Hi, I’m Lauren Keating! Can I have a job?

At this point in time, I am searching for a job…not just any job: a teaching job. As my brain tangles itself in thoughts of self-doubt (per-usual), I need to remind myself, “Lauren, this is not just a job! This is the opportunity to change lives for the better; to tell them everything you wish you would have been told at their age!” This is such an important message to remind myself of as society’s brainwashing of “work = bad” begins the slinking into feelings of dread. I remind myself this work is not bad. Work is challenging and challenges are good. Challenges are good because they’re going to stretch me and being stretched means I will be better. This is my opportunity to become better and I’m fighting for it with an enthusiastic grin, sitting across from a principal, a vice principal and a veteran English teacher. I am in the midst of my interviews and they are scary.

I merge onto and screech off of highway after highway to arrive at middle schools and high schools alike: buttons to press, a flowery voice to slip on and sing that “I am here to drop off my resume for Principal so and so” as if I’ve been graciously summoned. I am selling myself with resources like my resume, letters of recommendation and official transcript; scraps of my self summed up accordingly on paper. All I can do is hope that going the extra mile, as they say, and locking eyes while I shake their hands, deliver my goods and express my genuine enthusiasm at the opportunity to work at their school will grant me release from this state of not knowing; this blasted time of transition. The one principal I shook hands with could see the strip of sweat below my lip, the hint of desperation in my voice and the painted over disappointment when she told me the position I’m applying for just got reduced to a “.87” position (not full-time–which I figured out as she followed the news by saying “it could turn into full-time as we see how many students apply this summer”). She saw ME and I could tell she wanted to help; her regret for my new situation was apparent with the furrow of her brow and the words of encouragement about potential for the position to turn full-time.

My stomach aches and I still sweat with the AC spitting a light mist onto my toes and nose. I test out a different perspective: “This is your journey, Lauren…your journey into the next chapter of your life and it is exciting! Aren’t you excited?!” But I’m hot and hungry and tired of merging onto new highways and just as quickly leaving them to arrive in a new town, where someone might want ME to positively touch some young lives.

The Rest Of My Life

I sat down in the chair I had revisited time and time again this past semester. The light from my adviser’s office window was partially blinding me but I wanted to revel in the fact the sun was shining instead of change seats. It has been raining almost constantly for over a week and it felt as if the sky’s dirty, gray stain would never soften. Somewhere in the late hours of the previous night or surfacing this morning, the sky softened into the blue like that of bird’s eggs; a rich, acrylic blue that “looks unreal,” as I told my sister on our walk today. Today was the day I officially checked out of my college career and I felt the whole world–vibrant and alive; pulsing around me; stretching its arms and inviting me into this exhilarating new chapter of life.

I know how cheesy that sounds…maybe a little cliche. Regardless, it felt fantastical. I felt new.

When my adviser asked me “How was student teaching?” I laughed, as if I could answer this question with a neat little sentence, complete with a bow. My passionate nature drew me into overload, attacking the question from every angle; randomly switching to a new facet of the experience that reminded me of another facet and another until Anna centered me in a new question: “What are your strengths?”
After taking some time to reflect on and relay my strengths, she asked me “What are your weaknesses?” I told her assessment and classroom management were areas I wanted to particularly improve on.

It was then she told me she thought one of my weaknesses was “thinking too hard”; complicating things that don’t need complicating. I wanted to say “Welcome to my life.” That is a huge flaw of mine that I consistently battle with. Outside of teaching, I complicate life as well. I think this comes from a place that can’t accept life is simple. I don’t think I want life to be too simple. I consider myself to be complicated; composed from complex origins and many contradictory layers. Maybe this notion of mine, that “it can’t be that simple” cripples me. I do think too hard about entities that don’t need these labor-intensive brainstorms. Anna realizes this will cripple me in my teaching career and I’m grateful for her acknowledgement of this internal setback. However, I also enjoy this part about myself. My in-depth thinking-sprees are what propel my greatest art: whether that be my poetry or my drawings. I think it’s important to find value in all parts of yourself, even your flaws and simply realize you’re constantly in repair. I’m constantly seeking to be a better version of myself.

So, how was student teaching?
All in all, student teaching was a testament of my immense capabilities: in the midst of fear, feelings of inadequacy and continual lapses in confidence in myself and my abilities, I freaking nailed it. I experienced setbacks, I doubted my abilities, I told myself “I couldn’t do it” and yet, I did it. This personal achievement is so grand in my heart, I will take these gains with me for the rest of my life as reminders of my grit, my growth-mindset and my empowered heart. My heart is empowered through so much: Mostly God, my family and my boyfriend; the people whose faith in me never grows short.

