I want to Blog

I want to blog. I really do. It’s just the last thing i think about every day. It’s at the end of my never-ending to-do list, and thus, I never get to it. I want to. I really do. I just want to sleep too. I want to be able to teach my kids a mildly interesting lesson, which means I want to take the time to write an interesting lesson plan. I want to watch Greek and Glee. I want to see my sister and call my mom. I want to talk with my roommates and do my laundry.

I want to get to school early to finish my copies, and I want to stay at school late to help my students who are behind. I want to go in on weekends to organize my library and write out a kick-ass unit plan. I want to get my car checked and go to the doctor and the dmv. I want to go to happy-hour with other TFA-ers and bitch about all the things I want to do, but can’t, because when you get up at 5AM, get home at 6:30 and are standing and talking for all that time in between, doing all of those things seems (and basically is) next to impossible.

So…that is my excuse. That is my mea culpa. I’m tired and busy and sad that I’m not keeping up with everyone online or even keeping up with myself. I’m told it will get easier. I’ll adjust to the sleep schedule. I’ll set up an organization system that works. I won’t wake up some mornings wondering how in the hell I’m going to get through the day. I won’t be close to tears on the phone with my mom as my students start coming in the door.

No, things aren’t that bad. My kids are ridiculously fantastic. They’ve already done some great work, but I’ve also seen how much I have to do with them to get them where they need to be. We went on an overnight as a school last week, and while it was a tiring 30 hour trip, our school has such a community now. The people I’m working with are phenomenal, smart, dedicated professionals. I honestly couldn’t ask for a better situation, but still….it it’s so hard. It is so ridiculously hard.

I Want to Remember This

Things I was going to Twitter because I’ve been too busy to blog, but then didn’t even Twitter, because I’m apparently also too busy to Twitter:

– Remember that time I thought I was going to be a normal person after Institute? Hah. Yeah, that was adorable. I’m lengthening that statement to “two years or until I leave the education profession.”

– You know you live in LA when your friends text you that they are going to a bar and then an hour later, Paige from “Degrassi Goes Hollywood” walks into that bar.

– The other day, my “check engine” light came on. I’ve yet to do anything about it except yell, “I don’t have time to deal with your problems, Prius!”

– My friends were all complaining about how annoying their jobs were. All I could add was that my Executive Director (he’s above the principal at my school) pulled me aside to tell me how good my classroom looks. Win.

– It’s really hard to explain to my friends why at 2AM, I’m pretty anxious (read: angry about not getting) to go home and sleep, but also why I don’t mind getting up at 7AM on a Saturday to go to work.

I think that’s it. There are about 8,000 posts I’ve written in my mind about how scared I am about Tuesday (aka THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL) about how EFFING AMAZING my school and staff is, about how I actually love my job (so far…fingers crossed), and how for the first time, I never walk into work thinking, “I really don’t want to be here today,” but it’s hard to prioritize blogging over things like, oh, actually planning out my class, or sleeping, or seeing my friends every once in a while.

It’s frustrating though, because I so wish I was documenting all the things that are happening. I hope I can find the time. I want to remember this.

Done and Done

I’m done with Institute. I can’t yet process that and should probably be sleeping right now, so until I can form coherent thoughts on the last five weeks, I’ll leave you with a (slightly edited for the internet) email I received from one of my favorite summer school students. It pretty much sums up how weirdly amazing (and challenging and frustrating and ridiculous) the past five weeks have actually been:

Hey ms b, just wanted to take the time and say thank you for everything you have tought us. Being in your class has been a better experience from all my other teachers and I finally understand English well now. Mr. W and yourself are great teachers I hope both of you have great luck in teaching in the future and thank you again for making me understand English way better.

Living Up

And so LA Induction is over. It’s hard to believe I’ve only been here a week. There are already so many little cliques in the LA corps, and I already have some awesome new friends.

The rest of the week here in LA was solid – we had more info panels about TFA’s corps values and all that jazz. We had a night out at Lucky Strike, and I took one of my new friends out to WeHo to see Grace and check out the area. There was some drama over credentialing programs (it looks like I’ll be going to UCLA. What up, Bruins?!), and a slew of mildly unappetizing food, but overall, it’s been a positive introduction to TFA.

