It’s been a rough week. It started out rough on Monday, worse news awaited me on Wednesday, and boy, there are times when it’s hard not to wonder why I do this job. Part of the problem with teaching is that it is very hard to make perfect decisions 100% of the time, though that really is the expectation underneath it all, and part of the problem is that it is very difficult to meet our own personal needs in addition to meeting everyone else’s needs.
In my 562 class Thursday night, I kept thinking of the term “balance” as we talked about what makes for good teaching, and I realized, yet again in now my seventh year of teaching, that I’m out of balance. In applying the reflection cycle (Rogers, 2002), it’s time for me to step back, reflect on my practice, and find that place of balance as my master’s work starts up again and ramps up in difficulty and amount, my new students this trimester start challenging me in new ways, and my piles of grading start getting bigger. To that end, I will actually comply with Todd Bloch’s assignment, something I usually smile at and then ignore on Facebook or other social media but think it’s time to actually go along with. I follow Todd on Twitter and learn so much from him, so I trust that his assignment will help me through this rough patch in helping me to pause and reflect.
11 Random Facts about Me:
1. I actually don’t think of myself as much of a techie despite typing this on my touch-screen laptop (hey, I got it on amazing sale last year) with my Evernote notebook, my smartphone, and my new tablet all on the arms of the chair I’m sitting in.
2. I named our dog after a character from the first play my ex-husband and I acted in together, Charley’s Aunt. That play was just about the most fun I ever had in college, and it was a natural name for him.
3. I’m Eastern Orthodox Christian but didn’t grow up that way, instead converting after college. Most Orthodox in the US are ethnic Orthodox, growing up in the church because they’re Russian or Serbian or Greek or whatever. It makes for interesting conversations sometimes. In fact, in the church the ex-husband and I converted in, I got so tired of trying to explain to people that I wasn’t Greek, that, when they asked me yet again which island I was from, I started answering, “The Hebrides,” and then waited for them to get it.
4. I’m a Level II Certified Knitting Teacher through the Craft Yarn Council of America, a certification I’m rather proud of and worked hard for. I’ve taught pretty much every level of knitting, from beginning to advanced techniques.
5. I almost had a book published. Interweave, one of the big craft publishers, agreed to publish a knitting textbook I was writing only to back out the very next day before they’d sent out the contract. It’s a long story, and I’m still a bit bitter about it. Someday, I’m finishing that book and getting it published, gosh darnit.
6. I cuss. A lot. I can’t at school, though I have been known to switch to Russian when I really need to swear because no one at my school knows what I’m saying, though I also occasionally forget myself and don’t switch out of Spanish. Good thing the other Spanish teacher understands and rarely is around when I forget myself. With my students, I use “old lady” expressions like “dagnabit” and “gosh darnit” and geeky ones like “Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch!” My students seem to understand that I’m weird.
7. I hate coffee, though I love the smell. I’m a pop and tea person, and yes, I know they’re bad for me. I don’t care.
8. I lost my right kidney just over seven years ago to a malignant tumor that was later found to probably not be cancer in that it probably won’t metastasize. The doctors think I’m cured but always add the caveat that they’re not sure. It was a massive, life-changing event in many, many ways, and I still deal with it all these years later. I mostly ignore it, but it does explain why I sometimes roll my eyes at my students and even my own children when they start complaining about pain.
9. I can’t take any opiates or painkillers based on opium, which is pretty much everything except for ibuprofen. They don’t block the pain pathways in me, just give me the side effects. So, yes, when I woke up from my kidney tumor surgery, I had zero pain control. Yes, I still remember that.
10. If I could, I’d put a reading nook in my classroom complete with couch, beanbag chairs, lamp with good light, and bookshelves filled with all kinds of books. In my first few years of teaching, I had something like that (without the couch or lamp), and it changes the entire feel of a classroom.
11. I started out as a Catholic high school teacher. My mother’s a retired public high school art teacher of 35 years, my stepmom was a public high school home economics/journalism teacher, her mother was a kindergarten teacher in a public school. My first three years of teaching were in the Catholic schools, and I’ve taught in another since. They are different from publics, though kids are kids, and there are things I wish we could borrow from them (Moms and Dads clubs, uniforms, having a way to incorporate the spiritual side of kids). Sometimes, I really miss it.