What I learned:

I learned how hard it is to assess student learning
I learned the need to radiate confidence when I’m in the classroom setting
I learned how smart High School students are…in all types of ways, not just academic intelligence
I learned that I love to be over-prepared
I learned that students will take advantage of your compassion for them
I learned the need to balance asserting my authority in a class with portraying my compassion for each student
I learned that students misunderstand my expressions sometimes and to be careful with my facial reactions
I learned not to have more than one assignment to grade at once
I learned not to spoil my students by grading their assignments really quickly so they always expect that grading time frame
I learned to go through every part of a rubric with students before giving them the assignment, so they understand what they’re being assessed on
I learned that every student wants to be successful in the classroom but not every student will actually put in the effort to do so
I learned you can’t reach every student but you can try
I learned it’s okay to mess up
I learned that listening to my students was more important than talking to them
I learned that I know more than I thought
I learned I still have tons to learn

Those are the first lessons to come to mind 🙂

My adviser didn’t seem to want to talk as much as I did about my student teaching experience. It felt like she had a prior engagement and I was taking too much of her time. Maybe to her, wrapping up this ending with a neat bow was simple; a “Student teaching was good, I learned a lot” would have sufficed for her. To me, life will never be that simple, because I invest my heart and soul into my learning experiences and I don’t want that to change.

Walking home from her office, the stark contrast between sky and electric green coming off of the grass and leaves is almost blinding in its healthy glow, but I don’t want to shade my eyes from it. I’m walking into the rest of my life!

Peace and good vibes to all ❤

FIGHT!

(Mid-student teaching reflection)

I am okay.
I am learning.
I rise to the challenges presented to me.

These are the first thoughts that come to mind through a quick and general reflection of student teaching thus far. I began student teaching on the 9th of January and it is the 24th of February. I am tested every single day; that is, my confidence in my abilities, my authority, my care for people.
I am so afraid that in asserting my authority, students will lose the sense of care and compassion I have for them. I am being assessed everyday by the individuals at their desks and I don’t know what they say in hushed or bold tones when I’m not around. I don’t want to be disliked. I don’t want to be hated. These are literally my worst fears and I’m facing them daily. I feel my heart-rate begin skipping as I read To Kill a Mockingbird aloud and incorrectly pronounce 10 words, or pause at the wrong moments; so certain I am screwing up their comprehension by the second. Yet, I do it and I don’t die.

This is one of the greatest things I’ve learned so far and it was sweet, simple advice thrust upon me by my cooperating teacher:

“If _______ doesn’t happen are you going to die?” Ms. Mack asked me one day.
“No…” I said, with newfound clarity.

If a student blames you for their bad grade, are you doing to die?
No.
If you can’t get your words out right during a class, are you going to die?
No.
If you don’t get that paper graded, are you going to die?
No.

No! I’m not going to die! How exciting is that? I get to keep living through terrifying upon embarrassing upon sad, frustrating experiences. I get to keep living. How can I complain when I’m given so many opportunities to grow and learn and affect people (ANYONE) in a positive way? I can’t complain, because I’m not going to die, I’m just going to get better.
It’s taken me so long to feel this confident about life’s continuous chucking of curve-ball challenges into my vicinity and I see the fear in students when faced with their own curve-balls. One of those challenges being school and/or learning taking place in a classroom.

Who knows, whether it’s fear of failure, fear of less time spent with friends, fear of a specific image or loss of an image, fear from other aspects of life acting as distractions in the classroom…students act on this fear everyday in response to the challenges presented to them in the classroom. Fear of a challenge, I understand completely. When a challenge backtracks me to the dreaded “fight or flight,” best believe I am considering how I may fly away from the entire situation. When I wasn’t sure if I could be a teacher, I texted my friend, the business major, to beg he take me aboard when he starts his own company. I even began thinking about my own app idea. I wanted plan b’s, c’s, d’s to z’s; I was terrified. Students don’t understand that sometimes you can’t just fly away. Life won’t permit it. But most importantly, those places where we’re truly tested are what shape us; in other words–

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
Jalaluddin Rumi

And so, I wish students wouldn’t fight it so hard:
they fight High School with everything they have: wearing blank stares like armor. following directions seems synonymous with agony. My questions are received as DAGGERS; the sting sets in following locked eye contact…hehe, I’m exaggerating.

But, I mean it. We all have to do things we don’t want to do. How do I tell them it takes more energy and perseverance to resist the learning? How do I tell them to let go of qualms about education and simply open themselves? They are required to be in the classroom, so how do I convince them to make the most of it? Still have not figured this out.

And so now, it is the 28th, because I wrote this over a few days. I have just written up my first student and it doesn’t feel too good. The pieces aren’t exactly falling together and I fight little battles every day; however, at least I fight.
I am okay.
I am learning.
I rise to the challenges life presents me with.
I won’t die.

Peace and good vibes to all. 

