for me and I need to relinquish any control I’m trying to hold on to.  Let’s be honest, I really don’t have any control.  I make plans and God laughs.  So keep your fingers crossed because one way or another, I will have a classroom of my own once again!

Home Intrusion

I have never been so mad in my life.

I will preface that sometimes we are too trusting.  That we have grown up living in a protected bubble.  And therefore we make errors.  We made the mistake of not checking to see if our garage door was closed.  We assumed it was.  It did not even cross my mind, though, to go verify and double even triple check.  I rarely lock the doors to my car unless I’m in public and there is something valuable in the car.  However, it’s very sad that we live in a world where we end up kicking ourselves because we didn’t do the previously stated actions.  I should not have to kick myself and be upset with myself because of someone who lacks common courtesy of people’s belongings.

As I was getting into my car with my husband, I noticed everything out of the middle compartment pulled out and thrown about.  I asked him if he was looking for anything and even wondered if the dogs had gotten into my stuff.  When he said, “No.” and also saw his car was in the same condition, it was not difficult to arrive at the same conclusion that someone had been in our cars.

Initially, I assumed they didn’t find anything as I typically don’t have anything worth stealing.  Half the time I keep my car unlocked is  because I’d rather someone realize it’s not worth their time than having to replace a broken window.  I did the same thing.  Brian realized his Army backpack, that he had all through Iraq, was taken with his gym clothes.  The clothes are replaceable but that backpack was filled with a lot of meaning for him.  It’s something that he wore on this back, to this day, with pride and honor.  He’s proud to be a veteran.  He earned that backpack.

I put the keys in the ignition looking around my car and then my heart sinks into my stomach.  My heart rate increases exponentially and I feel anger surging through my veins.  It hits me.  I left my new purse and wallet in the car.  Within my wallet had credit cards, cash, gift cards, my Social Security card, and my ID amongst whatever else I can’t remember.  I’m left pissed.  Livid.  Helpless.

We are doing everything we can to save for adoption right now.  We are making conscious efforts to not spend money if we don’t have to.  And yet, here we are.  Money was taken from me, purchases were made, and now we have to spend more money to replace stolen items.  How dare [enter name here] have the audacity to come onto my property.  How dare [you] fell self-righteous enough to go through my things, and take what you want.  How dare [you] be so self-centered and selfish to have no regard for anyone else but yourself and not realize the domino effect you may have on the very people you are stealing from.

And the kicker…there is nothing I can do.

So now I have to get a new driver’s license…so excited to go to the DMV.  I have to go to another place to get a Social Security card…woot woot.  Then cards have to be cancelled and we have to be issued new credit cards.  Lastly, I get to place a freeze on my credit file so no one can open any sort of account under my social security number.  Ugh this just sucks.  And there is nothing I can do.

We are patiently waiting for a police officer to arrive so we can make a report.  But with my experience, things like this do not get resolved.  It just really really sucks.  So much for our summer motto of “Don’t be a dick.”

So please, don’t assume anything and just be careful.  Lock your door.  Double check that your garages.  And pray to God that jerks don’t happen to come across your house if you and when you do forget to close your garage.  I’ve never been so mad.