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Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

That’s what one of my closest friends told me a few weeks ago, when she and I were having a heart-to-heart about life.  She’s so right.  Things have been “off” since August.

Before you get too concerned, it’s nothing super serious, but I have had a mild sense of not feeling like myself.  Not depressed exactly, but a mild sense of the blahs that have spilled over into most areas of my life – working out, eating right, blogging, etc.  You guys know I’ve been really absent on this blog, only writing very sporadically – I just haven’t felt inspired to write, which is so unlike me. Not that I’ve been going completely off the rails – I get workouts in here and there.  I eat healthy most of the time and log most of my meals into MFP.  I see friends and family, regularly.  But I’ve felt like I’m just going through the motions a lot of the time.  Kind of a “fake it ’till you make it” existence, which is so NOT me. I’m a live-life-outloud kinda girl, so “just getting through it” is not a comfortable place for me.

At first I couldn’t put my finger on it.  I still had all the same goals for my life – keeping up a healthy lifestyle, getting to my goal weight, spending time with friends and family, generally keeping a positive outlook on life. So why was I just going through the motions?  I finally took a long, hard look at my life, and realized that it was the new position I’d taken as a new teacher mentor.

I loved some aspects of the job. Working with the new teachers and helping them navigate all of the aspects of being a 1st or 2nd year teacher.  Seeing how instruction is implemented at the 5 different high schools where my 18 new teacher work.  Getting to know the principals, vice-principals, and deans at the 5 schools.  Working closely with my mentoring partner, whom I worked with at my high school, and whom I respect tremendously.  Meeting lots of other mentors who work throughout my county.  Learning more about Common Core, ELD standards, equity in education, and great teaching practices.  I enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm of the new teachers, as well as their willingness to receive feedback about how they could improve their teaching. Even planning, writing, and hosting the professional development for the new teachers on topics like supporting ELL students, implementing academic vocabulary, new apps and technology for the classroom, etc.

But there were lots of things that the new position entailed that weren’t so great. Like all the driving – in my head I knew I’d be traveling from school to school throughout the day, but until I was actually in the car driving so many miles every single day, I didn’t realize how much of a toll it would take on me.  I missed having a home – being at a school where they knew and loved me.  I only have two new teachers at my old high school, and I relish every time I’m on that campus because students run up to me saying hello, colleagues offer hugs, and I just breathe a sigh of relief because it’s my familiar.  I missed the school spirit – dressing up for spirit week, wearing goofy costumes, donning blue and gold on Fridays for our school pride day.     I missed being part of a faculty and having that sense of community on a daily basis.  I knew I was a social person, but I didn’t realize just how much I needed that interaction. The unpredictability of my daily schedule was also something that drained me.  I love variety and keeping things fresh, but waking up and not knowing where I’m going and who I’m going to see until I check my iCal appointments was off-putting in a way I never anticipated.  And the work day was much longer – I usually wake up at 5:30, read and respond to work emails while I have coffee, get ready for the day and leave the house by 8 or 8:30 and drive all around until at least 4:30 or 5pm, then take phone calls and answer emails or do paperwork when I got home.  Now I know that might not sound like a long day to most people, and when I was teaching I’d spend the normal school day working and then have to plan lessons and grade in the evenings and weekends, but this new schedule just felt a lot longer to me. Probably because I wasn’t doing what I loved like I did when I was teaching.  One the nights we held professional development, which was once a month, we’d work until 7pm. I felt like the hours of this position were all-consuming.

And then there was the conversation with the district administrators whom my mentoring partner and I report to who let us know that next year they expect us to add more “districtwide” professional development to our plans. Which means they expected us to provide professional development to all teachers, not just new teachers on “district initiatives” that they decided for us.  When I expressed that we might not be experts in these areas, my boss said, “well then, we’ll send you to a workshop so that you can become an expert.”  How would we possibly fit in more than we were doing now?  We were both running around like chickens with our heads cut off as it was just keeping up with all we were required to do for the new teachers.  When would we find the time to plan, write, and teach these new professional developments?  And what if these “district initiatives” weren’t on topics that we believed in?  It’s very difficult to teach something that I don’t fully support, yet these new topics would be chosen by the district administrators, not by my mentoring partner and me.  I abhor being dictated to and feeling like my opinion doesn’t matter, yet that was the message I was getting.  Not being someone to quietly deal with a situation that I hate, I decided to take a stand.

In February I told the deputy superintendent in charge of human resources that I would like to return to the classroom next year.  In essence, I was resigning from this position.  I didn’t mention the things that made me unhappy about the job; I just told her that I really missed teaching.  Which is completely true.  Teaching is my passion, and seeing all of those new teachers in their own classrooms made me long for my own room full of students. I am still considered a teacher even as a mentor, I’m still fully fledged in the teachers’ union, retain my tenure and seniority, and I am guaranteed a teaching position somewhere in the district.  The unknown was whether or not I’d be able to return to my old school.  I had high hopes because there were two open positions in the English department, my former principal wanted me back, and I wanted to return.  But HR had to keep me guessing, hoping, praying, and wishing for awhile.  Finally, on April 1, I found out that I will be able to return to my old school!! I’m so excited and I know I’m going to go back with a renewed sense of purpose.

