NaMoWriMo Maybe

Hmm…I’ve been thinking. Perhaps I’ll do NaMoWriMo this year. Isn’t there a summer camp edition? A work colleague and I were talking about that today in the breakroom. She brought it up, inquiring if I’ve ever done it.

“No…I signed up, but never did it,” I said, “We should sign up together for encouragement and competition.” Then I offered some funny quip about us lifting each other up.

She doesn’t know I’ve self-published a book, but I’ve told her about my other writing, namely fanfiction. I wasn’t serious about us going at it together. I’m tired of being a perpetual champion or convener of groups.

I’ve begun some brainstorming. Oh, I have a long way to go.


languages1I am an unapologetic linguaphile. Languages and words are my lovers, but they are of the native English persuasion. I want some foreign ones! My dream is to make the transition from English fluency to fluency in another language, preferably written and spoken. Fluency, what a lofty goal, right?

In my lifetime, I’ve studied other languages (in addition to English, natively), but I’ve never achieved fluency. French and Latin were my starting places in high school. In college, I continued with French, but put it down for Italian. After just one semester, I transferred into Biblical Hebrew when I fell in love with the bible in my Biblical Literature course. The bible went from a prop at church to this mystical document to be studied and parsed. I added New Testament Greek in seminary while continuing my study of Hebrew. What was I missing in my language studies? It was ongoing communication that was divorced from some course where I was trying to get a grade. No communication. No fluency. Know communication. Know fluency. I think of all the new dendrites I could grow!

Along with traveling–this is my other aspiration–I want to add fluency in another language. I’m thinking that the language should be Spanish. The Latin American Association has free coffee hours for informal conversations with others who want to practice. They also offer formal classes. I neither have the time nor the funds to do either right now, but I will soon. There are a plethora of language apps on which I can practice, but I’ve never been able to maintain those. I know they won’t give me the fluency I crave. I need people, real live people I can communicate with consistently. If only there was some online forum of language exchange out there. Perhaps it could be a sort of PenPal Foreign Language exchange. Until I find it, I’ll continue to be on the look out for foreign language opportunities.

Itching for Words to Read

Do you need a beta reader? If you are, I am the one. If you are a newish writer, don’t try to go it alone. Words are magical such that when they ooze out of you and on to the page, they change and morph. I’m not merely speaking of the banal job of editing, but also of the process of fashioning your piece into the best it can be. In my own experience, I’ve tried to do it alone. Don’t do it. You need champions who will read, critique, and question.

Contact me. I’m waiting…

A Year in Review. A Year Forward.

lotus_butterflyNow that 2014 is in my rearview and 2015 is upon me, I pause to reflect and anticipate.

The first half of 2014 was emotionally and psychologically challenging. I think it was akin to what a butterfly experiences when breaking out of a chrysalis. I was very wishy-washy and unclear about key aspects of my life. Unfortunately, my actions reflected that inner waffling. I hurt those closest to me. I lost a friend.

In the midst of this, I had tasked myself with writing a novel that I planned to self-publish. By 6 months in, I had self-published the book! Hooray for me. But questions still lingered: What shall I do with my life? ShaIl I keep writing? Try to find a literary agent/publisher? Work harder at being a full time writer? Shall I return to teaching? Find another vocation? I began working part time at the public library which was good therapy and a reservoir for some fantastic reading. Shortly thereafter, I stepped back into education as a full time substitute teacher. By the late fall, I had two jobs! Loss and gain are inexorably bound like life and death, suffering and celebration. I am thankful for my husband for supporting and loving me through it all.

In the midst of 2015, I am extremely excited about what lies in front of me. I am committed to vigorously pursuing happiness. I am in love with my school. If a permanent teaching position materializes, I’ll be ready to embrace it. I want to travel more this year and in coming years so we’ve started a travel fund. I’m committed to fellowshipping with my family and friends regularly. I want to finish my Scandal Fanfiction stories! I want to commit to writing another manuscript to finish and shop around for publishing. Also, I want to cease agonizing over what folks think of me (only child syndrome). In many cases, folks are too busy thinking about themselves! Lastly, I want to be a lighthouse for compassion and love to others.

2015 here I am!

