A Letter to Myself On My First Day of Teaching

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pictured: my rare mahogany shoe rack that I use as a coffee table (oops), a fake letter I didn't finish writing, and the world's best writing instrument, a Uni-Ball Vision Elite Micro.

A few months ago, I saw this article on Edutopia asking teachers to write letters to their first-day-of-teaching selves. And I did it! And now I'm sharing mine with you.
Dear First-Year Teach,
First of all, you look so cute! What an adorable cardigan. (Lay it flat to dry like the cleaning instructions say, or in a couple of years it'll look and feel like a washcloth and you will be a sad girl.)
Wow. Your first day. Your FIRST first day. I know how you're feeling. Nervous. Excited. Hopeful. Diarrhea-ish. It's like how you felt about that piano recital, except instead of five minutes in front of people it's fifty minutes times six periods times five days times four weeks times nine months, and instead of everyone listening to you quietly NOBODY will listen to you quietly unless you train them, and instead of memorizing something and delivering it your job is to improvise while convincing everyone in the audience that it's something worth playing; that they want to play it, too.
You have every right to feel diarrhea-ish.
I wish I could tell you that you'll have more good days than bad days this year. That you'll get a hang of this teaching thing after a few weeks and after that it's smooth sailing. That, like babysitting and being a camp counselor and volunteering, if you can just get the kids to like you, that means they'll do whatever you say.
But it won't.
It's not like that.
This will be the most difficult, challenging thing you will ever do. It will push you to your limits as a person. It will almost break you. There are times when it will feel like life has sucker-punched you, then offered you crutches, then taken the crutches and is beating you over the back with them while laughing hysterically.
Teaching will also be the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to you.
Weird, huh?
There will be a whole month where it feels like you don't go a day without crying. But guess what? In a couple of years, most of the crying you will do at school will be because of stuff like how awesome Poetry Day is, or from when you will read that darn chapter at the end of Wonder about standing ovations (it's this book coming out soon--trust me, it's the best), or from the time your choir students will sing "Gentle Annie" on a day just a liiiiittle too close to your period.
You know all those cute bins and folders that you think will keep you and your students organized? They won't. Part of teaching is learning how inept all your systems are and adjusting them to work for you. But you are about to embark on a journey that will leave you as THE MOST ORGANIZED PERSON IN THE ENTIRE WORLD! Or at least out of the people you know who are non-teachers.
Other perks:
  • You know those super annoying kiosk salespeople in the mall who accost you with flatirons and phones and perfumes? After you have a few years in this gig, THEY WON'T BOTHER YOU ANYMORE! Teaching has made you more confident; taught you to walk with your shoulders tall and with a purpose. Or maybe you just walk around with Teacher Face now.
  • You will be the master of time management. (This doesn't necessarily mean you choose to employ these skills all the time, but you can when needed.)
  • Summer, my friend. Just wait. It's glorious.

But the real perk--the thing that is going to keep you coming back--is something that's hard for me to explain. It's not because of what you're thinking right now on your first day: that you will be the hero in this story, or that you are about to change lives/the world by bestowing your benevolence and your knowledge upon them.
This isn't about you.
You are a vessel. You are at your most important when you make yourself the least important. You are here not to be in front of everyone, but to stand beside them. You are here not to impress others, but to encourage and lift up the kids in your classroom and the people around you. You are here not to be recognized, but to help other people figure out what is recognizable about them and how to use that for good.
I'll let you figure out what that means (I still am).
Good luck out there, kid.
Oh, and go ahead and put that Keurig in your classroom now. You'll need it.
Future Teach

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some summering to do. 

5 Motivational Posters You Can Make for Your Home or Classroom, All While Consuming Hours of Your Favorite Guilty Pleasure TV Show Whose Name You’re Too Ashamed to Admit

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Well, I think the title of this post is sufficient as an explanation not only for the post itself, but for why my life is one giant contradiction.

I’m housesitting right now for my parents right now, and since they have a) lots of space in their home, b) art supplies, c) cable TV, I’ve been cranking out some posters for my classroom next year.  You should do the same! You will need:

Kiddie watercolors, brushes, watercolor paper (optional), a little plate for mixing, and a white crayon (optional). And a little test paper. Oh, and a pencil (not pictured).

