I Declare This Meeting of The Midnight Society Closed.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

There are a lot of hard things about being a teacher, such as all the planning, dealing with discipline issues, and grading. But I will tell you that the absolute hardest thing about being a teacher is sitting in your room at 10:40 a.m. when you should have your fourth period students but they are not there because they have graduated. It's way too quiet. Saying goodbye is the hardest thing.

I love all my students, but I am particularly close to this year's eighth grade class. There was only eight of them, and they were all so well behaved and polite. They were just easy. Anything you wanted them to do, they did with energy and smiles. They were just a joy to teach. I looked forward to seeing them every day.

Really, it all started with a mouse. A little mouse named Algernon, whom we read about early in the year. Then it was The Midnight Society. And then -- and THEN -- it was To Kill a Mockingbird. And that was our special year together.

They graduated Wednesday night. The girl who is the valedictorian spoke about a few of her past and present teachers. She spoke about me last and said I taught them that not everything had to be so stressful, and that they should trust their teachers more because we're there to help. And, as if that was not enough, she finished by saying, "Most importantly, she taught us that a book can change your life."

I am STILL crying. And honestly, I might print that on a poster and hang it on my classroom wall. In fact, I absolutely will.

I also received a card from another of my eighth graders. It was one of the most humbling, kind, and longest letters I've ever received. I will forever keep it -- and the contents of it -- for myself, but the P.S. was especially profound. My student told me when she gave me the card that she knew this would be the last thing she'd ever write that I'd read (*sob*) and she knew the last line had to be a great one:

I'll say she succeeded. (And she doesn't know how much of that she owes to Story.) Man. MAN.

I am so proud of this class. They will do so much that is great in their lives. I am sad for me, because they will move on, and I will be back in the same classroom missing them, but I am so happy for them too. I can't wait to see what they'll do.

I feel like God has blessed me so much this year with this job and this calling. I will never know why He gave this to me, but I will forever be grateful to Him.

I am a Teacher.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Man, I had a pretty trying day. I am taking a class this summer that meets on four Saturdays from 9-6 and two Fridays from 5-9 in Charleston, which is about an hour from where I live.

And you know what, that's cool. I had reconciled myself to that fact. It's only a few times, and it's better to take it in summer when I'm not teaching school instead of fall when I'd be teaching Monday through Friday. So I drove to Charleston today with my snacks, my water, my lunch packed, a notebook, and my required three-ring binder. Ready to learn because I love new teaching ideas.

Overall my teacher seems nice and she is definitely interested in the subject matter, so that's great. But the problem lies in something that requires a smidge of backstory.

See, my undergraduate degree is in political science, and I also have a master's degree in journalism. Because my undergrad is political science, upon completion of my Master's in Teaching program, I will be certified to teach social studies for grades five through adult. I already passed the Praxis II exam in that content area. However, I currently teach Language Arts at Fatima. I teach all three middle school grades (6, 7, and 8), and I teach grammar, writing, literature, spelling, and vocabulary. In our diocese, a person can teach as long as there is a plan in place for teaching certification. So everything I've studied and taught over the past year is straight language arts.

I had an amazing teacher last semester (shout out Kelly Bonar!) who was like -- Anna, look, I get that social studies is technically your area, but you teach language arts, so please feel free to do all applicable work in this class for language arts. Do things you can use.

Oh, also, I should add now that I have also taken, and passed (with flying colors, I might humbly add) the language arts Praxis II exam.

During a break today, I mentioned to my teacher that where Marshall is concerned my content area is social studies, but I teach (and plan to continue to teach) language arts, so would it be all right if I did my work in this class focused on language arts? (Thinking that it would be great to plan actual lessons with actual students in mind and actually teach them.) Um, she laughed at me. Like actually laughed. And I'm still not sure why. And also, I never got an answer other than that, so I assume the answer is no? After she laughed at me, she asked me how I plan to do my student teaching, so I explained what my principal had worked out with Marshall concerning my placement for the fall. (In a nutshell, I'll be going into a public school to teach social studies one day a week while keeping up all my language arts/religion duties at Fatima.) She said that might work, but that there's no way I can teach at Fatima and also student teach in the spring (because you need way more hours). Thanks? I mean, I know it's the state's fault -- not Marshall's -- that I, in essence, have to leave my teaching job to go student teach so I can get a teaching job, but could I get some support? I mean, we have tons of standards we have to meet for our academics PLUS we have to integrate Catholic Identity into everything, so we actually have MORE standards.