I’ll be teaching most of the same classes I have in the past, although I will have two classes that I haven’t taught in about 10 years.  I will also be in a new classroom, at my request.  The teacher who moved into my old classroom is staying on next year, and I just didn’t want to make him have to move everything. Plus, there were so many things about my old classroom that I didn’t really like – it was a huge room, but it was weirdly shaped, making it difficult to keep organized.  The new room has great counters and cabinets, so keeping everything tidy will be much easier.  Plus, in the new room I’ll be right next door to one of my favorite teaching buddies, whom I’ll be collaborating with on 4 of the classes.  And I love the idea of a fresh start in a new room.  I can’t wait to “move in” and decorate it this summer!

It’s hard for me to express the combination of excitement yet calm I feel knowing that I’ll be back to my high school.  I feel like I can breathe easier knowing that I’ll be back to doing what I love, working with the people I enjoy, interacting with 120+ students who will be “mine” for the year.  Back to having a predictable schedule – knowing what time I begin and end my day and where I’ll be every single weekday.  Yet there’s a huge amount of excitement, too – back to discussing texts, helping students improve their writing, planning curriculum with colleagues, and of course, wearing all the goofy, spirited outfits. I’m going to enjoy the remainder of this mentoring position for these last couple of months (I’m done June 5th), and I’ll really relish all the fun that comes with summer vacation, but I am also feeling so inspired for the 2015-16 school year.  I have a feeling of peace that I haven’t felt in so long.  And I think that’s going to spill over into all other areas of my life.

I’ll write more about my plans for working out and eating right in an upcoming post.  If you haven’t noticed, I was inspired yesterday and finally wrote out my 2015 goals and my mantra for the year.  I’m not going to promise how often I’ll write, but I will say that I’m planning to write more often than I have been.  Until then, I hope you have a happy Friday!

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Did you think I’d fallen off the face of the earth?  I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last post, or all that has happened in between.  There is so much to update!

First and foremost – I got a new job!!  It was completely unexpected, but when the opportunity presented itself, I knew I had to take it.  Let me step back.  For years, since I was in my masters program in 2006-2008, I knew that eventually I would like to become a New Teacher Advisor, which is someone who mentors first and second year teachers and supports them as they begin their careers.  Our local program is run out of the Silicon Valley/Santa Cruz New Teacher Project, which works in conjunction with all of the local school districts in the area.

I was first involved in the program as an inductee during my 3rd year of teaching.  (As longtime readers may recall, I first began teaching for two years, wasn’t happy with my placement, and took an opportunity to work for an internet company during the dotcom boom.  But I missed teaching, so after the thrill of the internet had died down, I decided to get back to it.  Since I’d been out of the classroom for 5 years at that point, the school district where I was working at the time asked me to do the new teacher program, which I agreed to).  At that point, back in 2002, the New Teacher Program was just beginning.  It offered support, assessment, and training, but I still had to take separate classes, which I paid for out of pocket, to clear my credential.  Still, my experience with the program, and especially my mentor teacher, was so phenomenal, that I knew at some point I would like become a mentor teacher.  Plus, my experience at the internet company, where I was training and supervising a group of 20 people, set me up well for the position.

Skip to two weeks ago, when a job posting for the New Teacher Advisor went out from my district office.  It was August 8th, a week before our first teacher workday and less than two weeks before school was starting.  Could I really apply for this job at this point in the summer, leaving my principal in a really bad position to try and fill my spot?  Not that I think I’m irreplaceable, by any means, but my schedule was one that no one else would be crazy enough to want.  I taught four different classes – English 3 honors, yearbook, journalism, and AVID. No one in their right minds would want that schedule (although I loved the variety it brought), especially that late in the year.  I talked to my parents, a couple of colleagues, and did a lot of soul searching.  Ultimately I decided to go for it because these positions don’t come up very often.  The deciding factor was the other teacher I’d be working with if I got the position – she and I had worked closely together last year, and I loved her.  She and I have a very similar style of organization, communication, and planning and the areas in which we’re different compliment each other.  Since you work so closely with the other New Teacher Advisor, working well together is everything.  I knew I wouldn’t have the same opportunity to work with her again in this position.  So I went for it.

I put in my application, wrote my letter of intent, and scrambled to get the last-minute letters of recommendation I needed.  My colleagues and administrators wrote glowing reviews of me, and even if I didn’t get the job, they really boosted my spirits with what they’d said. I’d worked at my school for 10 years, and had forged relationships with my colleagues and students that had created a true community.  I would miss everything about my school, including teaching, but I also knew that the relationships I had with these people would last a lifetime, no matter where the future took me.

The week of August 11th was whirlwind!  On one hand I was preparing to start school as a teacher, but in the background, I was setting up the interviews for this new position.  If I got the position, would I start the year teaching and then move into the new position once they’d hired my replacement?  I couldn’t sleep at night, working through the scenarios of how the school would be able to replace me in the easiest way.  My head was swirling with the different teachers who might take on each of my assignments so we could cobble together a more reasonable position to hire for.  I was at a professional development for our district teachers on the morning of August 13th when I ran into the HR Director in the bathroom, who said she’d heard that I had applied, and she was really excited about it.  She said that if I were to get the position, she’d like me to start right away, and not have me in the classroom at all, because it would be easier for the students.  She said, “but you’re really difficult to replace.  Do you have any ideas?”  I told her a few of my thoughts, which she really liked, and it seemed like a great sign that I might actually get the job.  As luck would have it,  I gave a 15-minute presentation to the English teachers throughout the district about how I use Turnitin to make grading essays easier.  The Director of Curriculum saw me present, as did the Assistant Superintendent in charge of Curriculum.  My presentation was really well received, and it became a way for me to show my abilities in professional development, which would help me in my interview.  Everything was falling into place.

