Posts in Education
It is almost done...

WHOA! I am never been so MIA from my blog. First, I want to apologize. The truth is that I was having a major writer's block, I have been feeling super overwhelmed, and have leaned into the 365 photo project as a way to keep me connected without having to commit to writing anything more than a sentence or two. The is for sure a hard season, for me and for many. The short days just send out strong hibernation vibes and the courses I taught this winter term were very demanding. Crushed under grading was the truth of it. This dynamic though was double edged. The students in my classes were curious, investment, high-achieving, and excited to learn which pushed me to raise the bar over and over again for them. I know, I know isn't this a teacher's literal dream? And, yes it was and is. But at the same time this meant more time crafting lesson plans, designing projects, and leaning into hard grading and feedback sessions. I stopped eating in the cafeteria in order to sneak in more time for grading and arrived to school an hour before classes and graded way past my bedtime. It was exhilarating but a bit disconnecting and definitely exhausting.

Most of these winter months felt hard to balance all the plates that were spinning around me. This impossible task of: being a wife, parent, daughter, friend, potter, and teacher had me thinking often of that story of the philosophy professor that has been shared throughout social media for years now:

One day a philosophy professor brought a large glass jar and some beautiful river rocks to class with him.

"Raise your hands when the jar is full," he instructed his students, and he began putting the big rocks into the jar.

Soon the lid would no longer fit, and all the students raised their hands to indicate the jar was full. The professor then pulled out a bag of smaller black and white pebbles and poured them into the jar. As the pebbles rolled down, they filled in the little gaps between the big river rocks.

The students smiled and raised their hands. This time the jar was completely full. Then the professor produced a bag of sand and began pouring it into the jar. When the sand had filled the tiny gaps between the rocks and pebbles he triumphantly placed the lid on the jar and asked his class if the jar was now full. They all clapped and agreed, “Yes, it is full!” At that point, the professor opened the lid and slowly poured two cups of coffee into the jar. The coffee completely filled the tiniest gaps between the rocks, the pebbles, and the grains of sand.

"Now, life is very much like this jar," he said.

The river rocks represent the most important things in life, such as your ethics, your family, your loved ones, your health. Even if you lost everything else, your life would still be full with these most important things in it.

The pebbles are the things in our lives that are pretty
important - but our happiness shouldn’t depend on them. Things like our job, house, car, etc.

Finally the sand represents everything else - the countless small, busy things in our lives. If we fill up our jar with sand first, then we won’t have any room for the river rocks or pebbles.

If we fill our lives with just the small stuff or the busy stuff, we won’t have any room or time for the things that mean the most of us.”
After a brief moment of silence one of the students asked,

"Professor, what does the coffee represent?"

"Ah, I’m glad you asked, replied the professor. "It means that no matter how full your life is, there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend"

I am glad this season in which my coffee pot was overfilling feels like it is coming to an end. The afternoons are sneaking in some more daylight and I feel like a switch is flipping from winter survival mode into a more calm, create, breathe, and explore mode.

Whoa.Ten.Years.

Graduating from college and moving into my first apartment with David and my bestie, Laura, feels like a lifetime ago. I remember buying some "grown-up" clothes and playing dress-up and make-believe as we all interviewed for first jobs. The idea of not being a student was so foreign. My only memories in life were of being a student. The cycle of September to June classes and school work and a sweet summer vacay were all any of ever knew. And then, it was done. What do you mean I only get 9 vacation days? What do you mean I only have 4 sick days a year? And staring into adulthood was terrifying! How exactly do I pay an electric bill? Like how does the electric company know where I live and do I have to write them a check? Is a security deposit just a scam to make you give the landlord more money? Then ten years happened. From thinking that adulthood was awkward and uncomfortable, I now love being a teacher, having a family, and dare I say being an adult. It is funny to think that it has been a decade of adulting in this particular career path. Never could I have imagined art 23 that I would put such firm roots down. I am excited for what's ahead and for embracing some new and some well-worn mentalities heading into the next ten: Flexibility, Patience, Empathy, Diligence, Laughter, Kindness, Engaging, Contemporary, Real, In-Depth.

