COVID is making me a worse teacher

On the drive home today, I thought about what I would do if a student ever found my blog. In all reality, I wouldn’t do anything. So, if you’re one of my students, just don’t tell the principal. Hmkay? Soon, no one will even know my maiden name and this will all be my fake alias.

Schatzi at 3 months old!

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. I haven’t written a blog in a long time. Here’s an update on life:

-Got a puppy. A German Shorthaired Pointer to be specific. Named him Schatzi. He is 3 months old today.

-Finished the flooring upstairs and in the family room downstairs

-Put together an electric fireplace, put up a TV, made the living room downstairs cozy.

-Only had a few emotional breakdowns since Josh has been home from deployment. “Reintegration” or whatever they call it is hard.

-Still haven’t really met the neighbors other than Dave. He owns a huge, old black lab that Schatzi loves.

-Schatzi and Helix DO NOT get along. Helix tolerates his existence.

-Made and ate far too many Christmas cookies for it to only be December 7th.

This whole me being a worse teacher because of COVID is a real problem. I have become passive. I don’t walk around the room to check on students anymore because ‘six feet apart’ – ya know? My classroom is so small to begin with that I just stay in my little desk bubble and don’t leave my safe zone. In addition, I have most kids in class but then a few rando’s on Zoom, and I’ve struggled to provide the virtual kids with a rich learning environment because I can’t do some of the same things as I would in class. No more station activities. No more gallery walks. No more get up and get moving around the room. No more differentiating groups during group work. They come in and sit down and can’t get up and talk to their peers. It’s quite strange. I’ve obviously done my best, but I just feel like I’m slowly losing the best parts of my job and losing the excitement that I have for the job. The kids are awesome this year. The naysayers who said kids won’t wear masks sure look dumb now!

I wonder what work-life will look like next year. Who knows? A lot of the pandemic has changed teaching for good. Like, recording your lectures and class for kids who couldn’t (didn’t want to) be there. Being a more empathic and understanding human being. Forcing myself to slow down and stop for a moment. Refocusing on what’s important. (THIS one has a lot of caveats. What’s most important content-wise? Which targets can we hit in the least amount of time? What’s mosts important to me personally?) There’s a lot of good to come out of all of this. Teaching hasn’t really changed since the 1800’s. Maybe now its time for a systematic change!

What’s important to me right now is working on my relationship with my husband now that he is stateside. Working on my health by getting back in the workout routine. Being an awesome teacher for my students. Being a better friend to those who I care about.

7 more days until Christmas break!

Coincidence? I think not…

I do this shit for myself. I have this little blog where I write all this stuff down full well knowing that no one else in the world gives 2 shits. I want to write this down for myself in order to look back through time. I want to see myself evolve. Grow. Heal. Process.

My first blog post was from 3 years ago today – October 16th, 2017. I haven’t posted in almost exactly 1 year (I went into hibernation / survival mode when my husband was deployed). 3 years ago exactly I started my blog, and almost 1 year ago exactly was the last time I posted. A coincidence? I think not. October must just be a sPoOkY month!

Humanities Curse: Embarrassment

Have you ever been so embarrassed by a situation that it haunts you for the rest of your life? When you are doing random, mundane tasks, do these embarrassing moments overwhelm your entire psyche and make you relive the experience all over again in real time? Have you never been able to let something go?

I genuinely want to know if its just me. It’s not a hypothetical question. I could be walking my dog on a perfectly gorgeous day in summer and be struck like lightning with anxiety about something that happened over 6 years ago.

I have 3 of these moments which constantly haunt me. Two are from when I was in college, and the latter is from today, apparently, since it’s 10:20 on a Friday night. I roused myself out of bed to come and blog about this horrifying experience because I guess is impossible for me to stop thinking about. Maybe if I type all 3 of these things out, they will somehow be laid to rest. Like how ghosts roam the earth until their final repentance is taken care of. The first one I *shudder* for anyone other than who was involved to find out about because it is not only embarrassing– but also disgusting.

Let’s start with the most current.

Preface: I coach high school volleyball C-Team.

Let me explain how I am NOT QUALIFIED for this position whatsoever. I started playing bar league volleyball when I turned 21. It was fun. I drank a lot. Too much, in fact. I still play to this day. This being said, I have no clue about the fancy rotations, the positions, the drills, the seed meetings, the rosters / lineups, the DRAMA of it all. My athletic director found out it was a hobby of mine from my hiring interview. (When an interview panel asks what you do for fun, you tend to leave out the ‘not so professional’ parts of your hobbies.) So yes, volleyball was a hobby that I stated in my interview. They didn’t need to know that alcohol is almost always involved. I was desperate for my new authority’s approval, and they were desperate for anyone with a pulse as help.

