Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Day in the Life of a High School Teacher: Field Trip Day

Today, I got to school early, and your son came into my classroom 20 minutes before the bell rang, as usual. He comes in early, every day, by himself. We talk about running and music and the weekend and movies and life. I saw the look in his eyes when I told him there would be a sub today: I was taking another class on a field trip. I heard him beg me not to leave, that subs just aren’t the same, that they just don’t get him. I felt overwhelming guilt, like I do every single time I leave my students with someone other than me. But I had to leave anyway. So I told him it would be okay and that I would see him again next week.

And then I put on a smile.

Today, I watched your sons and daughters funnel into a bus. I saw the desperation in their eyes as they searched for someone to sit by, for a friend, for a safe place to ride. I watched the brave ones ask to sit next to strangers, and I saw acceptance there.

Today, I sat next to your daughter on the bus. I observed her busying herself with her cell phone to avoid uncomfortable conversation with a teacher. Ten minutes later, she put her phone away, and told me how her dad just came home from the hospital from his second serious surgery. He had cancer. He had half of his tongue removed and skin graphs from his arm and leg. The results were inconclusive. My heart broke for her. I smiled, looked her in the eyes, and told her how desperately sorry I am. My dad has cancer, too. It stinks, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to make it better.

And then I put on a smile.

I watched as your children nervously existed a bus in an unfamiliar location, and I saw their eyes turn to me for guidance.

I saw their hesitation to enter a church that is not their own. I told them to do it anyway. I also saw the embarrassment of a student as I asked him to remove his hat: We are entering a place of worship. He removed it, of course. He was never trying to be disrespectful, he simply didn’t understand the significance of his actions.

I saw them stop, mid-stride, as they entered the room. I saw the awe, the overwhelming awe, in their eyes. I saw them look up at the ceiling, the ornate walls, the gothic painting, the worn out floors. I heard them whisper questions to each other, too afraid to ask aloud. I saw them overcome by art in a way they never thought possible.

Today, I also saw them hide all those feelings. I saw them laugh at the intricacies of a religion they did not understand, scoff at a painting they did not try to see, and downplay the importance of an entire theological foundation.

And then I put on a smile.

Today, your son told me that the cathedral was “cool.” I told him it was more than that. It was an honor to stand where so many hours had been poured into the paintings and woodwork and construction. It was an honor to be where so many lost souls, broken, had prayed for hours. Where people had left their whole selves. Shared their grief. Found answers and hope.

Later, I saw your sons and daughters observe a beginning level ESL class in a refugee help center. I saw your students uncomfortably watch as full grown adults struggled to say “I am.” I heard your daughter ask how long those refugees had been in America. I saw their shock when the answer came: over two months.
Today, I saw your daughter’s dreams change. I heard her work through a new passion, a new life. I saw her perception of herself change as she realized that she would like to work with refugees. As she explained that there was so much hurt in the world. Maybe she could make it better. And I told her that yes, yes she could.

I’ll admit, today I broke down in front of your child. He said that working with refugees would be so cool, and she asked me if I thought it would be fun. I saw her confusion and shock where she saw the tears in my eyes. I heard every side conversation stop, and I felt the pressure of 30 teenage eyes looking at me. Breathlessly. Waiting for an answer. I told your sons and daughters that I simply couldn’t work there. And I gave them the truth: I’m not strong enough. Seeing the faces of these refugees and knowing, knowing the suffering that had to of occurred to bring them here. I’m simply not strong enough to handle that amount of tragedy and injustice and shame and hope and dedication and perseverance.

And, you know what, I saw your son get it. He understood. And not one of them played down the importance of that moment. That moment of real human connection where him and her and me and them all understood, for that one second, the magnitude of it all.

And then I put on a smile.

Today, I overheard your students on the drive home talking about SnapChat and volleyball coaches and weekend plans and One Direction and being too cool for any such mainstream things. All the while, I discussed with another teacher how to motivate boys to read, what to do with my silent student, the need to have them experience the curriculum first hand, and our inability to solve it all.

After the field-trip, your son, whom I haven’t taught for two years, came into my classroom – as usual. I watched as he laughed about his weekend and joked off his grades. I saw him laugh off his recent date rejection. I saw him joke about his insecurities and place himself below his friends.

