Sometimes it is just not enough to talk about things. We like to do that in our culture. We like to talk, theorize, conclude, write papers, do research, and sit in the comfort of our desk chairs and coffee shops debating things. We like to talk about how serious urban poverty it, how wretched sex trafficking is, how frustrating our economy has become, or whatever else we can think of. It is good to process and think through these issues to let them seep into our minds and brains and let them effect our souls. But then at some point, if we really care about the issue we have to get off our ass and do something. Not with every issue or problem ever in the world, but the ones we care about. I don't want to say that you have to go rush off to Africa to feed the orphans or even feel guilty for not doing so. But if all I ever did was talk about the stuff we care about - I have to ask myself, how much do I really care?
Here is a chance to do something simple - like sign your name. Which is all you have to do - sign your name to a petition combat sex trafficking in brothels posing as massage parlors in Fresno, CA. Yes Fresno - not India or East Asia or Africa or some foreign country with an unpronounceable name but a major city in California. I don't wan t
What have you got to lose by singing it anyway? Just something to keep thinking about while you drink that cup of coffee at your desk table.
I came across this video because a friend posted it on facebook. It makes me think of the power of internet in spreading news as well as the reality of bullying in today's schools.
It is late at night and I'm still processing this video. In short this is what I feel - I see the effects of it on my students who are beaten down and tired of being made fun of. And its not just in junior high. They have been made fun of since they started school. It breaks my heart to see students picked on because of the color of their skin, their appearance, their speech, their likes or dislikes, their sexual orientation, their grades, their athletic abilities (or lack of), or whatever it is. It hurts me to see other students be mean to each other, even in jest. Sometimes it is the jokes that hurt the worst. I had friends jokingly say mean things about my appearance in junior high and sometimes it was worse than them saying an outright mean comment. I never knew where the line between joke and hurtful was and was left to determine it on my own. There is more to say and do about this subject, but again, it is late and my brain has little room for processing.
Thanksgiving Break has given me a lot more free time to think as well as to write. Two days ago I as traveled home from Fresno, I met up with a long time friend of mine that I met when I did FUI (Fresno Urban Internship) about four and a half years ago. Our lives had both drastically changed since we met. She is married with a kid on the way, I have graduated, moved out, and had a full time job.
There was a moment when we were talking when I felt so glad to be blessed by her friendship. We were talking about growing up and what life was like after college. It was great to hear her admit that when she first finished college the transition was exceptionally hard. We agreed that it was one of the worst transition periods we ever faced. No matter what we thought was so tough and challenging in high school or college it was easy compared to the transition of growing into a "real adult."
It makes sense. After spending almost 18 years of my life with the identity of a student, suddenly that has been taken away. In college you actually have very little responsibility too. When you don't do a paper or an assignment, it rarely impacts someone else (expect in the case of the group project). If you make a mistake it is usually just on you. But in the real world when you don't do your work - it impacts EVERYONE around you. Especially as a teacher. If I don't plan well, then all my students suffer. And if they don't test well, then my school suffers. It is a lot of pressure and responsibility.
It was encouraging to know that this transition period was not limited to being hard for just teachers or even just me. I knew this somewhere in my brain that everyone goes through rough transition periods (especially after finishing college) but it was comforting to hear the stories of others. So today I am thankful for the stories of others.
I am so thankful for Fresno. Fresno is a place that will always be dear to my heart. About four and a half years ago, I first arrived in Fresno as a bright eyed 19 year old - who had no idea how this amazing city would change my life forever. I have Fresno to thank for introducing me to the reality of poverty, for providing me with two especially deep friendships, a love for Pho, and a heart for the inner city.
So Thanksgiving is about a week and a half away. And I never really put much effort or emphasis into the holiday for several reasons: I don't like turkey and I really love Christmas. So once Halloween is over (which I loved as a little kid and I tolerate as an adult) I am ready to move on towards Christmas. The candy canes, the music, the lights, the fake snow (being from LA means fake snow - I doubt the real stuff even exists. Just kidding), and the feelings that come with.
But since Thanksgiving has not come and gone yet, I've decided to start from now until Thanksgiving day with one blog post about what or who I am thankful for.
