The Teacher's Take
Teachers aren't the only professionals who neglect self-care. Therapists and doctors see back-to-back clients. Chefs and parents don't get nights, weekends, or holidays off. While the importance of self-care may resonate with people from various walks of life, I'm talking to directly to you, teacher tribe. It's easy for us rationalize skipping self-care. It's easy to say that we'll eat lunch tomorrow or promise ourselves that we'll head to the gym this weekend. But when will we actually follow through? When will we actually put our well-being first?
As a first year teacher, I worked 90 hours a week. I told myself that it would all be worth it, and I rationalized the long hours by saying that there was a steep learning curve. And while that was true, I'm five years into the profession, and I still work about 70 hours a week.
It's that time again! Each spring, I bring 20Time to my classroom, and I am excited that we've reached that point in the year already. The most challenging yet best component is that the teacher does a project alongside his or her students.
For 20Time 2018, my project is learning hand lettering! The short explanation of hand lettering is that it is similar to calligraphy because it must be learned and it involves both discipline and constant practice. Unlike calligraphy, there are no special tools needed. While brush pens are common, most writing tools in your home office will work such as Sharpies, Crayola markers, and Crayola SuperTips. For more information about the difference between hand lettering and calligraphy can be found here.
Tomorrow is the first 20Time session in class, and I'm so excited to see how the projects turn out!
I am teaching a new prep this year, and I have a total of four preps (yikes!). Unsurprisingly, the school year is getting quite hectic, so I will be taking a break from the blog for a few months. I anticipate being back in the spring with my 20Time project reveal, 20Time progress posts, and renovation updates.
There were many successful 20Time projects this year, and the largest scale project this year was a full-length musical.
My student wrote the scenes, worked with two others to write the music and lyrics, held auditions for the parts, ran rehearsals, rented a performance space, hired a tech crew, and sold tickets. What an accomplishment in 13 weeks!
The performance was earlier this evening, and I could not have been more proud.
When I first started 20Time last year, I wanted my students to share out with the community what they had worked so hard to complete, so I worked with one of my students to create a showcase night in our Performing Arts Education Center.
I wanted the evening to feel like an art gallery opening, so I created a playlist on Amazon with songs by Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Dean Martin, Billie Holiday, etc. I used black tablecloths and created name tags for students with official descriptions like "author", "clothing designer", "chef", and "cartoonist". Students and I dressed up for the evening, and the Showcase really did have an elegant feeling.
I set up physical creations like food, computer games, photo books, and artwork in the lobby. The setup (not unlike a Science Fair) required students to interact with others to explain their projects and share what they had learned. The second half of the evening was in the main stage theatre, and students presented on stage with TED talk-style presentations to share creations like music, computer programs, and photographs.
We continued the Showcase tradition last night, and it was a huge success! This year, I wanted the lobby to feel even more elegant, so I draped white twinkle lights on the tables to create a warm ambiance, and I also had ushers serve water and appetizers on trays. It was certainly a night to remember! Not only did more students and parents show up, but also three fellow English teachers, our principal, and our vice principal attended. I'm so excited that the event is growing and that my students get to show off their amazing projects.
My original plan was to cook one meal a week and then update my blog and Instagram with each meal attempt. But my journey so far has not gone this way.
On Saturday, February 11th, I went shopping for the ingredients to make two appetizers because my plan was to cook both Saturday and Sunday that week. It’s ambitious, I know. Later that evening, I made Roasted Red Pepper and Sweet Potato Soup and tritip for dinner. I got the soup recipe from Tastemade and followed the directions exactly. As a baker, I am used to following recipes precisely, so my approach to cooking was the same. I quickly learned that this is not how cooking works.
The recipe calls for two sweet potatos, so I followed that even though it looked like one sweet potato was enough.
What this means is that the sweet potato flavor dominated the soup, and the consistancy was closer to a thick puree than a liquid soup. The flavors were decent, but I would not make the recipe again because it was not a hit with the family.
