2016 Reading Challenge - May!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gotta say, there's nothing like finishing one's work right under the wire. And that's where I am today!

It's May 31, the last day of May (duh), and I am just now blogging about my May book for the 2016 Reading Challenge. The funny thing is, I actually read this book close to the beginning of the month, but I'm just now writing about it. 

For May, I decided to read a book under the category "A book that intimidates you." The book I chose was Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. 

Glennon is very well known because she writes the blog Momastery. I have known about her blog for years, but I didn't start reading it seriously until a couple of months ago. I don't agree with everything Glennon has to say, but I do appreciate her mottos of We Belong to Each Other, Love Wins, and We Can Do Hard Things. 

Carry On, Warrior is a collection of essays written by Glennon. The reason why this book intimidated me is because Glennon is so honest, and I knew her book would make me think a lot about parts of myself and pieces of my history that I don't always like to face. 

Whether you read Momastery or not, I recommend Carry On, Warrior. It is a very honest book, and Glennon really talks about some things that makes you realize that no one is perfect, and we're all struggling. In fact, I just looked at her Pinterest board, and I found that she pinned a quote which reads, "I thought I was alone who suffered. I went on top of the house, and found every house on fire." Beautiful. Actually, it's brutiful, as Glennon would say, and which I've written about here

Here's a weird fact about me reading the book. I checked it out of the library, and when I picked it up, the book was in pristine condition. It was released in 2014, and my county only has one copy, and I really, really think that I might be the only person who's ever checked this book out of the Cabell County public library system. I can confidently say I've never been the first person to check out a library book, so that was super weird for me. 

I am really, truly looking forward to reading more this summer. Now that the students are gone (sob), and we're wrapping up our few days of organizing our classrooms, I plan to make a list of books to check out of the library and then get to it. I am really excited!

A Mountain I'm Willing To Die On: A Love Letter to My Graduating Students

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I am just ending my least favorite day of the whole year, eighth grade graduation day. Because they graduated tonight, they weren't at school today, so today was my first day at school without them.

And it was awful.

It was quiet, it was lonely. It was too calm, it was too peaceful. I hated it.

Let me first day that I do dearly love my sixth and seventh grade students, and my (thousands of) tears over the loss of my eighth grade does in no way mean I don't love my other students, too.

But today is about my eighth grade.

I've written about these kids many, many, many times before, and I won't rehash it all here. If you know me, you know how much I love them, and if you don't know me, then you're probably not reading this blog. Haha.

I stood outside my door this morning, knowing no one was coming to homeroom, but hoping maybe I'd woken up in some alternate reality and my babies would come down the hall like they have every other day for two years. Of course, they didn't.

So I sat at my desk, holding my coffee, staring out into the virtual wasteland that is a classroom without students. Without students, I am just a person in a room.

Luckily, I did have the sixth and seventh grades today, but I teach those grades in the morning, so starting at about 11:23 (um, actually, exactly 11:23), I was no longer someone's "eighth grade Language Arts teacher" but someone's "former eighth grade Language Arts teacher." SOB.

I lived through the day, then went home around 3:30, knowing I had to be back at school around 6:20 in order to prepare for Mass and graduation at 7. Before I left my house, I packed three tissues. I grossly underestimated the number of tissues I'd need.

I started tearing up when my kids started showing up. (That's a lie -- I started crying on the bus back from our class trip to D.C. and haven't really stopped.) Remember, I hadn't seen them today, so I was seeing them for the first time tonight. We took some pictures with our priest and principal, and then it was time to line up for the processional.

I teared up as my student read the first reading. As they read the petitions. As they took up the gifts. But I really started crying when my student who is the valedictorian read her speech. I had to introduce her, and I'm not really sure how I made it through, but I did. Of course, I continued crying through the reception, just looking at my kids, together for the last time. I cried as I talked to their parents, as I talked to them, as I just stood there by myself.

The thing is -- I cry so much because I will miss them SO MUCH. They have been my homeroom for two years. For two years those are the faces I've seen every morning I've gone to school. For two years I've asked them if they wanted lunch every day. For two years those are the faces who've told me their stories and needed me to bail them out of whatever bizarre fix they'd found themselves in. Today, no one needed my help.

My friend Summer, who also teaches at Fatima, told me tonight that if you do a good job, then they're ready to move on without you. And she's right. They were believed to be a tough class, and in some ways, they were. But it's much, much tougher to be without them. My favorite thing about them is that each one of them is a misfit, but where they fit is together. As I've said before, they are a ragtag group of weirdos, but if there's anyone I should be with, it's a ragtag group of weirdos.

