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Dec 24 2013

snapshot of a non-teacher life

The air is sticky, with salt from the Gulf of Mexico and the slightest hint of the smell of raw fish. There’s a sea breeze today – the kind that nestles deep in your bones – and some stray palm fronds float down to settle alongside the road. I drive and drive and drive. Past…

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Dec 20 2013

the end of semester one.

With that, my last day as a teacher in 2013 is over. I’ve given kids holiday cards and cleaned my room and supervised the cleaning of lockers and been the loving & grateful recipient of so. many. Christmas. cookies. Today was, like many of the “last days” in my own high school, wonderful. Calm and…

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2.6. The average number of years a teacher spends at my school. Most teachers stay either two or three years, and the ones who stay longer tend to move into administrative positions. There are the rockstars of course – the ones who are there for six or eight or ten years. But the majority come…

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Dec 10 2013


I knew this time would come, and now that it’s here, I just feel a little resigned to the long grind that is burnout. I’ve been talking about this a lot lately. Emotional labor. Constant stress/anxiety. High stakes all the time. No excuses. Ed reform is notorious for producing “burnout factories” and I feel like…

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Dec 02 2013

on vulnerability.

C.S. Lewis says that to love at all is to be vulnerable, and though I certainly have felt that in areas of my before-I-was-a-teacher life, I never realized how much teaching and vulnerability are inextricably tied. It’s easy to look at this idea and think – breakups. Thanksgiving. Prayer. Religion. Best friends. But when I…

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Nov 27 2013

preserving the other parts, too

How do you make friends as a teacher? How do you hold onto friends you had before you were a teacher? How, for that matter, do you hold onto the parts of your non-teacher self? I won’t pretend to have all the answers (or even any of the answers, really) but I am someone who…

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Nov 22 2013

“Thank you for believing in me.”

I did it. I made it to Thanksgiving Break. I will not be back at school for nine days. As I packed up today, after the kids left, I couldn’t help but tear up in my empty classroom. I have grown so much. I have come so far. My world is so different now.  I…

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Nov 18 2013

the “Catch an Immigrant” game

Rarely do I post when I’m angry; this is an exception I’m willing to make. I’m sure many of you by now have heard of the deplorable, racist, bigoted “game” hosted by the Young Conservatives group at the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday. Here’s a brief synopsis from the group themselves: “YCT will…

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I am a member of two worlds. The teacher world and the non-teacher world. In teacher world, for the most part, faith in students is taken for granted. I am told, student actions come from teacher actions. Student mindsets come from teacher mindsets. To what extent I truly, deeply believe this is for another post.…

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Nov 09 2013

November blues.

I’ll be honest – I’ve been really struggling, this first week of November. I think I am finally hitting Teacher October but just one month delayed. My kids came off a week of review and a week of testing so it’s been hard for everyone to get back into the swing of actual learning &…

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This was said by a student today, as we delved right into the heart of one of this unit’s Essential Questions. What does it mean to grow up? What happens if/when you realize your views are different from those of your parents? Can you grow and stay the same at the same time?  To start…

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Oct 28 2013


Knee-deep in a full week of testing, I am grateful that my kids finished their English exams today, meaning the pressure has been taken off (for the rest of this week at least). We got our preliminary scores back already. Both my co-planner and I beat the district average for the multiple choice section –…

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Oct 23 2013

the end of October is approaching…

…and with it, the lure of Thanksgiving and a respite from teacher life burns brighter. I’ve really been feeling October these past few days. not quite sure why. What set me over the edge tonight was an email full of action items and things that need to get done; of course, my progress on these…

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Oct 15 2013

do kids need to enter a room silently?

I’m throwing this question out there and I want your feedback. Here’s the scenario: Every day, my kids line up outside my room on the crowded deck (my school has no buildings, as I’ve discussed) and patiently wait to be let in. I open the door, greet them with a smile and some brief conversation,…

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Oct 10 2013

October Sky

“Black October.” “Sucktober.” “Awfultober.” I hear these phrases all around me, and even TFA is passive-aggressively sending me emails teaching me how to distinguish between the “normal October blues,” disillusionment, and depression. I know that many people do deal with these issues, and that they are completely subjected to the difficulties of dealing with administration,…

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Sep 30 2013

settling in

It’s this time of year that always gets to me, when fall, when there’s just the slightest bit of crisp in the air. Let’s be real here. This is Houston. We don’t have seasons, really, but I grew up in Kansas and now I latch onto the slightest little bit of fall I can possibly…

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Sep 28 2013

What does Institute do, exactly?

As Institute recedes farther and farther into the distance, as the memories of those five weeks get wispier and wispier, I’ve found myself thinking back and wondering – why was I at Institute? What did it do for me? Did it do the things it was supposed to do for me? And I don’t mean…

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Sep 21 2013

I have been a teacher for six weeks.

I have been a teacher for six weeks and there are millions and millions of things I don’t know how to do, be, say, or teach. The immensity of what I still have yet to figure out seems to stretch on forever, and in its shadow, I feel like I’ll forever stay.   We had…

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Inside every classroom, hung up in every common space, and (for all intents and purposes) forged into the hearts of all students at my school are our 7 Non-Cognitive Skills. Things like gratitude, optimism, curiosity, social intelligence. Why do we have them? Our college graduation data is pretty rough. Our kids may or may not…

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As many of you know, my school has no library. It was disbanded about a year ago because there weren’t any staff members with the time to staff it (and there wasn’t money to hire any new staff members) so it was getting pretty disorganized/chaotic. The books were decentralized to every English teacher’s classroom. Of…

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Sep 08 2013

“So, how’s teaching?” (one month down.)

Here I am, a month into my first year of teaching, and it’s hard to sum up what these four weeks have been & encompassed. I went to a party last night with some college friends, and as happens every time I see people I haven’t seen or talked to in a while, I got…

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Aug 28 2013

as the wheels come off the wagon…

The New York Times article of late had some good stuff to say about the “cult of youth” at many high-performing charter schools, and within TFA itself. I see it at my school all the time. It’s led to some interesting water-cooler-type conversations at my school and among my TFA friends (or just friends interested…

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Aug 25 2013

there’s beauty in routine (week 3)

As I get ready to dive into Week 3 I find myself comforted by the routinized procedures, not just of my classroom, but of the way my life works now. I spend all day on Sundays at school – making copies, doing long-term planning, or just hanging out with my fellow teachers. We have an…

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also known as, things about Institute that really didn’t need to be the way they were.   I’m not sure why I’ve chosen now to write this – maybe because I’m trying to procrastinate on planning for tomorrow, or because I’m feeling emotional because this is the first time in four years I haven’t been a…

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Aug 15 2013

on tasers & TED talks: days like this

Right after school ended, I made some photocopies for tomorrow and headed over to the CVS down the block to buy some candy for my students’ Friday Surprise (we’ve been building up to this, earned through awesome student urgency and teamwork, all week). As I walked out an African-American man – maybe about 30ish? –…

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Journeys, challenges, & writings of a first-year teacher.

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