Friday morning I was at my school where I would be teaching if I didn’t get the job.  At the welcome breakfast I felt weird; I wanted to tell  my colleagues what was going on, but knew I couldn’t, since my interview was later that afternoon, and nothing was set yet.  I led my department meeting, since at that point I was still the department chair, but it felt so strange not to tell them about what was going on.  Still, no use in getting everyone riled up if I wasn’t certain about my status.  Later that morning I went into the vice principal’s office with him and our principal to share with them the ideas as to how to replace me, because both of them had the indication that I was going to get the job.  I was thrilled, but didn’t want to be overly confident, because until they offered me the position, it wasn’t mine.  After talking to the four teachers who would take the different sections I was to teach, we had a really viable position to offer someone new.  I can’t explain how appreciate I am that my colleagues stepped up at literally the last minute to take on a brand new assignment so that I could accept the job, if it was offered to me.  One more reason I absolutely love the school I’d been teaching at for 10 years.

I rushed home to change for the interview, because I had decided that I would go into it as if I didn’t work in the district.  In other words, I was taking it very seriously and wanted to present myself in the best possible light.  I would talk about myself as if they didn’t know who I was and what my accomplishments were.  I would go in there and prove that I was THE person for the job.  I had the interview at 3:30, and it went well.  It was a quick 30 minute back and forth where I answered a set of 12 questions.  I had thought that because of the timing I might have the second interview right away, but they told me they’d be in touch and sent me on my way.  I left the district office confused about when I would find out.  School started on Monday.  As I was pulling up to a colleague’s house to attend his TGIF, I got a call from the HR Director who said she’d like to do the 2nd interview on the phone.  All I kept thinking was that I hope my cell reception would last because I was in the hills, and it could be spotty.  She asked me a few hard-hitting questions, which I answered easily, and then, after about 20 minutes of the interview, she paused and said, “well, we’d like to offer you the job!”  Yay!!!!  I was elated, because even though all indications had looked like I would get the position, that my background and experience made me the ideal candidate, I still didn’t want to take anything for granted.  I was elated that I had the position!  I thanked her so much for believing in me and for giving me the opportunity, and went into the TGIF party, where my principal was in attendance, to tell everyone the good news.  It was bittersweet, because I will really miss working at my high school, but it was also amazing, because I was about to start this new adventure.

I spent all of Sunday cleaning out my classroom.  I worked hard, shed tears at all the memories, and also looked ahead to all that I was about to take on. As a New Teacher Advisor, would mentor new teachers, observe them, offer guidance, and gather resources that they needed.  I would be their lifeline into this new world of teaching, which can be daunting and overwhelming, but ultimately so satisfying. With the new position I also have the opportunity to create and present professional development for the new teachers, as well as any other teachers who want to come to them.  Presenting to adults is something that many educators find difficult, but something at which I thrive.  I’ve never felt nervous presenting in front of anyone, whether it’s a 16-year-old honors student or the CEO of a company.  My confidence allows me to command a room, and I was excited that I would get the chance to display my strengths in this area.

This Monday was my first day, and it was hectic.  I had a new office, a new position, new responsibilities, and a new schedule.  Because I work around when the 1st and 2nd year teachers have time to meet, my schedule isn’t set.  Eventually I’ll get into a regular schedule of meeting with them, but for now, my day-to-day routine was very scattered.  As much as I like change and variety, I also crave structure.  I like knowing my schedule, getting into a routine, and working within those boundaries.  It keeps me organized and sane.  Not to mention fitting in workouts.  I was a bit uncomfortable and overwhelmed at the beginning of the week with the amorphous nature of the days, but after I was able to take a bit of time to organize my appointments, I felt so much better.  Never once did I think I’d made a mistake, and I can already tell that I made the right decision.

This week has been chaotic, but it’s been wonderful.  I didn’t workout as regularly as I would have hoped, but I did fit in several cardio workouts.  I lost weight (more on that in a later post), and I was able to set a bit of organization in place.  I attended two trainings, drove to 4 schools, went to Santa Cruz for a forum, met individually with 4 new teachers, sent countless emails, and even prepared and presented an orientation for our 1st year teachers.  What a week!

I’m so excited with this new direction my career and my life has taken.  My main focus, besides doing an awesome job that supports these new teachers, is to retain a work/life balance.  I have struggled with that in the past, because my natural instincts as an overachieving perfectionist make me a workaholic.  I am bound and determined not to go down that rabbit hole as I have in the past.  I know that this new position will make my schedule challenging, but once I get into the rhythm of meeting weekly with the 18 teachers on my caseload, I know I’ll be able to build a manageable schedule.

It’s not lost on me that I have achieved another goal that I set for myself years ago.  I am so proud of myself and my accomplishments, and happy that my hard work over the years has led me to this point in my career.  I wanted this job for so long, and now I’m going to be able to do it! I’m thrilled at the possibilities that are laid out before me, and I want to appreciate all that I will experiencing.

