Balance: do what works

June 28, 2012 at 8:55 am (family, goals, links, teaching)

Finding the Balance

Today, I’m participating in a blog hop with Happy Homemaker Me and Jordy Liz! We’re writing about how we find a balance between responsibilities and joys in life.

Back in September, I wrote this post with my advice about surviving the first year of teaching. Some of it still applies: I laid my clothes out every single day this school year, I made a lunch on all but a handful of days, and I was able to put the work down and go home as soon as the bell rang.

But aside from that… a lot has changed! We’re not joining the Air Force anymore (a decision that ultimately was about balance and what worked for us), I’m almost 9 months pregnant with our first child, and instead of moving this summer we’re settling in for another year in Los Angeles and I’ll be going back to work in the fall for another year of teaching.

Looking back, I have no idea how I made it through this year. How on earth did we eat homemade dinner almost every night? How on earth did I manage to write every single IEP on time? How did I sew a quilt and cross stitch a stocking? Only by the grace of God, that is for sure. And in this year, I’ve figured out what works for me, and for us. So here’s some updated tips on how to make it all work together…

1. As far as food and cooking: weekly/monthly menus just do not work for me. Particularly when pregnant. I would plan a meal the night before, and by the next day that meal no longer sounded appealing AT ALL. Even when I’m not pregnant, if I’m not excited about the meal, I’m grumpy about cooking and put off starting dinner in hopes we’ll just go out to eat. Not a good habit… So instead, I’ve taken to keeping basics on hand that are easy to defrost and I decide what sounds good at 4 PM every day, in time to have dinner ready when my husband gets home at 5:15. Two things make this possible: I am diligent about repackaging bulk meat (I put it in ziploc bags, which is not the most green solution but it means they can be quickly thawed in a sink full of water) and keeping a detailed grocery list. Any time we start to run low on any ingredient, it goes on the grocery list which is kept on the fridge. If I wait to make a list until right before going to the store, I will always forget at least one or two items.

2. You need a weekend: Friday nights, Saturday mornings, and Sunday mornings and nights are for relaxing with my husband. Always! Work/errands/cleaning wait for Saturday/Sunday afternoons, and Saturday night if I need even more time. As I move forward to being a working mom and not just a working wife, this is the strategy I’m most committed to, since I don’t want to miss any more of my daughter’s first year than I have to. For me, having balance in life is putting God first, then your family, then you, then work/cleaning/errands/the rest of life. My job is important, and I do have responsibilities to my students, but my family is forever. Jobs are temporary.

3. Find your routine: Sorry, this tip is less specific than the other two, but it’s coming from my heart and what I’ve learned this year. Don’t stick to something that’s not working for you, just because everyone else meal plans or everyone else stays after school to get work done. I don’t meal plan, I don’t have a cleaning schedule, and I take any extra work home, because that’s what works for me and my family. When you’ve got your routine nailed down, you’ll know – and if it’s not working yet, switch it up. It’s worth a little chaos to figure out what works for you.

That’s what works for me, condensed into three tips. What works for you? Join the blog hop and share!


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Well hello again…

September 24, 2011 at 7:24 pm (random, teaching)

Yeah, so life got busy. We moved. I started teaching. Tyler is officially accepted into the Air Force as an officer, and we are still jumping through hoops. Etc, etc. But, this weekend has been a wonderful time of catching up and relaxing. My kitchen is stocked with food for the first time in a month, I made a Target run, and got some crafting in.

I’ve got a few blog posts in the works, but first wanted to share my personal tips for first year teachers. I’d heard it was a killer year, and I was pretty sure I was going to die. But, I’m not dead, and actually I love it. Every day I arrive with a smile on my face. Granted, I still get way too many emails and have way too many papers on my desk to go through, but this is what works for me…

1. Clothes get laid out the night before. Yup, just like when you were a little kid. Don’t just think about it in your head – literally get the shoes/clothes/underwear/socks out and stick them somewhere. Saves me a lot of headache in the morning.

