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

Spring Forward

I’m already looking ahead to Spring, and it’s not even really here yet.  B and I started plannning our new and expanded #discoverygarden in the middle of February, with snow actively falling.  In the fall, B and I broke up our front yard (old dead lawn) and right-of-way to make room for more garden space. We’ve now tripled our previous garden square footage! I can’t wait for when we can finally plant at the end of April and the start of May.

The weather here in Denver is still frigid though, so I’m still dressing the part with dark colors and wool. The bright late 2000’s J.Crew style lipstick is still going strong, today with Nars ‘Funny Face’.  I’m also still on my shopping ban though, so everything here is old or a hand me down from my sister. I did break my shopping ban to back this kickstarter project though – It was just too good to pass up!

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

The News

There is a bunch of “new” here.  It’s Friday, and I have a lot of new things I’m obsessed with. I guess I’ve been feeling kinda spend-y lately – after all, December is when the best sales happen, and the only person I really buy Winter Vacation Presents for is B. So there is a lot of new to share here on the blog.

First up, is this t-shirt I picked up at a recent Trails and Ways show here in Denver.  Trails and Ways is a band from Oakland (the Bay Area!) that I first discovered watching PBS’s Farm to Table Family videos. I bought their album Pathology and seriously became obsessed with their single Tereza from an earlier album.  Trails and Ways recently released a new album, which I also scooped up promptly and have been listening to almost non-stop since.mother-denim-high-rise-maverick

Next up are my new glasses from Warby Parker.  I have seriously bad eyes, thanks to the Schenck lineage.  Both my sister and I have coke-bottle-thick prescriptions, and without my glasses or contacts, I can’t see further than a foot away from my face.  I’ve been wanting to get Lasik for some time, but my prescription only just recently stopped getting worse. I love the look of glasses, but with my strong prescription, it’s often easier just to wear contacts. This new addition to my Warby Parker collection though, are super comfortable.  They have nose pads, which help with the sliding down the nose problem. The frames themselves are also relatively light weight, which help with the end-of-the-day glasses strain. The kids really like them – I got compliments on them starting 1st period!warby-parker-hadley

New jeans!!  New and different! I haven’t owned a pair of jeans that aren’t skinny jeans in a really, really, long time. I saw these, and immediately thought Rossin – they’re the perfect kind of stretchy, comfy, funky but still adult-ish, 70s-ish style that I could easily picture her in. They’re definitely not the most flattering style for my long-torso-short-legs body type, but I still love them anyway. Mother Denim seriously makes the most comfortable jeans ever. These are my second pair of Mother jeans, and I will be on the lookout for more. They are ridiculously expensive full price, but affordable if you find them in the extra-sale section at Anthro.

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The jeans were a big hit with the kiddos on Friday. Right away, while in the halls herding children into first period and welcoming my own kiddos, one of my 10th graders looked at me and said with a laugh, “Miss!  You look like such a nerd today!”  My response was, “thanks!” and I really meant it.  At least 4 kids said “nice jeans, miss!” as the day went on.mother-denim-high-rise-maverick3

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Lastly, I bought myself a new coat. I wear my Arcteryx Atom jacket just about every day, but I wanted something a bit less technical looking, and with a bit more warmth. I stumbled on this coat at Banana Republic this last weekend and it was 40% off store wide.  I knew a coat like this would never make it to the sale section (it was already sold out of some sizes online), so after some internal debate, I snapped it up. I’m so glad I did too! It’s filled with down, and waterproof (I’ve yet to test that claim though) with a full faux fur hood. It’s so warm and super cute for around the city/to school. My Arcteryx will always be my favorite, but this one fills a different need.banana-republic-parka

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glasses: warby parker – t-shirt: trails and ways – jeans: mother denim – sweater and parka: banana republic – shoes: converse