Here’s to ending 2014 insightfully with some retrospection–let’s end this on a high note!
6. Coming back to school in the fall of 2014 was certainly a doosey. When I arrived back at work, I learned that I wasn’t teaching what I was told I would be teaching before summer break. There were no texts available for the new courses I would be teaching, or even recommended texts. I was teaching FIVE different courses, and our school had a new bell schedule which meant teachers were now teaching an extra academic class meaning we taught SIX periods a day. Needless to say, the transition from summer to school was not smooth.
As if my shift back to the classroom wasn’t rocky enough, my hellacious 9th graders were train wrecks. Yes, I said it—train wrecks. My new crop of students not only had ZERO work habits but in my 10 years as an educator, they were by far the most unmotivated group I had ever encountered.
Within the first week of school, students already lost their textbooks, rendering them unprepared for class daily and unable to complete homework. And homework? Ha. Right from the start of the school year, my 9th graders earned mostly Fails and they didn’t seem to care about repeating the course in 10th grade, in effect making them 9th graders for a second year in a row. On any given day, it wasn’t unusual for me to have 1/3 of my classes absent due to truancy and ditching. Students rarely brought materials, completed class work, let alone complete writing assignments. I came to school daily to fight a losing battle and it was destroying me.
For me, a turning point came only about 3 weeks into the school year when I found tagging on my desk stating: “Ms. Miller is Gay”. Now, of all the things one could say about me, I don’t find the term gay to be offensive. But what irked me about this hate speech was that this student thought he/she was hurting me by calling me gay AND that he/she thought that it was acceptable to use the word gay with the intention of hurting other people’s feelings. Despite what I thought to be one of the most powerful lessons I have taught to date with real-life articles about gay teens being bullied to the point of suicide, videos, and compelling writing assignments, the student who wrote, “Ms. Miller is Gay” still found his comment funny because according to him “it was funny because it wasn’t about him…”
It was at this point I started sending my resumes to other schools.
7. After Ragnar Trail in October, Greg and I decided to commit to really cleaning up our diets. Despite eating relatively healthy, at the urging of our friend and chiropractor Dr. Lisa V we purchased It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig and Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie Sullivan Mayfield and Charles Mayfield. I nearly devoured It Starts with Food, which is what most people know as The Whole 30. I couldn’t get enough of this new lifestyle that omits gluten, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, and preservatives. Now, I know you are thinking cutting out so much seems impossible. After all, how could you possibly go without cheese? Trust me, once you educate yourself, or as I like to say ‘Liberate Yourself’, you will not want to eat cheese again. I am here to tell you that once I cleaned up my diet and life, I felt full longer, I was satiated after eating, and I looked better too. Seriously, going Paleo was the 2nd best thing to happen to me next to meeting Greg. Without getting too preachy, learning about how certain foods sparked inflammation and impacted my body inspired me to really commit to this lifestyle.
Once Greg and I started cooking, we couldn’t stop. We started meal prepping on Sunday’s, which meant we shopped together and cooked together. Suddenly eating wasn’t an imposition it was now an adventure. We bought several more cookbooks including Nom Nom Paleo by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong and even went to meet Michelle and her husband Henry for a book signing in Pasadena in late October! Who did we turn into? We were baking Paleo cookies, reading everything we could possibly find on the Paleo lifestyle from PaleOMG to Paleo Grubs and we still loved eating Paleo! You know why? Because when something isn’t a diet or fad and is based on real science with tangible results, adopting a way of eating is not temporary. It becomes engrained into your household; hence, becoming a lifestyle. For me, Paleo took on a life of its own and signified so much more than just a new way of eating and looking at food. Paleo reformulated how I looked at food entirely. As a matter of fact, as someone who has struggled with my relationship with food since I was a teen, I found that Paleo inspired me to want to eat, to want to eat well, and actually enjoy eating instead of viewing eating as a necessity and chore as I did in the past. The Paleo lifestyle gave me a new lease on my own connectedness with food by liberating me from the self-imposed chains I bore for more than a decade. So as I continue to nourish my body and heal through healthy foods, remember from Team Awesome’s culinary cave to yours: Go Paleo, #ItsALifestyle!
8. In October I interviewed at Fairfax High School in West Hollywood. After my 2nd interview, I was offered a position for the spring semester teaching English 9, 10 Honors, and 11. Despite being under contract at Bernstein High School and knowing that leaving one school for another school in a lateral move would be highly frowned upon from Bernstein administration, I had to take the risk and ask for a transfer. I just had Even though I loved working with my AP Language class and coaching the Girls Soccer team, in the end I opted to leave Bernstein in favor of Fairfax. For me it came down to a really basic thing: I just wasn’t happy. And if my yoga practice and studies taught me anything it was to take risks, live with your heart, never apologize for who you are, and if something no longer serves you then let it go. In this case, leaving Bernstein embodied all of what I have learned from my yogic teachings but this is also a pivotal time for me.
Recently, I have been feeling deflated by my work in education. My soul doesn’t seem to be as fulfilled in my work as it was in the past. For some reason, my heart is telling me that there just may be something else out there for me. Who knows?
My move to Fairfax is so much more than just a change of scenery. Fairfax is my last ditch effort to revitalize my passions for education. It is my last stand and last effort to see if I can continue to shape young minds and try to change the world before throwing in the towel and moving on. Fairfax is my do or die time. I refuse to just walk away without a fight so this is my last round, folks. Fingers crossed.
9. I never thought that at 32 years old after three knee surgeries that I would be sitting on my couch elevating my knee after a FOURTH surgery. I guess that’s life, right? Finally, after almost 1.5 years of modified fitness activities, constant pain, and many missed Spartan Races, I am now on the road to recovery.
Right now I am home resting and I will be seeing the doctor in a few days to discuss my rehab and his recommendations for my future athletic endeavors. Given what I have been told post-op, it seems that in 2015 I may need to re-examine my relationship with fitness and the things I love. As it stands now, it appears that Crossfit and running may not be in the cards for me. Naturally upon hearing this, I was angry and the ‘why me’s’ of self-pity quickly set in. But as quickly as self-pity washed over me, it then dissipated when I started thinking about all of the other things that I have been wanting to try or really incorporate into my fitness regimen such as surfing, paddle boarding, swimming, cycling (like real cycling on a bike outside), and so much more. As my list of new and exciting things grew, I looked at my knee and realized that my knee doesn’t represent what I cannot do, for the only limitations that exist are the ones we impose upon ourselves.
10. The last bit of my reflection for 2014 is for you. Each and every soul I have come into contact with this year whether on a yoga mat, on a bike, in a classroom, on the street, where ever and whenever—you have helped shape this year and my ability to look back in order to look ahead. Thank you for your honesty when I needed it [and may not have wanted it], your hugs, your love, your friendships, and our growth together. I sign this very long two-part post off with well wishes and a happy heart as we move forward confidently into 2015.
Peace. Love. And Bliss.