What I Learned in 2013

It has been a really long time since I posted and it has been a truly insane couple of months. But as this year comes to a close and I’m thinking about the year gone by and the new year coming up, why not use New Years Eve to ponder what I’ve learned from this crazy roller coaster of a year. I look back on the last 6th months alone: I graduated, went through five weeks of intensive training, moved out of Southern California for the first time ever, and started teaching wild sixth graders. I think I’ve probably even learned more than I have taught so far. So here’s some of those things.

1. You are stronger and more resilient then you ever thought. Being a first year teacher alone is a challenge unlike any other. Being a first year teacher with only five weeks of training is like being thrown in the deep end of a pool with a half a floaty. After seeing one of my coworkers quit a few months in, I questioned my own ability to make it through this, especially in November, which is it’s own story of resilience in itself. But I made it to the major benchmark of all first year teachers – Winter Break – a little worse for wear, but still alive and kicking.

2. Change is scary, change is intimidating, change isn’t fun when it first happens, but eventually it gets kind of worth it. Sometimes it even gets really worth it. Graduating UCSB was really a sad moment for me. I left my little heaven on Earth and the people I had met there slowly scattered back across the western sea board like spilled marbles on a tile floor. Moving the Nevada was terrifying, I knew very few people starting out. But despite all of this, I found that Las Vegas is a really cool city (not quite as cool as Santa Barbara but it’ll do) and I met some amazing people who I am proud to call my friends. As for teaching well, that’s many lessons unto itself.

3. Teaching is hard and frustrating. It’s my first year and I know it’s going to get better, but whoever says teachers have it easy either lies or needs to try teaching. Secondary lesson within this one, it’s hard to keep 11-year-olds engaged in a single lesson for two hours (again this in itself has many many lessons, but I won’t bore you with all of them). Teaching requires multitasking and an ability to think on ones feet. I realized about a month into the school year that I probably make a good 150 decisions, very quickly every 2 hours. So there’s that. Also, grading and lesson planning take a lot of hours, not all of which exists in a day, which leads me too…

4. Sometimes you have to choose what to include and what to leave out of your day and sometimes for your mental health you need to leave out some things that you probably shouldn’t. Sometimes you need to pick lesson planning over grading. Sometimes you need to prioritize making handouts for the next day over lesson planning. And sometimes you need to pick watching Supernatural and eating chocolate over both of those, because you’re so close to a nervous breakdown that your administration is starting to worry about you. And sometimes the choice you make is wrong and it will come back to bite you in the long run, but really you just have to do the best you can with the knowledge you have and how you feel at the time.

5. Probably the most important I’ve learned this year. Be kind to yourself. This lesson, while the shortest and simplest, took me the whole year to learn. I won’t regale you with all the stories it took to learn this, but essentially it all boils down to this: if you don’t treat yourself kindly, if you stress and beat yourself up over every little thing, nothing is going to make you happy. So don’t beat yourself up over the little things (one of my resolutions for the new year) and every once in a while, blow off what you think you need to do to treat yourself. Be good to yourselves. In the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut, “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

So with what I’ve learned this year I put together my resolutions for the next:

1. Exercise more, which really for me means dance more.

2. 20% more fun (thank to a friend of mine for that one).

3. Make my lessons more engaging.

4. The perennial but it always gets broken very quickly, stop picking at my cuticles.

I have a lot more to learn and I can’t wait to see what next year has to throw at me. I’ll close out with my favorite quote from Douglas Adams (a lesson I learned in 2012) and I try to remember as I go throughout life. “I may not have gotten where I intended to go, but I always end up where I was intended to be.” Good luck on your journey’s in the next year and a very happy New Year unto you all.

 

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Leaving Never Never Land

I tried on my cap and gown today and it hit me I only have one month left before I enter the adult world.

I go to a school that’s something akin to a paradise donut with a sinful cream filling. I can see the beach and fit college students roaming around in bathing suit trunks and bikinis right outside my window. No matter how hot it gets, the breeze from the ocean is cool against your skin and at night the local college town host a slew of parties that would make Jay Gatsby proud. Alcohol flows like water here. But we are hard workers. We work hard and play hard and enjoy our youth to its fullest.

I stood looking at myself in the mirror with my cap and gown, feeling simultaneous emotions. I am excited, thrilled even. For four years I have been working towards this moment. I draped the stole over my gown, followed by the cords for the honors society to get the full effect of what I will look like that day. And then it hits me. In one month I am leaving my beautifully tan little beach town behind. I think of the new home waiting for me in desert. I already miss this place and I haven’t even left it yet. 

Through my 4 years of college I’ve never really felt like an adult. I know that legally I am one – I can sign contracts and buy beer – but I feel to irresponsible to consider myself grown up. I mean I get good grades, I work, I clean up after myself, but there seems like there must be something more to it. It doesn’t help that despite being 22 I still look like a teenager.

It scares me, the prospect that in a few months I’ll be responsible not only for myself but a roomful of preteens. I’ve been trying to set a goal for myself each week, aside from sifting through my masses of reading, papers, extracurriculars, to make myself more confident in my ability to become an adult. In case you’re curious this week is actually responding to my emails.

Anyway the point of this post is to remind all you college students out there, from Freshmen to those of you graduating very soon, enjoy this time. Enjoy it to it’s fullest extent because right now we get to be carefree and exuberant and live our lives according to our own rules. But soon we’ll have to be responsible, soon we’ll have to be adults. Let’s enjoy this in between stage for just a little longer. 

I took off my cap and gown, folded everything, and neatly placed everything back into the bag. It’s time to grow up, but I’m going to make sure that I fully enjoy this last month. 

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Opening My Book

My title for this post sounds kind of douchy (which apparently isn’t a word) and pretentious, but I hope you’ll forgive me because it’s one in the morning and I spent all day on a train and writing a paper. I promise you I am not douchy (or at least I hope I’m not).

Anyway… I started this blog as a way to document the new journey I am about to embark on. I’m 22 years old and going into my last quarter in college. As my college career comes to an end and I have to make my way out into the real world, I want to keep track of my thoughts and journey, in case anybody finds my thoughts amusing or helpful and let’s be honest to entertain myself. 

I feel reassured that I seem to have a path for my post-college life as I have just gotten accepted into Teach for America. However, I am currently terrified of the prospect of actually being a grown up. Mostly because I can’t cook anything that doesn’t come in a box and sometimes I get too lazy to remember to feed myself. I’m pretty sure after three weeks of cooking for myself I’ll be begging for the dorm food that I currently complain about almost every day. 

So I welcome you to my ramblings. Hopefully I can amuse you. Or if you’re bored I can kill like 5-10 minutes of your day. Either way welcome and goodnight (cause again it’s one in the morning and I am really tired).

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