Category Archives: Teaching

1, 2, 3, (4, tell me that I should blog more)

I haven’t been on the blog since June. What’s the appropriate amount of flogging for penance? 39 lashes?

I’ve made myself scarce for a few reasons; let’s go through them, shall we?

1. I have made no progress as a writer. I’ve opened up my rough drafts and skimmed back through them, revisiting so many worlds created, characters grown, adventures lived: Copper and her ocean, Amani and her dragons, Phoebe and her hellhounds, Molly and her Dust Bowl, Clara Jean and her spaceship.

Though I love my leading ladies… my writing sucks. The plot takes a long time to reach its hook. The character growth is sporadic and unbelievable. There are holes and typos. The men the ladies (and the readers) should adore–Shiloh, Tristan, Roger, Angus, Griff–don’t move and breathe the way “Team ____” characters inspire the fangirl masses.

I don’t know how to kindle the energy to revise. I’ll focus on Copper for a few weeks before realizing that nothing I’ve fixed is any better than what existed before, so then I’ll tuck it away and re-open Clara Jean’s story. But then I’ll only make it through two chapters before getting called back to Copper, which is a lost cause, which sends me on to Phoebe, whose episodic story still feels more like a bad video game than a novel, and on and on and on.

What’s the point?

Of course I know the answer. “Writing is its own reward.” These characters’ lives will never, ever be unless I am the one to tell them.

I’m just so easily depressed and drawn away from the messy chaos of revision… which draws me to my next point.

2. Somehow I got scheduled to teach THREE DIFFERENT GRADES. That’s right, I plan and teach and grade for seniors, and juniors, AND sophomore honors students. The “glass-half-full” people say it’s a compliment that my bosses think I’m capable of handling such a workload, while the “glass-half-empty” people say it’s because I don’t have tenure and can’t complain about anything without repercussions.

I cried almost daily for a while, because I already felt like I was treading water with my nose one inch above the surface–the junior burden on one shoulder, the senior burden on the other–and then got sophomore honors plopped onto my head, pushing me all the way below. Then the crying lessened, gradually, to once a week, and now I’ve made it over a month without shedding a work-related tear.

I can do this. I know I can. The end of the first semester is within sight, just two weeks away. The next semester can’t be any worse than what I survived in September. But still… the energy drain of planning AND teaching AND grading for three completely different groups… well, it has not been healthy for me as a writer or wife or friend (or healthy-ish person).

Oh, plus I have to do buttloads of pointless paperwork and meetings to clear my credential, and I advise a student group that requires volunteering hours all over the place, and all of my students have needy parents who insist on scheduling identical, useless meetings all the time (“Why is my student failing?” “See all these 0’s? They don’t do any work in class or at home or read anything ever.” “Oh, that makes sense.”).

*long siiiiiiiigh*

Finally, 3: I needed to recapture my love of reading. How can I be a good writer if I’m not a voracious reader? Last year’s school duties kept me from reading much–NOW I understand how people can start to read in bed and then fall asleep immediately–so I spent an enormous chunk of my summer “catching up” on a lot of lost reading. I devoured every recommendation in my path, things like “The Pillars of the Earth,” “Throne of Glass,” “Fangirl,” “Ready Player One,” “The Silkworm,” “Outlander,” “Sweet Tooth,” “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”, “The Alchemist.” It was magnificent.

The good: remembering the beauty of prose, the joy of risks and justice and swooning, and the pleasure of being drawn into magical worlds–fantasy or not–helps inspire me to “pick up the pen” again… sort of. If I ever get the energy to split my hours between teaching and writing again.

The bad: EVERYONE IS BETTER THAN ME. haha… dramatic but true. The “Throne of Glass” trilogy (so far–I think there are supposed to be 6 books when all is done?) was spectacularly done. The creativity, world-building, plot twists, and adventure made me like it almost better than “Graceling,” my last whoa-hey-I’m-in-love-with-this-book find. At the same time, however, it makes me hesitate to even try anymore, because I don’t think I’ll ever be that talented or produce something that brilliant even after thousands upon thousands of additional words written.

