realizations, teaching, time management

So you say you’re a practicum student…

How I Survived the Practicum Semester

(Hint: I often thought I wouldn’t)

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Just doing homework at a resort, nbd. Because y’all, #priorities

 

Teaching is tiring, student teaching is tiring, and practicum is tiring—but practicum is tiring in an especially vindictive way.  During practicum, you’re doing coursework AND you’re in the schools.  Anyone who has spent time with children EVER will tell you that being around them and caring for them and teaching them and tying them—eh, their shoes—is exhausting.  And when you go from being around adults who know how to manage their bodily functions and emotions all day (mostly) to being around children who are very dependent on you for a large part of the day, it feels like getting hit by a Mack truck.  And after you’ve been hit by that Mack truck and leave at 3 pm, you have to go to the library at 6 o’clock at night to complete assignments for the next day.  Somewhere in there, you are also probably working because hi, practicum and student teaching are unpaid.  Practicum is also the worst because you’re only there part of the time (at least in my program—I went all day Monday and half-day Wednesday) so having a management structure is tricky, and sometimes the kids view you more as a fun adult who does cool lessons than someone who is actually there to teach them, just like the teacher.

ALL THAT BEING SAID: I survived.  In fact, after one lesson post-conference with my professor during that semester, I even cried as I said, “I just love my students so much.”  He smiled and said he could tell.  So this is what I did to make it more manageable:

 

  • FRONTLOAD THE ISH OUT OF YOUR HOMEWORK.

I got really good—and I mean, really, really good—at taking care of homework like clockwork.  Monotonous or routine assignments?  Easy.  Find a set time of the day and/or week to do them.  Knock out a bunch at once.  You can start with something small to get your productivity juices flowing, or you can start by taking a bite out of the elephant and working at the impossible seeming task first.  Either way, make a list of all of your assignments for the week.  Plot when you are going to do them each day, and work ahead.  I had Tues/Thurs/Wed/Fri classes during practicum, with the heaviest workload for my Tues/Thur classes.  I would stay at least a week ahead at a time with the reading.  It meant I was in the library from about 6:00-11:00 pm every night, because hi, I had to work and pay rent too.  But make a list, get ahead, and stay ahead.  Especially with the monotonous/repeating assignments.  Turning those assignments into things you do automatically will free up your brain space for things that take more energy and creativity, like lesson planning and implementation.

 

  • GO THE HECK TO SLEEP.

I mean it.  Practicum is busy and exhausting.  There is always a lot to do.  But please please please, go to sleep.  You will be stressed every day, but you will be able to handle your sleep if you are well-rested.  Sleep hygiene is the #1 factor in my mental and emotional health.  For some people it might be exercising (I can survive without exercise but I CANNOT survive without sleep) or yoga, but just find what makes the biggest difference in your mental and physical health and safeguard that.  During practicum I was careful to go to bed around midnight each night and get up at 7 on days I had college classes, and about 6 on days I was at the elementary school.  And yes, there were nights where I was so anxious that I would lay in bed for hours feeling my chest tighten at the thought of going to the classroom to the next day.  But sleep helps.  So get it, girl.

 

  • FIND YOUR STUDY BUDDIES; LOVE ‘EM HARD.

My cohort was pretty small and rather tight-knit.  The university I graduated from was small, and the school of education within that university even smaller, so by the time I was in practicum I had been in other classes with pretty much all the members of my cohort.  Within my cohort, though, I had two friends who I just happened to get closer to.  We would do homework together somewhat often (I am a social butterfly and teachers love to swap stories, good and bad alike, so sometimes working alone was better for me).  We always had a running group chat of whatever we needed to be working on for our assignments.  I knew I could count on them, and that made all the difference in the world.  That being said, **an important caveat**: don’t compare.  There will be days where you love your kids and think teaching is the most magical thing ever, and then there will be days where you want to stop and, projected graduate date be darned, switch your major.  Sometimes on your worst days, your classmate is having a great day and sends something cute their kids did.  Just don’t compare your worst day to someone else’s best, and all will be well.

 

  • SAFEGUARD SATURDAYS AS IF THEY ARE SACRED.

