Pablo’s Story

I made this two weeks ago, but couldn’t figure out how to upload it. Yes, I know I have uploaded videos before, but I couldn’t remember how I did it. Sigh. Technology is hard. And one more thing: when I say tests are dumb, what I meant is–STANDARDIZED tests not designed with English Language Learners in mind–are dumb. Just wanted to clarify.

Click below for VLOG number two:

www.youtube.com/watch

I am a Pokémon 

It is 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I am lying here in darkness and typing this blog on my phone on the eve of my 41st birthday. 

I am contemplating who I am and how I want to evolve. I’m like a Pokémon or something. (I don’t really understand Pokémon at all, but I know they, like, evolve, right?)

I want to continue to evolve and change who I am by changing what I do. In honor of my 41st year of life, I am sharing 41 truths I’ve learned as I have changed my thinking and my actions over the years. 

I love to elaborate. People who know me know that I’m the queen of elaboration and talking too much and overexplaining things.  But I will refrain from doing that in this instance because I only have a few minutes to write before my yoga class.

So here we go. How to evolve like a Pokémon, a.k.a, 41 random things I have learned:

1. Kids pay more attention to what you do than what you say.

2. A daily practice of meditation and prayer will change your life.

3. Judging others is not good for your health. It’s also a negative “low vibrational energy” way of thinking. 

4. Choose being truthful over being nice. 

5. You don’t have to be nice.  Like, really, you don’t. 

6. It is your responsibility to practice loving kindness, but this does not equate with being “nice.” It simply means you act in love for others and for yourself. 

7. The most courageous people show up even when they don’t feel ready. 

8.. That still, small voice inside of you will never let you down. It is there to protect you. It is the voice of God, speaking to you in quiet moments of truth. That is the voice that reminds you of what you need in this life, what to do next, and who you are. 

10.  When you are laughing you are healing. 

11. Practicing yoga helps you develop an understanding and compassion for your body.

12. Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love. 

Geesh, I can’t think of anything else. Maybe I don’t know 41 things. I’m going to yoga and then coming back.

13. It is not our job to make everything sunshine and rainbows for our kids. It is okay for them to experience pain and discomfort, and we walk beside them in this experience without trying to take it away. This is how they become resilient, kind, empathetic adults.

14. You don’t have to wear underwear. 

15. Processed food can make you ill. 

16. Meditate and pray. I know I already said that but that one needs to be on the list twice. 

17. Do not be afraid of pain.

18.  When you feel sad or anxious, go outside and breathe in the outdoor air. 

19. Let people be who they are. 

20. Do not assume what others are thinking. Ever. Ask them instead. 

21. Things that matter are going to take some time. 

22. You deserve happiness, respect, and peace of mind. 

23. What we cannot see, we cannot heal. 

24. There is no power in pretending. 

25. When you’re angry, ask yourself, “What needs to be protected?”

26. We can do hard things. 

27. Drink lots of water. 

28.  It is beneath your dignity to maintain relationships with people who do not honor your self worth. 

29. Relationships that you have to keep a secret are not relationships that contribute to your freedom. 

I can’t think of anything else. I lied about knowing 41 things.

==================================

Hey! I’m back four days later, and I’m now too legit to quit, which brings me to my next truth…

30. Don’t quit on your goals just because they are hard or you’re having a brain freeze.

31. If you want to find your tribe, you must first find yourself. 

32. When choosing a life partner, consider first and foremost if the person is right for you (and your kids, if you have them). Family members and friends love to give their two cents, but when it’s all said and done it is you that must live with the person. 

33. Ask for help when you need it. 

34. Set boundaries with people. 

35. Get your “news” and facts from reputable books and research–not television news channels. 

36. Don’t write lists like these. 

37. I know nothing. 

38. Only you know what’s best for you. 

39. After all, I’m a Pokémon. 

40. When trying to decide whether or not you should stay in a relationship or marriage “for the kids’ sake,” remember that you being in a state of unhappiness is not healing for you or your children.  You being authentically YOU is what your children desperately want from you. 

41. You are what you love. So make sure who or what you are loving is good for you. 

ONE. DUMB. CLASS.

This is the story of the day I began to believe I was not a writer.