2. Be okay with random lunches. I grab a fruit, a grain, a protein, and a granola bar. If the grain and protein is a pita with cheese and nothing else, it works. It’ll get me through the day.

3. A sub told me, don’t let students get free rent in your head. They don’t think about you when they get home, so don’t think about them. That thought has made the biggest impact on me this year – yes, I still want to make great lessons and have brilliant visuals and all that, but in the long run the kids need to know the material. As long as we learned something that day, it was a success.

4. ASK. Sometimes I feel horrible because I’m having to ask questions about everything, but I’ve learned so much by being willing to ask. Everyone is happy to help, they were a first year teacher once too!

5. Laugh. Kids are hilarious! Enjoy what they say. And write it down!

6. Be willing to educate outside of the content. My health class, oh man. We get started on some random topics. This week, I taught them what the term “baby boomers” meant. Especially in special education, I’m there to help them in whatever way they need.

This is just what works for me – but it’s been the most valuable thing for making my first year a success.

Coming up… posts about my latest finds on pinterest, and another about how to throw a baby shower on a budget.

So how are you all doing? How have your August and Septembers been?

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An upside

July 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm (recipes, resolution: 1 a week, teaching)

Since the last time I posted: I started teaching high schoolers from China, I went to Monterey and saw a baby otter, and I have now interviewed for 12 positions in three months.

And then, today, I got a job. Sort of. In six weeks I start teaching full time, in a special ed classroom, for a teacher who is on leave. At the moment, we don’t know when/if he’ll back, so maybe I’ll have a class after November, maybe I won’t. Right now, I’m not concerned. Either way, I am thrilled to begin – I felt so at home at the school when I interviewed, and I am highly impressed by my future boss.

I can’t say that through this whole process I had faith that God would provide. Oh, has there been doubting going on in this household (which I think is a fully human response and something every Christian faces during their life). But, I am so grateful to have made it this point, to see light at the end of this tunnel of unemployment, and to be soon doing what I love to do, what I was made to do. And, I am sure my students will be saying all sorts of wonderful things for the blog. πŸ™‚

So for now, I go back to teaching high schoolers from China for the summer, then preparing for my classroom. MY CLASSROOM. I never thought I’d get to say those words!

In other news, I improvised a recipe for enchiladas the other day that I was sure would be a hit. The gist of it was minced bell pepper and onion and black beans inside with the meat and cheese. In my head, it tasted wonderful. Sadly, when we sat down to dinner, it didn’t taste wonderful. It was pretty awful, to be honest. Still edible, but it just didn’t work right. So, you don’t get to see all the pictures I took for that post, sorry. Unless you’d like to see some glamorous shots of ground turkey and cheese that have no recipe attached to them.

Any recipe successes out there this week?? I need something to get over these enchiladas, guys. Or can you commiserate in my attempts to be original?

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Not a fan of poetry

July 2, 2011 at 10:42 am (random, teaching)

I normally don’t like poetry. I’d always dread the unit in every English class where we had to read poems and analyze them. Short stories, I’m all over those, but poems are my nemesis.

Found this one today, though, and I liked it a lot:

by Dorothy Parker

β€œHope it was that tutored me,
And Love that taught me more;
And now I learn at Sorrow’s knee
The self-same lore.”

I had finally gotten out of my funk, and actually just had a busy enough two weeks that I didn’t have much time to blog. I helped out at my church’s Vacation Bible School, went on a church retreat, a vacation day at Disneyland, then I spent a busy week interviewing for two jobs. I drove 280 miles for two interviews for one teaching position, and I thought it was pretty much a sure thing. Was SO excited to finally be getting somewhere.But oh, is God teaching me to trust Him lately. A late interviewee bumped me from the top spot. I got the call yesterday that I was their second favorite candidate, but they only had one job, so they were very sorry but they had to pick the other person.

Ouch. Been at Sorrow’s knee since getting that call.

