I dug my own grave

I  sat in the staff workroom perfecting the upcoming book celebration plan. After kindergarten completes reading a Magic Tree House book – a second grade reading level – we decorate the cafeteria based on the book theme and have a dance party. For Midnight on the Moon, the scholars will walk in to a read aloud about the moon to see a blacked out room with bulletin board paper, stars and rocket ships on the walls, astronauts and moons hanging from the ceiling, a bowl of moon rocks in moon dust as centerpieces at each table and a pumped up playlist to get them moving after they eat.
All for them and to prove that I can excel at creation.
When my boss walked in, I was listening to a moon lullaby. I stopped it to find a more dance inducing song, and Boss told me to not stop on account of her. Smiling, I admitted I was searching for a better option.
As she placed her Wendy’s lunch on the table to sort through and refrigerate, I moved across the room to check the printer. I can lead a class of twenty-six five year olds, but striking up a common dialogue with a superior makes me bite my tongue. It was her who spoke. Curiosity I don’t know, but the Boss mentioned my approved day off. “I also saw that you added another day. Are you going somewhere?”
A conversation I didn’t expect, I was unprepared to lie. Stumbling sincerity: no, I just wanted another day to myself to write. Like a fifth grader asked about her feelings for her crush by the crush’s mom, I awkwardly added, “I can come in if you want me to.”
Where was the future me traveling back in time to stop me from committing stupidity?
Of course Boss tried to be lenient. Would I want Monday or Tuesday? I was getting a day off March 12th. That was a gift.
She packed up her prepped salad to take upstairs to eat in her office. I stood there in the empty space knowing if I screamed everybody would hear.
The chasm of frustration had me teetering on the endless rim of black hole vexation. What’s a personal day if I have to talk about it?
It’s Rich’s spring break that week. This semester has been hard on us. He juggles work, eighteen credits and jumping into game design without prior experience. We don’t see each other so much. All I wanted was to spend a long weekend with him, Indigo curled up between us as we continued our Naruto marathon. That day for vacation is approved. I just wanted the extra day for myself.
Why should I feel guilty about what I want? I take pride in my work, the youngest of the pack, I try to maintain my gait with the grade leader. Somehow I’m still the twelve year old who’s not good enough in comparison to the teachers who spend their weekends traveling to teacher conventions and hobble in noncontagious but diseased.
Scholars, parents, boyfriend, cat – and those are just the people who covet time and energy from me. Ice it with my meticulous desire to excel at creation in school projects, I don’t know how Supergirl does it. I don’t want to be taken care of, but I’m not taking care of myself either. How can I be entrusted to bring joy into anyone’s life?
I am a balloon filled with slime. Mud masked it can’t be popped; trickling life force leaving a trail of unappreciative attitude. I can’t inspire if I’m not my best self.
Coincidence awarded me the chance to blog nightly this week. This literacy testing period will be over soon and I will have to write twelve more lesson plans instead. The next testing period begins two days before Rich’s birthday. Personal days then won’t be an option so I won’t ask.
The worst hell isn’t torture. It’s a stretch of bleakness.
I used to be an actress, Jack Daniels my teacher, but it was a bad habit I had to let go of. A dull rock will never have the luster of pyrite – fool’s gold yet it sparkles. So I retreat into my mental cave of creation – for work and for myself – because the words I say aloud come out wrong.

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Dear Class of 2018

As midterms roll around the corner and the turning weather beckons spring break, does it all feel different in your final semester?

I always wonder. I never went into my last year knowing I would graduate. I thought I had four years. But in my sixth semester, after a tumultuous discussion with my parents, it was decided I would graduate a year early. I’d already completed my psychology major but had no intention going to graduate school and picking up a second English major didn’t seem promising to my parents.
Suddenly I was a boat without paddles or water.

A mental tug of war of personalities, I was a party girl and a committed writer. I didn’t know what was coming next.
Ironically that prepared me the most.

Some of you will be lucky. You will have a plan and a determination to stick to it. You will have a job before you graduate, a trampoline for you to enjoy your hard work and success.