I was 21 years old, and almost halfway through my junior year in college. I went to a small, private college with less than a thousand students. On this particular day, I walked across the student union, my footsteps echoing behind me. 

The thing I liked best about the union were the echoes of my feet shuffling and the reverberating voices of friends you could hear as you walked through. I have a memory of a day my mom and I walked through the union during winter break when no one was around, and we sang the hymn, “Trust and Obey,” acapella. She sang soprano and I sang alto. Our echoing song gave me chills. 

But, I digress. On this particular day that I formed my belief that I wasn’t a writer, there were no songs and no happy voices that I remember. All I remember was walking over to my mailbox in the union, turning the key, and anxiously pulling out the paper I had written for British Literature, Second Survey. 

This paper had a big, fat, ugly, red C written on it at the top. 

My heart began to race. This was my third C on a paper in this English class, AND I WAS AN ENGLISH MAJOR FOR GOD’S SAKE! I was an honor roll student–NOT a C student, and I couldn’t bear the thought of committing myself to a field where I was not excelling. I felt a mix of anxiety and anger, as I clutched the paper close to me. 

I decided to do what I always did in college when I was freaking out:  I RAN. 

I didn’t even know where the heck I was running to. I just carelessly sprinted across campus, becoming more winded by the second, as I breathed in the blustery air of Northern Indiana. 

As I reached the other end of campus, I looked up and saw Shoup House. 

Shoup House was not my campus house. But it was a house where a few of my friends lived. One of those friends was an English major. 

“Becca!” I shouted. “I’m going to see Becca,” as if my subconscious knew where I was headed all along.

I ran in, sped up the wooden stairway, where I was greeted at the top by Becca and two of my friends. They quickly noticed I was not there for just a friendly chat. I was there because I was having a moment

“Damn that son of a bitch!! 😡” I yelled, throwing my paper on the floor. 

The girls quickly realized the “son of a bitch” I was referring to was Professor Tom David. Professor David was young, cool, and some girls even thought he was hot. (Gag.) His muscles and boyish good looks appeared fake to me, just like his neatly coifed hair.  During my sophomore and junior years of college, Tom was unfortunately teaching a larger number of classes than normal for the English department, since two other professors were on sabbatical, as I remember. 

Every English class with Professor David was PAINFUL. My upper level English classes typically had anywhere from 15-20 students in them. Tom displayed an obvious favoritism for the outspoken hipster students in the class from day 1. He would start anecdotes with, “Last night I was at the Electric Brew, having coffee with Caitlin and Brad, and we got into this really interesting conversation about the use of imagery in William Carlos Williams’ poetry…” And I would be forced to listen to him name drop the names of the “cool kids” throughout a story that had NOTHING to do with William Carlos Williams.

I simply could not compete with the Caitlins and the Brads. They were badass,  cool, confident, highly-favored hipsters. They loved Tom, despite his preppy cardigans and argyle sweaters, and he loved them.

The non-hipsters in the class, me and my friend, Michelle, sat off to the side in class, furiously taking notes. Todd never called on us, and may have even forgotten we were there, until one of us had the courage to timidly raise our hand, with our voice shaking, heart palpitating, and finally saying, “Um, I think that T.S. Eliot’s use of the objective correlative in British literature is actually used by a lot of screenwriters nowadays,” and mid-sentence we would suddenly realize that Tom David DIDN’T EVEN GIVE A SHIT, and wasn’t listening to what we were saying. And so we would suddenly forget the very important, courageous thing we were trying to say, and end up stuttering as we looked around the room at people who refused to make eye contact. 

And then, eventually, we stopped speaking in his classes. Like totally. We became selective mutes, since we grew  tired of his disdain for us. 

We were also tired of feeling knocked down. Tired of feeling not enough. I was doing everything I could to write a good English paper, but I continued to receive Cs that were covered with negative, red slashes all over my paper. 

I felt like my identity as a writer was being stripped away. 

I had been working as the student manager/director of the writing center at my college. I was responsible for tutoring several students to write papers. I was helping them succeed. Yet, I couldn’t seem to catch a break myself. I felt like a fraud

And this feeling was enough to cause me  to withdraw from my English classes at college and drop my English major, even though I was one class away from completing it. ONE. DUMB. CLASS. With dumb Tom David. And I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. 

