Tuesday, February 25, 2014

To Be a Better Teacher

This is something I think about a lot and even discuss with my students sometimes, but I'm always reminded of one of the most simple truths about the teaching profession: in order to teach, we must not forget how to learn. 

I think it is essential, truly, for teachers to always be taking a class of some sort. It doesn't really matter what the class is, but there are some guidelines to adhere to. The class you take should be in something that you: 
a.)  have not yet mastered, b.) puts you outside of your comfort zone, and c.) you cannot claim to fully understand. 

Why? Because in order to teach better, you need to remember what it is like to learn. 

Graduate school quickly slips into the past, and we simply cannot retain (in the way we need to) the experience of taking someone else's class (of being the student) forever, so that is why we have to look for opportunities to be students elsewhere. For me, I take yoga classes twice a week, and I also actively sign up for professional development that is outside of my comfort zone (ESL learners and grant writing, anyone?), but as stated earlier, it really isn't the content that matters. In graduate school, I was made to learn salsa dancing and basketball by a professor who was making a point: remember what it is like to NOT be naturally gifted at something. Because whatever it is you teach, chances are, you have natural ability in that area, and it is too easy to forget, over time, that your students might not. 

For as much as we may have learned about pedagogy and how students learn, and as much as we have the skills of a teacher (the ability to cater to different learning styles, communicate expectations, and hopefully, make learning rewarding and meaningful), these skills, and even past experience, will only get us so far in the classroom.

We cannot leave our empathy for the difficulties that learning entails at the door. We cannot forget that encouragement and praise really does make the difference some days. We cannot forget what it feels like to be trying and not "getting it." 

So I recommend taking a class (or learning from someone that is better than you at something) and having the following experiences constantly: 
  •  Attempt something very seriously. Fail embarrassingly, preferably in front of a group of people.
  • Experience the courage it takes to try again. 
  • Feel DISCOURAGED. Why can't you do this thing that everyone else is doing?  
  • Work on something a long time...experience your teacher's patience. Does the patience of others make dealing with your own frustration any easier? 
  • Be hard on yourself when you can't get it right. 
  • Hear your own negative self-talk. Experience what it is like to have to turn that thing off. 
  • Get something right the first time. Feel the awesome luck of it. 
  • Work really, really hard on something for YEARS. Finally get it right. Experience the sheer joy that accompanies that accomplishment. 
  • Be the one that smiles when you hear "good job" or "you're doing great." Feel proud when your teacher calls you out for something good.
  • Be the one that isn't paying attention and gets called out for it. Hey, we all space out sometimes, and it doesn't always mean we don't care. 
  • Have a bad day and then try to learn something new. How easy is it to leave your bad day behind and focus? 
  • Be really excited about something. How distracting is it towards your ability to learn? 
  • Ask what you can do outside of class. Try to practice on your own. How dedicated are you when the teacher isn't around? 
  • Experience the courage it takes to keep showing up when you know you may not be good. 
You got all that? 

Good. Now you probably know what each of your students may be feeling on any given day walking into your classroom.

So? Be patient, be invested, see the individual and the whole picture of your students, give the benefit of the doubt when needed, push them further when necessary, help them through frustration, disappointment, anxiety, and fear...encourage them, you can't do it enough. Appreciate them. They showed up. As you might find, that alone isn't always so easy...

Here's to always learning. To the effort, the triumph, the failure, to all of it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Prep it Up

Tomorrow, we head into week seven of the semester, and it's sure to be another busy one (February has been killer for us, anyone else?!)

I took the liberty of using today to "prep" for next week. First, we took a trip to the grocery store to pick up the necessaries to get us through the work week. We spend so much money on groceries it seems like, but we eat almost every meal at home.

Next, I came home and prepared tonight's dinner (Stuffed Peppers), which is currently in the crockpot. I also made Tuesday night's dinner and then put it in the fridge. I then prepared a rough "plan" for dinners this week:

Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Fennel, Tomato, and Potato Ragout
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: BBQ Tofu, Baked Sweet Potatoes, and Green Beans
Friday: Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Garlic, Parsley, and Lemon

That's the rough plan! After that, I planned ahead for breakfasts and snacks this week (lunch is always a grab and go frozen meal or leftovers, so that's easy).

