Put on some lipstick & pull yourself together

“I don’t want to do this, it’s too hard.”

“I’m triggered.”

“Why did you smack him?”
“I thought he took my pencil.”
“Where is the pencil?”
“I found it in my pocket…”

These are direct quotes from my students, middle schoolers who are hormonal and dramatic and lazy. They refuse to learn some days and, in an ironic twist, will go out of their way and work really hard to avoid working. This isn’t a post about “kids these days,” (though I could write a book.)

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Change out the words a little and see if it hits closer to home.

“No one will contribute to my GoFundMe, it’s not fair.”

“I need a ‘safe space’.”

“Why are you rioting?”
“My candidate didn’t win.”
“Did you vote?”
“Well…no…”

Scary isn’t it?

I’ve thought long and hard about this topic and I think I have an answer, inasmuch as you can solve a problem with a broad generalization. So here’s my advice, take it for what it’s worth:

Grow up.

555f03953cbfdf521b85936cb33166ffThat’s it. Grow up. Get up, get over yourself, and go do something. If you don’t have the life you want, it’s probably because you aren’t making it happen, or you are and you need to be patient. The life of a Pinterest board, the life your parents have, the life you’ve always wanted comes after years of hard work, effort, humility, and perseverance. Don’t expect anyone to give you anything. Earn that nonsense.

Stop talking about how people don’t understand your mission or your meaning or your purpose. Borrowing from Picasso: Your meaning in life is to find your gift. Your purpose in life is to give it away. To act justly love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Period. (That last part was from Micah.)

In the meantime – your purpose is to contribute, in a real way. Stop with the made up niche markets and feeling victimized when people just don’t get you. Stop acting like this broken and imperfect world owes you anything. ANYTHING.

If you find yourself in the same predicament over an over, maybe it’s because you’re doing something wrong. Everything happens for a reason, but often that reason is that you made a bad choice and are dealing with the consequences. These aren’t growing pains, you aren’t misunderstood.

It would be easy to think that I’m calling out the millennials, or the people who are paving a new road, working hard to affect change. But no. Entitlement isn’t generation specific but it is a rampant pandemic. So knock it off.

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Let men be men by letting boys be boys.

I have something to say.

I expect J to open doors for me. I expect him to walk me to my car at the end of a date. I expect him to help me with my coat and offer to carry my shopping bags (which, no joke, are usually his shopping bags).

Now, I don’t have to worry about these things. He always opens the door. He comes around to let me out of the car (unless I’m driving, apparently the rules are different then). He walks on the street side of the sidewalk, even if that means moving me to his other arm. Unless I trick him out of it, he always pays for dinner or coffee or tickets to wherever. I tease him a little about his chivalry, but I never dismiss it; I always thank him. Not because I feel obligated to, but because I want him to know how much these small acts mean to me.

e119a73f114933e5619ebda890cfee07In my classroom, when I want an act of physical labor performed, I ask for a young gentleman to help me. Not because I don’t think that the girls in my class could handle it, but because I want to teach my boys to be men. Men who stand when a lady enters the room and hold doors open. Men who grow up to be husbands and fathers and take care of their families no matter what, even if it means working 3 jobs to make ends meet. Men who conduct themselves in a respectable and dignified way.

But I teach middle school.

An expectation of miniature men is unrealistic, even damaging. Boys will be boys. I see it every day. Boys smirk and laugh about inappropriate things. Boys throw things at each other and tease. Boys are hyper and rowdy and can’t sit still for an 84 minute block. It’s not hate speech when boys taunt each other. It’s not a danger to the school environment when they can’t sit still. It’s childhood playing out in the classroom. But it could be irreversibly detrimental to pigeonhole spirited young men into labels of “defiant” or “hyperactive” while destroying their desire to learn.

I’m not alone on this.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in conjunction with Prager University, put together the following short video about the effects of a “female-centric” academic culture. It’s chilling stuff.

May I let my boys be boys, so that they can grow up to be men…

Happy Weekend!

