Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Great Divide

I've been crying. I've been crying because I am devastated. I am devastated at what my world has become. My world. My state. My home.

I'm crying because my heart is broken. My heart is broken because I feel such grief over what has happened in Charleston. I read the stories, I look at the pictures, I read the posts on social media, and my heart is in pieces. I feel the weight of the victims's grief and anger, and I know that what I feel isn't a fraction of the pain they feel.

I'm writing. I'm writing because of the division that our country faces. There is such a deep racial divide in this country that it will break us all. One side shouts racism, the other says no.

One of the most powerful things I saw today was something a friend posted about the fear of talking about racism, and I think that she hit the nail on the head. She said:

Why are people so afraid to talk about race? Why can't people accept that some people do not like people of color? If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck.....more than likely it's a duck!!! Racism is EVILNESS!!! As a person of color it is so disrespectful for people who have never experienced racism as a black person to say "race doesn't exist." Or "this is not a hate crime" that's EXACTLY what this EVILNESS was!!! Deeply frustrated on top of all these other feelings.
As a white person, I am guilty of being afraid of talking about race. I'm afraid because I don't want anyone to think that I am racist. I'm not by any means, but this isn't going to be a post to talk about how not-racist the white girl is. I would like to respectfully try to answer her question.

I want to start by ardently agreeing with her. If it looks like racism, it is racism. This horrible tragedy that has happened in Charleston is blatant racism. Period. A white shooter entered the sanctuary of a black congregation and opened fire in cold blood. It was a hate crime, and it was evil. Pure evil, in its lowest form.

Just as she said, "some people do not like people of color." No one can, or should, argue with that. To disagree with that is, also as she said, "disrespectful for people who have never experienced racism." Racism is alive and eating away at the core of our society from all angles. I can only speak for some white people, but I think that I can at least try to explain our perspective.

My personal perspective is as a white woman who teaches in an high needs, urban school. I love the kids I teach as if they were my own, and my biggest goal as a teacher is to help my students find their voice and show the world that they are more than just a lousy statistic, but a person with a powerful voice. I don't see myself as a racist. I'm not perfect by any means, but I would die for my kids without a second thought.

Now. Knowing what you have read about my perspective, and assuming I am telling the truth, what if I had made a comment on social media about how Michael Brown was a criminal and the officer was in the right when he opened fire. Did I say that as a racist white person or did I say that as someone who thought she had objectively evaluated evidence? My (very hypothetical) statement could be right, or it could be wrong. The problem, and where I believe that fear originates, is from the snapshot that the Social Media Police take based on that one comment. That snapshot could ruin my life.

I am not naive enough to say that there is no more racism. I don't know how prevalent it is or isn't, but I have not experienced it firsthand, and as my friend said, I will not disrespect people of color by making assumptions about it. But I can speak about the perspective of people who do not want this to be about racism. This horrific event is another example of how racism does exist. It is not necessarily that people don't want to acknowledge it, but more that it is another part of the picture that magnifies racism and seems to create a divide among Americans.

The media paints a picture that shows white on black crime and sometimes it makes me, and other white people, feel that all minorities hate white people. In my opinion, this is just as dangerous. I don't want to be hated. But I also do not think that this picture is true. People of color with whom I interact with on a daily basis don't hate me. I like to think that I'm quite lovable.

Some people will deny that this is about race, and as an idealist, I think that it is because they are tired of the divide. It may be naive and idealistic of me to think this, but I think that there are two things that we can do to avoid further division.

First, we have to acknowledge that this was a hate crime. It is awful that in 2015 it happened, but it did. It was evil, and the word "tragedy" doesn't begin to express how vile and horrible the event was. It exists. It is here. It is meant to cause division and for us to hate one another. The second thing that we have to do is we HAVE to unite on this. All races, all religions, all ideologies, all everything.

We have to acknowledge it, but we cannot let it win. Otherwise, we are all doomed.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Just Reminiscing

What started out to be a blog where I would post every week, then every two weeks, then every month, and then once in a while has become a blog where I posted once in the beginning, once in the middle, and once in the end. Whoops.

Since 5 or 6 of you loyal MOYTers have been asking what happened to all of the old stories you loved so much for some reason, I also have decided that I will repost them so we can all relive the good old days. Who doesn't just love that?