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There have been a ton of things going on in my life this past week, and I’m way overdue to catch up on all of it on this blog.

2ed2d0252edacb00a145f73730352f96 First and foremost, for all the moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day.  I hope you spend the day doing the things you love with the people who make all your hard work worthwhile.

Speaking of Mother’s Day, my adorable niece set up a beautiful breakfast in bed for my sister this morning.  She and my mom got all the food, plates, napkins, cup, tea, etc.  I kept it hidden at my house for the week, and then this morning she came over to get it all.  She cooked everything, even using a melon baller to make the fruit salad (inside the Have a Royal Day plate).  It was her idea to add the fresh chives to the eggs.

20140511-093451.jpg

10252147_10152010991760426_2137854927835195283_n My younger niece made my sister an adorable mug – her teacher had the students draw a picture and then transferred the drawings onto the mug. I know this is going to be a keepsake for years to come!

My nieces are so sweet and thoughtful – all the hard work and sacrifices that my sister has put in as a single mom really have paid off. These girls are just the best!

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Yesterday I was all set to do the Willow Glen 5K with Tinkerbell, which was a fun run in support of one of our local elementary schools.  I woke up early, got dressed, and was about to make a cup of coffee when I decided to open a package.  I tried using scissors, but couldn’t cut through the tough plastic.  So I grabbed a knife, thinking, “I better be careful, this could be dangerous,” and at that exact moment, I gauged my hand right by the thumb pad.  It was really deep cut, and the blood started spurting out immediately.  I’m not good (to put it mildly) when I see my own blood, and I started feeling really light-headed and faint.  I ran over to my sister’s house next door, screaming that I’d cut myself and I needed help. I was already feeling like I was going to faint, when my sister went into calm-in-a-crisis mode.  She washed the cut, laid me down on the bathroom floor, and didn’t panic even when I started convulsing on the floor.  My body was going into shock, and I almost fainted.  My sister just said, “Bella, stay with me! Keep your eyes open, open your eyes!” And  then she bandaged my hand.  She called my dad to come and take me to the minor injury unit at Kaiser.

We had to wait about 30-45 minutes because the minor injury section hadn’t opened yet. I was in a lot of pain and was feeling really faint.  When they finally took me to the back and took my blood pressure, it was really low. So low that the nurse took it twice, just to make sure. When all was said and done, I needed 3 stitches.  The wound was deep, and I’d punctured the muscle, which was  what was causing me all the pain.

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This morning I’m not in very much pain at all, but my hand is super swollen. I don’t know if it’s coming across in the photo, but my left hand is a lot bigger.

20140511-100104.jpgI can get the stitches out on Thursday, and I can’t wait.

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On the work front, my principal asked me to be the English Department Chair next year.  I was really flattered by her vote of confidence in me and my leadership abilities, but I was very hesitant to accept.  I have four preps, meaning four different classes that I teach – English 3 honors, AVID, yearbook, and journalism.  All of them take a lot of time to prep and plan for, and the honors classes give me a ton of grading.  To top that off, I update our school’s website, which takes time each and everyday.  The department chair position adds lots of meetings, both at our school and at the district office. Plus all the time organizing everything for the department itself.  But leading people and organizing things are two of my strongest abilities, so it does seem like a great fit.  And my department could really use some positive leadership, so I accepted the position.  I had my choice to take a stipend or to get a second prep period, meaning I’d only teach four classes, instead of five.  Since the stipend isn’t anywhere near 20% of my salary (which would be the equivalent of giving up one class), I decided to go for the 2nd prep.  I asked if I could give up one of the honors classes I teach, since the grading takes me more time than prepping for the AVID class (which would have been the only other class I would have even considered giving up). My principal said that would be fine with her, so I’m all set. I’m actually really excited about this new opportunity.  Both for what it means to my department and for my professionally. I’m only obligated to serve as department chair for one year, but my principal did say she’d like to see me doing it for at least 3-5 years. which is very flattering.

And I am also really looking forward to the fact that I’ll have one 1st-period prep  and one last-period prep.  Meaning that on A Days I’ll be able to leave early and on B Days I’ll be able to come late.  Except when I have meetings or other department obligations, which will happen about 6-8 days of the month. Which makes me very excited about my workouts – I really want to start working out first thing in the morning, and on B Days I’ll be able to get up at the same time I do now and still get in a whole workout.  And on the A Days if I haven’t woken up early and worked out in the morning, I can get in an early afternoon workout, as I’ve been doing this year.

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I’ve tried some new fitness classes at the gym, but I’ll write about those in a separate post.

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Saturday+Smiles

It’s been a long time since I did a Saturday Smiles post, and because I’m so happy right now, I figured it was the perfect day to post.

1. One of the best things about this week was that I got to see one of my besties, CTLB.  She had come out to SF for a teaching conference, and we were able to steal a couple of hours to catch up on life.  The awesome thing about our friendship is that even though it can be months between phone calls or a year since we’ve seen each other in person, when we do get together again, it’s as if no time has passed.  I’m really hoping to get out to MA to visit her this summer, if she’s not too busy with family life or obligations to friends (SO many of her friends have gotten married over the past few summers that she was booked up almost every single weekend. I’m hoping that they’re all married now, so she’ll have a bit of free time).