Don't bring home a panda bear

"Don't bring home a panda bear, mommy,"  Henry shared last night when we were talking about how much I was going to miss him, and Owen, and his daddy when I went to China in 24 hours. "Why not Henry? Wouldn't a cute panda bear be so fun to have in our home?" "Actually, no. He would scratch our walls," and off he went to build another Lincoln log cabin, his latest favorite. Watching him design and execute on his imagination, I thought about how much I am going to miss these silly conversations. They are unpredictable, reflective, nonsensical, wise, and all things heart-warming. And simultaneously Owen's language is just exploding! His little conversations include things like, "Mommy I need you," as he takes my hand and hugs it to his chest. Or "Mommy poo poo in there," as he laughs and points to his diaper and runs away from me laughing and laughing. Those moments are making me weepy today. I know once we land in Beijing, I will be assaulted with sounds, smells, and experiences and immersed in a new space, but until then I am trying to have all my feelings and squeeze in all hugs and kisses. Do you think I can pack David in my luggage? I worry that if I am having a travel angst, it will be hard to remain a calm, cool, and collected chaperone and David is always so good at reminding me that it will all buff out in the end. Am I excited to go? TOTALLY! But today is a day for not only packing that suitcase I have delayed packing, but also for putting aside my to-do list and any social media scrolling and to be fully immersed in the babies and David before I have to bid them adieu in the morning. Cheers to all the feels.

Great feat of strength

Tonight the GOAT, Tom Brady, takes to the field for yet another run for a Super Bowl win. While the game may be exciting, the commercials are known to create a Twitter trend too. A few years ago, I think it was Budweiser, had a series called "unsung heroes." This thirty seconds praised random people for silly and what might at first seem like insignificant talents. However they were true feats of strength like the bathroom user who replaces the toilet paper roll or the individual brave enough to take that last bite of the appetizer before the waiter removes the plate. On Thursday, I had my greatest moment! While I might have been in labor for 17 hours with Henry only to push out his chunky 9lb 12oz body and then headed back for another baby born naturally almost on route 9 because he was so fast and intense, Thursday trumps both of these moments in stick-to-it-ness and mind control! My co-worker is baking beautiful artisan breads and on Thursday morning while I sat in the faculty room for my prep, this kind coworker gifted me half a loaf. The feat of strength then commenced!

I sat beside that loaf of bread a mere twelve inches from my nose for two hours!!! I made multiple attempts to unwrap it from its cellophane but just before I peeled a layer, I stopped myself. Let's all just agree that there might not be a better smell than bread. No matter what the grocery store smells like as soon as you hit the bakery aisle don't you smile? Is that just me? Clearly a fresh loaf is my trigger. But at 3:25 on the fateful day, I walked to the car with the loaf intact proud that I resisted its temptations and prepared to share my sacrificed loaf with the family!

'tis the season to be....grateful

Today my school is hosting its largest Admission Event of the season. Each year, dozens (perhaps hundreds) of families from in and around Boston descend on our parking lot and cruise through our hallways catching glimpses of the daily life of the students. In a parallel universe, teachers in the classrooms, and hiding away in the nooks and crannies of the study spaces, work tirelessly to complete lesson plans, start their end of term comment writing, make finals, grade last minute assignments and prepare to grade finals just created. This week is the stuff of nightmares! We have to be engaged and engaging to our prospective new families and to our current students who are heading into final exams and we have to do our best to tackle the mountain of work in exactly 7 days when all the due dates converge! Yet, despite the frenzy, I am feeling super grateful today. This place is so special to me because of the way it approaches teachers, grows teachers, nurtures relationships, shares curriculum content, and challenges and loves its students. Yes, I might be a shut-in this weekend but there are so many awesome moments that make-up for the onslaught of grading ahead of me. My goal this week which I am putting out there in the world is to have no lingering work over the week of Thanksgiving. My goal is to leave my laptop behind and take a full week off after this mania. And I write this now while I could be working on my work.....so procrastination is real, but now the need to get started feels more real.

Also, a dear friend had a baby this morning and how can you not feel grateful when life welcomes a new human to the world!! Cheers!!

EducationMelissaComment
They Escaped!

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through Instagram enjoying photos of babies, food, and Kaelin's cat when I saw a momma friend post about an "escape the room" review lesson she had hatched for her history class. Immediately, I became obsessed with the idea! My ninth graders have been killing it this year raising the bar on their writing, content comprehension, debates, and analysis. Wouldn't it be fun to approach the end of the Civil War unit in a playful way for them? This question led me deep. 6db.jpg

Deep into a hole of puzzle making and code ciphering that had me babbling "sic semper tryannis" and buying Mexican Cipher Wheels from Amazon. What could the topic be for the escape? Would the escape the room help them better understand history or would it just be a distraction? I racked my brain through these questions and reached out to faculty across the building for help thinking through the objectives and meaning behind the escape. The topic came the easiest. The class would need to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. In the past, this topic was always covered by reading a textbook and doing a little discussion about the magnitude of the assassination before moving on to something else. But what if instead of this very small/insignificant approach, we jazzed it up and got the students to feel the rush of emotion to prevent the event and the confusion of following the manhunt? The scenario thus became:

"You are group of elite army special service officers. You have just witnessed the signing of the Articles of Agreement in which the Southern Confederate Army officially ended their hostilities against the Union. You have been tasked to deliver the formal documentation to the White House. While traveling from Appomattox Court House to President Abraham Lincoln, you are ambushed by a group of hooded riders who blindfold you and take you to an undisclosed location. Along the way there, you pick up bits of their discussion from the front of the wagon about plans to "Cut off the Head" of the Union so that the "South May Rise Again." Left alone in the holding cell,  you need to uncover how to get out, where the surrender document is hidden, and what plans you need to stop in order to secure peace and protect the United States of America!"

