This past week my students presented creative projects over To Kill a Mockingbird. Most of the presentations were amazing, and all of them were enjoyable to watch and listen to. (Yeah, I had many proud teacher moments) I was consistently blown away by what they came up with an how they incorporated their own unique talents into the assignment. Seriously, I’ve got some pretty stellar students!

However, one project stuck out to me more than the rest. It was one of my students who… lets say needs a little extra patience. He’s great, but I always wonder if he’s really paying attention in class, if he’s actually listening, if he’s genuinely trying. Judging by the amount of drool he cleaned off a desk one day, I’d say my concerns are founded. The project he chose was to create and give a speech from the viewpoint of Atticus Finch, the lawyer who defended Tom Robinson. In his speech, he spoke about justice, equality, and the necessity for compassion. It wasn’t particularly impressively written, but he spoke with passion and thoughtfulness–he’s one of those people who demands the attention of his audience. (I also take credit for his new-found obsession with Prezi. Changing the world, one high school presentation at a time ;))

I feel as though I should take a moment to include a disclaimer. My classes have just spent two months reading To Kill  a Mockingbird, which, for those who are not familiar, deals largely with issues of racism and inequality. For those of you who have just spent the past few months under a rock, racism has been a hot topic in the media for the past few months. In other words, this has been the most intense, emotionally-packed unit I’ve ever taught… granted, I’ve only been teaching for five months.  Still, this unit was the perfect-storm of racial tension clashing between cultural and historical contexts. Many of my students had personal experiences with racial injustice and our conversations in class got pretty lively at times, but there was always an over-arching attitude of respect and grace from my students. Okay, back to the student…

After each of my students presented their project, I asked them a couple of questions about their project to get a better idea of their thoughts behind it. When he was finished, I asked him how he put it together; what was his process? He explained how he chose themes from the book that stuck out to him and left a strong impression on him.

Then I asked him why he chose to do a speech. He sat on the stool for a moment in front of the silent class and fiddled with the note cards in his hands. I was getting ready for a response along the lines of, “it was the easiest project to do.” After thinking for a sufficiently awkward pause, he kinda shrugged his shoulders and replied, “I guess this was just my response.” He explained how he had gone to see The Giver over break and connected it with To Kill a Mockingbird. He was suddenly struck by how important humanity is and explained that he’s beginning to understand that he needs to help protect it. He said that the speech seemed to be the only way he personally could respond to what he had read and seen.

The presentations continued, but I found myself repeating what he said for the rest of the day: it was just his response. I’ll be real, he probably didn’t intend to make some big, insightful, philosophical comment. However, it hit me because he reminded me of something I have a tendency to forget: in an English classroom, we are responding to humanity. I get so caught up with lesson plans and objectives and analysis and classroom management and standards and evaluations… it feels like a never-ending flow of paperwork, emails, and meetings. Because I get sucked into this vortex, I frequently forget that every day I walk into my classroom I am working with literature that was created to provoke a response. Then to top it off, I’m with teens all day, and everyone knows teens just wait with bated breath for an opportunity to discuss ideas and  talk!

So I had to ask myself, how often do I allow my students a platform to simply respond to what they’ve read or thought? Granted, it’s hard to rationalize taking time to do that when there are a million and five things to do instead (like ECAs in a few months…), but isn’t that why I became an English teacher? To teach students that they have a voice and a story that’s worthy of being told? How better else to teach them the value of their own story than to allow them an opportunity to authentically respond to others’ stories?

I firmly believe that I am in the midst of some spectacular students every single day. Whether they change the world, their neighborhood, or their own life, they all have the capability to be great; heck, they already are! I’d say a majority of my students have dealt with situations and experiences that I didn’t even know existed when I was fifteen. So I guess on this snowy night before my day-two snow day, I want to genuinely respond to my student’s response. I pray that I never forget the big picture, that my students were created specifically with purpose and value beyond their wildest dreams. And I hope as a teacher I never forget the responsibility I have to the stories we consume and the stories we create.

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Over the last 8 weeks, I have decided that probably nothing in this world quite as overwhelming as being a first-year teacher. People throw around terms like “ECA” and “benchmarks” and “write-ups” and with a roll of their eyes and expect you to understand what they’re implying. Students walk into your classroom, look you over once, then aggressively inquire about your age. (Or, better yet, the security guards won’t let you out of the building during your prep hour because you look like a student… true story.) You sit through meetings about SLOs and evaluations and try to keep from completely freaking out because you, in all honesty, haven’t thought past the grading you have for tonight.