Today I am thankful for that my twin Sol lets me be on the phone with her and talk about nothing. We can sit in silence on the phone or share what we are both looking up on Pintrest. It is comforting to know that phone conversations don't have to be just business or very emotional. They can be just as silly as in person.
Barney does not have the power to get better and neither did I today. Fall weather brings colds and flus. First it was my roommate and now I am suffering from the inability to stop being sick and be awesome instead. Home all day and hopefully health is in sight...
(What is slighting annoying? I am so intrigued right now) says the blog reader.
Well since you asked, I really don't like it when you dream about something exciting, take for example, making waffles, and then find out it is only a dream. And not only is it a dream, but you don't actually have anything to make waffles with at home.
I was first introduced to the idea of citywide poverty when I went to Fresno in 2007. There I saw how people could live their lives in hopelessness of never breaking out of this dangerous cycle. They lived lives of brokenness and emptiness. But within the city there was hope. There was awareness. There were people who lived there who cared about the people, about their problems, about their issues, and fought hard to do something about it. Fresno has changed because of the people who invested their time, their money, and their lives into the well being of a city.
Now I think it is time to do the same for San Bernardino. Much like Fresno, San Bernardino is largely ignored by people in the state. Few know where this city is, who lives here, and that there is even a college here. But there are thousands that call this place their home, if even their last remaining hope. Housing is cheap here, cheaper than a lot of other places. So people with no where else to go because rent is too high and no job anyway, come to San Bernardino to find this cheap housing. But they are disappointed when they too cannot find a job and are living paycheck to paycheck.
San Bernardino is the poorest city in the state of California, the second poorest in the nation. In an article published by The Sun they said, "34.6 of the city’s residents live below the poverty level, ranking it first in the state’s among those with a population of 200,000 or more and second nationally behind Detroit, according to findings by the U.S. Census Bureau." The study was done in 2010.
Yes the city was hit hard by the recession, but wasn’t everywhere else? Things took a turn for the worse all the way back in 1994 when the Norton Air Force Based closed. More than 10,000 military and civilian workers lost their jobs. Neighborhoods were abandoned and since then San Bernardino’s economy has been spiraling downward. The poverty level only increase as more big-time companies packed up and left. Most of the jobs that the companies provided required little education and few skills. But when they packed up their bags, they left behind a community with little education and poor job skills.
In the article, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, Kent Paxton, calls for the churches and non-profit organizations to step up and partner with the city. But like everyone one else in this town, the churches are feeling the financial hardship as well. The article states that "Mike Mathias, an associate pastor at Victory Outreach San Bernardino, said one of the most common prayer requests from people at the church is that they would find a job."
Of the 5 California cities with the largest percentage in poverty, San Bernardino is the smallest city. I think that makes it easily forgotten. Fresno (30.2% living in poverty) has almost twice the population, and Los Angeles (21.6%) has almost 18 times the population. While there are more people living in poverty in this other cities, it breaks my heart to see that the city of San Bernardino to be so high in poverty. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains and so close to very rich neighborhoods. But here it lies, close to decay and ruins, with hopelessness running high. You can almost breathe the hopelessness in. And it’s with this that I get angry at the injustice of the city's poverty. It is because the big business moved that there are no jobs. And the way our country is going, you need more and more education to get a good job. The people here don't have that. So what hope is left?
I am one of the few who have a job here. I am of the rare case who moved here to this city because I have a job. I live here in this place of poverty and while I live in what many may consider the "better" part of town, the poverty nevertheless still affects everyone around me. I buy my groceries from the one grocery store that is fortune close to my house. I see the large amount of fast food restaurants here because there is no money base for nicer places to eat. I see the run down roads and hear the sirens that my neighbors hear. And I am one of the fortunate ones to have a job. I came here only because I have a job and that is rare. I am clearly in the minority of the working class.
I don’t know what to do. There is so much I don't know about this place. I know more about Fresno and LA than I do about San Bernardino. This town is just coming into my own life having lived only for a few months. I always knew it was here but I just had no idea the desperation that runs through the streets in this city. It is hard to be here and not know what to do. I am the "fix it" type of person. But where do I start.
