A Year (and a month) in review
About a year and a month ago, I tool a leap of faith. The website I had been publishing my beauty posts on was folding. It was such a nice deal. I could post when I found the time, and they would take charge on the majority of all promotion. There was built in readership and everything that made this blogging thing so easy. And like anything too easy, it was gone like that. So, I could have walked away and reminisced about the days of being a beauty blogger. Or I could have taken a risk. I do not shy away from a challenge, so here we are one year later. I went out on my own to create my blog that is unique to myself. I married my two passions: all things beautiful and teaching. I was not sure it was going to work. Having beauty articles juxtaposed to my teaching experience and pondering is not something I have not seen. However, it seems to work, for me. It has been difficult to build my social media presence (even some of my friends still have pending invites), finding time to constantly post, figuring out creative content, etc. But I know as I persist it will only grow and I see this constantly happening. It is important to take a look back on where we came from to keep us grounded and see how far we have come.
Started this blog. See blurb above!
I finished my third year of teaching. I looped with my students and it was an amazing experience. I feel in love with teaching the grade. My first year of teaching, I taught 6th grade, and was really apprehensive to return to the grade that gave me so much terror. I grew so much that year of teacher and was given a mid-year promotion as Content Lead for my subject area. I was recognized for contributing and sharing materials and advice with all the middle school english teachers in my network.
I celebrated a certain special birthday with friends and family. Kicking off my summer break, my mother and I went down to Puerto Rico for a little sun and celebration. I was blown away with how beautiful and reminded how spirited the island is. I had one of the best meals in a while at Santaella, swam in the ocean, and revived myself post school year. Then I had a small gathering out east with my closest friends and family where we just lounged by the pool and of course had a Costco cake.
I published one of my favorite annual posts, the Summer Sun Protection story. I rounded up my favorite sun protection products. The best part is testing them. There is no better excuse to lay by the pool with a good book, all in the name of research.
I continued to celebrate my birthday with a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. One of my aunts took me to Disney World. The two of us are true kids at heart. It was great to spend time with her because we live so far apart. I sweated my butt of, but waited on every line for almost every ride.
I returned to work as a teacher leader for the start of school. As Content Lead, I was expected to lead professional development sessions for new and returning teachers. I was charged with helping these teachers start their school year off with success. Throughout the year, I lead more professional development sessions and was often called on as an "expert" as an English Language Arts teacher.
I started my fourth year of teaching. I moved back to 5th grade. There were many motivations as to why I wanted to go back to 5th. Reflecting on the year, I am so happy I did so. My homeroom was one of two ICT classes and it was such an eye opener how special education is such a divisive topic in education and so many different perspectives how to teach diverse learners.
Traveled to Chicago for one of my good friend's bachelorette parties. It was so great to catch up with my college friends who now live all over the country. It was amazing to experience a new city, one that I only visited when looking for colleges or going to the Halloween convention right outside the city.
My favorite part of teaching 5th grade at my school is the annual 5th grade camping trip. I subconsciously think I decided to teach 5th grade was the opportunity to chaperone the trip again. It is this magical experience where we take our city dwelling students to upstate New York and participate is amazing activities from fishing to team building to orienteering. It is a wonderful opportunity for students to have fresh air and see that New York extends far past the 2 train.
I solidified my co-teaching relationship. The previous school year, I was paired with one of the most talented, smartest first year teachers I have worked with. However, I could not trust her, no mater how amazing of a teacher she was because of my preconceived notion of first year teachers and my major control issues. This year, I had to trust my partner, because we split responsibilities of teaching reading and writing. It worked. We had a dynamic that just worked. When I was at a loss of words, or not getting through to the kids, she knows exactly where to pick up, and vise versa. I am lucky to be on the same team as her next school year. While our roles will be a little different, it is a comfort to know that no matter which ELA teachers our students get, they are in good hands.
I live for a great massage. I am always on the hunt for a great place here in the city to help relieve my tired tense muscles. I had a gift certificate for a Zeel massage that was burning a hole in my pocket. It was time to clean my apartment and prepare for an at home massage. I made sure to schedule it at the perfect time where I could enjoy the benefits it brought along with the incredible night's sleep.
I returned to Nashville after moving away. I left Nashville after spending 3 years there during my second tour. I really did not miss the city. When I left the city I was tired and worn out from my incredibly hard first year of teaching. It was great to see all my friends from Grad school and watch my close friend tie the knot. I learned that not much has changed in Nashville, except it is incredibly crowded and hard to find a parking spot. Nashville will always have a special place for me, but my heart and home will always be New York.
