Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

Every year I make a list of New Year's Resolutions. Sometimes I keep them, sometimes I don't. I still enjoy making them, though. There's something about the new year that screams fresh new start and this year I'm all about making a fresh new start. I've found myself entering the new year single, equipped with a master's degree, and employed. All three are pretty big changes so it'll be interesting to see how 2016 plays out for me.

So! Here are my New Year's Resolutions for 2016:

1. Keep up with my resolutions. I always manage to lose my resolutions and then can't remember what they are which probably means I didn't keep them.

2. Lose weight! I think this is always on my list. These days I'm more about being healthy than losing weight, but at the moment, they're one and the same. I need to get about 20 pounds off of me.

3. Fun read more! You would think I read all the time, but in reality, I just don't have the time which brings me to...

4. Manage my time better. I'm now working full-time so my days are full which leaves little time to waste when I leave work for the day. My goal is to figure out ways to use my time wisely.

5. Relax. I joke that my Dad is wound up tighter than a 50-cent watch when in reality, we both are. I tend to get wound up about things instead of  just letting things be. I have a childhood friend who can successfully do that. His personality is so laid back and every time I talk with him, I feel the tenseness just leave my body. He has a wonderful outlook on life and never seems to stress. I can chat with him for five minutes and I instantly feel better about things. He just goes with the flow and has a good time. THAT is my goal.

So there they are. Out in public and on the Internet so I should have an easier time keeping New Year's Resolution #1. Happy New Year's, everybody!


Monday, November 16, 2015

Paris

Over the last few days, the world has mourned the Paris attacks. I've been silently watching the events unfold. ISIS is as organized as a beefed-up, world-wide mafia and that has many people uneasy. No one knows where they will strike next.

My Facebook feed has been full of reactions. Many have changed their profile picture to a French flag overlay, showing solidarity with a country who showed solidarity with us when we were attacked September 11, 2001. Others prefer not to do that, citing the many other countries who have suffered at the hands of ISIS and feeling that showing solidarity with one country shows disregard for the others. Some people are publicly praying, some people are itching to put their military uniform back on and give ISIS what-for, and others are simply trying to deal with a world that has shrunk through social media, allowing us to see in real-time the horrors that we as humanity are capable of.

As an American, safely ensconced in my little home, I have no idea of what victims of terrorism go through. I have no idea what it feels like to constantly live under the fear of bomb sirens, automatic gunfire, and worry that at any moment, men with guns will come bursting through my front door, annihilating anyone standing in their way. It's hard to imagine the shock at being in a sports arena or a concert hall, only for it to explode, killing the people sitting next to me. I can't understand it, I can't know first-hand. I'm not able to don an armed forces uniform and exact revenge. I can't physically comfort those who have lost loved ones. I can't save the prisoners who are doomed to be beheaded any given day.

But I can pray.

And I can let them know through this post that they have the prayers, the love, and the thoughts of one little American who wishes she could do more.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; united us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, Prayer for the Human Family, p. 815

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I Smell Fall

The windows are all open in my townhouse and the only sounds are the sounds of the wind rustling through the trees and the gurgle of water in my fish tank. It's quiet. It's peaceful. It's a little reminder that it's okay and necessary to just sit and be.

I haven't taken much time for myself this last month. I hit the ground running at the beginning of August, just days after my final day as a graduate assistant. Orientation day. Professors, PowerPoints, new vocabulary, teacher candidates, university supervisors. Pre-service week. People standing in front of me with more PowerPoints and more educational vocabulary to learn. Teachers sitting next to me who have been teaching two years, twenty years, more years than they care to admit, all here to learn. Lunches with new colleagues. A whole new set of faces to learn, to familiarize myself with. Learn. Learn. Learn. First week of school. New faces to learn. 15- and 16-year-olds. Confident, not so confident, funny, angry, sad, hungry, bored, mature, immature, ready to learn, not ready to learn. Lesson plans, pre-service instructive mentor teachers, lunches where you cram your food in and greet students for your next class between gulps of hot tea. Quick breaks between classes where you get to speak to adults for three minutes, sharing quick zingers that only teachers would get. Early mornings where there's only time for a shower and a quick breakfast. Coffee has swapped from being leisurely enjoyed in my favorite coffee mug to being quickly gulped down during planning period where I'm learning to develop plans at a fast pace. Plans that are carefully laid out are thrown to the wind on a regular basis due to interruptions - the Marine guy who would like to speak with the class about ROTC, the student council members who want to talk about what's coming up this year, the office needs this student, that student. Pardon the interruption, but can you send your teacher candidate to the office to meet with their university supervisor? How many students today have gone on the field trip? Ms. so-and-so is coming in today to talk about colleges. No planning necessary for that day. Wait, she went on the field trip. Looks like a writing day is in store for the students. Today is club day - only half a class period will be available to teach. I am learning to roll with the punches, to prepare for anything, to over-plan, to not sweat the small stuff, to be sure not a second goes by where students have nothing to do. Plan for the interruptions, plan for the short days, plan for the regular days, plan for the days that were supposed to be long and are now short, plan for the days that were supposed to be short and are now long. Plan, plan, plan. Plan for the edTPA video-taping, plan for Task 1, Task 2, Task 3. Plan for the activity due for class. Plan for graduation coming up in a few months. My plans are in my head, scratched out on notebook paper, and entered into the computer.