But some of you will be lost. That’s okay – you’re about to learn so much. Just never stop trying.

It’s easy to give advice. That’s not my intention. Nor is it my intention to say my life is great. It’s not – it’s like everyone else’s – lot of hard work, effort and reward. If I can make it, then so can you.

When I graduated in 2016, I wasn’t proud of myself. I didn’t walk in the ceremony because I didn’t think I had anything to celebrate. Two years later, I don’t think that anymore.
I was twenty and in my first ever relationship that my parents didn’t support. After living on my own in college, I didn’t want to live with them and have a curfew. But all I had was a lowly Bachelor’s degree in psychology. It didn’t bode well for me on the job market and thus having freedom. But –

– I had a lot of varied work experience. Even if you don’t think you’ll get the job, you have to put yourself out there.
– Elaborate on a detail about yourself. Are you always on time? That’s responsibility. Are you focused? That’s efficiency. Do you organize group hangs knowing not all your friends will get along? You’re a budding strategist.
You have to believe in yourself before you ask anyone else to believe in you.
– Have a mindset growth. Are you garrulous and sometimes speak over others? Admit that you are zealous about your ideas but that you’re not a good listener yet. Do you hate asking for help? Take pride in your independence but be honest about working on being a collaborator.
– Sure confidence sells, but hiring teams are also built on recognizing earnestness. There is no perfect person – the hiring team just wants to know if your views, your personality, your vibe, your output will mesh with their company.
– Rejection will become life for a while. I couldn’t make it out as a writer because I was afraid of rejection. I still had to face it to get a job. I sent applications everywhere. From secretarial positions to school aides – but the silence I got matched my clueless energy. I wanted a job but I didn’t narrow it down to what I wanted to do.
– A job does not have to be a career. A career does not have to define you. But if you want full-time benefits, you’re going to have to choose doing something that you are interested in. It’s how I finally did my alternate route to teaching (The Alternate Route).
You know yourself the best. Be rational – aim for a sustainable field that matches your interests.
– You can love your job and still hate it some days. It’s like loving yourself. You’re awesome and sexy but sometimes you go ham with friends and drink a little too much and the hangover you get the next day? You are not proud. At. All. It’s okay. We all need to blow off steam.
– Fair warning: your first full-time jobs will not be ideal. My first full time job was a front desk secretary for an import and export business. I lasted a day. I was not interested and I realized being desperate for a job to pay for my lifestyle was not worth compromising my joy of production at work. My second full-time job was as a preschool teacher. I loved the kids and teaching was fun despite the awkward singing. But it was not in my job description to change diapers and I still had to do it. But I’m still grateful for that experience. Had it not been for the preschool giving me a chance to teach, I would not be teaching kindergarten today.
– When I started applying to elementary schools, I sent my resume to twenty-four schools in my district and neighboring districts. I didn’t hear back from a single one. I was a brand new teacher and no one wanted to take a risk on me. By fluke, I applied on Glassdoor to a school and within days they started the three part interview process. It was nerve racking. But they gave me a chance and for that I am grateful. I can’t forget that. See your job owes you nothing. You owe it everything you’ve got. So be a hundred percent sure that you’re going to give it your all. That’s when you reap the most rewards.
– Now, I love my job but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t get stressful. There are days I’m not sure if my scholars are learning anything. There are days when I struggle to follow the curriculum when the kids seem restless and need a brain break. But I have my coteacher and a supportive grade team who I can bond with. Who you work with will affect you. So get to know the people around you. You don’t have to be best of chums, but you should have someone you can be yourself with.

