Dallas & the Seasons of My Life

I’ve spent the last week decompressing from being in Dallas, Texas for much of last week. I was there for my final doctoral residency. Once I got out of the Dallas Fort Worth airport, I was immediately reminded of what I hated about Texas the most: the heat and humidity.

The last time I had been in Texas was when I went to La Porte, Texas to visit one of my little sisters from my sorority. I loved the openness and the relaxation that it brought. It was so different from NJ.

This time though, the residency was at the airport hotel and I didn’t get to see much of Dallas which was disappointing because I had never been and they have a pretty cool art scene. The point of this final residency was to, by Sunday night, have an approved DRP plan to submit for SMR and IRB approvals. Mine got approved the first day of “classes” which was Friday and it happened early in the morning. I then had to sit there for the next three days and work on my presentation and a paper for another class. I was so bored, but since these are considered to be “seat hours” I literally had to stay, in my seat….for hours.

Sitting around not doing a whole lot, to me, is more exhausting then even my most trying days as a teacher. By the end, I was extremely happy to go home to NJ to Phil and our tiny zoo. I am officially set to enter comps (doctoral comprehensive exam) in January. I probably could do it this next term, but with the wedding I just don’t think it would be a good idea. Better to let us settle into married life before I go crazy with another exam.

This spring was all about taking the School Leadership Series exam. ETS charges…are you ready for this? $425 PER TRY! How crazy is that??? I was so thankful when on the day, I got in the day before the 16th anniversary of losing my very cherished and much loved grandfather and was put on computer 16. I definitely felt like he was there with me that day and I finished with an hour to spare. It was a long 16 BUSINESS days of waiting, but when it came back that I passed I ran around our bedroom dancing.

In my personal diary, I talk a lot about seasons of my life. I firmly believe that women age in seasons, each one not like the one that came before it. A couple years ago, my more carefree season of my 20’s ended when I made a larger commit to my boyfriend at the time and we bought our first house. I remember how sad and excited I was to be leaving my life in Bordentown with my small apartment and my three cats. Even looking back professionally I was just a middle school teacher then with some publishing credits to my name.

Then I moved and I had finally made it to my life at the Jersey Shore, only 10 minutes outside of Point Pleasant where I had always dreamed of living. Then I started my PhD program and worked really hard to become a college professor. Then we got engaged and now, we’re going to be married in 5 months. I just don’t know where that time has gone, and lately, I have begun to have that feeling again…the one you get at the end of seasons as the new one starts intermingling. 2017/2018 is going to be a year of a lot of change: I will have tenure, I will be completing my doctorate and we might even be starting a family. All of those things, will push me into a new season of my life one where I will be settled, grounded and making huge leaps in my career.

And that’s just the stuff I know about, there’s still all the surprises that have yet to come and the very real idea that we could very well be leaving our little house at the shore to start a family life in my hometown. When I was just out of college and moved home to figure out my next move, my friends and I who were all in similar circumstance at the time, would joke…”All roads lead back to East Brunswick. Every last one, eventually we all come back.”

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Just Me, Myself and my $500 Amazon Cart

Writing a dissertation is hard and it’s also expensive. It’s also terrifying how close to the end I am and how close I am to running out of funding. It also doesn’t help that I have to buy any book I need for my dissertation because I have to not only annotate it, but I also will need to have it in my possession for the next two years.

I had to start an Amazon wishlist because my cart actually went over $500. If you’re feeling philanthropic and want to help me to help poor urban kids get access to the arts and better literacy skill sets, then my wish list is here. I don’t regret doing this program, but I do wish I really thought about just how expensive and just how much work this was going to take to finish. I’ve sacrificed a lot over the past two years, but it really has been worth it.

It’s Gonna Be May

Anyone else think the Justin Timberlake meme from his N’Sync days with “It’s Gonna Be May” sprawled across the bottom was hysterical? It’s probably the best one that I have seen in awhile.

And here it is, MAY! I don’t know where this year has gone, I feel like it has been on fast-forward ever since I came home from Chicago last summer. I blinked and we were engaged and since then, it’s just been fast-forwarding to November and our wedding. We have almost everything done, and now it’s just working to save and pay for everything. We’re having a relatively small wedding, under 100 people. I am floored at what it costs! I can’t imagine financing one of those HUGE weddings where you invite 500 of your closest friends and wear a Kleinfeld’s gown. Crazy town!!

What I am looking forward to most, is giving the final in my college class tonight because as of next week, this means that my 12 hour days are done for the year and summer will be here before I know it.

