News for this Week.

The Baby: He’s getting big and strong. I read to him Berenstain Bears books and I started to play classical music to him at night. It makes him get super active so I think he either loves or hates it. He kicked my phone off my stomach on Friday. Last night, he found the area of my body that he has yet to really explore: the area known as the land above my belly button. He also kicked me so hard he bounced my hand off. I think to think he’s saying hello. Though it’s probably more like stop poking me, mom, I’m fine. Either way, it’s been pretty cool to see him interacting with the world outside my uterus a little bit.

Overall, I am still pretty calm about impending motherhood. I was very ready to become a mom, and while I didn’t think it would happen as quickly as it did, I am thankful that it did. I am also thankful that my 20-something-year-old self was responsible enough to get disability insurance as well as put into plastic containers the few pieces of baby things I wanted to save from my own infancy for my kids. I recently moved all of my stuff out of the house I grew up in and was shocked at how well I took care of things when everything else was left in shambles by other people.

 

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Sandy Hook, New Jersey…early 90’s.

 

The Doctorate: Whelp, I am eagerly awaiting to hear back from the IRB about whether or not my study is approved. It can take up to 7 business days. They have currently used 2, so hopefully, it will happen sooner rather than later. I’ve begun writing my first couple of chapters including the much-hated literature review. I have found that in going through the process of the doctoral comprehensive exam as well as writing the research plan that you submit to the IRB, a lot of your dissertation is already begun for you. You just need to re-write and re-work it a little to fit the needs of the dissertation requirements.

The House Hunt: We’ve entered the point where we have outgrown our little house. After months of thinking and working towards what turned out to be complete BS which a large part of me knew it would, we’re now left trying to figure out where we plan to live long-term as well as what kind of house we want to invest in for the next 30+ years. Weekends have become open house weekends and after visiting many, I think I may have had my life figured out right years ago. I had always wanted to live by the water and for the last 3 years, I have. I was reminded of that the other day when a storm blew in and while you can’t see or smell the ocean from our house usually, you can smell it during the storms. The entire air fills with salt and seaweed and it’s the most calming scent for me. Funny to think that I was ready to leave it thinking it would be better for my son, but I think that too may have been a mistake. I think as long as our kids are with us, in a stable, non-toxic environment with two parents that love each other very much, that they will turn out to be good, productive adults.

I am hoping we find something soon that pushes us to list our townhouse and we get to move on to the family house that I would really like to one day hand down to one of our kids. I know, it’ll be the cliche generational beach house, but there is something to cliches.

Looking Forward to: The summer, mostly. We’ve entered the phase of the school year where it is full-on testing and test preparation. It’s boring to me, I’d rather be reading good books and teaching. I’m also finding it hard to be standing all day at this point and am happiest in my recliner. I am looking forward to being home this year and for Logan to finally get here.

I think most of the big transitions and craziness have already happened for this year and now we’re entering into a calmer period. Probably the calm before the storm that will be Hurricane Logan this summer, but after such a crazy year, I will take the peacefulness for awhile.

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Martian Child

It’s icky and cold here in New Jersey today. It was very hard to get up with that 6AM alarm. By me, it was just beginning to rain, but by the time I got into the capital city to teach today, the roads were slick and the rain had become the ever so lovely mix of snow and freezing rain.

It is definitely one of those days where you wish you could just stay home with your animals and watch Netflix.

BUT! I was just sick and I have a team to coach and a college class to teach tonight, so that wasn’t going to be in the cards today.

I did lay in bed thinking about it for a good 5 minutes. I am just so tired….all the time. It’s got me to think about what I’m going to do once our baby is here. It’s scary to even be thinking about deciding to stay home and cut down on work. I worked so hard to get here. Within 10 years, I completed a double bachelor’s degree, a double post-bac certificate, a master’s degree and almost a PhD. I always thought I would just work forever, but lately, my body doesn’t go like it used to. I can’t work 7 days a week anymore and my nights physically end for me around 9pm, and that’s after my after-dinner nap around 5PM.