Not only that, I stopped writing completely. I didn’t write anything substantial for sixteen years. And for sixteen years I felt a certain degree of emptiness–an emptiness that haunts you when you aren’t fully doing what you were meant to do. 

You guys, 

that.

is.

scary. 

It’s scary because I let one person–one teacher–have that kind of effect on my life. And it shows how we, as teachers, play a major role in how our students view themselves.

Tom David (as far as I could assess in my 21 year old brain) thought I couldn’t do it–I couldn’t write a paper worthy of his intellectual time or a decent grade. He showed me through his body language that my comments in class were not worthy of even being acknowledged. 

And I believed him. Even though he was ONE PERSON. 

He was my teacher. And now that I’m a teacher myself, I try to remind myself of this experience as much as possible, because it keeps me focused on the task at hand: teaching my students to BELIEVE they can GROW academically in their abilities.

If I don’t believe that, how will they?

I have the opportunity to show my students that the most important part of learning is growth. I modify instruction and student work, while looking at students’ data over time. Each child is unique and has a specific set of challenges and abilities. As they grow and improve through hard work and practice, they gain self confidence. 
Oh my god, I think I need to say that again. 

As they grow and improve through hard work and practice, they gain self confidence. 

That, right there, ⬆️ was a difficult lesson for me to learn. I dropped my English major when it got difficult, because I didn’t know that I could improve anymore. 

Anyone will quit something he thinks he sucks at, if he doesn’t believe he can improve. Anyone–adult or child.

Now, I don’t blame Tom David for my decision to quit my English classes. I was the quitter. I was the one who gave up. I was so intimidated by him that I didn’t ask for help, nor did I get a tutor, because I was too proud. That was my choice, and I learned from it. 

And what I learned is actually invaluable–I learned that I have INCREDIBLE power as an educator to help my students develop beliefs about themselves–beliefs that can set them on a positive trajectory for life. And the first belief I want to instill is that it is through hard work–not just being smart, that one accomplishes the work that he or she was born to do. ❤️

Me (in the red) and a bunch of other non-English major college peeps, doing our non-English major thing.

My New Neighbor Loves Led Zeppelin

The other day I was sitting in the old rocker in my sunroom organizing mail. I’m certain I had a frown on my face, because I have a strong dislike for mail. Like I seriously wish every piece of mail I received would just turn into a giant electronic cloud and load automatically onto my IPad, and I would never have to go to my mailbox again…except for greeting cards and handwritten notes–I like those.

As I was doing this, I looked out the window of my front door and saw my new neighbor walking by.  I hadn’t met him yet, but I had heard him.  He lives above me and likes to listen to Led Zeppelin.  He also had been hammering something loudly.  A lot.  I hadn’t held that against him as my strong willed daughter can be awfully loud at times, so I figured we were even.

“HI!” he said to me through the window.

“HI!” I loudly said back to him.

“I’M ___________, YOUR NEW NEIGHBOR. I LIVE UPSTAIRS!” he proclaimed.

“HI! I’M EMILY. NICE TO MEET YOU!” I nodded in the general direction of my daughter’s room. “I HAVE A DAUGHTER,” I acknowledged, in hopes that he would know it was my kid and not me who was always making noise.

“YES, I KNOW,” he stated.

“SHE’S LOUD, ISN’T SHE?”

“NO… I MEAN, NOT REALLY. I MEAN, I WAS JUST SAYING I KNEW THAT SHE EXISTED.”

“OKAY, GOTCHA!” An awkward silence ensued.

“BYE!”

“OK, BYE.”

Because my daughter seems to also have a penchant for nosiness, curiosity, and just general people watching, I told her the next day that I finally met the new neighbor whom we have heard hammering upstairs.

“What’s his name?” she inquired.

“Oh, I dunno…He told me but I can’t remember.”

“Maybe it’s Mr. Hammerhead,” she said. “Was he carrying a hammer?”

I saw my neighbor again, two days later, when we were exiting the building at the same time.

“Oh, hi!” I said.

“Hi, Emily!” he said. 

“I’m sorry, now, what’s your name again?” I asked.

“__________,” he said.

I then repeated his name outloud, thinking that would help me remember it.