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The End of the Road | Internship Recap

So here we are, friends.

its-no-use-going-back-to-yesterday-because-i-was-a-different-person-then-quote-111 classes, 275 students, and 79 batches of GAK later, and I’m finally staring down the last week of my student teaching experience. After the first week, I wrote some tips for survival. They were all true and exceedingly helpful. But oh, how much I’ve learned in the last few months. I feel as though I’m a completely different person than the one who bounded into my first placement like an eager puppy back in August. So I bring you five more things I’ve gathered:

Learn names

Nothing builds rapport with your students faster than learning their names. Make a seating chart and study it. Force yourself to pass back papers. Stand at the door and greet each student by name as they come into class. Sure, it will take a while to learn all of them (especially at the second placement) but your students will appreciate your effort. I may never remember which twin is Kasey and which one is Kelly, but they know I’m trying, and they cut me some slack. Plus, I Kasey has the curly hair…ee25687bdad83ffb2d74923e46d4ad7e

Take advice…with a grain of salt

Everyone has an opinion and everyone has advice on how the classroom should function. Warm ups or no, read the objective or have students read it, individual vs. group work, the list goes on and on. As a student teacher, you are in a position to glean all the best advice from the people around you, but you are free to ignore the advice that doesn’t apply/doesn’t work. Be gracious, say thank you, and go your own way. In your cooperating teacher’s classroom, you need to be respectful of their rules and procedures, but once you’re on your own, it’s your show.

Steal everything. Everything.

Handouts, lecture notes, PowerPoint slides. Ask your mentor or content partner for their best work and more than likely, they’ll tell you to plug in a jump drive and take it all. Teachers are generous. As long as it isn’t licensed material (don’t be that person) take anything they offer. You don’t have to use everything, but it’s great to have a bank of ideas. Your county or school server is also probably rich with strategies.

Try not be offended

It’s going to happen; someone will forget about you. There won’t be enough handouts at the staff meeting or no one will tell you that you can wear jeans on Friday. It isn’t personal, but the team isn’t used to the extra body and sometimes, they’ll forget to include you. Or, they’ll forget that you don’t get department-wide emails and that you have to be told information in person. It’s easy to get your feathers ruffled – get over yourself. Assuming your team is generally good-willed, believe in the power of the honest mistake and don’t throw a fit when you feel left out.

Every once in a while, you might even be surprised that they remembered you. Like when your Testing Coordinator printed out a copy of the data-access instructions because he knew you couldn’t get to the server, or when a group of teachers throws you a going away lunch on your last day. Relish those moments and let the other ones go.

Be kind to yourself

This works a couple ways. You’ll have days that you blew it; not enough copies, your pacing was all wrong, and you snapped at a kid because you told him to stop rocking in his chair for the 573rd time. Try not to carry over the feelings of inadequacy and regret into the next day. More than likely, your students won’t remember and the only person you’re punishing is yourself. Be reflective, but give yourself a break. You’re still learning, you will absolutely make mistakes.

Which leads to the second part: take care of your body and soul. Student teaching is a lot of work, but you’re no good to anyone if you are sick and worn down all the time. Take time to sleep, exercise, see friends, or hang out with your boyfriend. Balance is key; better to start setting boundaries at the beginning, than when you’re already drowning.

Have fun

It sounds cliche, but honestly, these can be some of the best times of your life. Enjoy the ride, learn all you can, and take time to appreciate the whirlwind experience. Before you know it, it will be over and you’ll be thrust terrifyingly into first year teaching.

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Just stop ‘Just’ing | Finding My Voice

As I near my the end of my internship *cue choir of angels*, I find myself in the unique position of needing a teaching job in January. Normally an August to June gig, trying to find a job for the spring is equal parts luck and well-timed maternity leave.

Trying to stay hopeful, I recalled a conversation with the principal of the middle school where I spent my first placement. When last we spoke, she insinuated that there may be an opening earlier than expected, though stopped short of making any promises.  I figured that it couldn’t hurt to follow-up and drafted an email to that effect. When perusing for typos, I couldn’t help but notice how passive I sounded. Phrases such as “just checking” and “just wondering” littered the short composition.

