Nasty

Nasty Women of the world unite! I saw this t-shirt a while ago on the Instagram feed of a woman I watch on Youtube – Stephanie Villa (#stylecrush). I loved it so much I absolutely had to pick one up for myself even though I started a shopping ban at the start of the year. I wore it yesterday, and turns out it played right into the spirit week theme for the day – black out. Winning.

Speaking of winning, I’ve decided today that it’s ok to give myself some pats on the back more often. Over the years I’ve been so well trained by evaluation rubrics (like LEAP and Danielson) and professionalism rubrics (that’s a thing here in Denver) to think only in terms of what I coulda/shoulda/woulda have done better – because unless you’re a unicorn, you are not a good teacher (or at least just effective). So well trained, in fact, that I’ve completely forgotten to remember that sometimes, I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me! 

Today I hosted a learning lab through PEBC, where about 15 teachers and administrators came into my class and watched me teach. I was so nervous, my hands were shaking a bit at the start! The focus of this learning lab was on teaching students to use thinking strategies in a Science classroom. The content for the day was gene expression, so I taught it through the lens of supernumerary nipples, with some reading, discussion, and grappling. The kids were great – they did everything I planned, and asked the best questions. They performed so well they even all remained in their seats and kept discussing the prompt while I went into the hall to break up a fight! Seriously. Never a dull moment. Today’s learning lab was more learning for the observers than my own learning, but I did get one valuable lesson out of this – that I’m actually a pretty darned good teacher sometimes, and it’s ok to admit that to myself more often. It’s ok to be a Nasty Woman!

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glasses: warby parker – t-shirt: twostringjane (etsy) – cardigan and jeans: uniqlo – boots: madewell – bracelet/cuff: julia szendrei – belt: urban outfitters

Teacher Burn-out

The straight path to teacher burnout goes right through the district and the high school I work at.  There – I said it aloud to the public internets. My school and my district is burning me out.

I worked a 13 hour day this past week, and the rest were 10 hour days. These long days *only* include teaching five 60 minute periods, planning 3 different lesson plans (one of which is a college level course), and depending on the day, giving 100% attention to one hour-long department/grade level/staff/team meetings, and tutoring students during after school and lunch time office hours, all without a lunch break because students first. By the time my day ended at 8:30pm last Tuesday, with all lessons ready for the next day, I felt so stressed I could barely talk and when I could, it was only to pick a frustration fight with B.

One of the values I hear constantly in my school district is “students first”.  I’m totally on board with this – my teaching should be centered around what students need and how to facilitate their learning. But what it feels like, is students first, at the expense of teachers. It feels like we have a constant revolving door of teachers at my school, especially in the science department. In our district, there was a 22% teacher turnover rate from 14/15 to 15/16, well above the national average of 14%. At my high school, the science department has experienced an average 50% turnover for the past 5 years.

So what is the plan for teacher burnout? There doesn’t seem to be any plan in my district to retain teachers at all farther than “we are the highest paying district in the area” (which isn’t saying much, actually). This past week, our district superintendent came to visit for a Q & A session (don’t even get me started on how set up and fake it all felt), and when asked about his plan for teacher burnout and such low retention rates, he pulled a smooth move and basically said a lot of things without saying anything at all. Frankly I’m surprised my district is not more proactive about teacher retention, considering how costly a revolving door of teachers can be. I don’t even want more money – I just want the time and space to grow and be a better teacher. At least with my admin I feel heard, but not helped.

Instead, I’ve gone searching for help myself. I hosted a learning lab today where a group of experienced teachers came to watch a lesson in my class. Afterwards, we all debriefed, did some research, and discussed ways to increase thinking and build more inquiry into a science lesson. It was all together extremely inspiring, and I’ve agreed to host another learning lab in a couple weeks. I’ve also been asking teachers how they plan and will be searching more into how I can streamline my planning process and make it more efficient.  Lastly, I really need to just be ok with having mediocre lecture based lessons sometimes, because those are the ones I can get done quickly. It’s the only way I’ll be able to keep my sanity and not harbor bitterness, which leads to burnout.

Sorry for the big rant, readers, but I reached a big breaking point this past week. I need some self care, and some time. I will pull through. In the mean time, here are some old photos from before the break that I never got around to posting.  The dress is from Anthropologie, and the colorful pattern is really not my usual thing. But I loved the embroidery, and it just felt special, so I snapped it up from the sale section.