I have no idea where my life is supposed to go from here. I’ve got exactly one month from yesterday to find a job somewhere else in the Los Angeles area, otherwise we’re committed to our (not centrally located) apartment for another year, and I’ve got to find something in this area. (One of the areas hit the hardest by the recession, so openings are rare around here.) I know I should be saying that I know God has a plan for me, and this will all work out, but right now? Right now I’m mad. And hurt. And frustrated.

So, I push on. I have chinchillas to pet-sit this weekend. They are freaked out by my apartment, sadly, so I mostly watch them instead of playing with them. I designed my first quilt and got most of the pieces cut out yesterday. (Which made me realize I really need a rotary cutter!) Today we’re using movie tickets a friend gave us to go see Pirates 4. I don’t like life right now, but I push forward. I am in Sorrow, but in Sorrow I will learn.

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“You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process.”

May 8, 2011 at 9:01 pm (random, teaching)

So xkcd is this web comic, based on nerdy math science humor. My friend/former roommate got us hooked, and normally I read it, chuckle, and move on.

Today’s, however, I loved more than I usually do. Go read.

I wouldn’t put myself in the feminist camp normally, because I don’t advocate in the same way or for the same things as most outspoken feminists do. (Summary of my beliefs: I think the sexes are not created to do the same things: we have been gifted with different talents and abilities so expecting girls and guys to be equally good at all things sets both genders up for failure. Not to say that there aren’t some girls who are good at stereotypically male things. Also, be proud of what you are good at – if you are a girl who is an excellent mother and wants to stay home, there is no need to rebel against that simply because it’s “not progressive.”)

However, I went to an all girls school, and those four years there made me so staunchly pro-girl and so confident in who I am. That comic? That’s the kind of thing my teachers would have told me. They would have showed me that there are thousands of unsung female heroes, that have worked hard at what they believe in and done great things, but I am not to simply copy them – I am to be my own great person, working hard at whatever I believe in. Girls need to hear that, a lot, over and over. Heck, guys need to hear that too. And I feel like single gender/same-sex/non-coed, pick your favorite term, schools do that better than coed schools, but that’s a related topic for another post.

Either way, teachers should be like zombie Marie Curie in today’s xkcd, and I hope I am like that too. Students need to hear that they can be great in their own way, and that’s accomplished by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process.

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Pea Plants and Babies

April 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm (teaching)

So for one of my lessons I had the brilliant idea to plant pea seeds with my students and then we could measure them and keep data as a combo math/science lesson. It’s been a week and a half and only four of thirteen plants have sprouted… but we had fun, so who cares.

We can’t leave the plants outside overnight, so each morning we take the box of plants outside. As I was walking out with two students and our plants this morning, I asked them if they’ll remember to take care of them after I leave, since tomorrow is my last day of student teaching. (YAY!)

One of my students’ response? “I don’t know about that… I could barely take care of a baby, let alone a plant!”

πŸ™‚ Yes, cause taking care of a plant? SO MUCH more work than taking care of a baby…
(And no worries, he doesn’t have a baby. Whew.)

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new nicknames, and birthday reflections

April 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm (family, friends, random, teaching)

Upon finding out it was my birthday today, the students tried to guess how old I was. Most guesses ranged from 18-23. When I said I was turning 24, one girl remarked, “You’re young, but pretty.”

Young but pretty?! Okay… πŸ™‚ Suffice it to say, they were very surprised at how old I actually am. Also that I’m married. It still cracks me up when students are surprised that I have a life outside of school!

Some other students (not in my class, in another class) also calling me “Barbie” now. I’m not really sure what to make of that. Do they think I’m too pretty? Too fake? Childish? I have no idea, and I don’t plan on finding out. πŸ™‚

So today, I am 24 years old. This feels incredibly old to me… the other day someone asked me how old I was and I almost responded “22,” before I realized not only was I 23 at that point, I was almost 24! I’m excited to be older, I’m excited for this year. I feel like we’ve been transitioning from college and grad school life thus far, and the next year has a lot of big grown up changes coming. 23 wasn’t that exciting of an age, but I hope 24 will be.