2. Yesterday I had a lot of fun shopping at Target – for clothes!  Now I’m not saying that Target is the place where I’m going to fill my closet with fashions, it does mark a milestone. When I was morbidly obese, I longed for the day to be able to buy inexpensive clothes at Target. I know Target has plus-sized clothes, but they are all pretty awful, and when I was at my heaviest, even they didn’t fit.  So yesterday when I saw a few fun items, I knew I had to pick them up:

First up, pjs!  Now that it’s getting darker earlier, and the temps have turned chilly, I often get into my pjs when I get home from work.  I got this set (XXL), which have an alpine/fair isle patter on the pants.

2013-11-16 07.40.27

dotspjsI also got this fun grey and berry polka dot set (XXL).

14583156_201307011740I’ve been needing long-sleeved tshirts because all of my others have long since been donated. (Long-sleeved tees are a great way for me to extend my weekend/casual wardrobe, because I can wear them under short sleeves on cooler days. When I saw them for $12, I picked up some basics – a black and a white (XL).

This coming week I’m going to be teaching my AVID students how to annotate a text (mark notes onto an article or other reading), and to keep it interesting and grab their attention, I found a great article on the NY Times Learning Network about selfies.  I have a fun lesson planned, complete with a quick write and discussion questions, culminating in the students taking some selfies, which I’ll put into a class slideshow. (They’ll love seeing this goofy pics when they’re seniors). So when I saw this sweater, I knew I had to buy it to wear on Wednesday during the lesson:

2013-11-15 16.48.13 Too perfect, right? And I love that this is an XL in juniors!

14921788_201310292139Last Christmas I really wanted to be able to buy this shirt, but even the XXL wouldn’t fit.  This year, I’m hoping I can find one in the store, because I know the XL will work. What a long way I’ve come.

3. I’m hoping smile will be beautiful as I continued the shopping and bought some new lip treatment/lipsticks.

Fresh-Sugar-Berry-Lip-TreatmentI splurged on a new Fresh Sugar in Berry, and then saved money by picking up 3 new NYX lipsticks @ $4 each:

dollDoll

snowwhiteSnow White

b52 B52

We’ll see how they look on me, but from the swatches I found online, I think they’ll work.

4. And finally, the thing that I’m really smiling about today is the bike ride some of my friends and I are going on later this afternoon.  I appreciate that they’re taking time out of their busy schedules on a Saturday afternoon to join me in celebrating my 100+ pound weight loss. It’s a gorgeous, sunny, clear day, so it should be ideal for a long ride.  I’ll write a post, with pictures, later.

I hope today brings you plenty of things to smile about.

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Autumn has arrived! Which means that life is back to normal – school’s in, my schedule is busy, and obligations abound. But I won’t use those as excuses to slack on my goals. The great thing about fall is that the weather is cooler, which means that those wonderful fall fashions will keep me motivated. Plus, crisp temperatures mean that it’s never “too hot” to workout.  I’m going to relish my nightly cup of steaming hot tea as another way to keep my water intake up. I look forward to all those hearty, satisfying and wls-friendly soups, stews, and crockpot meals that I’ll create for myself. This year, the changing season will mark new milestones that I haven’t seen in 5, 7, 10+ years!  Bring on fall 2013 – it’s time to reach new heights! Sunday weigh-ins will keep me accountable through the weekend, and will give me a positive goal to begin each new week. Throughout the fall, I’ll be giving Sunday progress updates called Fabulous Fall Weigh-Ins.

(I realize that “officially” it’s still summer, but for my intents and purposes, the beginning of the new school year (which starts tomorrow!) marks a change of season, so I’m taking over the calendar and designating this week the beginning of fall).

Week 12 was wonderful!  I  have to admit, I was a bit worried about how this week would go, considering that I was back to school in teacher meetings, which meant my schedule was greatly impacted.  It also meant that I had to be really organized with food prep, planned workouts, and all the rest of my work and life responsibilities.  I’m proud to say that I handled it all well, and things really couldn’t have gone better!

Fantastic, so how’s the scale looking?

I weighed in this morning at 236.4, which is a loss of 4.6 pounds this week, and a loss of 40.6 lbs since surgery!!! I’ve lost a total of 78.6 pounds from my highest weight. Can you tell how thrilled I am with this week’s results?!  Not only is this the biggest weight loss in a single week since my first week post op, but it also means that I’ve now lost more weight post-op than I did pre-op.  I hit my -75 pound milestone midweek, which was exciting.

That “stall” last week (which Aimee pointed out was not a stall, but a loss, because I did see the numbers  go down on the scale, even if they were only decimals) gave way to a HUGE loss this week, and I think I know why.  I’ve been following Less_of_Sarah on YouTube, MFP, and FB for a long while now.  Her story is incredibly inspiring: She had VSG in November 2012, and since has lost 197 pounds.  The thing that’s so striking about Sarah’s weight loss to me is that although she’s lost this tremendous amount of weight, she still drops 3 or 4 pounds (or more) each week.  So I started really looking at what she was eating (the beauty of MFP), and noticed that her calories are just like mine: 800-900/day, but her protein was through the roof at 90g+ per day.