As I thought about all the crazy that is my first year as a high school English teacher, I decided that as awful as this time is, I never ever want to forget it. So…

The things I’ve learned in my first 8 weeks of my first-year teaching:

  • Routines really and truly matter
  • Just because your students are sophomores does NOT mean they can write a 5 paragraph essay
  • There’s about a 20% chance that your student who said they’ll come make up a test after school will actually show up to take said test
  • 20 pencils can and will disappear in less than one week
  • Students will test every single limit, just for the heck of it
  • A good lesson plan will never go the way you anticipated it to go
  • No matter how many times you “warn” a student to stop talking, they probably won’t until you write them up
  • Writing up a student doesn’t always motivate a change in behavior
  • The teachers’ lounge copy machine is the best place to ask for advice on classroom management
  • When in doubt, ask a seasoned teacher
  • Classroom management techniques that I used in preschool definitely work in high school
  • Just because your student tells you that your class is the worst class in the entire world and he/she can’t wait to drop it and switch to a better teacher doesn’t mean that you’re a bad teacher
  • Students love learning their teachers’ weird habits
  • High schoolers are surprisingly forgiving when you take the time to be genuine with them
  • Getting involved in extra-curriculars helps build amazing relationships with students
  • A positive teacher makes a positive classroom
  • Just because your student tried today doesn’t mean they’ll try tomorrow
  • Just because your student didn’t try today doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try tomorrow
  • Students don’t mind pity laughing at lame jokes
  • Some students just need an opportunity to talk, and they’ll open up like a geyser
  • An excited teacher makes excited students
  • Honey attracts more bees than vinegar
  • It worth taking a prep-period to call the parents of students who are working especially hard
  • No matter how bad today was, you have to come back tomorrow

To say that this has been a whirlwind is an understatement. I envy my friends who can leave work and go home and read or exercise while I grade essays and journal prompts or finalize my lesson plans for tomorrow. I loath walking into my classroom and seeing that I have an entire pile of paperwork that I have to sort through and grade. I despise coming home and realizing that I still have 4 hours of work to do before I can even think about winding down for bed.

However, in the midst of how overwhelming and terrifying these past two months have been, there have been so many “this is why I want to be a teacher” moments. Like when a student finally understood how to insightfully comment on textual evidence. Or when a student invited me to come watch her soccer game. Or the time a student asked me to read some of the poetry he had created from the summer reading. Or the entire class who affectionately refers to me as Ms. T-Dogg. Or the times I get to tell my most difficult class how much I enjoy them, despite the ulcers I’m absolutely certain they’re giving me.

Today one of my students got really upset about some comments another teacher had made to her. As my student was talking to me, I could feel anger welling up in my stomach. Why? Because someone had spoken negatively to MY student! Someone had emotionally bullied MY student.

Then I realized that I was a goner. These students have officially become mine and I have accepted responsibility for both their education and their emotional well-being (at least for the 48 minutes I’m graced with their presence).

And yes, I’m exhausted and currently sitting in a caffeine-coma after drinking two cups of coffee to get me through my last two lesson plans of the night, but you know what? I’m also overwhelmed by how amazingly lucky I am to have an opportunity to work with these students–to love on and care for and work with these students. So instead of plopping into my bed and saying a prayer for how thankful I am that tomorrow’s Friday, I’m choosing to consciously recognize the strange beauty of being a high school English teacher.

And some day when I have adequate sleep and more cohesive thoughts, I’ll write more comprehensively about the joys of teaching and the plethora of things I’m learning about myself and God and students and life.

But as for tonight, I simply acknowledge that I’m blessed. Totally and completely blessed.

Alright, friends. I need you to make me a promise: that you will under no circumstances judge me for the ridiculousness of this post.

I’m currently living in a small cabin at a camp where I work as the breakfast and lunch cook. Yesterday saw the end of their preteen camp, meaning most of the people (including my wonderful cabin mate) went home for the weekend and will be back on Monday to begin preparations for Family Camp, which is apparently THE big kahuna. I’m a pretty independent person, so I was kind of looking forward to a quiet weekend and long nights of reading (I’m working my way through the Divergent series. Holy cow, so good!). Now, allow me to paint you a picture of the events last night involving me, a moth, a box of toaster pastries, and verbal harassment.

CHARACTERS: Me. And Martin and Mervin the moths.

SETTING: Alone in my cabin at about 9:30 pm, getting ready to sit down and enjoy the wonderfulness that is Tris and Four.

CONFLICT: The moths want my cabin.