“Girls like you”

Background info: I was listening to this song yesterday (Girls like you by The Naked and Famous) on my way home from Rockford (visiting the boyfriend). It was on an old playlist I made awhile ago called “happysongs<3” which is funny, because it’s not all that happy!
I was this girl that the song talks about in so many ways. 
[What would you do if you lost your beauty?
How would you deal with the light?
How would you feel if nobody chased you?
What if it happened tonight?
How would you cope it the world decided to
Make you suffer for all that you were?
How could you dance if no-one was watching]
This part resonates so deeply. I think in fourth grade is when I realized how important it was to be pretty. This girl named Ciara ended up “dating” this boy that we both decided we liked the year prior. Back then, we had kind of accepted that we could share him…just a few young lovers (just kidding). The reason why he picked her seemed so obvious! She was flawless. I hadn’t been too aware or, or more so concerned about my  appearance until then.
Then I wanted mascara. Then I wanted contacts. There began this obsession with my shell; my skin, my face, my “beauty”.
Starting to wear makeup as early as I did was probably one of my biggest mistakes because I stopped honoring my unmade self.
I think back to a lesson in a college course called Adolescence and a term called “False self-behavior” which is acting in a way that’s unauthentic to you.
When I made myself up, I made myself temporarily forget the fact that I was insecure about how I looked. I didn’t think I looked pretty enough for a boy to like me. I compared myself to every other girl in school. I was not happy.
But with my mask, I could breathe for a little while.
When I started going to High School, the list of things that I wanted to change about my appearance seemed infinite. I put so much energy into being the girl that they talk about in this song: The girl who could only feel her worth  if someone looked twice.
The girl who could only feel her worth if she was wanted for that flimsy, temporary shell.
I was so fragile then, yet I tore myself to pieces and practically gave myself away to feel like I was enough.


Everyone will remember you when you’re gone

I just wanted someone to remember me when I left, but very few did.
When I think into my future at the possibility of having a girl of my own, I think about how I’m going to begin solidifying her self-worth in the parts of herself that can’t be seen.The most beautiful people I’ve seen, to this day, have bloomed before my eyes when they open their mouths and talk; when they laugh; when they dance or perform a skill they’re good at…
When I see them showing love to another person;
Shedding light on subjects I thought I had made sense of;
Acting in ways that were authentic to who they are.
I love myself the most today because I know the majority of my beauty comes from being authentic to who I am…and I’m pretty great. 
Besides my maybe-someday-daughter, I’ll be reminding my students of this. I’ll want to tell them
“I know that it feels important right now to be “wanted,” to be “attractive” and to be “cool” and “accepted.” I will tell you right now that what people really want is the truth. The most attractive person, is the most kind. The coolest people are the people who are true to themselves and not ashamed to do so. Please don’t be anyone besides who you are, because life will be harder down the line. Figuring out how to love yourself will be harder down the line. When do you feel the most alive? When are you proud of yourself? What makes you happy? Answer those questions to yourself and do all of those things as much as you can. Honoring your true, uncensored self will bring you self-love as well as genuine love from others.”
I think girls (AND boys) need better songs, because “long legs,” “sunbathed skin,” “blue-eyes”…they only go so far. And when they’re gone, how will people love who they are?
“Girls like you” 
By The Naked and Famous
Whirlwind run
Further and further away
Into the sun
In, 20 minutes
Everyone will remember you when you’re gone
And your heart, is a stone
Buried underneath your pretty clothes
Don’t you know people write songs about girls like you?
What will you do when something stops you?
What will you say to the world?
What will you be when it all comes crashing
Down on you little girl?
What would you do if you lost your beauty?
How would you deal with the light?
How would you feel if nobody chased you?
What if it happened tonight?
How would you cope it the world decided to
Make you suffer for all that you were?
How could you dance if no-one was watching
And you couldn’t even care if they were?
What would you do if you couldn’t even feel?
Not even pitiful pain
How would you deal if the indecision
Eating away at the days?
Don’t you know people write songs about girls like you?
About girls like you
About girl like you
Everything you say is higher
All the things that make you lighter
Everything you say is higher
See it in the grey you crier

The power of being PRESENT

Hey ya’ll. Just an update.
It’s funny because I’m sure I’m the only one reading and rereading these posts, but I’ve decided something! I’m going to keep this up; I am going to post throughout my student-teaching/teaching journey so that I can reflect on my experiences and probably arrive at some clarity through it all. As I said in the last post, my emotionally-charged posts will most likely begin chaotically, but will end with some optimism–maybe just enough to get me through the day. So this will be good for me; therapeutic if you will.