So I said yes. Fast forward three years later. I’ve learned a lot, but I still feel like an absolute moron every single time volleyball season rolls around. Tonight, we only had a Varsity practice since play-offs are right around the corner. Remember, this is the story about an embarrassment that will probably forever haunt me, and the girls don’t even know it was an impactful moment in my shitty, fast-approaching 30 year old life. Something so small to them is mortifying to me.

They literally played around me. I was so incompetent with the rotations, that they let me stay in the same spot and rotated around me. They didn’t set me. I suck so much as a volleyball player that 17 year old girls ignored me out on the court. That, my friends, is the day I knew I was absolutely pathetic. Or, maybe am I just getting old? I’m embarrassed because I’m not athletic. I’m not naturally gifted. I try hard and have fun, but it doesn’t show on me. Next year, I may just quit.

The second story is when I was dog sitting for my professor. I watched his families dogs a handful of times while they were out of town or on vacation before. They were those really prissy dogs: white fur, brown crusties around its eyes, costs 100 or more dollars at the groomers every month, looks cross-eyed half the time… I Googled and a Bichon looks to be the closest fit. Anyways, I tried to take these god damn dogs out on walks every time I dog-watched for this family. They would be super hyper and excitable in the house, I would put the collar on to walk the neighborhood, and they would walk approximately 3 houses down and lay down. I pulled and pulled and pulled on their leash and collar to try to get them to walk more. It was a ritzy neighborhood full of stay-at-home moms, neighborhood watch programs, and snoopy elderly people. I knew people were watching me, but I yanked their leashes anyway. I immediately felt terrible after I finally got the dogs home. I knew I should be so rough with such a petite breed of dog. The family never asked me to dog sit ever again for them. This haunts me still to this day because I had great respect for this specific professor – and I lost all of his. More than likely he didn’t need my services anymore or found another college kid to watch his dogs, but I still think its because some nosey old bastard in his neighborhood told him I was being too rough with his little princess dogs.

Side note – I also dog-sat for this other older couple, and they never asked me back after I had my boyfriend stay the night at their house without asking permission. Maybe they thought we banged in their bed. Who knows!

The final story I don’t think is safe for the internet. Let’s just say a tampon was involved. Let your imaginations run wild. 😉 That story needs to stay between me, my tampon, and my MALE roommate.

Please comment below if you also are crippled with embarrassing things that happened to you in the past! I need someone to also feel my pain.

The Deployment Diaries: Part Four

Well, ladies and gentlemen. D-Day has come and gone. For OPSEC reasons, I stopped posting on this platform because I wasn’t sure what I could and couldn’t post. I won’t get into any of that, but I will get into my feelings. Ew. I know.

Today is our one year wedding anniversary. It took me an embarrassingly long time to write this post because I didn’t know how to sort out how I was feeling. I didn’t know what to say.

A quarter-life crisis is brewing in my life. You know how people have a mid-life crisis and get their nose pierced or a boob job? Yeah, I think I’m going to have one of those,  but like, quit my job or something completely overdramatic and chaotic. My entire life is off. Today, I was lecturing my AP Lang & Comp class and thought about how I was on autopilot delivering a hyper-positive, canned message about the purpose of databases and their use in college.

I started questioning why the hell I even teach. I pondered if it makes me happy. Or if I’m even good at it.  Or whether I’m “PC” enough for it. All of this is a cover-up for the real crisis happening in my life.

The hardest part of deployment will be the time difference. For example, I get done with work at 4:30 pm and its 12:30 am there. When I get home from work, the house will be empty and cold. I’m still working through everything on my end.

I didn’t realize how many different goodbyes there would be. There’s the goodbye when he left for MOAB training. The goodbye when I went to see him on his 4 days of leave. The digital goodbye when he shut off his phone service. The “goodnight” message that didn’t get responded to because he didn’t have WiFi and was busy at work.

Nobody told me how much it would absolutely suck falling in love with a military boy. But, I wouldn’t change a single day of our story. _U3A2419

“Cause I’m carryin’ your love with me
From West Virginia down to Tennessee
I’ll be movin’ with the good lord speed, carryin’ your love with me
It’s my strength for holdin’ on
Every minute that I have to be gone
I’ll have everything I’ll ever need
Carryin’ your love with me.”

-George Strait

 

The Deployment Diaries: Part Three (D-Day)

Pulling into an Army base parking lot and seeing a full-grown man crying while holding his adult son is not the way I wanted to start my morning. I immediately looked away because I felt my own knotted throat start to throb.  One deep breath in and one deep breath out was going to be the only way I could keep my shit together today. It didn’t work, needless to say, but I’m proud of how I handled myself this weekend.