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glasses: warby parker – dress and tights: anthropologie – boots: dr. martins

Questions for Teachers

I have foot-in-mouth disease, and it’s been getting me into trouble for as long as I can remember. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve said the wrong thing, at the wrong time, to the wrong person anymore. Sometimes the more extreme of these moments can haunt me for years (not an exaggeration), and I spiral into a death pit of shame, regret, and embarrassment, every time something triggers the memory of what I had said. A bit dramatic? Yes. But it’s #truths. Occasionally I have to remind myself that it’s better to just have awkward silence than to say the wrong thing. I’m pretty bad at small talk and socializing in general with strangers – combine that with my RBF, and I’m doomed.

Today I had one of those foot-in-mouth moments AT WORK. Oh god. I need to remind myself just to shut up more often during staff/department/grade team meetings. Today I basically told an admin that it was “irresponsible” to give a teacher multiple preps (multiple courses to prep for), when one of those preps is an AP course that has never been taught before by that teacher or even at the school (especially when a teacher is new to teaching). When I left the meeting and re-played things in my head, a flush of “oh my god what if that was taken the wrong way, I should have chosen better words!” came over me. #deathpitspiral

So here I am with a lot of questions for the teachers out there. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how I spend my time as a teacher, specifically how I can optimize time in terms of planning/grading/etc to stave off burn-out. I would also like to get a pulse on what is considered fair game in terms of the work expectations placed on teachers.

First, how much time does it take you on average to plan a lesson for one course? I find that if I’m planning a lesson from scratch it takes me on average 2 hours to complete, from finding resources, creating the PowerPoint slides, and creating the handouts/worksheets.  I have never worked out of a book, and I’ve never heard of a science teacher teaching from pre-built lessons/curriculum. If I get to reuse materials from previous years that work time gets cut down, but I still have to lesson plan and create new slides every year.  Am I doing something wrong? How long does it take you to plan a lesson?

Secondly, how many preps do you think is reasonable for a teacher to have? Two preps? Three preps? Four preps? This year, I have 3 preps – AP Bio, Honors Bio, and Regular Bio. At our school, we teach 5 classes and have 8 hour school days, which means I teach for 5.5 hours and have 1-2 hours a day to prep (on average, with block schedules and meetings).

Lastly, what types of additional tasks are you asked to do regularly on top of teaching, planning, grading, meetings, etc?  At our school, we have stacks on stacks of data tracking spread sheets, surveys, analysis, and plans that we have to submit. Do you consider these documentation tasks to be fair game as a part of the job description?

I have a very real fear of being the ever present negative complainer, which leads to even more foot-in-mouth moments. Please, teacher friends and readers, give me some fresh perspective!

In the mean time, here is my throwback to the 90s outfit from today. I picked this dress up at Urban Outfitters a little while ago, and decided to go all out Sassy Magazine in the mid 90’s style with my Docs and my granny-chic new glasses from Warby Parker x Leith Clark. It was fun getting dressed this morning.

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glasses: warby parker –  cardigan: uniqlo – dress: urban outfitters – tights and tank: h&m – boots: dr. martins

I’m No Expert on Cat-Calling

I just finished up sexual health week in my bio class, where we talked about STIs, contraceptives, and I answered a hundred burning questions from teenagers about sex (both as a noun and as a verb). We ended the week with consent as the discussion topic of the day, and it spilled out into a whole new can of worms that I’ve been mulling over for the past few days — rape culture in high school.

A few disclaimers to start with: I’m not an expert on anything.  I’m not an expert in teaching, not an expert in science, not an expert in rape culture, not an expert in sexual health, not an expert in psychology, not even an expert in fashion (which is what this blog is all about). I’m also not intending to make blanket statements about any groups of people. I may inadvertently do so in this post, but please know that it is not my intent to create nor perpetuate stereotypes about any groups or communities. So, take this for what it is – a teacher who is struggling with how to approach a sensitive topic with her teenage students.

I started the lesson with a warm-up, asking kids to respond to this comic I found from an old Huffington Post article. Responses in my  first period class (non-honors Bio) ranged from “some of the things being said aren’t bad at all” and “she’s getting complimented”, to “she looks angry”. Responses in 3rd and 5th (Honors Bio) were more what I expected to hear, such as “she’s being cat-called and it’s gross”. Following the warm-up, we watched this video about a woman walking the streets of NYC for 10 hours and getting cat-called a ridiculous number of times. The conversations exploded the moment the video finished in every class, but the difference in the tone of the classes was striking.