And then I stopped blogging for two weeks because it was time to create 10 missions, clues, red herrings, objectives, ciphers, puzzles, and everything else in between. It felt like an incredible undertaking and I lost myself to the process all the while hoping that on the day of execution the students would be challenged, would gain deeper knowledge of the events leading to: the assassination, the timeline, the co-conspirators, the manhunt, the plot, the motivation, and all else in-between. And using technology would allow students to visit the locations with Virtual Reality. My framework then became for:

  • Students to work in collaboration with another to problem solve and work together towards a common goal
  • Students are able to review key concepts, themes, battles, and events leading up to, during, and immediately following the Civil War
  • Goal for students to be engaged in the content in a way that is respectful, motivating, and team-building
  • Have students understand the timeline of events leading up to the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, learn about the motivation, the assassin, visit the physical space of Ford’s Theater, and learn about the co-conspirators
  • Have students reflect on their approach, reflect on their default collaboration behaviors/mindsets, and discuss how they were challenged in the process

The process was maddening. I am thankful David is still married to me once I climbed out of the craziness. On the morning of, I arrived to school an hour in advance to set up the room, played Civil War themed music over the speakers, and welcomed in the students. It took them the full hour to work through the puzzles. They laughed, they struggled, but ultimately they escaped.

9th grade projects

BVR has opened a new Research + Design Center. It gleams, it shines, and it is full of amazing spaces and technology that will allow students to play, learn, and design in a setting that feels like a fast-paced silicone valley start-up. Last year, my juniors played with the laser printing and 3D printing for History class. It might not seem like history is a "natural" or "organic" fit for this kind of design or these kinds of products, but my 11th graders took up the challenge and visualized history beautifully.  In the process they showcased their research and creativity and learned the skills needed to manipulate these advanced technologies as well. It was pretty amazing and I was utterly impressed by what they could generate with simple guiding principles and time and support to execute their ideas. This year I wanted to set the goal of challenging my 9th grade to a similar project idea early in the term so that they can (a) feel ownership in this new space (b) feel confident using these new tools (c) cement a deeper knowledge about the history covered (d) be creative designers of their knowledge and research.   It was a daunting idea but it felt like something I wanted to at least try. Here is what happened:  (using colonial data they visualized regional characteristics and presented the comparative data of today)

EducationMelissaComment
Swing of things

The hardest day of going back to school is the first Monday after the first school day. The few days of that first week are exhausting  but there is an excitement that fills the air as kids reconnect with their friends and as faculty navigate the transition with their classes and colleagues. It is probably one of the best times of the year because everything feels fresh, new, and inviting. I love when I buy a brand new planner and those first days are living life like a brand new planner: a clean slate and fresh start. The first Monday after though.... It is still exciting, it is still new, and the energy definitely has me thinking big picture planning, like when will I get my classes into Research + Design Center to use the 3D printers and laser cutters. BUT it also hits me that we are doing this for the next ten months. There will be an alarm going off at 5AM now regularly. There will be grading stacks that get bigger before they get smaller. There will be parent meetings, emails, and to-do lists around every corner. This casts a little shadow over me. I know my mantra is "one by one it all gets done" and I know I will get into that mindset and just do what needs to be done, but today I am pausing a little in the reality ahead. I am taking a deep breath, drinking my coffee maybe a little shower than normal, and telling myself that it is okay, it is going to be okay, and you can do this.

By October, these feelings will have subsided (I hope)and the routine of it all will just be. Until October, I need to brace for the roller coaster of emotions that have me flying high after an awesome class but running low when tackling the "after hours" work of a teacher. And, of course it takes time to figure out how to carve out the most important space of the day: that mental space to put everything down and just be present with my family from the time I walk through the door to the kiss goodnight for Owen and Henry. And then giving myself permission to not forget that David and I need to make time for each other through this chaotic return to life during a school year. That our house and home is only as strong as our relationship which also needs to have space, time, and a kiss. I would love to find a podcast where working moms share their life-hacks for "doing it all," knowing that we cannot really do it all but we can sure as heck try and get pretty close to a balance that leaves us feeling good about who we are and what we are doing and less like we are mediocre at it all. Do you know of any?