Wednesday night after volleyball practice I got in my car and drove 5.5 hours south to Josh’s unit in Illinois. There has been an immense amount of tension and anticipation for this day for months now, and I still wasn’t ready for it. No amount of preparation could have helped me be fully ready to say goodbye to my best friend because there’s never enough time.

The following day was the awards ceremony and Family Event which was a picnic at the local park. Many times throughout the day, I had to stop myself from thinking Man, I don’t even want to be here.  I wanted my life to go back to normal and wake up in bed with Josh by my side as if none of this had ever happened. But that’s not my current reality, and it’s better to embrace the moments I had left with him instead of fighting the inevitable.  I didn’t want to leave with any regrets or anything left unsaid.

This morning at 5 am, my alarm decides it’s time for me to wake up after a night of restless sleep in order to drive Josh to his unit a short 20-minute drive away from our hotel. I wouldn’t trade those last 20 minutes for anything! I saw this post today that said: “The only value that deployment brings to a relationship is you get to experience your first kiss all over again.” That. Slapped. Hard. 12 months and counting down until I get to experience my first kiss – like Josh and I are 20 years old again.  Those last few moments of ours together were also shared by a hundred or so other people also sharing emotional goodbyes with their soldier.

It’s an interesting dichotomy because I felt so isolated inside of his embrace while being surrounded by people who were experiencing the same exact thing. I never understood the concept of the world falling away and turning hazy until nothing else mattered except for Josh and I. That moment. I literally felt my heart burst into a million pieces that would not and could not be remedied by any person except for him.

At this point, I feel utterly heartbroken. I understand it’s not logical to think this way, but I truly feel a loss – like a death in the family that needs to be mourned.

This whole blog post sounds very short and to the point… Unemotional. Unintentional. I’m really just trying my best to process everything right now.

“Kiss me hard before you go
Summertime sadness
I just wanted you to know
That baby, you the best”

-Lana Del Rey

 

**edit** for OPSEC reasons, I waited to post this.

 

The Deployment Diaries: Part Two

At some points, I wish D-Day was a complete surprise to me. Knowing about it for months upon months now has created this sense of feeling like a kettle: I’m a slow boil soon to scream under all of the pressure. I’m trying so hard to be strong and put on this face of ‘everything will be okay’ but in all reality- I’m imploding. I wake up every day so thankful I get to spend special moments with my soldier knowing that it’s all about to change. We’ve done so many fun things! We went to Lollapalooza, the worlds most iconic and memorable music festival. We went to a Packers pre-season game. We are going to see his family. We are doing everything in our power to suck out every single ounce of happiness within these next couple of days. I feel the dread stirring up inside of me, and I feel out of control. I can’t change anything about what’s to come for the next year, and all I can do is pray for strength while joining as many hobbies and groups as I can to feel connected to society. I am definitely the type of person to just hide inside of my apartment and never come out. To wallow. But, I refuse to let myself feel like a pile of hot garbage for the next year. Life moves on, and so will I. It’s just a major bummer that I’ll have to learn to do that by myself.

I dream about our one year wedding anniversary that I will be spending alone. I dream about all of the weddings I will RSVP to for ‘1’. I dream about Christmas, Easter, birthdays, Sundays…. All alone. But even more scary for me are the Tuesdays four months from now when I get home from work in 0-degree weather in the pitch-black darkness where I just sit inside of my apartment for 6 hours until I go to bed. Wake up. And do it all over again. Work. Wallow. Repeat.

I’m terrified of the bad days at work where I need to vent to someone and having nobody. I’m scared of literally having nobody. Teaching is a very isolating feeling where I have to be perfect at all avenues or else face ridicule, embarrassment, or the wrath of parents and other staff. I don’t want to be a burden on anyone, so I feel like I will internalize all of these issues instead of working through them. In these next couple of months, I will find out who is a real friend in my life and who is fair weather. I feel people slipping away already because of ‘life’ stuff: moving, babies, relationships, work… All of it pulls people apart. I miss living in my house on Union street where I was surrounded by my best friends at all times. I hate that living with my friends didn’t work out. I regret a lot of stuff about those relationships, but this next year will make some of my relationships clearer in where I stand.

The struggle is juggling the anxiety of going back to work soon with the anxiety of losing my best friend. I’ve definitely been pushing him away lately which is a natural stage apparently, but it still really sucks to feel like I’m wasting our last days together in a funk because I can’t seem to alter my mentality about the situation.

