Posts by Ashley:
- Yoga – Yoga is great because not only are you working all of your muscles and your breathing to ensure ultimate relaxation at the end, but you are also getting a workout. That’s what I call a win-win.
- Blogging or updating social media – Sometimes you just want someone to know how stressed out you are and like your status update, and that’s OK. We talk a lot about over-sharing on social media, but if you just need a bit of quick camaraderie, Facebook can do that for you and there’s nothing wrong with that.
- Baths – Baths are awesome. Seriously, if you have a tub, use it. Put in some salts or essential oils and grab a good book and a glass of wine. There is very little that can’t be melted away with this combo.
- Healthy eating – When I get stressed, I eat. Mostly what I eat are pizzas. I really love pizza, and it makes me really happy (until later when it makes me very sad as I’m literally watching my face break out before my eyes). Finding healthy comfort foods can save you a lot of stress later, and can make your body happy.
- Tea – Just smelling ginger tea can lift your mood, and drinking it can improve your digestion. Chamomile tea is also very calming. White and green teas are filled with antioxidants and the caffeine in them is minimal and also calms you rather than makes you jittery like coffee. Plus, who doesn’t love a zero-calorie, hot beverage after a crappy day?
- And wine. Always wine.
- Mild adult (hormonal) acne: I say mild because, when I put makeup on, you really can’t tell that it’s there, but for the woman who didn’t even wear foundation to her own wedding, having to put on even minimal makeup every day to feel good about myself is a major downer.
- Hormones: See above. I would also love to write a post entirely about the pros and cons of the BCP, but I don’t really feel comfortable putting all that out there yet.
- Baby fever: Again, see above. I don’t really want a baby right now, but it’s been tough to distinguish between what I want and what my body is telling me it wants.
- The single worst year of my teaching experience thus far: I said I wouldn’t complain about my job, and I’m not going to. Objectively and long-term, I really love my job but this year was just so hard. So. Hard.
- Loneliness: I know you’re not supposed to feel lonely when you have a husband and two dogs who are always home with you, but since a lot of my friends either moved or had kids, I feel like I’m left with no one to talk to.
- Perfectionism: We’ve been in this new house for a year now, and I want it all to be perfect. Right. Now. You know what else I want to be perfect? My clothes and skin and (when the skin doesn’t cooperate) makeup. It’s exhausting and, not to mention, A) Who has money for that? and B) Who has time for that? But I tried to make it work, friends. I really did. And I went crazy doing it.
- Having it all vs. wanting it all: I had so many days when I would sit down and take stock of my life and be happy. But I had just as many days when I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I wanted a baby or a book deal or a PhD or a trip to Europe. A lot of the times, I don’t even know if I knew what I wanted.
“Miss. You really need to lay off on all of these essays. Writing is hard!”
Yes, a student actually said this to me the other day, and before we respond to the whining of this generation and how, when we were kids, we had to write essays uphill in the snow both ways, let’s take a second to admit that he was right.
Writing is hard.
Writing is so hard, in fact, that I haven’t done much of it this semester. I leave the house at 6:30 every morning (including Saturdays for speech tournaments – in fact, on Saturdays, I leave at 6:00) so I can get to school early to grade some papers. Every day after school I have something going on – speech practice, curriculum planning meetings, Fearless Females, yoga or Zumba, or various appointments I need to make on my only day off during the week. When I do have a few free moments, I either add another yoga class to try to re-center myself, or I read a book. Even with this busy schedule, I’ve read 5 books since September. That may not sound like a lot to you, but check out the list of all the things I’ve been doing. Keep in mind, also, that I teach three books at a time between my three different classes, so I’m skimming those along with the kids, too. What I haven’t been doing is writing.
When I agreed to be the assistant coach of the speech team this year, I knew exactly how busy I’d be. I made myself a strict schedule for which nights I could cook dinner and which I’d need to use the slow cooker or order in. I scheduled my workouts accordingly, too, vowing not to let myself fall asleep on the couch every night like I did last year. As you can see, between food and working out, health has been a top priority for me this year, and it has paid off. I have more energy, I’m happier, I’m less anxious, and my skin has cleared. I’ve also made sure to schedule time for mental health breaks. I’ve gotten really good at telling myself I’ve worked enough, and I put away the papers I’m grading or the assignment I’m working on and read or watch television or go to bed. Another top priority this year has been to make some new female friendships. I’m in two book clubs and a Meetup group just for that purpose alone (plus, to read some really good books!). My female friendships rejuvenate me in ways my relationship with Tim can’t, and I find it important to cultivate those relationships as well as to form new ones.
Even with all of this going on, I have a lot of time on my hands. It’s a necessity for me to keep a tight schedule, so I actually plan my entire day down to the minute. Sure, things happen and nothing goes as planned, but I know exactly when I will have time to grade, read, work out, and spend time with people. I easily could have scheduled some time for writing in there, but I didn’t.
Of course, I have been writing for Care2 every week – sometimes more. You just saw, too, that I’ve written something for Role/Reboot very recently. So, it’s not that I haven’t been writing. It’s that I haven’t been writing here. I haven’t made the time to make the kind of personal inquisitions into my life, relationship, and job that I have been so fond of doing in the past. I’ve had the time; I just haven’t made myself do it.
Now, I’m not trying to get all Maria Kang here by saying that, if you don’t find the time to write, you’re just making excuses. I’m talking purely personally; I have the time, but I haven’t been doing it. No excuses, just no writing. Yes, I’m busy, and yes I have a lot on my plate, but I could find the time to write. I just don’t want to.
You see, I haven’t really missed writing until now. I feel about writing this year the way I felt about working out last year. I just didn’t want to do it. So I didn’t. It wasn’t until much later that I noticed the deleterious effects of my workout slump. I’m sure the effects of my writing slump are about to rear their ugly heads, too.
But I just haven’t wanted to write. Writing is hard. Writing is like a workout for my brain. It’s loud and angry. It’s painfully slow and takes a great deal of effort. It’s putting myself out there in a way I haven’t practiced in a while. You don’t see the results right away, which can be frustrating at times. And, once you stop doing it and realize your world isn’t going to fall apart because you missed a session, you start missing more and more until getting back in the game is the hardest part of all.
I’d rather be reading. Reading is quiet and solitary. It gives me a sense of accomplishment with each page, chapter, or book I finish. My eyes gloss over pages, easily understanding everything I’ve read. It’s not only a turning into myself, but an escape; instead of worrying about my life, I can worry about this character’s for a while. When you spend your life being an extrovert – teaching, coaching, meeting new people – being an introvert for an hour a day feels like a really good idea.
I cannot, however, ignore my calling for too long. Writing keeps me grounded. It allows me to process the ideas I’m presented with and reflect on events that aren’t so clear-cut. It’s an important part of me, and I can’t stay away for too long. The hardest part has just been getting back in the game after being out for so long.
This is my attempt to do so. It’s shaky, but I’m here.
Featured Image Credit: Sami Keinänen
I’m over at Role/Reboot this week talking about kids, social media, and dating practices. Basically, I think it’s nothing to worry about; kids are just finding new ways to rewrite an old story:
Teenagers have always found ways to distance themselves from the object of their affection. The tale is as old as time: Even Romeo hid under Juliet’s balcony to talk about her profound beauty and didn’t come out until she caught him there. And Cyrano de Bergerac pretends to write as the handsome Christian in order to gauge Roxane’s love for him. The game hasn’t changed in dramatic ways. Teens have just found new tools to rewrite an old story.