Until then...one by one it all gets done.

soaking up the end

In less than 24 hours the official start of year nine of teaching begins. Am I ready for it? Yes, I am excited about the start of the year. The students are always buzzing with excitement as they reconnect with their classmates and settle into their new classrooms. Am I sad for my summer vacation to end? YES! This was a good summer. With each day and week that ticked by, we got "better" at being mobile, heading out, packing the right number of snacks, tackling fun with errands or house chores, and reveling in our time together as a family. I always worry about rebuilding my teacher muscles. It is hard to go from talking with my kiddos and husband to talking to dozens of students and faculty a day. It is hard going from tackling laundry, cooking, and fun times with the kids to doing all of that AND working full-time. Tonight I feel overwhelmed. Tomorrow I am sure things will feel normal-ish but right now, I am anxious to see how we manage it all again and just keep telling myself, "We did this only 12 weeks ago!" Instead of dwelling on these tumultuous feelings, I am going to focus on my boy squad and sneak away to swing at a playground because tomorrow will inevitably arrive. Today though is for summer vibes.

Education, FamilyMelissaComment
The beginning of the wait update

So here we are day 5,929 of our great baby wait. At least that is how it feels sometimes. Throughout this pregnancy our medical team has pumped me up with hopes of an early delivery: we will have to induce you for the baby's size, we will have to monitor you for your thyroid, we will have to induce you for fears of shoulder dystocia, we will have to monitor your sugar levels. All these little "red flags" that were tacked onto my appointments gave me the hope that perhaps this time, my baby would come early instead of weeks late. But, this little dude is quite comfortable and each concern sheds away with each passing day. From "let's just get you to 35 weeks," we are now hearing, "you can go all the way to 42 weeks!" And, yes I am delighted. I am thankful that we are healthy and that our complication risks are minimizing. I am thrilled that throughout the long months of gestation this little guy and my body got stronger and more adaptable. BUT, I am SO ready to meet him. Henry and David talk about the little one all the time, and play in his room, and read books about the baby arriving. We have EVERYTHING ready to go from crib to carseat to clothes to burp cloths, to that dreaded double stroller. And now we wait. My new feeling is that instead of an April baby, this little dude is holding out for May, haha. So what am I doing to avoid the painful staring at my belly?

The potty training chronicles are on-going and have been an oddly welcomed distraction!  Henry is doing really well with it too. Almost all of his activities make it to the bathroom and he is getting better and better at telling us. It is really sweet to put him in "big boy undies" and see him playing downstairs and having so much fun. I no longer see him as a "ticking time bomb" waiting to ruin my couch! This weekend to keep our minds busy we are planning to head downtown for a little visit to the North End and some touristy sight-seeing because WHO KNOWS when we will be able to do that again once the new member joins us and on Sunday I am going to my first fitness conference with my fellow coach Nikki. It feels like this mix of teaching, mothering, and coaching is just what I need in life these days. I am busy, and motivated, and feeling strong and healthy (although definitely achy by night fall, I cannot lie that this belly is a burden by the end of the day!). David always has hobbies to keep him busy and to keep him from spinning his wheels. When I was pregnant with Henry it was the summer and I felt very lonely just waiting for Henry to arrive and eventually  I felt crazed. But this time, while the wait isn't fun (because come on little guy don't you want to meet earth-side already!?!?!) it is much much more manageable with everything that fills my life and day and I am so thankful to feel like I have real ownership over my day.

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A lifetime ago

I have been a delinquent blogger. The start of the school year hit me harder than I anticipated. It took almost two months to feel like a "pattern" set in and perhaps this is a result of not yet having a full five day week! Isn't that crazy? But not until the week of October 26 will I have a full five day week. So each shortened week flies by in a blur of activity, grading, lesson planning, adapting, adjusting, life, family, life, and life! How is it that the start of year seven could feel as uncomfortable as the start of year one?! Teaching is a humbling profession. Somehow though I finally feel a little less frantic and settled and will return to updating this here ole blog more regularly! So what have we been up to?

                                   

cuba band #happeningnow

I would be lying if I said balancing work and life as a new mom was a breeze. Most days I crawl into bed and feel like I just finished round 10 of a prize fight! Friends keep telling me that I don't need to give 100% to all aspects of my life, and I get that. But it is so hard not to, so inevitably I am tired by the end of the day...truly exhausted to my core. Yet, since Henry has found his new sleep pattern, I have been able to sustain this momentum (for now). If I had five of me, I would dedicate each of them to the following: Wife & Bestie to David Melissa, Work Melissa, Mom Melissa, Life Stuff Melissa, and House Chores Melissa. I feel bad for house chores Melissa because this area of life has really fallen behind lately (sorry!). So yes, everyday is a little bit of a push and pull to get all things done for everyone. But then every so often, there is a treat that makes all the racing around worth it!

