Today I cut 10 inches of my hair off to donate to Locks of Love! This is the third time I’ve donated, and it’s always a great feeling. I kind of miss my long hair, but the way my hair grows it’s not too big of a deal!
I haven’t written in a while because, well, I’ve been doing some soul searching. Also, sleeping, and Zumba classes.
For those of you who aren’t lucky enough to be braving the beautiful winter bestowed upon the northeastern United States, 2013-2014 will go down in history as one of the worst and most wretched winters on record. There’s been a lot of snow, a lot of frigid temperatures, and a lot of mornings where I don’t want to get out of bed.
Today I called my parents to lament the difficulties of being a New York City Teacher dreading the “long March,” as we call it.
At work we’re pushing our middle schoolers to perfect their testing abilities, urging them to take their preparation for the high-stakes test seriously. If you’ve never had the opportunity to repeatedly remind an eleven year old with a learning disability that her entire year’s progress hinges on the outcome of a three-day standardized exam, than you’ve never truly known misery.
Then there’s the daily drudgery of living in New York. Everything is salty, there’s piles of what was once snow but is now a poo-encrusted ice-blob sitting on every corner, and literally everyone is vitamin d-deficient and thus super grumpy. We all push through as best we can, wrapped up tightly in our dark-colored puffer coats and uncoordinated hat/scarf/glove sets.
In order to combat the gloom, I’ve upped my weekly Zumba class quota and I watch my weather app like a hawk, strategically planning mid-day runs on whichever weekend day promises the most sun. I bought a new cookbook and have been attempting to make food that does not come out of its package pre-mixed. I’m trying to be social, rather than sleepy. It’s okay.
But, as I approach the middle of my 25th year, I think I’m starting to think about more real things. Things that a new cookbook and a new Zumba routine can’t exactly wipe from my brain. Savings accounts. Home ownership. Grown-up haircuts. Dental insurance.
"Dad, I’m at a point in life when I want a car. And a cat," I told my dad over the phone today, as I stomped down Lexington avenue, abandoned by the 4/5/6 line, which was experiencing delays.
I’m not sure how many of my readers are city dwellers, but there’s something about the constant energy that makes me constantly feel like I’m running a marathon. I this just me, is it just New York, or is it just a quarter-life-crisis?
I have no idea. But change is on the horizon, folks. And I don’t just mean the 10+ inches I’m planning to hack off my hair this weekend.
I look like:
Change faculty lounge to main office and YES that’s me.
"America Is Finally Getting Its First Cat Cafes"
This is an excellent idea, and I think it should open immediately in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area so I can spend all my free time with two of my favorite things: caffeine and kittens!
In a normal week I teach for 20 periods. I am allocated 9 prep periods, and 4.5 lunch periods. All and all that’s 13.5 free periods a week.
That might seem reasonable enough, until you consider the number of seemingly simple tasks I must do on a weekly basis.
I spend at least one prep period per week making parent phone calls and emails. (-1) I spend at least one prep period per week in mandatory professional development. (-1) I spend at least two prep periods per week grading and filing student work.(-2) I spend at least three prep periods a week filling out paperwork.(-3) I spend at least one of my lunches meeting with co-workers about student needs and incidents. (-1) I spend at least one lunch period working with students who need extra help. (-1) I spend another one lunch period cleaning and organizing my classroom. (-1)I spend at least one lunch period repairing and/or wrestling with our ever-suffering classroom computers and printers. (-1) I spend another reading and updating IEP’s for my students with disabilities. (-1) I spend at least another lunch locating, requesting, or running to the local Target to buy classroom supplies. (-1)
That’s 13 periods taken up, right off the bat.
This leaves me with about half a lunch period in which to plan my lessons, create resources, and…you know…eat and go to the bathroom.
When I first started teaching, I agonized over my lesson plans. I went to great lengths to make sure I was choosing quality texts for reading, and planning quality questions for my students. I thought that the lesson was the teacher, the teacher was the lesson.
What I learned when I began teaching, though, and what I have been reminded of again and again, is that it’s the menial tasks that get you noticed. And as a teacher, it’s up to you whether that’s good notoriety or not so good. My first year I planned wonderful lessons, had a color-coded note-taking system, and every read-aloud I chose was perfectly aligned to student interests… then I got into a spot of trouble for turning a bit of paperwork in late, and realized that my lessons made no difference when all my administration knew of me was that I failed to complete a form due by the end of my first month.
And so the tasks get done, and my lessons do too, but things are different. When I look at my to-do list, I often find myself prioritizing incident reports, IEP updates, bulletin boards, and parent emails over having a very organized and coherent daily lesson.
Something about this feels wrong to me.
I firmly believe that instruction comes first. Or, at least it should. However, I’ve been taught otherwise. In a system where teachers are told to “cover themselves” day in and day out, where I’m rated not only on the quality of my teaching but on the quality of my paperwork, where everyone seems to be seeking out someone to point fingers at and put the blame on… I’ve learned otherwise. I’ve learned to prioritize. I’ve learned to produce to the standards handed to me, rather than to my own standards.
Why is it that the tasks overwhelm the teaching these days? Is this what it is like everywhere, or just in New York City Public Schools? Is there a way around this feeling, or is it here to stay?