Technology is changing the world for today’s teenagers in many ways. Cyberbullying is on the rise, directly causing a suicide epidemic among today’s youth. Obesity rates are climbing, as well, as kids would rather sit on their computers than go outside and play. However, when it comes to dating, figuring out how to distance yourself from love so you can learn how to gracefully get your heart broken and get back out there has always been part of the game.
Read the rest of the post here!
In other news, I promise I will be back here soon. I have so many great ideas for posts that are tumbling around in my head; I just have to find the time to actually write them!
Image Credit: Role/Reboot
Ever year, like clockwork, the end of September hits. Its cool breezes and shorter days are welcomed after a hot, long summer like a literal breath of fresh air. Feeling exhausted after a long day spent teaching, disciplining, grading, mothering, coaching feels exhilarating compared to the summer days that end with a simple question: What the hell did I even do today? It’s almost fun to transition from boredom to survival mode in the span of one short month.
This, in a nutshell, is why I love fall. A new school year, a new crop of students (and, if you’re lucky, a few of the old ones stop by, too), a new personae, new lessons, new books, a renewed sense of purpose. Things aren’t dying in the fall; they are becoming new again with each crisp breeze, with each fire-red leaf. It’s why I became a teacher, why I got married in the fall, why I pack every fall weekend full of something amazing and wonderful.
And then, the end of October follows the end of September. The air gets colder, the days get shorter, the teacher gets more and more exhausted. What used to feel like a sense of purpose now feels like an unsustainable amount of work, and there are never enough hours in the day. This is what we, in the world of education, call “Disillusionment.”
When I was first shown the first year teacher’s roller coaster pictured above (albeit unfortunately sans freaked-out roller coaster rider), I was a first year teacher in mid-October. I believe I was crying in the English department office with my mentor consoling me, but also knowingly smirking because she’d been there. They’d all been there. It’d eventually get better.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized that this roller coaster – taking teachers from anticipation, through survival, down to disillusionment, then up through rejuvenation, reflection, and back to anticipation – applied to all of the years of teaching. Or, at least to the first eight so far as I can tell. But we keep coming back; the power of anticipation is strong, and the pain of disillusionment eventually wears off. At some point in November, you crawl out of the hole you dug for yourself, dust yourself off, and remember what it is like to have a life, to really teach, and to enjoy whatever it is you’re doing.
This year, I’ve been stuck firmly in disillusionment. Right on schedule. And all of this is a way of explaining to you why I haven’t been keeping up here. In fact, I almost never write much in October. A few years ago, I even quit blogging in October. This is just the life of a teacher. Cyclical and eerily predictable, though almost comfortingly so.
As I looked outside today and it was snowing, I realized it has been almost two months since I’ve posted here, which is unacceptable in a way, but necessary in many others. I’ve missed it terribly. I’ve had so many things to say, but never enough time to say them. This is me trying to start carving out some time again. It’ll be a while before I really start to rejuvenate, provided I stay on schedule, but I hope to be back at it regularly before too long.
Featured Image Credit: Pinterest
Creating a safe space in your classroom is vital for class discussions. If students don’t feel as if they are accepted in the classroom, they probably won’t want to share their views and opinions with the class, either. After all, why would they want to share a moving and personal insight if they were risking ridicule from other students in the class or, worse, from the teacher herself? Without a safe space in the classroom, students miss out on valuable learning experiences; they miss the opportunity to share important insights and the others miss the opportunity to learn from their classmates.
Similarly, creating this same safe space in your classroom can have hugely positive effects on classroom management. When students act out, it is often because they feel threatened, not because they are bad kids. I’ve often seen students verbally lash out at teachers because they felt the teacher was attacking them or wasn’t listening to what they had to say. Of course, once a student does lash out, it is important to follow your school’s discipline procedures if you feel that is necessary. However, in a perfect world, we could all create safe spaces within our classrooms that prevent this from happening in the first place. Furthermore, creating a safe space in your classroom will make students more likely to report instances of bullying or threatening behavior to you because they will feel that you are a trusted adult. This can improve the overall culture of the school and your class by making it safe for everyone.
To begin creating a safe space in my classroom, the first thing I do every year is hang up posters around the room that espouse my beliefs of tolerance and equality. Some of the posters have to do with women’s rights, others have to do with racial equality. My favorite poster is one that has alternative words for “gay” when students say, “That’s so gay” to mean something is ridiculous or undesirable. I don’t often draw attention to these posters because I don’t have to. Within the first few days of class each year, students will ask me about these posters and what they mean. I’ll always take a minute or two to explain their importance and how they line up with my beliefs. More often than not, students appreciate this and begin to see me as someone they can talk to about matters of equality. I find that it also reduces bullying in my classroom because students know that I will not tolerate it.
Along with hanging these posters and talking about them, though, comes the really hard part: You have to be willing to discuss these sensitive topics with students. As the nation saw with the Tennessee legislation’s failed “don’t say gay” bill that was trying to make it illegal for anyone to say the word “gay” in schools, not talking about an issue doesn’t make it better; it makes it worse. It can be difficult to discuss these issues with students, especially if you fear pushback from your community. If that is the case, tread lightly but try to find some other way to set yourself up as an ally in your classroom. It will go a long way toward letting students know that they can trust you, which will improve your classroom management.
Talking to students can happen as a class, but it can also happen individually, as well. My school has a policy that teachers end class a few minutes before the bell rings. That gives the teacher a few minutes to talk to students who came in late or who missed the previous day. It also gives the teacher time to talk to students individually. My former mentor suggested to me that I take one student each day to speak with during this time. It doesn’t have to be an in-depth or long conversation, just enough to start to get to know the students and show you care. I tried it and it made a huge difference. My classroom management improved immensely because students no longer saw me as a threat, but as someone who was truly invested in their education.
Creating a safe space and fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect can go a long way toward improving classroom management, and it doesn’t take much work. Simply talking to students and sharing your views can establish trust and help students feel safe in your classroom. For many students, your classroom might be the only place they feel safe all day, so I believe this is definitely worth a try.
I’m over at Teaching Tolerance today talking about my own classroom management practices:
When Teaching Tolerance hit my desk in the spring of last year, then, I was looking for something—anything—to help me get back on track. The information on the school-to-prison pipeline was exactly the catalyst I needed to begin to step back and question my classroom management policies: Was I doing everything I could to keep students in my classroom? Was I dealing with discipline in my room rather than involving authorities and putting kids in the system? Was I fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and recognition for my students? Was I offering positive reinforcement rather than negative feedback?
I had to be honest with myself: The answer to all of these questions most of the time was no.
This was a rude awakening for me. I’ve always prided myself on being a good teacher. I love teaching and I want my students to succeed. I’m genuinely interested in my students’ lives, and I want my classroom to be a positive place for my students rather than a negative one. Most importantly, I want to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem when it comes to issues of school push-out. Once I began reading about the school-to-prison pipeline, I realized I was becoming more a part of the problem.
Read the whole article here!