I was appalled. When did I start ‘just’ing? It isn’t only me, either. We’ve developed a culture of passivity in which seeking information or *gasp* asking someone to do their job is tantamount to bothering someone. How many times have I apologized to a customer service representative for asking a question, knowing full well that answering questions is the very nature of their profession?

I’m reminded of a spoken word poem I encountered years ago by Lily Myers. The poet, a college student, describes the tradition in her family for men to grow larger as the women shrink in both stature and personality. These silent victims have learned to accommodate, believing themselves unworthy to occupy too much space. Her chilling words describe how this habit has followed her into adulthood:

“I asked five questions in genetics today, and all of them started with the word, ‘Sorry…'”

It’s horrifying to consider that I, a historically confident human being, would devalue my worth to a point that I negate my own words. I rewrote the email, professionally but in no uncertain terms asking for the status on the tentative job offer she extended. I vowed to never again shrink behind a passive voice.

I also got the job.

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Drink the coffee and do the things | Leaving your baggage at the door

One morning, I hit a deer on my way to work. Understandably, I was a bit scattered when I walked in the front door of my school. A student immediately cornered me for help on his Atoms and Period Table study guide for the test I’m giving on Wednesday while another student tried to explain why he didn’t have his project to turn in, even after he had all last week in class to work on it.

And I hadn’t even set down my bag yet.

Two of the girls in my home base check in with me before heading off to various early morning commitments (overachievers). In my frazzled state, I was unusually dismissive and shooed the girls off to their activities without taking time for my regular cheery small-talk.  One of the girls, who we’ll call…Melissa (names have been changed so I don’t lose my job) called my bluff. This conversation followed:

“Ms. Alger! That is not how we start our morning! Where is your coffee?”
“Um…on my desk?”
“Drink it! We’ll try this again later.”

Bossy thing, isn’t she? But she was right. I let my frantic rushing about and crammed schedule impact my relationships with my students. They look to me to be consistent and positive. Sure, everyone has bad days, but how often do we use a bad day as an excuse to be snarky or negative to the people around us?

Drink your coffee and start your day again. And watch out for deer.

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5 Things in September

Welcome, September!

The romantic comedy classic You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks’ Joe Fox describes fall as a time when he feels the need to buy school supplies and wishes to send his online love a bouquet of sharpened pencils.

Joe, I’m with you.

Fall is my favorite time of year and September is its gatekeeper. Soon crunchy leaves and pumpkin spice will descend upon us and the holiday season will shortly follow. Every year, I look forward to the days of cool nights and over-sized sweaters. There is a newness to fall, though everything seems to be dying, a crispness in the air that silently screams of coziness and possibilities. Here are 5 other things I’m loving right now:

Remember this | Every day is a chance to change your life

Memorize this| Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us…  [1 John 4:4-6a]

Learn this | Did you know that the human brain has 100,000 miles of blood vessels? That’s enough to circle Earth 4 times. So…now you know.

Watch this | With the insanity going on in Syria right now, this chilling video makes you stop and think about the world in which we live.

Do this | Entertain. Whether you host a couple of friends for lunch on a Saturday, or throw a dinner party for 12, open your heart (and your home) to those around you. Take time to be grateful for your friends and family and slow down to express appreciation for them.

Happy September!

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Wildly Identifiable | Easy ID Lanyard DIY

I have to wear an ID badge at work. I must have it on at all times while I’m in the building or at a school function. It allows me to be identified as a “staff” member (sort of…I don’t get paid to be there) instead of a threat to National Security. In a constant effort to be adorable in everything I do, I wanted a cute lanyard on which to display my lovely ID.

Hello, Target dollar section.

I found a cute sparkly lanyard ($1!!!), but after wearing it for less than a week, it was already starting to fall apart. I guess you get what you pay for. So I did what I should have done the first time. I asked Pinterest.

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Which is how I found this completely adorable fabric lanyard tutorial from Two Peas In a Pod. Even with my terrible novice sewing skills, I easily whipped out this baby in about 10 minutes. If you have a sewing machine and can sew a straight line, you can make this lanyard. Ridiculous. Since I used fabric scraps I already had lying around and repurposed the hardware from the now defunct Target lanyard, the project cost me a grand total of $0, which is my favorite amount to spend on things.