You may remember me saying that I really wanted this blog to chronicle my experiences as a first year teacher. It's true. I would like to get to the point where I do have a cute teacher blog where everyone ooh's and ahh's at the cute ideas I have. In fact, someone suggested that I just pick a topic for my blog and stick with it, because it would probably increase my views.

Well, I am neither cutesie tootsie nor focused, so I don't see why my blog should be either. I kind of like the fact that I can have a train wreck of a day/week/year and still manage to look back at it and LOL at myself.

Without further ado, I'd like to start posting something I've been working on all year in my brain and writing on a series of post-it notes that are scattered throughout my desk, car, and school bag. I want to write about the most important things I've learned as a first year teacher so that newbies starting in August can maybe read this and realize that they don't have to give themselves a stroke. 

I was planning on just one post, but this will be more like a series. Stay tuned.

Keep Perspective.
This one goes first because it was the reason for the most recent mini meltdown. I have been drilling the 7 continents with my high school freshmen for 160ish days when I realized that about 5 out of 70 could name them all. #frustrating. We have, however, made pretty darn good progress.

This past week, we were doing a unit review game and I threw in some final exam review questions. One of those questions asked "Which continent is south of Europe." After 20 brutally long seconds of deliberating, the group told the leader that the answer was most definitely France.

The group. Not one kid not paying attention who shouted out a random answer. The.whole.group.

You know how in movies when something super dramatic happens to a character and the camera zooms in on their face but zooms out of the background? That was happening to me. That, and my eye started twitching and I couldn't make it stop.

Up until about ten minutes ago, I thought "so much for progress." But then, I had this epiphany that honestly, made me tear up a little. Okay more than a little. Okay, I'm still snotting a little, even though I'm editing it now.

In August, I started the year with kids who couldn't name the seven continents, the four oceans, tell me what ocean they were in when they went to Myrtle Beach, or find Europe on a map.

In August, I also started the year with student a who did not know how to write in a complete sentence. When I asked them to find a main idea, supporting evidence, or key words, 3/4 of my class would put their head down.  When I asked them to write me a paragraph that summarized something, compared/contrasted two ideas, or provided evidence for an argument, they would write two sentences at the most, and it was mpat definitely not what i asked.

When I gave them reading assignments that were over a paragraph and not broken up into parts, they would balk and whine and not complete the assignment. If I gave them a guided reading sheet that did not ask questions verbatim, they couldn't find the answer anywhere. If I asked them to highlight evidence in a passage, they would fill in the b's and d's and o's.

It is May and more students than I would care to admit can't name the continents or oceans.

But they write paragraphs with a main idea sentence, supporting details, and a conclusion. They can compare and contrast two ideas or events and find evidence that supports it. They can READ for the answers of a three page text instead of scanning for words and phrases that match the question prompt word for word. They know that if they have an opinion about something, they have to have evidence to back it up.

Their spelling is terrible and some still haven't figured out there, their, they're. But they read. They don't get overwhelmed with long texts. They can get their ideas on paper and express themselves. My darlings have begun to find their voice.

I started this year with a tangled mess of freshmen that a lot of people had given up on. I'm ending with a group of high school students with a future.

I have to say "the end" now because I'm all snotty and can't find my tissues. I guess this will have to be a ten-part sermon.


P.S. speaking of voicea, here are pictures of two projects we did.

Above: tweeted about the outbreak of a major disease. (I accidentally said the "z" word, and we went a little too much in the direction of Walking Dead, but they were engaged and had a blast.)
Above: part of pur Earth Day festivities, we read the Lorax and they had different assignments from which to choose to bring awareness for Earth Day. This is by far my favorite.   

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Derp Days

The past two days have driven me to tears on more than one occasion...not because of anything that someone did or any particular event, but because I am a complete spaz who has no control over the random things that happen to her.

Monday was my first day back to school since Christmas, so I was a little more off of my rocker than usual because I had to put on a bra and real pants. I'm used to doing things throughout my day where I look like a complete imbecile, but Monday was a particularly awful day.



Somehow I managed to get up on time, dress myself, and make it to work in one piece. I got to school, hid in my room, and got some classroom decorating done while I was cracked out on coffee. The time came for me to meet with my principal, so I grabbed my notepad and day planner and left early to make sure I was on time.

