Category Archives: Schools in session

I had a dream the other night about how we only get one life


If it’s good enough for Cinderella (the original sugar baby); it’s good enough for me. And, for the first time since I was 10- and finally allowed to stay up to the magical hour -I felt a spark of enthusiasm about the new year that I usually don’t feel acknowledge. Something about the new-ness and the opportunity to just begin again sent my mind racing. This excitement lasted all of 15 minutes before I realized my mind was running through a list of 365 possibilities faster than I could find post-it notes to write them down. So, I took a nap instead. And, by nap I mean I went to bed. I awoke the next day no less eager and giddy as I had floated off to sleep the night before.


That’s the text I sent to a friend around 8 am on January 2nd. I used caps lock and everything. About 2 hours later she finally responded with this emoji as if to say, ‘no harsh feelings but, we aren’t 12/there’s nothing exciting about 12:00pm unless you have super exciting news like a pregnancy and enjoy climatic news releases.’ I was almost offended she wasn’t as excited for 2014 as I was. So, I took my ideas (and my wounds) to the place of louder than life laughter and emotional band-aids…..the Scholar Factory (AKA my classroom).


“It actually came and brought a whole new year,” I exclaimed, bursting through the doors  of my classroom Tuesday morning. “Yes! It did. I woke up and it was just, like, here,” shouted an 8 year old in the front row. He got so excited he stood up. Two other kids followed suit screaming, “Miss, did you know now we don’t have to be the 2013 us, we can be the 2014 us?!” I smiled, filled with relief. Finally, I had found a group of people that felt as excited for the new year as I did. “You know why I like the new year Ms. A?,” asked a little girl with two pig tails and glittered Uggs. “I like it, ’cause it’s NEW! You don’t get new things all the time but, when you do, you need to stop and think ‘hey, this is NEW!'”

While my students may lack the refined articulation of Audie Cornish they are on par with the passion of Richard Simmons and the sweet intentions of Mother Theresa.

Glitter boots is right!

It’s not everyday you get something new. And it’s definitely not every day you get 365 new days to spend however you’d like. So in honor of the fact that 1- it’s 2014 and brand new and 2- I get to write a list (which is a personal pleasure of mine) I present:

14 resolutions worth conquering in 2014

  1. Send more brown paper packages tied up with string (snail mail)
  2. Be a grown up and start saving money in my savings account (as opposed to saving up  and then treating myself for saving up and then immediately spending it all.)
  3. Obtain more general brain knowledge via reading, google, and curiosity
  4. Call people I love, instead of snapchatting them sad faces of me missing them.
  5. Write (and blog) more.
  6. Sometimes wear heels.
  7. Get a passport.
  8. Quit it with the humblebrag.

    If I do something awesome, I’ve earned the right to celebrate said success in an adult/less obnoxious social media way.

  9. Lose weight. It’s a “I miss-my-old-clothes-type” thing, not a “I’m-the-size-of-an-Orca-type” thing. The real game plan includes dropping 35lbs by June 15th.
  10. Enjoy my life (specifically meals) without worrying about #which #hashtags #to #use on Instagram.

    #yet #another #obnoxious #20something #habit

  11. Look into how to become apart of Family Feud and/or pitch the concept via Powerpoint to my family
  12. Completely pay off IU (so I can actually receive a diploma I can hold)
  13. Clean my iTunes Library.
  14. Do more things that I love doing.

    I’m always the repinner never the pinee..


But they told me a man should be faithful and walk when not able and fight till the end. But I’m only human

Life was a lot easier in my firefly-catching days.

Of course, times were different back then. Success meant winning the Skip-it competition in 4th grade, love was being told you were ‘pretty enough to be a Spice Girl’ and beauty was determined by the number of perfectly positioned badges I had earned at Girl Scout camp in the fall of ’94. Concepts like bills, heartache, and inferiority didn’t exist.

But my favorite thing about elementary school was the purity of everyone’s actions.

When my friends and I argued we’d always say ‘sorry’ and we’d always mean it. Hugs were in no short supply. If you needed something, anything–from a pencil to a slinky–and especially when you forgot your lunch at home, everyone at your table contributed perfect portions of animal crackers and fruit roll-ups, without be asked. It’s what we did.

But these were different times.