I know this is pregnancy tired, but I worry about baby tired too. Will I really be able to come back to work in September/October like I plan? If I can, will I feel guilty leaving my baby even though he or she will have days with her dad since we work opposite schedules right now?

 

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Douglas College graduation at Rutgers University, May 2008

 

I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. This pregnancy has gotten very real recently, with the belly that has sprung up. It feels like it happened overnight. I went from this little bump to a stomach that you can’t deny has a baby growing in it. And while I have not felt a real kick yet, I do feel, especially when I am standing or walking, these fluttering movements that feel like I have an alien living in my stomach.

in some ways, it is an alien if you think about it. A baby starts to grow in your belly with its own little heart and soul, coming from seemingly nowhere and then you have the baby and you need to teach him or her everything because they have no knowledge of where they just came out into after you push them out of your hoo-ha.

Having kids is weird and stressful, but so worth it. I do love feeling my little baby fluttering around. I also love when I’m working at my desk and I get to rub my growing belly. I’m enjoying every moment of it, but, I’m just wondering how long I will be able to work and how emotionally prepared I’ll be to come back to work. Or if this is one of life’s forks in the road: do I continue on like I have been since I graduated from Rutgers or, is this the time where I choose something more than work and see where a new adventure takes me?

Happy Halloween!

This is one of my favorite days. I love pumpkins, and the colors and the cooler temperature. I love how for one day out of the year you can be whatever you want to be. I love hearing the kids in my neighborhood running around and  ringing doorbells. I love doing something special for my students.

This year my grade level team decided to dress up as character from Hocus Pocus. Only…no one got it. Have I officially become….old? Granted they were distracted by the fact that one of the male teachers is one of the Sanderson sisters and I got to be crummy Allison so my costume looked more everyday than it did costume, but COME ON!

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Hocus Pocus is one of the best movies. It was the first movie I ever got to see in a movie theater. And it came out not around Halloween and I remember it pouring rain, but my mom took me to see it anyway that day. And it was just the coolest. 

I may have then spent home room projecting movie photos and explaining it to them. It was in that moment I felt so old. When I first started teaching, I was in my early to mid-20’s and the kids just liked me because I was young. Add in the fact that I look like I’m 12, and kids saw me more as of an older, cooler peer than an authority person. And that worked for years, but more recently, I have noticed the shift where I have become the authority figure and though I am enjoying every moment of that, at the same time, I am a little sad that my references are now….outdated.

Kids these days need to brush up on their movies because if they don’t know this one, then they sure are missing out on some great flicks.

Finding Your Voice as an Educator

I have been teaching for about 9 years. Of that, I have been in public schools for 7 years and of that, I have taught college for 2 years. Out of all of my experiences, I have found that teaching college was the hardest because of my age. I was 29 when I became an adjunct professor, but I did not look a day over 21.

My first class was filled with nontraditional students, mainly adult learners that had come back after many years of not being in school. The looks that they gave me when they saw me walk in and out my bag down on the desk, would be enough to have driven someone less driven right outside the door.

Instead, I made a joke about how I know I look like I’m 12, but I assured them that I did in fact have the credentials to qualify me for the position. It turned out to be one of the best classes I have ever had and to this day, I am still in contact with many of my students from that course.

I created my class with many opportunities to complete the required work and in cases where assignments were missed, I offered alternatives. Mostly, students are successful in my classes because they not only learn the material, but find a way that fits them in meeting the requirements and expectations outlined by the college.

This semester has been a hard one for me, as I have been working full-time at a hotel for wedding money while interning full time for my PhD requirements AND teaching a summer class. I am also enrolled in a quantitative research class that I am somehow maintaining my 4.0 in. Oh and let’s not forget the arts integration certification program I signed up for before I realized I had to take the hotel job. So, I cry a lot.

I pretty much don’t sleep. And the white stripe in my hair is I believe about twice as big as it was at the start of June. However, I am at the end of the summer class and my integration program and internship are winding down too. I am almost into the “I did it” phase.

