Off, and On, Again

It’s been over a year since posting anything on my blog. Perhaps I should be castigated with severe punishments, as I always chastise my students for not writing daily. However, writing happened. In the background, away from screens, on guarded notebooks holding all my inner fears, gatekeepers to my innermost unmentionables. I’ve had some very disappointing moments this last year-and-a-half, and I’ve had some beautiful moments of reflection and growth. I have made it through the gauntlet and have come out to a new set of challenges.

For those who don’t know me, I have been in education (formally) since about the summer of ’99. It’s been a challenging time of learning, adjusting, dreaming, crying, hoping, despairing, and simply being. Education is not for those ‘who cannot do,’ it’s for those who help build those who do do (snap your fingers if you know why this is funny in K-12). Throughout the whole journey, I have had one constant: students. Their inner gooey part of them that is their egos, self-esteem, feelings, emotions, and even their younger version of themselves that travels with each of them on a daily basis. It is these components of each of my kiddos that have driven me to distraction and encouraged me to trek through the hardest of days, days where I often considered a career change, not a career rebirth. Through it all, I’ve managed to continue in this career, waking up daily to the challenges that come with the terrain of being a simple educator.

I pray. I pray. I pray.

Today I am back in the halls of academia, working again with all of those who come to the buildings we populate with hope, fear, and dreams. Every time I park my car and walk away from it, I set my armor, chinks and all, firmly against my body and hope today makes me a better person. I pray that all those who will share that day with me also make it out alive, better people for having been together, living a shared experience. I pray that they don’t become a statistic (e.g. drive-by shooting, a victim of abuse, neglect, silence, etc.). I pray that I am able to help all those who cross my path. I pray that I am able to make even a minimal shift for the positive, even if it means it comes off my account. I pray that when I go to bed at night, or wherever I may fall, I sleep with a clear heart and conscience, knowing full well I did everything in my power and held nothing back. I pray I NEVER hurt anyone, even unintentionally (even those I cannot stand). I pray. I pray. I pray.

I am blessed.

This year I am at a new school, working in a new area, employed by a new district and new boss, and working with a new group of individuals who make my team a dream to work with. To say that God has blessed me would be a gross understatement.  In less than a month I have learned much more than I thought I would, and it is safe to say the whole year will be the same.  Education is not an easy career to choose, but like other service jobs which haven’t the pay to match the demands, it is a fulfilling one that both helps me sleep at night and robs me of it just as frequently. It is not a career that will likely become obsolete, either.

Off, and on, again.

So today, I am once again inside a building that houses things. The hallways pulse with moving cells of dreams and insecurities, blanketed with interstitial demands of constant movement toward a location, a goal to be attained. The classrooms house the cells that take what new learning they must and then fashion artifacts anew, making new things possible and expelling what the body finds pernicious and unsupportive to life. The generation of all this movement within makes this building vibrant, humming constantly with the signs of life within, working in tandem with its environment and moving forward as it glides through obstacles with relative ease. It is the working environment of a living organism. A school. A home. A people. A dream. All of these things make up the building where I work and dream. It is what draws me in, receptors ready to lock on and force me to see, sense, hear, and feel. I look within and find myself embedded, a part of this buzzing organism in constant motion. I am where I need to be, and I find this natural. Stress is harmful to your health but only when it is in excess of what stress is actually good, a good that pushes us beyond our comfort zones and makes us look within and find a different part of ourselves we may not have been introduced to. My building makes me want to better myself and, by extension, those around me. This is just where I need to be. It is where I am meant to be. I am the next in a long line of people in my field I share biology and environment with. I am an educator. I wouldn’t want to be anything but what I am today.

I am the product of my mother’s experiences as an educator and my father’s applications and inspiration as a reader. Both educators in their own rights. And I love them both. And I love my building.

New Year, No List

What everybody does has not worked for me

My neighbors do it. My family does it. Many successful people do it, too. I, however, have given up doing it.

It’s not that I can’t do it, for I’ve done it with as much gusto as many others have then and since. It is that I find the whole idea of it ludicrous because I find no pleasure in it. There’s nothing pleasurable in making a list of things to accomplish, AKA New Year’s Resolutions, only to have that list dwarfed by the overwhelmingly brute power of procrastination and laziness. In the end it makes me more desperate.

We didn’t renew our involvement the following year, and I haven’t done so since.