Now, I work for an organization that I love beyond what a few characters on a screen will allow me to express. I have amazingly bold, gifted, and talented co-workers who each come with their own set of pros and cons. But, I just finished a week where people weren’t willing to say sorry when it needed to be said and when I metaphorically got hurt on the playground, no one asked  if I was ‘alright.’ The bottom line is, we’re older now and protect our egos over each other. We’ve become more concerned with judgments and insecurities, fearing what we don’t know rather than enjoying what we do have. We think about ‘potential shortcomings’ and assume the worst of one another as opposed to using our strengths to shield others’ weaknesses. It seems like my team has gotten to a place where we operate on the defense forgetting that no points can be scored without an active offense. Part of me wishes I had the strength to describe everything awful that happened this week and just how hurt and offended by the whole series I am, but I don’t. What I do have is the strength to explain the conversation I had with a coworker (from another team) last night and how he corrected what I once saw as weakness.

With tears hanging from my eyelashes in a dimly-lit Chiptole I stared down at the table ashamed to admit I was a part of a team that was hurting. I started off by rationalizing  everything that everyone did that was wrong. I created excuses and hoped for a different outcome to a story I already knew the ending of. And after 12 minutes of talking in circles and avoiding naming names I took a deep breathe and sighed, “I wonder if the problem is me….”  I struggled all week in deciding who was to blame. I only wanted to know where it all went wrong, so that if I was in the wrong I could correct it. Things got quite and no one spoke until I blurted out, “The real problem is I have to go into work everyday to face a group of people who have said they have no problem hurting me. And, I have no choice but to either accept it or reciprocate their emotion.”

In an unexpected twist the co-worker started to smile. He looked at me and said, “But, what if there was a third option?” Annoyed, with his whimsical thinking I rolled my eyes and dropped my head. He said, “Now, hear me out. What if you loved them–whoever they are– in spite of the hate they show?” Intrigued by the concept I cut the melodramatics and opened my heart to the possibility of loving something I knew might hurt me. He continued his theory by explaining that I wouldn’t be the first (or the last)person to have to work with people whose intentions appear impure.  He reminded me of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the fact that he died loving in spite of hate and then finished his lesson by saying to me, “you aren’t sacrificing who you are by loving in spite of hate–you are being who you are by loving in spite of hate.”

I won’t lie; this doesn’t solve all of the harm done on our team. But, this does change things. Because now, when someone metaphorically forgets their lunch at home, loses their Lisa Frank binder, or breaks their pencil I’m going to share mine regardless of whether or not they would do the same for me.

And I’ll do it, because it’s what you’re supposed to do.

I pledge allegiance to my Grandma

I just deleted this whole blog post because I realized after re-reading it that no amount of eloquently typed words on a screen can express how funny my students are. But, just imagine 23 innercity HS students reactions once they heard me explain that Jesus’s being born in Bethlehem makes him Arab….not Mexican.

and if that didn’t work then watch this.

There’s no wonder why sometimes I’m feelin’ under, Gotta keep my faith alive ’til love is found


Today, I officially accepted my offer from Teach For America.

I shared this success with my students, including the crazy difficult/selective admissions process, to which my students asked, “was that on your bucket list?” This never occurred to me before but, I suppose working in low performing schools in traditionally low income communities has always been my dream, so I said, “yes.” That’s when a tall student with copper colored skin shouted out, “well what’s that say about you–that working with us is on your bucket list?”

…..Well, I suppose it says I give a damn.

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Pictured are the 17 balloons, 3 dozen cupcakes and 2 cards my students brought for my birthday. Not pictured is the breakfast, Jimmy Johns lunch, and bottle of perfume I accidentally dropped.

I don’t care what the tests say, I have some of the best students in the nation. #makebetterhappen


Once upon a time we were burning bright, Now all we ever seem to do is fight

I think it’s safe to say that as exciting and invigorating as the elections can be we’re all glad they’re over. I can finally watch Youtube without feeling guilty about everything I’ve ever done or apparently will ever do. Politics are personal and emotions are messy. I love the diplomatic nature of this country but, the last thing I want to talk about on my 5:30am bus ride is how my life is doomed if I vote one way or the other. I began thinking about how personal the elections really are and remembered that an overwhelming majority of my students are living through an election which directly impacts them yet they have no say so in. So today we held an open forum about the pros, cons, and forgotten emotions of a presidential election. These are thir stories.