For now, I'm sitting. Enjoying the breeze coming through my front window. Enjoying the gurgle coming from my fish tank. Leisurely drinking coffee from my favorite cup, the mocha scent idly wafting through the air, the crisp, clean air drifting through my windows, quietly reminding me that fall is just around the corner.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My Aquarium

It’s quiet in the apartment tonight. Kiddo has gone to visit folks for a couple of days and I’m snuggled up on the couch, crocheting and enjoying the quiet sounds of the aquarium. The cicadas are in full force outside and I can honestly say that I’ll be glad when they’re gone. That particular noise is one I can do without.

I broke down a few weeks ago and decided that I must have a pet, even if it did have scales instead of fur and would rather swim around than play fetch. I’ve had little experience with fish, my last fish pet I killed the first night we brought it home when in my 3-year-old mind, I thought the little goldfish looked hungry and plopped a gumdrop into its bowl. At least he died sugared up and blissfully full. It’s how I would have wanted to go.

My fish don’t behave like the furry pet that I really want, but they do have a trick or two hiding up their scaly sleeves. They beg. Every morning, I come down the stairs, say good morning (yes, I talk to them – don’t judge), and turn their light on. They line up, watching me intently as I grab the can of fish food and sprinkle a couple of pinches over the top of the water. I think it’s safe to say they’re trained to at least know when to expect their food.

They also have their little personalities, too, at least as far as fish personalities go. One of them likes to hide out behind the shipwreck and that same one likes to dig around in the rocks at the bottom of the tank.

I had to make the tank pretty so I bought four plants, a shipwreck, and a wrecked WWII-era plane. They seem to like everything. They nibble on the plants and pick off food that’s fallen in the nooks and crannies of the shipwreck and the plane.

The upkeep hasn’t been too hard either. I may change my mind in a couple of months, but so far, it’s been pretty simple. I’ve got my weekly routine and my monthly routine. I have to keep a notebook of all the stuff I put in the water, when I vacuum, when I change the filter, and when I re-fill it with water. I’m nerdy that way. I’m also forgetful that way. Those poor fish would’ve died in three weeks otherwise.

So I’m happy with my tank. The filter keeps the water flowing and I love the relaxing sound it makes. If I can keep this tank going I may invest in a bigger tank after I get out of these apartments and into someplace a little bigger. 


Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Last Week as a Graduate Assistant

It’s almost 11 pm on a Sunday night. I should have been in bed, asleep, half an hour ago. But here I am, typing away at my computer, trying to sort through my mountain of emotion. At least I’m under the covers.

Tomorrow starts my last week as a graduate assistant at CREP. CREP has been my home away from home for the past two years. I’ve developed friendships and discovered I like educational research while I was there. It’s where I learned to how to REALLY write a report, how research is REALLY done in the real world. It’s the place where I park my Wonder Woman coffee mug, my piles of trinkets I’ve collected over the years that were gifts from colleagues and friends who have traveled. It’s where I’ve spent hours talking with co-workers about everything – from the state of U.S. education today to funny cat videos. I’ve laughed, cried, eaten, and studied at this place.

I don’t do change well.