In first period, the conversation was dominated by the boys (and one girl) with comments such as “well, she was walking down by the clubs, so what would you expect?” and “that’s rude! she should say thank you when people say good morning!”. Girls are already out numbered in this class, and most of them pretty much kept quiet unless I called on them.  A couple girls tried to argue back with the boys, but they ended up getting drowned out. One kid said something along the lines of “well, you know, she’s got curves and she’s wearing tight pants, you know, how can people ignore that?” The most vocal girl was agreeing with the boys – even going so far as to say the guy in the video who followed the woman for 5 minutes was “just going in the same direction, what’s wrong with that?” My jaw just hit the floor at that point.

This was when it really hit me (at 8 in the morning) how grossly ill-prepared  I was for this conversation that was happening around me. These are teenage boys (and a girl), earnestly and innocently having a conversation that essentially perpetuates rape culture in our society – victim blaming, mansplaining, and #notallmen. The saddest thing of all was when I moved the conversation on to Brock Turner, a couple girls said, “it’s sad, but that’s what we expect now”. *tears*

My 3rd and 5th periods were so different from this – girls spoke up, the boys agreed with the girls, and even expressed solidarity with the woman in the video.  *tears* One kid mentioned that a girl from 1st period had warned her that she “was going to get so mad about class today”.

In the end, I failed my kids big time on this.  I hadn’t created enough of a safe space for my girls to speak up. I assumed the kids were mature enough to tackle these sensitive subjects and I assumed they’d all agree that cat-calling was a negative thing to do. I failed to recognize and anticipate past experiences of my students (one kid told a story about when he had paid a genuine compliment to a stranger who misunderstood and cussed him out and how he’s still upset about it).  I was woefully unprepared for what happened. I should have paid closer attention and structured the lesson to give girls opportunities to share in smaller groups. I should have designed a pre-lesson that focused on empathy. I should have done a lot of things, and next year, there will be changes.

Or…maybe I should just leave it up to the experts? Who are these experts in high school? I know some of my colleagues also struggle with this. When I asked around, I heard that one year an English teacher taught A Streetcar Named Desire, and some kids said that Blanche deserved what she got (rape). Who’s taking this on and is it even our place? Is this one of those things were I’m stepping out of line as a biology/science teacher? I really don’t have an answer to this. Reader, do you?

In the meantime, here’s an outfit from this past week.  Moving through my Australian COS haul slowly. A lovely kid in 6th period (AP Bio) said that my “outfit is on point today, Miss.”  *tears*

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top: cos – jeans: uniqlo – shoes: cole hahn

How’s School So Far?

This school year has been pretty awesome so far. The honeymoon period is definitely over, and these kids are still just absolutely amazing. This year I’m teaching Biology, Honors Biology, and AP Biology. With three classes to prep for I’m definitely not short on work, but it feels doable still. AP Bio is a new class for me, and it hasn’t been taught at my school for a long time (if ever? who knows with the level of teacher turnover at my school).  That means I’m basically getting the course off the ground from scratch. Thankfully it’s a tiny class (14 brave kiddos!) and there are great resources to pull from online (Bozeman Science, I love you!). So there’s that.

I have awesome kids this year. Seriously I feel like Im in an alternate universe sometimes. I have kids who actually thank me daily for a good lesson. Today we examined case studies of homeostasis gone wrong (disease), and my students had to diagnose patients and design a treatment plan to get homeostasis back on track. One kid hung back and told me, “thanks, miss! That was really fun today, I think I want to be a doctor because that was so interesting!” Seriously.  Like, Srsly.

B was out of town this past weekend, so I went shopping as usual. I found this sweater/tank/turtleneck/side-boob top at Nordstrom Rack and decided it was a good lazy morning top. It was a big hit.  Teachers and students complemented me on it all day, and some people even asked to touch it. You know it’s got cool texture when people want to touch it. I’m pretty happy with this purchase. Also, I’ve been obsessed with this woman named Sophia Chang on Instagram lately, and I’m trying to steal some of her style points.

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sweater: free people – tank and shoes: target – jeans: current elliot – lips: glossier in fig

First Week

The first week of school is done! It was a rough week trying to get my body to physically adjust back to being in the classroom with students. I wasn’t hungry when I actually had time to eat, and I was starving during 5th period when I don’t have any breathing time till around 2:30. My restroom break schedule still needs tweaking around my teaching schedule. To help that, I’ve been forgetting to drink any “not coffee” type liquids. By the time next Friday rolls around, I will have whipped my body back into teaching shape with the bladder made of iron.