 

So after a week of frontloading all your assignments, working, going to practicum, and trying to stay sane, you’ve got two days on the weekend.  My Sabbath observance meant that I was mostly going to church, spending time with family, and doing peaceful, rejuvenating things on Sundays, so I didn’t want to spend time running errands or doing recreational things.  But I also didn’t want to waste my precious Saturdays running errands or doing laundry!  Yuck.  That meant that I had to get errands done during the week (add it to the list of assignments to frontload) so that I could have fun on Saturdays.  And WHOA, what a difference that made.  My Foundations of Ed professor would always give us the same homework assignment on Fridays: whatever reading was on the syllabus, and to go DO SOMETHING FUN.  “Teachers are terrible at taking care of themselves,” she’d say, “because there is always more to do.  But if you don’t take care of yourselves, you will burn out.”  So I worked hard during the week, I played hard on Saturday*, and I rested my body and my spirit on Sunday.  Taking Saturday to play and Sunday to rest was what allowed me to keep going.  Having a clear head come Monday enabled me to enjoy seeing my kids again.  It also allowed me to think in more creative ways about what I was teaching.

 

*I found it especially helpful if my Saturday play involved being outside.  I was inside under fluorescent lights all week.  Real vitamin D was needed.  During the week, if I was especially stressed, I would just go for a walk after class.  I’d take a long walk off-campus, away from the university, and I’d leave my phone at home (obvi this was daytime in a very safe location—you could also bring your phone but turn off notifications during your Thoreau time).  Get out in nature.  Feel that peace.  Move your body.  You’ll return to your work happier because of it.

 

  • FIND OUT WHAT WORKS FOR ***YOU***

I can say all of these things now because I was very deliberate about figuring out my stress management and work habit strategies.  One of the best pieces of advice I got was from a practicum student when I was like halfway through the education program.  She said to take the time to figure out your strategies for handling stress.  Take the time to get to know yourself.  Know what stresses you out or upsets you, and make plans for how you handle that.  Those are things you can turn to, almost robotically, when things get tough.  Like I said, one of my strategies was taking a walk.  I would even do that on the campus after a school day!  I realized that once kids left the room, my mentor teacher could go right into planning, but I was SO TIRED.  I just told her that I thought I needed about five minutes between kids leaving and us resuming our work, just to decompress.  I’d take a walk, go to the bathroom (don’t even get me started on teacher bladder), see the sunshine, and then I’d return and do the million and one things teachers do behind the scenes.  That worked for me.  Find out what works for you.  It’ll come in handy when you are on your own as well.

 

This is all to say…

 

Perhaps you’ve been doing all these things.  You are very bright, and you are very proactive, and you are not at all new at handling the whole “whoa, life and college are stressful” thing.  But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, give a few of these things a try.  You are going to be fine.  Promise.  You will make it.  This is a very short period of your life.  It is intense and it is exhausting, no doubt.  But you will make it.  Truth be told: student teaching was a lot easier for me than practicum.  I felt like my energies were more focused because I didn’t have coursework + lesson plans—all of my energy was just focused on the classroom (that last part isn’t entirely true—I had to complete my analysis of teaching practice, and a bunch of reflections, and put together a portfolio, and present these things…but those are small fries compared to the hefty and hearty work that is teaching little humans).  YOU WILL MAKE IT.

 

And teaching is worth it.  I have never loved doing anything as much as I love teaching.  So hang in there, dude.  You’ve got this.

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realizations

Things that make me happy:

  • Fresh vegetables with hummus
  • Lunches made for a whole week
  • Drawers full of clean laundry
  • Being ahead of schedule on my portfolio
  • Getting a full night’s sleep
  • Ice water, prefs w/ lemon, but defs with a straw
  • When my hair is curled
  • Ballerina-pink nail polish (aka OPI’s Hello Kitty Collection ‘Let’s Be Friends’)
  • Schedules
  • Crossing things off a to-do list
  • Soft clothes

 

 

byu, each life that touches ours, realizations

Dear Provo, I miss you.

A year and a half-ish ago, while visiting my sister in a city that is not Provo, Utah, I posted the following to my Instagram:

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I was in this funny state of in-betweenness.  I had an apartment in Provo and classes in the fall and a job and roommates and my best friend (when she wasn’t abroad, bless her wanderlust spirit).  But I also had this feeling that I was leaving Provo, at least for a while.  I was headed home, and that was unexpected and scary and humbling but so, so right.

So I post this thing and I don’t think much of it–because it really is a joke.  I mean, Provo is fabs, but some of it is so tough.  The comparison.  The vanity.  The sheer…pressure of it all.  Some of that is self-inflicted, sure, but I wasn’t alone in that.

When I left Provo I knew I’d miss the people, and the Chick-fil-a (bless the Chick-fil-a’s of Utah County, esp those on Bulldog Blvd and in the Wilk), and the Swig, but I never thought I’d miss the place.  I left quickly.  I didn’t really give myself time to think about it.