I remember the first time I made a list in earnest. My family and I decided we’d formalize this and up the ante. We wrote down our resolutions, put them in a time capsule, and vowed to open them the following New Year’s Eve, bringing with us the decided amount to be paid as penalty for not accomplishing our goals, otherwise known as the Grand Prize. It was fun while we were writing them, but by the end of January, all but one of us had abandoned working to fulfill our goals. We didn’t renew our involvement the following year, and I haven’t done so since.

Each of these is as unrealistic as any other such goal…

It’s been a number of years since I have made specific plans, opting instead for the usual semester-based list of goals I want to accomplish. Each of these has the standard amount of blowing smoke, or goals I include to not admit my failure at each. The most recycled ones have included:

  1. Losing weight
  2. Getting healthy
  3. Saving money
  4. Paying off all debt
  5. Clean the garage
  6. Spring clean house

Each of these is as unrealistic as any other such goal because in order to accomplish each of these, I would need a subset of mini-goals. Take the first one. In order for that to be attainable, I would have to adjust my schedule to exercise, save money to join a gym, or even plan my diet and shopping in order to make it happen. The second would read more like a laundry list of medical diagnoses and interventions that could dwarf the first. Saving money, then, would take on other dimensions. You get the picture.  A more realistic list of goals would look like this:

Losing Weight

  1. Don’t drink sodas
  2. Drink at least 64 oz of water
  3. Substitute white bread for wheat bread
  4. Include more fiber in my diet
  5. Sleep early
  6. Walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes BEFORE going to work

I am not going to go through each of the original list of resolutions, but you can see how each of these resolutions can make the list grow almost exponentially. In the end, I stopped trying to make a list and simply decided that if I needed to make a change, January  1st would be the day after my realization of needing change and deciding I would actually do something. So, New Year’s for education happened back in early November. That day in November, I decided that I would do all I could to go to grad school, even if I’m not accepted. What has changed, then? My mindset has changed.

My mindset has changed.

I had an interesting conversation with someone today, and it was centered on being accepted to grad school. If the school of my choice accepts me, it would mean leaving my family behind, husband included, and moving to another state, a cold one. If I want to create a mindset leading to success, I may have no option. Perhaps it is in this abandonment of imaginary lists that I have attained the will to move in the direction of change, further change. I’ve spent a lifetime living the Disney idea of womanhood, battered into my inner consciousness through countless hours of exposure to dreams fulfilled by others. I want out of that insanity. I need to stand on my own two feet. And as a person whose favorite Disney princess is Belle, it is the newest version of her that makes me feel a renewed sense of importance. This Belle, much like the me who wants to be free of all others, is a strong woman with the power of invention.

I’ll begin my list with one task: pray daily.

Today, after having thought about what it means to plan, and after having advised my students for the greater part of this semester about the importance of having a plan, I will make a list of things to accomplish, but I will begin with one single goal. I’ll begin my list with one task: pray daily. That is a goal I can attain and plan on. After this goal, I can prioritize, and I will do so with the belief that one task is enough for a list of goals. I will no  longer hold myself to the laundry list of unattainables.

No more unattainables and welcome the new year.




Without getting into definitions from various sources both professional and informal, violence is an attack on humanity. Why someone must inflict pain on others is beyond me. I don’t understand how a person can purposely hurt another, much less when that hurt leads to the inevitable demise of one or more of the arguing parties. Is it that we are so underdeveloped that we cannot help trigger love and forgiveness instead of hate?

Now, as I sit at my desk, I am riddled with a sense of insecurity that often decides to pay me a visit, and it has nothing to do with appearance, good looks, or even whether or not I have made something of myself. Rather, it is the insecurity bred into me as ‘other’ both female and Hispanic. From a very young age, I knew I was different, and it was not because I had some outward deformity. I was Mexican. I was non-white. I was girl. I was me. Now, many years later, I am Muslim, and again I am relegated to the position of ‘other’ for my choice of religion. I read the news, watch the newscasts, ponder over media coverage of what they think Islam and Muslims must be, and I am aghast at the ignorance and hatred that makes us base, lower than the animals we claim superiority over. Are we really so evolved? I think, rather, we have regressed to less than animals if we can treat each other this way.