The stress of this, I think, led me today to find my teaching voice in a college class. I teach a 5-week long course, I email students a month prior to the start with their book lists and inform them how intense these shortened classes are. I provide them with an outline, ways to structure their workload to ensure success and make myself available as much as I can. So, today, when several students request on the day that their course project that they have known about and been given opportunities to work on every day of class for 5 weeks, ask for an extension on it, my teaching voice came bubbling to the surface before I could stop it.

I, nicely, said to my class who looked at me wide-eyed; “You all have known about this project since May and I have been giving you chances to work on it since early July. I am sorry that you have to work or babysit, but the reality is you are in college and in college a deadline is a deadline is a deadline, especially when you have had a month of knowing that deadline.”

I don’t think I would have said that a year ago, I probably would have given the extension and stayed up late to grade. However, what this summer taught me, even in my PhD program as I have watched more and more people get weeded out, is that there are a lot of people who talk the talk and will tell you about all the things they want to accomplish, but they never set out and just do it.

And it really is that simple. If you want it, you just have to do it. And if you choose not to do it, no one is going to hand anything to you. You are entitled to nothing. And your life? Your life is pretty much what you make of it as well as the choices that you choose to follow. Sometimes, you will have to ask for an extension or a pass– but those times shouldn’t happen when you know that you haven’t proven yourself yet.

The Secret to Success as an Urban Educator

I saw a status from someone who began teaching around the time that I was deciding to commit to teaching myself. She wrote that her former students were shocked that she had had a baby and that just because she has high expectations and wasn’t a “nice” teacher doesn’t mean she wasn’t a nice person in life.

Seeing that, just dumbfounded me. Particularly because we both teach in inner cities and teach special education populations, her more so than me as I am not a special education teacher, but for the majority of my years in the inner city, I had volunteered to be the general education teacher in inclusive classrooms for my grade level.

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And there is a side to teaching wherein if you want to be successful, meaning you help students achieve academically in your subject area, then you have to have high expectations, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t love your kids as well or that you have to be “a not nice teacher” to communicate those expectations. With city kids, that means being consistent in your judgement, consistent in your love and your criticism as well as being flexible and truly listening to what these kids have to say.

The majority of the students I have taught remain in contact with me, updating me on their lives and their dreams. They visit sometimes and when they do, it’s always with big hugs and excitement. That is how I know I am successful in what I do. Sure, I have years of data that back me and show my administrators that I am successful in teaching kids how to read and bringing them towards career and college readiness, but that’s not all there is to teaching.

I remember the first time a student called me mom. Continually. Later, when I asked them why I had become their mom I was told it was because they knew that I was there for them, even when they were acting a fool. They knew that they could come to me with anything and I would do my best for them. That was when I knew that I was on the path of becoming the kind of teacher I knew that urban kids needed.

Urban kids are different from your suburban kids that come from nice homes, with semi-intact families and better financial support systems. Urban kids are often starting school well below their suburban counter parts because of the environments they are raised in, they often have parents or grandparents working multiple jobs meaning they’re home alone more times than not or in state-funded daycare. Urban kids are also semi street smart, because really, kids are also kids in any environment and come into school with an attitude more times than not because they feel like they don’t fit.

However, if you hold these kids to a high expectation of achievement as well as give them them the empathy and love that so many just need, then you are not only going to have success in their academics, but you’re also going to have success in helping to raise a better future in that, your love and acceptance may be what sets that kid up for an entirely different path in life.

Within urban education, I firmly believe all students need it. Some more than others, specifically kids with difficult home lives and worse yet, the kids that have spent their lives in and out of the system. If you pursue your teaching career in an inner city district, you have to become an educator with clear expectations as well as someone who will become another mother or father towards the kids that you are working to educate.

And I carry that belief with me in everything I do. For instance, the college class I am teaching this summer is at the city campus. It took me less than 5 minutes to e-mail the students who missed the first class to just remind them that class was today. Within 30 minutes, I even had one show up late to class.

Sometimes, you just have to be that person for other people. If you want to be a successful teacher, you need to remember that you have chosen a profession where you are in service to others.