We exchanged pleasantries, and commented on the weather.  By the time I was getting into my car, I realized I didn’t remember his name anymore.  It was like my brain had pseudo-stored it.

“What the heck is wrong with me?!?!” I asked myself. I was starting to wonder why I couldn’t remember what he had literally JUST told me. His name was a generic one, too, which didn’t help of course.

I didn’t see him then for probably about two weeks, until one evening I was rushing out of my home to meet my friends for dinner.  It was freezing outside, and he was wearing shorts.

When I spotted him,  I got slightly nervous from not knowing his name, and blurted out, “Why are you wearing shorts?”

“I’m going for a run,” he said.

“Outside?” I asked.

“No, at the gym,” he said.

I then learned that we go to the same gym up the street and that he works for WFYI, the local public radio station.   The longer we chatted, the more I began to realize the inevitable–I would have to ask him his name again.

“Okay, sooooooo…you’re gonna think I’m dumb, but tell me your name again,” I said.

“Haha, no worries, it’s _____________,” he said.

Once again, I utilized my familiar tactic of repeating it outloud. As you can see, this tactic doesn’t work, since I am still filling in his name with a blank line.

Upon getting into the car, I once again realized I had completely forgotten his name. It’s like my brain was hearing his name, got overconfident in its ability to remember it, and then didn’t work to remember it at all.

I know this is just a little dumb thing, but it seems to happen to me frequently nowadays. I’m starting to get a little irritated with myself. What’s disconcerting is that sometimes I’m too far into the course of the relationship to re-ask someone his or her name. I began to wonder how it’s possible for me to learn a hundred students’ names quickly at school, yet I can’t seem to remember this one dude’s name.

I realized that it’s because 1) I’m a visual learner, and I have the advantage of seeing a student’s name in print as I learn it. 2) my classroom management and relationship building depends on me learning my kiddos’ names.

But really. Seriously. Back to Mr. No-Name Neighbor–I feel like it says something about my lack of mindfulness. My subconscious decision to not live in the present.  My overactive mind thinking so much about the fact that I didn’t remember his name, that I, in fact, wasn’t listening when THE VERY ANSWER I WANTED was given.

Sometimes I am so busy thinking about the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing that I forget THE VERY THING THAT I NEED TO DO AT THIS MOMENT.

I think about my students often, and how we, as teachers, sometimes get frustrated when they can’t remember something we have told them 1,000 times.  Yet, I can completely relate to that feeling of frustration–frustration within myself when I do the exact same thing.

One of the most fascinating research I’ve read in recent years about language learning (I’m an ESL teacher) is that in order for students to learn a new language, a teacher must work to lower their affective filter. There’s this genius linguist, Steven Krashen, who has extensively researched and developed numerous hypotheses about learning a second language.  In one of his hypotheses, he describes a person’s affective filter as this “emotional screen” that interacts with his or her brain as he or she is learning a language.

For those of you who have never been overseas or been in a situation where you were asked to produce an answer in a language other than your own, you may not know that language learning can be quite anxiety-producing–particularly speaking, which is our primary form of output and communication.

The way to go about reducing this anxiety is to find ways for students to feel successful–to scaffold the instruction while not watering down the content–and this–THIS is where you get into the genius of teaching. A teacher who shelters and scaffolds their instruction for all students–students whose first language is not English, students in poverty, students who are delayed in language, and just EVERY SINGLE KIDDO in their classroom–including the gifted ones–is on his or her way to mastering the art of educating and molding minds.

Molding minds is serious business. We can’t just let anyone into education because they think kids are cute. We can’t just give every nice, sweet person who wants into our children’s hearts and minds a “free pass.”

Because those are their MINDS. And this is my legacy as a teacher–to impact as many children in as positive way as I can.

So, in terms of the affective filter of my own mind….I may just need to give myself a break. And remember that the more anxious I am about forgetting something, the more likely it is that I will. Perhaps I could just remind myself every time I see my neighbor that it’s really “no big whup.” It will stick in time–at the precise moment when my brain is so relaxed that it doesn’t care.

And I wanted to post a recipe tonight, but I’m so tired that I’ll just post a picture of this log of summer sausage that I’m eating for dinner. Yep, that’s right. I’m eating a freaking log of sausage.