Halloween is a big deal at my school. Students are allowed to dress up and I make it a non-negotiable that my team does a team costume. For the past three years, my team has been Care Bears, Cereal, and Skittles. My team this year was so large that we were both original and tropical flavors. My undergraduate major was centered around team dynamics, so I think it is why I stress the group costume. It signifies the cohesiveness of a team and how we work together for the students. I will say that the teams that I have worked on at my school have always been strong educators, who always want what is best for their students.
November was an interesting month. It started out with a distant cousin's wedding. My family and I traveled to New Hope, PA. It was exciting to see a new part of the country that I have never seen. The town was so quant and historic. The history nerd in me was just jumping all over the place. What was most special about it was that my close family was all together. When my 2nd Cousins and I get together it is always a great time. However, special events make them even more fun. We had been feeling a little down that the youngest cousin had been bar or bat mitzvahed years ago and that weddings were going to be the next opportunity for a grande reunion. It did not disappoint seeing my cousins and reminding myself the importance of family.
It also marked a rather low point. My family dog, Aston, was killed by a motorist during a rain storm. I know that everyone says their dog is the most special dog ever, but the personality Aston had was one of a kind. Clocking in at only 10 pounds, he kept his puppy disposition for most of his 15 years. He was the kindest, sweetest, dog with the WORST breath. While I knew that our time was limited with Aston since he was so old, it was just the startling fact that he was here then gone. There was no time to say good bye. Every time, I go to my mother's house, I just expect him to greet me, and I have to catch myself from calling for him.
Right around Thanksgiving, I start my holiday gift round up. While my sun story is my favorite annual feature, the Holiday Gift Guide is my favorite series. It is so much fun to see the amazing products that are available for the season of giving. It is also an opportunity for brands to creatively package their best sellers into packages that compliment each other.
I was reminded thanks to Facebook memories about the blog I started my first year of grad school. As a final project, we had to present our pedagogy on teaching literature in any way we see fit. Obviously, I took to blogging. My reading blog lasted a little longer than the course, but eventually it stopped. It has been fun to rediscover how green I was as a teacher and to see how my teaching philosophy was rooted in my amazing education experience at Vanderbilt. Reposting them as a Trip Down Memory Lane is a constant reminder of why I am so passionate about education and started the dual mission of my blog.
Winter break is a godsend. Every teacher lives for the week(s) off to rejuvenate before the new year. This past break, my father, brother, and myself traveled down to Mexico. We have been going away for the past 3 years, and this year was by far the best. We stayed at The Royal Playa Del Carmen. We randomly picked the hotel when our original choice was booked solid. What a serendipitous misfortune. The hotel was a stones throw from the bustling shopping district of Play Del Carmen and the resort had every amenity to help achieve maximum relaxation.
December is always a big month at school. We had so many events from ice skating, a dance, introduction of National Junior Honor Society, science fair, and the ultra competitive teacher gingerbread competition. Fifth grade, obviously won. I also introduced Star Scholar to the grade, where each homeroom teacher nominated a scholar that exemplifies model behaviors, grades, etc. It was so important to celebrate my students' hard word on an individual basis.
January was a busy month for blogging. I must have found some time to hit the keys. That Mexican sun left me hungry to blog. It was a great time to hibernate and post, post, post. My favorites from the month are below.
At school, January marks a shift in gears in the classroom. While some have their reservations about the preparation that begins in late January, it is actually one of my favorite times of the year. Instead of reading the same book for a few weeks in a row, we move to reading short stories, passages and non-fiction articles. I love exposing my students to amazing poetry and interesting facts. I mean we read about these crazy huge snails that eat tires to help with the garbage issue. Hello, we could solve major issues impacting global warming with the help of snails.
Since February is Black History Month, each school in my network celebrates it in a variety of ways. At my school, we decided to celebrate our own history and our students participated in a Black History Talent Show. To help all celebrate the day, I was asked to take over our school's Snapchat. Instead of those just in the audience, so many more people were exposed to our amazingly talented students singing, dancing, comedy and so much more.
Unlike at traditional schools. I am encouraged to expose my students to experiences they may not have the opportunity to participate in, or even know about what our amazing city offers. One of my hard working students, struggled for the majority of the year. He was constantly failing, and feeling the pressure to perform. As a goal, if he showed growth on an assessment, I would take him back to the American Museum of Natural History and Shake Shack. We took in some exhibits, played with prehistoric skulls and had the BEST burgers ever from Shake Shack (His review, not mine).
