31 October 2007


Yesterday I shook hands with greatness. I attended the UEA conference with a couple of my friends from school with no expectations really, except to maybe get some free stuff and maybe get some good ideas for teaching in my classroom next year. Well, I ended up walking out of there feeling completely inspired. Unbeknownst to me, the keynote speaker at the conference was Erin Gruwell, the real life teacher who was portrayed by Hilary Swank in the film "Freedom Writers." I have never actually seen that movie. In fact, I never really had any desire to see it. It seemed formulaic, predictable, and a little too heart felt.

I think I might have been wrong. It was amazing to hear Erin tell her story. She began her teaching career working with the 150 "lowest" students in the entire school district. Her students grew up in a "war zone" practically next door to places like Beverly Hills and Disneyland, and really believed that they had no futures. Through literature and writing, Erin completely changed their lives. She helped them draw connections between their own lives and the lives of people like Anne Frank and Eli Weisel, people who had also experienced horrors in the places where they grew up. Rather than choosing violence, the authors of these books chose to tell their stories. Similarly, Erin's students began writing their stories. Erin encouraged them to make the choice to break free from the paths their lives were heading down. She gave them hope because she believed in them and knew the best way to reach them was to build on what they knew.

I wish I could really explain how incredible it was to hear Erin's story. As I was listening to her speak, I couldn't help but think how fortunate her students were to have her come into their lives. It reminded me about what teaching is all about. Once you become a part of the educational system it's kind of hard to forget about the powerful role you can play in someone's life. Things like NCLB trick teachers into believing scores are a true measurement of their professional worth. But I don't want to become a teacher who only cares about exams. I want to become a teacher like Erin, who gives students hope for the future and shows them that they have the power to do great things with their lives.

After she spoke, I had the opportunity to shake hands with Erin and meet Maria Reyes, one of her former students. It was funny to hear them tell us how excited they were for us to become teachers. I really hope they understand how inspirational their stories are. Hearing these women talk was exactly what I needed at a time when I was becoming incredibly tired of school and wondering if it really was worth all the work. Erin said that she was "an ordinary person who had experienced extraordinary things." I disagree. Compared to many of the educators I've met in my life, she is way beyond ordinary.

24 October 2007


So, I had kind of an awesome moment yesterday afternoon. It was more of an internal experience than anything but it seems to have had a profound effect on my mood that has lasted into today. Amazing.

It's not really much of a secret to those around me that I had a bit of a "rough" year. I had to deal with a series of extremely unfortunate events, and within the span of a couple of months I went from feeling like I was on top of the world to feeling like I was carrying the weight of the world. Around March I began to wonder if the universe was playing a really gigantic practical joke on me. I mean, no one could possibly have been experiencing the same crappiness that I was. Honestly, I realize that things could have become much worse. But it all felt horrible, nonetheless.

Then this summer, my load lightened a little bit. I went back to school for my master's degree and found a renewed sense of purpose. I went back to work at my usual summer job and laughed a lot. I even had a fun little summer fling. But in rapid succession the laid-back summer semester ended, my job was over, and the fling had far over-run its course. And by mid-September I was feeling disheartened once again. I believe the exact word I used when describing my feelings to my roommate was "broken." I needed to be fixed. I needed to feel happiness again. I was ready to let something good come back into my life, but I didn't know how to make that happen.

Then, yesterday, I experienced a moment of clarity. It happened in the strangest place: the classroom where I've been student teaching. My poor students. They were working on their reading skills. I should have been helping. Instead, I was having an intense, personal moment of realization that almost made me cry. Thank goodness I pulled myself back together. The thing that I realized is that I have a lot of love in my life. I have a lot to be happy about. And even though things can be hard sometimes I have this feeling that everything is going to be okay. I know I'm going to fall in love again. I know that this whole teaching thing, although unexpected, is going to work out. I just need to not be afraid of what I don't know and forgive myself for life being different than I wanted it to be.

"I want to let go and know that I'll be all right, all right."

19 October 2007

Pieces of me

So, it's kind of strange that I'm here...writing a blog.... I never thought I would be the kind of person who would have one. Then yesterday, that changed. I had the urge to check in with one of my friend's blogs, and I was sort of...inspired. I'm not sure what it was that "got" me, but something clicked in me when I was looking at it. And here I am.

You know, the idea of putting something out there that has the potential to be "seen" is kind of scary. The only thing that makes me feel a little bit better about it is that I am probably going to be the only person to ever really see it. I guess there is something about the idea of creating something that appeals to me. Even though I am rarely satisfied with the product, I always enjoy the process. During the act of creating I feel simultaneously relaxed, sad, content, and thoughtful. As lame as it sounds, it feels as though I am pouring my whole being into whatever it is I am making.

And then there is the whole aspect of writing that intrigues me about the whole blog thing. I have never thought myself to be a particularly talented writer. But I am an honest one. I feel more myself, more truthful whenever I am writing. I guess not all writing is created equal. Text messaging, instant messaging, facebook postings...those don't really count. But anything that lets me develop a complete thought, whatever that may be, makes me feel real, for lack of a better word. Maybe it's because I'm sort of a wimp and slightly socially awkward, but I am far more likely to express the truth about myself in writing than through any other means of communication. At least that's true when it's not on public display. I guess I'll soon find out if that belief stands.

So, here it goes, the hard part...publishing my first post. I really hope it doesn't hurt.