Breakfast options for this week include: English Muffin with PB&J, Berry and Banana Smoothie, grapefruit with cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs (which I will prep tonight), or oatmeal with strawberries and raspberries. I mentioned previously that I've been working to avoid the dreaded "eat this granola bar in my car on the way to work" breakfast plan, and I think I've only succumbed to it a couple of times in the last two weeks.

Snack options for this week include: banana, granola bar (acceptable for a snack, NOT as breakfast), apple, almonds, or carrots with laughing cow cheese, apple with peanut butter, 94% fat free kettle corn, greek yogurt or cottage cheese with raspberries and strawberries, fresh tomatoes, or a cucumber in my favorite red wine vinegar. I also like smoothies or hard boiled eggs as snacks too.

My pants have been tight lately, and I'm not fond of it. Prepping ahead helps me stick to healthy eating patterns in a tremendous way. I like to decide on what I'm bringing to work the night before and bag it, so it is ready to go in the morning. I need to eat something basically every two hours (seriously), so packing enough to keep me full is also important.

What do you eat for your meals and snacks, and do you also plan and prep ahead?

Here's to whatever makes life easier...if I have time, I may even fold the laundry. Maybe.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

My First Birchbox! February 2014 Review

Yay! My first Birchbox came today.

Brendan got me a 6 month subscription for Valentine's day, and I was so excited for my first box to arrive.

For those of you that don't know about Birchbox, it works like this: You pay $10 a month for a subscription (you can buy subscriptions of 3, 6, or 12 months--the 12 month subscription comes with one free box). Every month, you get a box with 4-5 beauty samples tailored to an online profile that you fill out about your skin type, hair, coloring, and interests. You can review the samples in your box and earn 40 points...every 10 points is worth $1. You also earn points for buying full size products from Birchbox (1 point for every dollar spent) and referring friends (50 points for each friend referred). So, if you review your products, you "earn back" $4 from each box.

Here's what I thought about my first Birchbox:

It was like getting a little present in the mail!

 The box comes with a card that tells you about all of your products (including the cost of the full size versions, which you can buy on Birchbox's website).

This month my box had the following: Beauty Protector Protect and Detangle spray (I was so excited because I've actually been longing for a good detangle spray), INIKA organic eyeliner in Green Lagoon (I used it tonight and LOVE it), Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy perfume (Also used it tonight), Mox Botanicals Bath Milk (just enough for one bath, so I'm saving it!), and three Ahmad Tea London tea bags.

I was really happy to find that my eyeliner looked to be a full size pencil. It even had a sharpener on the end of the pencil, which I thought was cool. I think I can get many uses out of the hair detangle spray as well! 

Though I would never buy green eyeliner for myself, I thought it looked really good. It was also easy to use, and I liked that it is an organic mineral based product (especially since I was putting it near my eyeballs!) Here's my eyeliner selfie...also, the pictures of my "new hair" cut/color (which, honestly, looks basically the same). 

I can't wait to try out more of the products from my Birchbox! And I'm psyched for my next 5 boxes as well. 

Have you tried Birchbox? What did you get? 

If you want to sign up for Birchbox, my referral link is here

Happy weekend all! 


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Warm, Warm Weekend

With temperatures in the 80s both days this weekend, Brendan and I took advantage of this warm, warm weekend and got some sun.

On Saturday, we headed to the park with books, snacks, and blankets, and proceeded to read in the sun. It felt amazing, and I even got a little pink on my arms!

"Just leave me here, okay?" 

We also made friends with this lucky ladybug: 

Think she'll bring us good luck? I hope so! 
After the park, we sat outside and shared some fries and had drinks. 

Yum, fries.

This morning, we did some work and hung out with the cats. 

Lola's sun nap
Then we went to our friends Jennifer and Mike's house and enjoyed treats and Limonata in their backyard.

All in all, I never wanted this weekend to end. (Why does it have to!) 

Hope the warmer temperatures last all week as our 5 day forecast is calling for! 