While Induction was good, the highlight of my week was definitely Wednesday and Thursday. Another TFA-er (we’ll call him TT as he is also now my Team Teacher, and I’m feeling like maybe I should code this blog when it comes to work related things…) and I headed down to our school to meet our staff and join them for training at an amazing charter high school in San Diego. The second we pulled up in front of the colorful building and saw everyone standing in the parking lot, I knew I was set – my school was going to be something amazing. Everyone was immediately welcoming, and the energy of the staff was ridiculous.

Over the next two days (TT and I had to leave early, sadly enough, to get back for TFA stuff…) I sat in on some amazing sessions on reading, project-based learning, creating a team culture in your classroom, and planning. Our team met to talk about where we want our students to be and to brain-storm project ideas, and we got a mini-tour of the school. The best part, though, was when we got back to the two houses they rented out in La Jolla for the whole staff. We played vollyball.

Our assistant principals made us a ridiculous dinner. We learned our personality colors and battled via posterboard about whose group was best. The “young” crowd (TT, an ‘07 corps member who is our resource/special ed teacher, and another recent grad schooler, JC – who is a giant ray of sunshine and the only female on the engineering side of the school) stayed up until midnight watching You Tube videos and just talking. It was so relaxed, so welcoming, and so…fun. The group is amazingly well rounded, with TFA-ers, recent grad school grads, and veteran teachers, many of whom used to be instructional coaches.

I do not think I could be in a better position going into my first year of teaching. Any time I asked a question, it turned into a half an hour discussion with advice, ideas, and support. One of the VP’s came up to me and made sure to tell me that we are all new at this school and to project-based learning, to make sure I didn’t feel overwhelmed. We laughed and planned, and I honestly didn’t want to leave.

Sadly, TT and I had to drive back Thursday afternoon, after finding out we will be team teaching (we’ll have the same 60 students – as each student only has two core teachers), so we can plan together all summer at Institute. After bonding over our mutual feelings on TFA and getting some brainstorming done on the drive back, we stopped by the school, as I’d never been inside, and our principal insisted we go look at our classrooms.

We walked through the hallways and into the courtyard where our rooms are. (Side note: how weird are California schools, with their outdoor walkways and classrooms that open directly to the outside?!) As we walked up to the building, I saw that there was a sign on my door that said “Ms. B(restoflastname)” (Sorry, internet paranoia setting in!) My heart literally stopped.

This whole teaching suddenly clicked and was real. I’m going to be a teacher. All these kids are coming to this new school full of (I hope!) excitement and possibly fear, with expectations and wishes for high school, and I’m the one who has to teach them, who is going to be school for them. I really hope I can live up to those expectation.

The Start of Something New

This past week has flown by. I got to LA last Saturday, spent the weekend with my lovely sister, Stephanie, spent the week seeing my LA program buddies, Grace, Patrick, and Sarah, plus caught up with some other newly minted alums from my school. It was pretty much the perfect last week of freedom – watching endless amounts of TV with Stephanie, lounging by the pool with Patrick and Sarah, having one more night out on the town, and SLEEPING. Oh the sleeping…

You see, I’m already missing sleep a bit, which doesn’t bode well for my next few weeks, because yesterday, I officially started my 2-year commitment with Teach for America. This week is what is called Induction, basically an intro to the region with just our fellow LA corps members. Next week, the true madness begins when corps members from four other regions will join us for Institute, which is the actual training part of the summer. This week is all about learning about our area, our mission, our goals, and all the nitty gritty bureaucratic details we need to take care of to actually qualify to teach come August.

That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a teensy bit crazy – not overwhelming quite yet, but getting up at 5:30AM on a Sunday definitely isn’t standard operating procedure in my life, so…a bit crazy. I think the only thought I’ve been really capable of forming so far is that it is so nice to finally be around people who get it – get why I’m doing this, get what Teach for America is, and get how I’m feeling at this juncture in my life.

