Thanks, Barry!

Every year, my goal is to blog more, and every year, I fail miserably at my goal. I am thankful to have been tagged by Barry Saide in this chain blog of sorts. I have never liked to pass on chain mail. Even in the days when I’d get actual letters in the mail asking me to put my name at the bottom of my list and send out 10 post cards, I was a chain breaker. I think it stems from my (sometimes illogical) need to not inconvenience people. I don’t even like to have parties because I worry that people will feel obligated to come. So here I am, yet again, breaking the chain. I started making a list of bloggers and couldn’t get past that feeling that they’d roll their eyes on me. Sorry, Barry! I don’t even know why I think they’d feel that way; I for one found this to be a fun exercise, and I enjoyed doing it! I’m working on these issues, I swear.

With that being said, I didn’t want to cop out completely, so I at least did my little-known facts and answers to Barry’s questions! Here they are:

  1. I am a sometimes runner. I have done two half marathons and many 5ks, but I am inconsistent in my practice. Even though I know how hard it is to build my mileage back up, I still slack off and go months without running, only to lose the endurance I have trained for. I follow the same patterns with organization, cleaning, eating right, blogging, and having a normal bed time. Basically I struggle with anything that requires consistent motivation and dedication.
  2. I am going to Spain this summer. After years of hemming and hawing about grad school, I have finally decided on a program: an off-site graduate program in global educational leadership . I am excited to be back at my alma mater , and I’m even more excited that the classes are being held in Palma de Mallorca. It is a post-masters certificate program that culminates with my NJ principal’s certificate, although I currently have no desire to become a principal. I’m just ready for something new, and I have a good feeling that this will lead to my next step. The one issue is that I haven’t actually applied to the program yet. I’ll be doing that this week; fingers crossed that I actually get in!
  3. Since high school, it has been my secret desire to be the guest star on an episode of Saturday Night Live. I find myself to be hilarious, and I think that being the guest star on SNL would validate my assertion.
  4. I don’t know how to find a style. Whether it’s decorating my home or dressing myself, I have always been a mish-mash. This frustrates me because I really want to look more put together. I marvel at how some people are always in fashion and chic; I don’t understand how they have the time or money to keep up like they do. I once asked a particularly fashionable friend about it, and she said she takes out extra student loans and uses that money for clothes and shoes. It made me feel better about my humble style; I’m not willing to go in debt to look good. However, if money, body type, and time weren’t an issue, I’d like to look like basically every girl on ModCloth.
  5. I have always been someone who goes through obsessive phases. Once I find something that excites me, I work on it obsessively until I get bored with it. This often comes at the expense of things that should be a higher priority. For instance, right now I’m sitting here writing this blog post instead of getting my winter break to-do list done. Somehow or other, though, I always get things done when I have to.
  6. My recent obsession is my Word-a-Minute vocab videos. I am making them because I don’t have time to read the vocab words aloud in class each week, and I wanted to give students some extra review. I showed them the first few videos early in the year, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. While I really enjoy making them, part of me feels like I bit off more than I can chew. There are 300 words in the book! This will take me some time. I know I can have students make them in my computer class, but I’m too proud of this series, and I think it’s got potential. I’m usually fine with letting go of control, but not in this case.
  7. I am a cancer and a blue, which means I’m a sensitive soul and I take things personally. I am ruled by emotion and make impulsive decisions as a response to anxiety and discomfort. This can be difficult when teaching, as I worry too much about my teaching style. I think I’m a pretty out-of-the-box teacher, especially in a school like mine, where the majority of students (and teachers) are more logical, scientific, and grade driven. As our school rankings continue to climb, students become more and more tied to logic, right answers, and grades. This becomes challenging when I try to teach them to take risks in their writing and work hard for the sake of learning. I have them write about what they read; they ask why we don’t have more comprehension quizzes. I have them blog; they wonder why I don’t give grammar worksheets. I continue to do what feels right to me because I believe it’s important to stay true to who I am. Nonetheless, it becomes lonely sometimes.
  8. I was a member of the inaugural faculty at my school. This means that when I was first hired, I was the only English teacher in my entire school. There were seven other teachers (one for each subject), one principal (who was an RN so we didn’t even have a separate school nurse), and 60 students. Due to my aforementioned blue nature and obsessive personality, I threw my heart and soul into building something great. While I am more than proud of all we’ve built in the past nine years, I’m also exhausted. It was one of the best experiences of my life, but I don’t think I could muster the energy to do it again.
  9. I know I just said I’d never start a school again, but I think I’m lying. My dream is to open a school called The School of Now: Because the Future is Here. It would be the type of place where bureaucracy would be pushed to the side, teachers could teach, and students could learn. My problem, though, is that, as a blue, I’m great with ideas but not so much with their execution. It’ll probably continue to be a fantasy rather than a reality.
  10. The only reason I went into teaching was that I hated driving and wanted summers off. I used to work 72 miles away from home. I live at the Jersey Shore (no, I don’t know Snooki), and I was commuting way north for work. I was driving home on 287 and the Parkway one Friday in the summer (those of you from Jersey know how miserable of a trek this can be), and I knew I needed to find something that could allow me to make a living, work close to home without leaving the shore, and have time off in the summer. For those reasons, I went into teaching. Imagine my surprise when I realized that teaching is my calling; I feel lucky to have found my passion, regardless of the fact that it was selfish reasons that got me here.
  11. I have traveled with students more times than I can count. I’ve chaperoned leadership conferences, EF tours, service trips, and more. People think I’m crazy for voluntarily spending days (or even weeks!) at a a time with large groups of teenagers, but I believe student travel is integral in cultivating global citizens. I love seeing how independent students become in such a short period of time. While I’m definitely on hiatus from student travel this summer, I’m sure there is more to come. An added benefit is that I’ve been places like Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, The Galápagos Islands, France, Spain, Ireland, and England for basically free. I can’t complain about that!