To Greet or not to Greet

Do you greet people? This question is pretty broad so I’ll elaborate. Let’s take the workplace or classroom as an example. Do you make it a point to greet your coworkers or classmates unsolicited? As for me, I want to greet people out of courtesy and a basic acknowledgement of their presence. I will admit that I often, though, take cues from others and adjust accordingly. In an ideal world, all things being equal, I would love to enter a room with people or meet someone in a walkway and be assured of a return greeting or at least a smile or head nod. Unfortunately, this is not the case because there are people out there who don’t share that greeting philosophy. There are some people who will never initiate greeting others or who just won’t greet others even if said greeting is offered first.

I could chalk this up to introversion, but being introverted doesn’t excuse being rude. Greeting another is a low risk proposition. It doesn’t mean you have to engage in a conversation or share information. It is just an acknowledgement of presence. It irks me when folks don’t speak to or greet me. I immediately categorize them as rude and after a while, I don’t greet them at all. I admit this makes a mountain out of a molehill in a sense and calls attention (in my mind) to the awkward quiet that takes the place of the non greeting.

For example, there is an individual at my part time job whom I’ve worked with for about 6 months. We’ve talked a couple of times about work related things. I soon noticed that she never initiates greetings. After a while, I stopped greeting her. I see her and it’s like my mind shifts and accepts it: oh she doesn’t want to speak. It is unfortunate because as much as I don’t want it to affect me it does. It’s like there’s a block there when she enters a room. This magnifies and corrupts the space in ways that it shouldn’t. There are others for whom not speaking doesn’t bother me. I greet them and move on, not waiting for a reply. Is it that I am afraid that her non-greeting diminishes me somehow. I do feel like I’m giving off negative vibes and being something other than who I am, a friendly person.

Who am I to judge others and their speaking/greeting patterns? Yes, I was raised to say, “hello”, especially to people I knew. Perhaps these people I’m encountering weren’t taught the same thing.

There are times, though, when I’m feeling particularly high on life. I walk into a room and am simply happy to be there. I don’t notice, really, who greets me back or not. Instead, I’m only interested in being surrounded by the goodness that I feel. There have been times when I’ve tried to be this way even when I wasn’t feeling it. In other words, I would greet people willy nilly. If they didn’t greet me back or never initiate, I wouldn’t let that affect my actions. I’m not always consistent with this. If I’m feeling blah, I might give back perceived negative energy.

Well, people are people and social morays can make things awkward. In most cases, people do come around, I’ve found. What does coming around mean? In some cases, we all become more comfortable with each other and greeting is second nature and/or we go beyond the greeting.

What have your experiences been with greeting? What type of greeter are you?

A Sweet Spot

The sun rises and sets. Somehow in the natural rhythm of the daily ebbs and flows, I have found a sweet spot. Specifically, I have happened upon a professional sweet spot. I am calmer and less graspy for some idealized job.

This summer when I began working part time at the public library, I surveyed the territory and thought, I could do this every day. I don’t have an MLIS degree nor the desire to attain a third Master’s degree with its concomitant load of debt. Thankfully, there are positions in my library system that don’t require the degree. At that time, I longed for the obligatory 6 month probationary period to elapse so that I could apply for a full time position. In the interim, I began a robust job searching campaign. I soon found that good paying non-MLIS library positions were rare.

I decided to dip my toe back into education by getting on the substitute teacher list. In what seemed like seconds, I accepted a position as a stellar substitute at an elementary school in my previous public school district. In this position, I am a substitute at one school every day. I soon found myself with two jobs. I wasn’t willing to give up the library job as I was still hoping for a chance to apply for a full time position. I began straddling two jobs. After the initial excitement wore off–the thrill of the interview and offer–I became a little weary.

I am pretty much expert at being a new face. It can be a drag, though. Not knowing anyone. Trying to find your comfortable nook. This was particularly difficult for me in my position which was nomadic by its very nature. As the one substituting for others, I don’t have a home. I’m like a turtle, most days carrying everything on my back. Soon the students made me feel at home by greeting me in the halls enthusiastically all day, everyday. Upon hearing that I would be their sub, they would cheer. “You have to love that greeting,” one teacher remarked. As a previous full-time teacher, I was somewhat jaded and not as wowed by that response–at least inwardly. And then there was the bone tiredness that came with working for 8 hours at school and then another 4 or 2 hours at the library 3 days a week and a full day on the weekend. My tired was tired. I began to question how long I was going to last. I was here a couple of weeks ago.

Slowly (for me but not really that slowly), I didn’t feel so new at school. It was announced that the library was putting new hiring on hold. While I’m positioned to apply for/accept a permanent teaching position or a non-MLIS library position, I shrug my shoulders, unswayed by on or the other. Right now I am both, and that is okay. Standing still is moving forward.