I realized the other day that it's okay to cry and it's okay that my heart hurts so much. It hit me that my students are really all I have. I have no husband, no children. My students are my world. I live and die by what is happening with them on a daily basis. The weird thing about love is that if your heart is hurting so much it's because you loved much. And I really do love these kids much. I had a moment with my friend Jessica, the kindergarten teacher, yesterday, during the eighth grade's last minutes at school. I was taking the eighth grade downstairs, while Jess was taking the kindergarteners upstairs. I said something like, "Oh excuse us!" And Jess sweetly said, "It's okay! My babies are just coming through!" And I said, "So are mine."

Driving home tonight was the loneliest ride of my life, I think. I had said goodbye to my precious children, and I was going home to be all by myself, with no one to talk to or share my memories with. As I started my car, it hit me that only two things would help. The first: I hit the "CD" button on my car, remembering what I had most recently put in the player. As the first notes of Bohemian Rhapsody started, I turned it up LOUD and sang (and cried) it out on my way home. My babies love this song, and, weirdly, last year's class did, too. (Incidentally, I learned that I live about 1.5 Bohemian Rhapsodys away from Fatima, which is what I plan on telling people from now on when they ask how far I live from where I work. I live 1.5 Bohemian Rhapsodys far.) The second thing: I'll watch The Sound of Music tonight. It's the only thing that helps when I'm sad, happy, sadhappy, or whatever weird mix of emotions I can't put a name to, like tonight.

The thing is, I teach English, and I love words, but I don't have the words to convey what's in my heart about these kids. I could write and rewrite all day long, and it would never be enough. They come from all backgrounds, and each have struggles, some much harder than I can even imagine. I have no fantasies that they'll remember everything I taught them, but I hope they remember that I loved them fiercely, and I loved them fully. I didn't always do the perfect thing with them, but defending them was a mountain I was willing to die on.

Will be forever.

No One's Moving. And This Nation is Great.

Monday, May 16, 2016

I don't know about you, but I, for one, am ready for this election to be over.

I am tired of the campaign signs in people's yards. I'm tired of those awful ads on TV. I'm tired of every Op-Ed in the paper being dedicated to one candidate or another.

The thing is, this seems to be the general consensus of pretty much every one I know. We're all tired of it. Even my students, who are still years away from voting, are tired of it.

What's sad is that so many people, including myself, have talked about how this year's election looks to be a battle between who is bad and who is worse. It always seems to be a battle between the lesser of two evils, but this year seems especially bad. People are spouting their opinions here and there. And, really, it's just hateful for the most part. (And, as the sage Taylor Swift said, why you gotta be so mean?)

You're stupid if you support Trump. 

There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other. 

Every single Bernie Sanders supporter is a sexist and a racist. 

So, pretty much no matter who I vote for, I'm either stupid, a sexist, a racist, or I'm going to end up in hell.

Well that sounds nice.

It seems as though, at this point, America is doomed and going to hell in a hand basket. We're all moving to Canada or Europe. And this nation isn't great.

But do we really feel that way?

I had an experience this weekend that stopped me for a second a really made me think.

I attended my sister Emma's graduation on Saturday. At the beginning of the ceremony, as at the beginning of nearly every official event in the United States, the national anthem was sung.

And do you know what I noticed?

Everyone stood up.


Everyone placed their hand over their heart.

The men took off their hats.

Nearly everyone sang along.

My liberal sister stood next to my old-school Democrat grandmother and behind my ultra-conservative parents.

And we all honored America.

As I looked around I realized that America isn't doomed. We're not going to hell in a hand basket. No one's moving. And this nation is great.

Whether we realize it or not, we all still believe in hope, and we have it for this country. Or else we wouldn't all stand up for the Star-Spangled Banner, beside our brothers from different (and more liberal) mothers, and honor our nation.

I would like to believe that no matter who is president, the United States of America will continue to be a great nation not because of her leadership, but because of the people who love her.

My Girl Jane

Thursday, May 12, 2016

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Jane Austen. I think she told theeeee mosttttt beautifulllll stories of all time. Just beautiful.

Last school year we had a week off of school due to snow, and I hunkered down and lost myself in Austen. This year we didn't have quite that much snow, and I had been missing my friend Jane. I realized it had been far too long since I was lost in Austen.