I’ve already met some crazy cool people, and I’ve already been BLOWN away by conversations I’ve overheard and been a part of. I had no doubt coming in that the corps would be an amazing group of people, but to finally see this group and be able to start to see the possibilities of what everyone here is going to accomplish is pretty amazing. Just seeing the ‘08 corps members who have just finished one year of teaching – seeing the passion they have for their kids, seeing the eloquence they have when speaking about their experiences – is insane.

And it’s only just begun. Mostly, we’ve been sitting participating in sessions about the philosophies and core values behind TFA, the kinds of goals we are going to be setting, and TFA’s expectations for us, but we’ve also been listening to people’s stories about why they decided to join “The Movement”, and it’s amazing to hear all the things that have brought people to this point. I honestly (and I’m trying not to let this get too cheesy) am SO excited to see what this group of people accomplishes in the next two years and beyond.

And yes, my title is a direct reference to my favorite cheesy high school film, “HIgh School Musical” inspired by the TFA staff members constant insistence that “we are all in this together.”

Those “Old” College Friends

For the last few days, I’ve been essentially stranded at my grandparent’s house in San Diego, my car sitting outside, taunting me, unable to be driven due to an out-of-date license plate. While waiting for my new license plate to arrive, I’ve been attempting to make the most out of my free time – scheduling doctor’s appointments and apartment viewings for next week, editing three week old pictures, shopping for “professional” clothes at Target (10 shirts for $90? Yes, please!), watching inordinate amounts of television.

Luckily, my good friend, Nick, lives in the area, so I stalked him until we figured out when we could meet up for dinner. Nick and I met my freshman year of college, as we both lived on the same crazy dorm floor, and we became pretty quick friends. Sadly, he transferred back to CA our freshman year (he wasn’t such a fan of snow), but I’ve seen him every time I’ve come to Cali since.

He is one of those friends I instantly fall back in step with, even though I haven’t seen him for a year. I honestly laugh harder with him than I do with anyone else. We went and got some ridiculously delicious (and cheap!) sushi – Nick blamed me for not noticing he got rice all over his shirt while I warded off our six waiters who kept offering me extra miso soup. We went over his semester in DC, my trip to Australia, his crazy boss’s roommate situation (which he is privy to working out of his boss’s living room), the screaming children I snapped photos of…everything.

After dinner, we, of course, had to pop over to the nearby Pinkberry, since I haven’t had any since returning to California. While enjoying my granola and chocolate chip covered yogurt, I looked at Nick and suddenly exclaimed, “Oh my god, Nick! We’ve known each other for FOUR years!” I keep having these time related revelations lately. I know four years isn’t that long of a time period, but for me, who moved every five years and who rarely keeps in close contact with friends for much longer than that, it seems like a long time to still have this kind of connection with someone.

Plus, he’s my college friend. They are supposed to be my new friends! Nick knew exactly what I meant – we are done with college. It’s just life now. My college friends are now going to be my older friends, replacing my high school friends as the ones I reminisce about old times with. We kept referring to the last few months as last semester, until we each corrected each other – there are no semesters now! Just months and years and time. It’s crazy

Despite the madness of the revelations and feeling old, Nick and I had a great evening. I love my grandparents, and I’m having a surprisingly nice time with them this week, but it was nice to get out with a friend, eat some sushi, and talk about the crazy people who ride the bus, TLC’s amazing reality programming (”You have to watch Woman with the Giant Legs!”), and failing at quitting jobs that you hate.

Life (via Vegas!) here I come!

Well, here I am, all packed and ready to board my flight to Vegas in the morning. It’s weird. Last December, coming home to live for the semester instead of staying in Boston seemed like the worst thing in the world. I’d miss my friends. I’d miss “senior year.” I’d be bored. I’d feel useless. I wouldn’t accomplish anything.

Four months later, I’ve gotta say, I was so wrong. This semester “off” has given me room to breathe. It’s given me time to get ready for a big change in my life. I’ve gotten done all of my Teach for America assignments, which from talking to other corps members, I’ve learned isn’t too common. I’ve been able to save up money to get myself some gifts of the electronic sort. (I’m looking at you D90 and Blackberry.) I got to spend time with not just my parents, but my grandparents and extended family in the area. I got to travel back to Boston and LA when I needed a break, but I got to just be for a while.