Featured Image Credit: knittymarie
Being a teacher isn’t easy. All of the early mornings, the outside-of-school prep work, the grading, the stressful meetings, the extracurricular practices and group meetings, plus the day-to-day dealing with kids can all take a toll. Then, if you’re me, you have a blog (or two), Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram to update, plus a second job as a freelance writer, AND a workout schedule. Not to mention I cook, clean, and just generally take care of business every day.
During the school year, I get stressed out. When I get stressed out, I break out, I start to get bags under my eyes, my hair looks frizzy and dry, and I just generally start to feel old.
When I look at myself in the mirror and I see a million zits, I get even more stressed out. Which causes even more zits. Then, I spend a lot of time trying to cover up said imperfections in the morning before I go to school, which probably irritates them even more but makes me feel better about myself and my skin. Then, after a long and stressful day, I come home and look at myself in the mirror again and want to cry.
Objectively, I understand that I don’t look noticably better or worse at the end of the day versus the beginning of the day. Objectively, I also understand that 2-4 localized zits does not an acne problem make. Objectively, I know that, even if these zits are red, inflamed, and painful, no one is going to notice them but me, makeup or no makeup.
But it’s awfully hard to be objective about these things when you have 150 students staring at you all day.
Even worse than having 150 students stare at you all day is the fact that at least a few of those students are brutally honest without provocation. While this seems like a good trait, their honesty is often just plain mean. “Oh hey, Miss. I guess you still break out too, huh,” says a student while looking at my face. In the middle of my lesson. Introducing a book. A book that has nothing to do with acne or my face. Without raising his hand.
You laugh, but if you have ever had an interaction with a 15-year-old, you know it’s true.
People often ask me what the most difficult thing about my job is and, though I don’t usually admit it, the hardest part for me is knowing that my students are staring at me, and that I don’t have the flawless skin I used to. I also have unfounded fears about skirts tucked into pantyhose, open flies, and spinach between my teeth. Last year, when my acne was the worst it has ever been in my entire life, I often daydreamed about taking the plunge and working from home, not because I didn’t like teaching anymore, but because I wanted to be somewhere no one could see me all day.
Of course, no one is staring at me all day in the summer. When I’m tan, fit, happy, relaxed, and my skin is glowing. No. Only in the winter when everything is dry, itchy, flakey, red, and I haven’t gotten enough sleep since… well… school started.
For teachers, or for anyone else whose career involves them being the center of attention, body image is a very real issue. I used to have a dance teacher who had a pretty severe case of body dysmorphia because she spent all day every day in front of the full-length mirrors at the studio. She told us there was only one mirror in her house because she couldn’t stand to go home and see herself anymore. I tell my students – especially my Fearless Females – all the time that they should embrace their inner beauty and not worry what other people think about them, but high schools truly are a cesspool of negative opinions and judgement – even for the teachers.
I’ve been doing my best this year to reduce my stress, but I’ve also been trying my hardest just to care less about my appearance. I give myself 30 minutes in front of the mirror in the morning and whatever comes of that is how I face the day. I realize that no one is coming up to my face and poking at the imperfections; in fact, with makeup on, they probably can’t even see what I can from where they sit. I also realize that, aside from the few honest ones, the rest are probably too concerned about their own appearance to worry about mine.
Body image is a constant struggle for women, and for teachers. I do think mine tends to get worse when I am teaching, but I also think I’m on the right track toward fixing that problem.
If you are a teacher, do you find yourself having worse body image issues when you’re in front of the students? If so, how do you cope with it? Leave your ideas in the comments!
I’ve been on The Guardian twice in the past few weeks!
First, I was talking about keeping guns out of my classroom:
We don’t need more guns in schools. We need more empathy and compassion. We need to make dealing with mental health and keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals our main priorities in order to prevent these tragedies in the first place. Our first reaction shouldn’t be to meet violence with violence. Antoinette Tuff showed us it can be done another way, and we need to follow her lead.
Read the whole article here.
I also wrote about the new Common Core national education standards:
My concern about the Common Core is that the pendulum will swing too far the other way; about 10 years ago when I started teaching, we were so hung up on creativity with CRISS strategies and constant, colorful poster projects that we forgot to teach them about good, old reading, writing and arithmetic. Now, with the focus the Common Core puts on nonfiction texts, technology utilization and career skills, it’s very possible that educators zero in on that and forget about the creativity.
Read the whole article here.
Featured Image Credit: The Guardian
Trigger warning for discussions of statutory rape.
Labor Day weekend. For some, it is the last weekend before school starts up again, filled with one last BBQ and pool party before hitting the books. For others like Tim and me, it is a chance to rest and relax after our first week or two back at school, and it’s a time for reflection and preparation as we now feel we know our students well enough to be able to plan for what lies ahead. For the Moralez family in Billings, Montana, it is a time for deeper mourning and protest over the tragic loss of their daughter by suicide due to her rape by her teacher, and the teacher’s utterly ridiculous 30-day sentence for the crime.
As a teacher, there are few things I hate more than hearing stories about students raped at the hands of their teachers. This is true for a few reasons: First, it just disgusts me that any teacher who has pledged to spend his or her life helping students reach their full potential could ever see a student in a sexual way and, even if they did, could ever act on it. The idea is as repulsive to me as a parent who sexually abuses their child. Second, the media – and the courts, as it were – almost never get these stories right. Because these rapes are almost never violent crimes, it is disgustingly easy for the news media – and the judge in this case – to blame the young victim. Somehow, somewhere, they forget that minors cannot ever legally consent to sexual relationships with adults. Ever. There is no exception to that law. Third, and this is perhaps the point that makes me the most uncomfortable, is that stories like this just further give teachers a bad name. This is a case of a handful of teachers ruining it for the rest of the profession. People end up thinking that teachers can flip at the drop of the hat and all of us are just sexual predators-in-waiting. Newsflash: We are not. On the flip side of that coin, it makes me extremely uncomfortable when people say to me, upon learning that I teach high school English for a living: “Oh, wow. I wish I had a teacher who looked like you when I was in high school. I might have paid attention,” further perpetuating the myth of a sexy high school teacher preying on young boys. I think the only profession that is sexualized more than teachers by Halloween costumes and urban legend are nurses, which is equally revolting.
However, this sort of thing keeps happening and, though it is sensationalized by the media, it happens more often than you would think. And most of the time, it never makes national news, so the world never even hears about it.
Judge Baugh, in delivering Rambold’s ridiculous sentence this week, participated in the ultimate form of victim blaming by stating that, not only could he not connect Moralez’s suicide to the rape, but that the “relationship” (I put that word in quotes here to denote that there could not be ever legally be a romantic relationship between the two, and so that word should have never been used.) was understandable because Moralez seemed cognitively older than 14. Since she committed suicide and could not be present in court to testify, this decision was made based on viewing two videotaped interviews.
The fact that determining someone’s mental age based on two videotaped interviews is utterly mind-boggling aside, mental age has nothing to do with it. No matter how old someone seems, it doesn’t matter compared to how old she is. Mature 14-year-old or not, she was still 14 at the time. He was her teacher, and he was 49. I don’t care how you slice it; this is not okay.
Though I was not raped, I was involved in a similar situation when I was in high school. I had a teacher who put me in a position to be his counselor and confidant, telling me he thought often about committing suicide. At 17 years old, I wanted to be that for him. But I couldn’t. Because I was 17 and his student. It was an inappropriate request on his part, and never should have happened. He was fired from his position because of that and other indiscretions, but he appealed the decision and I was asked to testify against him. I did, but his lawyers ensued in what I now understand was a victim-blaming line of questioning, trying to establish that I was mentally older than I actually was. Which never should have mattered. Because I was 17. And, regardless of that, I was his student. Those lines shouldn’t be blurry.