The one advice I will impart is that it is never to early to start saving. It’s a struggle constantly being mindful of eating out and going out to movies. I also have to take care of cats! Believe me I try to pamper both of them.
As a teacher, I use an app called Shoparoo that helps my school earn points when I upload pictures of my receipts. When I look back on the list, it helps me keep track of which category of expenditures has increased more than my liking. My bank, PNC, offers Virtual Wallet to students to help budget and even though I’m long past the days of being an university student, I continue to use it to be able to see a bar graph of my spending. Mentally it helps me curb spending in that department.
If you are more of a visual person, there are many more apps you can try according to Forbes.  I personally would recommend Mint. Available for both iPhones and Androids, its brightly colored visuals make money management more carefree. It’s a free app – an awesome way to start saving money! – and helps you plan a budget out. I used it while I was in college and was quick to notice and change my drinking habits with friends to spend on dresses instead. 😛
It’s a sad truth but you can’t survive without money. So just be conscientious about it.
As for the rest of adulting that is hinged on you getting a job – you’ll get one. Failing is necessary to build resilience needed to showcase you are a badass who won’t quit at the first sign of stress at work. Take it from me, I was a psychology major who took 12 credits per semester and did better in my writing classes than psych classes. I wasn’t a top dog student, but that’s exactly why I am a teacher. Studying hard is only one facet of a diligent person. It’s not about the studying as much as it’s about your willingness to not quit until you succeed.
As said before, my life’s not perfect. But I’ve built my freedom from ground up to date who I want, to be where I want and to go where I want. If I can do it, so can you.

Gun Control NOW!

I start my car
but I don’t where to drive it
idling, I toy with the radio
while the engine warms up
indecisive, I step out
but I can’t be home either

The beauty of poetry is that you can say what’s on your mind but not truly reveal anything at all. Like any art, the audience can make anything out of it that they choose.
My car is what I really want to write: about the Florida shooting. But I don’t know where to begin. As a teacher, I have anger and sorrow and fear sown into me. I want to pour out but I know my circumventing will overrun a gas tank. Thinking about anything else is bliss. But in this case, silence is a crime.

American born Desi, my parents wanted me to love their culture, but I chose to call myself an American first most and only. I don’t want to live to India. I love traveling to Britain and France and Switzerland and Canada, but my home is United States. The land of dreams and freedom – but it’s no longer that.
In its muddled state of affairs all we have is a dream to be free of gun violence – of all violence. How long do we have to wait for that?

The news is like a taunt – what if I can’t protect my scholars? What if I’m not a good enough confidant or role model for them to lean on me when they need it? What if I can’t teach them to express with words?
There are no answers. We can all do our best but it won’t be good if the laws don’t change.

Up until 12th grade, I learned history, the past. Then I took AP Government and Politics and I learned about policies, laws and wars all in my lifetime. It was my past, what I’d grown up with on the news, now permanently etched in a book as a recording.
This shooting will be immortalized in text; my five and six year olds will one day be learning about it. This has to be the last one. I don’t want them to think it is a norm for “troubled” people, people with mental health disorders to go around shooting the world. I don’t want them to grow up accepting the world is unsafe. I don’t want them growing up it’s okay to let a disorder consume you and let actions speak louder.
We have the chance to be on the right side of history. Now or never, the 2nd amendment has to be changed. The allowance of personal guns to protect ourselves is only endangering more lives. It’s ironic, we need protection from guns and people think the solution to that is letting everyone have a gun. Fight fire with fire and there are more lives lost and hearts broken.

I’m not proud to call this my country anymore.

I know it’s been days since the incident and I know people have voiced their beliefs already. I – I didn’t want to face it.
I love Valentine’s Day. I have gold heart decals all over my room, pink and red hearts hanging from the ceiling, a wall of my favorite television couples and above my bed love letters. To spread how much I value love, I wanted to be on the Valentine’s Day committee at my school. The scholars made Valentines for their parents. they wrote and drew on hearts which teacher they are grateful for and why; these were put up in all of the school hallways. The cafeteria was decorated with streamers and hearts hanging from the ceiling. We made time for a quick dance party to get our hearts pumping. I had more ideas – I wanted to include STEM and have the kids make hearts out of toothpicks and marshmallows, make heart slime, learn about the real heart structure – but we ran out of time in preparation but I pumped to do it even better next year.
I wore a black dress with metallic flowers of various shades of pink, I was so excited to let love ring. The tragedy – I couldn’t comprehend it. How. Why. Why.