Friday, February 14, 2014

First Married Valentine's Day

Awwww, this year marks our first married Valentine's Day! Seems hard to believe that its been a year since we were engaged and anxiously awaiting the wedding.

We celebrated by cooking together. Brendan made dinner, and I made dessert. On our "menu"...

Orange Balsamic Glazed Tofu and Brussel Sprouts:

Orange Beet Root Soup with Creme Fraiche and Cilantro: 

Kumquat and Mixed Greens Salad with Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing: 

We served it all with a bottle of Pinot Grigio from Casa Vino (from our wedding gift wine club subscription from my friend Jen!) It was all delicious!

Brendan picked up red roses for me:

and after dinner, we exchanged cards and gifts: 

We both made homemade cards this year!

Here's Brendan's to me:

Um, he's adorable. I got him his normal fancy sweaters. They were super soft! One is red and one is lilac. Brendan says he's cool with wearing purple. (Now that I got him sweaters, the forecast calls for all days in the 70s/80s...go figure!)

Brendan surprised me with a 6-month box subscription:

My first box ships on Tuesday, and I can't wait! We ordered this for my friend, Erica, for Christmas, and she loves it, so I'm excited to see the goodies in store for me. Review coming soon!

We will soon enjoy my French Silk Chocolate Pie (only we did homemade whipped cream and used store bought chocolate crust). The recipe was pretty easy!

I leave you with this adorable Valentine's day song. I wish all meetings I ever had included this!

Happy LOVE day!


Stumbled across this today...taken about five minutes after we were married. :) Love him!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On Resisting the Impulse For "Good Enough"

It took me a long time to title this post accurately for what I'm thinking about. Lately, work has been insanely busy. There are more meetings than I can keep straight on my calendar, more social functions that bring me to campus in the evening hours, and it seems like I gain new responsibilities each week. In addition, I've been trying to put in extra effort to help cook and stay on top of dishes and laundry, as Brendan has been hit with stomach flu, a fractured finger, and two days of jury duty all in a nine day period (on top of his own ever-growing list of tasks related to coordinating two creative writing contests in one semester).

 Staying busy is really a good thing; I'm sure of that. And I know that everything is entrusted to me for a reason: because I can do it, but there's also a nasty side effect that can creep in when work gets crazy, and that's the impulse to settle for "good enough" instead of reaching for something better.

Today was honestly a very long day of resisting that impulse, and checking in with myself constantly to reach for better.

Early in the day, an email announced that all sorts of treats were in the work room. I've promised myself I would keep my eating healthy, but those chocolate brownies looked good. I knew that consuming one right before three hours of tutoring was a bad idea though. I'd get a sugar crash and be less effective if I did that, so I stuck to the healthy Amy's lunch I had packed instead, and later I snacked on an apple and some almonds.

I tutored some students today that needed a lot of help. Instead of letting myself get stressed out by how much repetition was involved, I really relaxed into the sessions. If helping the student with a page and a half of writing took an hour of my time, so be it. I reminded myself to let myself just enjoy doing. A lot of times, we make lengthy tasks tedious when they really don't have to be. Reach for not just doing it, but doing it in a way that makes people happy; it feels so much better to give people not just the basic "job well done," but to put your energy into making them feel better. Seize opportunities to help those around you: whether you assist with a task, instill confidence, or provide moral support, being a positive force is better than just being there. I know I appreciate when someone does that for me.

When my car wouldn't start and the key was literally stuck in my ignition, I felt a bit panicked, and I couldn't reach anyone in my family on the phone. Before I gave in and used one of my AAA calls, I googled the problem, and after fifteen minutes, I solved it on my own (Brendan arrived just as I had started the car, making the text I had sent him appear crazy). Now I know some new things about my car and what it means to lock my steering wheel. If I had just called AAA, I probably wouldn't have learned.

When my yoga buddy, Kristen, texted me that an injury was keeping her out of class for the night, my "good enough" impulse said why not skip it too? But, I knew if I did that, I would feel awful. I had to push myself a bit to go, but it was one of the best classes ever, and it really improved my mood.

