Category Archives: Education

When You Shoved a Desk at Me as I Walked Past You . . .

I didn’t punch you, like any of the teachers in any of the viral videos punched their students.

I didn’t punch you, because . . .

I am an adult, and adults are here on this earth to nurture and mentor young people, to teach you who you should become as an adult, not to teach you who you shouldn’t become. If I had hit you, I wouldn’t be nurturing you or mentoring you. Most importantly, your decision-making skills will not be fully developed for another 10 years. I cannot expect you to make choices like a mentally-well adult, because you are a middle schooler.

I want, more than anything, for you to grow into a wonderful, smart, caring, kind, and loving man, not the sort of man I will read about in the headlines for doing something mean and heartless. I already had to read about a former student trying to murder his girlfriend, including some graphically sordid details that didn’t need to be in the newspaper. I don’t want to read something like that about you.

On most good days I actually enjoy my job, and I look forward to coming into a school where students, ready to learn or not, will get one little glimpse into the beauty of this world and into the theological concept of grace. My goal, each day, is to teach my students one thing that hadn’t ever thought about before.

I am a pacifist, and even if I wasn’t, I want for you to know that your first response shouldn’t be what can I do back to them, when they’ve done something wrong to you. I should model that a response can be forgiveness, love, and grace, not retribution.

I can control my initial reaction, and I can look you in the eye and tell you, “NEVER do that to me again, because a person’s first instinct is to hit back, or push back, and I don’t want you to get hurt.” I mean that. I really want you think through your actions, your words, your behavior, because I want for you to act with purpose, making good choices, not out of impulse, making poor choices.

You are a kid living with (probably significant) trauma in your life. You don’t need me to add onto that, and I probably didn’t think through this one hard enough when I got angry. Instead of talking through your actions with you and helping you to see how many other good and pure choices you could have made, I spoke harshly, punished you and your classmates who were laughing, and then made you work in silence.

I love you, even when you don’t love yourself. Even when your sole mission is to entertain the other kids in the class with behavior that is the opposite of what you know is right and good, I love you, and I want the best for you. At this point, it feels like I love you more and care about you more, than you love or care about yourself.

Situational Paralysis: Make a Good Plan

While I am visiting my parents this weekend, I came here to Gas City to a Starbucks, where I worked during graduate school which seems like ages ago now, to work on lesson plans for school next week. The school corporation where I work uses a system called PAR to evaluate all new teachers and also struggling teachers who have been teaching for a while.

I value this system, because every teacher should have other teachers observe them, and every teacher has room to grow and learn, which is facilitated well by conversations with a good, mentor teacher (I am lucky, mine is fabulous). Conversely I dislike this system, because it requires me to write formal lesson plans every weekend for every period for every class, and sometimes I just want my students to work on a project for a few days, but I don’t know how, in a formal lesson plan, to adequately express where I will be and what I will be doing for those days.

And sometimes, let’s be real, formal lesson plans seem like one more thing when you have a general trajectory for your students’ lessons, like they are taking time away from making the lesson happen, doing a bit of extra preparation for your students, grading their work and making meaningful comments, and all those things that really make a difference.

But, in American culture, what are we without a plan? We start planning our kids’ lives from before the time they are even conceived. We tracks students by their achievements from the time they are in preschool. We guide students forward on their trajectories all through elementary, leaving brown, black, female, financially poor, and queer kids at the margins (if you don’t believe me, a simple google search will prove my point; there are countless scholarly articles that speak to these issues as well). These groups spend far more time out of class, in the principal’s office, in the nurses office, and out of school for behavior or absences, and frequently they are left behind.

We start seriously asking students what are their plans for their futures in seventh grade (I’m 44 and I still don’t have a solid plan), but those same groups of kids (the marginalized) are largely at a loss for guidance as papers (lessons and punishments) are pushed their direction, sometimes in languages they and their parents cannot speak or read, sometimes for opportunities they and their parents do not understand, and sometimes with the lens of a cultural structure into which they do not fit. Twenty-first Century Scholars in Indiana, for example, must be applied for by the end of 8th grade, so students and their parents have to choose to go to college by the young age of 12-14. If they miss the 8th-grade deadline, there is no second chance.

So, yes, plans matter in the USA. And your plan had better be a good one, the right one. As a teacher, my plan had better be a good one, the right one. No pressure.

 

 

Beginning Again Again. Homesick A Bit.

I was doing so well with my workouts.

For about three weeks, I didn’t miss a workout. I swam, cycled, ran, and lifted my little heart out. Then on week four, I felt a bit lethargic. I still walked a bit and I swam a bit, but I just didn’t feel right. Whenever that happens, I always assume I am getting sick and I try not to push my body past what it can handle. I was right. I had strep throat and some sort of ridiculous sinus mucus thing on top of it. I slept or stayed on the couch for two days, then I swam only 500 yards one day, then I rested for another day.

