Reflections on the School Year

The last day of school for teachers is finally here! It’s been a year of extremes – and I’m writing this up in my new classroom (at the same school)! After 3 years of photographing outfits in room B201, I am moving to a new science room that is properly set up with a fume hood. I’m teaching Chemistry next year, for the first time ever.  That’s right, every year is a new challenge, and every year is a different beast to slay! So goodbye, room B201, you’ve been good to me. Hello, room B241!

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sunnies: freebie swag from b – cardigan: american apparel – top: f21 – jeans: mother denim – belt: jcrew – shoes: saltwater sandals

This year was like a split personality. On one end, I had the best year I’ve ever had with students. This was the first year I’ve ever had students actually thank me on a daily basis. More than one kid did this, every day.  It seems silly, and it seems small, but holy crap! After 6 years of investing mentally, emotionally, and introspectively into my classroom with (what felt like more often than not) zero thanks for my hard work, this year’s batch of amazing young humans breathed new life into me. The letters I got at the end of the year really made my efforts totally worth it. I had kids write me that they “will never look at the world the same way again”, and “thank you for making me enjoy science”, and “you’re a really good teacher who isn’t afraid to expose their students to the real world, it is important that you do that because it sticks”. Words can’t even express how good this feels.  I just can’t even. *tears*

On the other, I had a very challenging year with the educational system. At our closing meeting this morning, our principal talked about the importance of never giving up on our students, and advocating for them, no matter what it takes.  The word advocate really stuck in my mind, because I thought about all my kids and how I will always advocate for them, and of their letters thanking me for it. But then I thought, who is advocating for me? Am I my only advocate (professionally)? Do we teachers all have to fight our own individual battles, or is that just part of the culture here at my school? Here in Denver, we have an evaluation system tied to your pay, and tied to whether or not you get to keep your job. It is not meant (or maybe used?) to actually help you grow as an educator, because there’s too much at stake professionally. In addition, there is absolutely no incentive to go above and beyond, because to be better than just an “effective” teacher is to be a unicorn. I don’t want to go down a negative rabbit hole, because that’s not where my heart is. Instead, I’ll leave you with this picture of a pin, and a picture of how rewarding teaching can feel.

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Last Fridays

There are only 2 (two) more Fridays left in the school year. Final exams start tomorrow, and end by this Friday. I’m giving up on wearing anything more than jeans and t shirts from here on out. This is what I wore to school last Friday, because it snowed that day, and I was still cold. Harrumph.

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pullover: patagonia – tshirt: upper playground – jeans: mother denim – shoes: vans – watch: fitbit blaze – belt: urban outfitters

Cusp of Spring

It’s warming up here in Denver, but it’s been a rocky spring.  Our garden was first pummeled by a late spring snow storm, only to get ripped to shreds by a hail storm a couple of weeks later! This set of photos are from the start of the month, in the thick of the weather see-saw that is spring in Colorado.

This shirt dress is from COS, picked up during my spring break trip to Toronto. It’s roomy, edgy, fun, and it HAS POCKETS! I wore it out to a girl’s night dinner, and I was asked exactly 4 times if I was headed to Denver Fashion Week after dinner by servers and strangers. That MUST mean something cool – right? The leggings are from Costco (they have heaps more than just food!), and they are the softest, warmest, leggings ever. More to come from Costco in the future. None of it is particularly fashionable, or glamorous, but very, very, practical.

On a side, note, B and I got engaged! more to come on that later.

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sweater and dress:cos – leggings: costco – boots: blundstone – bracelet: julia szendrei

If You Must, Do it Directly (guest post!)

Hey guys, Erika asked if I (one of her friends/ colleagues) would want to write a guest-post in her blog.  Sounded fun, so I agreed.  You’ve seen me here before!  Erika and I have been teaching at the same school for 3 years strong.  We have also bonded over the challenge of fly-fishing – I’m sure you’ll read about some fishing this summer.  We will be teaching partners next year, which I am very much looking forward to (<- ignore the prepositional stranding throughout!).

People who get along tend to share values in common.  Turns out I get along with people who share my love for being outdoors – my closest friends are women who don’t paint their nails compulsively, but rather hike, bike, run, climb, and compete in their free time.  All my other friends are men with whom I play sports.  I love people who can yell at each other [or more accurately, when I can give them a hard time on the sports field], and then 2 minutes later we’re over it.  Environments where there are so many emotions/too much sensitivity can be a struggle to manage for me. I find that when people handle disagreements with the right balance of sensitivity and reason (emphasis on reason), they are easier to get along with.

I think that’s one reason Erika and I will crush the co-planning gig for Chemistry next year.  Erika is a direct communicator, just like I am.  My prediction is that we will be VERY efficient in meetings, but have the right amount of socializing in the mix.  Due to this predicted efficiency, I think I will finally hit my stride in accomplishing all the things teachers have to do in the 12 minutes of plan time that aren’t consumed by meetings about meetings, more meetings, emails, phone calls, data trackers, and more data trackers.

I am looking forward to what it might be like if my life were NOT consumed by my job – hopefully round three of Chemistry will be less of a struggle than the previous two years.  Also, wish me luck as I try to convince Erika to give up some hours over the summer to plan out Chemistry content so we can save time in the fall!

