Wednesday, June 24, 2020

June 2020

Some context (and flowers): 

When I was 16, I moved out of my parents house. My first roommate didn't stay, so I think a nine-weeks into the semester, I moved to a different dorm room and with a different roommate. My senior year of high school, I had my own room (<3) for the whole year. 

When I went to college, I moved in with a girl from high school. A bigger dorm room opened up at semester, so we moved in with another girl we knew from high school to make a triple. I am pretty sure I worked a summer tutoring gig that required me to move in to a different college dorm for 6 weeks. I transferred to the same college campus, and my roommate again left a few weeks in. So, I had a single for a semester, but had to get a roommate at semester. So, my 2nd semester of sophomore year, I moved again. That summer, I moved out, then back to campus for another round of summer tutoring. My junior and senior year, I kept consistent dorm and house-mates-a near miracle. 

Post-college, I moved back home for a few weeks, then off to summer training in Mississippi to be a teacher. Then, an apartment for 2 years, moved back in with the parents for a couple more years, off to OKC for a summer, and then to Tulsa for two different apartments over 3 years, and then back to the parents until I bought my house 1 year and 8 months ago. Since I bought my house, there has been a global pandemic and I've been fired and hired somewhere else. So, even with home ownership- either my job or my housing will change at most every 3 years. 

After spending four months largely trapped in my house, I've started nesting....sort of. The flowers are growing, the tomatoes are happy, and there is exactly one painting hung on the wall. One window has curtains. I've found some solace in cleaning and sorting, organizing and donating. It's something I can control in the face of more and more death in this country's pandemic disaster (over 124,000) and the uncertainty of teaching life in the fall.  

Trusting that this is a space worth investing in, that a space that only me and the dog enjoy is worth investing love, money, and effort in, is a challenge to my deepest fears and insecurities.  It means something to hold the truths equally important- this is a real moment in time that is worth enjoying for the here and now while also acknowledging that life guarantees nothing- no control, no tomorrow, no health or wealth.

Friday, April 24, 2020

April 2020

Waves of anxiety and panic have pursued me for the better part of a month- at times receding into a time and space that might be the purest peace and comfort that anyone can ever had, but always quickly snatched away into cold terror, waking up gasping in the middle of the night, restlessly wandering.

I know I am not alone- but that's almost adding to my own feeling of drowning. Over 40,000 Americans dead. Over 26 million unemployment claims. Borders closed. Journalists expelled from China. Empty grocery shelves. Negative oil prices. 

Without going into the specifics, I need a job. I want to continue working in education, but ideally, I want to move outside of the classroom. It does not look like that is possible. Many school districts are not staffing the phones, and have essentially frozen their hiring process.

I want to continue to make positive steps- carefully hopeful, but also recognizing that 1) this is a terribly rough time, 2) it's not my fault (the employment/the virus), 3) extreme times call for flexibility. I don't know what the future will hold, but I can only manage the hour by hour, minute by minute and remember- this is a wave that will pass too.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Lawnmower: A Review

I wrote this review over on Amazon- however, I would not be surprised if it is not approved. Either way, I am memorializing it here. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good lawn must be in want of a large, expensive, and loud gasoline powered mower- or at least, that is the assumption in my very red-state neighborhood. Neighbors, family members, and complete strangers have voiced their opinion on how I choose to maintain my own yard, never mind their consistent values of self-determination. They seem to consistently judge me as equally liberal or foolish. Of course, this has more to do with my gender and location, than it ever had to do with the utility of my mower.

I have maintained my yard independently with this mower for the entirety of the spring and summer in northeastern Arkansas. This year, has been particularly wet and my grass has grown with wild abandonment. It has been a good mower, never failing me. The only maintenance I need to regularly pay attention to is clearing out any grass that has wrapped around the axle of the wheels. This takes me approximately 30 seconds. I can also easily heft this mower over my fence, instead of walking around to the gate. Equally important to me, I can listen to podcasts or music while enjoying the great outdoors. I do not disturb anyone-human or animal- with my mowing. No frogs or even bugs have been needlessly killed in my pursuit of an orderly yard. Furthermore, I feel a double helping of pride when I look at my yard, because I do not require anyone else's assistance.