Change is what’s a-comin’, though. I start a new phase of my life on Friday. I’m already breaking my own rule for posting about this, but I feel it necessary. Our clinical teaching orientation will take most of the day. The next week will involve shadowing my mentor teacher during in-service and the week after, I begin my adventure as a student teacher, at the end of which (hopefully!) I will graduate with my master’s degree. I’ll be the first in my family to get a master’s. It’s something I feel very proud of and at the same time, I’m scared poopless. I’m not going to lie, edTPA makes me nervous. I’m trying to be as prepared as I can be, but I still feel as if I’m getting ready to jump down a rabbit hole with no lifeline to pull me back up.

This is where the rubber meets the road, as the idiom so eloquently puts it. Everything I’ve learned up to this point, my passion for English Literature, my knowledge of writing effectively, the teaching skills I’ve learned, all the psychology I’ve had crammed in my brain will be put to the test for the next few months. And at the end of those few months, if I am deemed worthy, I will be awarded with a diploma and the freedom to apply for my teaching license.

I posted a lovely prayer last night and as I wrap up my blog post, I feel it is a fitting ending and one that I will be returning to many times over the next several weeks.


“It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done; let it be.” ~ A New Zealand Prayer Book

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Dr. Robinson - My Opinion

According to the University of Memphis website, over 2,400 people work at the University of Memphis (over 900 of which are faculty members. The campus includes over 21,000 students and spans 1,600 acres. Why, out of all that space and all those people, was I one of three students picked to be interviewed about a professor I have never met? 

Shoulda, Coulda, Didna

Let me backtrack just a little. Earlier that day, I ran across a story on my Facebook newsfeed talking about inflammatory social media posts made by a UofM professor. I read the story and started watching the whole thing unfold throughout the day. You can Google the tweets. I found her Twitter handle and watched as tweet after tweet popped up written by folks responding to what she had said. A few were encouraging, but most were ugly. People can say what they want, but the majority of the ugly tweets I saw (as well as on the news Facebook pages) were made by people whose profile pictures depicted the Confederate flag. Most called for her dismissal, some swore their child would never attend a university that harbored such a racist person, and some were just attacking her. I went back today and noticed many of the tweets have been deleted, by the way. UofM posted a quick tweet later that day stating that Dr. Robinson was no longer employed at the University of Memphis. Dr. Robinson tweeted at some point (it was re-tweeted by one of her Twitter followers) that she was not fired and she had given notice back in May. Later, reports of her new employment at Rhodes College started showing up.

The News Reporter

Enter the media. A news reporter approached me as I was waiting for the Blue Line to come pick me up late that afternoon. She asked if I were a UofM student. I SHOULD have said no. But I didn’t. Then she asked if I knew Dr. Robinson. I had never had a class with Dr. Robinson so I didn’t really have an idea of what she was like. I had taken Intro to Sociology by Dr. Enck and Racial and Ethnic Minorities by Prof. Murphy, but never one from her (although I wish I would have been able to fit one in!). I’d only really begun sorting out what possibly could have happened when the reporter approached me with her questions. I told the reporter I didn’t know Dr. Robinson as I’d never taken one of her classes. I also said that I had read a tweet from Dr. Robinson stating that she HADN’T been fired, but had given her notice back in May. The news reporter then told me their source said that she had been fired. Unfortunately for me, I’m not good at hiding my emotions so my surprise at hearing she had been fired was written all over my face. The reporter quickly then asked something about her ideas and forcing them in the classroom at the same time the camera man (who I hadn’t paid much attention to until that point) whipped his camera up and started rolling. Shit. I COULD HAVE reminded her I had no idea since I had never had her. I probably should have said that. But I didn’t. What came out of my mouth was my experiences in the classroom during my undergrad years with other professors. I explained that we are free to express and discuss our views regardless of the professor’s personal opinion. She asked me if I thought her firing was a result of racism. I responded I didn’t think so. 

THE TWEETS

The tweets Dr. Robinson posted were very powerful, very in-your-face, very controversial, and very much in line with how she rolls. Had she introduced these tweets in a class, I could imagine her writing a tweet on the board in silence, turning back to the class, and asking a simple question, What do you think about this? I would have jumped at the chance to completely immerse myself in discussion and debate. The time would have flown by and I would probably have left the classroom with a little bit more insight, a little bit smarter, and with more respect for a professor who forced me to think about topics that are often avoided. Then again, that’s what college is for, right? To encourage critical thinking, to make us uncomfortable and think outside our mental box, to open our minds and question our beliefs even if we come back to those same beliefs. My other professors did this for me so I have no reason to think Dr. Robinson would not have done the same for me. 