Then the first "derp" happened. After a successful meeting with my principal, I got up to leave with my notebook at my side--not close beside my body, but holding it against my hip so it stuck out. When I got to the door, he called my name and I turned to answer. As I turned around, notebook still poking out at my side, I bumped (hard) into the door frame.

Nothing says "I'm a professional you can count on to teach underprivileged youths" like knocking the breath out of yourself after a meeting.



Now. If you read MOYT before I revamped it or know me personally, you know that I am completely socially awkward. I am trying extremely hard to not only be a professional adult, but also friendly and sociable.

conversationally awkward penguin

After the walking fiasco, I left and went to the break room where two of my colleagues were talking. Trying to be, you know, sociable, I waited until an appropriate time and sort of smoothly entered the conversation. The topic came up about where my boyfriend did his undergraduate work and where he's in school now. I love to brag on him, so I was more than eager to talk about it.

One of the men in the room laughed and said (jokingly, because it's a really good school) "I can't believe they accept a degree from there in South Carolina," to which I respond "Yeah, it's a really good school."

The crickets are chirping so loudly at this point, so I just turn and leave. Quickly.

One of my "resolutions" is to stop being such a spaz. One of my solutions for that is to start going to the gym.



Yeah.

When I got to the gym, I had my bag all packed: towel, gloves, phone, keys. Check, check, check, check. About 5 steps away from my car, I realized that I forgot the sheet where I wrote down my workout. (Don't judge me.) I spun around in the parking lot to go back to my car when my house keys flew out of my pocket and landed a good 3 feet away from me, in the path of an oncoming vehicle.

Lucky for me, the car stopped and I went to get my keys. Well, part of them. Somehow when they hit the ground some of my keys came off of the carabiner and flew two feet in the other direction.

I honestly don't know how I made it through a workout without adult supervision.



The final derp should be the most extravagant, and you know I don't want to disappoint.

I called in to work today because I was feeling less than great. Nothing seemed appealing to me except for noodles and butter, so I went in the kitchen and heated some water. While I was waiting, I went in the den to straighten up the disaster that I leave on a regular basis.

One of the things I grabbed to put up was this beautiful white jacket that my wonderful man bought me from Express. I cannot even tell you how much I loved this jacket. It was so sharp, and wearing it made this awkward spaz feel like she wasn't so awkward and spastic. This wasn't going to be like the clothes I buy at discount stores. I was going to take extra special care of it, so I picked it up to put it back in its garment bag in the closet.

#responsibility

I went in the kitchen to put the noodles in the pot and absolutely did not want to put the jacket down because I was terrified of getting it stained. It was draped over my arm when I poured the noodles in, and apparently was hanging in just such an angle that the corner of my beautiful jacket rubbed against the very, very hot burner of my very, very crappy stove.

Yup. Go ahead and reread it.

Burned my beautiful new jacket. There is no hope for me.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The New Chapter

Six-year-old Yours Truly is in heaven.

After spending years of free time teaching to a room full of dolls and stuffed Looney Tunes, years of formal education in a subject that had nothing to do with education, and more years for formal education in a subject that had something to do with education, I finally got a grown-up job. A grown-up job with grown-up benefits and a grown-up paycheck.

I'm finally grown up. Get excited. Several years later than I expected, but then again I've always been a late bloomer.

So with this grown-up teaching job comes a classroom. I thought that the tens of you who have been staying on me about blogging again would love to see pictures and hear a little about it. Because of your unwavering loyalty, I saved it for MOYT and did not post it directly to Facebook. You're welcome.

After Six-year-old Yours Truly's orientation, she was taken to this:



My new classroom. Da daaaaaa!!!!

Six-year-old Yours Truly nearly fainted. It wasn't because the classroom was stocked with things that I needed and was panicking about having to buy...the podium, the posters, the crates, the chair... Saying that I was blessed was a gross understatement.

Six-year-old Yours Truly couldn't help herself. I got straight to work. I did a lot of nothing, but I still felt very official.

Of course the first thing I had to do was go shopping, courtesy of my mother and her back-to-school shopping skills. When I returned to school the next week, I had an idea of what I wanted my room to look like, supplies for the classroom, and, oh, curtains.

DIY curtains. Made by Yours Truly with three yards of fabric and iron-on tape that makes hems for people who can't use a sewing machine. 

Pin that.