After working a nearly 13 hour day in the camp kitchen, I came back to my cabin exhausted. I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror staring at my reflection, trying to decide if the stench of sweat and kitchen grease bothered me enough to shower tonight or if I could wait until morning. I was just about to go back to the living room to read when something the size of a large butterfly bat crow eagle flew out from next to the counter and flew at my face, its only desire to rip my face to shreds! I shrieked out an unearthly noise, ducked, and dived out of the bathroom, slamming the door behind me, locking the beast in the bathroom. I stared at the door completely panicked.

Something you should know about me is that while I’m not afraid of heights, mice, the dark, or testy teenagers, I can’t handle bugs. Like, at all.

I paced back and forth in the living room, contemplating whether or not I could survive the weekend without going to the bathroom, showering, or brushing my teeth. I thought about the wedding I was going to the next day and decided my date wouldn’t appreciate that, no matter how logical and reasonable my explanation was.

I texted my cabin mate that a the moth had gotten into the bathroom (we had previously thought she locked it in her bedroom, sneaky little bugger) and she so kindly offered to drive AN HOUR to come kill it. I have the greatest people in my life.

I told her I’d find someone on the camp grounds do it since there were several other people staying the whole weekend as well. After I texted that, I realized how absolutely ridiculous that situation would be. I imagined it playing out in my head:

*knock on door* “Hi, this is a ridiculous request and probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, but I managed to trap a blood-sucking monster moth in my bathroom, but can’t muster the bravery to kill it. Do you mind coming and ridding me of the beast?”

Yeah, no. Not happening. I stared at the door a little bit more, paced back and forth contemplating my options and wishing I had a can of Raid. Then froze with a sudden realization: In exactly two weeks, I was going to move into an apartment completely by myself. There would be no one to kill the moths. No one to get rid of spiders. No one to pick up the electric bill when an unexpected expense comes up and I’m short for the month. No one to wake up when I hear the wind knock over a picture frame in the other room. It’s just going to be me (and whatever other creepy crawlers decide to inhabit my apartment with me).

I wish I was kidding, but I legitimately started to hyperventilate. I think about killing the moth, but suddenly that moth represents so much more than my irrational fear of bugs–it’s my fear of being alone, truly alone.

Completely at a loss for what to do next, I do whatever a girl with 10 siblings does: I call my sister. Mind you, by this time, it’s about 10:30 at night, so she picks up her phone and our conversion goes something like this:

Me: “Hey, sis, it’s me. You busy?”

Jess: “Just getting ready for bed, what’s up?”

*fighting tears (pathetic, I know)* “Uhm, nothing really, I just need you to talk to me and calm me down a little.”

*obvious concern in her voice* “Okay, sis. What’s wrong? Is everything okay?”

“Well, it’s kind of silly, but there’s a moth tapped in my bathroom.”

*silence*

“…and I’m afraid to kill it.”

*silence and then silent-ish laughter*

God bless my sister, she somehow found the strength in her heart to talk to me like a legitimate adult and calm me down. Because there was a moth in my bathroom. She gave me tips for catching it and said that her opinion was that I should just club it and not try to catch it alive. However, she’s perceptive. I began to tell her about what I was truly afraid of, being alone and vulnerable. She listed all the scary things about being an adult, but then ensured me that she had all the confidence in the world that I would not only survive as an adult in the real world, but also thrive.

Like I said, I have the best people in my life.

I hung up with my sister and her vote of confidence gave me enough bravery to open the bathroom door with broom, dustpan, and bucket in hand. I looked around and it’s no where to be found. I searched and searched for 15 minutes and couldn’t find it. So, naturally, I started yelling at it. It and its stupid moth family and all the ambitions a silly moth could have. I was standing in the bathroom, broom and bucket in tote, beginning to believe that I had imagined the whole thing, when it bolted out of nowhere, bumping my leg and coming towards my face! I screamed, nearly broke the light fixtures with the broom and slammed the door shut again, finding security in the inches of door between the moth and myself. I knew I couldn’t let Martin (oh yeah, I had named it by this point) fly around and hide again, so I swung open the door again and started wildly swinging the broom while simultaneously squealing at the thought that I might actually hit it. Finally, it landed on the light fixture and I saw my opportunity to smash it. I held the broom closer and closer, but found that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t kill the stupid bug!

Just as I’m about to give up and get one of the staff members from the front of camp, the wildest, most Cinderella-esque thing happens. The moth gently flew from the light fixture and landed lightly on the broom, perched there, just enjoying the view.

I stared at it.

“Okay, little Martin. We’re just gonna take a little ride,’ I whispered as I slowly inched backwards. Sweat beaded on my forehead, my hands trembled, and I recognized this as one of the most laughable situations of my life. I had slowly made my way to the front door and silently swung it open and had just gotten the broom outside, a wail gradually making it’s way up my throat, when suddenly ANOTHER freakin’ moth flew in through the open door!! I screamed, tried to slam the door shut, realized the broom was still hanging out, pulled it into the cabin, and instinctively screamed at the moth, “DARN IT, MELVIN!” The name came so naturally that I assumed that must actually be his name.

