About those teacher anxiety dreams…

Every teacher has new school year anxiety dreams. Even when I’ve taught in a happy place and I was consciously worried about anything, they still cropped up at this time of year. Mine usually centered around finding out that my classroom was suddenly outdoors, usually on a sea cliff, and kids’ papers were flying away in the wind and I would like, “I don’t even have a phone – this isn’t going to work!” Or there’s the one where my class was suddenly 78 kids, ranging in ages of five to 17, and every time I would try to give directions, no one was listening. Ok, and sometimes I had one where I would hurl a string of profanities against my principal (each one, my dreams didn’t discriminate).

Last year was the worst because these dreams did not taper off by mid-September, but got progressively worse into October. I was waking in the middle of the night, stressed and helpless. I even went to the doctor (hence the “learning to mediate” goal) – school anxiety dreams are normal, to a point, and I had far crossed normal.

Tomorrow is my first “real” day back (even though I’ve been working my new job here and there), and I haven’t had one anxiety dream all summer. NOT ONE. I’m starting a new job; I’m still full of unknowns; I feel a lot of pressure to perform – but not one bad dream.

HOWEVER, I have been plagued with a recurring dream all summer long. Essentially every night since summer started, my dreams have been vividly recurring around the same thing: wandering around a European city. Sometimes it’s Barcelona, sometimes it’s Greece, sometimes it’s a city I’ve never been to (like Berlin or Rome). Mostly, I’m exploring at my own pace and having a good time – sometimes the sun goes down and I start to get lost (but not scary lost). Sure, you could say that it’s just residual dreaming from actually going to Greece in June – but I looked it up:

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Hey! that seems pretty on point! Here I am about to start a new job that is totally different from what I’ve done before, and it’s a positive sign. I told my new boss about this, and he loved it.

Yesterday I was was talking with a friend about going back for the new year, and she said, “I’m actually excited to go back – is that bad?” and I replied, “No, that means you’re in the right place. Everyone will grumble a little bit about summer ending, but if you’re dreading going back, that’s a really bad sign.” I’ve felt that dread, and it cannot be ignored.

Maybe in a month I will come back and write a miserable post about my miserable new life, but at this point I’m ready to get rolling. Sadly, summer is over and way too fast but based on the empirical evidence of Google dream searching, it’s time for a new start.

Movie of August: Breaking a Monster

I’ve been waiting all year for Breaking a Monster. Actually, three years.

What’s it about? Three Brooklyn kids (and I mean kids) who have a pretty legit metal band, called Unlocking the Truth, and their story of getting signed by Sony and thus recording their first single.

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At the theater, we overheard a guy brag, “I’ve listened to their music online,” like he had some extra layer of special. Thor smirked, “Should I tell him we’ve seen them live?” LOL, totally.

No really, we did see these kids play live in Austin almost three years ago at FunFunFunFest. It was a set I didn’t want to miss because what a bunch of twelve year olds really have to offer? Maybe it was the middle school teacher in me, or the aging skater girl, but they were one of my favorites from the whole fest.

On one hand Breaking A Monster was like a bizarro version of One Direction’s This Is Us. You’ve got teenage boys (albeit a little younger) just being boys – skateboarding, tackling each other, playing shows on the road, dealing with their manager, and recording music. On the other hand, we’ve got some Straight Outta Compton, with an old white guy’s hidden agenda of exploiting working with young, talented African American boys.

I also couldn’t handle the vapid team of people in LA, bragging about the women and parties they would suddenly be privy to – they had no concept of what this genre of music is even about. The boys kept reiterating the serious image they wanted to portray, but cartoon characters of their logo kept being shoved at them. The adults weren’t listening.

Did the movie talk about race? Of course. How could it not? Metal music and it’s fans aren’t exactly a diverse group of people. What gave me the creepy crawly feeling was how absolutely different these boys were perceived and treated during their shenanigans. In This Is Us, the boys are decidedly silly – riding skateboards and go carts and just generally jumping on top of each other nonstop. It showed us that they are just a bunch of fun-loving guys, right?

