Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In which student teaching is a bit rough

Here's the thing about kids:

They are incredibly easy to love.

They are also incredibly easy to become frustrated with.

Today was my first full day soloing; my mentor teacher was at an all-day meeting, so it was all me.

And I said some things I regret.

And slipped into my impatient, sardonic voice for too much of the day.

And responded to too many requests by sighing and staring at the ceiling.

These kids are so tough, but so fragile, and I worry that one of those sighs, frowns, or tired outbursts will permanently break a small part of them.

All I can do is try again tomorrow. Write a few more kind notes, and recognize the wonderful things my students do, and mete out discipline in a measured, even tone, rather than sniping.

All I can do is remind myself that I love these munchkins, even when they're doing all they can to make me forget.

And then keep doing it again and again for the rest of my life,

because even when I get tired of hearing it repeated ad nauseum,

My favorite name to be called is "Teacher."

Sunday, January 5, 2014

In which the cold never bothered me, anyway

This weekend, I went with my family to see Disney's new animated film, Frozen. And I was blown away. I loved almost everything about this movie. The music! The animation! The fact that the romantic subplot is a subplot, and not the story's main focus! The music! Sisterly bonding! Olaf the snowman! The music!

Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that I walked out of the movie theater with a mind full of new thoughts and a resolution to change my behavior in accordance with these thoughts. Here are a few things I learned from Frozen:
  • When you are blessed with a gift, you can use it to create or to destroy. When you seek to control a gift with fear, it will almost always lead to destruction. When you use your gift with love, you create beauty and joy.
  • Trying to solve a problem by shutting yourself off from others and from your own emotions is often more damaging than the problem itself. Letting people into your life can be scary, messy, and complicated, but it also allows love to flow into your life, which increases your capability to face challenges.
  • "People make bad choices when they're mad or scared or stressed, but throw a little love their way, and you'll bring out their best": When people act in hurtful or destructive ways, it is most often out of pain or fear, rather than maliciousness.
  • True love is putting others' needs before your own. True love can be found in any relationship, not just romantic ones.
  • "Everyone's a bit of a fixer-upper": we've all got flaws and challenges, but we can help each other to overcome them.
  • Reindeers are better than people, but people smell better than reindeers.
I've been thinking a lot today about what my gifts are, and how I can use them with love instead of trying to harness them with fear. I also wore deodorant today, in an effort to continue smelling better than reindeers. See, people? Life-changing epiphanies all over the place here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

In which I attempt to set a New Year's Resolution

Today in church, someone made the statement that God's defining characteristics are creation and compassion. I haven't been able to stop thinking about that all day. How wonderful, that the two most godly attributes are the ability to create beauty, and to love each other.

I think I want to make these two attributes the focus of the coming year, but I'm not sure how. I think I'm pretty clear on what compassion is, but how encompassing is the idea of creation? Is spending time with a friend an act of creation, because you're creating a bond? What about playing an instrument? If you didn't compose the song, does it still count as creation, because you're creating the sound itself? Does a product have to be completely original to be creative?

Readers, what do you think? How do you exhibit creativity and compassion in your lives?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In which I'm longing to escape

I just really want to run away to the mountains right now.

Forget about my classes, my job, the event I'm running for work tonight....

I just want to hop in my car and drive up the canyon until I can't see the valley anymore....

and then wander through the orange-red-yellow trees until I feel myself disappear...my thoughts, hopes, and worries dissipating...until I am nothing but legs and lungs in a forest....and then when I return to myself, I will be that much more refreshed and reenergized.

but sadly

though "the woods are lovely, dark and deep...

I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."


Sunday, September 29, 2013

In which I actually talk about my life

So. Hi.

I don't post about my actual, day-to-day life very much on my blog. But for some reason, today I really want to. So here you have it: an update on the life of Riss.

I'm in my last semester of school before I student teach. I would say it's bittersweet, but it's not. It's just straight-up sweet. I love school, and I love learning, but if I had to spend one more semester sitting at a desk listening to someone else lecture at me about how to teach, I would tear my hair out. I am so incredibly excited to start practicum next month, and then to start student teaching in January. Not so excited for the job hunt that will inevitably follow graduation, but...c'est la vie.