  1. Obama’s voice makes me feel safe about who and where I am.
  2. That 64 passed and I bet Wiz is gone build a mansion right next to me!
  3. I’m just not ready to go [back to Mexico] yet. I like it here.
  4. Mittens should hit (listen to) that Drake. He always help me through my feelings.
  5. Don’t we all die in 2012?
  6. If losing feels anything like being dumped I’m Romney for life.
  7. Romney ain’t got no job now. Sucka.
  8. What happened to all the other people that ran for president? Who’s going to help them?
  9. I still don’t think the elections matter.
  10. I bet Romney supports Crocs.
  11. Birth control needs to be taken away so guys know the meaning of sex and actually care about maybe getting someone pregnant
  12. Do we ever all win?
  13. Mitt rhymes with shit. — on the back this student wrote ‘please don’t take away points for cursing.’
  14. I don’t think Romney was the best [candidate] but, I do think black people need to stop relying on welfare.
  15. I wonder if the Black Eyed Peas are gonna write a song about this.
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I can honestly say  that I’ve never wondered if my job (and what I do) matters. And, I that’s saying a lot.

Let me tell you the story in the form of a dream

The company I work for prides itself on producing  citizens committed to change, people who are willing to fight for the forgotten at any cost. We work ridiculous hours  in some fairly high stakes environments, most of us because we want to contribute to a cause bigger than ourselves. They call us young heroes.  I, who never considered herself  uniquely special, got to thinking but why me? What makes me a hero?

My theory is: there are nearly seven billion people on this planet. Each one unique, different. What are the chances of that? And why? Is it simply biology, physiology that determines this diversity? A collection of thoughts, memories, experiences that carve out our own special place? Are powers given or developed? Or is it something more than this? Perhaps there’s a master plan that drives the randomness of creation, something unknowable that dwells in the soul, and presents each one of us with a unique set of challenges, that will help us discover who we really are. And I wish I could end this by saying that I figured it out and have a solid understanding of heroes and villains but, I don’t.  All I know is that heroes come from someplace. They are not born; they are created.

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You held your head like a hero on a history book page; It was the end of a decade but the start of an age

After last nights lively Presidential Debate— which oh so mercifully took place less than 5 miles from my condo– I sat down to construct what I imagined to be one of the best lesson plans of the semester. It was a lesson in comparing  Presidential Debates and freestyle rap battles.  I thought it was a winner. I  stepped into my US history class* with Donkey/Elephant animal crackers for prizes in one hand and entry tickets in the other. Entry tickets are simple prompts that are used to “set the stage” for the days activities. Today’s read, “List one lesson you gained from last night’s Presidential Debate.”


Because I work in urban education I anticipated that some students wouldn’t have access to the debate and thus planned to show a clip in class. What I did not plan on was the entire class with the exception of 2 students to have both watched and took notes on the debate. In fact, the students ended up having so much to say I decided to scratch my original idea and instead have an open forum to discuss the happenings of the 2012 Presidential Debate.

After mock opening arguments from both parties a sole student from the back said he’d like to represent a third party on behalf of Michelle Bachman. Intrigued by the request and entertained by the notion I set up a third group. So I moved to the head of the class, taking the place of Lehr and prepared to take my own notes. At the end of class I collected the entry tickets and haven’t stopped laughing since.

Below are the top 8 comments (in no particular order):

  1. Obama is sexy as hell. Vote 4 Obama.
  2. The debate kind of scared me once I realized it was like high school but with suits.
  3. I wonder who lines up Obama’s edges. He get paid a lot?
  4. Muthafuqa ain’t gone take my Elmo’s World!
  5. Romney sounds like Buzzlightyear
  6. If we do vote Obama, if we don’t vote Obama don’t matter ’cause our generations screwed anyways. (on the back this student wrote: “It’s not his fault though.”)
  7. I wonder how people would vote if they were both black.
  8. The illumanti runs this.


*=Clarification: Although I am not an teacher I have the good fortune of serving in 3 history classes in 2 different schools. I often borrow and combine ideas between the two schools hence the blended lesson plans.

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