I highly recommend this little mower, if this speaks to you. However, I am doing a disservice if I do not caution you- if you live in a place where men routinely lean over your fence, tell you that you are wrong or a filthy hippie, while spitting tobacco at your flowers, then I must tell you- something about this mower will invite new levels of derision. Of course, you wouldn't be one to find yourself on this page if such things bothered you. So, just be ready to scare them with threats of global warming and canceling out their votes as often as possible- whatever keeps you happy.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Letter to Governor Bullock

Dear Governor Bullock,

I wanted to reach out to you to offer some feedback, but I first wanted to say that I am deeply sorry for your nephew's tragic death. No family in this country  should have to go through such a heart-breaking moment. Unfortunately, far too many Americans share in that horrible grief.

In the recent Democratic debate, I heard you frame your beliefs around gun violence in this country around three things: 1. being a gun owner, 2. being a hunter, and 3.  your nephew's death. You have every right to share the story of your family's grief in the way that you feel is proper, but I think you missed an opportunity to center the reality of gun violence in this country on victims, and not those who are centering their identity on a recreational activity.

In the wake of yet another mass shooting, this time in El Paso, Texas, I kept thinking about your words. Every American who sets foot in a school, church, theater, concert, or the local Wal-Mart has more of a right to safety than the right of a gun owner to own high powered assault rifles. Democrats must be the party that gets something done to prevent our country from being one absolutely torn apart by the grief of gun violence and mass shootings.

I can empathize with your position- you sounded like someone who has had guns at the center of your cultural identity for a very long time. I understand that identify intimately. However, my beliefs have grown and evolved as I have become increasingly horrified by the blatant violence all around this country, but especially effecting communities of color. As someone running for the highest office of the land, I ask that you reconsider how you phrase that identity- will you be someone stubbornly proclaiming your highest priority is gun ownership, and that to have a valid opinion you must own a gun? Or will you be someone who honors the life of all of those who have needlessly been lost on the alter of gun violence, and speak their names and concerns first?

Thank you for considering this important issue, and respectfully,
-Ms. L

Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year's Eve

I've struggled to write anything in honor of ending this calendar year. In teacher life, the end of the year is May, the beginning is August, so December just doesn't feel exactly like the end of anything-it's more of a middle feeling, a not quite done thing.

In my life, I feel like I have crammed the equivalent of a year in under 6 months. I left a job and moved in with my parents for four months, leaving Oklahoma for Arkansas. I searched for a house, made an offer on  a house that was denied, bought a different house, then moved into that other house. While that was going on, I took one graduate class, and put off working on my final internship until the last possible moment. I turned thirty; a few weeks later, I pulled off a semi-miracle and turned in my internship assignments, and completed the master's degree. Oh, and I designed and executed a 9-12 grade curriculum- that went (mostly) okay.

Here and now, at the end of December, I just feel drained; even writing the overview of the last few months feels frantic. I did not participate in much holidaying- the only tree in my house is the desktop-size one from a classroom of mine from the past. I didn't decorate it.

Going into the next semester and into the next year, I want to find some sort of rhythm that feels somewhat sustainable to me. I like being busy and working towards goals- so I need to find some new goals that feel right.

I'm just struggling to figure out exactly what those goals should be- I suppose I need a healthy dose of inspiration. But first-rest.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Text Selection: Another Teacher Moment

I have spent over $800 of my personal money on books for my classroom. A few friends have sent over books, which I am eternally gratefully, but one of the problems is balancing buying copies for whole class (10-20 copies), book clubs (3-5 copies), and independent books (1 is fine- more is cool too!) And, before you ask, my principal told me there was no money until the end of the school year, and all evidence in the room points to maybe purchasing 2 class sets a year at most.

I know that a problem I have right now is that a lot of the diversity I have (authors of color and women, characters of color, books written in the last 50 years, LGBTQ characters), lives in the book club and independent world. I'm hoping that there will be kids who love an independent book enough to want to make it into a whole class book- which I'm cool with, I just have had genuine trouble finding enough copies to make a class set or, honestly, to justify the cost. I just can't get wholesale prices for many of the more recent books.