During lunch, we had our scholars share out grateful hearts. One of my scholars, Jamie, said he was grateful for me and coteacher for protecting our class. He was talking in reference to a classmate who is autistic and is working on emotion regulation. Sometimes he puts the class in a tricky situation by pulling and throwing classroom materials around. Jamie’s choice of words made my heart sad knowing the class saw it as needing protection. There are worse dangers out there, ones I never want my kids to ever find out from personal experience.

Columbine and Virginia Tech happened when I was in elementary school. I don’t remember much in the news and partly because while my parents didn’t want to scare me. The first school shooting that I remember that left me speechless and broken was Sandy Hook Elementary. It was only six years ago but 28 people died. And still guns are allowed? How is this okay?
Lives in schools aren’t the only ones important. All lives are. The Las Vegas shooting just last year, the Orlando nightclub just two years ago, the Sutherland Springs church shooting – a church? I want to call them monsters who do this, but they’re not, they’re just people. What did we do to let them become like that?

This is my first year teaching. I take a lot of pride in my profession; it’s a lot of hard work and energy – teachers are superheroes. A lot of 22 year olds don’t believe it. They want to make money and they want to make it fast. It’s parents who look at me with gratitude and thank me for choosing the profession. I get it – they are entrusting their babies in my hands and heart to teach, to love, to help their minds and emotions grow. Really we are all a part of teachable moments with people of all ages. Be fair and be open-minded.

But even if all neighbors were kind and empathetic, but it would not hold a candle to the government not changing the law on gun control.
It’s not okay that people die. It’s not okay that control of their life is taken away by someone with a gun. It’s not okay that one cannot travel outside not knowing if they will return home that night. How can we live in a world without trust? Power should not be in the hands of a gun wielder.

I shouldn’t have to wait for my country to make the right choice in protecting all of its people.

 

stressed out

how can i be so old
and still feel the weight
of looming admonishment

like heat it rises
the overlapping deadlines
i can’t move my pawn
without sacrificing my knight

Rubik’s challenge
chuck it – but career
pick a color for the day

rebel strikes back

Why is the first reaction to criticism rejection? It’s this automatic reaction to save our prides. It stings worse when you’ve actually made an effort.

I checked my email to see if I got comments on my guided reading lesson plans. Occasionally there are a few formatting slights or material presentation misprints and sometimes I’m lucky enough that I did it right. But today there were more comments than the first time I wrote my plans back in September and it was unnerving realizing I had to edit twelve lesson plans. It’s hard enough to write that many in a week with deadlines of subject lessons plans and homework creation. My mood soured.

Since the last testing round, guided reading has changed in our school. While in the long run, once we teachers have fully grasped all the changes and have well-oiled implementation, our scholars will fully benefit from the change in style that allows them to learn to read while increasing their schema, right now we teachers are in the same boat as leadership. The information that is coming down to us is in a narrow pipeline and with no exemplary model to follow, we try and fail and get a thousand edits that leave me with more questions than answers. What am I doing right?

Our school has an education consultant who makes the trek from Brooklyn to Plainfield to help fortify the foundation of our school. A lovely lady she works with each teacher one to one listening to their questions and goals and then assisting them in improving their outcomes. Apparently what I gathered from our discussion from our meeting earlier this week was misinterpreted; I accepted the tip of the iceberg as the whole rather than delve into the frigid waters of the big picture.

We start our reading with a text presentation, a hook question if you may, like the one I started with at the beginning of this entry. Over the last few months I’ve been told to do it differently: from writing an engaging question that opens a discussion to asking a yes/no question that scholars can answer by showing a thumbs up and down to. Now to promote more usage of schema – which is much needed – I thought the consultant wanted us to present the text’s big picture in the question. For example, if the leveled reading book is called Banana Sometimes and on each page there is a pattern in which readers are told what bananas sometimes look like, it is best to create a hook based on. Thus to my scholars I asked, what do bananas sometimes look like? I let them talk to their partners before they shared out and then I was able to tie in their answers to how the book would read and what the book would tell us about bananas.