Long story short, my room is finished--as finished as it will be for the time being. Anyone who would like to donate any sort of maps is appreciated. I'm particularly looking for a giant world map. A giant world map. Like GIANT

After a lot of work, my room started to look more like this:


I'm using an arrangement in my room that will hopefully let me easily transition from individual work to small groups.
*Finger's crossed*

Books...mostly donated from the teacher who used to teach in my room. Thanks!!!

My pretty flowers!! (Don't worry allergy nuts...they've wilted.)

I realize now that the vertical blue line on the left is not straight. Sorry World.
If I had any brains after putting the finishing touches on my room, syllabi, lesson plans, and a number of other fun things that I just learned teachers get to do, I would have taken pictures of the "finishing touches." I guess you'll just have to tune in next time!

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Neverending Story

As Boyfriend and I prepare to move back to school, we have run into a tremendous amount of difficulty trying to get money, classes, and other shenanigans squared away. That, however, is another story for another day.

A lot of his belongings were in storage until he moved to his new apartment. We made plans to take a trip to the storage unit to organize some things before we actually moved in, and I was going to actually help. Unfortunately, we didn't take the fact that I am a complete spaz into account when we made these plans.

The morning of, I woke up with a sore neck and back because I have the body of an 80 year old cancer patient. To remedy the pain, I applied some Capsaicin because with one painful exception, I have found that the product works very well. On this particular day, however, applying Capsaicin to myself was one of the more terrible ideas I have ever had and the following event has landed itself on the list of Top Five Stupidest Things I've Ever Done.

When I told Boyfriend what I did, he asked me on a scale of 1 to 10 whether or not that I thought that was a good idea. At first I stared at his handsome face blankly...until he told me that I would be miserable after I started sweating Capsazin down my back. I assured him that I would be quite alright and he was overreacting. As always. Pssshh.

Now. I don't know which of you guys or dolls have ever used Capsaicin before, but I am now skeptical of all of the good that it supposedly does. If you've never used it, the basic idea is that you rub it on achy muscles and your skin absorbs the peppery concoction and it relieves muscle aches.

What really happens, as I have said before on my Facepage book is that you rub it on achy muscles and the pain from the peppers is so unbearably excruciating that you forget your muscles ever hurt in the first place. All you can think is "this must be what it feels like to burn alive" because yes, you can feel it on the inside.

So we made it to the storage unit. After an entire twenty minutes of shuffling boxes, I began to sweat profusely, and not just from the manual labor. I could feel the burning sensation in my teeth, my toenails, and at the ends of my hair. I couldn't breathe and I felt like I was going to throw up.

Afraid to tell Boyfriend that he was right (for the 9,000th time) about the Capsaicin, I let him believe for a while that I was simply a big, fat, wussy who was incapable of performing manual labor without having a panic attack. After all, I'd rather be a wuss than wrong.

The pain became so bad, that I thought I was going to pass out. He insisted that I sit in the truck and drink some water, but I knew that wouldn't help. I was trying to think through the pain and decide what I did need.

Throw up. I needed to throw up. Yup.

Under the guise of needing to sit in the shade for a few minutes, I went behind the storage unit where no one could see me and puked up a watery concoction of scrambled eggs and turkey bacon, but that only gave me temporary satisfaction. The pain was still unbearable. I couldn't breathe and I felt like I was going to pass out.

Boyfriend finally decided that I needed to go home. I was morbidly embarrassed that I had done something so stupid, but still holding firm to not admitting that he was right. However, that didn't last long; I finally came clean.

After the dreaded "I told you so," rather than launch into a speech about how I don't think anything through, Boyfriend stopped by a Walgreens for the necessary ingredients to cure me. With a gallon of water, Axe body spray, and aloe vera lotion, we sketchily pulled into the back of a hotel parking lot where my wonderful Boyfriend proceeded to scrub me down.

After the impromptu bath in the hotel parking lot, Boyfriend drove twenty minutes to take me home. I felt absolutely terrible that I had let him down and tried to think of something I could do to make it up to him.

One of my assignments upon arriving at home was to wash all of the gross mold and mildew out of the clothes that he had stored in a storage building that had flooded...because everyone loves to pay at least $50 a month to have all of their belongings destroyed because of water damage. I, however, wanted to do something else...something special.

I decided to cook.