I woke up that Sunday very sick, so I did not cook the second appetizer. I was sick for so long that I did not cook the following weekend either.
There has been unexpected learning throughout. We made Ribeye steaks, french fries, and asperagus on Friday the 24th. We did not follow a recipe, but Andrew walked me through every step. He used the Socratic method, which I have found helps me as much as direct instruction does.
On Sunday the 26th, Andrew and I made Garlic Clove Chicken and Almond Pear Tarts. They were delicious! Our family ate the leftover tarts for breakfast this past week.
I can’t cook. It’s not because I don’t know how. I watched my parents for years, and Andrew and I have spent the last decade cooking together. I know my way around the kitchen; I’m familiar with different cooking techniques and all of the cooking equipment we own. I even have decent knife skills, and I know the difference between a dice and a mince.
So what’s the problem?
I’m a perfectionist.
Sometimes when I have tried to cook on my own, I have run out of the kitchen crying. While I hid in the bathroom, Andrew swooped in and fixed what was wrong.
This is not a new experience for me. It happened when I was a little kid too. I’ll never forget the art project I couldn’t complete. I was using oil crayons to draw a winter landscape with mountains and pine trees. I had the whole picture in my head, but when it came time to making my creation come to life on the page, it didn’t look anything like the picture in my head. I had a hysterical meltdown. So my mom swooped in and saved the project.
I have grand ideas, I cannot execute what I envision, and I flip out. I really hate this pattern.
Most of the time, my pursuit of perfection means that I freeze up before I can even start. This is especially ridiculous to me because I know the importance of failure. I even teach an entire unit to my seniors on success where we read an article on failure.
Last year, I failed my 20Time project because I didn’t even try. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but something has changed. Maybe it’s turning 30. Maybe it’s the spirit of 20Time where failure is an option. Whatever it is, I’m ready for a change.
I pitched my project to my kids last week, and I told them that my 20Time project is to learn how to cook. But I don’t think that’s accurate. Reflecting on this, it’s more precise to say that my project is to stop being a perfectionist in the kitchen.
I know it’s not going to be easy. Actually, I think the first few weeks are going to be miserable. Candidly, I’m terrified to let go of this part of myself. I’ve been obsessed with perfection for three decades. I also know that it’s not a healthy mindset. It’s not one I want to model for my students, and even more importantly, it’s not a mindset I want to pass on to my future children.
Last Saturday, I completed my first dish, and I did not need rescuing. Here’s to learning new things and having a growth mindset. Until next time friends.
Friday was the last day of first semester, and I am so excited to start second semester tomorrow!
I introduced 20Time to my students two weeks ago so that my students had plenty of time to brainstorm. We’re on block schedule, so my odd day classes will pitch their projects on February 6th and even day classes will pitch on the 7th.
Until next time my friends.
Last time, I explained what inspired me to bring 20Time to my classroom, so today I'm going to explain what 20Time is and how I've incorporated it.
What is 20Time?
In order to really wrap your head around what 20Time is, first you need to understand the history of 20Time.
Clearly, there are many reasons to incorporate this into the workplace, but why the classroom? Well, since the classroom is what is preparing students for the workplace, why not incorporate this in the classroom?
20Time in My Classroom
First, students had to decide on their project, which needed to be a cwere passionate about creating. Students had to pitch their idea to the entire class and have 2/3 of the class approve their project. Once students received the green light, they began working on the project, which means spending 20% of our class time working on it. 20% of our time translates to students working for an hour the last day of the week (since we're on a block schedule, that means every Thursday or Friday).
I decided to complete my own 20Time project alongside my students, so I am learning how to sew clothes and blogging about it. I am also blogging about my experience teaching 20Time for the first time. I'm excited to share this adventure!
It has been a while since I posted anything, and I'm happy to be back. I haven't had time to maintain my blog because of work, but interestingly enough, I'm blogging today because of work.
