11 Teacher Memes That Make Me Feel Weird

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I will start this post by saying that I love teachers and I am one. I think they're funny and smart and strong and powerful, and I will defend them and what they do forever.

Next, I will say that after a brief Google search, I found a LOT of memes about teaching that made me feel weird. Please note that this is not because there is something wrong with the people who created these memes, and is entirely because there is something wrong with me.

Here we go.


The visual I have with this one is a parent putting their hand on my arm and saying, "Most people find you kind of dumb and unimportant, but some children who don't know any better think you’re amazing, LOL! Hugs!"


I would like for them to not forget what I said. 


This made me laugh out loud, especially the idea of giving this to a kindergarten teacher since they teach children who have ONE NAME TO REMEMBER. Also wouldn't it be funny to make one that was like, "They may forget your name, what you look like, and everything you taught them. They may forget your entire personality and that you are a sentient being. They may forget having ever stepped foot in your classroom." And just end it there.


I know this is meant as a rebuttal to someone saying, "Why would you want to be a teacher since they make no money?" but I only ever read it as "Pay me nothing! I am a robot teacher and do not eat or need housing beyond my storage closet where I recharge, boop beep bop." 


45 is the number of seconds I sat staring at this meme intensely before I got it.


Um, excuse me, Mr. Kazantzakis? This bridge would like to know if collapsing is mandatory?

Additionally, my next yearbook picture will be in this pose, I've decided.


“There you go, Johnny. You are no longer the ignorant fool who walked in my room last September. I’ve healed you! You can thank me with a Starbucks card.”


Here’s how I would improve this one: "Teach like a pineapple. Have a thick skin, but let people slice you up for parties. Remember that you are not great on pizza."

(This is why I don’t make memes.)

Also, I’ve been teaching for seven years. WHERE ON EARTH IS MY CROWN AND WHY DO OTHER TEACHERS HAVE THEM.

Also (again), does this mean I don't have to be sweet on the outside?


Love the sentiment. For sure would have gone with a different metaphor.


But what if your heart is made of books?! 


NOPE to this illustration and to the romanticized idea of my profession killing me. Goodbye.

That's all for today.



The 6 Most Important Things I Learned This Year

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Before we get started, I just want to make it clear that I have no idea what's going on with the above image I created myself. Is it outer space? Bokeh? Up-close Christmas tree? Who knows. One thing you will not see on the following list is "how to choose images for blog posts."

But here are six important things I did learn.

1. I learned to rethink charity. I watch a lot of TED talks (typically after I binge watch some trash TV as a way to absolve myself), and this was definitely the one that stuck in my brain most this year. It changed the way I think about charity, giving, creativity, and even many aspects of my own job. If nothing else, you will never think of overhead costs in charities the same way again.

2. I learned about loan forgiveness for teachers. If you’re a public school teacher and have graduate or undergraduate loans and don’t know about the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, educate yourself! Depending on what and where you teach, you can get quite a bit of money forgiven. I got around $9,000 shaved off my grad school loans, and I think that’s one of the smaller amounts. Also, I had heard that you can’t get both the Teacher Forgiveness Loan and the Public Service Forgiveness loan, but it turns out you can, just not at the same time. It’s all very confusing and the applications are an eye-roller, but it's all definitely worth the time and effort.

3.  I learned that Carrie Fisher said this. 

4. I learned that I have so much more room to be kind. I think if I’m honest with myself in the past few years I have begun to feel a little arrogant about my ability to be kind. As a teacher, I have a soft spot for the kids whom others would find unlikeable or challenging, and can, for the most part, handle defiance and personal insults from teenagers with what is for me an all-time high level of patience and gentleness. This has even carried over to the way I deal with certain adults who annoy or insult me personally. (P.S. If you want to get some practice having patience for adults who hate you, just start a blog or online platform where you share opinions.)

But what I’ve discovered in 2016 is that I don’t have nearly the same kindness and patience for a very specific sliver of humanity: adult bullies. This year, both online and in person, when I’ve heard or read about adults who proudly silence the voices of those who already struggle to have their voices heard, I lose my actual mind. All patience and gentleness disappear like a cloud of Febreze, and my immediate reaction is to want to say whatever I can to make the bullies feel small and stupid, which, news alert, is also bullying. I know what righteous anger is, and I respect the people who can channel their righteous anger into action, but I can assure you my anger towards adult bullies is not righteous and is very much a “I would simply like to crush you now” kind of anger. Perhaps the closest to kindness I get with them is not responding at all.