Today, I am back at it. After work, I plan to go for a 3-mile trail run, hoping against hope that it doesn’t get dark before I finish. I was too lazy to walk back upstairs to get my headlamp, so if it gets dark, I’ll just be running in the dark. With any luck the clouds will be thin and the moon will be out. I’m enough of a romantic to find running in the dark to be simply glorious and awe inspiring.

Tomorrow is cycling. Wednesday is swimming and lifting. Repeat. Rest on Sunday. Repeat.

*

This past week I was homesick a bit. I miss my friends and family. I miss knowing people. I miss Indiana. I realized on Tuesday that I felt so homesick because I had planned to go home to watch the school I graduated from swim against the school I previously taught at and the school who was my high school’s biggest rival. Basically, I wanted to see a three-way between Blackford, Jay, and Burris. Burris’s homecoming week was also this week, and as cheesy as I always thought it was when I was there for it, I missed it so much. I missed the stairwell decorations, I missed the dress up days, I missed the dodgeball games, and I missed the dance. I was fortunate to see lots of photos that my students had taken, but I wasn’t there in person. It was hard. I wanted to be at home watching my favorite students be seniors, but I was at work because my manager was at a three-day manager’s meeting along with every other Caribou manager.

Everything I did last week made me think of the fond things about home. I know full well that I am where I am supposed to be. I am more mentally healthy than I have been in a really long time. And, of course, distance and time have a way of softening the bad memories while simultaneously making the good memories better.

Nostalgia.

I’m better today. I’m less homesick. I’m getting more sure of my footing here. I’m stepping into gratitude for the things I have here and the relationships I’m building. I’m learning to live again in a different way, in a different place, with different opportunities.

 

Day 6 of Year 40: Things Are Looking Up From Here

In the interest of keeping this blog space for reals, I’m going to be honest and say that the last week has really sucked. Starting with my job-related meltdown during a supposedly romantic walk with my wife through the second I’m-all-alone-on-my-40th-birthday meltdown and ending with my third I’m-a-big-baby-and-nobody-loves-me-because-I’m-fat-and-work-at-Caribou-Coffee meltdown Saturday morning, this past week has been a giant crap sandwich of self-pity and self-loathing. Cue the Marilyn Manson soundtrack, or maybe the Smiths for those of you who kick it old school.

Let me go back a bit. Since March, when we knew we were moving to Minnesota, I’ve been praying for a job that will allow me to relax, have fun, get my smile back, and let me have my home time be home time. This is not a teaching job. I prayed specifically for a job in a bar or a coffee shop. I preferred one that was close to home. When I got to Minnesota, I started my job search by applying for teaching jobs, and not getting any, I started looking at other options. I applied at Trader Joe’s (not cool enough to work there after two interviews), I applied at a local brewery (not cool enough to even get an interview), and I applied at Caribou Coffee (where I was hired on the spot). For $8 an hour.

For $8 an hour. This simply wouldn’t do. I needed money. For those of you who know me, this probably seems quite strange, because I am the woman who sees money as green pieces of paper that float in and out of my life like snow. But I need to be able to pay the bills I’ve accrued while attaining my Oh, So Valuable Education. So I balked at this gift I’d been given. A space to relax, to make coffee, to be myself. See I thwarted the desires of my heart from the get go. Somehow working in a coffee shop or a bar seemed beneath my dignity. After all, I do have numerous graduate degrees. Somehow my own self-worth came only through a professional job; we do, here in the US of A, value people based on their livelihood. And I was now a coffee maker, a job I could’ve done straight out of high school. I had bought into all the classist assumptions I’d been taught to deconstruct. Apparently, I thought myself too cool to be working class, and too entitled as well. I deserve to teach because I have the degrees. I bought the system and all the hype I’ve always critiqued. Apparently, I bought into the capitalist machine. My job, whichever cog I was in the machine, determined my value. And I wasn’t a very valuable cog.

But wait.

My value does not come from which cog in the machine I am.

My value does not come from any external source.

My value comes from who I am and how I treat other people.

But I didn’t just get there from my pit of despair. It took some scratching and clawing, some chatting with friends, and some serious soul searching. God had just given me the desire of my heart: a job that doesn’t define me and that doesn’t follow me home. And I told [Them] to piss off about it. Seriously, God had given me what I asked for, and I was more than pissed about it. So, on the romantic walk with my wife, I was upset to the point of emitting a guttural cry. I couldn’t contain it, the tears poured, the sobs surged forth, and my body shook. I was hyperventilating in sadness. The system had betrayed me: I had multiple graduate degrees and I couldn’t find a job. I had played the game, and it screwed me. But wait. I had prayed for this job and gotten it.

