Substitute Musings…

I don’t want to hear the term “dungeon porn” in a high school classroom. I just don’t.

Seniors will test every patience though, and the ones who not-so-surreptitiously started a game of Cards Against Humanity in class the other day were no different. It’s evident when the regular teacher has no classroom management skills: there is trash on the floor, the students roll in late, they lean back and slouch down in their seats, and there is more than malaise in the air- there is rebellion.

A huge chunk of teaching is organization, when the students see that you are organized in your execution of the lesson they are more likely to be organized in their behavior. That and proximity are the two keys of classroom management. Desks arranged in rows that can be easily patrolled are a staple of any good class management situation.

Last year in an 8th grade English class in the district where I was teaching, two students were caught on video, during class and in full view of other people, vaping into their shirts.

They were doing it so much that other students were bothered enough to video it and send it to administration.  

The point is that kids will test boundaries, especially if they are bored and the teacher, especially the substitute, cannot catch everything- it isn’t possible and frankly it isn’t worth what subs get paid. I am not about to roll out into this classroom right now and force second-semester seniors to read their little article and answer their little questions. Not only is ¾ of the class over-large, testosterone-filled 17-and-18-year-old boys, but they have all long figured out that there are no real consequences for not doing the assignment.

This makes a real case for the need for change in our school system. Why force kids who clearly do not want to be here, to be here? Why not make them productive members of society in some other way?

I know that there is value in making young people do things they don’t want to do for the sake of the experience- I get that character building is important. But I firmly believe that can be handled in other ways, and, by making students sit through English or Math instead of teaching them things they want to know or need to know to be productive, then we are doing everyone a disservice.

Students who don’t want to sit in a classroom will be disruptive- adults who don’t want to sit in a meeting will be disruptive too, this is not solely the behavior of youth. But it is the job of education to create productive citizens and that cannot happen if there is rebellion in the air. 


10% Happier

Learning by Living

If you could do one thing to make yourself 10% happier would you do it?

I recently read the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris. You may recognize his name as a pretty well-known news anchor on Nightline or Good Morning America. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure why I even chose to read this book but I did….and it was a great decision to start my summer off with this read.

I’m not going to tell you about every detail in this book but I found that this book was directly connected to “just be” and Amanda’s big idea around Cherry Pit Minute. Dan, in his book, talks about how he was always looking for the next big story and how his mind was moving 10,000 miles per hour. He talked about how he was never really in the moment and was always looking for what’s next. And…

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The beautiful things

36679868_10211864305899430_6936364537998213120_nThe picture here is from my backyard, taken by a friend of mine. Soft green succulents, bright ocean green pottery, ochre edging, and the feeling of peace that steals over me like the lapping waves of a lake, knowing that this beauty exists in my back yard. That it’s something I had a small hand in making. That feeling is a peaceful one.

It’s been a minute since I’ve felt this peace. I got so distracted by anger and pain this last year. The feeling of being unceremoniously dumped by a school I’d known and loved with my whole heart for three years, it took over and clouded everything I did. It was similar to being dumped by a spouse or a boyfriend, I mean, three years in and you start planning a life together, seeing yourself there for the long haul, thinking about birthdays and anniversaries and crafting the ten-year-plan. But breakups happen, and we don’t always get the satisfaction of knowing why.

So you go through the steps, raising your fists like hammers to the sky and crying yourself to sleep when the anger runs out. But that final step, the step that comes with a purple sunrise over a choppy Atlantic Ocean, the step of acceptance? That’s one that took me miles of solitude and car sleeping to find.

I will always be sore from this breakup, there will always be a dull ache where those plans used to live and where the could-have-been-friends reside, but the lesson I learned from this breakup is that beauty exists in my own backyard.

And my backyard is anywhere I want it to be.

Travel on, my friends.

Silence as complicity

We can be silent no more.

In today’s world, filled with so much uncertainty, pain, anger, and fear, we have to allow our kids to talk. As teachers we have to allow those difficult conversations. We have to model them, we have to be free to express discomfort and wariness on the topics that impact us so very heavily today.