So I figured I could try to replicate that in my own food diary, and this week my daily totals were all around 80-90g+ of protein.  While I did watch my carbs, I didn’t go completely carb-free, either.  I had overnight oats for breakfasts a few times, I had quinoa for dinner several evenings, and I had Quest bars for snacks. I still ate veggies and fruit, and had a great variety of delicious proteins for lunches and dinners.  The key seems to be in a delicious, little smoothie that Less_of_Sarah clued me in on.  I mix 1 scoop of Mocha Fit Frappe with 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder, add in 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze (Sarah uses a lowcal coconut milk) and the result is a thick, delicious smoothie that has 200 calories, 35g protein, and is a fabulous breakfast/snack. It keeps me satisfied in the morning or fills in that afternoon “gap” well between lunch and dinner.  I love the coffee flavor, and can add plenty of variety using sugar free Torani syrups and/or spices like cinnamon (can you say Mexican mocha?!).

This week my workouts went well, even with my busier schedule, which I’m really proud of.  I did take 2 rest days on weekdays, which I plan to continue throughout the fall.  As Carina pointed out some time ago, it makes much more sense to workout on the weekends when I have a lot more time, and take my rest days during the week when I’m exhausted from the work schedule.  I’m also looking forward to adding in some workouts with my colleagues.  My principal and I were discussing the fact that it would be great to create some fun events where the staff and faculty could get together to go on small hikes in the hills that are right near our school.  Or to a bocci ball  or bowling outing.  Or just walking/running around the track after school.  Another teacher really wants to create a 5K fundraiser, which I think would be fabulous.  The point is that working out has become something I look forward to and find ways to fit into a more social setting.

The other really cool thing I want to share about this week is that it was the first time in three months since I’d seen most of my colleagues, and their reactions to my weight loss were amazing.  So many of them told me how great I looked, even the men, who are often the last to notice things like that.  Our bookroom clerk got tears in her eyes as she said how proud she was of all I’d accomplished, which of course made me get teary-eyed, too.  Lots of people have commented about how truly happy I seem.  I’ve always considered myself a happy person, but I think they’re seeing that inner person that I’ve always known I was on the inside.  As Ani told me yesterday, now they can see past my weight and see the real me.  I also think this happiness stems from FINALLY achieving the success I knew I was capable of, but had previously not been able to accomplish.

Tomorrow is the first day of my 10th year teaching at my current school, and my 14th year of teaching overall.  I have a fun, challenging, exciting schedule of classes, and I’m really looking forward to all that will come with this school year.  My district is in much better shape financially, thanks to the passage of Prop 30 and increased property values (property taxes), which translates into a 7% raise for me this year. (Quite a turnaround from the furloughs and budget cuts of last year). I’ve challenged myself to get my students’ essays graded faster so that they can get the feedback sooner, making it more meaningful.  I’m also determined to be more social with my colleagues during lunch, and not hole up in my classroom.  Lots of goals and plans, which is where I thrive.

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Until next Sunday, my friends. I hope the scale treats you well, and that you have a wonderful week!

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Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb12: celebrating the successes of 2012, honoring the challenges of 2012, and planting the seeds for a rich and rewarding 2013. December is the perfect time to reflect on the year that has passed and start to manifest dreams for the new year.

Day 17 – Think of one person whose life you made a difference to in 2012. What did you gain from this? How will you continue to make a difference in 2013?

I’d like to think that I make a difference in the lives of my students daily, but there was one student in particular who let me know just how much.

Every year, scores of students decide to take the honors class that I teach.  Some of them are prepared for it, some of them think they’re entitled to it, and every now and then I get a student who isn’t quite sure.  Aida came to me in May of this year, nervous and questioning whether or not she should take honors.  When I asked her what was making her hesitate, she explained that her current teacher hadn’t recommended her, and had in fact really discouraged her from taking the class.  Apparently she earned low scores on essays that she wrote in his class.  So I told her to bring me a couple of her essays, and I’d let her know what grade I think she would have earned.

When I read her work, I saw a true thinker.  A girl who was able to express herself with depth and insight, and that certain something that is indescribable; a rare quality that few students have and that can’t be taught.  I told her that I absolutely knew she should take the class and that I thought she’d do well in it.  I saw potential in her.

As this year has progressed, Aida is one of the few students who has consistently earned A’s on her essays because they were just that good.  When she shares her thoughts in writing and in class I can’t believe this is the girl who was unsure about whether or not to take the class. She’s on of my best!

This Christmas, Aida wrote me a beautiful Thank You card, telling me just how much it has meant to her that I showed so much confidence in her abilities.  She said that she’s learned so much already, and can’t wait to see what else she can do by the time she leaves my class in June.  Her words warmed my heart.  That’s why I teach.

Sometimes all it takes is that one person who believes in us.  That person who pushes us to do the scary, unknown, unthinkable thing that we end up realizing is exactly what we should have been doing all along.  I will continue to push my students, and Aida in particular, in 2013.

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This month I’m participating in 30 Days of Thanks (#30DaysofThanks) by writing a blog post about 30 things I’m thankful for. To join in, go to the link above. The best part is, you don’t need to have a blog or even be on social media to take part in the project; you just need to be thankful. I can’t wait to see how my life might change by spending the 30 days in November giving thanks for things in my life — every single day.

Today I’m grateful that I have a day off.  It’s nice not to have to get up early the day after a holiday.