So although I haven’t learned how to practice real kindness with adult bullies, what I’ve at least done is recognize that I have a huge deficit in that area. I need to remember that I’m not a truly kind person if I’m only kind to the people I think deserve it.

5. I learned to make the best holiday sangria. For years I’ve been making sangria for my family for Christmas. Using a combination of online recipes, I've tweaked my sangria based on what sounded good or what didn't work the last time, and this year, I did it. I perfected the recipe. It’s not too sweet, not too red-winey, and with just enough cinnamon and winter fruits. You’re welcome.

1 bottle red wine
2 c. cranberry juice
1 c. apple brandy
2 c. ginger beer (ginger ale is fine but I find ginger beer to be more gingery)
1 orange, sliced
1 pear, sliced
Arils from 1 pomegranate
1 c. fresh cranberries
3-4 whole cinnamon sticks

Directions: Combine all ingredients except ginger beer in a large pitcher the night before you plan to serve it. Add ginger beer just before serving so as not to lose bubbles. Drink. Spit whole cranberries from your glass at your older brothers when they least expect it and laugh maniacally.

6. I learned that “fake it ‘til you make it” is extremely real. After I wrote my last post, which detailed how negative I’d become this fall, I was determined to change my attitude at school. I can’t remember if it was the very next school day or several days later, but at some point I saw a student full-out sprinting in the hall, so fast that his hair flew madly behind his ears.  It wasn’t even a passing period between classes—this kid was just unapologetically booking it down the hallway. My immediate reaction, as it had been lately, was to be grumpy—to stop the student angrily and say something shame-y about rules and his age and how he should obviously know better. But instead I challenged myself. I dare you to deal with this running fool with as much positivity as humanly possible.
“Hey!” I shouted. He kept running. “HEY!”
 He turned and rolled his eyes, knowing he’d been caught. I thought briefly about what to say to him, and decided on a plan of action. I began walking toward him frantically.
“How much time do we have?” I asked.
“I said, how much time do we have? Before they get here?”
He scrunched up his face, utterly confused.
“What are you talking about?”
“Well you’re obviously running from a zombie attack,” I said. “There’d be no other reason to run that fast in a middle school hallway, right?”
“Oh,” he grinned sheepishly. Then, seeing that I was waiting, he continued. “Yeah. They’re, uh, like ten minutes away?”
“Thanks,” I said, winking. “I’ll get my crossbow from my car.”*

Showing grace to the child who was way too old to be sprinting down the hallway did a weird thing to me. It made me furiously happy, as Jenny Lawson would say. I was practically giddy walking back to my classroom, as if I’d discovered something awesome like a bag of peanut butter M&Ms in my coat pocket or that it was Thursday instead of Wednesday. It made me want to do more gracious things, to challenge myself not just to be positive but to be as kind as possible in other situations that would have normally driven me bonkers.

So I did.
Don't get me wrong, I still had my grumpy moments between Thanksgiving and Christmas break, but for the most part, those two weeks were drastically different from before. Making a conscious choice to be kind and positive was a game-changer, along with the other things I decided to do from my list.

(By the way, I’m aware that “fake it ‘til you make it” won’t work in all circumstances in teaching or in life, especially when your professional situation is burning you out. I’ve been there. It’s brutal.)

That’s the end of my list. If numbers 4 and 6 make you think that I’m anywhere close to a model citizen, just email me and I’ll give you a list of some of the things I’ve thought, said, and done this semester and you’ll take it back immediately.

Let’s all be kinder to each other and ourselves in 2017, even if we catch each other sprinting in the hallways (which still makes zero sense to me).



*I do not keep a crossbow in my car.**

**I do not have a crossbow.

On Teaching Right Now

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Heads up: I'll be talking about politics in this post.

It’s not what I usually talk about, but I am today for several reasons. First, I should be talking about politics more often than I do: they affect what happens in our schools, classrooms, and the lives we teach. Second, this blog, more than anything is a record of my teaching journey. For the better part of the last year, I’ve stayed (mostly) silent on this blog when it comes to politics, but in my personal life, I’ve been deeply saddened by the campaigns as well as the aftermath. What's worse is that the stress has affected me as a teacher.