I registered for my LAST class for my doctorate, come September I will be considered a doctoral candidate and not a student anymore. I don’t know where that time has gone either. I leave for Dallas in a couple of weeks for my final residency. I have already gained topic approval, and now I am hoping to come home with a mentor-approved research plan, committee-approved research plan AND scientific merit approval which will set me up for IRB approval and thus, the real writing of my dissertation will begin.

Then this summer is clinicals and I am teaching one college class. I’m extremely excited for clinicals.

I also start my certification to become an arts integration specialist. I think this will really help me in being better prepared to set up my case study for my dissertation. Our first class begins in just a few weeks. I am hoping I can juggle it all.

Then, before I know it, it will be November and I’ll be married.

I also added Stephen King’s IT to my 100 Book Challenge.

So far, my 30’s are going a lot better than my 20’s!

Why do you teach?

For moments like this.

Student: “Do you have ketchup in your purse?”

Me: “Nope.”

Student: “But you’re a mom, you’re supposed to have everything in your purse!”

Me: “Well, I don’t have kids yet soooo I guess I get a free pass!”

Student: “Um, I was talking about us, Kuzma. You have us and as a mom, you should have ketchup in your purse.”

Love you guys, too.

The Ides of March

I firmly believe that there is something to the idea of the Ides of March. This month is long and for teachers and students it is even longer because there is no break or three-day weekend this month. We just go straight through until mid-April when we have spring break. It’s a long stretch that makes everyone restless.

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Like clockwork, every year, it is right around now that 8th graders start losing their minds. It’s rarely a slow approach to full-insanity, but rather, it’s like one day a light switch goes off and the little people that you felt they were becoming turns into full-on crazy, dipped into extra hormones.

It began here Monday. First block. Inclusion class. Observation. Inclusion teacher out sick.

It was all a blur. I think the observation went well. However, two kids went into full-blown middle school brain within the first 10 minutes. They have not recovered. It has begun.

Soon, the rest will follow. Then around the end of April, beginning of May 8th grade seniorities fully clicks in and you’re pretty much in survival mode until they graduate. It’s a fun, strange time of year, and it comes, every year, almost like clockwork.

What are we? The two fat white girls?

I have had a week. It’s been crazy. The kids are crazy. The entire school is just crazy. It’s that time of year though where instruction is winding down and high stakes testing will be our days here for what will feel like forever. Imagine, your classes go from an 80 minute block to 160 minutes while testing is occurring. It’s hard enough keeping these kids engaged for 80 minutes, but when you double it? It’s abysmal. I absolutely hate this time of year.

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One way I combat this is to make sure I am stocked up on rewards. One of which is the passes we give kids towards a prize raffle when we catch them being good. I made sure to hit up the teacher that has them to make sure I had enough for the long days that are quickly approaching. As I stood talking to her, I could hear the change of classes begin in the hallway and in there, I heard my name several times coming from my last block class. I knew they were talking to their music teacher who they often confuse me with.

I thanked my co-worker for the passes and was just about to leave when the music teacher showed up there laughing at how the kids we share always confused us.

“I don’t get why they can’t get it right,” she laughed.

“Me neither, we don’t look alike,” I say, referring to her dark hair and my blond hair.

“Yeah, like what? Do they see two white fat girls and just think we both look alike.” She laughs.

I don’t because for at least a 5 second gap, I’m thinking did she really just say that? We barely know each other and just like, why would you say that? Had this been reversed, I would have hit on the, short and loud factor or even the white female factor, but fat? It wouldn’t had crossed my mind.

When I first started my job here, I was thin. I was the thinnest I had been in a very long time because I had been sick and depressed. Then, as the stress of urban education took hold of me, and as I met and fell in love with my to-be husband, I packed on the pounds. And, now, just about everyone I know at work knows I’m working hard at being thin again for our wedding in the fall.

So, in that moment, I knew I needed to respond so I laughed and shook my head before making my way towards my own room to set up for my last block, still half in shock over what just happened. I laughed to myself because one of the reasons I know I am successful as a teacher is because my kids have always felt comfortable with me. In fact, most people feel comfortable with me rather quickly and so many times, I am told things that I really don’t want to hear. This was just another one of those things.

I often wonder what it is about my nature that opens up this part of people, making them feel safe enough to word vomit all over a conversation. Or at times tell me something so profoundly personal that I leave feeling bad for them and wondering if they have any true friends to begin with? Often, it is something that I, personally, would only share with my two closest girlfriends and not the rest of the world. And even then, sometimes those conversations with them are still hard. It blows my mind when I seem to illicit them so freely from other people.