My Reaction

1. I know of other professors who have left under circumstances that were less than ideal and I don’t remember the UofM EVER stating they no longer worked there. I feel they toed a very dangerous line by choosing to publically state that. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that the reporter may not have been entirely truthful about her source because I can’t imagine anyone in admin volunteering that information. 

2. I feel that by responding as viciously as many people did, they simply nailed home some of Dr. Robinson’s statements. 

3. Let’s talk about whiteness for a second. Whiteness is not the same as white people. Whiteness in the sense that Dr. Robinson stated in her tweet refers to a word that needs to be defined from a sociological viewpoint. So for those of you Googling just “whiteness”, stop. Just stop. Instead, Google “the sociological definition of whiteness” and you’ll get a better idea of what Dr. Robinson is talking about. You’ll also see why I’m not spelling it out here because it obviously would turn my blog post into a book. 

4. I rate people using simple criteria. Are they nice? If you are a nice person, I like you even if you have weird habits. If you are not a nice person, I treat you professionally if you’re a work colleague, speak to you if you I have to, but generally I avoid you if I can. Ain’t nobody got time for that kind of negativity. Many of the negative tweets I saw were made by people who are not nice. No one nice can post the things they did. 

5. The articles I read about Dr. Robinson were very subjective and at times misleading. I feel this is irresponsible journalism and contributed to the mob mentality that came later, calling for her resignation. 

Do I feel Dr. Robinson was in the wrong for posting the things she did? 

No. Dr. Robinson is a vocal person. She’s a sociologist, for goodness sake! How could she NOT have an opinion on social issues? It’s demanded of her as a responsible professor. 

Do I feel she could have said it better? 

Yes and the only reason I say that is because I feel an opinion has more of a chance to be analyzed objectively if it’s stated a bit more gently. I’m not saying that everyone would have stopped before they hit send on their ugly tweet – some people are just going to be mean, regardless. It’s just what I do myself. I try to gently share my opinion and sometimes I don’t share it at all. I’m also assuming here that Dr. Robinson was looking for her opinion to be analyzed objectively. 

Is my opinion of how to share opinions correct? 

Not necessarily. We’re all different and we express ourselves differently. 

Am I this forgiving of all people with an opinion? 

If someone posts something that is just idiotic, I do what any normal person does. I read it and think, wtf? Do I attack the person? No. Do I question them? Sometimes. It depends on who it is. If it’s a celebrity, I just let it go. I may blog about it later if the urge strikes me. If it’s a friend or acquaintance, I usually just let it go as well unless I feel I can share my opinion without being attacked. Again, I may blog about it later if the urge strikes me. 

Do I agree with what Dr. Robinson says? 

Well, now that’s a bit trickier. It’s also something I may address in a future blog. I agree with some of her posts. The others? I don’t know yet. I have to analyze them and see if I agree with them or not. I know one thing for sure – I’m going to be spending a lot of time on her blog over the next couple of weeks. She has some fascinating, thought-provoking posts on there!

Do I think Dr. Robinson is racist? 

I don’t believe so. Being racist means thinking that one’s race is superior to another. I can’t get inside her head so I can’t say for sure if she is or isn’t, but based on what I’ve read so far, I would guess the answer is no.

What do I think about the University of Memphis? 

I love UofM. This university has taken a broken-down, old, divorced, single mother and has turned me into a woman with confidence, a woman with knowledge, a woman who can hold her head up high in the world again. UofM has been my home, literally, for the last six years. I will always be a proud alumni. I would recommend UofM to anyone. It's a great place to learn. I also am aware that UofM has its faults. I hear whispers, I observe, and I know that things go on at this place that are not always very nice things. However, the same could be true of any university. Yes, I’m a suburbanite white girl so I see things through a different lens. I don’t know what it’s like being a black woman in a university setting, but I do know it’s different and it shouldn’t be. Do I think they should have posted that tweet regarding Dr. Robinson’s employment? No. Just no. Dr. Robinson voluntarily addressed her employment status and it should have been left at that. Wtf, UofM??

We live in a different world – a world where we can instantly share our thoughts online with potentially hundreds and thousands of people around the world as I just did with this blog post. I love that because I can see what makes people tick based on what they post and I can share my thoughts on the world to the world. It’s also upsetting, though, because it drives home certainties. America still suffers horribly from racism. While I think racism is going to be around for a very long time, I do wish we could improve our ability to sit down and discuss it intelligently instead of firing ugly 140-character zingers at each other. 