I watched it flutter its wings against the light in the kitchenette. After several attempts, I managed to capture it in a bucket, seal it with the dust pan, and trow it out the front door, only to have it fly right back into the house before I could shut the door (actually, I think the wind from my wild movements sucked the thing back in. Ironic, right?).

I once again watched it flutter against the light in the living room. Completely defeated and even more exhausted now that my adrenaline was running dry, I grabbed a strawberry toaster pastry, texted my sister a moth update, then laid out the ground rules.

“Alright, Melvin, if you’re gonna be here, you can’t come near me, land on my toothbrush, or eat my Poptarts.” I took his silence as his acknowledgement of my reasonable guidelines. When I woke up this morning, Melvin was no where to be found. Maybe my restrictive house rules were too much for him.

I don’t know how I’m going to handle adult life, and I get more and more terrified every time I think about paying bills and investigating unknown noises. But then I remember my sister’s words from last night.

“Being an adult is scary and overwhelming and so incredibly amazing and you’re going to do fine, sis.”

Gosh, how do people without sisters handle life?

Baggy Eye Badges

June 16, 2014

Here’s another sneak peek of my summer writing project! I wish I could say I was spending my evenings writing and being productive, but I picked up my guitar again and now all real productivity has officially left my being. But it’s okay, it’s still only June and I know that I don’t really do anything until the last minute, so… 😉

 

Section 4: Baggy Eye Badges

            The other day, I was sitting in my living room by myself eating ice cream right out of the container while taking the most ridiculous SnapChat pictures I could and sending them to my friends. I was in the middle of drawing a sombrero on my head when I stopped and took a good hard look at myself. I had a stack of papers to grade in front of me, a half-finished documentary I had to finish watching before I showed it in class the next day, a load of dirty laundry sitting in my bedroom, and a bathroom floor that hadn’t been swept in a month (I wish I was kidding about that last one, a sincerely do). While I wasn’t sure what my idea of success was, I knew that this wasn’t it.

 

As I said earlier, my generation is an oddball mixture of extremely driven individuals and lazy kids, but we are all in this generation of causes. We could be drilling wells for clean water or raising awareness about children’s cancer or making beads to support women getting out of prostitution or riding our bikes across the country to raise money for vaccines, but whatever we do, we go big. Our generation gave birth to companies like Tom’s Shoes and LiveStrong. It’s cool to buy organic groceries and wear jewelry from other countries. It shows the people around us that we stand for something, even if we only stand for whatever our friends stand for.

 

We are the generation of Google. If you can’t remember a certain fact, look it up. If you don’t know how to do something, look it up. If you can’t remember how to spell “mosquito,” look it up. We live in a hybrid version of the American Dream. We don’t work hard to achieve our goals, we work smart. We complete online degrees and connect on LinkedIn. The entire world is literally at our fingertips, which gives us the feeling that anything is achievable if we know where to look.

 

The problem with this is that not every cause is turned into a multi-million dollar company, not every website will attract thousands of subscribers, and not every meme will go viral. For every success story, there are a hundred people who failed. But no one talks about them, so we continue thinking that every move we make must be continually affirmed by tons of people. Our success depends on it!

 

Can I be honest? It’s stressful! Every time I post a new blog post, I find myself glued to my blog’s stats for the next week. If not enough people read it, it must have been a bad post! I obsess over each and every word I wrote, critiquing my voice and thoughts as I re-read. It’s a very narcissistic mentality.

 

But that’s what success is, right? Having hundreds of people subscribe to your blog? Does it make you prettier if people “like” your pictures? Are you funnier if people tell more stories about you? Is your worth based on whether or not people affirm you?

 

Success for our generation is a finicky topic. We’re the first generation to have our successes or failures broadcasted for your entire world to see. You know how you just got laid off and to cope you’ve been pinning a socially-unacceptable amount of motivational quotes from Pinterest to your “It’s Gonna Be Alright” board? Yeah, Suzy from twelfth-grade math noticed, and she told Jenny who you kind of knew from tenth-grade biology while they were at a party with Ben and Julie who both had a class with you during your sophomore year of college, but they heard that you had originally wanted that job at the big firm, so you must not have gotten it and, “poor thing, she worked so hard to come to such a hard time.” Or you know that really bad break-up you had last fall that completely broke your heart because you thought you were going to get married? Well Mrs. Johnson from church noticed that you went from “In a Relationship” to “Single” so she told the church ladies and now they’re praying that you’ll find “the one God has for you.” These life events that used to be speed bumps in the road of life have turned into axel-annihilating potholes that suddenly everyone and their brother know about.

