Archive | November, 2012

Thanks-Vember 30, The End

30 Nov

Today marks the last day of November, and I was pretty good about blogging every day! Even with all the crazy deadlines and assignments and family commitments and theatre work I’ve been doing, I only missed a couple of days.

But I missed yesterday. I wasn’t thankful for anything yesterday. I was not in a good place the last few days. And today I decided to make an appointment with a school counselor. Most colleges and universities offer counseling services to their students, and I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of it. College is stressful – even when, like me, you’ve already completed four years of it and are now back at it. Actually, maybe that makes it more stressful – when I was in college the first time, I didn’t have to pay rent for the years I lived at home or in the dorms, and when I did move out my financial aid covered almost everything, I just had to work a few hours a week to pay for fun things like movies. I got stressed about tests, and stressed about relationships, but nothing seemed too overwhelming.

But now, it’s hard. I’m struggling to pay rent, struggling to keep up with my schoolwork, I’m struggling to maintain my relationships, and let me tell you – I’m sick and tired of being broke. After college, I worked minimum wage jobs (or less – two years in AmeriCorps) and pinched every penny. There was a point when I wouldn’t use the clothes dryer in my apartment building because it cost $1.00. Instead I hung my wet clothes all over my apartment. I’m not that poor anymore, but I have to pinch and save and I want to buy my family and friends holiday gifts and bake and I just don’t know how I can do it all, and pass all my classes, and write all these papers. So I made a choice. It was sort of hard for me to make the appointment, I almost walked out. But I had a friend there for support, and that definitely helped.

Two days ago, The Bloggess tweeted:

“There would be less people coming out with “brave secrets” if everyone would just be honest about having the exact same secrets.”

(PS – she’s hilarious but don’t click if you’re easily offended)

So, I’m sharing my “brave secret” with you, because it seems like the thing to do. I decided I needed to talk to someone about all the stress I’m feeling. Is it normal to feel this stressed? Maybe not, and maybe this will help.

On this last day of November, this last day of publicly giving thanks – I’m thankful that my university offers a support net. I’m thankful that my classmates are also there to support me. And I’m thankful for all of you who read my blog.

Also, because I have gotten a lot out of this blog, and because I was inspired by Gretchen Reubin’s The Happiness Project, I’ve decided to start a Gratitude blog. I’m not going to have a daily post requirement for myself, but I’ll post regularly about things I am grateful for. I hope you’ll check it out!

Thankful for: A healthy body

28 Nov

I haven’t left the house in two days. It’s getting a little overwhelming. I’ve had some intense stomach pain and headaches, which could either be because I’m stressed out (end of the quarter! write all the papers!) or because I ate something with gluten in it (three Thanksgiving meals at other peoples houses…). It’s a bummer that the effects of gluten on my body mirror so many other things. Sometimes it’s stomach pain, sometimes it’s congestion, sometimes it’s body aches – that’s a big reason gluten intolerance is so difficult to diagnose.

However, in the long run, I am a pretty healthy person. As long as I am hyper-vigilant about what I eat, I can avoid gluten and those nasty side effects. I don’t have asthma, or diabetes, or any of the other illnesses that affect many of my close friends. My body is whole and strong. And for that I am thankful.

What do we do when we encounter students whose bodies are not whole and strong? Students who are wheelchair-bound, or have a terminal illness? These students deserve to receive the same education as their able-bodied peers, but there can be some difficulties. What are some roadblocks you might encounter while teaching students with disabilities, or with critical illnesses? How might we work together to make sure these students are fairly served?

Thanks-Vember 27: Taking Risks

27 Nov

Two years ago, tonight, I invited a really great guy to go see a concert with me.

I was tired of waiting for things to happen, so I decided to give it a little push. (Well, maybe not little. Subtlety has never been my strong suit.) Lo and behold, he said yes, and he still likes me! We are celebrating our anniversary by working on our separate projects – he on a play and me on my piles of homework – but it’s still a special day.