When I tell someone I’m a teacher, the first thing out of most of their mouths is how lucky I am to get so many vacations.  Most of the time I’m slightly insulted, because there’s so much about teaching that people don’t understand.  The long hours grading, planning, prepping.  The dealing with teenagers (and their moods) on a daily basis. The years of post-graduate education for miniscule salary.  The happiness that comes with hearing how I’ve inspired/helped/improved someone’s life.  To reduce all of that to lots of vacation time is so superficial.

But who am I kidding, the time off is pretty great.  I’m thankful for this great perk that comes with all of those other things.

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This month I’m participating in 30 Days of Thanks (#30DaysofThanks) by writing a blog post about 30 things I’m thankful for. To join in, go to the link above. The best part is, you don’t need to have a blog or even be on social media to take part in the project; you just need to be thankful. I can’t wait to see how my life might change by spending the 30 days in November giving thanks for things in my life — every single day.

Today while I was getting up at 5;45am on a Saturday morning in order to go and proctor the SAT, I said a quick “thank you.”  Rather than cursing the fact that I had to be up so early on a weekend, I was grateful that I have a way to earn a bit of extra money.

Everyone knows that teachers don’t get paid what we deserve, and that’s even more true this year, when budget cuts have caused my district to institute Furlough Days.  Sure, having a day off here and there is nice, but not getting paid for it isn’t.  I was already fairly strapped, and the thought of making even a bit less is so disheartening.

Which is why I am so thankful that I have small opportunities to work some extra hours and get money here and there for things like proctoring the SAT.  I also get paid an extra stipend for being my school’s webmaster (or, web administrator, as I like to say).  I also get paid two stipends for teaching yearbook and journalism, because of the extra hours that those classes each take.  It makes some of those late days worth it. (Although, truth be told, I’d still love to teach the classes even without the stipend.  Shhhh!).  And the last bit of extra money I get is another stipend for having my Masters degree.  The little extras allow me to make it.

More recently, I discovered a few different websites for teachers by teachers where I can submit lessons and other instructional materials and sell them to other teachers for a few dollars each.  There’s another site that will pay me for a little bit for answering student questions online.  Those little things add up after a while.

Do I dream of someday winning the lottery?  Of course!  I’d love it if I never had to worry about making ends meet.  But the reality is, I’m so thankful that I have a job that I love, that’s secure, and that offers small opportunities to earn extra cash if I want to put in the extra effort.  There are many people who aren’t as lucky.

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Happy Monday, Everyone! Another Monday that I’m playing hookie – two Mondays in a row!  I’d scheduled the day off today weeks ago when I looked at my calendar.  I have a supervision duty on Friday night from 6:30pm-9:30pm and then I have to turn around and be at school at 7:30am on Saturday morning to proctor the PSAT, and I realized that next weekend is going to fly by, so I might as well extend this weekend.  The plans for today are to get some household chores done, make a long phone call to my uncle who lives in Michigan, read, blog, and work on some curriculum planning.  I’m also planning on going on a nice long bike ride once the sun finally breaks through this morning fog that we have going on today.

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If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section at: www.alltheweigh.com so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

FMM: Quick and Random

1. Choose three songs that would be on the soundtrack of your life.  These Are Days by 10,000 Maniacs, In Between Days by The Cure, and There’s a Girl by The Ditty Bops.

2. Share the details of one project that you’re currently working on.

For work, I’m designing curriculum units on The American Romantics: Light Romanticism, Transcendentalism, and Dark Romanticism.  Then we’ll move into Realism before the end of the semester.  I’ve covered these literary periods in the past, but I’m redesigning the units by focusing on stories rather than novels, covering each movement in more depth.  Since I’m using entirely different literature than I have in the past, it means creating new assignments, essay prompts, quizzes, and a semester final.  It’s a lot of work, but I love the challenge because it keeps things fresh, which isn’t easy to do after 13 years of teaching American Literature.

At home, I just finished decorating for Halloween and Fall (although more Fall will come into play once Halloween is over).  My other mini project is to make my own version of these Motivation Marbles that I found on Pinterest.  I’ll definitely post about it when I’ve made them.

3. If you could learn to do one thing overnight what would it be? I’m taking my cue from Kenlie and I’ll say that I’d love to know how to speak Italian fluently.

4. If you could be a fictional character which one would you be?  Wow, this is a hard one for me because I have so many characters swirling in my English teacher’s brain.  Most of the literary characters I know lead lives that end sadly, so I’ll choose Samantha Baker, who is Molly Ringwald’s character in Sixteen Candles.  Who doesn’t want to kiss Jake Ryan?!

5. What’s your favorite thing about the month of October?  I love the layered clothing, the crisp mornings and chilly evenings, and the fact that The Holidays are more than a month away.  Don’t get me wrong, I love The Holidays, but life gets really hectic during that season, so it’s nice to enjoy the calm that comes with October.

6. Share one TV show that you’re embarrassed to admit you watch.  I’m not really embarrassed by this, but I do watch every Real Housewives franchise.

7. Name one friend that you’re thankful to have in your life today.  I am immensely thankful that I have ScaleWarfare in my life.  She is one of my best friends, a huge support, and an amazing person.  She’s making some major life changes, and I am so proud of her for making sure her life is as healthy as possible in every aspect.

8. What was the most relaxing part of your weekend?  I was able to spend quite a bit of time reading, which is always really relaxing for me.  I just finished reading Jane Vows Vengeance by Michael Thomas Ford and I’m currently reading The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher.