And, to be honest, I lost my professionalism for just one moment. I forgot my decorum, and I lectured your son. I told him to stop. Stop selling himself short. Stop laughing off every important thing. Stop putting on a show. And when he asked me if I was telling him to put all his eggs in one basket to be discarded, rejected, or destroyed, I said yes. That was exactly what I was telling him. I told him to put everything that he has out there – to not hold anything back. And when it gets rejected and shattered, to pick himself back up and do it all over again. Because then, at least, he will be actually living. He will be true. He will be himself.

Because, in the end, that is what I do every single day. I stand in front of your sons and daughters and I put all of myself out there. I give them everything I have and reserve nothing, nothing. And some days it is rejected and I am destroyed. But I do it again. And again. And again.

And the whole way home, my heart melted and drained and puddled. I broke over your son, over your daughter. I prayed, over and over and over that they would feel confident and strong. That they would be true. That they would admit the power and importance of life and stop downplaying every single thing. Stop playing it safe.

And I cried because in less than one month, my time with your student will be over. They will move on, and I will start over and do this whole process again, and never even know what becomes of your child – my student.


And I put on a smile because I am so incredibly filled by being their teacher.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

20 Questions: Kaiah Turns 4!

1. What is your favorite color? Pink and Purple
2. What is your favorite toy? All of the toys. My Sophia dress and amulet!
3. What is your favorite food? Carrots and Broccoli
4. What is your favorite movie? Gnomeo and Juliet and Chipettes
5. What is your favorite outfit? All my striped dresses
6. What is your favorite game? Angry Birds
7. What is your favorite snack? Granola bars and fruit snacks and pop tarts.
8. What is your favorite animal? Pigs because I love them and they're pink and I love pink!
9. What is your favorite song? Let it Go (Frozen, of course!)
10. What is your favorite book? Princess books
11. Who is your best friend? Cruise, Bella C., and Maisie. I love all of my friends! Cruise because we play house together. And I love him. And I want to marry him!
12. What is your favorite cereal? Fruit Loops and Krave
13. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Ride my scooter.
14. What is your favorite drink? Sprite
15. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
16. What do you like to take to bed with you each night? A book and a doll that has some clothes. And my blankie.
17. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Goldfish and Nuttella and some yogurt.
18. What did you do for your birthday? I got a Sofia dress at the bibbidi bobbidi bo place in Disneyland.
19. What is your biggest fear? Mean stuff like bats and wolves and some spiders in my room and some bugs in my room and snakes. They scare people. And being really high and going really fast. Everything.
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Married. Hehe.

Dear Maisie,

You are two. It is so hard for me. I find you simultaneously 9 months yet 4 years. You are so perfect, it almost hurts. I love you so much it does hurt. You are my everything.

You are ridiculously little, yet act so old. You are completely potty trained but can't reach the sink using a step stool. Everyone it's shocked at how much you do even though you are so tiny. The best things = smallest packages.

You are the absolute sweetest person in the whole entire world. Everyday, I hear "Mommy, I miss you!" or "Kaiah, I love you!" or "Daddy, I want cuddles/kiss your cheek/hugs." You hug tighter than anyone I know and give the most violent kisses and loves ever. I love getting smothered by you, and so does Kaiah. You melt hearts. You draw attention everywhere we go. People instantly love you.

You are smart. Truly smart. You talk so well, hold full conversations, and know exactly what you are saying. The only problem: you have the softest, quietest, and highest voice ever - like a little fairy. It is hard to hear you! So, you have this habit of grabbing the face of the person you're talking to so they will look right in your eyes. I love it.

You are just too much for words. I love you, so deeply and thoroughly that it is hard to contain. Please remember that you are immensely immensely loved. You are everything. You are my baby. Love you, Maisie Face!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

20 Questions: Kaiah turns three!

  1. What is your favorite color? Blue
  2. What is your favorite toy? Alice doll
  3. What is your favorite food? cake
  4. What is your favorite movie? Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
  5. What is your favorite outfit? skirt on the ground
  6. What is your favorite game? running with daddy and with the blanket
  7. What is your favorite snack? granola bar
  8. What is your favorite animal? pig tuf they don't lick
  9. What is your favorite song? I love my best nest (from The Best Nest)
  10. What is your favorite book? coloring book - the white one (dry erase homework)
  11. Who is your best friend? daddy
  12. What is your favorite cereal? marshmallow
  13. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play in the snow
  14. What is your favorite drink? apple juice
  15. What is your favorite holiday? Halloween
  16. What do you like to take to bed with you each night? the mean queen from Alice and my blankie when it fall down
  17. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? cereal
  18. What kind of a birthday party do you want? Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter tea party
  19. What is your biggest fear? the monster that hides in my closet that eats me
  20. What do you want to be when you grow up? a Cheshire cat. No Aurora.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Three . . .