Todd’s 11 Questions for Me:
1. Why do you teach?
- I teach because I can’t not teach. I tried. I even almost opened up a yarn shop (twice–long story), but I still kept finding ways to teach. Somehow, it’s in my blood.
2. What was your favorite book as a child?
- Whatever I was reading at the time. I was (and am) a voracious reader and at one point, had read over half of the fiction books in my middle school library (which was bigger than NBHS’s library, just saying). I remember loving Island of the Blue Dolphins, pretty much every horse book except Black Beauty, Witch on Blackbird Pond, and everything Madelyn L’Engle.
3. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go? and why?
- I’d grab my kids, magically have passports and money all set (hey, it’s my dream and my blog), and I’d go back to Nizhni Novgorod, Russia where I studied in college. I loved that city and would love to show my kids just why I fell in love with Russia and see if it works the same magic on them.
4. Favorite dessert?
- Chocolate whatever, though I am a huge fan of pie.
5. Describe the inside of your car?
- I drive a mom car, which means it’s usually trashed inside. Trash, random kid stuff, random school stuff, ice scrapers, first aid kits, a blanket–we could survive out of my car, just sayin’.
6. Where were you on 9/11?
- I was at home getting my daughter ready for the day while my ex-husband got ready (he was running late to work). I will never forget watching those brave first responders run into the building only to have it come down on them a short time later and how I sat holding my baby girl tightly while rocking back and forth and crying. We have friends who lost loved ones in the attack, and we spent much of the next couple of days trying to track down my ex’s brother (who was supposed to be at the WTC that day for a meeting but was running late and riding the ferry when he saw the first plane hit).
7. How many states have you traveled to?
- I live in one, have been to 34, and I’ve flown through Puerto Rico.
8. What was your first blog post about?
- I had a knitting blog years and years ago (knitters, oddly enough, are a huge percentage of bloggers and were early on), and my first post was July 23rd, 2005, and I wrote 768 posts on that blog before having to shut it down due to the custody case. My first post was about updating Knitty.com message board friends about my yarn shop plans and my pain issues creating trouble with those plans.
9. What was your Best Christmas gift ever received?
- A complete set of Brittany birch double point knitting needles my mom got me one year when I was in high school. I got that small box, a book, and I think one other thing. Mom was so apologetic that I had so little under the tree that year, but I was over the moon!
10. Describe you standard work attire?
- Sweater (sometimes with a shawl), pants, comfy shoes.
11. Favorite store to shop in?
- My favorite store doesn’t exist anymore, Threadbear Fiber Arts (it was such a happy, safe place before all the nastiness and they shut down). For usual stuff, Nordstrom Rack.
11 Bloggers I Read, Respect, and Try to Follow:
(If you’ve already gotten this, please feel free to ignore the homework, etc.)
1. My Spanish I students (I’ll be posting this as an optional blog post on the class blog.)
2. My Spanish II students
3. Ben Rimes (though he’s more of a Google+ man)
4. Nicholas Provenzano
5. Larry Ferlazzo
6. Susan Ohanian
7. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (she’s a knitter, but she’s awesome, so there!)
8. Franklin Habit
9. Diane Ravitch
10. Peter Greene
11. George Couros
11 Questions for my Bloggers (who choose to participate, that is):
1. What was it that got you to start with this whole blog thing anyway?
2. What is the best meal you have ever eaten in your life?
3. What is your favorite fiber to wear (for those who have noticed this sort of thing)?
4. How did you get your current job?
5. If you had to give up all technological devices except for one, what would you keep?
6. Describe your perfect evening.
7. What is on your couch right now that you’d get up and put away but just don’t care quite enough? If your couch is all cleaned off, then look at a surface that irks you (i.e., desk, coffee table, kitchen counter, etc.) and use that for your answer.
8. What was the last poem you read? Last book?
9. Coffee, tea, or hot cocoa–which do you pick if you’re out with your boss at an impromptu meeting at a conference in January? Why?
10. What were your high school’s colors and mascot?
If you wish to participate, here are the rules:
- Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
- Share 11 random facts about yourself.
- Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
- List 11 bloggers.
- Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
Post back here with a link after you write this.
Rodgers, C. (2002). Seeing Student Learning: Teacher Change and the Role of Reflection. Harvard Educational Review, 72(2), 230-253.