9. Do you like to dance?  I love dancing!  In fact, yesterday my 5-year-old niece and I held a mini dance party as we played Wii Just Dance for about 30 minutes.

10.  Share one thing that you’re looking forward to before the end of the year.  I’m looking forward to meeting my mini weight loss goal before the end of 2012. It has been my main focus of the year, and it will be such an accomplishment when I meet the goal.

Now it’s your turn to share. Don’t forget to go back to Kenlie’s blog to link up in the comments!

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At home I’m extremely organized. Everything has a place, and I do my best to make sure it all stays where it should. I pride myself on keeping a neat, clean home. I can’t stand clutter, and I never leave “junk” lying around. The only problem areas are my closets, and even those get some TLC every so often.

But my classroom at school? Not so much. Not to give you the wrong impression – my desk is fairly organized, and I start off each day with clean tables and countertops. But then students, teenagers no less(!!!), come storming through the door, and suddenly, my nice neat space is taken over by people who give less thought to neatness than Sofi does. Seriously, have you looked under a teenager’s bed? On second thought, save yourself. It’s gross, for so many reasons, I’m sure.

So this year, I’m making more of a concerted effort to do what I can to keep things orderly. I’m hoping that when the kids see how I’m trying, they’ll follow suit. Modeling at its finest.

First, I bought two great lunch bags made by Sachi that help me bring everything I need for lunch (and if I’m running late, breakfast, too). These totes came as part of a two-part set that I found on Kitchen Wine and Home.  I love using the larger tote bags for picnics, food far ballgames, farmers market shopping, etc.

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You might ask why I need two lunch bags, and the rational answer would be that using just one might make it get too worn out too quickly. While that’s true, my real reason is so that I can better match whatever I’m wearing that day. (It’s a sickness, I know).  The thing is, I have a mini fridge at school in my closet, so I only really use this insulated back to bring the food to school and  then to carry it from the fridge to my desk (or wherever I eat).  Which brings up a good point – this year I’m really trying to get out of my classroom at lunch so that I can “commune” with my colleagues.  Otherwise, I can get too much in my own head, if you know what I mean.

I’m really excited about this next one. While I teach some pretty amazing students, I also work at a school with teenagers, some of whom are apt to steal. Especially if a teacher is dumb enough to leave her purse out lying around in plain sight. So I would avoid the problem altogether by only bringing my wallet, and stowing that in my trunk. The problem with that was that I like carrying a purse, and it would never fail that after school I’d find myself somewhere where I needed to bring my keys, wallet, iPhone, etc., and shoving everything in pockets (if I even had pockets with that outfit) wasn’t a good look, because it made everything bulky. So, I decided to get a bit more civilized and use my “Kleenex closet” to it’s full potential by purchasing this cool hanger system from Target for less than $10.

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Eventually this will hold my coat and scarf, as well as my purse.

A teacher’s keys are the stuff of legends.  We’re getting emails constantly about teachers’ keys found in the bathroom, lounge, etc.  I myself have locked my room with the keys inside a number of times (thank God for the substitute keys in the office).  Some teachers put their keys on a lanyard and wear them around their necks, but the lanyard I have is really bulky and ugly, and just doesn’t work well with the professional look I’m trying to project with my outfits.  So I decided to turn to Etsy and see what those home artisans might have for me.  Etsy didn’t disappoint!  I found two lanyards at LanyardLand that will take me through all of my outfits.  I bought one for days when black is the main coordinating color and another one that goes more with browns and earth tones.  I love them both, and can’t wait till they arrive.

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I love the lampwork beads and the other details.  These lanyards are more like jewelry than anything else, which means that I’ll happily wear my keys.  If you know a female teacher, I highly recommend giving her a lanyard like this, because she’ll definitely appreciate its functionality as well as the fashion it brings.

I decided that part of having a good experience inside the classroom started with the way that it smells as you walk into it.  As I mentioned, I teach teens, some of whom could use another lesson or two in basic hygiene.  So to keep my room from smelling like the Boys’ Locker Room, I invest in Glade Plugins scented oils, and believe me, it’s money WELL spent.  I love the Clean Linen scent, because it’s not cloying, but I also bought the Autumn Harvest to use as October/November gets underway. I’ve already had quite a few students (male and female) comment on how lovely the room smells.  I really do think that a nice scent in the air sets a tone of a pleasant place to be.

I bring a Naglene water bottle with my everyday so that I can get in at least 32 oz of water, but some days I go through that quickly, and I’m left with drinking water straight from the tap (yuck) or buying bottled water (that adds up, plus the plastic is wasteful). So, I went to Target and found this Bobble water filtration pitcher.  Isn’t it a cute shape?  It was only $20, which was perfect for the classroom.  (BTW, when did Britas get to be so expensive?  $40 for a water filter pitcher?  I’ve had the one that sits in my fridge at home a LONG time, apparently, because I was shocked at the prices). I want to encourage my students to bring in reusable bottles, so having the pitcher out where they can see it makes that easier.

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If you look behind the pitcher, you can see my black mesh desk organizer trays that I bought two years ago.

These are just a few things to get me started.  I’d love to hear other ideas from those of you who are teachers/know teachers/have high school-age kids.  What keeps a high school classroom running efficiently is much different than  what works in an elementary room, but I do think that my K-8 compadres could help me get some great ideas.

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