John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” is one of my favorite young adult novels, and my students and I are so excited about the upcoming film version of it!
The one question I have after seeing the trailer is this: Where is Hazel Grace’s thyroidectomy scar?
As someone who has sported a thyroidectomy scar since the tender age of 18, I really identified with Hazel’s character, whose had to go through life wearing her health condition on her sleeve.
Thyroid surgery scars are placed in a pretty bold place; at the front of the neck, just above where an ordinary t-shirt would cover. I’ve been asked about my scar by my students, co-workers, new friends, professors, drunk people at bars and frat parties, and occasionally just random people on the street. I’ve been told that my scar is gross, and that I should cover it up. For a while I did. That was until I realized- or decided- that the 3-inch long, pink-raised line along the base of my neck was a mark of perseverance and strength, if anything.
I’m not the only young woman to experience this; Thyroid cancer is on the rise among young adults. So I would have loved to see a thyroid scar on Hazel Grace, in addition to the omni-present oxygen tank she rolls along behind her.
Cold season has always hit me harder than most. Each and every simple cold I catch seems to blossom into full-on bronchitis with an accompanying sinus and/or ear infection to boot. And since I am a teacher, gym-goer, and subway rider, it’s nearly impossible for me NOT to catch what’s going around.
I’m starting to feel the throat-tickle and head-congestion of an impending cold, and I’m hoping someone out there has some tips. I’m trying to do the Zicam thing, but I’m not too convinced it’ll work.
So, if you have any tips on preventing, improving, shortening, alleviating, or curing the common cold, please share!
|—||Girls Watching The Super Bowl|
In case you were wondering, I survived the polar vortex. Barely.
January was not an excellent month for me. If the nation-wide cold snap weren’t bad enough, the bout of bronchitis and endless pile of catch-up paperwork that had to be done in the past few weeks truly made me want to crawl into bed and never come out.
To get myself back on track, I’ve compiled an upbeat collection of songs for your listening pleasure.
1. Love Me Again by John Newman
2. Flaws by Bastille
3. Team by Lourde
4. Just Like Heaven by The Cure
5. Infinity Guitars by Sleigh Bells (did I put this on a previous list?)
6. White Walls by Macklemore
7. Best Day Of My Life by American Authors
8. City Grrl by CSS
I tend to take iPhone pictures while I’m running. Over the course of this fall/winter’s training, I’ve taken a few that are pretty extraordinary, if I do say so myself!!
Hello! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
I’ve spent the first week of this new year doing two things.
- Battling an unbelievably persistent cold-turned sinus infection/bronchitis.
- Adjusting to a new, dairy and soy free diet.
Why Dairy and Soy Free?
I’m not one for self imposed food limitations. I think the current gluten-free craze is mostly an extension of the thigh gap craze, which in itself is horrifying. However, after a bit of research and years of just “thinking about it,” I decided to give the dairy/soy free diet a month.
As many of my friends and readers know, I had a full thyroidectomy when I was 18 years old, over six years ago, after my doctor discovered a malignant tumor during a routine physical. After my thyroid was removed, I began taking a pill daily to replace the thyroid hormone no longer naturally produced in my body. I was told that this medication was not a big deal! I was fine! I’d have a totally normal life, just like all my thyroid-possessing peers!
Well, shockingly enough, artificial thyroid hormones aren’t too similar to the real thing. I spent years feeling less than great, bouncing from dose to dose, brand to brand, trying to find the right medicine match. Being chronically ill and a college student was rough.
Later, I had the opportunity to meet a woman who also had lost her thyroid to cancer, and believed in more homeopathic and dietary remedies to keep her levels in check. It was this woman who suggested to me that dairy and soy interact with the thyroid hormone pills I took each morning. “You don’t eat dairy or soy, do you? you REALLY shouldn’t! The doctors NEVER tell you that!” she told me one morning.
What Doctors Never Tell You..
At that point, I wrote her off. I’d been raised by a nurse and a pharmacist; I trusted the medical professionals who had diagnosed and treated me.
Then I found out the hard way that I wasn’t supposed to take my medicine with a meal. I also found out the hard way that I wasn’t supposed to take vitamins within 8 hours of taking my medicine. And all this got me thinking, and googling, and reading.
Many websites list soy and dairy among the hundreds of substances that may interact with the artificial thyroid hormones I take daily. My doctors, however, had never mentioned such a thing. I began cutting down on my dairy and soy consumption, and then in the last week, I took it all out all together!
Dairy and Soy Free: The Shopping List
Life without dairy and soy is hard. I also don’t eat many carbs or a whole lot of meat, so I’ve had to get creative when food shopping. Here are a few of my essentials.
- So Delicious” brand Coconut Milk Yogurt (SO AWESOME)
- Almond Milk (unsweetened vanilla is my fave)
- Plain Oatmeal
- Larabars (the only soy and dairy free bar I could find!)
- Amy’s Organic Vegetable Barley Soup
- TRIBE brand hummus (other brands use soybean oil)
- Quinoa & Quinoa Pasta
- Sweet Potatoes
Protein is a challenge for me since I was a greek yogurt and cheese fiend, hence the addition of Quinoa and lots of beans and avocado.