While my situation was not nearly as extreme as Moralez’s, I share the two in conjunction with one another because the same attitude prevailed. This is victim-blaming blurring the lines that should, legally, be very clear. Students and teachers are not friends. They are not romantic partners. They are not counselors. And, since teachers are the adults in these situations, it is up to them to recognize that, not the student.
I despise teachers who engage with their students in these ways. Now, I despise this judge for making it OK for teachers to do it. There is no way to spin this to make it okay, and my heart goes out to Moralez’s family. Judge Baugh has been asked to resign, and there is a petition at Moveon.org asking for as much. I hope he does, and I hope the family is able to appeal his ruling and obtain some justice for their daughter.
Featured Image Credit: DailyMail
This blog post was originally written for the Teaching Tolerance blog, but, as a mutual decision, we decided not to publish it. They were concerned that I was calling out the AP and College Board without sufficient evidence. My intention is not to call out anyone, only to bring to light some issues I was thinking about as I was attending the AP conference and planning my syllabus this summer. This was the information we got at the AP conference, but may or may not be accurate throughout the country. Furthermore, the list we received – linked within the post – is from 2006. Much may have changed since then. Regardless, the issue of which writers are included in the canon is still a valid one worth thinking about as we start this school year, and the canon is still very much decided by college professors and the writers of exams that test knowledge of literature, such as the AP Exam.
I’ve been asked to teach an Advanced Placement English literature class this coming school year, and I’m incredibly excited about it. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to flex my teacher-muscles and work with some of the best students in the school while preparing them to earn college credit for my class. As an added bonus, I get to choose what books to teach and how to teach them. Because of the AP Exam in May, I am limited to canonical – or classic – literature and texts of similar literary merit since that is what appears on the test but, from there, I can choose what I want.
You can imagine my excitement, then, as I sat down in front of my bookshelves and started pulling down books that were suggested AP texts. There I sat, surrounded by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Kurt Vonnegut, and William Shakespeare. I eagerly dove into these books, trying to group them by themes and genres, but I stopped short. Something was missing. Where were the writers of color? Where were the women?
It’s no secret that the “dead white guys” – as my students like to call them – have dominated canonical literature since the beginning of the canon itself. Part of the problem was that those white guys were the only ones able to get published. Racism kept people of color out of schools and publishing houses since the beginning. Even once the tides started turning, authors of color did not find many places among the classics. Part of privilege is power, and those “literature experts” who decided such things as what will be taught in schools and, even, what literature can be deemed classic were mostly white men, and wanted to keep representing themselves in classic literature.
Even in the past decade, if you look at the list of texts most often used on the AP Exam, the top three books are by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Charles Dickens, and Joseph Conrad – each having been used seven times in the past ten years. Two books by Toni Morrison and one by Ralph Ellison, both African-American authors, have been used five times in the past decade, and Rudolfo Anaya, a Mexican-American author, and Zora Neale Hurston, an African-American author, have been cited four times. While this might show a nod towards racial and gender diversity, the list is still crowded with white, male authors. To make matters worse, many of these books are racist in and of themselves; Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, for example, includes some of the most racist depictions of colonial Africa in literature, and it is one of the most-cited books on the exam.
This made me pause, but did not make me give up hope. As their teacher, I not only owe it to my AP students to prepare them for the exam and life after high school, but it is also my duty to give them a plethora of voices and experiences in the literature I present them. I decided to not only include books by many of the authors of color on that list, but to go off of the list to select texts like The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini about a young boy coming of age in Afghanistan and feminist texts like The Awakening by Kate Chopin. On that portion of the exam, it is possible for students to use books that are not included on the list, and when enough of them do, the exam writers pay attention and start including other, more diverse books. Furthermore, I plan on teaching these books with accompanying critical essays that talk about issues such as racism and sexism within these classic novels.
It is possible to change the canon and, in the meantime, it is possible to change the way students look at the canon. Slowly but surely, teachers and students are chipping away at it and adding books that better represent the diversity of our nation and our classrooms. We just need to keep teaching books from all different perspectives and making our students aware of the struggle.
This morning, I contacted the editor I’ve been working with at The Guardian. I accepted an assignment from her earlier in the week to write a piece about the Common Core. I’m over the moon that she thinks of me when education-related topics come up, and I hope it continues. My hope for this is so grand that, when I heard about Antoinette Tuff, the school clerk who stopped Tuesday’s would-be grade school shooting in Georgia using just her words, that they would be interested in a piece from me about this topic as a follow up to my no armed guards in school article.
They were interested. So interested, in fact, that they want an article from me on the topic by tomorrow morning.
HORRAY, right? So I came home from work and sat down to my computer. And wrote nothing. I called some friends, read some articles, and still wrote nothing. That was 4:00 PM. It is now 6:47. I still have nothing.
Here’s the thing, though. This isn’t plain old writer’s block. This isn’t even back to school exhaustion. This is a downright reaction to some serious stuff.
I haven’t written about this at all (even though I probably should have), but last year during our first Fearless Females meeting, we had a legit lockdown because a kid brought a gun to school. He shot at someone in the parking lot and missed, hitting the building. The bullet hole was still there when I walked into the building the next day. It was a classroom’s distance away from my room, where I was sitting with my girls.
That’s how I started last year. Then, in October, Tim had a lockdown as well. There was no shooter in his situation, but it was still incredibly stressful. Then, Sandy Hook. Then, the Boston Marathon.
It’s really no wonder my stress level last year was higher than it ever has been. It was tough to leave my house, let alone go to school and then come home and watch Tim run.
So I sat down to write about Antoinette Tuff and I couldn’t. And the more I thought about it, the sadder I got until I started sniffling and crying over my keyboard. It was a mix of relief that no one in that Georgia school was hurt, fear that it could easily have gone the other way, and painful remembrance of how terrifying it was to sit, huddled under my desk, knowing only that this wasn’t a drill.
This year will be a better one than last. Tim and I joked during the last weeks of summer that if neither of us have a legitimate lockdown this year, the school year will already be leaps and bounds better than the last. I have to keep showing up and doing my job, and I’m so glad to be able to do so. I love my job, and my students this year are already hilariously brilliant.
That, in and of itself, should be enough, and for many teachers out there, it is. For me, I need more. I need to be able to write about these events, bringing to light some valuable insights about what it means to – quite literally, it seems – be in the trenches of the education system, both in curriculum development and in policy as it relates to safety and security. I will write about Antoinette Tuff, and I will get out of bed and go to school tomorrow. Both are equally important to me, even if they may be difficult to do.
Featured Image Credit: NPR – “Laterrica Luther holds the hand of her 6-year-old nephew, Jaden Culpepper, as students from the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy arrive on buses to waiting loved ones in a Walmart parking lot in Decatur, Ga., on Tuesday. A gunman had entered the students’ school earlier in the day. No one was hurt.”