THIS IS SO EASY, Y'ALL. I can't stress that enough. All you need to do is:

1) Pick a quote you want to use. 
2) Sketch out the quote on a piece of watercolor paper in pencil.
3) Paint over it in watercolor.
4) Erase the pencil.

What?! So easy. Here are some of the ones I've made recently:

Man, Amy Poehler is a total powerhouse. I love this quote, especially for my middle schoolers who try to act like they're allergic to silliness.

One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes I was reminded of recently.  I think the mark of a good classroom quote is something that you AND the kids benefit from reading.  The Lady fancied this version floating around on Pinterest, so she copied it.

This was so fun to make even though it took the longest!  I was inspired by Kid President, circus fonts, and Pinterest typography.

Oh, sweet, sweet Charlie. Excuse me while I go bawl my eyes out. 

This one's a little hard to read, but it says, "And above all, watch with glittering eyes the world around you." Roald Dahl wins again.  For this one, I wrote the quote first in white crayon (which is a little scary because you can't see it at ALL), then just painted over with watercolor. 

I'm telling you. So easy.

In other news, during my painting I saw a back-to-school shoe commercial.  IT'S JULY 17TH.  Just another thing that won't happen when I'm president.

What are some of your favorite quotes?



The First Half of My Summer in Pictures (Alternative title: Why I No Longer Have Money)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hello! Hiatus is hi-over!

First of all, HOW ABOUT MY NEW LOOK? A thousand hugs, running high-fives, and t-shirt cannons to The Bow and Quiver for my beautiful new chalkboardy blog. Crazy talent over there! If you need anything printed, designed, or if you just want to email a nice person, get in touch with Matt. Tell him I sent you. He'll run away.

Summer’s in full swing for this lady, and I’m feeling great! Actually, that’s not true. I’m so tired from the whirlwind of the past month that I made myself sick and feel like I can’t move (WebMD says I have either mild fatigue or lupus). But it was completely, completely worth it!  Let me give you a recap of the past six weeks in pictures because typing is too hard right now.

The day after school ended, my best friend and I flew to London! These were some choice bits:

Ham House in Richmond, which I pretended was an estate on Downton.

The Victoria and Albert Museum: my new favorite anything.  Totally could have From-the-Mixed-Up-Files-of-Mrs.-Basil-E-Frankweiler-ed this place, if you know what I’m saying.

Cruising along the Thames. Who said England was all clouds and rain?

Percy Pigs. You have not experience happiness until you’ve experienced Percy Pigs. Better than Haribo. There. I said it.

We saw Antony and Cleopatra at the Globe—so, so wonderful.  Can’t recommend that experience highly enough. 5 pounds for a standing room ticket, and we stood in the first row! I got a pot of gold glitter dumped on my head! (Long story.)

We also went to Paris because I don’t believe in saving money.  Here is a snippet of the lovely things I found to love in the City of Love!

Jardin des Tuileries. That’s French for “The most magical garden of your LIFE; I’m not even kidding a little bit. ”

Our view from dinner one night. The tower started sparkling right before dessert. I almost couldn’t handle it.


Then I was home for about five seconds before visiting one of my besties in Brooklyn!  Highlights included:

Jane’s Carousel, this sweet little restored carousel next to the Brooklyn Bridge. I told my eggs I would take them back there one day if any of them hatched into children.

The Chelsea Market. So neat! I was able to visit the popsicle gurus at People’s Pops and totally dorked out-- I used their cookbook last summer during my popsicle adventures and every recipe was outstanding. This was a raspberry sweet tea pop.  I almost wrote “sweat” instead of “sweet.” They are such geniuses that I bet they could even make a sweat tea pop taste delicious.

The Brooklyn Highline. Whoever had the idea to turn an old railroad line into a flowery walkway overlooking the city gets an A++++ from me.

Then I went straight from Brooklyn to residency for grad school, where I did a lot of writing and also a lot of laughing. And one day a ladybug landed on me.

Now you know what my fingers look like! And my computer.

And there you have it; the past six weeks in pictures. I will not be providing an Instagram update for the second half of the summer, as it will probably consist of me watching Netflix on my couch until late August. Ain’t nobody wants to see that. But I will be blogging again, and that’s something!

I hope your summer has been equally beautiful and restorative, whether you've been galavanting across Europe or waltzing through the aisles of the grocery store at 10 AM on a weekday when you've got the place to yourself, which is what I plan to do the second I'm feeling better.