And all of that was fine until this one incident. During a break, the girl next to me and I were chatting, and she was asking me about teaching and going to school. She said, "So do you have a conditional license from the state or something?" Before I could explain the diocesan rules, my teacher butts in and says, and I quote, "SHE'S NOT CERTIFIED."

Okay. Thanks.

In this past year, I have been going to school full time while also being a first-year teacher. I have put in more hours that I can remember since I officially accepted this job July 11 doing research, planning lessons, reading about best teaching practices, reading books, scouring the internet, cleaning, organizing, scrubbing, etc. I'm not complaining because most of it was a lot of fun, and I have loved my teaching job. But I say all that to say, I might not have that much formal education in teaching, but I am a teacher.


You want to know how I know that? I have actual students. My students -- who I write lesson plans for, whose work I grade, whose learning I encourage, whose well being I lose sleep over, who I am always there for -- are ACTUAL people. They are not hypothetical students I might have "one day" when I graduate the MAT program. They are Magdalena and Olivia. Tommy and Gabe. Katy and Zoe. Some of them are amazing creative writers. Some love to talk. Some are class clowns. Some always forget to raise their hands. They are oldest children, youngest children, middle children. They come from families with 10 kids and they are only children. They have parents with limitless money, and some have parents who work multiple jobs. Some are C students who could be A students, while others get Cs we celebrate. In fact, last week, I wrote on a student's spelling test, "It makes my week when you get a 100% on a spelling test!" AND IT DOES. And if that's not being a teacher, then I honestly am not sure what is.

One of the things I said to my mom/dad/Erin/Melissa/anyone who would listen back in July before I formally accepted this job is that I was afraid that the other teachers at my school would think that I thought that I could do what they do, no problem, pretty much poo-poohing their years of education and experience. Which is not how I feel AT ALL. But you know what? Not a one of them has ever said or even insinuated they felt that way. Not once. In fact, the most veteran teacher at our school, who has won many awards and who is one of my favorite teachers of all time said to me (when I brought this up to her last summer) -- Anna, the only thing having a teaching degree means is that you have a teaching degree.

Wow. I have carried that with me this whole school year.

A parent who has a kid in my class this year and will have two next year, when I mentioned the lack of degree to her said -- Anna, you have to stop getting hung up on that degree.

Wow. I have carried that with me too.

Am I the best teacher at my school? NOT BY A LONG SHOT. I have so much to learn, which is why I go to my classes with an open mind and heart to be an even better teacher. But have I given this year literally every. single. drop. of everything I had? Most definitely. And every time my 100% was not enough (which was every day), the Lord came in and gave me exactly what I needed. And I believe He has done that because He called me to something, I said yes to Him even though I was scared terrified, He sees that I give it all I have, and He honors that.

Obviously I place a high value on education. I'm a teacher. Haha. And I don't say all this for pity or compliments or anything. I say it because I need your prayers. And your support. And, if you are ever in a position where you can lift someone up or make them feel inferior, please pick lift someone up.

That's what a teacher would do.

Dear Jen Hatmaker,

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

This article is making the rounds again, as it is the end of the school year for almost everyone. I've read it before, but it's floating around Facebook again now that it's mid-May. I highly suggest you read it, as it is very funny, but in a nutshell, it's a mom writing about how she is barely making it through the last few weeks of the school year because she's so over it. She's very careful to point out that "Just in case you think this is 'anti-teachers,' you might want to check out what I wrote last month: Dear Teachers Everywhere. TEACHERS RULE. We ALL crossed the finish line together. Cheers!"

Well, Mrs. Jen Hatmaker, as a teacher I'm here to tell you


I mean dude. Teachers work hard. Teachers, at least the good ones, plan lessons up until the very last day of school, trying to cram in every bit of material we possibly can for our students.

Our school's last day is June 2, and we only have half a day that day. Between now and then, we have a special mass, movie, and lunch for the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima (tomorrow!); our eighth graders (and I!) are spending three days in Washington, D.C.; we have a spring band concert and awards day that takes up half a day; and we have a day spent at Camden Park. So, as you can see, we have a lot going on.

And I started a new grammar unit today with the seventh grade.

Do you know what it's like -- can you even imagine what it's like -- to teach GRAMMAR to SEVENTH GRADERS at 2 P.M. in the MIDDLE OF MAY? I truly have absolutely nothing with which to compare it. Oh, and then when I'm done with that, I get to spend another 43 minutes teaching them literature. It honestly took us about 15 minutes to read two pages of "Insurgent" last week because they absolutely could not stay on task. Everything is funny. EV-ER-Y-THING.

"Miss Lafferre, look, that sentence just says 'Apples grow.' BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAH."