Today my class gets to do an interdisciplinary exchange with the school's Jazz Band that is preparing to go to Cuba. The Cuba Band has been working hard to prepare their repertoire and learn their instruments before their departure over Spring Break to Havana. Simultaneously, my class has been working hard to learn all about the Cuban Revolution and Cuban History. This morning these two worlds will collide for two hours.  My students will present their understanding of the history of Cuba from Batista to Raul Castro and the band will present the history of their instruments and play some of their Cuban music for us. We will all do some activities around beats and syncopation and enjoy the fruits of individual labors during this shared event. When I started the school year, it was a goal of mine to seek out an interdisciplinary opportunity for my students. I thought it would be an exciting opportunity for them to take hold of their learning and truly see its connection across disciplines. Of course, I felt a bit overwhelmed by just the regular daily needs of my courses and my life, but I am SO glad that this opportunity presented itself. It will be great watching my students take full ownership over their knowledge on this topic and, in exchange, have an opportunity to let their hair down and enjoy some fabulous jazz music (and maybe even some dancing)!

favorite things: right now
Since gaining more adequate head control, Henry has really become a little person. Obviously, he was a little person without head control, but now he is SO much more interactive and playful. As a result of this, "play time" is no longer me sitting in front of him and showing him things while he stares through the items. Now he reaches out and grabs for stuff, puts everything in his mouth, laughs, squeals, and bats at things. With this new skill set, we opened up some of the boxes we had stored away as "toys for later." One of our newest favorite things is the door frame jumper. When I was little, my mom said my Jolly Jumper was my absolute favorite toy. I would sit in it for hours hopping and bopping about. My mom could move it from room to room and my favorite place to bounce was near the kitchen so I could watch my family prepare a meal while I did my "exercise." Unfortunately, it doesn't look like you can buy the original Jolly Jumper any more. Canada seems to own the market on the super cool original harness.  We had to settle then for an imitation version, but it will do. We set Henry up near the kitchen and while he was skeptical at first, he batted his feet about on the floor and was able to stare the pups straight in the eye from the comfort of his harness. I can see Henry really enjoying this odd device in the upcoming days.

Similarly, he has been enjoying his stationary bouncer. He goes in here everyday for about 10-15 minutes and just plays and plays and plays. He knocks the little vegetables off their posts and turns the pages of the sensory book. If you take him out sooner than he wants, he fusses until you realize, "Oh hey, I think he wants to go back into that bouncy thing!"

And, where would a new mom be without her diaper bag. We went with the skip hop duo and didn't really know if we would end up liking it or not. When you are new to this whole parenting business it is really hard to know what you need and what is just excess. Thankfully, the bag we selected worked out. It is small enough that when I carry it around I don't feel like I am carrying around Henry's nursery but big enough to actually store diapers, cream, wipes, changing pad, 2 blankets, change of clothes, 2 hats, socks, a monkey mat, a mommy hook, pacifier, emergency bottle, Sophia, and also my personal items as well. While I am not sure what we will need as Henry gets older and his needs advance, I am happy that this bag is working out for us right now (and fingers crossed will continue to work out). Lastly, let's talk about the Merlin Magic SleepSuit, otherwise known as MY FAVORITE ITEM YET! Henry was struggling with being un-swaddled and rolling over all in one night. Sleep was hit or miss and by the end of two weeks David and I were reeling from exhaustion. We checked out some blogs, talked with our pediatrician, and also met with our mommy friends. With these powers combined we chose to start a gentle sleep training program and included using this sleep suit. We followed our usual sleep routine: bath, books, snuggles, pjs, nurse, pacifier, and bed (this time with the suit on). We were prepared to let him cry for one minute then go in and comfort and repeat this process up to 5 times.  But, once in the suit there was no need for a second of crying. Henry passed out in his comfy suit and slept a 5 hours shift followed by a 4 hours shift!! YAY Merlin Magic Suit!!! Best purchase ever as it bought us the more precious gift of all: Sleep!

coding & history

I have not posted about school in a long time. This isn't because there hasn't been stuff to say but rather I thought about separating out my professional life from the blog. Then I did this project with my students and knew that I had to share! My school has been coding throughout the building in various classrooms since last Fall.  It was a major initiative. Last December, we even synchronized the work throughout the building with a "Hour of Code" project.  It has been both inspiring and challenging tackling this push to code. A history classroom may not seem like the most authentic place to insert coding but interestingly it might just be.  You see in class we are constantly looking at maps to reflect population growth, the spread of epidemics, the movement of troops, and so on and so on. Oftentimes, I find myself projecting a map onto my white board and then drawing over it with the symbols that I need in order to convey some aspect of time to the students. While this works fine, coding has actually allowed us to make our own maps.  Students then are not only learning how to code the program but also learning how best to visualize the data and plot their points for the events we are studying.