If I breezed over everything political on my blog, pretending the past few months never occurred or affected me, it would feel extremely inauthentic, almost to the point of deceit.

That being said, I’m totally aware of the overabundance of political posts out there. I’m not pretending that I’m saying anything that hasn’t already been said. I’m writing because I’m struggling, and because I suspect there may be some other teachers who are struggling. That’s it.

I know there will be those who disagree with me for the content of this post or for writing it. I welcome your opinions. In my years as a blogger, I have learned so, so much from readers who have thoughtfully and respectfully pointed out ways I can grow--those people have made me a better teacher and a better writer. 


The campaign season was tough for me to watch from all angles: the debates, the commercials, the posts and memes on social media. Nothing about it made me excited or proud or encouraged. I felt like I was watching our country under a microscope, like cancer cells, repeatedly dividing and infecting. Or when it didn't feel like peering into a microscope, it reminded me of the times in the past in which a physical fight has erupted between students in my classroom. If you haven't experienced it, it's one of the worst feelings in the teaching world--you just want it to be over. And isn’t that what so many of us said about the election? “Ugh. I can’t wait for this to be over.”

And then it was.

For the record, I’m not upset that a Republican won. I’m not upset that someone I disagree with won. Though my political leanings generally tend toward the left, I think it’s good in a two-party system for our country to trade off in leadership. I come from a family of mostly Republicans, whom I love. I certainly don’t think Republicans are bad people because we disagree on some issues, in the same way I don’t think all Democrats are good people because I agree with them on most issues. (Informationally: I don’t think any of us are “bad” or “good” people, but that’s a topic for another day.)

I’m just sad that it had to be him.

On a large scale, I’m worried that a man who has demonstrated little if any skill in curbing his temper will be in charge of our military. I’m worried that a man who has demonstrated very little tact and self-control will be representing our country when meeting with foreign leaders. I’m worried that several of his appointments, including the Secretary of Education, have been people with very few qualifications or with strong records of not doing the right thing.

On a more local level, I am sad and sickened for my students—particularly those in groups who are already marginalized—who have watched a person get elected who has openly spoken disparagingly about them or has made promises under the assumption that their personhood is a threat to America’s greatness.

But these aren't what saddens me most.

I take my job as a leader very seriously. I believe that even more important than my job of teaching kids to read and write is my job of teaching kids what leadership looks like. I believe that leadership means strength, but that strength is meaningless without humility. That my power as a teacher should be used to build up and include; not destroy and divide. That we are enhanced, not threatened, by people different from us. That performance matters but character matters more. That we should own our mistakes, apologize for them, and look inward; not deny them or find someone else to blame for them. I believe these things and take my leadership so seriously because kids are watching all the time. I know that in my every action, reaction, glance, and word that escapes my lips, the kids are watching, and they are learning how to treat others by the way I model it for them.

So more than anything, I’m sad that our future president so far hasn’t behaved in a way that indicates he holds the same regard for public leadership. And I’m deeply worried because I know the kids will be watching.


Here we are.

I thought maybe I'd be upset for a little bit. In general I'm a resilient person, so I thought the bad feelings would blow over, that I would find ways of moving forward. I even thought that maybe our president-elect would rise to the occasion and surprise all of us, as I've watched happen over and over in similar situations as a teacher. 

But so far, none of that has happened. Every new story, Tweet, article, political appointment refreshes my anger. Most of the time, when something outside of the classroom is bothering me, I can do a really impressive job of blocking it out and leaving it at the door. But this time the negativity marches right in with me.

As my stress builds, my teaching ability plummets. My patience all but disappears. I find it hard to plan or even know what to do next (ever caught yourself staring at a blank computer screen for upwards of ten minutes? That's been me the past three weeks). And knowing that I'm not being the best teacher I can has created this terrible snowball effect: stress, bad teaching, stress because of bad teaching, etc.

One day the week before we let out for Thanksgiving, a student told me I was stupid and that an assignment I'd given was stupid. He was having a bad day, I knew, and I softened my voice, preparing for the usual talk I have with kids on bad days about how important it is to respect each other, even when we're angry. But instead, this thought entered my head, as clear and as loud as if it'd been uttered into a megaphone:

Why are you talking to him about respect? Respect doesn't matter anymore. 