20150829_111653Mine is a wee bit wider than the original, because I started with 2.5″ scraps instead of 2″, but other than that, I followed the instructions pretty closely. You could use this same method, and wider fabric scraps to make key chains or luggage tags. The possibilities are endless!

Happy Crafting!

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Let it begin | 4 Ways To Dominate the Back-to-School Shuffle

I spent today hunched over my computer as I dredged through a backlog of email so impressive I could star in my own episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive – Virtual Edition.

Classy.

I’m doing my best to get caught up before school starts and all hell breaks loose. If you’ve followed along, you probably know that I’ll be student teaching this fall. I’m also taking on the new and terrifying exciting role of adjunct professor and will be teaching my first college class starting in September. Added to my responsibilities at church, family and friends that I’d like to see occasionally, and a weekend class on study skills for elementary school aged children, I have a lot on my plate.

Whether your fall consists of 937 jobs or running kids to soccer, ballet, and piano lessons, it is traditionally a time of change and chaos. Here are 4 ways to fight back.

1. Get Organized

You know I love my planner, but the paper thing isn’t for everyone. Organization, however, is no joke. Preparation isn’t just about knowing what is going to happen. Preparation means controlling what you can so that the uncontrollables in your life don’t derail you. If you’d rather go the techie route, you can use Google Calendars or apps like Any.do to track your tasks, appointments, and responsibilities.

For my self-employed or freelance readers, try an app like Timesheet – Time Tracker to track your hours and make billing a breeze. I used this app to track my students when I was a tutor and it was incredibly easy to use. Best of all, it’s free!

2. Take the Stress out of Dinner

Picture this – it’s been a long day. You were 3 minutes late picking up princess from math team because the little mister’s ballroom dance classes ran over (that’s right ballroom dance, you got a problem with that?) and now she won’t stop giving you lip about how you abandoned her and how damaged she’ll be forever. While you practice  deep breathing and try not to reach out and show her just how damaged she could be, it suddenly occurs to you that you still have to figure out what to feed the ankle-biters. Grrrr…

The Resourceful Gals have an ingenious system for making dinner time a snap by doing a whole month’s worth of planning at once. It takes a bit of work to set up, but it could save you some serious time (and money!) in the long run.

3. Don’t be a Morning Person

People who try to wake me up in the morning do so at their own risk. No joke, it’s not pretty. I’m barely able to function, let alone achieve any level productivity before my first (and second) cup of coffee. Add in the stress of breakfast, backpacks, and bus stops and I’m super glad the only person I have to get out the door in the morning is me.

To preempt some of the morning chaos, try a bedtime checklist. Lay out your clothes, fill the coffee pot, make sure your keys are hung up, and get your bag ready for the next day. Give the kiddos a fun bedtime ritual that includes making sure they have that elusive red folder and that lunches are packed. 

This adorable checklist from The Gunny Sack can be put in a picture frame so that little ones can check off items with a dry erase marker before heading off to the land of nod. Everyone sleeps a little easier and mornings aren’t as traumatic.

Picking out your clothes the night before also prevents that morning panic when you realize that your favorite blouse is in the dirty clothes or that you never sewed the button back on to your trousers. *Gasp*

4. Break down your To Do’s.

The real danger of a busy life (besides collapsing from exhaustion) is forgetting things in the fray. Enter, beautiful, glorious lists. Besides the standard grocery or to-do variety, lists are a great way to plan out long-term projects.

Start by determining your goal, project, or task and listing the steps required to meet it. Assign a due date, then work backward to figure out when the steps each need to be completed. That way, when life picks up, you don’t have to worry about large deadlines creeping up on you.

I have 20 artifacts to complete for my internship, on top of lesson plans, graded papers, and band practices. The completed packet isn’t due until January, but it’s much too large of a project to put off until the winter months. Instead, I have deadlines every two weeks, or so, to keep me on track so that I roll into the new year (relatively) stress free.

If the kiddos have huge projects coming up (science fair, anyone?) breakdown their tasks into manageable chunks. If they spend an hour every week working on the monstrous project, you won’t have to stay up the night before it’s due gluing letters on a cardboard backdrop (yeah, I’ve been there too.)