Okay. I am an okay cook. My biggest problem is that once I find something that I like or that I am good at cooking, I won't make anything else and expect people to not become annoyed. Boyfriend kindly pointed this out to me one fine afternoon, so I decided that instead of chicken and pasta, I'd make spaghetti and spaghetti sauce. Still pasta, different taste. Everyone wins.

I have never made spaghetti sauce before and as much as I hate it, I do not have the ability to think of what magical ingredients make spaghetti sauce taste like real spaghetti sauce rather than the Meat of the Day that you find at your local school and/or prison cafeteria. My aunt, however, makes a sauce that will make you drive across town and slap yo' grandma, so I decided to give her a call.

Since living in the boondocks and having T-Mobile as your mobile provider is a great combination for a phone that never works, I called her from our landline. Doing so made me realize two things: 1) No one calls from landlines anymore unless you are trying to sell insurance or cable. 2) When you call from a landline, you realize that you take your cell phone's speed dial for granted.

However, I had called her by memory before and confidently dialed the number. The phone rang, and a voice answered the phone. I said "Hey, it's me" and the voice on the other end replied "well hey there!"

The next few minutes of this lovely conversation were spent on what was currently on television and the weather. I mentioned that despite the torrential downpours we had recently received, that had not discouraged the local population from spending an ungodly sum of money on half-priced milkshakes.

The other end says, in what becomes an extremely redneck accent: "Yeah, I got caught in *insert city where my aunt does notlive or work* and it just rained and rained."

I put the phone down while she was in mid-sentence and thought "dear God, what have I done? Who the heck is this??" Not really knowing what to do, I told the caller to hang on for just a minute, but I hung up the phone. I'm classy like that. I hit redial and saw that I had entered too many 2's.

Way. To. Go. Genius.

I actually called the strange lady back because I would rather be remembered as "this dumb girl" rather than "this rude *^#&$ who hung up on me." I explained to her that she sounded a lot like my aunt and her number was very similar to hers.

Bless her heart. She did not cuss me out or make fun of me. She said, in her growing Southern accent, "I told my husband that I just had a lovely conversation with someone, but I didn't have a clue who it was."

I told her that now she had a great story to tell all of her friends and family for the rest of her life. Hopefully, though, I just beat her to it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Dark Side

It's been a hot minute since I've given a Nannie story.

For someone who is as loving and as giving as she is, Nannie does not like to waste any energy in her own home. I think if she had her way that she would just watch The Gospel Channel by candlelight.

I knew that she didn't like to have many lights on in the house when I first moved in with her. It has never bothered me. Generally, we only keep one lamp on in the den (even though we use those curly, energy efficient light bulbs), but again, I can live with that. If I need to do anything that requires a functional amount of light, I'll just go to my room and cut on two lamps (until I get yelled at).

A second fun fact about Nannie is that she is completely technologically challenged. She quite literally has a very difficult time figuring out how to turn on the TV. One of these days I really am going to make her a "How to Work the TV Remote" manual so the events that occurred last Sunday not do not happen again.

On the night in question, my mother called me and asked if I had talked to Nannie. She and my brother had driven by the house and did not see any lights on. I reminded her that this wasNannie we were talking about and she was probably just fine.

Mother was particularly concerned that she didn't see the TV flickering through the window. I wasn't because I was quite certain that she had changed the channel on the TV and couldn't get the TV to work.

I feel like I should explain this a little more: Nannie and I are poor folk. We don't have cable and we don't have internet. We have a box that gets about 10 channels. Not that it matters though, because the only channels she watches are the Gospel Channel and whatever channel plays Rifleman. 

The problem with the box is that if you change the channel on the TV when you should be changing the channel on the satellite box that you're just going to get confused and end up sitting in the dark for hours by yourself.

I got off of the phone with mother and gave my preciously stubborn grandmother a call to make sure she was still okay. Yes, I was right. She was fine, but she had changed the television channel and couldn't get the picture to come up. I asked her if she wanted me to talk her through fixing it, but she was quite insistent that she was fine and that she would fix it tomorrow. I imagine that she wanted to wait on the sun to come up.

Before I got off the phone, I asked the goober why she was sitting alone in the dark? She told me she was NOT sitting in the dark. As a matter of fact, the 60-watt, energy efficient bulb in the back of the house over the kitchen sink was on.

Sorry I questioned you, Nannie.