But now I know what I miss: I miss the In-N-Out runs at midnight.  I miss the Payson Temple.  I miss Zupa’s.  I miss the Provo Temple, and the Provo City Center Temple.  I miss the vending machine bagel sandwiches.  I miss the JFSB courtyard–the prettiest place in any season.  I miss the Maesar, and Karl–oh, Karl!! I miss J Dawg’s and the engineering building that I can’t remember the name of (the Clyde, maybe?  The one with the tiny women’s restroom that was so difficult to find?).  I miss the language lab on the second floor of the JKB, where you hear Mandarin, Arabic, and German spoken at tables right next to each other.  And oh, international cinema!  What a delight.  And Art After Dark!  So many great things.

I still feel myself to be a Cougar, true blue through and through, even though I won’t graduate from BYU (but hey, catch me in Laie on December 15th, won’t ya?).  I still feel that way because for so long, BYU meant everything to me.  (Even though I said forever that I had NO INTEREST in going to BYU.  Even though I visited other schools and had never stepped foot in Utah until two weeks before the start of freshman year.  Even though I complained about the weather and the lack of good chicken katsu.)  BYU and Provo encompassed so much.  They meant so much.  Provo brought me some of my dearest, and truest, friends.  Provo expanded my love of learning.  Provo sent me on my mission, and my mission more or less saved me.

BYU-Hawai’i has meant everything to me.  If Provo sent me on my mission, it’s my mission that sent me here.  And being here has been the greatest blessing (check out any and all of my social media posts from the past year to see/hear overflowing, gushing expressions of gratitude for all that this plot-twist life experience has been).  But I just want Provo to know:

 

You were my first love.

So have a good school year, BYU.  I still love you tons.  After all this time, always.

 

 

mormon, realizations

Why I won’t do homework on a sun-day

Before I get started, here is what you should know:

I love school.

No, really, I love it.  I always have.  In fact, the summer before 1st grade, I asked to be in summer school, so every morning my dad would leave “worksheets” on the kitchen table for me to do.  I just love to learn.  I believe that our purpose in life is to learn and grow in order to become like our Heavenly Parents and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  When I learn, I feel myself growing closer to them, and I marvel at this world that was created for us.

But as much as I love school, and as important as it is to me, I also believe in the notion of a sabbath.  That term can mean different things to different people.  For many religious people, including myself, the Sabbath is a day (perhaps sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, perhaps Sunday) to rest from typical labors, worship God, and reconsecrate oneself to Deity.  Certain customs may be observed–part of my personal observance typically includes attending worship services, abstaining from shopping or dining out, and reflecting on my relationship with God through journaling and/or scripture study–all with the intent of regaining focus on what matters most in a busy world.

When I was a junior in high school, I decided to devote myself on the Sabbath hardcore.  Let me rephrase that: I didn’t change my observance, but my circumstances made my observance more difficult.  A typical day went like this:

5:10 am Wake up, get in car for early-morning seminary

5:25 am Arrive at early-morning seminary class (my mom was the teacher, so we were always early)

5:50-6:35 am Early-morning Seminary

6:35 am-6:50 am Travel home

7 am Prepare (Unless I went straight to school from seminary, in which case–homework)

8 am Leave for school

8:30-2:30 pm School (Or was it 2:40? 1:47? Does anyone who went to Moanalua High School understand the bell schedule there? I still don’t.)

2:30-5:00 pm, or maybe 6:00 pm, or maybe 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm Band or orchestra rehearsals, track practice, student association meetings, homecoming practice…who knows what else I ever did

I guess I did homework sometime after that, because I was taking 8 classes (the typical schedule at my school was 6 classes), and two of those were AP classes, and I was the vice president of the student association, and part of the National Honor Society and blahblahblah I WAS BUSY.

I decided to stick, hardcore, to my decision not to do homework on Sundays.  I wanted that day to be for God, and–if we’re being honest–my spiritual immaturity also led me to have a fear that if I didn’t stick with it, God would smite me and I would not get a 4.0 GPA.  Because, you know, He’s like that.  (Not.)

Several months later, I had an ecclesiastical leader make an unsolicited comment to me about the Sabbath and studying.  I was applying to universities at the time, and he reminded me that if I went to a certain one on my list I was likely to encounter many students would not study on Sundays.  I could understand their viewpoint, since it was my own.  But that good bishop reminded me that to learn is to become more like God.  That conversation didn’t lead to me block off my entire Sunday for studying–that felt like an abuse of the day–but it did help me to understand the sacredness with which I ought to regard my schooling.  That conversation is why I can’t stand to do a poor job on an assignment.  I’m not learning to earn a mark; I’m learning to become more like my Father in Heaven.