So I am asking you to join me in praying for this city. I have seen the amazing power and wonder that the body of Christ can do for a city in need. Look at Fresno – God called people to move to that city and invest their lives in its governments, in its schools, in its business, and in its people. I am asking that you pray for this city, that God will send people to move here. That God will send a Christina fellowship to be a major presence at Cal State San Bernardino’s campus because that is lacking. That God will raise a community of relocators to come here, to this city.That we would see the change that we are seeing in Fresno, here. Because that is all that I can think of to do right now, is to pray.
I was watching Community recently and I was struck by how much Abed refers to life as a movie. We watch the show, smile and laugh because we think he is silly for trying so hard to fit life into a movie script. It was until this morning that I realized how I wish it could be true.
When we watch movies about doing difficult things, whether it be playing on a crappy sports team, teaching in an inner city school, living in a dangerous community, evangelizing to our dear friends, starting our first year of college - the hard part seems to only last for an hour. Thing start out fine, then get difficult and then after a music montage - the guy runs to the girl, the teacher figures out how to make her class love her with a powerful speech, the sports team finds that player to inspire everyone else, or Jeff makes a speech to the study group to wrap up the episode.
But there is no music montage in life. The hard stuff does not go away in an hour. It remains for days, weeks, months, or maybe even years. And it doesn't happen in an instant. It is frustrating to know that and cliche to say it. When things are hard we have endure the pain and the frustration. Things may not be resolved in a manner of moments. There may not even be a perfect solution and my "fix it now" mentality is often challenged. I want the solutions to my problems, like they do in the movies. I need my speech maker to make the speech that magically makes my students behave. But in real schools - no amount of powerful speeches changes a whole classes mind.
No, there is not no music montage in life. It is often very silent.
I don't like to admit that I am perfectionist. My "J" type personality comes out in moments of chaos when I freak out that things are not going my way (see Myers-Briggs for what a "J" is).
But it is becoming more and more apparent that I am not perfect, nor anywhere near there. When I graduated from college I was coming off a high of InterVarsity leadership. I knew what I was doing (for the most part) and I knew that I was going at being in a leader in IVSLO's context. I just expected the same to happen everywhere else.
I had forgotten what it was like my first day of college where I was lying in my dorm room alone, freaking out that I wasn't going to be good enough. Things turned out fine in the end, but it took several years to get there. I'm not sure I have the patience to wait that long until life, work, and teaching seems to become easier to handle. I should probably work on that.
Hard to believe that August is almost over. Time seems to have stopped in a way and all the days blend together. Wake up early, go to school. See about 150 students a day. Try to keep their names straight and not call Johnny, Steven or Emily, Susan. Figure out new ways to get the class to quiet down and not cry when the floor is a mess by the end of the day. Come home, take a break, eat dinner, freak out that tomorrow is not planned and do some grading. Go to bed (later than advisable) and sleep ok. Wake up the next morning and start over.
It will be a miracle if teaching doesn't kill me by the end of the year. I've never been so tired. I was warned the first year was hard. I wonder if the first year at every new job is like this. I doubt it.
I feel like I have dropped of the face of the world for the past several weeks since I've started teaching. I am adjusted to my new life in San Bernardino, my new full time job as a middle school teacher, and waking up at 6 am (if not earlier) every day. I am so far adjusting pretty well to all except the waking up early part.
Here a few details about my school so far: I teach at Cesar E. Chavez Middle School which is grades 6-8. I teach 7th Grade English Language Arts. Our school is also an International Baccalaureate School that has a Middle Years Program (which is the program for grades 6-10... we only work on grades 6-8 and the partner high school, Cajon, does 9-10). It has many specific focuses on created students as lifelong learners, problem solvers, and many other things that I am still learning.
My school is 71% Latino, 15% White, and 8% African American. Compared to Santa Maria (which was about 85% Latino, 10% White, and 1% African American) this school is a bit more diverse. 25% of the school are English Language Learners and almost 80% have free or reduced lunch.
I teach 2 Middle Years Program (MYP) classes which are like honors classes. I also teach 2 English Core classes that have a Support Class attached to them (so they become a blocked class). I have a wide variety of students, which I love.
Stay tuned for less facts and more feelings, and pictures.
