Teacher Tangent Tuesday #1

Who doesn’t love alliteration? Three T’s in a row? Hot damn! As you may have picked up from other posts, when I’m not writing this amazing blog, I’m a full time teacher. I started teaching three years ago when I became a corps member for Teach for America in the West side of Chicago, and have continued on until today.

Teaching is hard ya’ll. You have to figure out a way to get content to a room full of kids who don’t really want it. You need to take on the emotional baggage of children who are going through things that no child should ever go through. Some days I want to throw the towel in, but I don’t. There are fun parts about teaching and one of my favorites is the things kids say. I happen to teach in an Autism classroom, so filters are even rarer. So here’s a new series I’m starting, where every Tuesday I’ll be telling you about stuff that goes down in my classroom.

#1. Cat Calling

Okay, so, last week, I got a new student in my class. Yesterday, we were walking in the hallways when I see a girl we don’t know walking past us. The new student screams “hey shorty, you got a boyfriend?”

Keep in mind, he doesn’t know her. He is literally cold cat calling. He then does this with every woman who passes us by. Don’t worry friends – I made sure we had a chat later about how to appropriately talk to women. It is Women’s History Month, so it fit in well with our discussion.

#2. Where Do Babies Come From?

I just realized that most of my stories this week are going to involve my new student. He’s pretty funny, I must admit.

One of the girls in my class asked me if I had children. I said no. She then tells me I should adopt. New kids pipes in “Mrs. M, aren’t you married?” I tell him yes. “Well, I think you guys should just get to it then… I think you guys can figure it out.”

#3. Sweet Notes

One of my kids wrote me this poem. Safe to say, I cried a bit. That is all. (Don’t you worry – we are actively working on both grammar and spelling).

So there ya have it – a little peek into what has kept me amused at work this week. What about your job do you enjoy?

Head + Heart = Hustle

My Values Aren’t For the Greater Good

Last weekend, I went to session two of the work on purpose fellowship and I discovered both my strengths and my values.

To catch ya’ll up: my top five strengths were harmony, communication, empathy, input and consistency. My top three values… are non-compliance (hahaha), physical health, and humor.

This weekend, I, Jeanette, learned that I am not as good of a person as I thought I was. AND I’M OKAY WITH THAT! In all honesty, anyone who writes that they value world peace and global warming more than anything else in the world is a damn liar. Maybe Elon Musk is on that level of selflessness, but he was able to achieve selfish goals already.

My values and my strengths make me who I am, and after examining them, I understand why I operate the way that I do. I also totally get why my pet peeves are present. My strength is consistency, so if you say you’ll do something and you don’t… I don’t have faith in you anymore. I value input, so reading makes me feel so damn good, because I get to put some information in my noggin. My value of non-compliance… I get why I question everything that is asked of me.

I think it’s critical that I understand these parts of myself. Before analyzing this, I thought of myself as a “nice” person who does things for others, when really my values are pretty damn self centered. Taking my values and strengths, and putting them against what I do in my current job, makes me understand why I am not thrilled to go to work everyday. Teachers don’t really have room for non-conformity – there’s too many protocols we need to follow. I don’t input all that much into myself at work because the academics I teach are so rudimentary.

After this weekend, I’ve been thinking extensively about happiness and careers and strengths and all that good stuff. I’m curious, how many people are pursuing careers that truly suit them? How is their happiness correlated to that? How can I use my strengths and values, and couple them with my passions, to find my dream job? Is that even possible?

Book Review Sparking Joy

January Booket List Review

According to the weather app, it feels like -32 degrees outside right now. All that makes me want to do is curl up with a cuppa coffee and a good book and get down to it. There’s nothing like a book that can take you out of your current reality (which happens to be a tundra for us) and swiftly move you into another life. This year, I am rediscovering my love for reading. As a kid, I remember staying up all night devouring books. Junie B. Jones was my advocate, Harry Potter was my first love and Jo March was my childhood idol.

As I got older, I began to read less. In college, I felt guilt whenever I picked up a book that wasn’t assigned reading. After college, I found myself lacking time to read, or so I told myself. As a teacher, I rarely see a child with their head in a book. When I offer free time in the classroom, books are never what they reach for. It makes me sad, and reminiscent for my own childhood. This year, I have decided to read 100 books. I’ve watched a decent amount of Netflix, and there’s a 37.86% chance that I regret the time that I spend on a show. I’ve never regretted a book, even if it wasn’t a book that lined up with my beliefs or values. I’ve always gotten something from a book, whether it was a new idea, or an affirmation to my current beliefs. Sometimes, it was just a laugh, but a much needed one. So here is month one of my reading challenge, punningly titled my booket list (get it? bucket list? booket? book?). This month I read 8 books, and each one gave me something. Keep reading for my very informed and professional review of them all 😉