How about you? Are you more excited about certain birthdays than others? I hope you’re still excited about birthdays in adulthood… a birthday is such a fun day to celebrate!

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I feel like I only have teaching stories nowadays…

March 31, 2011 at 9:04 pm (random, teaching)

So after writing about love, and then reading Bethany’s comment, I decided to go re-read some of my old Facebook notes… I feel like I used to have so many more things to talk about! But then I remember I was in college, and I could surf the internet multiple hours a day while in class…

Back to the title, I feel like most of my life is teaching right now. Not that I’m complaining, I LOVE it and love being able to do what I truly believe I am made to do, and I love hearing my fellow teaching friends’ stories. I think it’s just the state of my life right now, and I like it. πŸ™‚

Today’s moment… one of the best moments in the last four weeks at my current school. There is a girl, we’ll call her L. She’s an older high schooler and high functioning but not capable of core curriculum. Hence, she’s in my functional academics class that I teach every morning. Today the teacher decided we’d go out in the community for some research for things the school wants to buy. She threw a hissy fit, complete with colorful language, stomping around, and screaming. Took about 20 minutes to get her in the car, and then all we heard on the way to the first store was about how she didn’t want to be seen with her classmates, she hated us all, etc. She sulked in the car with the teacher while I went in to the first store with two students. On the way to the second store, she quietly said she’d like to go in with me.

I was nervous… I don’t have a ton of authority yet with these kids, and they can get easily upset and bolt. But I agreed, so in we went with one of her classmates. We found what we wanted to price match, wrote down the info, and then I told her we could head back to the van. She looked at me in surprise and said “That’s it?! That’s all we came in here for??”

and then, surprise of all surprises, she said, “I got so worked up over nothing… I’m really embarrassed right now.”

Ah, Miss L, yes, you did get worked up over nothing. But it’s okay, you learned something and we moved on together. I’m so happy you realized it and that we got to have our moment… you made my day. πŸ™‚

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special education

March 10, 2011 at 4:53 pm (teaching)

So I’m just over half way through my 16 week student teaching experience. I had an amazing placement for my first eight weeks, with a teacher who was the perfect combination of supportive when I needed it and hands off when I needed to do it myself. I had 13 wonderful students and 4 amazing aides, and I miss that class SO MUCH!

My latest placement (I’m finishing up my second week there) hasn’t been as wonderful. The students are fine, I’m starting to form a rapport with a few of them, but most of my issues stem from having a fundamentally different educational philosophy than the administration. I firmly believe that teachers have niches: a great teacher can teach any class halfway decently, but everyone has a particular population they will really shine in, especially in special education. This new school is not my niche, and I’ve been a little (maybe a lot) melancholy about it.

But today, my old class was having a little party before they go off track, and I was invited to come back for the last part of the school day. I walked up to the door and knocked, and one of the girls was standing right by the window. She started jumping up and down, shouting “Miss Stacey, you came back!! You came back!!” I laughed, and told her if she was so excited to see me, why wasn’t she opening the door for me?! Another girl came up and tapped me on the leg at the end of the day, as we were all getting ready to leave, and asked me if I’d be coming back tomorrow. I explained that no, she was going off track, and I had to be working at my other school, but maybe I’d come back in May when I wasn’t student teaching anymore. She listened to my ridiculously long answer, and when I was done she nodded her head and said, “Ok. You come back tomorrow.” πŸ™‚ Gotta love her – she knows what she wants and she’s sure it’s going to happen that way!

I’d been feeling a little discouraged the last two weeks. When I don’t click with a class, I start doubting my abilities as a teacher. I’d been doing a lot of doubting lately, and I needed today’s visit to reaffirm how much I want to teach, and how ready I am to take on the challenge of my own class. I’m ready to tackle the next six weeks now, thanks to a bunch of students who will never know the impact they’ve had on me.

And a little video to start off the weekend (Thursday night is close enough to the weekend, right??). This is PS22, a public school from New York. They sang at the Oscars, and their teacher is one of my inspirations. Talk about making a difference!

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