One of the things I miss about being on a mission trip like FUI (Fresno Urban Internship) is the constant push to process and let God and others into the turmoil and whatever else is going on in your head. It is exceptionally easy to just let it slide by when you are not surrounded by community or even tough things every day.
I have been in the gross transition process that plagues many young adults upon their impending graduation dates. I have been going through this for a while, but as I begin to entire the reality of adulthood and with an actual job nearly approaching, I find that I am beginning to freak out more and more about the changing of my many relationships. I have never been one to handle change well, especially when it comes to relationships. If someone works well, I like it stay that way. So now that I am so far away from the ones that I call dear, I become more anxious.
But I am reminded of two bits of advice I learned while in FUI both years: 1) I know you're scared, don't be scared and 2) It's ok to not be in in control.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to express yourself so you rely on others to do it for you. That's why I like reading books and poetry. Sometimes, other people just say it better than I do.
God Went to Beauty School
by Cynthia Rylant
he went there to learn how
to give a good perm
and ended up just crazy about nails
so he opened up his own shop.
Nails by Jim He called it.
he was afraid to call it
Nails by God.
He was sure people would
think He was being
disrespectful and using
His own name in vain
and nobody would tip.
He got into nails, of course,
because He's always loved
hands - hands were some of the best things
He'd ever done
and this way He could just
hold in His
and admire those delicate things
bones just above the knuckles,
delicate as bird's wings, and after He'd done that
He could paint all the nails
any color He wanted,
and mean it.
This isn't going to sound artsy or cool but imagine a little kid jumping around her room and screaming "I got a job! I got a job! I got a job!" over and over again so that her parents come in and tell her to keep it down.
Ok that didn't really happen but it's what my soul feels like. But it is quickly replaced with a sense of relief that I will be employed next year (as an English teacher - it's a miracle). I will be working at a middle school in San Bernardino (middle school being my first choice).
Now I'm filled with a slight sense of panic when I realize how much I have to do before school starts in a month.... bah!
May was not the month for blogging since I've only had one post all month. But since only three people probably read this, it doesn't really matter. Man - I've fallen victim for making my readers pity me... whatever.
Anyway, all month my eighth graders have created poetry books and I decided to join them. So I thought I would give you some of my poems that I have created. See the next few posts for them. But I wanted to include this conversation I had with one of my students yesterday.
"Ms. M, you know I just learned in math class that there were seven continents in the world."
"You what? How many did you think there were?"
this disbelief continued until we got onto the subject of Canada and the student exclaims:
"Wait, Canada's not another state?"
"Well how many states did you think there were?"
"50... I just thought Canada was one of them."
"Canada is bigger than the whole U.S. What did you think Alaska was?"
"And you want to be a history teacher?! You need to learn your geography."
"But I'm not good at math."
"Did you think I meant geometry?" Students nods her head. "Oh dear, we have a problem."
Yesterday at Large Group the Invisible Children group came to show a video and make a presentation. I had seen what Invisible Children has done, I have bought some dvd's, bough some t-shirts. Made some donations. I have never been called to go to a foreign country in that way so I never felt convicted by their message.
Until last night.
Don't freak out, I'm not going to Uganda. I'm not going to the Congo. I wasn't convicted that I need to even work with Invisible Children at all. It was a different kind of conviction. But in order to understand it, I need to explain some things about what Invisible Children is doing this year. They are doing a new global even this year called 25. It stands for the 25 years that Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have caused violence, death, and unrest in Northern Uganda and the surrounding countries. This year, participants are going to be silent for 25 years - one hour for every year of Joseph Kony's reign of terror.
What got me thinking was who was I not speaking up for? I love what Invisible Children is doing - I am going to participate in their event this year (and if you want to donate, look at my donation profile page. I'll be making a whole other blog post specifically describing it). But who are the voices that I have let stay silent. Who are the invisible children here, in the United States, that I have neglected to see. This hit me hard because as I watched the Tony video, all I could see where the faces of my own students as night commuters, child soldiers, kids without families, without hope. The fire began to burn again, the one that had been put out because of waking up early, completing PACT, trying to find jobs, making a living, etc. The fire for justice in the education system here in America.