 

Not only do we have muddled views of what success is, but we also have pressure to succeed quickly. When that success doesn’t happen immediately, we don’t know how to recover. We do our best to move on as quickly as possible, rarely taking time to learn from our mistakes and discover more about ourselves.

 

This summer I’m working as a summer camp cook. When I first accepted the job, I’ll admit, I was a little embarrassed to tell people, not because I did’t want the job but because I felt like I had to do something huge, exciting, and great now that I was a graduate. I always had a rational for it. “Well they offered me free rooming and food, so how can I pass that up?” Do you want to know why I accepted the job? Because while I was desperate for a job, I was even more desperate for a break from thinking. After four years of college and a stressful final semester, I was ready to not think for the summer and just cook. I didn’t just want to work as a camp cook; I needed to work as a camp cook. However, as someone who just graduated with a college degree, this is hardly what people expected from me.

 

When I look at the world’s definition of success, I feel tired. It looks like early mornings and late nights, short weekends and few holidays all for the sake of impressing a few people or rationalizing that you’ve done something worthwhile. I’ve met people who seem to brag about their busy schedules—they wear their exhaustion like a boy scout who earned his final badge. “See these bags under my eyes? They’re because I only slept one hour last night because I agreed to plan an event this weekend even though I had stuff going on all week. Am I not awesome?”

 

Did our lives really become a My Dad is Stronger competition with our schedules? Are we really obsessed with who does or doesn’t “like” our posts? Is this what success looks like? If so, I give up because that sounds miserable.

 

I believe we can better define success, that we can intentionally pursue a meaningful life that leaves us feeling more fulfilled than a busy schedule and a couple diplomas hanging on the wall. I think we’re called to a greater purpose than that, a purpose that makes those ambitions seem goofy and trivial. The problem is that you need to take the time to consciously choose a different definition.

Part of my plan for post-graduate life is to write a book. After thinking about it for a long time (four weeks is a long time, right?) I decided to write about the challenges college graduates face.  My plan is to write 50,000 words in one month (according to the Bethel College Challenge) and so far I’m about… well lets see, it’s June 8th so… I’m about 7 days behind. Surprising, right?

Anyways, it’s a work in progress, but I have about 3 sections done and the rest planned out. I don’t know what’s going to come of it all, but I decided to post the introduction to the book. Let me know your thoughts and comments! My WiFi is a bit spotty for the next several months (on account of me working as a summer camp cook) but I’ll try to respond as well as I can!

 

Section 1: Fire, Water, and Goblins

I will never forget the day I graduated college. Growing up, I had always struggled with school. I was never brilliant or especially gifted or smart, but I knew how to work hard, probably accredited to me being the third oldest of the eleven kids in my family. There was always something to do in my family—laundry that needed folding, dishes that needed doing, babies that needed holding—and so my family was in the habit of working hard to make our family run like well-oiled machine. It was rarely easy, but my parents made it clear that hard work was an expectation for being a Kreis. This mentality carried over to my college career. I had never worked so hard for anything, let alone an education, and I lived each year on a day-by-day basis. “One more four a.m. study session.” “Two more eight-page papers.” “Just one more meeting.” “Only one more coffee-induced homework coma.” I lived day-by-day for four years with my eye on the prize: a bachelors degree reading “English Education,” decorated with a shiny, gold “magna cum laude” ribbon. And my golly, I got it, even if it came close to killing me.

However, even more than the day I graduated college, I’ll always remember the morning after. It played out like a bad chick-flick. You know, the one that starts out with the protagonist waking up with a bad hang over because her last single friend got married the night before, and she realized that the only thing she’s done so far with her life was sabotage every relationship she’s ever had, work a mediocre job where she can’t stand her co-workers, and kill a goldfish. Okay, now insert me.

I woke up to two of my roommates being gone, the apartment nearly cleared out, half a jar of peanut butter in the cabinet, and a feeling of impending doom. I had no job lined up after my part-time gig ended in August, didn’t know what state I was going to live in, had no idea who I was going to live with, and had approximately twenty-six dollars to my name (that’s including the three dollars in nickels and dimes rolling around in my car).