The knife in my heart twisted further this week when I finished reading the Grisha trilogy, “Shadow and Bone.” Leigh Bardugo was in my head, you guys. Her magic system and many of the character traits/plot twists are parallel to those in my Copper and Amani books. So, cool, I’m creative like other writers! Aaaand… now I can’t use any of that creativity because it will look like plagiarism.

Awesome.

So there’s a much-needed update on me. I’m alive. I’m swamped. I don’t really count as a writer right now. I’m a half-assed, very tired teacher instead.

I miss the blog world.

I’ll try to stop by more often.

And if someone can find a way to convince me to/help me to revise Copper, I am all for hearing your suggestions.

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I don’t like endings–

–which is why transitioning to a new age on my birthday was so rough.

And now I have to send off my first set of seniors, many of whom I taught as juniors last year; we’ve built up relationships and now they are graduating and heading out into the real world.

It’s times like these that I kick myself for being so shy and introverted. Every day, getting up in front of that classroom and public speaking, is difficult enough. But then to bare my soul, too? To let them know how much I care for them and pray for their future successes (aside from what society defines as successful)? It’s so hard! As time passes, I think I will get better at it–at breaking down those barriers and letting the students understand the depth of my love for them (and that, therefore, our reading assignments and essays are NOT PUNISHMENT)–but not yet.

So for now, the speech I should give them as we end classes this week will stay here, in internet-blog-land. And a handful will find it (like I found their Twitters, HA!), and appreciate it. That will have to be enough for now, while I still seek my courage.

Without further ado:

 

My dear students. You have made it through high school, you have conquered some of the worst periods of life, and you now have an education that nobody can ever take away from you. Your cars can be repossessed and your clothes can shrink (when you don’t wash them correctly next year at college despite all of my warnings to make your mom show you how to do laundry now, before it’s too late) but nobody can steal the knowledge you’ve filled your head with. I think it’s cute how much you all complain about your workloads, because college and adult working life is all going to be so much worse — however, you really have achieved a milestone. Don’t let others downplay it. You have done something worth celebrating even though there is still more work to come. “Stop and smell the roses,” as they say, or stop and look back at the 12 years of school you’ve made it through. Yes, education has some pitfalls and issues, and I am honored that we have had deep discussions about some of those things in class; maybe one of you will be able to make a difference in education in the future, as I am trying to. You are all setting out to make a difference, somewhere, somehow, no matter how big or how small. As Neil Gaiman says, so much more brilliantly than I could ever say,

“I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful… Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art… write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

When you are frustrated with your classes and wonder why we make you learn things, I hope you remember the fight that Stanton, Anthony, Woolf, and many others fought to let you even have the opportunity. When you realize you have wings that you can’t spread, like Edna Pontellier, I hope you are able to take careful, wise steps to break free. When you are faced with the confusion of young love, like Elizabeth Bennett, I hope you see through the Wickhams and embrace the Darcys. When you are tempted to cheat and take shortcuts, I hope you remember how well that worked out for Lady Macbeth or Tita de la Garza. And when you feel alone and defeated, remember that there is always someone out there who cares about you and is rooting for you through thick and thin: me!

I am so excited for you and your futures. I am so honored to have been part of your past. Remember where your roots were fastened even as you grow in exciting new ways.

Just do me a favor and remember to always spell “a lot” as two words.
: )

ALOT2

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encouragement

Teaching is difficult. The hours are long and often thankless, and the payoffs are not always noticeable.

But I am proud to say that, as of today, I’ve finished my first full semester as an official full-time teacher AND received the following e-mail today from one of my students:

“On behalf of the students, I would like to thank you for the great semester. I had a lot of fun and surprisingly learned a lot, (regardless of my slacking towards the end). When I announced my classes on Facebook in the beginning of the year, a lot of people claimed I was lucky to have you as a teacher —  and you didn’t disappoint. You lived up to my expectations and your reputation by teaching us a lot about relationships, decision making, and life skills.

A teacher who genuinely cares about her students is rare to come across, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend your class.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the year, and once again, thank you!

Sincerely,

[student’s name]

ps I enjoy your corny jokes.”

How great is that???

I’m going to start a bad-day folder. Every time I get a thank you note or something similar, I’ll put it in the folder and save it close by. Then when I have a horrid teaching day and feel like a failure, I’ll have tangible evidence that I’ve done good work and can do it again. That should buoy my spirits in a much-needed way.

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