For now, I’m struggling. I’m sure this will be the case for a while. I’m hoping to ease the pain soon, but I don’t think anything but time will work.

“When you’re low
And your knees can’t rise
You feel helpless
And you’re looking to the sky
Some people would say
To accept their fate
Well, if this is fate
Then we’ll find a way to cheat
‘Cause, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh we’ll say a little prayer
But, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh if the answer isn’t fair
You know you can call on me
When you need somebody
You know you can call on me
When you can’t stop the tears from falling down.” – Starley

The Deployment Diaries: Part One

Today marks one month until D-Day. This past weekend, we went to a Yellow Ribbon Event in Bloomington, Minnesota. I was NOT into the idea because it seemed dry, stuffy, and overly emotional. I wasn’t excited, but I feigned tolerance for Josh’s benefit. It was hosted in the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever stepped in: marble everything, 25 floors, fine dining – the works.

Let me start out by saying I don’t regret going- it had its benefits- but I’m not sure I got what they intended out of it. 

Josh recently transferred units with five of his closest friends (2 of which were in our wedding) in order to deploy in 2019 instead of 2020. Most of the people I met were so kind and genuine. I say ‘most’ because let’s be honest… some of the soldiers you meet are the stereotypical egg heads that make you roll your eyes in annoyance at their immaturity. It’s quite comforting to know that my husband will be deploying with good, honest people who are reliable.

Much of the information presented to us at the Yellow Ribbon Event was irrelevant to Josh because he seems to have a strong handle on the paperwork that needs to be done before deployment. But, there were some shining moments that I’ll take away and remember while he’s gone. Recently, I’ve been trying to take mental pictures in order to pause my mind and revel in a moment. I won’t have any of these small pleasures for very much longer, and I’m trying to soak up as much and as many as possible.

  • Josh and I got to spend quality time together in a beautiful hotel.
  • I was able to meet more of the soldiers he’s deploying with who are also in this new unit.
  • I was able to understand the process and cycle of emotions that are spiraling through my head.
  • Josh and I were able to relax in a hotel, watch a movie, and laugh together without worry.
  • I found a cheap and efficient way to ship packages

 

If you want more information about the pre-deployment cycle of emotions, click here.

An Open Letter to My Sister Who Doesn’t Speak to Me Anymore…

Ashlyn,

Today, we are supposed to be at a Bon Iver concert in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sipping on lemonades, soaking in the sunshine. I was supposed to take you to experience your first Summerfest. Today, we were supposed to celebrate your 17th birthday! But, something terrible happened. Our relationship crumbled, and now, I’m not sure if we can repair our sisterhood.

Getting cut out of your life feels worse than any other break-up I’ve ever experienced in my life. In middle school, my best friend stopped talking to me because she thought I was taking her ex-boyfriend’s side. This is worse. This is worse than any high school rejection I ever received because boys thought I was weird. This is worse than my long-time high school / college best friend ghosting me because she started to believe lies that someone was spreading about me. This hurts worse. This hurts worse than when my boyfriend of over 3 years dumped me on my 21st birthday. Throughout my life, I’ve dealt with rejection in all sorts of different ways. This, though, slices like a knife to a vital artery in a way because I can’t imagine my life without you in it.  You’re not some dumb boyfriend. You’re not some snotty, fake friend who obviously was using me. You’re my blood. You’re my sister. You’re my ride or die, or supposed to be. Image may contain: Haley Rae and Heather Yates, people smiling, tree, wedding, outdoor and nature

So, why don’t you listen when I tell you “I love you”? Why don’t you believe me when I say I empathize with you? Why can’t you let me in when I knock repeatedly at your door? Don’t you know how many nights I’ve lost sleep thinking about you, crying over you, praying for you to come back into my life? I fucking miss you. I have so many questions for you, and I wish you could answer them. When I close my eyes, I can still see your icy blue eyes welling up in pain. I wish, over everything, that I was enough to help you. I hate that there was nothing I could do to take away your pain. I wish I had said the right thing to help you rebalance your life and love me again.

As your big sister, I always wanted that perfect relationship where we would fight about clothes and scream-sing songs in the car when we were listening to the radio. Instead, I got fights about drugs and mediated screaming matches between you and mom, or between us girls.

Looking back, you were always Dad’s favorite girl. You were so similar in every single imaginable way. People compared your baby pictures and compared your tempers, your taste in foods and your interests in school. Where the fuck did that person go? The happy girl who was so goofy and so independent? The girl who had big dreams – bigger than ‘get me the fuck out of this house because I hate my family’. Your dreams were to save the world.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Heather Yates and Haley Rae, people smiling, people standing and dog

What happened?