At first, the students seemed a bit reluctant but the beauty of coding is that it is instantly gratifying. As students type the code they can immediately see the progress of their work and when they overcome an obstacle in the code they literally cheer.  The energy in the classroom was contagious as students worked in pairs to figure out how to do this or that in the coding language we were using. By the end of our two hour period, each group had a map that they were excited to show their peers. We even brainstormed what kinds of functionality we would like to include in our next mapping project to continue to push the depth and complexity of our coding skills. I am hoping that as the year goes on I can update you with how this is all going. But, I was really really proud of how they all accepted the challenge and demonstrated strong collaboration throughout the mini-project.

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ménage à trois: me, caffiene, & sleep deprivation

Monday night I felt very prepared for school. Henry had been sleeping for 4-5 hour stretches, I had packed up my bags to make the morning departure go smoothly, and David and I even spent a few minutes just the two of us to connect and reflect before the hustle and bustle of the school year commenced. Then the week went like this: Tuesday 1AM, 2AM, 3AM, 4AM, 5AM: Henry decides to boycott sleep and/or he was worried I would not wake up for my alarm and wanted to make sure I was up and ready to go.  Nothing says, "Let's get this party started" like of sleepless night, right?

Tuesday 6:30AM-7:40AM: The usual 25 minute commute is endless as everyone in the 20 mile stretch to school decides to hit the road early for the first day of school.

Tuesday 8AM-12PM: A blur of classes, students, faculty, lessons, meetings, emails, and trying to speak coherently after spending the summer mostly in the company of 4 people or less. Oh, yea....and I have to pump for baby Henry A LOT.  So also I spent time running in and out of the Nurse's Office and then trying to relax enough when in there in order to accomplish this task. And, of course I wore a dress on the first day in order to look "fabulous" which meant pumping was an interesting procedure. Note to self: No more dresses.

Tuesday 12-2PM: Try to call my mother for an update, as this is the first day I am totally away from home, but her phone keeps going to voice mail. Usher in PANIC, SWEAT, and  calling her number over and over again. Is everyone alive?

Tuesday 3PM: See that our friend and neighbor has been able to knock on the door and confirm that everyone is indeed alive and fine and my mom plugs her phone in. Whew!

Tuesday 3:30PM-4:30PM: slow go through traffic all the way home.

Tuesday 4:30-9:00PM: Soak up as much of my family time as possible. Seeing Henry at the end of the day is the BEST! I cannot get enough of that little man's smell, smile, cuddles. Also, I shed a few tears because I am so happy to see him and so happy the day went so well at home for him. And really I am just an emotional person these days anyway.

Wednesday 12AM, 2AM, 4AM: Henry is no longer worried about me missing my alarm and extends his sleep from every hour to every two hours. It is amazing how "highly functioning" one can be with so few hours of sleep. I guess it is all about lowering one's standards for "functioning."

Wednesday 6:30AM-7:20AM: Tons of traffic yet again. I am looking forward to when everyone collectively starts to sleep in or snoozes their alarms and I can perhaps squeak by ahead of the traffic cluster.

Wednesday 8AM-2:15PM: Another whirlwind of classes, students, emails, pumping, and trying to do all of this without breaking a sweat in the crushing heat that has enveloped Boston. Somehow all of this is done today with less of the "teacher crust" of yesterday. While I am definitely not in my groove, teaching is starting to feel comfortable again. It is like breaking in a pair of jeans after they have stiffened up from the dryer.

Wednesday 2:30PM-3:30PM: Take a walk down memory lane with the senior class.  As they prepare to apply for college, we teachers share stories from our college years. It was pretty great hearing my co-workers' stories and having the opportunity to share my own. Go BC!

Wednesday 3:30PM-3:50PM: Drive fairly smoothly to Natick and decide to pull into the Starbucks drive-thru for a treat. This was my guiltiest cup of coffee ever! I wanted to head home to Henry but I also wanted an afternoon pick me up so I could feel alive and present during my time with Henry. I justified the pit stop by noting this Starbucks was a drive thru.

Wednesday 4:10PM: Arrive home and snuggle Henry.  Immediately realize I left all of my pumping gear and all of Henry's milk back at school! Panic sets in and I realize that despite my cool exterior, my mind is complete mush. And the consequence is: Henry will starve tomorrow.

