Tag Archives: education

Change & Challenges

I process heavy emotions through writing. When my brain can’t make sense of it in itself, it sends my hands to work to spell it out on paper.

 

Something about the process is therapeutic — it helps me get things straight.

There is something truly poetic about  forcing yourself to spell out your emotions on paper.

 

I teach my students that as they grow life is, and will be, full of change. Change is scary, but change is also good.

 

Today was my last day at my current teaching job. Resignation. Took a job teaching in Japan. A job which I am very excited for and very apprehensive. An incredible move. Perhaps a foolish and naive one, too.

 

Teaching fifth graders is interesting, and for the most part, I love it. I loved my building. I loved my colleagues. Yet, I was ready to move on to something else.

 

I’m not content to stay put but find myself nostalgic when it’s time to leave.

 

Funny thing, my personality.

 

I walked out of my classroom for the last time today. MY classroom. My first and so far, my only. I spent so many hours within it’s walls making it perfect, inviting, a home-away-from-home. I built relationships, shared stories, celebrated victories, wiped tears, and gave so many hugs. I laughed. I cried. 

Two years of my life I spent in those 4 walls.

It didn’t hit me until the last afternoon of my last day just how hard it would be to walk out of that room for the last time.

I ugly cried the whole way home.

 

Luckily I don’t live far.

 

As I wiped my tears of relief, sadness, hope, regret, and pure exhaustion, I reminded myself of what I told my students only hours before.

 

Change is hard,

Change is scary,

But change is good.

 

It forces us to learn and become better people than we were before.

It challenges us.

 

And everyone needs a good challenge.

 

While I remain apprehensive of the immediate future, I know my time spent the last two years will serve me well wherever my adventures take me. It was an equally rewarding and frustrating experience, but one that has taught me a lot about myself and how to deal with situations I’m involuntarily stuck in.

 

While I don’t regret my time spent in that classroom,

I would regret the chance I didn’t take to try something new.

 

I mean,

Who needs a comfort zone?

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Death & Rebirth

With the years I have become increasingly comfortable with the cycle of life.

The cycle of life is much more than physical birth and physical death.

Life

Is all the life and death in between.

 

As a writer

I like poetic language —

I like similes and metaphors

Hyperbole and alliteration (see what I did there)

 

I also tend to see the world in all it’s own poetry

And there is life and death

Everywhere

All the time.

 

See,

Life and death takes many forms

Yes, of course there is physical giving of life and physical taking of life.

Literal: life and death

But there is much more life and death than just the beginning and the end.

 

There is life in starting school.

Learning to read and write

Learning to add and subtract

And growing those skills and understanding until

You graduate

The metaphorical death of your schooling (but let’s be honest: one should never stop learning)

 

There is life in falling in love

The euphoria of connectedness with someone you adore

Understanding on a level you thought was impossible

Then you break up.

The metaphorical death of your love

 

Reader,

I think you must get the idea.

 

People will come and go from your life.

People you were once very close to will change.

You will change, too.

Any maybe, it just won’t work like it used to.

 

As I have gotten older,

I have become content with the cycle of death and rebirth that takes place in every facet of life.

 

Friends will come.

Friends will go.

Again —

I think you get the idea.

 

But it is what comes after the life and death that is vital.

 

Rebirth.

The phoenix rising from the ashes.

Allowing you to be born anew.

To see with fresh eyes.

 

It may never be easy to die,

Or rather,

To let things die.

 

But

It is possible

To become something more.

We the people

Yesterday, January 21st, 2017, I got to be part of something extraordinary. I have always been politically active and rather –er — outspoken, but never in my life had I had reason to use my right to protest.

With the results of the election tearing me apart since early November, I was finally ready and able to do something about it.

I attended the Kansas City Women’s March, and I’m so glad I did. 9,999 other women from all races, religions, socioeconomic statuses, education levels, you name it — all came together to peacefully protest the bullshit that is spewing forth from our lying leaders.

I am still in awe of the camaraderie, respect, and empathy shown by complete strangers to others. The march was full of women, men, and children of all ages. My heart was full seeing parents so open and willing to share this historic event with their daughters and educate them on their rights.

It gives me hope for the future generations.

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One of my favorite signs from the rally. You can tell she was proud to be there. 

I went by myself, hoping to meet up with many friends also in attendance. However, the size of the crowd left me isolated and wandering — but I was never uncomfortable. I never felt alone. I was with fellow soldiers for progress. I was among friends. And I made new ones.

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Her words are so true. We accomplish nothing when we stay silent. I love how the statue of George Washington is watchful over her shoulder. It’s almost like he’s giving his quiet blessing to the women & minorities of this nation. I think he’d be proud of his country and his people today. 

I know you’re probably like, “Oh c’mon, there are places all over the world where women have it way worse than they do in the U.S.”

This is very true, but does not excuse trying to take away our current rights. We must continue to move toward total equality. Anything but is an extreme injustice! By refusing to stay silent in the face of tyranny, we stand up for oppressed people all over the world.

In the end, this march was about so much more than just women’s rights. It’s about worker’s rights. Immigrant rights. LGBTQ rights. Animal rights. Giving our children a future they can believe in.