So I’ve found a sweet spot. My palms are open, not looking for some new opportunity, save the opportunity to serve.

Unfolding Lotus Perching Butterfly

lotus_butterflyI’m no longer pounding the pavement. I’m back in the classroom as a substitute teacher in residence. Instead of being called to different schools in the district, I will be at one school everyday to sub and support as needed. I’ve come full circle in one respect. My first internship was at this school, and I am honored to be working at this excellent institution.

My search for a permanent teaching job has been rocky. In the last four years, I’ve only taught one full academic year. All the rest have been part year during which I joined the faculty late. In these cases, the school needed to add an additional class because of increased enrollment or the teacher resigned before the academic year ended. I’ve learned a great deal about teaching, learning, children, and school communities during this time. It is highly unlikely that I will accept another part year contract. If I am hired, it must be in the window before the school year begins.

I continue to work part time at the public library. I have no idea where I will end up: a full time teacher or a full time library associate. I don’t know and that is okay. In the daily moments, whether at school or at the library, I’ll soak everything in and sharpen every skill. I know I have a passion for teaching, learning, and service which work well in either setting. It feels refreshing not to grasp for it but to let it unfold…like a lotus and the answer perch there as a butterfly.

Ebola Rewind

ebola4I am interested in origins. Where did Ebola come from? What is its history?

My first introduction to this disease was the film, “Outbreak.” In the movie, I remember the level 4 trauma ward of the CDC where the dreaded virus was housed. One of my favorite parts of the movie was when one character proclaimed, “It’s airborne!” I remember the scary images dramatizing those affected, bleeding from every opening. The virus in the movie was reported to be worse than Ebola.

I saw “Outbreak” when I was a sophomore in college attending Emory University and living a stone’s throw from the CDC, not that the proximity mattered. The CDC could have been housed on Mars at the time for how far fetched the movie’s premise was to me at the time. I’ve never forgotten about those fictional images or the movie.

Where did this virus come from? Fruit bats. The World Health Organization warns people in affected regions in West African countries against eating bushmeat to prevent animal to human transmission.

The first known case of the virus occurred in 1967 in Marburg, Germany. The origin of that small, contained outbreak was a group of green monkeys imported from Africa to be used for research and vaccine production. The monkeys were euthanized. There were only 31 human cases.

In 1976, the next known outbreak occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Yambuku near the Ebola river, later becoming the virus’ namesake. The aforementioned outbreak in Germany was referred to as the Marburg Virus. The Marburg and Ebola viruses are from the same virus family, Filoviridae. There were 318 cases and 280 deaths. In 1977 and 1979 there were small outbreaks in Sudan, Zaire (DRC), and London (laboratory incident). In 1989 the virus was introduced in a Reston, VA primate facility by infected monkeys imported from the Philippines.

From 1989 to 2013, there have been 30 relatively small outbreaks in the world, mostly in West African countries. The largest fatal cases–in the hundreds–were all in this region. The 2014 outbreak is horrifying because the number of human cases are over 4500 with deaths edging toward 2500.

This is the brief origin story of Ebola before the recent American cases. I’ll write about those in a later post.

Talk to Children about Math Early and Often to Combat Math Anxiety

I recall the stories my mom told me about how she and her fellow classmates in grade school had to demonstrate knowledge of their “times tables.” The teacher would line students in front of the room to recite their tables from the ones to the twelves. What I remember most about her retelling is not the “butterflies in the stomach” feeling she said she experienced, but the confident assurance that she and her classmates knew their tables. How did the students study for these drills? Did the acquisition come from studying or the daily oral drilling? Mathematics instruction has changed for the better since my mom was a child, but it remains the Achilles’ heel for American students.

The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics’ (NCTM) Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000) advocates building deep conceptual knowledge in mathematics before drill and practice. This viewpoint is different from the mathematics instruction of my mom’s era when drill and practice was considered the best practice for attaining math skills. While I wholeheartedly agree with the NCTM, I think that there is something to be gained from oral assessment in mathematics. In my mom’s experience, oral assessment gave both the teacher and student an authentic means of assessing acquisition of multiplication facts. In today’s K-12 classrooms it is rare to witness oral assessment used in any formalized manner and definitely not in mathematics classrooms. You would be hard pressed to find much talking going on during mathematics instruction or assessment.

