that perfect hand…

In Ocean's 11, Danny said that "the house always wins. If you play long enough, never change the stakes, then the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big… and then, you take the house." Here's the hand I've been dealt, sometimes it's risky and sometimes it's safe, but all the time… it's perfect. It's mine.


being teacher.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea, this one might make you wish I published it in a Reader’s Digest so your eyes didn’t burn so much from the computer screen’s glare…

I’m trying to decide how I feel about this career choice. There is so much work involved in preparing and creating and deciding and learning all the material that needs to be covered for even one 80 minute period. I spent all weekend crafting my introductory lesson to Macbeth and before I walked out the door on Monday, I told Mom I was afraid that I had too much to cover/expected too much. I was surprised to find we covered everything and more over 70 minutes, leaving 10 minutes of “oh no, what now” ringing in my head.

And it’s not just the preparation, it’s the teaching. It’s a difficult task to comprehend something my self so entirely thoroughly before I teach it so that I can ensure my kids will understand it the way I’ve decided they need to. Again, how I decide. Shakespeare is hardly my second language, so expecting 19 grade 11 students to have a love affair with it themselves is a bold request — so my goal is to simply challenge them to give it a chance. However, remember when your teachers in high school or beyond talked about staring into a sea of glossed over eyes and stunned looks of “what the heck are you talking about”? It’s the truth. High school = a whole other world.

In a week, I’ve learned many things.

I have learned that while one lesson and day might go perfectly according to plan, successful both in delivery and student engagement, the next day might be a fail beyond repair. Then the next day, I won’t even recognize the faces that stare at me in earnest… ready to learn. It’s constantly changing and dynamic and unpredictable… they weren’t kidding when they said to be prepared; and be prepared for anything.

I’m also learning that I can’t take things personally. I am so far off the kids’ priority radar that even if I bomb a lesson in my head, they aren’t the wiser nor will they remember the next day. They have boyfriends, girlfriends, after school job, drama, sports and the playoffs, TV shows, obsessions with Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga (oh yes!), break ups and make ups to deal with — far more important than Miss Stam whose knees have gone weak and stomach flip-flops when they haven’t been able to answer three questions in a row as my mind races with insecurity. So as I learn that I can’t take things personally, I am quickly learning how much I truly do carry burdens, of all sorts, in my heart. Seems like more lessons than just for teacher me.

I’m learning tricks of the trade — how to be friendly without being friends, what battles to fight and battles to ignore, and the list goes on and on. I have been blessed with a great group of kids who genuinely seem to enjoy me, which has made this a much more enjoyable transition. My 9s, who I get in a week and a half, seem a lot more distant and a lot harder to please or engage, but they are even more concerned with Justin Bieber than my 11s so I am not too worried.

To say I am humbled is an understatement. In fact, as an English teacher, I feel like I should invent a word that describes how I feel since I can’t seem to come up with the right one. High school students make me so happy… they are funny and obnoxious and emotional and thoughtful and careless and innocent while being experienced and almost wholly real. I know, I know, when you think of your own high school experience, you remember the fake parts and the cliques and insecurity or whatever else there is and I know that all exists. But when I am standing there in front of the room and there are 19 people sitting there, waiting to hear what I have to say, trusting me (albeit, not by choice) and respecting me and opening up to me, well, it’s much easier to see high school students for who they are when you’re teaching them, not being their peer. Make sort of sense?

The stories are already piling up, the comments and anecdotes and encounters are too hilarious to attempt to put into words — plus, I don’t want to privatize my blog so we’ll have to just save those for a coffee date one day. I’ve now had two official evaluations. One by a university supervisor and one by my mentor teacher and they both went super well. The things I have to work on are minor, mostly about disciplinary tactics (being a bit more harsh) or waiting a bit longer for them to answer questions but all in all, I think I am doing well.

Learning lots but not excelling — and in so many ways, I am glad I am not. I think humility is a huge, if not the biggest, part of this job. And realizing that it most definitely is not all about me, and I like that.

Going into the first day, I really wondered how it all would go, especially since I was blessed with no anxiety or fear whatsoever. Even though the fear comes and goes and my confidence is fairly shaky, Miss Stam truly seems to fit like a well worn glove already and when I am standing in front of those kids I know I am exactly where I dreamed of being for so long; were I am sure that I am supposed to be. It also feels pretty darn cool to have my kids step away from their groups in the hallway to say “Hey Miss Stam… I can’t wait for class!”

Me either.

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comfort(ing) zones

In an e-mail from Megan a number of months back she wrote something that has continually resonated deep within me:

“Life for me is very busy and humbling, I am always learning new things and never excelling at much.”

That is summation of my week thus far. It’s not so much being out of my comfort zone but it’s finding something oddly comforting about feeling entirely out of place. Does that make sense? I am so excited for this challenge although the prep feels insurmountable. I have a pretty good set up — my official start day is Monday and I don’t teach until the last block. I only have 19 kids. The majority are guys so I am a little interested to see how Shakespeare goes over with them. Did I mention how glad I am to teach Shakespeare? There is so much creative liberty I can take with the play, my resources are piling up. All of a sudden I feel like the next five weeks are going to pass in a breath. What’s more, my sponsor teacher has given me no stipulation what-so-ever so I, literally, get to decide this entire thing. So it’s a debate now… unit test or final project? Journals or quizzes? Seriously, I think after the training I have gone through, I feel compelled to go to every single teacher I’ve ever had and give them a high five for all they did.

As for my Social Studies class, I haven’t met them yet but the unit should be pretty decent as well — I am teaching the settlers arrival in Canada. It’s grade 9. Anyway.

Back to Megan’s quote — I am terrified of not excelling. I know that it is a reality but remember awhile back when I posted about being, by nature, a winner and not risking things unless I know I will be 100% successful? Consider this my first conscious step forward in the direction of not having a clue if I will excel or not. But hey, I guess that’s part of the learning right? Either way, it’s comforting and sobering and I am excited for Monday.



to be or not to be?

So I start in the morning as a high school teacher… I think I am doing 4 days of fairly heavy observing and planning before officially beginning on Monday, April 19. While I struggle with unpreparedness and what to wear, how to do my hair, and the pending woe of assessment, my biggest concern today is seemingly trivial one: what should I be called? “Miss” seems like the obvious answer all things considering, especially since I am not a “Mrs.” yet (at least, not that I know of). Then again, my mentor said a lot of people choose “Ms.” because it’s so ambiguous and keeps the kids guessing… Is Ms. Stam married? Is she divorced? Is her last name even Stam? You get the idea.

So what should I be called? Leave a comment… I need your help on this one. Highly, highly stressful —  and at least I can use your input here since I can’t get you to write my lesson plans.

Alright, send me your opinions.