This video helped me see that it is not enough to just show up and teach students. That being a voice for them is more than just showing up to classroom. I don't know exactly how to do that - how to specifically advocate for students who are in poverty, who are being abused at home, who don't have clothes, school supplies, who look to gangs for safety and community, who drop out, get pregnant, or just don't care. Who listens to these kids?
So on April 25th, during the Invisible Children silence campaign, I will be silent for my future students. For those who do not have a voice or do not feel they have a voice. And hopefully Jesus will change my perceptions and give me new inspiration for my future in teaching and education.
This year at Spring Con I took a lot more regular photography shots rather than people being stupid or making funny faces (I mean I still took those just not as many). Here are the ones I am proud to show.
Dear Frank and Judith,
I'm sorry we never got to officially say goodbye. Those of us in the Elderberry Lodge will miss you forever. But if we should ever return to that campus near the sea, will you please let us ride you? Aren't that what buffalo are for? I know it would strengthen our bond between man and beast.
With love and fond affection,
The Spring Break Inhabitants of the Elderberry Lodge.
Dear Noah, We could have sworn you said the boat was leaving at 5. - The Unicorns.
For one of my classes my teacher had us think about how what lessons our students have taught us. These were the three that I came up with.
1. My students have taught me how to listen to those that don’t speak. When my students are quiet, they still have words to say and are so much harder to hear than those who shout. I have to listen closely to see what those typically quiet students are saying to me through how they sit or when they look up at the board.
2. My students have taught me how to communicate better. I learned from my students how important it is to let them know why they are doing something. When they understand their purpose, they engage so much more. I also learned from them how important it is to be clear and say what I mean the first time. Students don’t respond well when they don’t understand what you are trying to say. Their life is often full of confusion and muddiness and I can be one of the few people in their life who speaks clarity.
3. My students have taught me that performance doesn’t mean worth. While this seems like something you teach students, my students that don’t put in a lot of effort continue to challenge me in seeing them as worthy students, who have value inside and outside the classroom. Even when they don’t turn in assignments or do poorly on them, this does not make them bad people. I know this deep down but it is still a challenge to see students as worthy even when they are “failing” a class.
It's been a while since I've posted a reflection about student teaching and a lot has happened since my last few reflections. Here is what I have been thinking about while I'm student teaching. I hope to look back at these some day and see how far I have come from my initial fears and frustrations. I doubt many of them will change but how I see them may be different.
I have been realizing how strongly I take things personally. When a student doesn't turn in work, has a poor attitude, acts out, or even is just plain disrespectful - I take it as a personal attack on me. It's as if I believe that their behavior is directed towards me and I am the root cause of their misbehavior. I'm not sure if this goes away as a experience enters but I am not sure, for me at least, it will ever leave. I have been like this since I was a bible study leader - I would somewhat take it personally when my study members wouldn't come to study. This can be really hard on a leader/teacher but there are some positive side affects. To get here - I have to put in a lot of energy caring for my students. Because what this means is that I care very much how my students see me, see the class, and see each other. If I didn't care so much then I wouldn't take it so personally when they don't show up.
I'm not sure I fully want these feelings to go away. If they do, I may mean that I'm beginning to become apathetic towards my students' performance and attitudes. But I also don't want to care so much that I become overworked and overwhelmed here. There has got to be a balance instead of swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other. I don't like being on extremes - but then again I guess that is a lot of who I am - I'm not really a middle of the road kind of person. I guess it is something to figure out as I go.
I have learned several things from the flu. Be prepared for some honesty and perhaps grossness. If you have a weak stomach - do not read below.
I can never eat soup again. It looks too much like vomit to me.
Cleaning up vomit is much better than actual vomiting.
The shivers is the worst kind of cold you can be. Because even when you are warm, you are sweating, and when you try to take your blanket off, you freeze again.
Throwing up makes your stomach hate you for the whole next day and your mind convinced you are going to do it every hour (which is a lie in many cases).
Sleeping in is amazing. I wish it could happen every day.
Kids carry germs. Sanitize and take vitamins religiously.
Common cold better than having the flu. Much better.
This is the reason I have not been blogging as much lately. It is a 60-80 page paper with video clips and other insanity that I have been working on since the end of January. Seriously it takes up almost all of my free time (what little I have of it). It will be done in March so never fear - I will be back... maybe.