For what my opinion is worth, I believe she has been treated unfairly, but she strikes me as someone who can’t be kept down. I look forward to seeing her in action in the future. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Southern Girl and the Confederate Flag

I've been following these stories for the last few days and this article comes pretty darned close to how I feel about the Confederate flag. I used to love the Confederate flag as a kid. I dated a guy who had it proudly displayed in the back of his truck (y'all DO remember tall Wayne!). As an adult, I simply accepted it as part of my Southern heritage. However, the Confederate flag scale has tipped from being a symbol of Southern heritage to a symbol of hatred. I don't want to think of both symbols as being synonymous. I love being a Southerner. I don't love being associated with hate.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Wacky World of Financial Aid

I've spent the last six years navigating the sometimes confusing world of financial aid. What has gotten me through it? I push, ask, pester, and research until I figure something out because despite my moments of sheer panic, ultimately, failure is not an option for me.


I'm stubborn that way.

This last round with financial aid, though, almost had me beat. My masters program requires that I student teach in a high school setting for my final semester. With no pay. AND I have to pay for nine credit hours. Six of those credit hours are for the Clinical Teaching Semester and the remaining three are for the Professional Seminar. Up to this point, I've been working as a grad assistant on campus and I've had my tuition paid for me by my department. This upcoming semester, however, required my full attention so I wasn't going to have the luxury of having those nine hours paid for on top of being without the stipend I normally get as a grad assistant. I was going to have to come up not only with $5200 for tuition, but also figure out how I was going to pay my rent, my car note, utilities, gas, etc. I was in a panic. I saw my only options were to either put off graduating and find a job to pay the bills or to get a job teaching on a transitional license, but I have no teaching experience. I put my resume out there and got a few interviews, but without work experience, I could only provide theoretical scenarios for how I would handle my classroom.

Then one day last week, one of my grad student peers approached me with a question about his own financial aid. After talking with him, I looked my own financial aid up again, idly looking through it on the off-chance that I may have missed something. I clicked on the grad assistance fee waiver portion and it came up with this message:

"An 'Est Grad Assist Fee Waiver' is posted on ALL GRADUATE students' accounts to prevent over payment. You should check with your department to see if they have any Graduate Assistant positions available. If you already know that you are NOT going to be a Graduate Assistant AND wish to obtain more student loans, please go to http://www.memphis.edu/financialaid/forms.php to complete the Other Financial Assistance Notice Form for the applicable aid year."

I looked up the form and called the financial aid office. They informed me that since my tuition had been taken care of by my department, that meant I had additional financial aid funds I could access.


I felt like a 2-ton weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Not only do I now have enough money to pay my tuition, I will have enough money to pay my bills and not have to worry about medical or other unexpected expenses for me or kiddo. I can now truly enjoy summer break. 

The moral of the story? If you are in college and you think you don't have the money to pay for your upcoming semester, go by the financial aid office and just lay it all out for them and ask them what options you have. You never know - you may have missed something. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Here in the Grand Ol’ South, there is a season for everything. I’m of the opinion that food traditions should be treated like clothing. One should never wear white shoes after Labor Day and one should never fix potato salad before Memorial Day.

I’ve had plenty of other traditions for Memorial Day over the years, but these days Memorial Day typically means a relaxing day of grilling yummy food, eating, drinking, and a bit more time to reflect on what Memorial Day actually means.

At this time of the year, my newsfeed is usually packed full of American flags, soldiers (past and present), and the diehards who (bless their hearts) are turning a virtual shade of purple over the folks who pay tribute to the living soldiers as well as the ones who have died in service of our country. Memorial Day, like most other holidays, tends to bring out the best and the worst in people. This is how we roll.

I’ve got the potatoes going and the peach cobbler in the oven. So I took a bit of time out to read about this special day. Check out this Washington Post article I ran across on my newsfeed:



In the business of boating, fishing, jet skiing, grilling out, and consuming mass quantities of alcohol, take some time out to remember those who have died serving our country. We may not always agree on the wars they have fought, but our servicemen don’t pick and choose what battles they will fight. They fight them all. For us. For our country. They deserve our respect and admiration.

Lesson Gone Wrong

For those of you who have worked with me before, you know one of the things I constantly do is reflect. Where did I go wrong? What could I h...