The boys of Unlocking the Truth were also skateboarding, playing GTA, and being generally silly – but the band manager frequently engaged in shaming power struggles, and eventually demanded that lead singer/guitarist, Malcolm, stop skateboarding or the deal was off. When they spilled Tic-Tacs on his floor, he lit into them. It made me uncomfortable. Would Harry, Zayn, Liam, Louie, or Nial be treated the same? Errrrmmm…

You won’t be able to catch Breaking A Monster in Portland, but if you can rent it online, it’s definitely worth the watch. I hope to see them play live again, and someday when they are big and famous, Thor and I can brag about how we saw them play before they inked a deal.

 

**SIDENOTE: Once the credits started rolling, I saw a familiar name in the producers: Thad Luckinbill, also known as JT Helmstrom from The Young & the Restless. I’m pleased to know he’s working on other projects that I can enjoy😀 Keep ’em coming, JT!

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A moment to brag about myself

When I look back on what I was doing a year ago, it’s a little crazy to think how many things have happened. I had just accepted an adjunct teaching position at Concordia while simultaneously moving into my new office at a new school. There were a lot of unknowns; a lot of new stressors; a lot of new expectations.

By December, I was officially hating life at my full-time job, but teaching at Concordia was seriously amazing. At one point, I left our night class, ravenous and exhausted, but still thinking, “This is the best three hours of every week.” Sure, it was hard to get up the next morning and go back to my “real” job, but Concordia gave me real autonomy and the opportunity to stay fresh in my field. I felt respected and valued by not only my students, but the institution itself.

In the spring, I took a break and returned for the summer term, where I taught two classes back-to-back. Again, I was starving. Again, I was exhausted. I complained to my friends that that I wasn’t lying on the beach getting my summer tan, and was instead grading papers. Bleh! But every time I left class, I thought, Today was actually fun, or Today I really learned something. 

When the term ended last week, I was honestly sad to see them go, but was ready for the break. After grading a bazillion portfolios and submitting grades, I allowed my brain to move into vacation mode. Puzzles, beach, gym. DONE! Tonight my course assessments popped up in my email, and they were beyond flattering. I’m always expecting criticism and negative feedback which then helps me refine what I will do the next time around – but this time there was none. NONE!

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Dude! Someone had a legit life-changing experience! I facilitated that! Holy shit!

Why am I bragging right now? Number one: because I worked my ass off, and I can be proud of my accomplishments. But more importantly, number two: if I had such a good experience teaching this class over the last year (and clearly others agree it went well), then maybe I need to look at the SIGNS. Perhaps this is really what I should be doing full time? Or is it only fun and rewarding because it’s polarized against working full-time for a totally dysfunctional organization? What does it all meeeeeannnnn????

I’m not sure, but it’s got me thinking.

Next week, I start my next new job, and I’m going to take a reluctant break from Concordia for the semester. Again, I have a lot of new unknowns and expectations. Here we go again. But what I do know is that one of those days (you know, those days), I’m going to pull up my Concordia assessments and remember that there are greener pastures.

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And if all this self-important bragging is rubbing you the wrong way, I’ll share with you that this morning I was so mesmerized by the boot camp class working out in the beach volleyball sand pit, that I tripped over their giant hose and went face first right into that sand. There was a lot of gasping and people shouting, “Are you ok?!” as I failed to be able to shake the sand off my sweaty, post-workout chest. Nobody’s perfect.

#4 – Get my name on a Pioneer Square brick. Check. Sort of.

Last year I was hanging out with my friend, Jennie, and she mentioned that her husband had bought her a “brick” at Pioneer Square. She said they sent her a brick map and she could go hunt for her particular brick downtown. It was a random, offhand conversation, but I made note that I wanted my own brick. I don’t really have a good reason; I just want one.

Pioneer Square (for those who don’t live in Portland) is a center area downtown – a union of sorts. Sometimes they have small festivals (i.e. the Italian Festival or the Holiday Ale Fest), and sometimes it’s just full of hippies and occupiers and people waiting for the Max.

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The thing is that I didn’t really do my research on getting a brick. I found the website to buy it back in January and then figured I would just do at some point. When I went to officially purchase my brick in June, I realized I had missed a May 2016 cut off. I still put in my order, and then got a letter in the mail that said my brick will be installed next summer…in 2017.

Whatever! The order is officially in.

The brick cost $100, and not only will it display my name, but I also had 18 characters (including spaces) to write something. Let me tell you, 18 characters is REALLY short. Every time I had something good, it was one or two characters too long. For instance, “Dude, where’s my brick?” and “0 to 100 real quick” were too long.