It was the first day back at school today. Usually, I’m an exhausted mess by the end of the first day back. Getting up at 5:30 after three months of sleeping until whenever I want is difficult to say the least. Today, however, I bounded out of bed and was ready to leave for school right on time. I was excited about my new plan for eating a good breakfast and lunch, staying hydrated during the day, and blogging regularly. I was also excited to get into my classroom and get ready to go.
I’m not sure why I wasn’t dragging myself out of the house today like I have in years past. Maybe I’ve finally hit a groove after 8 years of teaching. Maybe this new diet I’m no really does have me feeling more energetic. Maybe I spent so much time working and preparing for school this summer – something I don’t normally do – that I was just ready to implement some of the stuff I’ve been working so hard to plan. Maybe I was craving the routine. Maybe I was so burnt out on the writing that I was excited for a change of pace. Maybe Tim and I were home so often together this summer that I was ready for a few uninterrupted hours without him. Maybe I was ready to see some old friends and hear some summer gossip.
Maybe a little bit of all of it.
I was so full of energy today that I was able to set up my entire classroom, make all of my copies for the first day of school, then come home and write 3 – count ‘em, 3 – blog posts. And catch up on all of my emails. Not. Too. Shabby.
Don’t let this vision of preparedness fool you. I have nothing planned past going over my syllabus and telling my kids all of my pet peeves on the first day. Since their first day is Monday, I have an entire week to fill. Next week is going to be a long week. However, I’m feeling really ready to start this school year. I hope that’s a sign of things to come, because I need a good year this year. In talking to a lot of other teachers at the end of last year, I think we all do.
That said, bring it 2013-2014. I’m ready.
For those of you sitting through institute days in the coming weeks, or those of you having done it in the recent past, check out this hilarious post: If Teachers Planned Inservice Training. Mine wasn’t anything like this today, but I’ve had some doozies in the past, and I’m sure you have, too.
Featured Image Credit: It’s So Sunny!
Oh, TIME Magazine. You’ve done it again.
Last summer, you asked moms if they were “mom enough” by showing a picture of a perfect mom complete with a flat stomach, skinny jeans, and a breastfeeding toddler, insinuating that moms who didn’t look that way and breastfeed until their child was well past old enough to feed himself weren’t good enough at being moms.
Now, you’ve delved into the other side of the issue: the childfree side. After all, you can’t leave us couples without children out. (Let’s not even mention the fact that, to you, it seems that there are two options: the super mom and the not-a-mom.)
True, more women than ever are deciding not to have children. In fact, according to the TIME article, the U.S. birthrate is the lowest it has ever been. Ever. This is newsworthy. In fact, under other circumstances, I’d be elated that the mainstream media has latched onto this idea. As someone who has often wrote and spoken out about not wanting kids – or, more recently, wanting them on my own timeframe without pressure from literally EVERYONE IN THE WORLD TO DO IT RIGHT NOW – I’m glad to see the mainstream media latching on to the idea that not having children is a viable option. However, between the cover pictured above and a few other articles with accompanying photos (The Guardian, for example), it seems that the attitude toward childfree couples is still very much one that assumes wealth, free time, and whiteness.
Now, many working moms will say – and have said to me – that this is because of the simple fact that, when you are not a mom, you simply have more free time. But is that really true? And why is it that moms don’t have that coveted free time when it seems their husbands have no problem taking a day off to golf or a few hours out to watch a game?
Sarah Jaffe has some ideas in a recent In These Times article. It’s a fantastic article, and I highly recommend you read all of it, but here are some gems in case you don’t have unlimited leisure time to read the whole thing (pun most definitely intended):
And public policy has a huge impact on gender equality, Gornick notes. ‘There’s no question that young couples get together and envision gender symmetrical lives, but the minute the kid is born the dreams start to fall apart. The childcare situation is terrible, there’s no high quality part-time work. Finally you realize that it actually does make sense for somebody to stay home, and it tends to be her because she was the lower earner but also because of all the social pressure. If she does it it’s admirable and normal, if he does it, it raises questions.’
This really resonated with me. For the amount of time Tim and I have discussed a gender-equal partnership, there is no question that, since I will be carrying and nursing a baby when that time comes, there will be a sharp division of labor, and one that is going to be very difficult to correct once our child is more independent, but we’ve spent a number of years already dividing the roles between caregiver and other work.
The question of opting in or opting out, is a question reserved for women who have economic options in the first place. For the vast majority of us, money is the limiting factor, not time. Our choices are proscribed by what we can afford, not whether we will have time to “have it all.” Choosing not to have kids doesn’t magically open up time and money for leisure when your hours are priced at $7.25; having children, on the other hand, can be a ticket straight to poverty.
Sarah Kendzior noted, the reality for most mothers is that they’re strapped. “From 2004 to 2010, cost of childbirth rose by 50 percent. Average out of pocket costs: $3400. That’s with insurance. Most pay more. Now you decide whether to work. Average cost of daycare is $11,666 per year. You have two kids, pay more for childcare than average rent.
This states more eloquently than I ever could a dismantling of the idea that childfree couples are wealthy and lying on a beach somewhere. For those of us who cannot afford extravagant beach vacations, not having a child often means more work and less play, especially if they are living at poverty level. This isn’t to mention the fact that, often, work is handed to those who don’t have children at home because those who do will not have time to do it.
However, the crux of the article is that women should demand more leisure time:
None of this is to say that there are not genuine pleasures in caring for children or indeed in one’s paid work. But it is to say that neither one is enough for a fulfilling life, and the idea that women should cheerily do both has meant an unfair amount of work. Caring for children, Gornick notes, is a social good, not merely an individual concern. And in creating policies that allow for a better distribution of leisure, we will also need things like (well-funded) child care and early childhood education, which allow children to be well cared for when parents aren’t around.
We need to argue, then, not just for the ability to “balance” two kinds of work, but for the right to free time—to leisure and pleasure. As women, we need to do so particularly because the idea that “family” is the only option outside of “work” is a dated, sexist ideal whether or not one has children, wants them, or can’t stand the sight of them. We will be closer to gender equality when we argue that just like men, we have interests outside of the home and the workplace.
For women, work-life balance is often a misnomer. “Life,” in most cases,” is code for “family.” There is no life in the balance and that is why, as The Atlantic so eloquently put it, women still can’t have it all. “All” is not work and family, “all” is work, family, and free time. Men can have it because they demand it and, lucky them, society systematically pushes most of the housework on women, freeing up a lot of their time. Women, stuck with the brunt of the housework load and working outside of the home, cannot.
This is exactly what terrifies me about having children. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to gain my free time back until my child is 18 and off to college because that is what society expects of us. It’s a more nuanced argument than making choices and sticking to them; often, that is impossible when the demands and the bar for success raise with each subsequent child.
Luckily, Tim read the In These Times article at my request, and he and I had a great talk about it. He understands the need for free time, and he also has no interest in functioning as a babysitter to “my” children. He wants to be a dad – a real dad – not hired help.
I’ll have some work to do, though. After teaching all day, if I come home to our child and decide I would rather go out to get drinks with my girlfriends than spending time with the kid, I’ll feel an immense amount of guilt. Will that be intrinsic or will it be because society says that I should spend every moment I can with my baby? Is it something I can talk myself out of for one afternoon, telling myself that Tim deserves alone time with the kid, too, or is it something that will haunt me forever?
I suppose I’ll never know until that time, but, as feminists (and as women), it seems like we still have some work to do in this area.