Kaiah,

I wish I had a way to bundle up all of you into a perfect little blog post so that I never forget anything. You are turning into such an independent little girl. So unique, so you. You are just so much more than I could have ever imagined. Ever dreamed.

So, here is my feeble attempt at capturing you . . .



You are so incredibly smart - like really, truly smart. People always think that you are much older than you really are. It's because of how good you talk. People just can't believe the complete sentences and conversations you can have!

You are more girly than I ever thought was possible. You love to wear your "Summer Dress on the ground with shirt under it." You love your nails painted, bows in your hair, make-up, princesses, Barbies, dress-up, and everything pink!

You have the absolute most gorgeous hair in the world - hair that others only dream of! 

You hate it when daddy calls you any nickname other than the only approved one - Kaiah Princess. His recent favorite is Kaiah pumpkin. Every time he calls you that, you say, "No pumpkin, daddy. Kaiah Princess!"

You will not wear anything other than dresses - not even skirts. Pants are completely out of the question.

You love, love, love your little sister. You are such a big helper. You pick up the sippy cup endlessly thrown on the ground, you throw away the dirty diapers, you "shh" every single tear, and you even share your treats in the car!

You make me so happy and equally break my heart. Most mornings, you say "No work today, mom? Mom, I miss you today. You no go to work, please." Breaks me.

You say the best prayers in the whole world. You always include Grandma WeWe and Uncle Jake, plus unique individual things each day. You love church because you get to wear pretty dresses and play with friends.

Even though you are still really shy, you absolutely love your friends. You always ask for "My Carter" and "My Ciara" and "My Bubba." You wish you could play with them every single day.

You are so incredibly loved. You are so incredibly loved.

Love,                
Your Mommy

Thursday, January 24, 2013

To my Maisie,

1 year. 17 lbs (7th percentile). 27 inches (13th percentile).

Maisie, 

You're so little. You're my baby. I'm having an incredibly hard time believing that you are a whole year old. Yet, every single day you do something new to prove to me that you aren't a baby anymore. You're growing up.
  • You walk. Not all the time, but in this excited bouncy little way of yours. You're pretty stable, but you get so excited and ahead of yourself and then stumble, with a giggle, to the ground.
  • You communicate more than I ever thought possible. You point and say "that" all the time. I swear you say "mama" and "dada" and "kai."
  • Food around you, any food (olives, pickles, lemons) disappears. We haven't found anything that you won't eat.
So big. Yet, every once in awhile you let me hold on to those little baby moments of yours. I'm not ready to let them go yet. Not yet. I cherish them too incredibly much.
  • You will sometimes still fall asleep in my arms. It happens less every week.
  • You still love your sleep. You dive for your bed at night and sleep 13-14 hours every night, plus a 2-3 hour nap during the day.
  • Giggle. Your toothy giggly face has never changed. You laugh deeper and truer than any one I have ever known.
There is so much. You are so much. You are this little ball of hopes and dreams and love. So much love. And you are changing so incredibly fast. There is so much I don't want to forget.
  • Elf nose. That's what Aunt Kamie always says. You have a perpetually pink nose that makes you look like a happy little elf. Perfect.
  • Mommy's girl. There is nothing that you love more than crawling over to mommy, being picked up, and just being held. I think you would spend forever in my arms, sucking your thumb, if you could. I wish you could.
  • You're already a best friend. You're obsessed with your baby cousin Aandi. You love her. You smother her with affection.
  • Sometimes I swear you are a puppy. You love to crawl around carrying toys in your mouth. Silly little girl.
I am so excited to watch you grow. I can just tell that you are going to be absolutely beautiful. Breathtaking. I can't wait to watch you become best friends with your sister. She loves you so incredibly much. Every one of your tears is her tear. Every one of your cries is her cry. She can't be happy when you're sad. None of us can. You completed our family. Kaiah made me a mom, and you made us a family. I am a better person because of you. You've softened me. I feel deeper and stronger than ever before. That's from you.

I love you so incredibly much and always, always will.

Love,            
Mommy