Whoa, this post is getting long. Without further ado (there’s been plenty of ado already), here are my answers to Barry’s questions:

  1. Q: What are you currently reading right now?  A: I am currently reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. I’m only a few chapters in, but it seems interesting so far. Typical dystopian stuff, which is always a good time. Professionally, I’m reading How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms by Carol Ann Tomlinson. I randomly found it in my boxes when I was unpacking for my recent move, so I figured why not? It’s pretty good, although it’s outdated. I had a good laugh when she suggested showing laser discs in class to appeal to visual learners.
  2. Q: What do you usually eat for breakfast and where do you eat it? A: On school days, I eat a small Lenders bagel with cream cheese, and I eat it in my car (horrible habit, I know, but I can’t get myself up early enough to eat at home). When I don’t have school, I have oatmeal, an English muffin, eggs, or a bagel, and I eat it at my dining room table.
  3. Q: Describe one incident of road rage you were involved in. A: A couple years ago, some crazy car cut me off as it was pulling out of a 7-11. I honked to catch its attention (I’ll admit it was probably an angry honk). He stopped the car, opened the doors, and stared me down. I thought he was going to pull out a gun; it was terrifying. When he got back in the car, he screeched his tires and acted like he was going to try to run me over. Fortunately, he just drove past me and kept going. The whole thing was nuts.
  4. Q: One non-educational dream you have that is recurring. A: I still have the occasional “wharfmare.” I used to work at a restaurant called the Wharfside, and I still have that classic I’m-a-waitress-but-I-can’t-keep-up-with-all-my-tables-and-all-my-customers-hate-me-right-now dream.
  5. Q: From 1 – 5, one being least, five being most, how much of a fan of The Walking Dead are you? A: Is zero an option? I have never seen it.
  6. Q: What was one conversation you had that changed you? A: Whoa, Barry, tough question! I’m gonna have to say that most conversations with my graduate school professor Doc Flanagan changed me. He was an adjunct who I only had for one class, but we stayed in touch, and I honestly think I would have quit teaching after my first year if it weren’t for him. I can’t even count how many times I emailed him through my tears, and his words of encouragement got me through. He passed away in September, 2012, and I think of him every day. When I begin to doubt myself in the classroom and think maybe I’m crazy for seeing education as I do (see #7 above), I hear him cheering me on. It is in his honor that I teach to change the world, and it is because of him that I will never let my optimism fade. Some of his lines that have stayed with me are, “Praise the child and she will blossom,” “Preparation is infinitely more important than planning,” and (I’m paraphrasing here) “you have 25 kids with 19 personalities each on any given day. No wonder teaching is so fun!”.  To get an idea for what an amazing man he was, read his advice to his grandkids.
  7. Q: What was one time you helped someone, but it will never be recognized? A: I think teachers do this all the time. Sometimes we don’t even realize that one simple thing we said or did that made an impact on a kid. I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything, but I’d like to think I’ve done this at least once.
  8. Q: Name one disturbing thing you saw in person. A: Parents pressuring their kids about their SAT scores. Especially when it’s a younger sibling, and the parent is going on about how great the older sibling did. Happens all the time, and breaks my heart every time I see it.
  9. Q: Does your significant other tell you to order a different meal when going out to eat if you both want the same thing? (or is it just me?) A: Hey, this is a biased question, Barry. I am currently sans S/O. However, I will say that I don’t care who orders what when I go out to dinner.
  10. Q: Favorite dive bar where it feels like everyone knows your name. A: I don’t think it’s there anymore, but in college we went to this place called LaNutties (pronounced La Nudies, but it’s not what you think) every Friday night. There was a giant flying saucer carved into the walls, and the beer was cheap. Good times indeed.
  11. Q: Something someone once said that blew your mind. (think inconceivable!) A: Pretty much anything Kurt Vonnegut has ever written.

Thanks again for the tag, Barry! This was fun to write; I hope it motivates me to sit down and blog more often! Sorry again for being a lame-o and breaking the chain!

2 thoughts on “Thanks, Barry!

  1. No lame-o at all. I loved it. I hope others read it, because there’s so much good stuff here. Your thoughts run deep, and you make me think. For this, I thank you! Keep writing, I’ll keep reading, and link your site to my website.
    FYI, Danielson coming in February for NJASCD Annual Conference!

  2. I broke the chain earlier. Awesome stuff. And I don’t want to be a principal either. Though I don’t have the cert. I need to travel more, and I have clothes from Modcloth but no fashion–my friend tells me what to buy and I do. Nice post!

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