Photo Credit: TIME Magazine
You know what I just realized this past week? MY OFFICE HAS A DOOR.
OK, that might sound stupid, but hear me out. During the summers, I work from home. When Tim and I first got married, we had a two bedroom apartment and we used one of the bedrooms for a communal office space. We each had a desk in there, and we each were able to use it to do work if we needed to get away from the television in order to concentrate. It didn’t happen often, but there were a few times when Tim was in there working while I was working. Since we are both teachers and both generally have summers off, it makes sense that we would both be in the office at the same time. It was for that very reason that, unless I had a previously scheduled conference call, I would always leave the door open. It was shared space; I had to.
When we decided to buy this house, I was ecstatic when I realized that we had four bedrooms AND a finished basement. Tim got the basement all to himself, and he can make whatever decorative decisions he wants (which he still has yet to do, but whatever – he can look at those yellow walls as long as he wants). He can close the door and spread out on the couches, watch television, listen to his sports radio, and work at his desk without ever hearing from me or having me bother him. He also has the added benefit of an extra warning because I have to open the door and walk down the stairs before I can even talk to him.
So, he gets the basement, which is great. I didn’t want the basement at all. It’s cold, dark, and has spiders living down there. Plus, he does have to share it with the dogs. I love the dogs, but working while their cute faces are staring at you is a serious distraction. Therefore, I chose a bedroom. I picked the one that looks out over our front lawn because often, I try to get a little work done before someone visits and I like to see when they are coming to the door. I also like to see when Tim is coming home. It also made much more sense to have the room I do instead of the one we selected as a guest room because that one is right next to the guest bathroom, so overnight guests can use that at the end of the hallway, right next to their room. Also, if we ever have a kid, this room is right next to the one we’d use as a nursery (which is also right next to the master bedroom, as it were), making it extremely convenient.
I love my office. I painted it Tiffany blue (No, seriously, I took a Tiffany’s box into Home Depot and had them match it. Best. Decision. Ever.) and created three distinct stations. I have my writing desk which houses my computer and iPad and is also a great paper-grading desk. I have my reading corner with my bright orange armchair which is super comfy. And I have my craft nook, which is the closet without the doors and with a table and a chair for my crafting. It is perfect.
Last summer was great. Tim had a part-time job, so while he was gone, I worked in my office. Generally, unless I had something really important going on, I would stop work when he got home and I would do minimal work on days he wasn’t scheduled. That way, I could get my work done when there was no one around to bother me, and I could enjoy my summer with Tim. Win-win.
This summer, Tim didn’t get a part-time job and I took on a TON of work – writing jobs and school work. I didn’t have anything to gauge my work time on except a clock which, realistically, doesn’t work when you don’t start working until noon. How can you work until 5:00 and call it a day? You can’t. Even worse, Tim would come try to talk to me. He wanted my opinions on things. He wanted to do fun stuff. He wanted to figure out what was for dinner. Also, since he didn’t have a job, he wanted to stay up until midnight or 1:00 AM and sleep until really late (hence not starting work until noon).
These are all good things – well, except maybe the messed up sleep schedule – but you can imagine how, since I was trying to get some major work done, I was pretty annoyed.
Then, just the other day, it dawned on me. My office has a door. If I close that door, Tim will leave me alone because he will know I don’t want to be bothered.
You see, I got so used to thinking of our space as shared space that I forgot that this space is MY space.
I think it’s important for a couple to have their own space and their own time away from each other. Tim and I struggle with that every summer because we’re around each other SO MUCH, but eventually we hit our groove, just like we did this summer.
And then school starts again. Less than two weeks, friends. Then, we start all over again.
“Oh we’re just happy if they’re reading.”
It’s a phrase I hear often as a teacher. We give students books that have interesting covers, aren’t very long, and that grab young readers within the first chapter. If reluctant readers don’t see these three things within the first two seconds of looking at a book, we think their attention is lost and no amount of “selling it” will make the kids excited to read it.
I’m of the firm belief that this is why most summer reading books suck. We’re so interested in getting kids to read that we often don’t care what it is they’re reading. When the students are picking out their own books at the bookstore or the library, there’s nothing wrong with that, but when the book is school-picked and school-sponsored, we have to take a close look at what message we are sending.
Take, for example, the friends we were hanging out with last night. Let’s call them Joe and Josephine*. Josephine is a middle school teacher, and as we were talking about summer reading, she disappeared back into her office and came out, producing a copy of this:
“Is that your beach read?” I asked, jokingly. ”It looks like Fifty Shades of Grey lite.” I was noting the sexy pose and the flowing read dress of the woman on the cover, and the title - The Girl in the Steel Corset – that evokes even more sexiness (not to mention the infantalization of the “girl,” in the title who is clearly a woman in the picture).
“No,” she said. “This is our summer reading book for the girls at our school.”
My jaw hit the floor. They’re asking eleven- to thirteen-year-olds to read a book that looks like a Harlequin Romance? Yes, as it turns out, they are. Because they’re just happy to have kids reading.
It turns out that my first instincts about the book weren’t that far off. With a quick search on Amazon.com, I found that the book is, actually, published by Harlequin Teen, a division of the infamous romance novel publisher. It’s also part of a series that have similarly sexy covers and titles that evoke visions of clothing meant to bind a woman up.
Now, I don’t know anything about this book other than my quick Amazon.com search. The dust jacket description is clearly meant to lure readers in with potential sexiness and intrigue, but does seem as if it could be harmless enough:
In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the “thing” inside her
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch.
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets, against the wishes of his band of misfits. And Finley thinks she might finally be a part of something, finally fit in—until a criminal mastermind known as the Machinist threatens to tear the group apart….
Included for the first time in print, meet Finley in her first adventure The Strange Case of Finley Jayne the novella prequel to The Girl in the Steel Corset!
Continue the adventures of The Steampunk Chronicles with The Girl in the Clockwork Collar and the upcoming title, The Girl with the Iron Touch.
However, is this really the reading we want to be giving young girls? Especially over the summer months, when there is no teacher guiding the reading and no guarantee of a parent to step in and play teacher? (In fact, I would almost guarantee that there is no parent reading this with their child, because if I was handed this book and told my pre-teen daughter needed to read it over the summer, I would pitch one hell of a fit.)
I can think of a number of YA novels that have badass female characters and send an important message geared towards girls. The Hunger Games comes to mind. Or Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, or anything by John Green (because he is awesome). Sure, there’s some violence and sex in these books, but how much more could there be in these than in something published by Harlequin Teen? Seriously. Asking middle school students to read The Girl in the Steel Corset seems more akin to asking high school students to read Twilight for summer reading: Sure, they can be fun books, but do they really contain the messages we want to send our youth? And don’t even get me started on the “girl books” and “boy books” that summer reading lists often contain. I’m glad we’re not just catering to the “default” male population, but we don’t need to participate in sex segregation with summer reading, either.
With all of the great books on the market – especially for young adults – it seems like it shouldn’t be too difficult to pick something that doesn’t further marginalize women, making them feel like if they are not sexual objects, they are worthless. They don’t have to be classics; they should just be good books with good messages for our young women.
Do you have any ideas for great YA summer reads for teenage girls? If so, leave them in the comments. I’ll compile a list!
*Names and relationships changed to protect their anonymity and their jobs.