This year I’ve decided to document my entire “first week back” wardrobe. This is a fashion blog, after all, and there is no more important sartorial week in a teachers year than the first week back. Am I right? This week’s wardrobe is pretty typical for me – I start off with a few nice (read: dress or skirt) and casual it up for the rest of the days, ending with a bang of super dress-down on Fridays.

Monday: 9th grade only (I do not have classes, as I teach 10th and 12th graders this year). I forgot to take photos that day in the classroom, so B helped me snap a couple on my phone when I got home. Giant forehead alert!

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glasses: warby parker – cardigan: american apparel – dress: j.crew – shoes: saltwater sandals

Tuesday: My actual first day of school. I don’t know what I was thinking putting this outfit together the night before, because I hated it all day at school. I think the shoes have got to go to a friend who has a desk job, because they were not comfortable at all for making laps in the hallways. The skirt was too tight in the waist (summer pleasures brought on a fall squeeze) and kept climbing upwards when I walked. It’s a old skirt, and I used to love it, but I think it’s passed it’s peak. The shirt on the other hand, I love.

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jcrew ruffle hem silk tank

glasses: warby parker – top: j.crew – skirt: dkny jeans – shoes: h&m

Wednesday: the short day. We have block schedule at my school on Wednesdays and Thursdays. This means I have prep periods all morning, teach only one 1.5 hr class, and then we have early release for grade team and all staff meetings. I love Wednesdays, obvi

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shirt: anthropologie – belt: banana republic – jeans: 3×1 – shoes: mia

Thursday: OMG save me type of a day. Thursdays is the opposite of Wednesdays this year. I teach straight through for 5.5 hrs before I get a real break. By the end of Thursday I could barely remember my own name.

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glasses: warby parker – shirt: target – skirt: banana republic – shoes: mia

Friday: Thank god the weekend is here, I survived! This Friday, I busted out a slam dunk of a first week of school t-shirt, a real gem for this science teacher. B’s mum sent over a super stuffed birthday package for me this year, full of gummy candies, gorgeous smelling soaps, gardening gloves, and an awesome science shirt! It is seriously the best, and the kids definitely liked it. The shirt is from a small Perth based Etsy shop called ScienceStitch. I think mum found the shirt in Perth, so I’m sorry if you’re looking for the same shirt online.

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i do science

t-shirt: science stitch – belt: gap – jeans: 3×1 – shoes: nike (omg, like walking on clouds!)

Penny for Thoughts

As a teacher with friends who are also teachers on Facebook, I come across heaps of articles about teaching or about teachers.  Here are some of my favorites:

The Atlantic – I Lie About My Teaching  Oh lord yes.  Some days I’m in the middle of class and I actually think to myself “I really hope no one comes in and witnesses this hot mess” as more than half of the kids are totally disengaged and I’m floundering from table to table trying to get them back on track.  Then other days I wish I had video evidence of how “lit” my classroom is with learning.

nprED – Making Science Teaching More Than A ‘Backup Plan’  Teaching Science was definitely not my backup plan, it was my first plan.  I think (and I do not have the stats to back this up at all, it’s pure conjecture) a lot of people who go into teaching as a back up plan end up leaving teaching within a few years because, teaching. is. really. hard. work.

The New Yorker – Stop Humiliating Teachers  I hear a lot of “I would never be able to be a teacher, I don’t know how you do it” from the same people who say “schools these days don’t properly prepare students for the real world”.

Huffpost Education – Listen To the Teachers Who Stay (written by a respected colleague!)  The flip side and an inspiring call to keep fighting the good fight.  I need to read this every spring, when I start to flip flop on possibly leaving teaching and figuring out a ‘backup plan’.

 

Lots of compliments on my outfit today.  “Miss, you look really nice today” and “those are some bad ass designer shoes Miss!”  They’re not designer, they are fast-fashion, and everything here is old.  The skirt was 50¢ from a thrift store and the sweater is from about 4 years ago.  Yay for ‘shopping’ the closet!

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urban outfitters back zip sweater

Zara Studded Cowboy Ankle Booties2

Zara Studded Cowboy Ankle Booties

glasses: warby parker – sweater: urban outfitters – belt: gap – skirt: thrifted (no tag and I suspect it was a server’s uniform skirt at one time) – boots: zara