Happy Back to School!

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day 16 | My final Final, Finally!

Oh, sweet friends, it’s been a rough week. I’m feeling quite worn.

Yesterday, I took my last final exam. It’s a strange and beautiful thing to finally be free of the classes that have, for so long, kept me from my dream. The final wasn’t too bad, except that it was at 8 am. Never acceptable. I realized that I’ve taken a couple dozen final exams in my illustrious, if extended, school career and garnered some useful knowledge, which I now share with you. Because I’m a giver.

1) Buddy Up
Studying with a partner may not work for you (it doesn’t for me), but take a little time to go over key concepts with a friend. Even if you just explain the material to someone who has no idea what you’re talking about, when you try to put what you know into logical thoughts, it solidifies the information in your brain. Plus, it’s good practice for essays.

2) Get Some Sleep
Seriously, don’t pull an all-nighter. It sounds like a good idea, but rarely is. Get at least a few hours of shut-eye. Your brain processes information as you sleep and you’ll be overall better equipped to ace your exam.

3) Get Ready
Even if your exam is late in the day, get up at a reasonable time, eat breakfast, shower, and start your day. A disturbance in your normal routine can make you feel sluggish or disoriented, which can mess with your testing mojo. Besides, rolling up feeling grungy and sleepy is never the last impression you want to make on your professor.

4) Dress Comfy
Comfortable ≠ slobbish. Dress in light layers so that you maintain an ideal temperature no matter what the conditions of the testing room. Reach for layer that button or zip, rather than pull off over your head so that you can easily add/remove clothing in those bizarre and unreasonably tiny chairs.

5) Chew Gum
Or suck on a mint. Science has linked mint to increased concentration and memory retention. Plus, chewing gum gives you an outlet for all that nervous energy.

Final thoughts: If you get stuck…
It happens. You thought you were prepared and took every precaution to do well. Then the wording of a question or that one essay topic throws you for a loop. Stop and take a deep breath, you can do this.

If it’s a Multiple Choice (Selected Response) question, skip it, and move on. Come back at the end and eliminate the choices you know are not correct. Then, make your best guess. Trust your instincts and don’t keep waffling between your answers.

If an essay has you stumped, make a small graphic organizer. Whether the essay requires you to write about the social, political, and economic causes of World War I, or make a case for the most influential scientist of all time, draw a little chart and start putting down what you know. As more information comes to you, add it to the organizer. When you’re completely stumped, try making some logical inferences based on what you already know.

Happy Finals!

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Because…Science!

I currently have 5 tabs open on my browser window.  They are:

  1. ETS Study Companion, Earth and Space Sciences: Content Knowledge
  2. Education Portal Review Course, Chapter 16, Lesson 3 – What is Relative Dating? – Law of Superposition, Principles of Original Horizontality & Cross-Cutting Relationships
  3. Google Calculator
  4. Earth Science Essentials, 2nd Edition
  5. The Period Table of Elements

Don’t you wish you had my life?

studyingOn Monday, I’ll take the Praxis II Earth and Space Sciences: Content Knowledge exam, one of the 3 tests I have to pass to be certificated as a teacher.  I’ve already taken the first test, the Praxis I, and I’ll take the third test, the PLT Grades 7-12 on Thursday. I’ve been studying for what seems like forever and the more I study, the more I realize how little I know about anything at all.  A current list of things about which I don’t know (in no particular order):

  • soil
  • rocks
  • clouds
  • weather
  • geologic timescale
  • dinosaurs
  • water
  • why I thought teaching was a good idea

In all fairness, I rocked the astronomy portion of the practice exam as well as the parts about weathering, mass wasting, biology, chemistry, and physics.  However, when the study guide outline is a 5 page document, the small victories seem even smaller.

Why am I telling you this? I need to vent and you’re a captive audience.  Also, I’d like to you to give the certified professionals in your life a break. For the nurses, teachers, mechanics, counselors, and assorted others who spent hours and a small (or not so small) fortune attaining credentials, ease up, okay? What they’ve been through is no joke.

I hope you enjoy your weekend.  I’ll be here, studying.