Wednesday 5:00PM-7:30PM: Pack everyone up in the car and drive all the way back to school to retrieve the much needed items. As an "I am so sorry for ruining everyone's night," I treat David and my mom to dinner in the area to break up the long commute in the car. Finally arrive back home and feel like crashing but it is time to get in that quality time with Henry so I postpone fatigue until later.

Thursday 1AM, 4AM: Ah Henry is heading back towards his more reasonable sleep schedule just in time for the end of the school week. Fingers crossed

Thursday 6:30AM-7:10AM: Even the commute this morning is being more cooperative!

Thursday 8AM-12:30PM: Being in school feels more "normal."  Starting to feel more confident in the classroom and more capable around pumping. Work-Life balance is coming more into focus...for now, I think.

Thursday 12:30PM: Head over the Keurig machine in the faculty room because yesterday's drama revealed I need a shot of caffeine before I head home and see that someone has left a "pumpkin spice" capsule in the machine. Deliriously excited, I open the cabinet to retrieve one  of these special k-cups only to see that this flavor is non-existent.  Some sneaky, smarty pants brought it in for themselves and now I am incredibly jealous. Left to drink the usual k-cup, I return to my classroom to await the last class of the day.

Thursday 3:00PM: A moment of peace and calm after checking for the 100th time that I have everything I will need when I leave campus. I do not think my nerves could handle another mishap like yesterday. Finally settle into some lesson planning in an attempt to "get ahead" of the weekend pile up.

Thursday 3:30-4:10PM: An uneventful drive home and the first night where alongside snuggling up with our little man and giving him our undivided attention we are also trying to prep dinner (remarkable that this is the first time this week we have to do that!). Thankfully it is taco night.  Not that this isn't work, but taco night is usually an easy kitchen night!  Definitely thanking "past Melissa" for her smart meal planning for this first week back to teaching.

Thursday 5PM-9PM: Family time to the max!

Friday 1:30AM: Oh my goodness, the little man sleeps for 5 hours without interruptions and now I am sleep drunk from all the extra Zs.

Friday 5:00AM: My alarm and not the little man wakes me up.  Have we finally fallen into some semblance of "normal"?  I don't want to jinx us but this would be a very very VERY nice routine.  Let's replicate this again okay, Henry?

Friday 8:00AM-2:15PM: Despite some scheduling mishaps on my part (Need to remember to double check the uploaded homework assignments) the day goes fairly smoothly. It is topped off by a visit from David and Henry to the ice cream social before Henry's 2 month check-up.

Friday 4:00PM: Henry had his 2  month check-up and vaccines. We all took guesses for his weight and height but we missed the mark. That's right we all underestimated our little man's monthly growth. Henry is not 13.11lbs and 24.75in!  He also did not like his vaccines.  His cries were heart-breaking

Friday 5:00PM: Lots and Lots of snuggles all around.

And so it goes, the successful conclusion of our first week. It is amazing how a 4 day work week could feel like it was actually 8 full days of work and running around. Yet,  we all survived and it can only get better from here, right?

childbirth class

Ten couples sit in a semi-circle in the basement room of the hospital.  We are there to learn about the natural process of childbirth. Sitting there, David and I cannot stop laughing at the humor of this setting. We are all educated adults and yet this natural human act of giving birth to a child is so mystifying that we have all registered for a four week course. The room is quiet when we first arrive as couples check in and get their name tags. I can not help but glance around at all the bumps I am surrounded by.  This was the first time I was in the room with so many fellow pregnant ladies and honestly it felt great. It felt like I was among "my people." Our instructor is super nice and introduced herself as a mother, nurse, and educator. And with that we began our natural childbirth class. I am hoping that in the end of these four weeks, I will have a clearer understanding of what "textbook" delivery looks like. When everything goes according to plan: What is happening to one's body? What is happening to the baby? How can you tell when it is time to go to the hospital? What pain management options are available?  How can you unpack your delivery wishlist? How can I have the delivery I imagine for myself and my baby? It feels like I should somehow know the answers to these questions already. Since I am pregnant shouldn't my primal pregnant brain take over and just somehow know? Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work like that and I am hoping that David and I not only answer these questions but actually feel prepared for this journey soon.

Scanning the room it was clear that each one of us was having a very different pregnancy experience. Age is not the only indicator, but as we warm up and start to share stories about our baby bellies, it becomes apparent that our symptoms of pregnancy run the gamut. I will definitely admit that having the latest estimated due date in the group leaves me with a little bump envy. I couldn't help but ask David if we were in the right place and if we were really pregnant?  He laughed and just said our guy is little but yes you are most definitely pregnant! The first night was all about getting to the basics of human anatomy during childbirth and giving an overview of the courses topics. I am currently a little intimidated by all of the reading we have to do.  The cute purple folders passed out contained dozens and dozens of handouts and recommended reading lists.  And, for someone who is SO type A like myself, these "suggested" materials immediately get put under the "mandatory" category in my eyes. Yes, I know every woman's experience will be different and that there is not "test" I am studying for, but somehow being as informed as I can be gives me comfort (perhaps that is the historian in me).

