First-Year Teacher Probs

Hello from the end of a blog-writing hibernation! As usual, winter was a bleak season for me. There have been big happenings that pushed me through the gray months of January and February, namely buying an adorable HOUSE! But that deserves its own post. This-coming weekend, I am heading up to Virginia, reconnecting with the pieces of my heart that I planted in the Shenandoah Valley in college, celebrating my newly ENGAGED best friend, and attending a Rotary Conference where I will be a guest speaker.

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30 Day Striving Challenges

In the weight of summer humidity this past July, my sister Rosa Marie and I painted a consigned hutch that would go in the Greenville apartment I would be moving into the following month. As we rolled and brushed in the garage, we listened to a TED Radio Hour episode titled “A Better You.” One of the speakers, Matt Cutts, decided to try something new every thirty days, which is about how long it takes to develop a habit. Since beginning this practice, he has done all kinds of things – some ambitious, like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro; others are quite simple, like practicing gratitude, or taking a picture or complimenting his wife every day.

His seven-minute segment on that podcast has stuck with me since we listened. It made me think – what are the things I still want to add to my life, and why haven’t I done them? Maybe it’s time to try it, if only for thirty days. Matt found for himself that while doing his 30 day challenges, the time passed more memorably and his self-confidence grew. He also discovered that there were things that just weren’t for him, like meditation, or how going vegan allowed him to reexamine his assumptions; perhaps, just as we now don’t cook with shortening, eating meat won’t be a healthy practice in fifty years’ time.

My 2017 New Year’s Resolution was to watch at least one sunrise a month. I missed July and September, but I definitely pulled myself out of a groggy sleep at least 13 mornings this past year, and I’m satisfied that I did. Sunrises are extra special, because they require an extra amount of work. When I take in the promise of a new day, I’m aware that I’m doing something that most people won’t see. Especially since I traveled so much last year, I got to soak up some pretty spectacular demonstrations of God’s creation and the artistry of a painted sky (even if at other times there was a crane in the frame, or I was simultaneously warming up for a half-marathon).

Stigma surrounds many self-improvement philosophies, but I really like Cutts’ idea. Surely striving for things out of our ordinary routine stretches us as individuals, makes us more aware, and perhaps introduces us to new hobbies, interests, movements, or notions. In the last few days of 2017, I pondered how I wanted to approach the coming year, and I realized that I don’t want to be comfortable. As I settle into more routine and deeper, stationary roots in Greenville, I want to push myself into unfamiliar arenas by making and striving for new goals.

Apparently, most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions by mid-February. We get bored. We’re not disciplined or motivated enough, or our goals are unrealistic. I don’t have the tenacity to swim 365 days straight. But 30 days? That’s tough, but it’s feasible. This past year, I did end up adding some new experiences to my life. The two that most quickly come to mind are learning to scuba dive and running a half-marathon (I’m still on the mend for that knee injury, but I’ve deferred my marathon registration to next year, so hopefully I’ll have 26.2 miles in the books this December!) Both revealed new, stretched limits on my physical boundaries and showed me that oftentimes, to do something new just requires a decision to go for it.

Cutts recommended not making a whole planned out New Year’s Resolution of 30 day challenges, but I couldn’t help myself; there’s so much I want to try this year! And as I dreamed about what I’d like to do, I started pondering trips, and lectures, and books, and restaurants, and soon my challenges transpired into a full-on categorized spreadsheet. As my students would say, yes, I am so extra.

When I showed chart to Rosa Marie, she argued that I can’t plan out my whole life. I know; I’ve learned that lesson. But having a clear direction for what I’d like to accomplish makes it far more likely that I’ll actually get there. Plus, “don’t get sick” and “meet my husband” aren’t on this chart; these are decisions within my locus of control. Lists and productivity are in my nature; this chart is a pretty natural byproduct, comical and ridiculous as some of you may find it to be. I just bought my one month new member trial at Soul Yoga, so you bet you’ll see me doing headstands by the end of the month. The fridge is cleared out of junk food for Whole30. I’ve invested in all the cycling necessities and accessories to get out on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and far beyond that. 30 day challenges in 2018 – let’s goooooo!

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Water along the Way

Teaching this past week was hard. Today I spontaneously ended up at a women’s retreat with Rosa Marie that included a 20-minute writing workshop and an afternoon hike. Here’s a window to my soul, and the way I felt the Lord speak to me this morning.

I’ve placed puddles all around you. Walk along in the aftermath of the rain pouring into the holes in your own pores. I’m filling them up. You think you have face planted. You think that you should wallow in a muddy 3 foot circle of stagnant, dirtied water. But I let you fall into that place so that I can pick you back up out of it. So that the next puddle that comes along is not unfamiliar to you.

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Carolina Thanksgiving

In the Humanities class I co-teach, we’re currently exploring Restorative Justice as an alternative to punitive discipline and determining how we could institute it in some way at Carolina High. One fundamental component of RJ is building community and social-emotional skills by circling up. This past Tuesday, the last day of school before Thanksgiving break, I decided to use a form of circle time to practice oral communication and a spin-off of the circle: a thankful semi-circle.

Students were given a topic based off an old Mohawk tribal tradition giving thanks to ancestors and the natural world. Groups of eight students gathered at the front of the room and one by one went up to the podium to share something they were grateful for in relation to their topic. Among grandparents, water, trees, and the earth one group had the word “birds.”

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Marathon Training & the God-Shaped Hole

The first week I moved to Greenville, I decided to train for a half-marathon. Within thirty minutes, that decision jumped to training for a full. For years I have been a casual runner, but I had never clocked more than eight miles at a time. The initial 13.1 miles have always been a bucket-list item I knew I was capable of. The 26.2 seemed inhuman, which I guess was the appeal. It was a reach, a stretch that would take a lot of discipline, pushing myself beyond anything I had ever attempted. As I wrote in the September moving-to-Greenville post, I knew I would never have more time and less commitments than I do right now. I’m only responsible for myself, and I’m not committed to a gazillion different activities yet. Training would give me some built-in routine in this new life chapter.

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Off the Road

Last month, funemployment officially came to a close.

Following an unforgettable jaunt snorkelling with all the nea-ture in the Galapagos Islands, an invigorating few days trekking the AT in the Smokies, and a long-anticipated Charleston reunion with my soul friends Mariah and Tracey, I moved to Greenville for the next chapter of life: Adult-ing. Which I’m actually enjoying very much; so far, I think I’ve been kicking butt at it, even with all the boring, mundane responsibilities that come along with the role.

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Protest in Peru

I was not prepared for the barricaded wall of police officers as we followed our taxi driver down the sidewalk and out of the confines of the fenced Cusco airport. As usual, I had done just enough research to be a step above ignorance upon touchdown in Peru. First, we had written a skeletal 6-day itinerary on pace with Speedy Gonzales, the necessary reservations booked for our transport and lodging. Second, I watched a blurry copy of a National Geographic documentary on YouTube exploring the engineering and mystery behind Machu Picchu. That was it.

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