When did your life start to spiral?

What part did I play as your big sister?

What did I do so wrong to make you hate me?

I hear your cries for help – I don’t know how to help other than the ways our family has already helped you. We’ve taken you to the best doctors, given you space to make your own choices. Your feelings are valid. You are loved. 

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing, tree, outdoor and nature

 

I wish you would pick me. I wish you would pick our family over a substance. I wish you would pick our family over friends who are temporary and a job that is a dead end.  I wish you believed me when I said that I know exactly how you’re feeling, and I’ve felt that way too in my past before.

Life sucks, but the right people around us can make it so much better and easier. Please pick me. Please pick our family again. Please come back and be the goofy girl with the drive to save the world.

You grew up. You changed. I get that! I’m not saying be a little girl anymore … I’m saying please bring Ashlyn back so we can get the chance to be sisters again.

Image may contain: 5 people, including Haley Rae, Heather Yates, Sadie Bredl and Kathy Steensrud, people smiling, people sitting, table and indoor

I love you.

I miss you.

-Haley

A Teacher’s Reflections During Teacher Appreciation Week

Living in a politically correct environment as a politically incorrect person is the hardest part of my job. I am a role model, constantly observed and critiqued by students, parents, administration, mentors, and other colleagues. Let me be clear: I do not mean politically incorrect as in I’m a bigotted racist who uses slurs and inappropriate language in a school environment, but rather I am a sarcastic person who uses humor to deal with difficult or stressful situations.

There are many issues that arise due to this faulty personality trait of mine.  Things that are jokes to me are serious to someone else. Things I find humorous and light-hearted are not to someone else. I find myself saying ‘I’m just giving you a hard time’ or ‘I hope you know I do this in jest- not to harm’ in order to cover my bases in case the person I think I’m building a relationship with does not see it the way I do.

The ‘zoo animal’ feeling is what has me contemplating my career choice.  I fear everyone talking about me behind my back, the stories getting warped into fabrications, and ultimately, me getting into trouble from an untrue rumor. I have always been the kid who fears trouble because I never wanted any attention on me. I hate when people raise their voice – it’s frightening in a way that’s hard to explain.

Teaching is a life-long learning process. For example, it’s frowned upon to say ‘pissed’ and ‘frick’ in front of middle schoolers, yet acceptable with older high school children who understand the context of the word. This is what I mean about being politically incorrect in a politically correct environment; knowing what is appropriate to say and what is not okay to say is vital to my success and employment as a teacher. There are no rule books. No clear lines drawn in the sand. I have the self-actualization to comprehend that I have an abrasive personality. I get along with most students because I’m able to connect with them, but there are a few that do not understand or appreciate me due to my abrasiveness. I’m constantly worried about offending people or upsetting them, but concurrently am not able to change my personality to be someone I’m not.  

I do not think we should crucify someone based on one infraction or small mistake. It’s so hard because I hear the negativity, the smack talk, the banter between colleagues and it’s hard not to think about stepping out of the room and them talking that way about me. I’m still learning, and nobody says anything to my face about my performance.

Here’s an example: I’ve been parking in the same spot for 6 months of school. Nobody ever told me where teachers can/can’t park, so I selected an area that I’ve seen teachers, administrators, or office people park before. 6 months. After these many, many months, the athletic director escorts me into his office to tell me he has “been nominated” to tell me about “the parking situation”. Apparently, I was parking in someone else’s designated spot. No name plaque, not an ‘actual’ designation, just someone claimed that spot and parks there every day. For 6 months I was pissing this person off. Instead of alerting me about the unspoken code of conduct, this person just complained until someone with a straight set of human decency told me otherwise. It was mortifying.

This is the type of thing that makes me want to quit and find something else to pay the bills. I can be doing something wrong without even knowing I’m doing something wrong. But in the end, it’ll be my responsibility and I’ll own it no matter what happens.

Point blank- I’m not perfect. I’ll always be ‘Haley’ and nobody else. I cringe at the idea of putting on a mask for 10 hours a day to please a system that is guided by fear of public scrutiny and legal matters. 

I know a lot of this post was disjointed and jumped around, but thanks for listening.

Shit that is stressing me out

  1. Working with toxic adults in a professional environment
  2. Volleyball season & figuring out how to balance female athletes’ emotions
  3. Josh’s deployment
  4. School starts again in 6 weeks
  5. My sister is getting into trouble and tearing up our family
  6. Bills
  7. My crappy apartment: whether or not to move
  8. Losing Ezra & Helix (my other cat) is stressed out about it
  9. My relationships with my husband and my friends
  10. Cherishing the time I have left