As I sat in my living room, the sun streamed in through my windows and cars rushed past on the busy road outside my window. The longer I sat there, the more desperate I began to feel. Have you ever seen the movie Daylight? Well, don’t. It’s a horribly claustrophobic movie about a group of people who get stuck in the subway system in New York (or somewhere like that) and there’s water or fire or goblins or something closing in on them and they’re trapped in this crumbling transit system. So the whole movie is them going further and further into this maze of tunnels, basically hoping they find the light at the end of it, and if I remember correctly, they all die. Or they all live… yeah, that’s probably what happened. Or maybe some of them died and some of them lived… I think the little girl lived. I mean, who would make a movie where the little kids die? Well, I think that happens in The Mist. And doesn’t the kid die at the end of The Sixth Sense?

I’m digressing.

The point is, there’s no way out of the tunnel—the only option they had was to go further into the mess. And that’s exactly where I found myself. I couldn’t escape life, I had to continue forward and hope to find the figurative daylight before the water or fire or student loan people caught up to me. It was kind of terrifying.

I realized that I had spent my entire four years in college preparing for the next day and never really preparing for life. I could speed read through 50 pages of textbook pages or compile a perfectly organized portfolio, but I couldn’t begin to tell you how to look for an apartment or, better yet, afford one.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a similar situation. Perhaps you’ve woken up one day, getting ready for your job and suddenly realized that you want more than this, but failed to plan for it. Maybe you too got to your prize—high school graduation, college graduation, marriage, parenthood—and realized that you hadn’t thought past your goal. What do you do when you’ve completed what you set out to do? What do you do when you get to the “end” and it doesn’t look like what you were expecting it to look like? There’s no job waiting, no clear direction for your life, no ring on your finger. What do you do when the fire and water and goblins are chasing you and getting a little too close for your comfort?

What do you do?

I came to a very sudden realization today: I’m a college graduate. It happened very… well, suddenly.

After a long day at work, I was rushing to the public library to secure both a renewed library card and the movie version of Great Expectations for my freshmen. I had my car windows down as I cruised the budding streets of Mishawaka when I thought, “Man! It’s a beautiful day! I’m going to have to make sure I take the little boys (aka, my bothers) to the beach this summer!” Then I started mentally planning out the activities of the summer. As I approached a stoplight and looked out at the St. Joe river I was about to cross, I abruptly realized that I’m not going home this summer. I’m a genuine employed, grocery-shopping, check-book-balancing, tax-paying, adult.

So I’m sitting at this stoplight when I have a mini panic attack. In retrospect, I would have loved to watch from the car next to me as I suddenly turned off the radio, frantically looked around me as if there was some sort of “Escape from Life” hatch, then started laughing uncontrollably. It was confusing, not gonna lie.

The light turned green, so I had to start driving, all the while laughing/having a panic attack because suddenly I have my whole life a head of me! I know, in theory, Senior Year Experience with Dr. Bob was supposed to prepare (maybe prevent?) me for an event like this. However, I don’t think anyone can really prepare you for the moment you realize that you’ve been kicked out of Neverland and thrown into the Valley of Ashes where everyone wears orthopedic inserts and goes to bed before 9:30.

After I made my way home, I stood at the sink washing my coffee mugs and salad bowls, when I had another thought: I need to decide who I’m going to be. Am I going to be the person who comes home every night to an empty apartment, binges on crasins, and watches terrible movie renditions of my favorite literary classics? Am I going to be the person who stays at school until 7 o’clock at night, grabs take-out on the way home, and falls asleep trying to create the perfect lesson plan containing perfectly balanced discussion questions inspired by Blooms Taxonomy? Am I going to be the person who is so stressed out at work that she comes home, unintentionally crashes on the couch for two hours, speed reads through four sections of her assigned reading for class tomorrow, then binges on Taylor Swift and Johnny Cash videos because, gosh darn it, it’s been a long day?

Yeah, I’ve tried out all these things and I’m not sure I’ve found my “gig” yet. But I do know this: I’m a graduate. This means that I’ve been trained for four years to hypothetically survive in the “real person” world. So, like any sane and functioning human being would do, I made of a list of how I’m going to figure out my life.

-First, I’m going to write a 50,000 word book for Bethel’s novel writing month event because… well, what else should I do? Eat more crasins? (just in case you’re interested… bcnovel.wordpress.com)

-Second, I’m going to make list of things that are me. Things that I feel are an essential part of my personhood. When I have it in front of me, I will hypothetically have more direction with my, uh… life.

-Third, I’m going to stop reading in the dark. I’m beginning to see what my roommate was talking about these past four years… totally ruining my sight.

That’s what I have for you! A bit Helter Skelter, but for as scary as this time has the potential to be, I’m really excited to find the weird rabbit trails God takes me down this coming year. My hope is that it involves significantly more writing, better spelling skills, (seriously, if I published this without spell check, no school district would ever hire me as their English teacher. It’s hilariously sad) a revamped blog about the adventures of a first-year teacher, and maybe a few new friends.