I remember a fabulous, cantankerous, wonderful history teacher in junior high- Mr. Van- who was very clearly and very proudly political. He had campaign posters for his candidates in his room, he aped for yearbook pictures over signs for those candidates he did not like, and he was clear in his beliefs without proselytizing or pushing.

Now, teachers get immediately shut down for opening forums for political discussion, no matter how carefully they walk the line between openly expressing a personal view. When kids bring these topics up, as they are wont to do, it becomes uncomfortable, it becomes awkward, and many teachers shut down the conversation immediately.

As educators we have to allow and encourage open and intelligent discourse without being hamstrung by fear.

We have to allow our kids to talk, moderate the conversation, address both sides and bring in the voices that don’t often get heard. We have to model how to have these conversations in a healthy way, show that ad hominem attack should be left to playground fights, and teach our students how to listen to multiple viewpoints. We also have to teach them how to agree to disagree without harboring ill will or anger.

We can’t afford to force our kids to be silent any more.

via What I Do Not Want To Hear Anymore

And now we RUN: Women’s March 2018

make america kind

First we MARCHED!

Now we RUN (for office)!!

Overwhelmingly I was moved by the sense of community I felt at the Women’s March in downtown Los Angeles. There were causes of all kinds represented and there was tolerance of everyone’s viewpoint- from the people with signs and bullhorns announcing that we were all going to HELL! to the people protesting DACA and sanctuary cities in the name of Heather Heyer- all sorts were there.

The pervading feeling throughout was that women have had the vote for almost a century and now it is time to run for office and take a seat at the table, rather than just voting in men to do the job. I saw signs for women running for Congress – including scientists like Jess Phoenix running for a seat in the 25th District (Newhall, CA), women encouraging others to run for office, and statistics highlighting the fact that while 48-percent of the nation is female, only 19-percent of Congress is.

The idea was that the table needs to be bigger. I can get behind that.

My one critique of today was the conundrum of being “woke.” We know the idea of “woke” – it’s the only recent slang I like- but it is the idea that we see what we do and are awake to it. How can people who carry signs supporting environmental causes (There is no Planet B! Climate change is REAL!!) how can they carry around disposable coffee cups and plastic bottles of water and leave them along the road? There wasn’t a ton of trash but I saw it happen enough times to have it irk me. If you are woke, BE woke. Don’t talk the talk but not walk the walk.

Let us VOTE- but not because the candidate is a woman but because her ideas are sound.

Let us RUN- but not because we have nothing better to do but because we have a smarter way of doing what needs to be done.

Let us MARCH- but not for instagram photo opportunities but because we are woke and our walk matches our talk.

#resist #persist #vote


Let it rain….


As an English teacher I spend a sizable portion of my time trying to convince my students that everything that authors do is intentional: every word, every line, every comma.

The curtains absolutely represent the protagonist’s lack of will to live.

So too with rain. There are no casual storms in literature. There are no random raindrops. When they occur it is a signal that the protagonist is being reborn, washed clean, and given a new chance. And, as always, my buddy literature does not let me down, because she always mirrors life.

In life there are no casual storms and there are no random raindrops. Each storm is on purpose and gives us a chance to be reborn.

Rain is cleansing and reinvigorating. It is life-giving and life-affirming and stand-in-a-downpour-head-tilted-to-the-heavens level of glorious.

Let it rain….


The Pursuit of Happiness


I tell my students to dissect the title of works in order to better understand them- like not judging a book by its cover but instead judging it by its title. “Pursuit” indicates a hunt- a predator and prey, a target and a steady aim.

Pursuit is an intention, easy to define.

“Happiness” is the thornier word to conjure. Happiness is a kaleidoscope, presenting a different view to each person looking down the lens.

For some happiness is security and it is the pursuit and capture of that which allows the hunter to breathe.

I hear that.

The hustle ain’t easy- it’s work and scraping, doing without and making do. I’ve done the hustle, recently in fact, and it makes me tired to remember it.

Security beckons me, whispering a siren-call from the desert, the ease of familiarity and the comfort of the known world.

But right now the scent of lemon blossoms on the cool breeze is the definition of happiness for me. The soundtrack of birds chirping, kids playing, and the keyboard clacking puts me in the happiest place on Earth. As my friends melt not five miles inland, I feel ocean air and citrus.