It was a rally for equality. And judging by the internet’s reaction, that’s just too damn scary for some people.

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I high-fived these parents for doing it right. We are more than objects. We are more than the sum of our body parts. 

Of all the things that made me the most happy was the number of children present at the rally. Parents openly talking to their children about oppression and how to stop it. Pushing the importance of diversity. Speaking to them candidly about why all these people are here and what it means. Reading and explaining various protest signs. I saw many children even holding their own signs in solidarity.

It gives me hope that the world can be a better place for them. And if we don’t leave it better for them, they’ll make it better for themselves. I hope we can leave it better than we found it for them. And if we can’t, I hope they can make it better for their children.

I hope they choose to do what is right, instead of what is easy.

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In the end, this is the photograph that resonates with me the most from my first protest experience.

To the fellow ladies of the marches and rallies taking place all over the nation, and all over the world: I will always stand with you. I will always stand by you. I will fight for your equal rights for the rest of my life. If the government comes after your right to choose what’s best for your body, your family, and your life, I will be unashamed to stand with you. To my LGBTQ friends: if the government tries to strip your fundamental rights to love and liberty, I will proudly stand with you. To my immigrant friends: If the government tries to deport you, I will vehemently defend you and what you bring to our nation. To my Muslim friends: If the government tries to put you on a registry, I will fearlessly register with you. You are as valuable, as important, and as American as anyone here.

I will no longer sit and honor misinformed, willfully ignorant comments, posts, and opinions. I don’t care if we’re friends, schoolmates, or coworkers. You do not have the right to be ignorant. You do not have the right to strip basic human rights from others because of your fear. Educate yourself. Stop being afraid.

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A woman’s place is in the resistance.

We will not be silent. 

Resolutions, Part 2

I have a bit of a personal ritual around the New Year. Not only do I celebrate my 8th anniversary of marriage to my husband on the 30th, but the new year also symbolizes a time to stop and reflect on the year I’ve had and the goals I want for the future.

I can say, without a doubt, that 2016 has been a steaming dump of a year. There were a few highlights, undoubtedly, like the weddings of a couple of my best friends, an awesomely extravagant vacation, and adulting successfully by doing something called buying a car. And while all these events are wonderful, it cannot overshadow the festering, stinking dumpster fire this year has been since the beginning.

Four more days, friends. Four more. But what, oh what, does 2017 hold?

That, readers, is questionable. If, like me, you have harbored extreme resentment and a little bitterness since the election, you, like me, are probably approaching the new year with apprehension. Uncertainty. Even disappointment.

Trust me, reader, I sympathize.

And that brings me to my resolution for 2017. I only have one this year, but I think it’s going to be important if I ever want to leave this rut and keep moving forward.

My 2017 resolution is simply this: To stop being afraid and live the life I want for myself.

I know you’re probably like, c’mon Chels, that’s so vague and idealistic. You can’t accomplish that. You can’t measure that.

None of that really matters to me.

What matters to me is the world seems to be falling apart at the seams, and if I let it, it will drag me down with it.

I refuse to let that happen.

I refuse to be afraid of circumstances out of my control.

I refuse to stay stuck out of comfort and fear of change.

I refuse to sit for another miserable year and end up the same unsatisfied human I seem to always be reflecting on the past year, and moving into a new one.

Attempting to find a job in Japan has given me renewed desire and perspective. A goal to work toward. Something I have wanted for a very long time but have been too fearful to pursue. Will it happen soon? Maybe. Will it happen under the circumstances in which I want it? Doubtful. Will it solve all of my woes? Certainly not.

But will it happen? Most definitely.

It can’t be any worse than sitting and waiting for change to come to me.

I’m so tired of waiting.

 

And so, I face 2017 with little fear and increased optimism.

 

2017 just better be ready for me.

Pros and Cons

My questionable saga with moving to Japan continues. And you better believe I have a lot of questions. So much of me wants to jump all in and go for it; so much of me wants to walk away because it’s crazy and I know it’s crazy.

To make a quick summary of what’s happened — I got called for an in-person interview in Chicago in January. Yeah, JANUARY. That’s like, really soon. Trust me — I share your concern. I already agreed to go, but by agreeing to go means I’m agreeing to a potential offer of a job. Am I really ready to commit to moving to Japan next year? Your guess is as good as mine.

There is a large part of my that really wants this. More than I’ve ever really wanted anything, actually. I’ve always wanted to leave the country — what a fantastic opportunity to do not only that but also continue doing something I love doing (teaching). Get a job overseas and get a free reset button on my life? Tempting.

But then a large part of me is really scared. I’m pretty much guaranteed a work visa if I get an offer, so other than getting a passport my entry to Japan is pretty much a done deal. But what about my husband — will it be easy for him to get a spouse visa? Will I have to go without him at first (yikes)? What about my dogs? How feasible is it really to move three of them to a possibly tiny apartment in a whole new country? What will it cost me to feed them? Take them to the vet? What will I do with my house and my car? All the stuff in my house? Because I certainly won’t be taking much of that with me to the other side of the world.

So, yeah, there’s a lot of questions. A lot of feelings. And a lot of uncertainty.