So now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a paper bag waiting to regulate my breathing.

Ah, February 15th: the day all the single people get together and rejoice because they made it through Valentine’s Day, or Singleness Awareness Day, or I-Think-My-Allergies-Are-Acting-Up-Just-By-Browsing-Facebook-Because-Everyone-Is-Posting-Pictures-Of-Their-Flowers Day (okay, you caught me, I made up that last one).

I learned something really important yesterday. I’m an abnormality. Well, I kinda knew that already, but it was further proven when I noticed that my love for Valentine’s Day might have surpassed those who were in serious and committed relationships. Legit, I live for Valentine’s Day. No, I’m not one of those girls who gets a hot date or is overwhelmed by admirers or has a boat load of suitors waiting outside my door (obviously I’ve watched Pride and Prejudice too recently). I just really love everything about it!

Last night I was waiting for my friend so we could go celebrate Beyonce style, and I ran across this article: 5 Problems with Valentine’s Day. And I was deeply annoyed. Can I say something with more honestly than I probably should? I think all those “Reasons Why Valentine’s Day Sucks” posts are by either, a) bitter single people, b) people who are trying too desperately to be counter-culture, or c) people who are too cheap to take a day and spend some money. Can I get an amen?

So in my own passive aggressive way, here’s my list of

5 Reasons This Single Lady Freakin’ LOVED Valentine’s Day!

5) There’s something for everyone!

Are you single? Complain away! Are you married/engaged/dating/mildly interested in someone? Go ahead, post about it all you want! This is the one day of the year that people will think nothing of it because it’s Valentine’s Day and everyone’s already talking about it! You won’t be singled out as bitter or over the top, so there’s nothing to be self-conscious about. (Because I know all those single people complaining about people getting married, engaged, and having babies are very self-conscious about the way they come off)

4) Everyone has love

You know, you can celebrate love other than romantic love on Valentine’s Day? I know, crazy concept, but you can. My dad and grandparents both wished me a Happy V-Day yesterday and I felt so loved and cared about. Then I made valentines for my roommates and had the chance to tell them how much I care about them. And you know what? I don’t feel like I missed out on much. Do you have a mother? A brother? An aunt? An uncle? A grandma or grandpa? A sister or dad? A roommate or co-worker? Then take a minute to love them!

3) Love is a beautiful thing

Even though I don’t have someone I’m romantically attracted to in my life right now, I loved ohhing and ahhing over my friends who do. My sister’s husband dropped off beautiful flowers for her at work and then she made love notes for him and hung them on balloons. I love that my sister has someone who cares about her and loves her, and I’m more than willing to be giddy and happy about that! Is it possible to be genuinely happy for people who have something you don’t? Uhm, yeah. In fact, I think it’s a necessary life skill to be able to do that.

2) You have no excuse to not love on the people in your life

I know it’s easy to get into the grind of everyday life and forget to tell the people you love how much you care about them. How often do I text my mom or dad just to tell them I love them, or write my roommates a note to tell them they’re the bee’s knees? Shamefully, not nearly often enough. We have a day to remind us to tell those people that we love them.

“Yeah, well you should tell people you love them everyday, gosh.”

Yeah, well do we? I try to, but I know I don’t.

“You’re saying that I have an ENTIRE day devoted to allowing me to let those people know I heart them?! AND I get to buy them chocolate to tell them they’re special?!”

That’s right, little love bird. That’s the magic of Valentine’s Day.

And my number one reason this chick LOVES Valentine’s Day…

1) It’s a day of opportunity

I’m currently student teaching at a high school, and I’ve discovered that Valentine’s Day at a public high school is a strange, hilarious thing. But in my second period English class, one of the “popular” guys went around the room and gave every girl a hug and wished her a happy Valentine’s Day. I asked him about it and he said that he did that in his first class and he was planning on doing it for all his other classes that day. This kid, instead of complaining about hating Valentine’s Day (because I learned he didn’t have a valentine) took it as an opportunity to make people smile and feel loved. Let me tell you, there were some heart-warming girly grins in my classroom that hour. All day long I asked students about their plans for the evenings and told them I cared about them and it was awesome. Some of these students don’t get that kind of love at home and I had the chance to share a little bit. That’s an opportunity I would have missed had I been so focused on hating the day.

So there they are! The reasons I look back at yesterday and laugh and smile because it was a great day. I even got to go out with a friend with print-out heads of Josh Hutcherson and Patrick Dempsey as out dates (yeah, we were looking fine!). It was goofy, silly, and I got to spend it with a dear friend, and I’ll probably always remember it as one of the funniest Valentine’s Days I’ve ever had. So yeah, I’m looking forward to when I can spend it with someone I love, but until then, I’m not gonna miss out on the fun.