Since “Fear” struck me (reference to last post) I have slowly but surely moved to face the reality that I WILL be student-teaching in January. That is something I can say now without my heart threatening to abort my chest; it’s real and it’s happening. What are allowing me to feel okay about it (HA, I am just as doubtful as I am “okay”…I go through phases) are these facts:
#1: I’m with an experienced cooperating teacher who knows her stuff
#2: I love English! I love the books we’re going to be reading and I’m excited to revisit them
#3: I love the idea that maybe I can make a sliver of difference in someone’s life

All I really want to do…before helping students distinguish between a simile and a metaphor, is reveal to them their infinite worth. I just want to empower them; make them believe they are strong and capable in mind and heart. Help them to be curious individuals who are fascinated by their worlds. Remind them of the importance of being present in life. Wow, that is one of the most HUGE realizations I’ve made recently.

You can plan your life away. You can freak the HECK out about your unknown future or just the unknown in general! But once you face the fact that the unknown is inevitable and it will always be in front of you, you can hold hands with that fact; you can examine where you are and soak it all in for exactly what it is: a gift. Every moment alive is a gift. Once you make yourself present in your experiences, I think your life changes. I think you become better, more grateful, more happy, more at ease…truly, a better human being.

If I can get my future students to realize even one of those things I listed above, especially the power of being present, there’s no way I won’t feel satisfied with what I’m doing.

Just one more thing I thought I’d add is the awesomeness of visualization. Visualizing yourself doing all the things you want to do and letting those images fire you up to make them a reality–There’s so much power in power of will, ladies and gentleman.

Last thoughts: I am so thankful to have these realizations today. I am thankful for my opportunities. LOVE AND GOOD VIBES TO ALL xoxoxoxoxo

Fear

Wow, I am afraid. I could put to sleep my worries about student teaching and what would come after (for the most part) all up until I received an email from someone who is considering accepting me as their class’s student teacher.

Reality shook me awake; however, I had just finished my second cup of coffee for the day as well…

Immediately I rushed to my room to scrounge through notes I’d kept from teaching classes and communications classes, I texted a girl I knew had already student taught to unpack my worries, I called my boyfriend to say “I’m so scared! I can’t do this!”, I cursed myself for not organizing all of my Word documents as I sifted through them to find ANYTHING  that may prepare me for an interview with this potential Cooperating Teacher.

I am afraid.
Typing this, I honestly want to cry. I am so overwhelmed and I don’t exactly know where to start. I feel like a fraud: Maybe I can stuff myself with information that will cloak me in “credibility” and completely fool this experienced teacher into thinking I am the right candidate for her class. People keep telling me, “You are qualified,” “You have the skill set,” “You’ve taken all the courses,” so why do I feel so unprepared and scared?

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This is me. Eight days away from turning 23 and not feeling ready for any of it.
I know that it’s a mindset.
I know I have to change the way I’m viewing these new upcoming experiences.
I have to remind myself that I do have the skill set and the resources to be successful and believing that will be the hardest part.

I’m sure that self assurance will be the hardest part and if I’m right, then maybe I can do this. I know I have a strong mind and a passionate heart for teaching. I hope to let these assertions fuel me as I move forward and hopefully turn my stress into something positive that will thrust me into greatness!

This is why I reflective-write. Because it always begins so chaotically, but it always ends with some optimistic insight for the future.

 

 

Epiphany of Learning. MY FAVORITE PART

1.Ephiphany of Learning Video!

2.Poem in response to class!!

Looked in the mirror to find not a critic;
no distance between the skin and the soul
this time
No declaring a body not whole
So my
heart has a zipper.
and so do the seams of my spine
clicking and fitting with a sound that’s like
When mom bundled you up in fleece jackets before you ventured into snow havens.
Sound that is home.
Not mom, but me
Everything I was, am, and yet to be
all the way down to my hair’s singed ends, my elbow’s bend, cracked, dry skin, and porous face,
Pulling that zipper that is mine to pull,
and creating; owning a being that’s a beam of light,
a sliver of night, a hunger, a joy, a peace, a planet, an alien thing which cannot be described.
United and bursting into something more, all the time.

These are the moments I live life for
That can be birthed from teaching classrooms and some coffee
Where opportunity feels so big and the space I have access to, so wide, and the discoveries still unmade—deep and rich.
Worthwhile. Worth living for. Worth crying for.
Worth asking yourself to get out of bed for.
Share and take part and be present in life.
Find a new little piece of yourself every day and absorb the journey.

3. One of the most beautiful things I saw in this class:

Why? Because it exemplified so many mundane or usual aspects of life like blowing your nose, eating a banana split, wanting to run away as a kid, etc. But it did it in a way that was so extraordinary and heart wrenching that it shook my soul to think that I am apart of something so vast and beautiful as life. The way it was done–exemplifying words in such a lively connotative way that wound up your emotions was so powerful. To see a space bar and then outer space brought to life the worlds that something as simple as words open up for us. The gift to be able to even attempt to describe what happens around us and what happens in us is the most indescribably striking thing.

4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFnMTHhKdkw

I consistently return to Rita Pierson’s Ted Talks as motivation for my future career.