So today I am thankful for taking risks. I took a risk asking out this man. I took a risk applying to this program. I try to take risks every day (small ones!). I think it’s working out for me so far!

Thanks-vember 26

26 Nov

What am I thankful for today? I’m thankful for the chance to catch up with friends over grown-up beverages. I’m thankful for truffle fries and discussing school. I’m thankful for truffle fries and not discussing school.

I’m also thankful I am in school with a group of people who support each other. We might say something that is controversial. We might talk about touchy subjects. But we are a cohort – a group, and we value each other.

Thanks-Vember 25

25 Nov

I’m thankful for sunny days, coffee shops, and wi-fi. I’m especially thankful for the ability to work at a coffee shop, on wi-fi, with my classmate, on our homework. We got a lot done today, and I’m feeling a little better about the next two weeks.

Thanks-Vember 24, Small Business Saturday

24 Nov

While the Friday after Thanksgiving is known for its retail over-load, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is known as “Small Business Saturday.” I learned yesterday that, ironically, Small Business Saturday was started by a large business – American Express.

A discussion of why small businesses are important could be a great introduction to an economics unit. Research could be done on the flow of money, on the number of small businesses in your community, and the impact these businesses have on local issues. A comparison between small local businesses and large national chains could also be an interesting classroom activity. Additionally, local business owners are often really excited to take part in school activities, from classroom visits to career nights.

There is a lot of great information out there, like this infographic from Business News Daily:

Today, I’m thankful for local businesses – most of my retail jobs were at these small, independent companies, and I’m glad there is an “official” day to celebrate them.

Buy-Nothing Day

23 Nov

As a person, and now as a teacher, I am constantly trying to “define” myself. Who am I, really? What is important to me?

Today, “Black Friday,” is a big part of who I am. Because, instead of waiting in line at 4 am (or even overnight) in order to get the “best deal” on things I really “need,” I celebrate Buy Nothing Day. The main concept is to pay attention to what is really important. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I think the more you concentrate on what you don’t have, the more you lose sight of what you do have. What I have is amazing friends and family. A roof over my head. Enough to eat, clothes to keep me warm and dry, and a great university program in which I am learning to become the best teacher I can be.

Last year, I worked retail on Black Friday. I got up at 5:45, and worked for 8 hours, selling things to people who had waited in line for hours. I didn’t even have it that bad. Some stores open even earlier, and this year many large stores were open on Thanksgiving night, so people could “get their deals” even earlier. Let’s keep in mind that retail employees usually arrive at work 1-3 hours before a store opens. Which means, if you really need to buy your discounted TV at 8pm on Thanksgiving night, the employee who sold it to you probably missed dinner with his or her family.

Ok, but what does this have to do with education? A lot. As a teacher, I hope to give my students a sense of pride in what they have, what they can do, and who they are. A big-screen TV doesn’t define you, a good deal on the hottest video game doesn’t define you – your actions define you. A grade doesn’t define you, the work you put in to earn that grade does.

I am also well aware that it is likely I will be teaching the children of parents who are expected to give up their Thanksgiving to ensure a good retail turnout. As a teacher, it will be partially in my hands to remind these students that they are important in this world. As William Ayers says in the final chapter of To Teach:

The fundamental message of the teacher is this: You must change your life. Whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, the teacher invites you to a second chance, another round, perhaps a different conclusion. The teacher posits possibility, openness, and alternative; the teacher points to what could be, but is not yet. The teacher beckons you to change your path. (p 161)

Whoever my students are, I want to be a teacher who helps them to know that they can change their life. And that they can change the world, simply by changing their own path.

I am thankful today for all the people who do have work. The people who gave up their holiday (or the day after) to sell or cook or serve things. The people who don’t have a choice, but who work hard to make sure their families are taken care of.

I am also thankful for the people who choose not to participate in the craziness of the day. It’s a small act, choosing to sit out of this retail madness, but I think it can help define who we are as a culture – are we people who care about others, or do we only care about ourselves? Can money really buy happiness?