So what did I pick? Well, I’m not telling, yet. But you can probably guess where it comes from…telephone-busy.gif

Basketball for Beginners (like REAL beginners)

When it comes to athletics, I consider myself a relatively well-rounded person. I run regularly and played soccer, but I can also dabble in volleyball or tennis; I skateboarded and snowboarded most of my life;  I can even throw a football if I so desired (not that I ever do).

But when it comes to basketball, I know nothing. ZERO. Meanwhile, my dad knows more about basketball than anyone I’ve ever known (it’s like he’s speaking another language), so you’d think I would have at least learned how to dribble or shoot a basketball at some point in my life.

As a teacher, I’ve played soccer with the kids, shown off a few geriatric moves on a skateboard, and frequently outrun them in a race or arm-wrestled them into submission – so it’s really embarrassing when they throw me a basketball and it bounces off my confused hand and into the bushes. When I admit I don’t know what to do with a basketball, they instantly lose respect. It’s fact.

But 2016 is my year: I’m going to learn how to dribble and shoot a basketball on the most basic level.

Lucky for me, my husband, Thor, can teach me – just like he taught me how to throw a ball last year. A few days ago, I drug him to the Nike campus and said, “Show me what to do.” He demonstrated several things and coached me through the saddest, most basic lesson about basketball in the history of basketball. I consider myself pretty strong, but I couldn’t even get the ball close to hitting the rim from the free throw line. Come on, I’m 5’0″ – it’s a long ways up!

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It’s so high!

From a teacher standpoint, I needed to demonstrate 80% proficiency from a closer point before moving to the free-throw line. At the beginning of the lesson, I demonstrated 30% proficiency but by the time we left, I had my solid 80%.

Today, we returned and I made my first two baskets right away, but I got frustrated when the rest went everywhere but the net. There’s just so much to think about! “Tuck in your elbow,” and “Flip it in,” and “Your left hand is just a stabilizer,” and “Find your rhythm,” and and and and and…

Thor continued to correct me but then did his own thing most of the time. Within the hour, I could make baskets from the free-throw line about 40% of the time. That’s progress, right?

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My biggest surprise is how much work just shooting a basketball is. I just assumed it was all upper body, but there’s a lot of squatting and core – without even playing against anyone. Who knew ? (<–probably the whole world except me).

I’m not sure what will exactly constitute being able to cross this goal off the list, but I imagine I need to demonstrate 80% proficiency consistently at multiple points on the court – but that sure sounds lofty. So I’m leaving it open…at least now I know why Steph Curry keeps his arm up at that stupid angle.

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Books of June

With the regular school year ending, a trip to Greece, and starting to teach a new term at the university – I was slammed in June, but I did manage to meet my “three books a month” goal.

71Qo1SMfiCL.jpgThe Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin – I can’t believe that I had never heard of this book. A sci-fi book from the 70s based in Portland, Oregon and I’ve never read it? HOW? Without spoiling the plot, you have the main character, George Orr, who has discovered that his dreams are altering reality so he seeks the help of a doctor who ends up manipulating the dreams. There were times when I couldn’t read this book fast enough, and many other times where their existential dialogue was just too much for me. How many times do we need to discuss the precarious existence of man?!

It’s a great book, unique and strange (and based in my hometown!), but it’s not quite the escapism I was looking for.

jacket-cover-flat.jpgRestoring Opportunity – It’s hard for me to believe that there are people out there who honestly think that kids have an equal playing field in education (and life), but they’re out there… This book goes into the research of what is happening (and not happening) with our students of color and students in poverty. For me, it’s a dry read, but you can’t ignore the evidence.

What I don’t particularly like about this text is that it reads like a college textbook in that it’s full of research, but I didn’t find it to be much of a practical guide for an educator.

 

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Everyday Anti Racism – I love this book. It’s super short essays and excerpts from a massive amount of experts in the field, and the final section is straight up practical strategies teachers can use with their students. My pre-service teachers that are reading this for my class, however, are experiencing a lot of displeasure with the text. I can’t yet say if it’s because the topic makes them uncomfortable, they don’t yet have enough context as newbies, or they are just sick of homework – but personally I recommend this one for all my teacher friends. It’s a hefty book, but super digestible because each section is short and to the point.