This past Sunday I went to Mass and brunch with my family for Mother's Day. After brunch I went to the grocery store, and then I went home to make my lunches and set out my outfits for the week. (Don't ask, I'm a nerd.) I scrubbed my living room carpet. (No, really, I used this. It worked pretty well!) Then I looked around and realized I had a final to study for, papers to grade, and lots of other things to do.

But I just couldn't.

Instead, I grabbed my stack of Austen films and buried myself underneath the covers. It was raining, which made it even more perfect.

The minute that first scene of Emma came on, I knew I had made the right decision. (It's also a dangerous one because sometimes I don't like to come back.)

I just can't really explain my love of Austen. Her stories are just so very beautiful. They all have happy endings. My heart swells so much it hurts (HURTS) when Mr. Knightley confesses his feelings to Emma, when Edward arrives at Barton Cottage for Elinor, when Edmund gets over himself and declares his love for Fanny, and, of course, when Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth finally get on the same page.

I laid there admiring Jane Austen and being in awe of the mind that could imagine these beautiful stories.

And then I remembered.

Jane Austen never experienced this kind of love herself.

And that memory took my breath away.

No really.

I literally couldn't move on with my life for a minute because I was just so overwhelmed that the woman who gave the world FITZWILLIAM DARCY was the ultimate single girl.

And then I thought -- who am I to hope that God sends me someone when he let JANE FREAKING AUSTEN be single forever?!

Life is confusing sometimes, isn't it?

No matter what, I know I owe a great deal of thanks to Jane Austen for these overwhelming, painful, beautiful, gut-wrenching stories. The greatest love stories ever.

3,500 Tickets

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

As a teacher, one of the hardest things is spending hours and hours planning, worrying, and trying to do your best for your students, who generally would rather be anywhere than hearing what you have to say. Pretty much, you worry all the time that you're not doing enough for the kids, that they hate you, and, most importantly, that you're not making a difference. This time of year is especially hard, as the students (and teachers!) are mentally already on summer break.

I've talked before about my love of teaching, but more specifically I've talked about my deep and undying love of my eighth grade students this year. Because I teach at a Catholic school, I teach all three middle school grades, which means my eighth grade students this year were my seventh grade students last year. I am supposed to be the eighth grade homeroom teacher, but because of a staffing issue last year, I ended up being both the seventh and eighth grade homeroom teacher last year. I say all that to say, my eighth grade students this year have been in my homeroom for two years and have been my Language Arts students for two years also. You form a very close bond with your students, and you form an even closer bond with them when you're their teacher for multiple years in a row.

I have said before that this year's eighth grade class is notoriously difficult. The school where I teach starts in preschool, so a lot of these kids have been going to school together for a long time. They have long been labeled as a very difficult class, and, I will admit, they are. The class is 11 boys and two girls. And, as previously stated, they are the raggiest taggiest group of weirdos on earth.


More than words can say.

No, really. I teach English, I know, but when it comes to my love of these kids, I just don't have any words.

And then, they went and did this to me:

They returned to school yesterday after having been gone on a band trip all weekend (including Friday). They showed up to homeroom in their usual colorful way. I took attendance and lunch count as usual. After the announcements, one of my kids (the class clown) comes up to my desk, and he's holding something. It's this sign that says "Rock."

At first I'm like, WHY ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR SEAT?! Then he starts talking.

He said, "Miss Lafferre, see this? We got this on our trip this weekend. It cost us 3,500 tickets and about $70."

And I'm sitting there like -- why did you bring it to school?! I look at the class, and they're all sitting there listening and watching. And I'm just like what is happening?

He told me that the kids in the class pooled all their tickets because they were determined to win this thing.

For me.


I just sat there.

"We thought that you need something to remember us by, and we thought this would remind you of us."

I'm still just sitting there.

"Also, it's supposed to light up, but we broke it on the way back. But then we thought it's kind of like us -- trying to do something good but messing it up a little bit."

This kid explains that it broke while he was HOLDING IT ON THE BUS on the way back when they got to a bumpy road. However, another kid tells me that the breaking might have happened when first said kid attempted to pack it in his suitcase. :)

I don't even know what to say.

I'm like, "You guys did all this? For me?"

And they're like, "Yeah."

Then this kid goes and puts it on top of a cabinet, the bell rings, and they leave.

And I'm still sitting there like IS THIS MY REAL LIFE?!

Seventh grade comes in for class, and I'm still sitting there looking at this thing.

The seventh grade, having also attended the band trip, started asking me if I liked it.

And I was just like, "I ... just ... can't ... believe ... it."

I was, obviously, in tears. And in shock.