After 3 years of living in the same apartment complex, I've finally moved. I'm living in a house called Ingleside with two friends I've had since I was tiny, and three fantastic new friends (yes, the name of our house is an Anne of Green Gables reference. Yes, that may be why we chose it). Our house looks creepy from the outside, with its partially broken picket fence and its peeling white paint, but on the inside, it is the most charming place I've ever lived. Every room is painted a different color (mine is lavender), the couches remind me of my great-grandmother, and the bathroom is the nicest I've ever had in an apartment (we're talking marble-looking counter and Ikea space-saving shelving here). Also, we have a washer and dryer in a tiny closet off the kitchen. I will never be able to go back to doing my laundry in a laundromat.

In what feels like the most grown-up thing I've done...ever, I bought a car. I am now an official adult, assuming that making a monthly car payment is what makes you an adult. She's a navy blue Subaru Outback that I've named Lydia and decorated with a stuffed T-Rex on the dash and my Timeturner and Scout camp totem hanging from the mirror. She's got a little bit of work that needs to be done, but I love her just the same. It's incredible the feeling of freedom having a car brings me. If I want to go to the grocery store, I just get in the car and drive down the street. If I want to plan a social outing, I don't need to purposely invite someone who can drive. It's sort of wonderful.

I started therapy again, after taking a two year break. I'm hoping my counselor can help me work through some of the questions I raised in this post. Goodness gracious though, I had forgotten how much therapy hurts. It was like spending an hour getting Band-Aids ripped off of various wounds, only to be sent out the door without any additional treatment, just a cheery, "See you in two weeks!" This better be worth it.

I honestly kind of feel like I'm drowning in the demands of school and work lately. Oh, and I get to present at a conference in Portland in a couple of weeks, but instead of the excitement I should be feeling, I mostly feel overwhelmed at the prospect of getting my presentation over with while also staying on top of my homework. There are so many things I miss doing that I wish I could spend my time on (hiking, camping, rock climbing, and playing the piano, to name a few), but I just don't feel like I have time. But maybe if I spent less time taking homework breaks to watch Lizzie Bennet Diaries...

I'm reading Moby-Dick right now. This isn't actually breaking news, since I've been reading it a bit at a time since about June. Melville is a master of the English language, but my goodness is his prose dense. I feel like I've been reading for ages and they just barely mentioned the whale by name in the last chapter. I may need to find a lighter, more compelling book to read on the side while I plow my way through Ishmael's adventures. Any recommendations?

I have this lingering sense of discontent that I can't identify the source of. I wish I knew how to eliminate it and feel excitement for life again. Because there's a lot to be excited about in my life right now. New (to me) house and car. Practicum. Road-tripping to Portland. General Conference this weekend. Leaves changing color. I just need to figure out a way to let myself enjoy it again.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On disagreement

From my textbook for Science Teaching Methods:

"Change came about as the result of disagreement, the marshaling of systematic evidence, sustained investigation (which involved some surveying of students, adults, and local gardeners), and even the help of outside experts. "

Isn't it cool that disagreement can be a catalyst for positive change?

We don't have to all hold the same opinion, we don't need to bash each other over the head when our ideas differ, and sometimes we don't even need to "agree to disagree," pretending there isn't an issue. We can use disagreements as a springboard for investigation, exploration, and learning, eventually coming to a consensus.

The idea gives me shivers (the happy kind).

Monday, August 26, 2013

In which I need to figure out what happiness is made out of

Let me tell you a secret:

During my month working at camp this summer, I think I took my medication...twice.

And guess what?

I was fine. No, I was happy.

Let me tell you another secret:

Last week, I only took my medication twice.

And...

I was not fine. I was miserable. The world fell apart and I found myself crying about things like not being able to eat at Chick-Fil-A because I'd forgotten my debit card.

And so I've been asking myself...what made the difference? Why could I be blissfully content without my medication at camp, if I still depend on it for my happiness back at home?

There has to be something, and if I only could put my finger on it...

Maybe it was singing all day, everyday, sailor songs and whaling songs and songs about nature and songs about fish heads and songs about friends, just letting my voice ring out because that's what humans do, they sing.

Maybe it was always having opportunities to help others, or seeing the effects of my work with my own eyes. Maybe it was working with my entire body instead of just my fingers.

Maybe it was living in a redwood forest and waking up to the scream of blue jays in the morning.

Or maybe it's that I was in love...with the forest, with the songs and the games, with the people at camp...with a person at camp.

Or maybe it's something I haven't put my finger on yet, something that I can recreate and incorporate into my day-to-day life now that I'm home.

Whatever it is, I'm going to figure it out. I need to figure it out.