#1: A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

“Frustrated at never being able to figure out which silver Prius was mine, I put a second Obama sticker on the bumper, because having only one made it indistinguishable from the rest. I suppose, if I really wanted to make it easier to find, I’d slap a National Rifle Association sticker on it.” – Ayelet Waldman

I started the month off with a book that I typically would not have picked up. If I’m reading 100 books this year, I might as well learn about some unfamiliar ideas. This book was everything a quality book should be, in my opinion. It was funny, factual and informative in an amusing way. The author, Ayelet Waldman, described her experience with experimenting with microdosing LSD. She does so in an attempt to improve her moods and make her relationships with her family stronger. The book is written in diary form, describing each day in her 30 day experiment. Her writing is research backed, which left me with fun facts to use at future dinner parties. Did you know that 67% of women who are admitted to psychiatric facilities are admitted the week before their cycle begins? Try that one out next time you find yourself in a lull in conversation. This book was great, and I loved her style of writing. 5 out of 5.

#2: Green Enough by Leah Segedie

After a strong start with the previous book, I was excited to dive into this one. I had heard the author on a podcast I listen to discussing it, and immediately ordered it. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I’m as crunchy as granola. I tend to grab for essential oils before Nyquil. Grassfed beef is my jam, as is organic coffee (the mold people, look into the mold!) This book seemed to be the bible for granola living. I read this book quickly, in part because the author wrote it in an amusing manner (I can’t resist a book that openly curses) but also because a lot of information was repetitive for me. This book has some great tips though, and I left with some new information. Did you know that when companies took out BPA, many replaced it with a chemical that may be even more harmful? You bet your bottom dollar I won’t use plastic tupperware again. I would suggest this book to anyone who is beginning to live a toxic free life. It’s a great starting point, and has excellent recommendations. Also, check out the author’s website! She has lists of toxic free replacements for day-to-day things.

#3: An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

“If I can’t feel, if I can’t move, if I can’t think, and I can’t care, then what conceivable point is there in living?” – Kay Redfield Jamison

This book was the second book I read this month that discussed mood. The author, Kay Redfield Jamison, is a psychologist whose work centers around bipolar disorder. This book was a memoir of her life, as a person figuring out a way to live with bipolar disorder while helping others around her. It was an eye-opening read, which portrayed bipolar not only as a disorder, but as an asset. It explained that many people don’t want to take medication, because it dulls their brilliant minds. It was a beautifully written book that ran through her life from childhood to the present. It was raw and heart breaking at times, and insightful throughout. It was honest and I loved it for that.

#4: Slow by Brooke McAlary

“Be a curator of your life. Slowly cut things out until you’re left only with what you love, with what’s necessary, with what makes you happy.” — Leo Babauta

Intention is a such a buzz word, but it’s also something I am striving for this year. I want to be intentional, with my words, my actions and my times. This book was on my radar last year, but I didn’t want to pay full price (I know, I’m cheap AF). I was in a thrift store in Logan Square and came across it for $1.99. HELL YES. I bought and immediately devoured this book. The author, Brooke McAlary, also wanted to live with intention. Upon opening the book, one would think it was a book on minimalism, but it isn’t. It’s a book on happiness, and how adding things in, and cutting things out, can lead to it. While I did think the book was a bit, er, fluffy, I did find some takeaways. This book made me realize the lack of presence I have in the moment. After reading this book, I would catch myself in that state, and bring myself back down to earth. If you’re looking for inspiration to lead a more intentional life, this is a great book to start with.

#5: When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

“Just Like Canada, with Better Bacon.” – Steven D. Levitt

My husband got me into this genre of book when we first started dating. A few weeks into seeing each other, I went on vacation with my family. He handed me a stack of books, which included the original Freakonomics. That book, to this day, is still one of my favorite reads. I would describe the genre as business pop – a fun take on “boring” concepts. This book was a collection of blogs that the authors had publishes on their website. It was a quick read, that left me with a new understanding of why certain things in the world are the way they are. (Sidenote: after reading this book, I have now read all 5 Freakonomic books. Does this make me a freakonomic?!) This book is great if you don’t have much time to read, as each entry is at most, two pages. Give it a shot, you’ll leave with some fun facts!

#6: Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

“Just when we think we have a system, …the system collapses. Just when we know our way around, we get lost. Just when we think we know what’s coming next, everything changes.”  – Anthony Doerr

Spring break this year will be spent in Italy, thanks to a great deal I found on Google flights. I enjoy reading books set in places that I will visit – it adds to that wonderful feeling of anticipation to get there. This book was part history, part travel guide and part parenting 101. The author describes his experience winning an award that involved a year in Rome, soon after the birth of his twins. It was beautifully written, but slow at times. I enjoyed how he discussed the narrative of Rome, especially from an American viewpoint where nothing in our country has much history. It was a fun read, but not an incredibly memorable one, in my opinion.

