Well hello. It has been months and months and months...well, a whole year since I’ve written on my little space out here on the internet. Truthfully, it’s been even longer since I have written anything meaningful or of substance. I needed to take a long time away from writing to cope with a lot of the terrible awful things that happened in 2016 (and while I consider the election one of those terrible things, I had a lot of personal chaos). And 2017 was not much better...well, the early part of 2017 was pretty horrendous, but I am in a much better place now that all of the terrible is behind me.
So, what’s been going in my life? Besides reading, which I’ll get to later, my personal life has been rather hectic. The one solid thing in the last couple of years has been Matt, who continues to be a solid foundation for me to rest my head on when things get tough. Not to be overly mushy or anything, but I honestly don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been for him to keep me going when things got really bad.
I don’t want to dwell on a lot of the “bad” things, so I want to talk about the good from 2017. While I had a rough personal year, my 2016-2017 was a phenomenal teaching year. I finished my 5th year in my building and finally found my groove in a lot of ways. I’m still a very “young” teacher, but I think I have a firm grasp on what works for me inside my classroom. I tried some new things and revamped some policies and those things have been working for me this school year as well. In many ways, I have matured as a teacher and while I still have many things to work on, my teaching life is wonderful. I love the kids, I love engaging students in literature and history, and I’m happy with my current course load.
Last year I took the year off from teaching AP U.S. History, and while I missed the challenging content and students, I loved returning to the regular U.S. History course. It forced me to be more creative with my lessons and gave me a reprieve from the grading and demands of an AP course. I am back to teaching AP this year, and while I missed many aspects of it (the students and the challenge), I did not miss the grading load. The constant writing assignments is taxing on me since it takes up a lot of my personal time, but I do think I have a better work/home balance this year than I have ever had before. I’m sure that part of that comes from being more experienced, but I’ve found ways to work in grading time during the school day. I’ve taken to clipping work on a clipboard and wandering around the room while kids are working so I can assist them, but also check more assignments. It’s not the ideal way to assess, but it’s been working for me fairly well. The small assignments that can pile up so quickly get graded far sooner than they normally would have. My old standby was to just have large grading marathons on the weekends, and while I still grade on weekends, it’s for far less time.
I’m also teaching our Elements class, which is for juniors who struggle with writing. These kids get identified through all kinds of data and teacher recommendations, and are then placed in the course in hopes we can get them up to speed for their senior composition class. Both of my sections are team taught, meaning I have a special education teacher with me in the room. We get along great and the class is running pretty smoothly. These are kids who struggle with school, and it’s been a fabulous change and challenge for me. I have to adapt to meet their needs as individuals in a much different way than I do with my other classes, and more than anything, we have fun on a daily basis. I’m hoping that I can keep the course and continue working with these kids in the future. They can be very emotionally draining-they require a little more love and a lot more patience, but I feel like I form connections with these kids in a more meaningful way.
I’m also continuing on with my elective Shakespeare course, which has been running strong for 3 years now. I love the course, and the fact that I got to design it from scratch. It is very much “my baby” and I love the freedom that gives me in an era where most classes have strict standards, common assessments, and data collection. We get to do many fun and inventive things, and the class offers me more creative freedom than any other course. I keep switching up aspects of the class and already have some ideas for tweaking things next semester. That’s the fun in teaching-adaptation!
Beyond my classroom, I’m still involved in a number of other activities with our students and staff. I’m co-running our chapter of NHS. I finally have a co-advisor, which has helped me immensely in terms of staying on top of a near 300 member chapter. I’m also still co-coaching our Debate team, and we continue to do really well at tournaments. Our State tournament was in December, and we did really well. I’m also working as a leader for our Instructional Leadership team (planning professional development, leading staff meetings, etc), working as a teacher leader for the English department for the district, mentoring a new teacher, and trying to keep my head above water. I’m busy, but at this point in my life, I can afford to be. I also feel very fulfilled when I have a lot on my plate, so I’m good with this. I’m sure it’ll change in the future, but professionally, I’m very content with my job!
I wrapped up the final pieces for my National Board Certification back in May. It was incredibly challenging considering all of the “terrible” that was occurring, but I submitted and then waited. And waited. And waited. We finally heard in December and even though I was positive I was going to have to redo a section, I certified! I’m one of just over 400 NBCTs in Michigan. It’s a pretty prestigious certification and recognizes me as a specialist in the field of education (my certification is in Adolescent English Language Arts). :) It’s pretty wonderful to have something so difficult and challenging pan out in such a big way. I’m currently working with NB to become a mentor for other teachers going through the process and work pretty consistently answering questions, etc on NB sites for current candidates.