All throughout school, I never considered math my best subject. I was a solid and sometimes borderline “B” student in math because of help from my mom. During grocery store trips when I was a child, my mom would ask me to figure out math problems. She would point to items and say, “These are 3 for $5.00, but these are $1.50 each. What is the best deal?” She would also say, “These are buy one get one free, but nothing is ever free, so how much would one cost?” I hated being put on the spot like this, but she seemed to genuinely want my help. As the dutiful daughter, I would work it out. If I was right, she would affirm the answer. If I was wrong, she would talk it out with me until we got the right answer. The oral nature of her mathematics education seemed to make talking about math second nature. It helped me both then and now to see the benefit of reasoning orally. I was always anxious about math because I never felt like I truly understood many of the concepts especially as I took higher level math. I could memorize really well and relied on that to get me through. To my surprise, I qualified to take accelerated math classes all throughout school which increased my anxiety level.

I have found that most people dislike math, and are adverse to talking about the subject. In my graduate math class on how to teach mathematics in elementary education, the instructor gave us a problem to solve. He encouraged us to work alone for a couple of minutes and then confer with a partner to discuss our problem solving strategies. The vast majority of us worked alone and never consulted a partner. My hunch was that most of us didn’t want to broadcast our lack of knowledge or confusion on the subject. Since taking this class, I have had a paradigm shift when it comes to math, due in part to the excellent instruction of that professor and my experience of having to teach math. I have relearned and in some cases learned for the first time many of the underlying concepts in math. Consequently, I no longer see it as the enigma it once was. The oral nature of teaching and instruction in which I have to explain concepts to children played an indelible role in my shift. The process of preparing for math instruction and having to explain mathematical concepts and reasoning to my students has increased my own mathematical knowledge. This has made me wonder the extent to which discussion and oral reasoning can increase student’s math knowledge. When I have taught math to younger elementary students, many of them are eager to raise their hands to answer questions about math even if they do not know the answer. In older students, I have found that this eagerness disappears. Students would rather labor away in their own individual silos in pursuit of the right answer. Once that answer has been reached, they do not want to talk about the process. The over focus on standardized, multiple choice assessments has reinforced the silo mentality among students in mathematics.

Math anxiety is learned overtime. Parents can mitigate this anxiety by talking about math in a non-threatening environment. Encourage your child to talk out a math quandary. You can do this by example. Let them hear you figuring out loud. As shared earlier, my mother did this sort of thing with me in the grocery store. I did the same with my daughter when she was smaller. For example, I would give her a pad and pencil in the grocery store with the directive to round the prices to the nearest dollar and keep a running total of our groceries. I will admit that as she has gotten older she has rejected my math talk, but I continue sometimes out of necessity. There was the time she overtipped the hair stylist because she was fuzzy on her percentages. We had a long talk about that one with a lesson in figuring percents mentally. On one occasion when we were out to eat, I brought up the lesson again to see if she could figure the tip percentage. My mother wanted to show her how to find the percentage using multiplication. When my mom pulled out a pencil and paper, my daughter groaned and grudgingly worked out the problem. My mother’s algorithm method was traditional, but it didn’t teach the number sense gleaned from talking it out using a benchmark. For example, knowing how to find 10 percent of something can help in finding most any other percentage.

During these conversations, it’s okay for all parents to admit if they do not know the answer. Today math is taught less with algorithms and more with a stress on using a plethora of strategies to carry out mathematical operations. I know that parents balk at the “new fangled” ways students are learning math and thus don’t feel equip to help students with homework. I would encourage parents to enter into a dialogue with children about the ways they are learning math. This may involve asking your child’s teacher for recommendations on websites, workbooks, or other resources. In the long run, it will teach your child that math is not something to be feared but embraced and explored.

Ebola and Police Brutality

Which is the biggest menace in America (for blacks), Ebola or police brutality? I’d say the latter based on recent reports of black men and women being harassed and killed by police without cause. Even after producing papers or following other police orders, these black men and women are still in peril. They can still be shot. I must mention the children that have been present in some cases. When I roll by a person being pulled over and he or she is black, my heart jumps in fear for that person and in some cases for myself. Could that happen to me? I don’t worry, at least not yet, about Ebola.

If this is not addressed aggressively, no one (black, white, or brown) will be safe.

In Georgia the open carry law has been passed. This law allows you to carry your gun in public spaces at will. What would happen if black folks en masse took advantage of this law and began to carry just for protection…against the police?

These are two thought experiments that popped into my mind. Food for thought.


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