So then, on my birthday, which was the day after the Great Deluge, I was all alone. In my house. In Minnesota. And I was turning 40. By myself. Did I mention that I was by myself? And, again, I was pissed and sad, and felt betrayed. I could have gone out and made a day of it by myself. I’m not afraid to be alone, and I’m not afraid to explore on my own. But I chose, instead, to sit in my living room and wallow in my own self-pity. I chose it. Willfully. By the time Bec got home from work to take me out, I was a basket case, and them we went to my favorite restaurant, and it was lovely and the funk started to reside. I made an effort to open my heart on our walk we took after dinner. And it helped.

So then, again, on Saturday when the funk came back, I wasn’t expecting it to manifest in an angry tear against the woman I love, but it did. I was angry at her for bringing me here. And I was angry with her for everything, basically, and it wasn’t her fault. But I said it was. And I was mean and ungrateful. You know, your typical self-centered asshole. And everything fell out: “I am fat, fifty pounds fatter than this time last year. I work for minimum wage at a fucking coffee shop. Do you even want me here? Do you even want to be with me?” Only instead of it coming out like that, it came out all accusatory and ugly and horrible. And we both cried. And it was awful.

But something clicked in me through the day yesterday. And kept clicking. It said to look at the beauty in my life. To focus on what is good and beautiful and wonder-filled.

My value does not come from which cog in the machine I am.

My value does not come from any external source.

My value comes from who I am and how I treat other people.

And right at those moments, my value was swirling around the bottom of the toilet bowl. I’ve been an asshole. You see, I think most people think that moving has been the biggest stress for me, leaving behind family and friends and familiar things. While that has been stressful, my biggest stress has been figuring out who I am again. I have been given this beautiful opportunity to rebuild myself from the ground up and I almost blew it on building myself into the same bitter jackass I was for the past couple of years in Muncie.

So who am I?

I am Corby. I hope to be a triathlete. I hope to be an excellent Caribou employee. I hope to love deeply. I hope to give grace. I hope to show much compassion. And I hope to be able to receive and recognize all the blessings in my life.

In accordance with my goals, I have quit smoking (okay, I had two on Friday Cheat Day); I have quit drinking (okay, I had three beers on Friday Cheat Day); I have a job at the ‘Bou; I went for a bike ride, and I went for a run, and we take a walk every night; and I’m working on the quiet time…

Here’s to love and life and beauty.

Sunday, Sunday: Full Report, Each First Sunday of the Month

So, here’s an update for My 20 Before 40:

1. Run a marathon. I signed up for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon on October 5, so I have 230 days to get myself to be able to run a 6 hour or less marathon. Still working on this, and it’s going better. I’ve run or walked at least one mile every day for 14 days in a row. Woot.
2. Finish the Racine 70.3 on July 21 in under 8 hours. I have signed up for this, and it’s 153 days away. My goal is to finish the 13.1 mile run in under 3 hours. I’m planning to get on the bike this week on Tuesday and Friday.
3. Swim a 500 in 7:30 minutes. This needs some work. I will get back in the pool on Monday, March 17 for two workouts each week, so this is in progress. I’m hoping to make it to Florida to swim at the beach before I move north as well.
4. Do yoga every morning. I’ve been doing balancing exercises, using poses from yoga, because I’ve read that balance can have a lot to do with injuries and plantar fasciitis, as well as just not looking cool when I fall over while standing still sometimes.
5. Do a 30 burpees in 30 days challenge. I am going to start this on the day after Bec moves to MN. I figure it’s a good way to work off anxiety. I’m also adding in, slowly but surely, other body weight exercises, so I can build a bit of muscle to try to burn off some of this fat.
6. Ride a century ride on the bicycle. As soon as the registration is up, I am going to sign up for the Headwaters 100, which rides around the headwaters of the Mississippi, something I’ve wanted to to do for a long time anyway.
7. Meditate for at least 15 minutes each day. I’ve started walking a 1.6 mile loop and then meditating for 15 minutes every day during my 9AM prep period.
8. Eat mindfully and with joy.
9. Try foods that aren’t the usual things I eat. I am eating Greek yogurt for breakfast and trying new ciders and beers.
10. Visit Indiana state parks and Indiana breweries with my brother. This weekend we visited Black Acre brewery with his friend Jenn and Becky. We had sampler flights, and they were pretty tasty.
11. Learn to cook one new thing each month. We’ve had oxtail stew and shark. I was going to try to make haggis, but all the recipes I find require a sheep’s stomach, so I am going to make marrow bones one day instead.
12. Do not drink alcohol and be paleo the 30 days prior to any major sporting event.
13. Read the whole Bible. Working on it.
14. Draw every night before bed. This will become much easier once I cancel the cable and internet.
15. Finish my master’s degree in creative writing. Publish. Yeah. This. Class.
16. Post a blog post every Sunday. I’m posting on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Two weeks in a row now!
17. Get a new tattoo. I’m going to do this after Racine 70.3.
18. Lose 60 pounds. I’ve resorted back to the panopticon called My Fitness Pal. Ick.
19. Find a job doing something I love. This may be a pipe dream, but I hope it works out.
20. Read a new book each week. I am slowly making my way through books… Slowly.