Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Letter to the 2010 Newark TFA Members From a 2006 Alum

I am thinking on the first days I spent in the classroom as an El Paso transplant in Newark.  I came through Teach For America...after the grueling time spent over the summer teaching in Philly making do with somewhere around 20-30 minutes of sleep a night and a degree in teaching-I thought I was prepared.

Nothing can prepare you.  That first year for me would have made the most weathered teacher retire or resign.  Most of my students came from a kindergarten teacher in his last year before retirement.  Aside from the fact that they were extreme behavior problems, he let them enjoy perennial recess rather than trying to teach them something.  They came to me and were bereft at the thought of working.  No matter, I worked, cried, and met them where they were.  Nearly all of them made progress beyond the one year average.  Of course, sometimes you have the couple that you make some progress with but the perfect storm happens to be taking place in their lives and it prevents you from building up much over the foundation you've laid-I just thought of the ways I was able to teach them how to function so much better in a classroom and get along with others.

After that year, I came to know myself and my style.  I began believing in myself.  I have always been the type to question authority...my respect has to be earned.  Of course, administrators either respected my work ethic and the ideals to which I clung (most stringently was the refusal to waste my students' time) or hated the way they always had to come up with a good reason for me to jump through whatever hoop they decided to put up for me that particular week.  They also would have been a lot more comfortable had I been a lot less intelligent...or at least just lied and smiled about it all.

Anyhow....2010 Newark TFA members getting ready for your first day tomorrow...
You won't get much sleep.  You will be perplexed at how you were able to ace everything put in front of you throughout your entire life, yet you can't help that one student learn to read/write/do fractions/younameit, your heart will break, you will think about your students when you're not with them-imagining them in the various dangerous situations they live through daily and wishing you could cover them with an umbrella of safety, you will say it's all about the kids but it will suck beyond all levels of suckage when you work until 7 or 8 at night before going home and it goes unappreciated when your observation is negative because that one kid decided today was the day she was not going to open her math book when you asked her to or another student messed up and got up without raising a hand (even though you didn't let it disrupt the lesson for the other kids), you will wonder how they will survive without you-but when you see them the next year you'll see that they're ok (although they miss you and randomly show up in your classroom before school starts or after school), you will never, ever forget these children.  The look of wonder they have while hearing a story, the amazing expression that takes place when the light bulb goes off, the sweetness of making a new friend or forgiving an old one...these things will stay in your mind and in  your heart forever.

You are doing something valuable, brave, and life-changing.  Never forget that.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tilapia Tacos For Dinner Tonight...

Tilapia Soft Corn Tortilla Tacos with Avocado, Toasted Peppers/Onions, L/T, and leftover Chipotle Salsa with Sopa de Arroz, and Lentejas.  My Corona served w/half a lime squeezed into a salt rimmed glass, Eric's out of the bottle w/a lime in it.


Own It

Looking at myself today, I began to get the negative attitude I tend to get while looking at my face.  It's as if I am unable to see it as a whole but instead find little bits and pieces to be unhappy with...today it was the luggage my mother so generously  bequeathed me that likes to live under my eyes.

Then, I just told myself to snap the F out of it.  I spent too many years stuck in this frame of mind-maybe it came from beginning modeling and pageants at 13...or maybe it's just the way American women in general deal with their reflection in the mirror.  Whatever it is, I'm shutting it down.

I look at photos of myself during my teen years, during my early twenties, and can't believe how much time I wasted comparing myself to others and/or being generally unsatisfied with my skin/hair/weight/fillintheblank.  I just know that in a few years, I'll look back at myself in the present...I don't want to feel angry about wasted time in negativity.  I want to know that I owned my inimitable translation of womanhood.

I begun this a few years ago, but it's amazing how easy it is to backslide-especially after a big change (in my case, motherhood).  It takes practice and consistency-but I will do this.  I want my baby girl to grow up and see herself through God's eyes rather than the fickle lens of popular idealogy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

To Elle Magazine RE: Article "Find Your Bliss"

Rachel Combe's article in June's issue titled "Find Your Bliss" was interesting until I got to the part of the article discussing parenthood.  I wonder what "studies" she researched which said that "mothers get more pleasure from almost anything other than taking care of their kids.  The birth of a child causes a dramatic drop in marital satisfaction that doesn't recover until the children leave home."  I am a stay at home mom, I relocated with Teach for America after graduating magna cum laude , taught for three years, and decided to care for my child myself.  Yes, sometimes going to the bathroom is a challenge, maybe my nails are kind of haggard (which never would have happened before baby), BUT I do not find myself in the midst of caring for her thinking that I would rather be doing just about anything else at that particular moment.  On the contrary, I often find myself utterly grateful that I am privileged to be able to take the time off from my career to be the one who is caring for her and witnessing too many small miracles a day to catalog.  Was it a challenge on our marriage when our daughter was born?  Yes.  It was a challenge in the bedroom-but that has completely recovered and even gotten better.  Added to that, there is something very amazing about working as a team to care for a brand new human being who has entered your lives without an instruction manual-that aspect of our marriage received a big boost.  

It was an offensive article made even more so by the way the author goes on to see both sides of the argument for finding pleasure in running.  Really?  You can find the time to defend the pleasure found in a jog but can't be bothered to address the joys that most certainly do come with having a family?  

I thought that as women we had progressed beyond the feminism which declared that women were only allowed to be satisfied if they were defying tradition.  I thought we had come to a place in which a woman's decision to be more "traditional" and have a family was as respected as the choice to put career first because the point is that as women we can choose our own happiness.  Apparently Ms. Combe hasn't received that memo-her remark regarding getting our tubes tied because of what some studies say was imbecilic.  Her lack of respect for parents everywhere is just flat out insulting.

Getting Older...

Thank you, God for hot (or at least warm) showers.

I thought that all the years of being active and flexible with activities such as dance and yoga would have given me at least another 10 to 15 years before I began to "feel" old.  I'm thirty-five.

It's like just getting down the stairs in the morning (if I haven't showered yet) instantly turns me into my abuela...."Ay dios mio!"..."Ay camarada!"..."Mis pies..."

Such is life, I suppose.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mom is not enough?

I wonder how other moms feel about this issue I experience...
It seems that whenever I'm around people making conversation, they ask about things I do aside from mothering...which is totally fine, except that I am a full time stay at home mom.

I don't think it makes much sense to disregard this part of my life because it doesn't occur in a money generating setting. I recently became certified to instruct yoga. Most of the questions I've fielded during the time I was taking the course and since graduating have to do with that topic. It's probably about 5-10% of my life right now.

I was a first grade teacher before and people asked about my class and my students-I am still a teacher, but in a different setting. My job has not lost validity because I don't draw a paycheck.

I know those that are asking are really genuinely interested in me. I do. I would just like to discuss some of the many things that I do-teaching my baby to use sign language, her favorite books, working with my stepson on responsibility and attitude, making a frittata with just about anything I find in the refrigerator, finding time for prayer in the midst of it, etc.