It's been real, NYCTF.

Last week, I trekked up to the Bronx for my last class meeting of grad school. I was scheduled to present my thesis to my classmates, but when I got to the classroom, I found that class had been canceled. Myself and two of my classmates were the only ones to not get the message in time -- it was an anticlimactic end to a hard two years.
We were slightly miffed - this is really it? No last meeting with our peers, who we've been with since 2009? No high-five moment of triumph? We lingered in the hall for a while, not sure what to do with ourselves. Eventually, we headed home.

Later that night, I went out to eat with S. "What now," she asked? "What are you going to do with your new freedom?" There's a whole part of my life I've neglected for almost two years now: every piece and every person that's not tied to my daily existence. I've been living on an emotional subsistence level. Working constantly for a long period of time is detrimental to relationships, and so is high stress. Since coming to New York, I've moved three times. I've lost friends. My parents got divorced. I've been cursed out by students and broken up fights. I've been so tired I ached in my bones. I've thought about quitting several times. I've burst into tears the second I entered my apartment at the end of a long day more times than I want to remember.

For every terrible day I've experienced in the city, though, I've been bolstered by an extraordinary one. I have met inspiring people, tried new foods, and seen beauty in many, many forms. I have been equally blessed and humbled.

So, now what? "You look different," S said. "You already look happier." The stress of the endless juggling act that had become my life - teaching, writing my thesis, compiling a portfolio, attending classes, playing derby - felt far away. The spinning plates for once could be lain aside. I was already thinking about what I hadn't had much time to think about recently. I was a few days away from a game with a team I love and admire. I've been learning some great new skating skills. Summer break is rapidly and blissfully approaching. And some part of me is already looking forward to next school year.

When I first moved here, someone told me that living here would change me. She meant it as an ominous pronouncement, that the city would slowly leech my optimism and warmth, leaving me as cynical and jaded as everyone else perceives New Yorkers to be. In a way, she was right. I've lost some of my patience and meekness. I'm a little more loud and a lot less sensitive. I have a more solid, and unwavering, sense of who I am, what I believe, and what I want. So yes, the last few years have changed me. The city has changed me, teaching has changed me, and my students have changed me, but the change has been undoubtedly for the better.

NYCTF sent out a survey this week for our final feedback upon exiting the program. It turns out I have a lot to say about ways in which the program was helpful, and ways in which it could be improved. As for my own experience, though, I can say that I'm so glad I did it. I'm not really the same person I was at the start of all of this, and I'm so glad for that. I'm excited about that. Also, although I don't regret a thing, I would never do it again.

I'm ready for a break. Happy summer, all.


the rejuvenation period.

It's been three and a half months since I've updated, and to be honest a lot of this past winter is a blur. It was long, miserably cold, and one of the most stressful periods I've ever experienced. S summed it up a few days ago, while reflecting upon why it was perfectly acceptable for me to be curled up in the fetal position and crying on a Saturday afternoon: I've been simultaneously experiencing almost every major life stressor possible. I'm in a still-new relationship, moving out of a bad living situation, coping with my parents' divorce, learning the ropes in a new derby league, taking graduate courses, and continuing to learn as I go at my job.

Today I finished the second trimester at my school. It snuck up on me - it's as if I pushed my way through the entire winter with my head down, bracing against the cold, and hadn't realized I'd reached the end until it was here. I spent the last day of the term enjoying the sunshine, watching my students play softball with several other teachers. It was a half-day for students, with teachers staying for parent-teacher conferences in the afternoon. PTC was easy this time around. We had a low turnout and most of the parents I saw were parents of our latest batch of graduates who came by to express their appreciation. Those visits tend to be either fun or emotional, and I got a mix last night. One mother was in tears as she clutched my hand and thanked me for supporting her son. I have to admit that he was one of my favorites. I suppose we're not supposed to have favorites, but is that realistic? This kid came to our school after spending time in a South American prison, but he's one of the nicest kids you'd ever meet. He once told me that our school was his saving grace. What do you say when the mother of a kid like that thanks you for helping him graduate? I feel odd being thanked, as that's one of the best parts of my job.