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – His Holiness The 14th Dali Lama

It’s almost Thanksiving! (Giving Thanks, day 20 & 21)

21 Nov

Yesterday, I left my house at 7:50am and didn’t get home until 10:30pm. And I survived! I am thankful for that 🙂

Today I’m thankful for this 5-day weekend. I was going to get right into the homework swing, but I haven’t. And that’s ok, because I have four more days (well, 3 and a half because I plan on doing nothing but eating tomorrow afternoon). I am thankful for the awesome show I am working on, which has a preview on Friday night. I’m thankful for professors who take time to chat about stress and workload and who give good feedback – but most importantly make me feel heard.

I’m thankful for the fact that my awesome man-friend went to the store for me yesterday so I didn’t have to go today. I’m thankful for friends who are hosting a “Friendsgiving” tonight. I’m thankful for my awesome ridiculous, extended family – many of whom I’m not actually “related” to (by blood or by law), but who provide me with support and inspiration every day.

With that said, I’d like to ask you something. Can you try, in the frenzy of “The Holiday Season” that is rapidly approaching, to remember the things that are really important in your life? Can you tell your friends and family how much they mean to you, give the waitress a tip, and the bookstore employee a smile? Can you think about those who have less than you, those that have to work on Thanksgiving in order to pay rent, those who can’t afford gifts for their children? I’m not saying you have to drop everything and go work at a homeless shelter, but just remember to be kind, and thankful for what you have.

With that, a reminder from one of the most influential people of the 21st century:

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.   – Oprah Winfrey

Giving thanks, day 19

19 Nov

I had a hard day.

I’m thankful for 2 day weeks and long holiday weekends. Thankful for friends who check in with me when they see I’m upset. Thankful for hot showers, macaroni and cheese, and flannel sheets.

Thankful that tomorrow is a new day.

Thanks-vember 17 & 18. Oops

18 Nov

Well, I’m embarrassed. A few days ago I wrote about how I am a writer because I am writing, every day. And then yesterday, I forgot.

It’s not like I didn’t want to write. It’s not that I couldn’t find the willpower or the time or a subject to write about. I just forgot.

I didn’t even do anything important yesterday. Ok, sure, I did some homework. I had rehearsal for that Christmas show I’m working on. But I also took a nap and watched an old episode of How I Met Your Mother. Not exactly an A+ workday.

Because of that, I owe you not one but TWO things I am thankful for today:

1) I am thankful for naps. When I was a child, I refused to take naps. I hated being forced to lay down in the middle of the day, when there were so many other exciting things to do. In college, I rediscovered the power of a power nap. The joy of a snuggle nap (with a pet or someone you like to cuddle). The necessity of a nap after a late night (of studying, of course). I learned to fit in sleep whenever I could grab it – after class, in the library, in my car. Now, thankfully, I am not in school AND working full time, but I still enjoy a nap.

2) I am thankful for all the resources available to teachers today. It can be somewhat overwhelming, but if you know how to weed through it, Pinterest, Twitter, WordPress, even Facebook, can all be amazing resources for teachers. I have been writing lesson plans for class, and have been pulling ideas from fellow teachers from all around the world. The internet allows for global collaboration, in a way that has never before been possible. I communicate regularly with teachers in other cities and states – and even have a friend who teaches in Dubai. However, it’s not just the internet – go to any bookstore and check out the Education section. I’m not saying all the resources out there are great – I’m sure there are some books and websites full of terrible advice for teachers. But, part of being a functional member of modern society is knowing how to pick out the good information from the bad. I’m just thankful that I ‘m not alone in this.

Additionally, I am lucky enough to have resources in my classmates, professors, and mentor teachers. Each one of them provides a unique view on education and teaching. No one is telling me to “drink the kool-aid” and swallow one specific ideology whole. I am trusted, as an adult, a learner, and a teacher, to find what I think is best.

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