The best part of the birth class was the last fifteen minutes. Spread out in our couplings, we laid down on yoga mats with pillows, closed our eyes and were led through a relaxation exercise. AH!  It was divine.  At first, I felt so tense on the mat and my mind kept wandering off to my to-do list, but I gently tugged it back a few times and by the end of the exercise, I truly felt like I relaxed. Even the little guy who was poking my ribs and bobbing around in my tummy when I first laid down went completely still by the end. It was actually quite a cool experience. Our only  real homework from class is to practice these relaxation techniques and David is super cute and excited to help guide me through them.  I think these next four weeks will end up being quite insightful, fun, and will allow us to hopefully make friends with other couples in the area who share our June arrival month.

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school days.

Whoa! It has been almost two months since school started.  Perhaps my silence is a testament to the whirlwind that the start of the academic year presents. From back to school meetings, to setting up the physical space, to welcoming students back, each and every day was full, full, FULL. Of course, this is the good kind of busy.  Ironing out the kinks of classroom presentation, connecting with students, and plowing through lesson plans and grading make the start of the school year a sprint.  Each day while I leave exhausted, I also leave satisfied knowing that I am tapping into the part of myself that is excited to learn again among my students and tapping into the creative power of my students. As I sit with a stack of papers next to my desk, I am mindful that while this is the hard part of being a teacher, one by one it will all get done.  As a fifth year teacher, I am amazed by how much is still new and by the subtle ways in which I am more prepared than ever for the daily classroom occurrences.  It has been a busy start to the year, but it has been a good start.  I am looking forward to seeing where my classes go this year as they continue to build their community, challenge the course materials, and create their own content.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 9.39.08 AMJust a little photo of when my student walked in and we realized we were wearing the same outfit!  It was hilarious to connect over fashion in such a literal way.

apple picking in new england

Saturday afternoon I went apple picking with my advisory. These nine students are pretty awesome. Funny, smart, and kind, I am incredibly lucky to work with this group of students and to watch them grow up during their high school years. We headed out to Belkind Family Farm in Natick for some bonding and to continue to build our friendships. It was fun watching them be goofy with one another but more importantly inclusive of one another. I am hoping that this "advisory bonding" can continue to occur this school year. As juniors, they are so close to their final year of high school and it is just amazing how fast time is going! Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 1.52.18 PM Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 1.52.04 PMScreen Shot 2013-10-08 at 1.53.38 PM Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 1.53.23 PMScreen Shot 2013-10-08 at 1.52.33 PM

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 1.52.51 PMScreen Shot 2013-10-08 at 1.53.07 PMThat's right, we got to ride a camel!

back to school

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 8.02.45 AM It has started. The back to school commercials are in full force. Delighted parents run up and down the aisles of Target filling their carts with folders, pencils, clothes, and backpacks. Happy music plays in the background while their frowning children walk listlessly behind them. Of course, August is still the summer, but with the arrival of August comes the arrival of back to school anxiety dreams for me. These commercials don't help either.

Don't get me wrong, I love my job. I am so lucky not only to have the summers off to pursue my other interests, spend time with friends and family, and travel, but when I head back into the school year it is to a truly amazing school filled with superb co-workers and dynamic students.  But, even though I do actually work in Edutopia, I still get those pesky anxiety dreams. They are always the same. Imagine:

I arrive back to school to only find out that the schedule I have been following all day is wrong and I am missing all of my classes. Or, I arrive to class only to realize that I have not planned a single lesson and am frozen in front of the students and, of course, I am wearing my yoga pants too!  Or, and this is my favorite kind of anxiety dream, I walk into my class totally unprepared.  I stare blankly at the students who begin to roll their eyes at me and suggest my teaching ignorance, only to fall flat on my face and break a tooth and I am in my yoga pants! AH!  Waking up in a cold sweat, I remind myself that (a) I am such a type A personality that I could never not be prepared for a class and to just relax and (b) I am still 3 weeks away from the start of school and as with every year once I am back it is like riding a bicycle and the teaching muscles will remember what to do and the kids will inspire me and the summer haze will fade into a crisp Fall. And being at school will be the exact place where I am suppose to be.

Dear Summer,

Please go a little bit slower.

Sincerely,

An Anxious Teacher

"Dear Summer,

Please go faster.

Sincerely,

A Crazed Parent" @NikkiMoff

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