Happy Birthday, Patrick!

November 14, 2013

Here’s a cake from a hamster!

Happy-Birthday-17

 

By the way, he’s got a pretty neat blog: http://www.patrickforgey.com/topics/blog/

So I’m a senior in college, right? Basically, that means I’m kinda pro at this whole college-living thing. Moldy bread? Totally okay if you take the mold off. Ramen noodles? You mean romantic dinner date? Scholarly source? Google totally counts.

College really is a fascinating time of life. I’m convinced the only reason I haven’t gained a hundred pounds (especially considering the amount of water I’m sure my body is retaining thanks to my Ramen-diet) is because stressing out about school/the rest of my life is burning more calories than I’m actually consuming.

It’s not like I don’t try to be healthy at school–I really do! I’ve even gone vegetarian with hopes of enticing a love-affair from the depths of my soul for leafy greens. It’s three months later and I’m hardly excited by my spinach/tomato salad from the dining commons. Come to think of it, it might not be the salad that’s the problem so much as my sudden awareness that campus food is really and truly as bad as everyone has said over the last three years.

My roommate and I went to the grocery store across the street from campus tonight. With my list in tote, we browsed the aisles for something that would do two things: 1) not break our already scant college-student budget, and 2) not add significantly to the weight I’m sure stress-eating is causing right now.

As we navigated through the cereal aisle, we rummaged through the cereal/fiber/granola bars looking for something that wasn’t going to evoke a total sugar coma. What we found was over-priced, hipster bunny food. I mean, really. Five dollars for cranberries, oat straw, and fiber? Seriously? What do you think we are, employed?!

So we settled for some cheap cereal bars which were probably held together with high-fructose corn syrup. But they boasted of no preservatives, so it’s basically like eating an apple, right? We finished off the shopping trip with toothpaste (mostly because I had been living on that final tablespoon of paste for the past month… I’m finding that I’m rather talented at making toothpaste last. Which is either really impressive or really disgusting. You can decide.), cheap hairspray, bagels made with bleached flour, maple-sugar encrusted cinnamon roles, and two 1/2 gallons of milk because they were college-student-cheap.

We returned home to our other roommate who was questioning the validity of her research for a project because it was largely internet based. After we sat around contemplating our integrity (or lack there of, as the case may be), we eventually broke in to our cinnamon roles and laughed about the homework due tomorrow that none of us have started.

As I sit here postponing my studying for a quiz that I’m probably going to be less than successful with, I can’t help but be thankful for this crazy season of life. Yeah, it’d be nice to have two dimes to rub together, more than 5 hours of sleep each night, or time to sit down and blog more often, but I’m trying to be careful to not wish this time away. I live with three amazing women. I get to study and talk about English and Education all day long. I get to be involved in a vibrant student body. And most exciting, I don’t have to pay on student loans yet!

All this to say that I realized that I’m 85% done with my college career, and I can’t help but wonder when the heck that happened.

I love my last name because I hear the best mispronunciations.

For the record, it’s Kreis. Kr-ice. K-er-ice. Kreis.

I hear certain mispronunciations more often than others. Kr-ee-s. Kr-es. Chris.

This year, I’ve been assigned to student teach at a 5-8 grade school in Indiana. I’ve been in the classroom for the past month or so observing and getting to know the class I’ll be student teaching for, and it has been great! I’ve never met such a squirrely bunch of middle-schoolers. It’s awesome.

This past week I was at the school and the class was working on a worksheet. I was working one-on-one with a student who was having a difficult time when this conversation occurred:

-Student trying to get my attention-“Ms. Christ!”

-Student who’s genuinely shocked he just called me Christ-“Ms. Christ?! It’s Ms. KREIS.”

-Student 1-“Huh? No it ain’t. It’s ‘Christ’ like Jesus Christ.”

-Student 2-“What?! No it ain’t! It’s KREIS!”

-Student 1-“Na uh. Listen. MS. CHRIST!”

I turned around, trying so hard not laugh.

-Student 1-“Question. You name is Ms. CHRIST, right? Like Jesus Christ?”

-Me-“That’s close, it’s Kreis. Like Jesus Christ without the T.”

-Student 1-*Slowly nods his head, looks at student 2, who has a smug look on his face* “Ah. Okay, you right.”

Two things were absolutely great about this conversation. First, they (kinda) remembered my name, which means something, right? And second, it reminds me of this one time my little brother thought Jesus was our brother because he heard Jesus Kreis.

Moral of the story, I hope I marry a Smith.