After yoga and dinner of leftovers (I'm so thankful for no one has to cook nights), I could have just settled into scanning Facebook, but my friend Corley posted this:

Point taken. I got off of Facebook and spent an hour or so revising my writing (thanks, Corley). I also traded in time I normally waste on the internet before yoga for reading, and it was much more satisfying, though a bit more mental energy was required.

At the end of the day, I treated myself to a warm bath and a glass of wine.

Today was just one day, and surely, some days I'll just do "good enough," and that's okay sometimes. But it's also good to realize that we can find energy where we don't think we have it, and we can choose to go beyond good enough in the choices we make. We can choose to take care of ourselves so that we are better able to care for others. We can choose to not let our impulse to stress take over. We can choose to fit in what we love, instead of just living the day as if it is all on an agenda that we don't control.

As my yoga teacher says: we have to give love to ourselves before we can give it away. That concept makes sense to me, and I hope it's something that makes sense to you as we all head into the end of our week.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Weekends Are For...

Going Out: We ate dinner at our favorite restaurant here, Thai house, and caught the opening night of Mary Poppins at Midland Community Theater on Friday. Very cute and a great cast! Special thanks to our friend Jenni for the complimentary drinks...we needed that after Friday's ER visit.

Sleeping in past 9:00am both mornings: (feels SO good! Enough said.)

Writing for fun: Not as much as I would have liked, but I got a few pages in (plan: catch up this week).

Reading for fun: I'm re-reading an old favorite, Catcher in the Rye. I haven't read it in 10 years, and I'm seeing it from a whole new perspective this time around (10 years after my first reading).

Renting movies: We watched Don Jon last night (a funny exploration of character...I'd give it 3.5 out of 5 stars) and rented Blue Jasmine for tonight.

Cooking new recipes:
These are both from the vegetarian section of the cookbook Take One Pot, which my mom got us for Christmas. The first was tonight's dinner: Hollowed Squash with Lentils, Zucchini & Blue Cheese. The second one was last night's dinner: Goat Cheese and Scallion Fettuccine. I also prepped a crock pot meal from Smitten Kitchen for tomorrow night's dinner. Woo-hoo!

Catching up on laundry: 3 loads, washed, dried, folded (okay, uhhhh, left that last load in the dryer, whatever).

Grocery shopping: Always a pain, but important! My goal for next week: stop eating granola bars in my car on the way to work and calling it "breakfast." It's frantic, unsatisfying, and not very filling! Instead: Grapefruit and cottage cheese, English muffin with jam or peanut butter, or a smoothie should all be suitable options.

Lots of cuddle time! With Brendan, Lola & Zoe

Cleaning up: Um, a little, but mostly just cuddle time with Brendan, Lola & Zoe. Duh.

What are your weekends for?


Friday, February 7, 2014

Starting the Weekend With a Bang(up)

Poor Brendan, this is just not his week. After recovering from his stomach flu and heading back to work on Wednesday, he dislocated/fractured his finger playing basketball with some co-workers this afternoon.

He called me from the Emergency Room, where a co-worker had driven him, so I immediately drove downtown and found him already admitted.


Numbing shots and X-Rays were given...

and then followed by a procedure to "pop" his finger back into place. Then more X-rays which confirmed a small fracture...and then a splint, pain prescription, and instructions to follow-up with an orthopedist next week.

How's that for a start to the weekend?!

We plan to still go forward with plans to eat out and see a play tonight. Lets hope our guy doesn't have any more incidents that send us to Urgent Care/the ER!

<3 and TGIF!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My First Stitch Fix Review (February 2014)

When I first heard about Stitch Fix, an online personal styling service, I knew I had to try it for myself, and when my first fix came today, it was just as fun as I thought it would be. 