And everyone is cracking up for the next five minutes. Because absolutely nothing on earth is funnier than short sentences about apples. AmIright?

I find myself constantly saying things like:

Guys, we just have to hold it together for 25 more minutes today ...

I know it's almost summer, and, believe it or not, I want to go to the pool too, but there is stuff we still have to do ... 

Okay, we can do this the easy way or the hard way: the easy way is I cover what we need to cover, you write it down, we do an activity, and we call it a day. The hard way is that we can't get it together and I send all this home with you to do after school ... 

Okay, guys, we need to get our lives together ...

Get your life together ...

Get your life together ...

Get your life together ...

Homie, I WANT TO GO TO THE POOL TOO, you know what I'm saying? But it's also important to me that you know these little things like how to read, write, and diagram sentences.

Getting these middle school students to do anything this time of year is much like me trying to get Baby Snickers to assist me with the household chores. He doesn't understand English and he lacks any and all capability and motivation to help out.

So, Jen Hatmaker, I hear you. As I've said to my coworker Sarah on numerous occasions in the past couple of weeks, I feel like we are all army crawling across the finish line. Right arm, left arm, we're almost there. The thing is, we have to cross that line together, and it's sentence diagramming and book reading that is going to get us there.

Parents, we get it. We're still asking you to initial AR logs and sign TTM sheets. But we promise we're doing it to help your kid, not torture you. Just give us about 14 more days, and your little angels will be all yours for the whole summer!



Monday, May 11, 2015

Last Sunday I wrote about my new thoughts on food. A week in, I have to say I'm pretty proud of my efforts and am really happy with how I've been feeling physically.

Also ALSO!!! I have to update you on a recipe. So in that same post I mentioned that I made a parfait of plain Greek yogurt, raspberries, and Love Crunch as a little dessert. And, yeah, it was tasty. But you guys. YOU GUYS.

A few days ago I decided to mix some raspberries and about a teaspoon of mini chocolate chips with some plain Greek yogurt AND THEN I FROZE IT. Seriously. I thought -- hey, what the heck? This might be good. So I put it in the freezer for about an hour-and-a-half and it was so good. SO. GOOD.

I mean DELISH. I have been mixing up this same concoction pretty much every single day and having it for dessert. (I decided to keep yogurt as dessert and not eat it for meals so I keep thinking of it as a treat.) But man, this dessert has good nutrients from the Greek yogurt and the fruit. AND THINK OF ALL THE THINGS YOU CAN MIX! I tried both slivered almonds and walnuts in my raspberry/yogurt concoction. BOTH GOOD!

Maybe you like peaches or blueberries or strawberries or pecans. I DON'T KNOW YOU I DON'T KNOW YOUR LIFE (as Erin would say), but I say MIX AWAY!!!

And put it in the freezer for about 90 minutes max I'd say. I tried it for a few hours and it was a bit too hard. So mix it up, put it in the freezer, make your dinner, eat it, and then your frozen Heaven will be ready for you. The only problem is you will want more of it!

You can thank me later.

Overfed but Undernourished.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Over the past couple of years I've tried to pay more attention to what I eat, incorporating more fruits and vegetables and eating fewer processed foods. I pretty much believe in all things in moderation, but lately I've been living the exception rather than the rule.

Lately I have been thinking more about what I put on and in my body, especially now that I'm 30 and nature starts taking its course. Yesterday I was turning on Netflix to find a movie to watch in the evening, and I  noticed that something that was recommended for me was a documentary called Fed Up. If you haven't seen it, in a nutshell it's about how the amount of sugar in processed foods is at the root of our nation's obesity problem. After that, I moved into watching Forks Over Knives, which is about rejecting animal-based and processed foods in favor of a plant-based diet.

Here's the thing -- I know that numbers can be manipulated to back up pretty much any point that someone wants to make, but the general gist of both of these documentaries is we need to eat real food.

And can't we all agree with that?

I appreciated a lot of what these documentaries had to say. For example, they stress that it's not as simple as "calories in, calories out." And that's true. We eat way more in a day than we can burn off, even if we combine exercise with our daily activities that naturally burn calories. The thing is a 100 calorie mini-can of Coke just can't have the same affect on our bodies as 100 calories worth of almonds. It just can't. Additionally there are just so many chemicals in processed foods that cannot be easy for our bodies to process. There are many stories about people who were able to go off many medications by changing their diet to natural foods. Have you ever thought that we take so many prescription medications every month yet continue to eat chemicals?

I don't mean to be preachy, because I sure don't know what I'm talking about and also that's offensive. I'm just sharing some things that have come to mind in the past couple of days after giving it all some thought.