The thought was so jarring that it stayed with me all day, long after the last bell. I thought about it on my drive home, while making dinner. Respect doesn't matter anymore. Of course I didn't believe it (and thank goodness I didn't say it aloud at that moment). But why would I have thought it?

Then I realized: since the election, all I'd been doing was reading friends' angry thoughts, commentary, and memes on Facebook.

I'd been checking the president-elect's Twitter feed.

I'd been reading online articles, even ones I knew were propaganda trash, because they justified and fueled my anger.

I'd been fact-checking online articles and wanted to throw my laptop in a lake.

It's no wonder I'd begun to think that respect doesn't matter anymore.

It was then I decided I had to do something. I could not let the political climate continue to ruin my attitude and affect my teaching. But I also knew I couldn't just tune out completely. If I want to be an advocate, I have to stay informed. Since then I've been making a list of how I plan to do that: stay informed and involved, but without giving power to bitterness or hate.

1. Stay off my personal social media accounts. As much as I love seeing my friends' babies, dogs, and lunches, I know that reading the political posts are doing bad things to my heart right now (even when I agree with them). 

2. Stay informed the right way. I’ll be the first to say that one of the benefits of this election was that it made me take a hard look at the news I read. I had thought that my news source (which is not any of the cable networks) would be listed among the most empirically unbiased, but it wasn't. That doesn't mean it's heavily biased, but it also doesn't mean it's unbiased. With a little online research, I found several news outlets that were consistently rated to have the most neutral reporting. Note: I don’t there’s anything wrong with reading news that “tells it slant” to some extent, but I think it’s important to pair it with outlets whose commitment to neutrality outweighs ratings.

3. Call my government leaders. Social media has become an echo chamber, but you know who has to listen to me? Jeff, my state representative’s intern. I’ve called him every day for the past week and a half. I start by thanking him for his service, and then I ask how he's doing, or how the weather is, or I tell him exactly what I’m doing (once, Googling whether you need to pluck dog ear hair). Finally, I tell him my opinions on various political appointments that have taken place. Who knows if Jeff even tells his boss about me apart from, “Yeah, that weird lady called again,” but I have to believe there’s a better chance of my voice being heard by talking to Jeff nicely than by sharing something angrily on social media. (P.S. Once I actually reached Jeff’s boss! It was very exciting.)

Want to call your own Jeff? Here’s a handy link: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

4. Focus on what I can do, and believe that what I can do isn’t small. For me, this means selecting books for my classes that highlight stories of diverse and/or marginalized people and groups, teaching students to differentiate between real and fake news (because most can't, which is frightening), and trying my darndest, even when it feels impossible, to model the leadership qualities I want to see in our world.  

5. Take lessons from animals and nature. Dogs, man. Dogs and trees. I spent a lot of time this weekend with both, and I just feel improved. Rebooted.

6. Give things to my friends who are most affected and to organizations that need my help. "I'm here if you need me," is good, but I like asking others what would help them the most, or if they say nothing, just guessing. Once, a friend knew I was having a rough time in school and simply gave me a tiny plant and said she was thinking about me. I have never forgotten that gesture.

7. Eat things that make me feel good for longer than five minutes. Cramming nine Oreos in my mouth makes me feel awesome for exactly five minutes. An hour later, I want to kill the whole world. I know that example is silly, but I’m a big believer (even if I'm not a big practicer) that it’s really hard to do good if you don’t feel good. So for now, Oreos are on the '86 list.

8. Practice grace. Practicing grace doesn’t mean turning a blind eye or excusing bad behavior; it means recognizing that behavior is not the person, and remembering that in every person (every, every, every person, I remind myself) is a story worth a listen; are fears to which I can relate; is redemption. 

Reading over this list, I just sighed--one of those huge, exasperating sighs that end with my head on the table. Some of these steps seem too big for me. Some don't seem like they will be enough.

But there’s a quote from Richard Rohr I return to again and again. He says, “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living; we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” I’m hoping that by doing (and in some cases, not doing) I can get back to a place where I feel like a highly effective educator as well as a highly effective human again. I'll keep you posted on how this works, but in the meantime, let me know how you cope when you're not feeling your best in the classroom.

Thanks for reading, for teaching alongside me, for letting me write when I'm struggling.