This is the happiness I will pursue to the death, hunter to hunted, predator to prey, steady eyes on the target.

What is your happiness and how do you pursue it daily? If you want some of mine I am happy to share my bounty.

I Am Me

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 9.06.53 AM

We teach our kids, “Be yourself.”

We encourage them to “Not conform to peer pressure.”

We try to put them in situations where they can “Be a leader.”

We tell them to “Go all in” and “Give it their all.”

We demand that they, “Do the right thing.”

Would that it were that easy. If things were black and white, if we actually believed the things we teach our kids, then maybe this world wouldn’t be such a weird place.

We sell our kids these maxims but we know in our hearts they don’t work.

Not in the real world.

Because in the real world if we are truly our authentic selves and someone doesn’t like us, then we are removed, ousted, exiled.

In the real world if we don’t conform to peer pressure- everyone else is teaching it this way, your way isn’t wrong, it’s just different- then you are, again, removed.

In the real world if you try to be a leader and you haven’t met certain arbitrary criteria (I know you’ve been teaching for ten years but you’ve only been at THIS school for three years so…) you are whispered about. “Who does she think she is, anyway?”

If we go all in and give it our best that doesn’t matter because it is more about fitting into the group than it is about doing your best at your job.

And, if we do the right thing, from that maxim of “The right thing is not always popular and the popular thing is not always right” if we do that thing, then we are, again, not chosen, left out, exiled.

Being exiled is all well and good when it comes to playground groups and high school cliques but when it comes to real world things like employment, those sayings don’t apply.

They don’t because adults are oftentimes more immature than children. They don’t like it when they don’t get their way, they don’t like it when new ideas are brought to the room, and they certainly don’t like it when you don’t smile and play nice all the time even if it goes against what you firmly believe.

So I propose new sayings. Realistic ones that should replace those inspirational posters you see in the dentist’s office and such. Here goes:

“Fly under the radar.”

“Fit in.”

“Just smile and pretend it is all good.”

“Fake it till you make it.”

“Don’t speak up. Don’t volunteer at all. Ever.”

Do you think it will catch on? Yeah, I hope not either. Because I want to always do the right thing, I want to always be open to new ideas. I want to always understand that there are people who can and do do it better than me and I want to be open to learning from them. I want to volunteer- especially if I feel like I can bring something awesome to  what I am volunteering for. I want the corresponding face to represent the corresponding emotion (line creds Meg Ryan) and I don’t ever want to be anyone less than who I am.

Rising above

Explore. Challenge. Transcend. These days rising above the bullshit is so hard. The noise of people complaining and name calling and working so hard to tear each other down. I need a daily reminder to explore my world as it is right now, challenge myself to see the purpose in even the darkest of hours, and transcend the bullshit of it all to find the next level.


Getting my tattoo tomorrow. 🙂


The value in reflection

joe-walker-idI love the picture above. I do. It reminds me of the enduring power of the past while highlighting a serious dependence on Aqua Net and Brass Plum. I was 14 in the picture. The same age my daughter is now. So many lessons from the smile I refused to break into because I was so embarrassed by my braces. So many lessons from the straightness of my back and my confidence in the outfit I chose, the pants to which my aforementioned 14 year-old wore to school this week.

There is power in looking in the rear view mirror- if only to see the past getting smaller behind you. Leaving behind and letting go of mistakes is a solid learning tool and is one that, unless forced, none of us do well enough or often enough.

The power in reflection lies in the knowledge that you are moving forward. I have, these last months, dedicated myself to living in the NOW (be on the lookout for a corresponding tattoo reminder), but lately have asked my students to reflect quite a bit.

Reflect on what you learned- I say. And they stare back at me nodding but not hearing me. True, deep reflection comes from casting a critical eye over the good, the bad, and the ugly as my professional mentor Don Goble would say. What did you do well? What did you do badly? What will you fix next go around?

I know I will continue to sit with pride. I know I will ease up on my daughter and her makeup choices. And I know I will smile wide in every picture, fearlessly and with perfectly straight teeth.