Featured Image Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography
You guys! I’ve been writing other places and I haven’t even updated you. I’m so sorry – it’ll never happen again! OK, it’ll probably happen again, but I’ll try to remember next time.
Earlier this month, I was on The Guardian again (!!!) talking about teacher bashing:
The trouble is that the current teacher-bashing rhetoric plays right into the hands of conservative politicians who want to slash pay and benefits for teachers. Take the 15 March 2010 cover of Newsweek for example: A chalkboard shows the sentence, “We must fire bad teachers” written over and over again with the headline in the center reading: “The Key to Saving American Education”. This rhetoric is difficult to argue with; of course we don’t want bad teachers teaching our students. However, the key to saving American education is not getting rid of bad teachers; it is making the profession more attractive to the good teachers, thus making school more attractive to students.
Read the whole article here.
Today, I’m at Role/Reboot talking about my decision to have kids (eventually) and why its really none of anyone’s business:
Before now, I never wanted to be a mother because I thought that, in doing so, I would have to give up everything. That is the main narrative society gives us as far as motherhood goes, and I don’t buy into it. Originally, I thought that if being a mother meant giving up everything, then I just wouldn’t do it. Interestingly enough, though, marriage has taught me that I can take what society tells me, chuck it in the trash, and make my own life. As a feminist, I’ve made my marriage what I want it to be, and I’m happy. Similarly, I can make motherhood what I want it to be, and be happy with that, as well.
All in all, this shift hasn’t been about changing my mind at all, and I imagine for many women in my situation it isn’t either. It’s been about changing my perception of what it means to be a wife and mother. And maybe that’s more important.
Read the whole article here.
Featured Image Credit: erink_photography
I want to talk a little bit more about stress. Not because I am super stressed out (which I am not after spending all of Monday in my PJs, watching an X Files marathon), but because I do think that stress is a feminist issue. Not a uniquely feminist issue, per se, but a feminist issue nonetheless. Women experience stress differently than men do, and it affects their bodies differently. We’re also given many external stressors that men don’t necessarily have. (For proof, check out the latest Atlantic cover. Now, not only are we wondering whether or not we can have it all, we’re faced with wondering how long we can wait before having babies. Turns out the actual article tells us we have longer than we think, but that didn’t stop my heart from twisting up thinking about my ticking biological clock before I checked page 54.)
Societal stress can also affect women in different ways than men. For example, I have not cleaned my house in two weeks. OK, that’s not entirely true. What I haven’t done is vacuumed. Why, you ask? Because we are getting new floors installed on Monday and I A) Believe such an activity to be fruitless when the carpets are hitting the curb anyway; and B) The boxes of my new floors are sitting in my front room (formerly – and future-ly – my Lady Cave) making it effectively impossible. Most people would laud my luck at my reprieve from carpet-cleaning but I feel a bit differently. Society (and Pinterest) has more or less told me that, if my house doesn’t look perfect all the time, I’m a failure. So, in place of being stressed about vacuuming, I’m now stressed about not vacuuming. WE JUST CAN’T WIN!
Marketers are on to this, too. What better way to relieve stress than a day at the spa (which you will stress out about if for no other reason than the dent in your wallet) or a shopping spree (see above) or a new-fangled contraption that vacuums for you without any interference from you at all (which will stress you out because it will inevitably not work or it is very expensive in which case, see above).
So how do we deal with stress as women if we are not to fall prey to marketers? I’m a big fan of sitting on my couch in my PJs watching television, but, as I discussed yesterday, that’s not very sustainable. Here are some other options I love:
Now it’s your turn. As a woman, how do you experience stress differently than your male counterparts? What are your favorite ways to relieve stress?
Featured Image Credit: chmeredith
Realistically, I probably only take 2-4 days off during a school year. I’m of the feeling that: A. I want my sick days in case something happens or in case we have a baby or whatever – you get the point; and B. We get all summer off, plus lots of 3-day weekends and 2 weeks for the winter holidays. Do I really need more of a break than that?
For most teachers, the answer is yes. In many parts of the country, teachers don’t even make a living wage, and so many of them work second and third jobs to supplement their income. Remember when the kids in Mean Girls ran into Tina Fey in her restaurant get-up at the mall and were all weirded out? My students love to laugh at that scene, but it is 100% true. Even in the Chicago suburbs, where teachers are paid very well for the most part, I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t have a second job.
Y’all know already that I have a second job. You’re looking at it.
OK, blogging isn’t a “job” per se, but I do get paid for most of the writing I do, and that job takes up to another 20 hours a week during the school year (on top of the grading and planning I already do at home), and can take up to 60 hours during the summer depending on how much extra freelancing I can take on.
This summer? Well between a huge article I’m working on but can’t really talk about yet and another project I can’t really tell you about yet and two former editors (One from The Guardian – hello, when The Guardian calls, you answer!) email you asking if you can take on some more work and upping my writing load for Care2.com AND getting ready to teach an AP class next year, I’m looking at a lot of 60-hour work weeks this summer.
I’m honestly working harder this summer than I did last school year.
All of this sounds a lot like complaining. I’m not complaining. I LOVE teaching and I LOVE writing, and I LOVE that teaching not only satisfies this calling I’ve had to work with students, but also affords me the time off and the insurance benefits I need to do the writing I love as well. It’s just that I was really looking forward to a break this summer.
Seriously, you guys, at the end of last school year, I needed a break more than anything. I was looking at myself in the mirror on the last day of school, with my hair all cracked and dry, huge bags under my eyes, my skin was peeling off in places because it was so dry and patchy, and I was broken out like I’ve never been broken out before. OK, I get it, no one could notice any of these things on me, but does that mean they weren’t there? Does that mean I didn’t need some kind of change, and fast, to regain my health? I think I did.
I did try to take some time for myself at the beginning of the summer, but I had so many things that I had put off during the last week of school that I just needed to get done. So I hit the ground running, albeit with a little more sleep than I had been used to, but I still didn’t really take any time for me.
And I started all these new things. New projects, a new diet, a new lifestyle. I was stressing myself out about doing all of these new things perfectly while also trying to balance the old things. I think you can probably guess how that was working out for me. (Or how it wasn’t.)
But I thought I was doing so well. My acne has been at bay for over a month. I’ve gotten a few little pimples, but this is nothing compared to what it looked like at the end of the school year. My face even has a little more of a glow now when I look in the mirror, and I can’t remember the last time I felt the need to actually wear makeup. (Some concealer here and there, but I refuse to believe that is actually makeup.) And, if you’ve learned anything about me from any of my writing lately, I associate overall health and wellbeing with skin health. And I don’t think I’m that far off-base in doing so.
Then, last week happened. I didn’t work out, I didn’t even leave my home office for more than a few minutes a day to say good night to Tim before I crashed in bed. Even on the 4th of July, I had to drag myself away from the work I was doing to go out for a minute before I came back and worked some more. I think I worked 80 hours last week. For real. So I decided that some yoga would be good for me on Sunday. I went, I yoga-ed, I came home to a huge patch of pimples on my cheek and chin. You can imagine how I felt.
Finally, after an hour of crying about the 10 steps back I had taken, I put on my big-girl pants and said, “Enough is enough.” Diet and exercise and getting enough sleep is a big part of the journey to overall health, but if you are stressed out and over-worked, you’re not going to allow your body any time to recover. Yoga didn’t cause those pimples; stress did. Yoga just allowed me to take a step back for a minute and realize how deeply stressed out I was.