I have always had a love hate relationship with my hair. Its too flat, its too greasy, I've got roots. The volume is perfect, finally that perfect beach wave, and yes, my perfectly golden hair. I tried an experiment that I persisted with. For one whole week, I switched it up and reversed my routine and documented it. It was definitely a success and would use the method when I need to pump up the volume.
About a year earlier, I had one of the highest professional honors. I was chosen to be part of a Harvard Education video series and course to highlight my teaching. I was chosen and waited patiently to see the final product. When the course went live, so did my video. It was a huge honor to participate in the Poetry In America Continuing Education course. My good friend commented recently on how it was so interesting to see me in a professional setting since we are only social friends, and to see how rigorous my class is. This is the HIGHEST compliment I can receive, because as a teacher it is so hard for outsiders to understand what happens in the classroom and why we work so hard.
This year the New York State Common Core English Language Arts test was really early. That was really not a huge issue because my students were well prepared. While this is such a contentious topic in the world of education, there is nothing that replaces hard work. If critics say that the next generation is lazy, they should have stepped foot into my classroom. I have never in my teaching career seen a group of students work so incredibly hard. My students know that in New York City there are rare opportunities that are associated with high test scores. They were not only hoping to pass, but also to gain an opportunity that is reserved for the smartest, highest achieving students. Now that I have been teaching in NYC long enough, I have seen my former students actually get this opportunity and many of them are spending this summer preparing for the specialized High School entry exam.
Spring break, hallelujah. I did not have the most restful and work free break. I was working on my EdTPA, for the second time. It was my goal to actually finish it, but that did not happen. When I was not busy procrastinating, I celebrated another good friends Bachelorette and Bridal Shower. We had great food, amazing, yet short massages, and too many laughs. I explored the city a bit, and came back to school for round two of state testing.
Towards the end of the month, I had one of the New Yorkiest of New York nights. My Dad's girlfriend gave me tickets for the New York Philharmonic. I have always listened to classical music while studying, but to see it live was an experience. I put on my best clothes, changed into my Louboutins after getting out of the subway and was truly captivated by the power of this live performance.
If you have not picked up on it, poetry has become my favorite genre to teach. When we came back from break, we started reading Locomotion by one of my favorites Jacqueline Woodson. It is such an approachable format that students are able to easily access. She writes a powerful, heartfelt story that exposes readers to various types of poetry, teaching them along the way about it.
I finally finished my EdTPA! I had to resubmit my EdTPA to solidify my New York State teaching license. When I was at Peabody, I completed a experimental EdTPA to see if it was a valid assessment for teachers nation wide to assess if they are ready for the classroom. It was a lot easier when I was required to sit in the same room for four straight days. However, finally in May, I completed everything from teaching videos, math lessons and every other fine detail to press submit.
While teaching a Jacqueline Woodson book, the 7th graders down stairs were also reading one of her books. In one of my compulsive fits, I had the epiphany to create an upper grade author study between the two grades. My amazing assistant principal, was completely on board. We began planning and the day came. Together my current 5th graders and my former students collaborated together to understand who Woodson is as an author. While all the students had wonderful conclusions the most powerful result was seeing two grades cooperatively work together. In the final few weeks of school after, it was awesome to see the relationships continue after they worked together.
In addition to grades working together, our whole school community came together for our community outreach event: #HashtagLunchBagHNC. Since my homeroom was in charge of social media, we were privy to everything happening. There were classes decorating bags, groups assembling lunches, and others spreading the word about the event. On the day of the event, I took over our network's SnapChat again, and we had the most views of any take over. The surrounding Harlem community was so appreciative of the joy we brought by passing out bagged lunches, smiles and happiness.
In the middle of the month, the day before my birthday I found out I passed my EdTPA. It was a shining relief when that score was emailed to me. It was amazing to know that my qualifications were solidified for that much longer. If you do not think hard work does not pay off, then you haven't completed the EdTPA, twice.
I finished my 4th year of teaching. This past year was interesting. My amazing principal left our school to start our High School in the middle of the year. The adjustment to change was hard and her legacy was memorable. I go into next year returning back to 6th grade. After my experience teaching, I know it is my favorite grade. I am excited to loop with my students and teach the best books. We start with The Giver, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was added to the curriculum, and amazing poetry. I cannot wait to share my history with my students through literature.