This last week alone, three young Muslim students were murdered. The media say a ‘man’ murdered them. Had the victims been non-Muslim and the perpetrator Muslim, the latter would have been broadcast as being a terrorist. If terrorist is what the media defines, then this man falls into this category as though it the role itself were tapered to his very being. Parking dispute? Really? Would this have been the case if the reverse were true? Another family was assaulted at a local market, harassed and physically and psychologically abused by white men. Did anyone do anything? No, of course not. Why would they? The Arab family man was even restrained, not the perps. Violent much?

I will not go into what it feels like to be a Muslim, for I doubt the world is willing to listen. My life, or that of my fellow Muslims, has little weight in the scale of apathetic souls willing to prostitute themselves to comfort. The day will come, though, when something will qualify them as ‘other’ and the wheels of injustice will turn in their direction. In a world where Palestinians are blatantly murdered in a systematic ethnic cleansing the world sees fit to stand by and watch, I have no hope of my voice being valued for what it is: God’s gift to me as a human being. God is Just. God is Fair. God is All-Knowing. He does not forget but takes accurate account of all our deeds and misdeeds. I have but to wait for all our deeds to come to the surface and all remuneration to be delivered, even against the will of those deserving of their pay. What the world neglects, God will surely make to pass.

I am truly saddened by all the happenings of the world today. An Indian grandfather paralyzed by police. People dying around the country for the drunk-on-power gun-toting police force akin to Gestapo forces of the Nazi regime. People of color, religion, or ethnicities found unacceptable by some and harassed for their identities is no different from what people suffered at the hands of the Inquisition, Holocaust, or other such events. Will we ever learn that it is the sublime act of love and forgiveness, wrapped in knowledge and respect that would help allay such problems? I hope for the sake of the world we change, and soon.


Testing and Other Things Associated

Test. The most dreaded four-letter word in my vocabulary–dirtier than the other words in my repertoire. When I hear that word, my whole existence goes into overdrive. From taking them, creating them, proctoring them, or grading them, tests are the bane of my existence. I’ve never really been a good test taker, but there are some I am convinced are simply meant to drain you of the very life force you may still have in this cruel world of ours we like to call the “real world.”  Math has always been the top-ranking of all detested tests, but I digress.

Last Sunday I took a practice test for an exam I am to take within the next four months. It was a full test and was conducted in simulated testing conditions, though in writing format. We–about 25 of us–were marshaled together into a conference room and began taking our test. All was well, until it wasn’t. The minute I heard the first crunch I knew it was not going to be a good day for me. Before I continue, I must clarify that this program has been the BEST experience I have ever had, by far, in ANY certification or professional program. There is no complaint here about its efficacy. What happened was simple. We were given breakfast and snacks (Chex Mix), but though we were told we weren’t allowed to eat our breakfast during the test, some certainly didn’t think it extended to the whole idea of not crunching THROUGHOUT the whole test.  Mind you, it was a simulated environment and the test was only practice, but the fact remains that some people decided it was okay to eat Chex Mix during the test, which is where my nightmare began.

About two-and-a-half hours later, I was ‘done’ with my test. I checked it against the answer set we were given and got a 66 out of a needed 80 and possible 100. At that point I was simply spent. I spent the entire time hearing someone put Chex Mix, or maybe even ice, which they have and is better than Sonic ice, in their mouth and chew, crunch, and thereby obliterate any chance I had of focusing on my test. Maybe I am being too harsh, but the fact of the matter is that it was supposed to be good for all, and it was not good for me. What is worse is that I am not sure if the questions I got wrong were because I need to study further or because I simply could not ignore the constant crunching throughout the whole test. Just to clarify, I spoke to my advisor and I will be given a chance to retake the practice test in a quiet environment, an environment populated by only me. I am truly grateful simply because I need to know what it is I don’t so I can beef up on my studying and get it right. I hold no grudges against anyone, truly, and have been blessed to be a part of such a wonderful program, but for future reference, be considerate.

I teach students a great number of things, but I would like to think that before I teach them syntax, vocabulary, or reading comprehension, I teach them how to be considerate human beings within their environments. As a direct result of Sunday’s experience, I will be making my own changes in class to ensure that all students have a secure environment in which to take their test, do their work, and have some semblance of a feasible working environment.

Test. A four-letter-word that ails me to no end and sends my spine a’ tinglin’ exponentially, and not in a good way. They are what I dread more than most other things, and when I have to create/give/grade a test, I dread that, too. It’s an overall pain in my neck to give/take tests. Oy vey!