It’s difficult to realize that you are stressed over summer vacation. I mean, you’re sleeping until whenever you want, you’re in your own home and working (So it’s not really work, right? Um… WRONG!), you take breaks and days off to see friends whenever you want to, so it’s not so bad? But when you’re doing what I was and working more during the week than you do during the school year, something’s going to blow up, whether it’s your face or your self-esteem or your temper.
What did I do? Well, I took yesterday off. Not took it off to go see friends or drink wine with Tim. I took it OFF. I did not get out of my pajamas or move from the couch all day, and I did nothing but watch The X Files on Netflix and take a nap and drink tea.
It. Was. Glorious.
But, it’s not sustainable. I can’t be taking days to lay on the couch every time I feel stressed out, especially during the school year. Instead, I’m going to focus a lot of my effort on only working 40-hours during the rest of the summer, and then, when school starts, I’m going to pick an amount of time (maybe 8 hours? maybe 10?) during the school year that I’m willing to spend on writing. Once I hit my limit? Well, I don’t get paid overtime, so I will stop. I know it’s going to be really hard to do, but I have to unless I want to see my overall health decline again like it did last year.
When your body speaks, you really need to listen. This new lifestyle is starting to teach me that.
Featured Image Credit: bottled_void
A few weeks ago, I participated in a panel discussion with the absolutely wonderful Deborah Siegel, Veronica Arreola, and Claudia Garcia-Rojas. Not gonna lie, I was super intimidated to speak with these talented, smart ladies, but I had such a great time! Deborah posted some video on her site, and I’m sharing it with you so you can enjoy it, even if you weren’t able to make it!
If you’re in the Chicago area, check out more Chifems events! Hope to see you there!
We’ve been in our house for a year now. We’re no DIYers, but we have done a lot of work! See all the home before and after posts and pictures here.
You may remember how excited I was to have a library when we moved into this house a year ago. Tim and I both graduated undergrad with our BA’s in English and we met in our MA in English Studies program, so we had a lot of books. More than anything, I wanted a designated space for those books that would showcase them. (Well, if we’re being honest here, more than anything I wanted a Tiffany blue office, but secondly I wanted a space for those books. Bonus if it was purple – which it is!).
I got my purple library. Tim OKed the choice of purple as long as it was an “adult purple.” (Searching for it was seriously like that ACE Hardware “Find Your Soul Paint” commercial: ”I don’t want a PURPLE, but more like a PURple, you know what I’m saying?” What the hell does “adult purple” even mean, Tim? Turns out it means not a baby’s nursery or teenager’s room purple, which is actually pretty self-explanatory when you really think about it. We ended up with Behr’s Vintage Grape if you’re curious.) To be honest, anything would have been better than the yellow it was, but I’m glad we ended up with the purple.
No, seriously you guys. It was yellow. It is also where we put all of the boxes, mostly because that’s the first room you see when you walk in the door.
Slowly but surely, it turned into this:
And then we got sick of hitting our heads on the ugly dining room chandelier (did I mention this used to be a dining room?), so we put in a fan.
Ahh. Much better and breezier. But after a while, even though I loved cozying up in my papasan chair and reading a good book, I started to hate the fact that this room looked like we put all the leftover stuff from college in it. Who has a front room with a futon and a papasan chair?! Not 30-year-old homeowners, that’s for sure. I also started to realize that, with one sitting area on the main floor, everyone sat in the kitchen when they came over, and that is awkward and not much fun, so I wanted another sitting area. Thus, the “Lady Cave” was born.
The chairs and coffee table are from Pier 1. The artwork is original – and by original, I mean I cut up a poster and put it in these frames we had bought ages ago from Hobby Lobby (you might recognize them from our Christmas mantle).
I love this room. It’s a little girly (hey, Tim has the entire basement at his disposal, which is still yellow, might I add) but functional, and it still showcases the books while allowing us a place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine with company. I’ll admit it – sometimes I just sit in there and do nothing for a little while, just to enjoy it.
And, don’t worry, my comfy papasan chair has a new cushion and a new home in the living room, just on the other side of the book wall. Bailey currently thinks it’s his bed. Which it is not.
You guys. It is summer. And I can honestly say that I have earned this summer break more than I have ever earned a break before. It usually takes me about a week or two to let my brain rest and then get bored enough to get back into working on this little blog and other writing opportunities, but during that week off, I’m always thinking about things to do and making a list of all of the things I want to get accomplished during the summer and articles I want to write and things I want to tell everyone about.
This past week? None of that. No thinking. No planning. Not much but watching television and cooking a ton of food and sleeping. I just couldn’t do it, and every time I thought I should get off my butt and do something, my brain screamed with every neuron and synapse, “I DON’T WANNA!!!” and I would sit back down.
I don’t really want to complain on here, especially since I feel like I’ve been doing that a lot lately in real life, and also a lot of the complaining I would do at this point is about my job, and I don’t feel comfortable doing that on the internets. Needless to say, it’s been a tough year. On top of the job stuff, I have been dealing with the following, more personal problems:
Geeze. When I write it all down, it seems even more terrible than it felt living it. That’s OK; it’s cathartic, which is what this post is supposed to be. Here’s the thing though: In the past week that I’ve been off of school, a lot of healing has begun. I don’t know if it’s the sun or the extra sleep or the change in my diet or just the relaxation, but my moods seem to be evening themselves out and, though my acne probably isn’t gone but I’ve had a few blissful weeks where it hasn’t been bad at all. I have been able to get outside and work in the yard – hard work, the best kind of exercise, and the yard looks great. I’m not obsessing over what the house looks like or what I look like – you should see what I’m wearing right now; I don’t even think I showered this morning – and I’m just being happy. As far as the loneliness goes, I’m working on being a better friend to those I have both near and far, and I’m hoping that will be reciprocated.
And my job? My job will get better. Next year will be a better year. At the very least, next year will be a new year, with new challenges and accomplishments. Already, I know I’ll have a senior AP class, which will be a nice break from teaching the same thing all day. I also know I’ll be assistant coaching the speech team, which will give me a chance to get really involved in something I love. Though I’m looking forward to a full two and a half months off, I’m already excited to see what next year will bring.
I’ve also been thinking quite a bit about what to do with this little site of mine. I’ve used this site for many things: tracking my studies in grad school, venting about wedding planning and marriage, writing about important news in the women’s rights field, sharing interesting stories and lessons about teaching. The thing is that now, though, I’m writing about all of those really important things in other really important places, so I either don’t have time or don’t really want to write about them here.
So. What to do?
I thought I could either just keep this site as a record of places I have been published, which is kind of boring, or I could use it to update you on stuff that is going on with me, and stuff that I just love (like nail art! I LOVE nail art!) and love doing. DIY, home improvements, fashion, and cooking (did I mention that I went Paleo a week ago – I did, and I want to share all of my food-related discoveries with you) with a dash of feminism. I’d also love to try out some video blogs. Those are the things that make me really happy, and so those are the things that I’m going to write about for you. Hopefully they will make you happy, too!
I’m excited about this new direction I’m going in. I’m really proud of making this house a home and discovering things about myself along the way. Hopefully that can help some of you, too.
Featured Image Credit: Steve Wilson