And yet....sitting in my classroom currently are class sets of "Divergent" and "Hunger Games"- both totally great books, but I question whether they are meaty enough to warrant having a whole class slog through them (never mind recent movie adaptations). some point recently, the school purchased them.

Which leads me to a conversation with my bestie.....the biggest thing I've been thinking about lately is that incredibly complicated, and politically and morally, fraught choice of text choices. (Wow-am I ever overthinking this....but that's genuinely how it feels!) So, of course I talked to my best friend about it. He loves books, reads a lot of YA books, and frankly- has great tastes. I told him that one of the challenges I was thinking about was picking between "The Scarlet Letter" (have read- loved) and "The Crucible" (haven't read). And he said something that stabbed me in the heart....

"The AP class at [REDACTED-the high school we both went to] read both. We didn't read both because we weren't supposed to go to college." 

I stopped.

I had thought a lot this summer about how text selections communicate the value of different identities. Students deserve to see themselves in the authors and characters we read about, and not as flat, side-kicked, or evil characters- but as the richly, fully human, types they truly are. And also....students deserve to have texts put in front of them that communicate my full belief that they will conquer college level texts one day.

So, I went home from having lunch with my bestie, and I went over to Thriftbooks and spent $90 on 20 copies of "The Crucible" and 10 (more) copies of "The Scarlet Letter."

I know their is a lot of need in a lot of corners in the world....but if you would like to help support my quest to provide rich and varied texts to my students, I'd appreciate it- and so will my students!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Teacher Life Update

Teacher Desk
Since the last time I've updated, I've accepted a teaching job across the state line in Missouri, and moved back to rural Arkansas. I have been busy trying to make a decision about housing, while staying at my parents, taking summer graduate classes, and trying to reset my orientation back to teacher. Oh, and planning for my fall internship for graduate school. So....definitely not busy. Nope, not at all.

I will be the English teacher for 9th-12th grades. When I met with my principal, he was supportive of my plans to implement what amounts to a readers/writers workshop model. (I'm excited to finally get the opportunity to try this model out- especially after reading 180 Days (Gallagher and Kittle) and Novel Approach (Roberts) this summer). I asked about curriculum guidance or required texts per grade, and for the first time in my teaching career....I sort of have free reign. This is both really exciting, and.....well, a big responsibility. My priorities are preparing 11th graders for the state state (of course), but I also have other concerns.

Since students can read almost anything, within reason and my personal budget, I have a few things I am considering:

1. I want students reading a volume of books, and I want kids to have experience reading in a variety of groups. I want my units to include independent reading, book clubs (reading the same book with 1-4 other students), and probably 2 whole class opportunities to experience a book or play all together. 

2. I don't want students exposed to books based solely on my tastes, or on tradition. And since I expect mostly white students in a rural community, I feel pressure to find diverse authors and characters, particularly positive LGBTQ representation, different ethnic and racial background, and English language learners.

Built in shelves AND windows!
3. I am also mindful of how I pace 4 different grades can either make it unnecessarily challenging for me, or I could spread the load out to be more manageable. For example, balancing 4 whole class novels at once feels hard; balancing potentially 4 grades with 4-5 different book club options going on sounds like a potential hot mess.

I have built a decent beginnings to a classroom library for independent, choice, reading- but I am concerned for creating enough choice in level with enough copies of individual titles for book clubs. I am also needing to make a decision between The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible for 11th grade so I can order copies, and a little at a loss for 12th grade whole group texts. I have a rough draft idea to do a Southern Lit themed year, or plan for choice: give students the option between a couple of different combinations of whole class texts. If you want to creep on my planning thus far, here's a link.

In good news, I have heard we are ordering chrome books for students (Yay!). I also feel like I have a decent handle on how I want my writing units to look like, where every grade follows 3 deepening laps in 4 chunks (not exactly genres) of Narrative, Informational, Argumentative, and Multi-Genre. I think if every grade is following the same chunks, I can differentiate the models, and cross-pollinate (if you will), having students write to each other and share their writing.

If you happen to be reading, and would like to help with books for my classroom library, I'd greatly appreciate it!

June 2020

Some context (and flowers):  When I was 16, I moved out of my parents house. My first roommate didn't stay, so I think a nine-weeks into...