I passed another student who was borderline at best. I knew he needed my class to graduate, and he'd struggled through it the whole term. In the end, I couldn't rationalize failing him, so I gave him some extra work and passed him with a 65. During PTC this afternoon, I took to wandering the halls in boredom in between visits with parents. During one of my stolls, a counselor called me up to the sign-in table in the lobby. She pointed at my student who was hanging around the table, and said he had something to say to me. In front of all of the counselors at our school, he thanked me as well as he shook my hand.

I don't think teachers hear the words "thank you" very often, at least not in sincerity. A little selfishly, it was nice to hear after so many months of hard work.

This last term is going to be difficult for new reasons - the Regents are a few short months away, I'm prepping more courses than I have before, and the spring weather is bound to exacerbate attendance problems among students. Still, I can feel the rejuvenation period beginning. It looks like I'll make it through this first year after all.


a merry little christmas.

I'm alive, I promise. Just trying to make it through the calendar year intact. I'll more than likely continue a break from this blog, at least until my lesson planning emerges from survival mode.

It's going to be a long winter.


sew your fortunes on a string.

A student from my school is going to prison.

For murder.

I don't know what to say.


oh hey there, disillusionment phase.

This graph is from an article titled 'The Evolution of a Teacher" - I'm sure my fellow educators out there will recognize it.

Towards the end of training this summer, we were talking about this article in my advisory group when someone asked, "so since we've been student teaching this summer, is it safe to say most of us are going to be starting out past the anticipation phase?" I think I had an anticipation phase at the beginning of the year, but it was very short lived. Obviously I have high points in my daily life in my classroom, much more so than I even share with you here. However, it's getting much harder to feel optimistic. It's getting much harder to feel like I could ever really be a great teacher, because as it is I'm just surviving from day to day, relying on the types of lesson I've learned will kind of work, even if they're not stellar or all that original. I'm consistently too exhausted for creativity or extensive research and development. I'm ready for the rejuvenation phase. Oh wait, when does that come in? May? Christ.


summer dreams.

Has it only been two months since I started teaching? It feels like a year already, despite the greenness I still feel with painful clarity. My school's first term is ending at the end of the month, and I feel anxious to begin the second term. I'll have most of the same students again, just shuffled around in different periods, and as I see it this offers two advantages: I get to tweak my class rules and expectations (read: lay down the law) but I don't have to completely start from scratch with getting to know my kids. That work's already been done. Of course, the inherent disadvantage is that my kids already know me, too, and it might be difficult to retrain them.

How has it only been two months? It feels like the year should be halfway over - the kids are tired, the teachers are tired, we're all dragging and unmotivated. Two months. What's it going to be like in five? Seven?


everything was beautiful.

Today was a hard day. The more I learn about my students' home lives (or lack thereof), the more I feel this deep sense of.. something. Helplessness? Sadness? Anger? Shock?

I don't know what to do with the feeling, other than keep going and hope that at the very least, I can be someone my kids see during the day who is good to them. It's all I can do, try to do right by them in the 55 minute blocks in which I'm a part of their lives, when what I really want to do is cocoon them so that no one can ever hurt them again.

Last Friday, one of my favorite kids slipped a note onto my desk as he left at the end of the period. He'd scrawled a smiling face onto a notecard, plastered the margins with exclamation points and written, "R, have a good weekend!!!" I put it up on my wall when I got home. Something has been bothering him recently, but he hasn't wanted to talk about it. He's very sweet, this kid. He's softspoken, quick to laugh, and very hardworking. Still, recently the sadness in his eyes has spread to his face. Today, I found out just a little bit about his life outside school. I don't understand how someone who's lived such a hard life can still be as jovial, or as ambitious, or as genuinely kind as he is. I don't know that I'm that strong even now, and I know I definitely wasn't as a kid.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a colleague about teaching at a transfer school. I'm never really sure which experiences are universal for teaching high schoolers or teaching city kids, and which ones are unique to teaching our population. While trying to explain this, I told my colleague that I have no idea if it's normal to feel so drained after every day. No, he replied. He explained that teaching is always hard, no matter where or who you teach. "But this job?," he explained, "this job wears on you."

It's definitely wearing on me.