Outside of my teaching life, things have also been eventful. Matt and I qualified for a mortgage and some down payment assistance through a state program back in early October. We didn’t think it was going to happen for another year, so we were shocked! We jumped on it as our lease ended in November, and after losing two houses to higher bidders, we ended up placing an offer on a house in our current town and having it be approved. We closed in mid-December (the 19th). We packed, moved in, and started remodeling over Christmas break since our month to month lease ended December 31st. It was crazy. The house is cute, small, and needs some love, but it’s our own. We started the first chunk of renovations. We had to replace the sub-floor in what is my office/library (it’s amazing), paint, replace some fixtures, repair a lot of the plumbing, tear out some old trim, de-mold the basement (we had professionals, don’t worry), and now we’re working on the kitchen. It has been kind of crazy and I cannot wait for the kitchen to be done so we can “settle” a bit more. The process happened so fast that it still hasn't fully sunk in that I’m actually a homeowner!
Matt and I have also been trying to start a family, something we’ve been hoping for, but sadly, it seems we’re still going to have to wait. After years of trying, I finally got pregnant again in late December 2016, but lost the baby at the end of February. The loss of another baby broke me for a bit. I wasn’t quite myself and while I still feel chipped and broken at the edges, I’m better than I was and ready to start trying again. We’ve had a difficult time getting broken, and this most recent loss hit me harder than the others, mainly because we had started to tell our families, and immediately after doing so, I started bleeding.
We know that children are in our future, and if not the normal way, then through adoption. We know there are plenty of kids who need a good home, and we truly believe that we’ll be good parents. So, if it doesn’t happen the old fashioned way, we’ll find another way. I cannot picture my future without kids. We’ve also talked about being a part of the foster program and agreed that if we’re not pregnant by the end of 2018, we’re going to pursue one of those avenues in 2019.
And to make this more positive, I did welcome a new niece back in April. :) Little Olivia is my brother’s third little girl, and the three of those girls light up my life on a regular basis. Their love and goofy smiles fills part of the void in my heart and I love watching them grow up. I also have a new nephew (Charlie) set to make his debut next May! Matt’s little brother and his wife just announced they’re expecting their first, and that will make their little one my 10th niece/nephew! All these little ones to spoil. :) I enjoy being an aunt and having some influence on the little guys.
Beyond all of those things, both good and bad, I’m doing well. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time and have worked hard the last 8 months at some self love and care. I started Weight Watchers back in mid-April, and while I’m only about 25 pounds down (still about 75 till my goal), I already feel a million times better than I did. I went down about 2 pants sizes and I’m still getting smaller every week. It’s a long and slow process, but one that needs to happen. Hopefully by getting to a healthier weight, conceiving and carrying a child to term will happen. And, if not, I’m just happy to be healthier for myself.
Some days are easier than others when it comes to managing what I eat. I crave fast food quite often (Taco Bell remains my downfall...I can’t help it. It’s so good), but I’m still not drinking pop (for about 2.5 years now!) and rarely drink caffeine. I have a cup of hot tea or iced tea a couple times a week, but cut myself off after one. Water has pretty much replaced everything and my skin has never looked so healthy! Amazing how that works.
In regards to reading and you know, the original purpose of this blog, I go through moods. I rarely picked up anything at the end of the last school year (due to National Board stress and chaos), but flew through a solid 30 books over the summer. It slowed down once school started, but now that things are settling in, I’m in a book devouring mood. I haven’t read many classics...if any at all. I’ve been absorbing myself in books sitting on my shelves-last summer I read so many Rick Riordan titles that I had to take a breather even though a new one just came out. I also cleared off some other titles that had been sitting on my shelves for too long. It felt good to get to things that I hadn’t, and I discovered some great things! While I’m definitely pulling away from that now, it’s something I think I want to do every summer-get to titles that have been long neglected.
Currently I’m in a YA binge, having finished a good handful of books in the last week or two that are fairly recent releases, and I just checked out a couple more newer titles from our media center. I love staying up to date on new releases and being able to share them with my kids. I also took the lead on a recent district English PD and talked about the importance of independent reading in the classroom for our kids and for ourselves. I think the PD went well, and I’ve been trying to stay focused on using those strategies in my own life and classroom. Encouraging kids to read has always been a passion of mine (obviously...I mean, you are on this blog, right?), but it’s hard to keep that going when there is so much you have to teach in a high school ELA classroom. Hitting all the standards, and doing it well, while incorporating lessons on how to be a good human being, and on the importance of reading is challenging.
For 2018, my goal is to read a bit more of what originally brought me to blogging. As I unpacked my classics onto my bookshelves last weekend, I saw so many great titles that I have yet to read. While I still want to read YA (for so many reasons beyond enjoyment), I miss the “heavier” reads and allowing myself the time to really “sink” into some longer books.
I did start this year with reading Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills and am close to finishing Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork, so I think a classic is up next. I might just pick one off my TBR challenge post (one post back!), or just grab a random one of the shelf. We’ll see. :)
Let me know how things have been going. I have been so out of the loop with the blogging world I don’t even know where to start!
(and thanks for reading what is probably the longest blog post I’ve ever written. I just felt like writing.)