All this being said, one thing I have learned from my less-than-perfect attempts to keep the Sabbath day holy is the principle of recovery.  Rest.  Replenishing.

In his (phenomenal) book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Daniel H. Pink describes how to “take a sabbath” as a means of regaining mindfulness in our lives:

Select one day a week and remove yourself from the maw.  Stop working.  Don’t answer your email.  Ignore your voice mail. Turn off your mobile phone.  Most Western religions have established a Sabbath–the seventh day of the week–as a time of peace, reflection, and prayer.  Whatever your faith, consider experimenting with the practice.  (And this need not be religious at all.  Secular Sabbaths can be equally re-energizing.)…Sabbaths, however momentary, can be important punctuation marks in busy lives.  (Riverhead Books, 2005).

This principle has helped me to feel calm during hectic semesters because I–the chronic type-A, focused, semi-workaholic student–believe in taking not one, but two days off from homework.  I try to avoid homework on Sundays, and I do the same on Saturdays.  I joke that Saturdays are sacred to me, too.  On Sundays, I worship.  On Saturdays, I play.  Both help me prepare to work and serve and teach and study and collaborate very, very well Monday through Friday.

This was my day yesterday:

8 am Wake up roommates, get ready for the beach

9-11 am BEACH BEACH BEACH followed by (sun)BURN (sun)BURN (sun)BURN

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11 am PLATE LUNCHES OF GLORY from Papa Ole’s (obviously ingested very, very quickly)

12 noon OMG there is a Sodalicious equivalent in Laie?  Prayers of gratitude all around.  (And everyone really should go check out So’Da Bomb–they’re wonderful and couldn’t be more friendly.)

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2 pm Shower, nap, get dressed with no rush

4 pm Meet up with friends at the temple

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6 pm Meet up with friends for sushi

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8:30 pm Continue the delicious food day with homemade ice cream (okay, okay, confession–neither the ice cream nor the plate lunch were ingested quickly…I just thought I’d saved pics of them from my Snapstory…and then I realized I hadn’t…)

10:30 pm Pick up something for the linger longer meal after church tomorrow, chat with a beloved friend

#blessed

12 midnight Go home wicked happy

That’s how I stay afloat each semester.  I believe in working hard, and worshipping hard, and playing hard too.  And I live by the counsel of a modern prophet of God, who said

Pres & Sis Hinckley

In all of living, have much fun and laughter.  Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.

-Gordon B. Hinckley

 

Happy Sabbath, sweet humans.  Let’s go rock this week.

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realizations

It’s been a minute, but I’ve got a story.

Yesterday my flight took off forty minutes late.  This wouldn’t be a problem, except that I only had a fifty-minute layover, and my connection took off ten minutes early (I didn’t even realize taking off early was a thing).  I wasn’t thrilled about taking a later flight, but then all of these things happened:

I got a snack, and the employee discounted my purchase (I paid it forward with her tip).

My yogurt was delicious.

I found a great book and got some candy that I rarely eat but really love.

I got to charge my phone.

When I got on my flight, no one was sitting in the two seats next to me. I had an entire row to myself!

I watched four episodes of a hilarious tv show and had to stop myself from laughing out loud.

The  flight attendant gave me pretzels, cookies, and peanuts.

After a trip away from home, that layover and that flight were delightful introvert recharging time for me.  (I ended up throwing up on the flight–a first–due to some wicked turbulence, but that’s a story for another time.)

When I got home, I took a shower, my dad brought me some Sprite, and I settled into the comfiest pajamas and the comfiest bathrobe and snuggled up under my new Moana blanket.  I fell asleep as the fireworks went off.  It was the best.

 

This reminded me of a pattern in my life.  I (almost always) know what I want, but then I don’t get it, because God has something better in store.  He knows what I need without my even knowing what I need.  I wanted to get home quickly–He knew I needed that layover.  I wanted to be an English major–He knew I’d love teaching.  I wanted to be married at 21–He knew it was not the right time.  I couldn’t see it then, but I am so, so glad that I was not getting married in the midst of what happened the year I was 21. I’m so glad for rescheduled flights, and failed relationships, and promptings to move.  I’m so glad for all of the times I have not gotten what I’ve wanted, because then there has been room for what I’ve needed.