Because tomorrow the madness begins. This weekend, of course, I’ll be in Vegas. Then I’m flying into San Diego to see my mom’s family and get my car, which shipped out this morning. Then after two weeks of relaxing slash getting done all the last minute stuff I need to get done in LA, it’s off to Induction, with a “break” in the middle for a workshop with school colleagues in San Diego, then it’s back to LA for 5 weeks of Insitute, then another 5 day workshop, moving into my apartment with Jillian and Josh, TFA Orientation, a week of inservice days, then TEACHING! It’s insane how much is about to happen. I think I need to take it one week at a time or else I’ll have a panic attack.

A Little Too Well…

Things are going well. Eerrily well. I mean, not at the moment. Today kind of sucked. I had to work while both of my bosses dealt with their boss, their bosses boss, and like 8 other people from “home office” visiting and ended up staying three hours later than I was supposed to because I was supposed to be at home packing up my car to get picked up and shipped across the country tomorrow….but I digress. This isn’t about the goodness or badness of today. This is about the general state of my life….which is good.

Let me explain. About a month ago, I got an email from TFA saying I was going to have a phone interview for a charter school in LA. After going through an interview prep call, I found out what school I would be interviewing with and promptly read their entire website. It looked good. Too good. It’s a brand new school. It’s vision reads like a paper I wrote in my Politics of Education class about how I thought schools should run. The staff seems young, energetic, and super smart. I got nervous…and excited.

But mostly nervous. I’d never get the job. It would just be there taunting me while I worked in my crumbling building with an unsupportive staff. A few days after I read the website, I had a phone interview with the principal. She told me after hour 30 minute conversation, and I quote, “frankly, you blow most of the candidates I’ve talked to out of the water.” Then I got a little more excited. She asked me to tape myself giving a 10-15 minute lesson. I had to give it to my parents. It was….awkward. But good. I think. I sent that to her and waited.

After a week of hearing nothing, I thought that was it. To the TFA hiring fair! Then she finally emailed to tell me I’d be getting called by another teacher at the school. I talked to her. It, again, went freakishly well. I could see myself working with these people. Then I got more nervous. She told me I’d have to talk to ANOTHER teacher – apparently they had a big hiring symposium where people talked to the faculty, staff, AND parents of the new school, so I think maybe I was getting off kind of easy.

Soon, I talked to that last teacher, and again, had a ridiculously good conversation. Then I waited and waited and waited some more, happy that I knew I couldn’t have done any better, but worried because after three conversations and one fake lesson given to my parents in my dad’s office, I was invested. I really really really wanted this job. Then the executive director of the school called me. And he offered me the job. And I jumped up and down a bit.

So….that’s good. I’m moving to LA with a job, a job I’m excited about and feel qualified for and ready to tackle.

Then, in case you haven’t heard, I’m going to VEGAS this weekend! It’s going to be relaxing and exciting and fun and SUNNY and even though it’s making packing a bitch, I’m stoked to put real faces to names and voices and make some new friends.

A Big Ending

Sadly, I think the subject of this post could be about either of the two events that have been dominating my time/mind lately: my graduation from college and *hangs head in shame* the American Idol finale. Discussion of the latter subject will have to wait, as I’m sure there are enough people on the internet debating the showdown of the “guy-next-door” versus the “guy-liner.” (Oh Seacrest, where will my Tuesday nights be without your witty punnings…).

Yes, the internet certainly doesn’t need another thousand words about how Kris, despite what Simon Cowell wants you to think, is incredibly talented, interesting, and entertaining, and about how it’s possible for both Adam and Kris to be successful, and how Idol producers got a big Eff You from the American people and, and…*breathes deeply* Yes, clearly, I’m focusing on more important things in my life. Graduation. Yes. That. Let’s recap:

Two weeks ago I headed into Boston for probably the last time in a while. That fact has yet to sink in. I probably won’t be back to Boston for at least a year or two. *Deep breath* Ok, continuing…the first part of my week there was dominated by Senior Week events. Saturday, Jillian and I headed to Martha’s Vineyard for a rainy day excursion. Highlights of the day included eating at a ridiculously cute diner right out of “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” and seeing this.