#7: Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman

“Let’s all commit ourselves to the basic civility of minding our own business. Failing that, let’s go back to a time when we were nasty and judgmental, but only behind one another’s backs.”  – Ayelet Waldman

After reading her book on microdosing, and telling my husband how hilarious I had found it, he bought me this one. Some people online reviewed it poorly, saying it was too personal, but as a nosy person, I loved it! Ayelet Waldman discusses her experience as a mother of four, but more importantly, discusses what the role of a mother is in today’s society. This book was honest about motherhood, and didn’t attempt to use rose colored glasses, which was refreshing. As a person who has not yet experienced motherhood, it was soothing to know that it isn’t expected to be perfect. As a woman who wants children and a career, it was encouraging to know that it can be possible to be successful with both. It was funny, sarcastic and informative, similar to her other book. Go check it out (checkout her Instagram too, because she is quite funny on there as well)!

#8: Becoming by Michelle Obama (duh)

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”  – Michelle Obama

This book was a holiday present from one of my best friends, and I absolutely loved it. I’m 24 right now, and unsure of what is next for me in my career. It was reassuring that at 24, Michelle Obama felt similarly. This book went through all the phases of her life. She wrote about her upbringing on the South side. She wrote about her time at Harvard and how unfulfilled she was as a lawyer. She discussed how she didn’t (and still doesn’t) like politics. It was honest and that it all that I can ask of a memoir. It also had pictures in the middle, for visual learners.

So there we have it folks! Those were my reads for the month of January! I enjoyed them all, for an assortment of reasons, and don’t regret a single one (digression: I did watch 20 minutes of a show called Yummy Mummy on Netflix, which I completely regret). Let’s see what words come my way in February!

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”

Lemony Snicket

Confessions of a Teacher

From 8am to 4pm, I’m a special education teacher. I’ve been a teacher for three years now, and I have a lot of feelings about it. Some days, it’s really flipping hard – usually emotionally, sometimes physically. I’ve also had really easy days. I’ve had days where I’ve left work feeling inspired about what I do, and days where I’m left thinking “What’s the point?”

Some days look like the photo above – messy and chaotic. My first two years, I would cry before, during and after work. Those first two years were spent at a school that I did not feel valued at. I worked in a classroom with students with moderate to severe disabilities, ranging from autism to cerebral palsy. I had no experience with teaching before (my degree was in exercise science), and had come to teaching through Teach for America. I would come in early, stay late and work my butt off on weekends to prepare things for the room that would inevitably be ruined. I can’t blame the kids for that – it was, for many of them, their first experience outside of their parent’s homes. Many had experienced more trauma than most adults experience throughout their lives. Most of them just yearned for attention from somebody, anybody.

How my room looked when it was actually clean

Those first two years I felt more like a babysitter than an educator. A good day was one in which I didn’t have to file an incident report about a student being hurt. A good day was not having a piece of wood furniture thrown at me. A great day was getting through lessons – it didn’t matter how well or how thoroughly. I was working full time and going to school. I hated it, but I stuck through because I had made a commitment and I knew damn well that if I left, those kids would be left without a teacher for the rest of the year. My little sister has been in a similar classroom her whole life, and I knew the impact her teachers had made on her. Regardless of how I felt day to day, I knew my impact on these kids could be powerful.

My sister, who inspired me daily to continue to teach

After those two years, I switched from elementary to high school. I now teach students with similar disabilities, but in grades 9, 10 and 11. The difference is astounding. I leave work with energy now.

I equate teaching elementary school to teaching little humans how to navigate social settings for the first time. “Don’t lick your friends!” “You cannot eat out of the garbage bin!” “Chairs are for sitting, not kicking!”  Teaching high school is more about preparing these students, who are accustomed to the school setting of following preset rules, how to function in the real world. We take trips to grocery stores to compare prices on cereal. We practice calling Best Buy for more information on their sales. We use the computer to search for tickets to basketball games. I rarely raise my voice, and the kids respect me and understand that I am there to help them.

My work now feels more meaningful, not that my work in the past wasn’t. In order to take these field trips and to practice these real world skills, my students had to master how to attend to school. Their elementary and middle school teachers instilled those skills in them, and I recognize and understand how difficult that job was. I’m not sure if teaching is something that I can do in the long term. It drains me, to think about every kid, every day and then do what’s best for all of them. I get emotional when I hear what my students have gone through. Experiencing what it’s like to work in one of the largest school districts has made me aware of problems (that have solutions), which are harming our future generations. Maybe one day, I will be a person who has the solutions to make the system work. For now though, I will continue to be the teacher that my students need. I will continue to advocate for them, listen to them and educate them. Fingers crossed that today is a good day. How can it not be, when I received the note below on Friday?