Here's the deal with Stitch Fix

  • It's NOT a monthly subscription service. You can order a fix anytime, as often or as infrequently as you want it. 
  • You pay $20 to have a stylist send you five pieces (a mix of tops, bottoms, and accessories). UPSIDE: you can apply the 20 dollars towards any of the items in your fix. HOWEVER: If you don't like anything, you're out 20 dollars. 
  • You create a very detailed profile with your size and style preferences, and you tell the stylist what you are looking for. You can be as specific as you want: if you want a dress for Valentine's day, they'll send you several options. You can also tell them what your budget is. Plus, you can include a Pinterest board to show them styles you like. 
  • If you decide to keep all 5 items in your fix, you save 25%. 
  • You return any of the items you don't want for FREE (pre-paid postage envelope included). 
  • Anyone can do it! It's a fun way to add things to your wardrobe that you wouldn't necessarily pick out for yourself. 
  • It's especially good for people who are busy or who don't like to go shopping (me!) 
Okay, so here is what my experience was like (I paid for this myself, and this is my honest review):

It was like getting a present in the mail! 

My stylist was Sally, and she sent me a cute little note. All of the items in my fix (a bracelet, a blouse, a pair of skinny jeans, a skirt, and a cardigan would have costed $231.00 extra (styling fee is applied, so $251 total). I thought the prices in my fix were reasonable. 

My fix also came with a little card that gave suggestions about what to pair with each piece. I thought that was useful. In my fix was: 

Johnny Skinny Jeans 
Under the Skies Colorblock Blouse 
Cameron Wooden Bracelet 
Claire Polka Dot Skirt 
and Camelot Stripe and Dot Cardigan 

I was able to try everything on at home with my own clothes and mirror, which was really nice.
First up, the Cameron Wooden Bracelet. I knew I was going to return this one; it just wasn't my thing. On to the clothes! 
Item 1: Cameron Wooden Bracelet 
Next up was the Johnny Skinny Jeans and the Under the Skies Colorblock blouse. I LOVED these jeans. They were comfortable and looked great. The only problem was, I wanted one size bigger for myself (I like a little breathing room, you know?). I immediately found them at Nordstrom for the same price and ordered those. I wouldn't have found this brand on my own, and I'm happy my fix introduced them to me. The blouse looked really cute with these jeans, but I didn't like how it looked with my other clothes (I wanted it to be smaller/more fitted). I returned it. 

Items 2 and 3: Johnny Skinny Jeans and Under the Skies Colorblock Blouse
Up next, the Camelot Stripes and Dot Cardigan. I loved this and it was very "me." The fit was nice, and the cardigan was good quality.
Item 4: Camelot Stripe and Dot Cardigan (Shown with Item 2: Johnny Skinny Jeans)

Finally, the last item, the Claire Polka Dot Skirt. I thought this was really cute in theory, but just too long in practice for my short frame. 
Item 5: Claire Polka Dot Skirt 
After I was done deciding, I filled out a review for each item and "checked out" online. 

I kept the Camelot Stripe and Dot Cardigan. It was $28.00 and my $20 styling fee was applied, so I paid $8.00 extra when I checked out. I can't wait to wear it to work tomorrow. The rest of the clothes will go in the pre-paid envelope, be dropped off at the post office, and be returned for free. It doesn't get easier than that, right? 

Of course, I immediately scheduled my next fix: 

I told the stylist that I wanted colorful pieces for my spring break trip to Los Angeles. I also told them to skip the jewelry; I'm more interested in clothes for next time. 

Well, if you haven't tried Stitch Fix, here's the link. 

If you have tried Stitch Fix, what did you think? 

I'm off to make the first "real" dinner Brendan has had in a few days! 


Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Sick and Snowy Superbowl Sunday

Poor Brendan :( 

After being sick last night, and running a 101 fever this morning, we took him to the walk-in clinic and discovered that he has a case of the stomach flu (not influenza, but a virus). 

He is on a bland foods and lots of liquids diet and will have to miss work tomorrow. We've been securing subs for the classes I can't help cover. Luckily, Brendan has Tuesdays off this semester, which will grant him a couple of days to recover. In the meantime, Zoe is keeping him company. 

We also had snow last night/early this morning. After 72 degrees yesterday, it sure was a change. 

Tonight, we'll be watching the super bowl from home, instead of with friends (obviously). I'll be making Brendan an exciting dinner of baked potato and rice in veggie broth. 

Here's to hoping our guy gets well soon. And we hope your Superbowl Sunday is more fun that ours! 


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