As an aside on the note of direct communication, if you haven’t watched the full monologue of Hasan Minhaj at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, you should really get on that. In my opinion, comedy is one of the most engaging forms of entertainment.  When you couple it with direct communication,  there isn’t anything more complex or a more astute presentation of information.  Hasan’s monologue was so good that I have watched it three (3) times – worth every minute.  Finally, and most importantly, I wish I could teach class like this monologue EVERY DAY.

“Do you want to know what he’s not doing while he’s golfing? Being president. Let the man putt-putt…  apocalypse delayed; take the W.”  – Hasan Minhaj

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Day of Silence

Last week the Gay-Straight Alliance at my school organized a Day of Silence, to represent the marginalization of LGBTQQ youth and the silencing of their voices. As part of the day of silence we wore black as a symbol of our support for our LGBTQQ students. I’m not too crazy about this outfit, and there isn’t really much to say about it, except for the fact that this new sweater of mine from COS has extra long sleeves, and thumb holes.

Instead, I’ll tell you about my nightmare of a morning, and how glad I am for not flipping out. As a teacher, there are a lot of things worse than technology not working.  A fight could happen, a kid could lose it and cuss you out, you could lose your shit and cry in front of a class. Today though, it really felt like one of the worst mornings, ever. In retrospect, it wasn’t even close to being the worst, but it sure felt that way by the time I got a breather from students.

So…there is this cool new documentary called Before the Flood out about climate change. The 9th grade bio teacher who told me about it said her kids really got into it, and she even had a worksheet ready to go!  I was all set for a chill day of watching a documentary and discussing the juicy bits. I bought the movie on iTunes, and watched it myself last night to prep. Come 1st period this morning, I was hit with a High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) error when I tried to play the darn movie.

It was like dead air on the radio station as I scrambled to troubleshoot the Promethian Board and my laptop display settings. No luck. I could feel my blood pressure rising as the kids stared at me blankly. One kid decided it was cool to yell “just play it already!” or something to that effect. I told the kids to work on their homework while I tried to figure it out, the stress constriction forming in my chest and throat. For the rest of the period, I tried to trouble shoot. As the bell rang, I found the same movie, the full version, online for free. OMFG. As I’m recounting my morning story, my stress levels are going up again. So I’m going to stop here and go be one with my couch. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

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glasses: warby parker – sweater: cos – belt: banana republic (old) – jeans: f21 (old) – shoes: target

Spring Sprung

These photos are from last week.  I broke my shopping ban in Toronto over spring break and picked up a second pair of Blundies.  Seriously, I need another pair of Blundstones like I need a hole in my head.  But these are black, and the pair I already have are brown. That is my thought process here, I’m not even kidding. But ALSO, they were cheaper because I was in Canada, another Commonwealth country, and I have more buying power with the current exchange rate. Justification of a ridiculous purchase! All jokes aside though, these boots will last me literally forever. One woman I know has had her Blundies since college, and I’m pretty sure she’s at least a little bit older than me.  This means my Blundies will last untill I’m dead. Just like this dress from 2012, this sweater from 2015, and this scarf from 2013.

On the school front, there are only 4 (or 5, depending on the positivity of the person) weeks till school is out!  Our kids have been testing these past 2 weeks, and the teachers have been feeling the testing fatigue. Testing at our school means 100 min blocks, all day every day for 2 weeks. I love my kids, but these blocks have felt extra long these days. I have also been planning these class blocks packed with super relaxing and chill activities such as annotating scientific texts, structured discussions/debates, argumentative writing, and synthesis.

It’s funny – every year I think I’m sooooo done, I’m just going to show movies for the rest of the year! But then a super interesting topic comes around and bam, I spend heaps of time really working to develop their thinking skills.  This year, they will be studying the potential future US/Mexico border wall, but through the lens of the ecological impacts a large physical barrier would create. These past 2 weeks I’ve been busy working on the build up – not even the juicy part! We’re still just working on learning ecological relationships (trophic levels, disruptions in food webs, etc), and I got evaluated this past Tuesday.  Ugh.  My lesson was pretty good – I had spent hours working on it myself and elicited the eyes of no less than 4 other people, which means it was “effective”. Evaluations really have a way of feeling punitive as opposed to a learning experience. It’s to the point where I have been trained to just be thankful that I’m “effective”. SAD!

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glasses: warby parker – scarf: topman – cardigan: madewell – dress: gap – leggings: target – boots: blundstone 510

Miss! Are You Wearing Makeup?!

I started this post about 2 weeks ago, and then promptly forgot about it.  So here it is…2 weeks later!

This past Tuesday, I wore makeup to school – like I do every day. On this day, however, it was a big deal to 3rd period. The “Do-Now” conversation turned into “Miss! Are you wearing makeup today?” “Miss! do you have a date tonight, is that why?” and “Miss! you look pretty.”  Thanks for the ego boost kids!

The truth is, I wear makeup every day, but that morning, I decided to add bit bit of eye liner – one extra step that I don’t normally do. My everyday morning routine consists of hitting the snooze about 4 times, dragging myself out of bed to brush the teeth, wash the face, moisturize said face with SPF, and get dressed. Once those things are done, it’s makeup time. I slap on a light skin base of some sort, stave off the inevitable oily sheen with some powder, run some brown goop over the brows, and dab some life in the form of blush onto my cheeks. Then I head downstairs to pour about 32 fl. oz. of coffee into travel thermoses (I set the coffee maker the night before), grab a snack bar for lunch and head out the door.  20 min later I’m on my way in to school.

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sweater: j.crew – blouse: madewell – jeans: j.brand – boots: h&m – belt: banana republic – everything old and not currently in stores