 

 

Please click here if you’d like to donate to my gofundme to help me on my mission to successfully uproot and replant in Japan. Any amount is appreciated.

 

 

 

The Chance of a Lifetime

The timing of this is more than coincidence, and I am aware of that. My last couple of posts dealt with my realization of the quarter life crisis and the fact that I was smack in the middle of one. Feeling stuck, and lost, I took a chance on something a year ago I would’ve laughed at. It amazing how much things — rather, selves — change in just a year.

If you asked me what one of my biggest childhood dreams was, I would tell you I wanted to see as much of the world as I could manage. Even when I was young I craved new experiences. New places, new faces, new ideas, new languages — I just wanted to soak up as much as possible. Well, fast forward twenty years and not much has changed in that aspect. I have always wanted to travel more, do more, see more.

Alas, I have not yet left the United States, even though the drive and desire is ever more deeply seeded. I need to travel more, do more, and see more.

“Get to the point,” I’m sure you’re thinking at this point in the post.

Well, I took a chance. I took a chance and applied for a job teaching English in Japan. I didn’t think I was even remotely qualified. I didn’t think I would get a call.

But, reader, I did get a call.

I got a call and an interview, then another interview; and if all went well; another interview.

And then maybe,

Just maybe,

A perfect chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do.

A chance to travel more, do more, and see more.

A chance to combine my love of teaching with my love of travel and new experiences.

A chance to break the meaningless grind.

A chance to destroy my “comfort zone.”

A chance to actually live the life I envisioned for myself when I was young.

 

So, I took a chance.

I took the chance of a lifetime.

 

I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

What’s really wrong with kids these days

I don’t believe in normal. This is coincidental because I work in public education. In America, the goal of public education is to “normalize” everything. Every test we take is scaled against the norm. Every score we give is normed. Our literal goal is to move kids who are functioning below the norm to functioning within the norm.

If I’m being totally honest, this is what appalls me the most about public education. We celebrate mediocrity. We work to fit every child from every circumstance into one neat, well-managed box. One little box where all students perform within the “norm” and learn within the “norm” and accel at the “normed” curriculum. It’s disgusting. We are boiling young human beings down to numbers and scores as early as age five. We give them the message that if they aren’t reading at five something is wrong with them.

We strip them of meaningful learning because everything is about data. Numbers. Budgets. Money rules us. We as teachers are reprimanded if our students don’t perform at or above a certain level on standardized tests. Tests that, here in Missouri, aren’t even developmentally appropriate for our children. Tests that are purposefully tricky and use misleading wording. If we are truly trying to assess what they’ve learned — why mislead them? Why try to trick them? These tests end up ruling our standards, thus ruling our curriculums, thus running our classrooms day-to-day. People want to know why behavior problems are more frequent and violent incidents are more common today in public schools? It’s simple. Our government, and in terms, our states, and our districts — have sucked all the joy from teaching and learning. Kids aren’t excited to learn anymore. They’re force fed information they’ll need for a test, if they don’t do well on that test the teacher might be reprimanded, or worse the teacher might treat them as less of a student because they aren’t good with analogies or the order of operations.

What is the absolute most heartbreaking part of this is that teachers, school staff, and administration are genuinely good people (for the most part) that really want the best for the kids they spend seven and a half hours with Monday through Friday. These are people who paid lots of money for one of the most undervalued, underappreciated jobs in the United States. These are people who set out to change the world, and end up getting “normed” themselves. Meet certain indicators or your job is on the line. A ten minute observation might be all an evaluator sees of your classroom for several months. If they didn’t like what they saw in those ten minutes, you’ll be reprimanded. Just like standardized tests for students, these standardized evaluations for teachers leave no room for creativity, passion, or fun. They don’t respect who we are as individuals; and more importantly novice teachers are expected to operate at the same level as a teacher who has a decade or more of experience.

I really do love my job; and in no capacity regret getting my degree in education or choosing to take this journey as a teacher. It is a job that teaches you as much as you teach your students. It is a powerful lesson in patience, understanding, and gratitude; all traits most people can stand to work on. But ultimately, I already know that I will not spend my entire career in the classroom. It is a noble and rewarding job, however, not an easy one — mentally or emotionally. I know eventually I will reach a point in my life when I need a change of scenery. It will be too exhausting.

Our system of education has become dehumanizing. It feels more like a chore than a privilege; from the top down, our education system needs to be restructured in a way that energizes the learning process. We need to focus on the children we serve, and not on their academic shortcomings. We need to celebrate individuality, creativity, and multiple intelligences. Just because a child isn’t “reading at grade level” doesn’t make them less. They are not lesser people because they don’t do well on a stupid test. But our system tells them they are lesser. More so, leading children to believe there is only one way to be “smart” is cruel. Billions of people have lived happy lives without taking or scoring well on standardized exams. Why do we place so much value on something so insignificant as test scores? Why is it considered prudent to learn algebra? Isn’t it more important for our students to understand our system of government? Should we be teaching them to fact check? To stand up for social justice?

Our education system will never be effective until we learn to honor the individual, and the individual’s desire to learn.