Dear Growling Stomach, I understand you are hungry but making dinner takes so much effort. Make it yourself if you can. Sincerely, Tired.
Dear Tired, Challenge accepted. - Stomach.
Dear Melissa, I miss you. A lot. We used to sleep together all the time, now I feel neglected. We need more time together. Sadly, your bed.
Dear Bugs, Everytime you hit me, it's like getting gunk on my newly polished surface. I would appreciate it if you flew around the car. Yours truly, Windshield.
Dear Windshield, Do you think we want to fly into you? You are huge compared to us and when we hit you, we --- (from a dead bug)
Dear public school system: Thank you for your days off every week. I don't know how kids learn when they are in school only four days a week it seems but I do like to sleep in. Sincerely, a new teacher
The dear [insert random object here] letters will be a regular occurrence throughout this blog as a way to creatively update you on my life. It's like a facebook status - but one that has creativity and purpose.
So this is long overdue but here are my reflections from second week of student teaching.
My two classes are the polar opposite of each other. In the first block, my sophomores work hard to distract me, get me off topic, and enjoy having side conversations and any give moment. They are hard to keep focused and sometimes drive me up a wall. I got to my second block, my freshman, I have to pull teeth to get them to say anything. And even when they do speak, they do it so quietly that I have to ask them several times to speak up!
I learned a valuable lesson about communication this week. One of CT’s and I were on separate pages this week. He was under the impression that I would start lead teaching in the middle of the week but I was just going to teach the class under his lesson plan. When we realized that there wasn’t really a lesson plan prepared we had to scramble to get things done. It was the most uncomfortable feeling ever. I don’t like feeling unprepared at all.
It's not as detailed as week one, probably because this is two weeks overdue and I am having a hard time remembering what happened during that week. More updates coming soon.
I just finished my first week at Santa Maria High School where I teach freshman and sophomores and believe me when I say, it feels more like a month has gone by than just a week.
Here is the conclusion that I have come to: teaching is one of the hardest professions that exist. I have now become responsible for at least forty 14-16 year olds in a short time (and when I become a full time teacher it will be more like 120 students). And I'm not even that mature myself but now I must muster every mature and responsible bone in my body to lead these students. What I'm finding the hardest to do is to keep composure in the classroom when my life outside the classroom seems to be a mess. For example, this whole week I've been getting a lot less sleep because of waking up so early and driving and work and Cal Poly classes - it just adds up to a lot of brain space and little restful sleep. Usually when I don't get a lot of sleep I become grumpy and frustrated but the moment I set foot on the high school grounds, I have to put all that aside for a few hours a day. These students look to me, as their teacher, to be a source of stability and consistency that they may or may not have home. I have to be dependable and on point every day because as a teenager, their own lives are crazy enough as it is.
What I've learned in InterVarsity is completely the opposite. I've always been told to be vulnerable and be open and honest with my struggles. It has been very difficult to watch these mind sets come clashing up against one another. Because high school is not InterVarsity and my students are not the audience for my own personal problems. I can be the audience for theirs, but they need not gain extra burdens in their life. It is a balance that I am learning to navigate and will still have to learn years past student teaching. This is where I take a deep breath and I'm thankful for three day weekends to catch up on sleep.
I just finished my 2010 blog Tre.Sie.Cinque: A Year in Photos where I took a photography journey through 2010. I have decided to continue my blogging journeys into 2011 and beyond. This blog has it focus through on finding the reality in the imaginative and the imaginative in reality. It is a journey of self discovery, pursuing past fear and into the "real world" past high school and college.
The title comes from one of C.S. Lewis's poems titled "As the Ruin Falls" which talks about how sometimes we use overly flashy words to describe things - our love, our fears, our problems. This is my focus for the year to get down to reality. It will be a collection of poems, of photos, of thoughts, of dreams, of whatever else I can find and use to express myself. Enjoy!
As the Ruin Falls
By C.S. Lewis
All this flashy rhetoric about loving
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love -- a scholar's parrot may talk Greek --
But, self-imprisioned, always end where I begin.
Only that now you have taught (but how late) my lack
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.
For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious that all other gains.