My sister Erin is a vegetarian, and after watching Fed Up and part of Forks Over Knives last night I texted her to ask if she felt physically better since she switched to being a vegetarian. She said yeah absolutely and also that she's thinking about going vegan. The thing about myself is, I really don't need to lose too much weight. I have an average-sized frame, and several years ago I lost a bunch of weight because of a medication I was put on. (Before you ask me to tell you what so you can take it too, just believe me when I tell you I'd rather have my 15 pounds back.) However, I think I am what I recently learned is called a TOFI, or Thin Outside, Fat Inside. Meaning, just because I look thin on the outside doesn't mean that I have healthy insides. And I really don't think I do. The other scary thing I noticed about myself over the past year or so is that after I eat a large meal my heart starts to race like it's literally taking my body a massive amount of work to digest it all.

So late last night I took my trash can and disposed of about 1.5 bags of processed and other unhealthy foods I had laying about my house. This afternoon I went to the store and bought some more things to help supplement my new food choices. Another thing the documentaries said that I liked is that you can't think of it like "I'm going on a diet." You have to think of it like, I'm adding these new, nutritious foods to my diet and gradually the old ones with go away. Or think of it like I'm eating real food! And you get to eat a lot of food when it's real food.

I got some quinoa, couscous, brown rice, almonds, leafy greens, squash, grapes, raspberries, Greek yogurt, broccoli, colorful peppers, brussels sprouts, red potatoes, green beans, dates, and many other things. You'll notice from the Greek yogurt I haven't gone vegan like Erin may be doing, and I'm not even saying I'm going completely vegetarian, but I'm putting more focus on things that come from the ground.

I hear you now -- Anna! There's beer in there! Darn right. Because I'm a person. Not a machine. And my intention is not to declare my hatred of things like cake, wine, and Chick-Fil-A. Because what kind of life is that? But on a daily basis, the best bet is for us to nourish ourselves with actual real food. The thing that really stood out to me in all I watched was this line: We're overfed but undernourished. WHOA. That's so true. We are the wealthiest nation in the world and also the heaviest. It doesn't matter what you put on your outsides if your insides are dying. Also I don't make much money at all, and I can't do a lot of things like shop or go to the movies, and yes, it would be WAY cheaper for me to have stocked up today on things like frozen pizza and chips because that stuff doesn't cost as much money. But at what personal cost to my body and future would I have done that?

The truth is even as I'm sitting here I'm thinking how good some cookies would be. (I mean donuts are my favorite food.) And that's to be expected because sugar is a drug. The more you have the more you want. And it takes time to detoxify yourself from sugar and processed foods. Like I told my sister last night, this languishing in the headache, processed foods, sugar, etc. lifestyle seems easier than changing. Which means I need to change. And if I don't do it now, I never will. It'll be super hard for a while turning away from old habits, but I am praying that it pays off with more energy, healthier insides, and an all-around better feeling.

For dinner tonight I made myself roasted red potatoes and green beans. I loosely followed this recipe, meaning I used it to tell me what temperature the oven should be on and how long I should leave everything in there. But here's what I personally did:

- 6 small red potatoes
- Some french-style fresh green beans
- salt
- pepper
- olive oil
- rosemary
- fresh garlic

This is the first time I've ever used by rabbit garlic press (is that even what it's called?) that a friend brought me back a couple years ago from her trip to Prague!

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Cut the red potatoes into eighths.
3. Place the potatoes in a bowl, and drizzle some olive oil on them. Add salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and rosemary to taste and mix around.
4. Place the potatoes on one half of a cookie sheet you've sprayed with cooking spray.
5. Bake for about 15 minutes.
6. While that's baking, throw your green beans in a bowl, and drizzle some olive oil on them. Add salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and rosemary to taste and mix around.
7. When the potatoes have been in about 15 minutes, add the green beans to the other side of the sheet.
8. Bake for another 15-20 minutes.

It was so good! Now that I'm thinking about it, I should have added some slivered almonds to the mix! Next time.

Oh look! I also had dessert. :) I made a little parfait of plain Greek yogurt, raspberries, and some organic dark chocolate granola. That was super good too!

I tried to help myself out by washing my grapes and bagging them up in individual baggies and making some yogurt raspberry parfaits in tupperware containers. I'm about to sit down and plan a couple meals too because I feel like I do a lot better getting my fruits and veggies in if I actually plan what I'm going to eat in advance.

Anyways, these are just some thoughts that I've been having lately about what we put on the inside of our bodies and how we really need to think about what we're filling ourselves with.

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