Wrong. Apparently, the big picture is much bigger. In the case of the aforementioned text in which a boy is playing with his banana as a boat, phone, spider, fingers, pencil, he is really using his imagination to pretend what the banana could be. Thus, my opening question should have been about how my scholars use their imagination to play with – a pencil. Then I would take their experience/replies and connect it to the book’s big picture to allow for a growth in schema by comparison of practice and told by story.

I get it. I understand it. But I was looking forward to my Thursday night with no work to do. Because every night I come home and I have some preparation to do, some email to answer, some plan to write. When you’re a teacher, you can try, but you can’t really turn it off. There’s just too much to do.
And today that made me want to scream. Because if the edits were given sooner, if I had prep longer than twenty minutes, if there was a quiet place for me to think during my prep, if this distinction was made clear before with a model, if if if if if if.
I still have to get it done. But I was told by tomorrow afternoon so I chose not tonight. Even though I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

Tirelessly I try to exceed expectations and face responsibilities with optimism, but I’m stifling the kid inside of me. And she’s banging on my heart to get out. The devil on my shoulder whispers for me to look for a mundane 9 to 5 ticktock workplace, but the kid in me ignores that. She just wants me to remember the fun parts of work: the challenge of coming up with sentences that the scholars can read and have sight words, finding new ways to make lesson plans engaging with videos and stories and hands on activities, doing arts and crafts to make classroom decorations, laminating for literacy centers. Still teaching related but sometimes the brain wants to follow the heart.

Let it. What good are you to anyone if you are dead at heart?

inside driving

I’m a decent driver even though Rich would disagree. It’s only because his lovely self distracts me! Nonetheless, to get a discount on my car insurance for three years I chose to take a Defensive Driver course. The exam at the end was tough! It definitely took me by surprise that my common sense could not compete with the 300 minutes of instruction. Relying only what I knew did not make the cut 😦
I want to share some of the things I learned in case any one wants to start the new year with a discount for their car insurance – and feel whammied by the questions like me.

– Energy that is dissipated in a crash is called kinetic energy. (Ugh, how could I forget physics?)

– Unexpected traffic congestion can lead to more aggressive behavior behind the wheel. (I thought it would be the car in front taking frequent breaks. I know that would piss me off)

– Modern vehicles have steel beams in doors to protect passenger compartments. (Well…I guess it was somewhere in the reading…)

– Visibility during the night is limited to the area immediately in front of motor vehicle. (This one I knew! Goes to show you should never second guess yourself)

– If your car breaks down, you should park where the vehicle can be seen at least 200 feet in every direction. (I looked this answer up online and I couldn’t find it. Hope you’re luckier than me and take a different test)

– In 2005, approximately 2.5 million people were injured on the roadway in the United States. (2005?! Blimey, this test is old. I was 10 then!)

– The economic cost of motor vehicle crashes in the United States is estimated at $230.6 billion annually. (Well if this is based on stats from 2005, I don’t want to know what they are now.)

– If two vehicles meet on a narrow mountain road in which there is only room for one vehicle to travel at a time, the vehicle going downhill must yield to the vehicle going uphill.

I passed by the skin of my teeth! I hope you have better luck proving you are a good driver. (I suggest taking the exam from a direct source and not the one recommended by your insurance.) Now as I drive I am much more cautious. I choose to play Spotify or a CD than be distracted by my radio. Tonight’s going to be a late night drive so having someone with me will help me stay awake. I’m grateful I’m not driving far because I don’t have to take a break after two hours of driving. I really don’t want to step out of my car unless it’s to run into my house and straight to bed.

Safe driving everyone! Make sure to have a designated driver or a couch to sleep on! And beware of the icy patches in this frosty weather!
I know I’ll be making Rich drive back home tonight 🙂