When I started this blog, I knew I wanted it to be a lifestyle blog, which to me meant sharing my hobbies, adventures, and various projects around the house. I never wanted to blog about teaching because I already struggle to strike a balance between my personal life and work. This really can be attributed to my natural tendency to fixate and obsess, which makes it incredibly hard to do anything in moderation. I tend to throw myself into a new hobby with complete conviction. I research like crazy, buy all of the materials I need, and then eat/sleep/breathe this new thing. Sometimes, I get so filled with excitement that I cannot sleep because my mind is whirring with plans. Work is no exception to this pattern. I get inspired by an article I read or an advertisement I see and then I'm off planning. Even though I try to keep them separate, my personal and professional lives are so intertwined that it really is impossible to make a clear distinction. Even though inspiration waxes and wanes, I inevitably eat/sleep/breathe my work.
My newest obsession? 20Time.
When I was in school for my teaching credential, I was inspired by a video my professor showed in class one day. In the video, one of the most fascinating concepts Sir. Ken Robinson shares is how we teach divergent thinking, and therefore creativity, right out of children. At the time, I had no idea how to fix that problem. If the education system was the same, how could my teaching be different while still meeting standards? My inability to generate even one idea revealed my own lack of divergent thinking skills. This question has plagued me throughout my (short) teaching career. So when I came across Laura Randazzo's 20Time materials, I was open to the crazy concept of not only giving students the freedom to choose their own project, but also grading their process instead of the final product. With this project, there is no single approach and no "right" answers. Of course, this terrifies me, which is exactly why I am doing it.
I have also committed to doing a 20Time project alongside my students, which is why I am back on the blog. I have so much to share regarding our projects, but I will save it for future posts. For now, I will leave you with my takeaway so far from this adventure with my students. Instead of fighting to keep my personal life separate from my professional life, I have decided to embrace the fact they enrich one another. My quirky and obsessive mindset makes me a better teacher, and my kind, creative, and witty students make me a better person.
"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The past month has been very busy! As school ended in June, I did not have a job for the 2014-15 school year because of low enrollment. However, in mid-August enrollment was up, and I applied and interviewed with my high school again and got the job! I spent a week planning and setting up my classroom, a week in Las Vegas on vacation, and then school started! We are starting our 7th week of school tomorrow and things are still as busy as ever!
I have my own classroom this year, so I have been slowly accumulating furniture and decorations. I can't wait to share pictures when I have the time to take them.
This week I read several short stories to broaden what I teach to students. I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of the stories because they depict situations which are miserable or embarrassing for the main character. However, these stories are well-written and are perfect for meaningful discussions about core values, family, love, relationships, and class divides.
Here is what I read this week:
"The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant - Matilde is a beautiful woman from a lower class family. She believes that she deserves pretty and expensive things, and resents her husband for being unable to provide them. When they are invited to a fancy party, Matilde buys an expensive dress and borrows a necklace from her good friend in order to fit in. It is hard to like Matilde's character, or to feel sorry for her, when she has an unfounded sense of entitlement.
"The Stolen Party" by Liliana Heker - Rosaura is invited to a birthday party for her friend Luciana, but Rosaura's mother insists that Luciana does not see her as a friend, but as the maid's daughter. It is interesting to read a story in which a slow understanding rolls over you instead of the author revealing all in a dramatic pivotal moment.
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber - Walter daydreams more than he experiences real life. Whether he is saving the patient in the operating room or flying solo in a bombing mission for the war, Walter's secret daydreams are as fascinating to readers as they are annoying to his wife.
"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry - A poor couple sell precious belongings in order to afford Christmas presents for one another. This story is more frustrating than heartwarming to me because I think the couple could have spent their money more wisely.
"Woman Hollering Creek" by Sandra Cisneros - Cleófilas hopes to find passion like she sees in a telenovela - a man to take her away from her endless chores - and instead winds up in an unfamiliar country, trapped and miserable. I have mixed feelings about this story. It not easy to read because of the loneliness Cleófilas feels and the abuse she endures. However, I don't believe in only reading happy stories, and this story is well-written and a fast read.
I'm a Southern California teacher who loves the outdoors, weekend DIY projects, gardening, and baking.