The other events were all essentially drinking parties in various “exciting” locales. First up was a beach party in Quincy, MA, which was really just an excuse to get us all to ride on school buses one last time and have a large dance party.

The next event was a Habor Cruise which should really be labled awkard encounters at a party you can’t leave, as that is really what it is. Luckily, there was ample space for dancing to forget the awkwardness, and I got to wear my fierce new green dress.

All in all, the night was a success for nothing else than for allowing me (and pretty much everyone on board) to break out into a rousing rendition of “I’m on a Boat” at least once.

Later in the week, I got to start checking off items on my “Things I Always Wanted to do in Boston” list. First up was going on the Sam Adams Brewery tour. Our tour guide was super fun, and not just because she gave us three glasses of free beer, PLUS a free glass!

Ready to Move On?

Last weekend, I headed up to Boston for round one of my Senior Week/College Graduation events. Walking around campus felt weird – I’d simultaneously felt like I’d already moved on, especially as everyone cried about having their last classes, while I’ve been out of classes for months, and like I wasn’t ready to leave. Every building I walked by on campus has these ridiculously vivid memories – classes I’ve taken, events I attended, places I’d lived – that I couldn’t stop thinking about as I walked around. Boston has become more of a hometown to me than anywhere else I can think of, and the thought of leaving for good is kind of heartbreaking.

Moving around a lot as a kid and attending four (!!) different schools during my four years of high school led me to not attach myself too strongly to any school or any place. When high school ended, I was more than happy to move on.

I was ready to tackle college, and aside from a very small handful of good friends (Hi Kaitlin!), there wasn’t much I’d miss about high school. Same goes for every time I moved – my family always seemed to time our movings to coincide with a rough patch in my life, so moving to a new place seemed like an excellent way to make a needed change. Sure, there were friends I missed like crazy and little things about each town we lived in I was sad to leave behind, but I never found myself thinking, “I’m really not ready to leave.”

Leaving Boston is and will be so much different. While I’ve come and gone from Boston for the last four years for summers and vacations, I always knew I was coming back. It always seemed like a home base. This “semester” at home has felt like that too. While I know in my mind I’m done with school, I’ve still known I would be heading back for Senior Week and graduation. I still knew I’d see all my friends again. After graduation, though, I’m going to be joining everyone else in the collective freak-out of “Oh my god, I really have to leave now, don’t I?!”

During Senior Breakfast, they showed a “slideshow” of every group picture from our orientation four years ago. When I saw my group’s picture, I saw my blond, shorter hair, my heinous pink t-shirt I thought was fierce, and one of my best friends I hadn’t realized was in my orientation group until sophomore year when we’d been discussing our various orientation leaders over lunch and discovered the coincidence.

It felt like SO long ago, while simultaneously feeling like it was only yesterday, like I still needed more time in this place. Then I saw that same friend presented with an amazing award, and while the Dean of Students read of a list of all the accomplishments my friend had racked up in the last four years, I realized we all had enough time in college. We’d all done amazing things, made our mark there, and maybe were ready to move on.

That night, I attended a special dinner party for all the Teach For America corps members from my school at the Dean of Student’s house (who, by the way, is the greatest school administrator, possibly ever. I follow him on twitter, and I’m told he once held a High School Musical 2 viewing party at his house.

To say I was excited to be invited to this dinner would be a gross understatement.) Talking to the other corps members about where we were headed, about teacher certification tests, curriculum changes, and of course, that pesky achievement gap, I felt ready – ready to take on another ridiculous challenge, ready to call another city home, and ready to leave that blond-haired, pink-shirt wearing college girl behind. Almost. No, I am…I think.

Friday, I head up for the 10-day extravaganza that is Senior Week and Graduation. At the end of it, my family will join me in Boston, take me on a Duck Tour, and watch me graduate from college. Hopefully, by the end of it, I’ll be ready to say good-by to Boston…but that doesn’t mean I won’t be bawling as I do it.