Then, one of the seventh grade girls tells me that one of the eighth grade boys PAID HER $5.00 for some of her tickets because they needed a few more for this thing.

All I could think to say was, "Seventh grade, you guys better get more awesome over the summer because you have BIG shoes to fill."

The sixth grade came later (also on the trip) and wanted to hear me talk about it, and then the fifth grade came at the end of the day, and although they were not on the trip, one of the girls is the little sister of an eighth grade girl, so she knew all about it. I was totally crying as I told the kids the story.

When the eighth grade came back for class, I was just like "Guys. I don't even. I mean I just don't even. I have to tell you guys that what you did is, by far, the nicest thing that has ever happened to me since I started teaching here. In fact, it's the nicest thing that's ever happened to me at any of the jobs I've ever had."

Their response?

"Really? Because that's really sad if that's the nicest thing."

Kids, man. They don't get it.

After school when I was on parking lot duty, I looked at my principal and said, "I have seriously been in tears ALL DAY."

My principal, who had been on the trip, was like "Anna, I wish you had seen them. They were like 'We gotta win this for Miss Lafferre!' They were so into it."

I went back to my desk after school and went through THREE TISSUES because all I could do was sit there, look at my sign, and cry. One of my eighth grade girls sent me an email with a picture she took of a few of the kids right after they had "bought" my present. Obviously I started crying harder. The thing is, the one kid who I feel like I don't have the best relationship with was the kid who was HOLDING the gift in the picture.

I did the only thing I knew how to do, which was write to them. I might teach English, but verbal words fail me sometimes. I'm much better with written words. (I said that to them in their letter.) I wrote them a letter, printed out 13 copies, wrote their names on them, and put them on their desks with candy.

This morning when they started trickling in to homeroom, I stood in the hall right outside the room, instead of standing in the room like I usually do. I watched as they, one by one, picked up their letters and read them. My homeroom has NEVER been that quiet. Not one of them said a word about it, but one of the kids (the original gift bearer) brought his phone into the hallway and was like, "Miss Lafferre, I thought you'd like to see a video of us on the bus ride back."

Um, yeah I did.

And a few more of them came out and crowded around.

And when the video was over, I looked at the phone-holder, and was just like "I need to give you a hug." So I did. And I hugged the other kid out there, too.

The thing is, I worry that I didn't express enough emotion when they first bestowed me with my gift. In fact, I'm so worried that my reaction let them down. But I was truly in such shock I didn't know what to do with my life. I think I'm still in shock.

Tomorrow takes us to 10 days. 10 more days with these precious kids. My favorite kids. They were always my favorites. I have no idea how in the world I will ever, ever make it without them.

Parents of my eighth graders -- you should be so, so, so proud of the kids you are raising.

Teachers and other parents -- 364 days of the year, we feel like we are making no difference whatsoever. But on that 1 day when we know we are, it's life-changing.

I am not the best teacher in the world. There are many, many other teachers at my school that deserve that honor. But at least I think I can hang with the best of them in how much I love them. Because I love them so much that it actually hurts. Sometimes I can't believe that the Lord would bless me so much. I am so undeserving of these kids, but they just keep coming back day after day.

Picking Up the Pieces

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The other day I was scrolling through Facebook, when I came across a new post from Humans of New York. I am always interested in what they post, so I took a minute to read it. You can read the original post embedded below, but there was one line of the post that really just stabbed me in the gut when I read it:

"It didn’t feel like we were growing a relationship anymore. It just felt like we were picking up the pieces of decisions we had made."

As I noted in my last post, I haven't been feeling great lately, and, suffice it to say, I'm not growing. There's just always this feeling I have about my life, but I was never able to articulate it before.

Until now.

Sometimes it just feels like all I'm doing is picking up the pieces of decisions I have made.

Sometimes it feels like I'm sitting in the rubble of my life, trying to salvage what I can from the ruins.

And that's a hard feeling to get past.

I share these things here not because I want a pep talk or people to try and compliment me back to reason. I share because ... well, maybe you feel this way, too. When I read this the other day I immediately thought of a friend of mine, and I sent it to her because I thought it would mean something to her, too. I don't want to mention her name in order to protect her privacy, but she said "I feel like that every single day." Maybe you have felt this way before, too? And if you have, know that you're not alone.

This is the kind of thing that Glennon Doyle Melton would call "brutiful" -- beautiful and brutal. Because it's both.

There's no pretty ending to this one. Not today. I'm just sending this one out there to float around in the universe. Until one day, it'll land far away from me, and maybe you, too, and we'll forget what it felt like to feel this way.

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