Monthly Archives: May 2016

#YearbookForever

When my first principal called and asked me to take over yearbook, I said no. In my mind, I said a whole lot more than no. Newspaper was part of my soul. I’d grown up revering Walter Cronkite and reading newspapers. I fell in love with journalistic writing in high school when my adviser Mrs. Gillespie introduced me to the wonderful world of UIL and then taught me how to win.

We toured TRN and the people working at paste up with the light boards and glue and tape were so happy. And the smell of ink and paper…ahhhh. Heaven. And the reporters with their cubicles and frenetic pace. And the editor and his big office with the giant conference table for planning the issues. Yes. This was perfection. I’d found my purpose.

But yearbook? No. Just no. It was a bunch of debutantes and cheerleaders and preppy boys. No, thank you. (Former students, stick with me here. There’s a moral to this story.)

The excuse I gave was not so disparaging. I just started my MA, so I wouldn’t have time. No, thank you.

But that principal didn’t take no for an answer. He told me to call a crosstown J adviser I knew from student teaching who advised both programs and who had finished her MA advising both. I called Linda Fain, and she told me I’d be crazy not to do both because teaching English was waaaayyyy more difficult than advising yearbook.

So, cheerleader, debutantes and preppy boys all, I took on the job of yearbook adviser. It took less than a day for me to realize stereotypes suck for a reason. Because yes, yearbook was filled with all those types of kids. Just like newspaper, it was filled with all types of kids period. AND cheerleaders, debutantes and preppy boys were the same kind of wonderful as all the other types of kids out there.

By this time I had three years of newspaper kids, so the program was finally mine. I knew nothing about yearbook, though. I mean NOTHING. I only had one of my high school yearbooks (now one of my biggest regrets). I never thought yearbook was important. I mean it was pretty and all, but it was filled with all the “popular, preppy, pretty” kids so who cared? (Again, stereotypes suck. Man, I had a chip on my shoulder I didn’t even know existed back then.)

My first group of editors taught me the truth about yearbook. Yes, the yearbook is filled with photos of kids who carry the school’s spirit. If they go to everything, they’re in the book more. AND they should be.  BUT the yearbook is so much more. It’s a writing, art and creativity laboratory where kids take the school and transform everything that’s awesome about it into a book format so that those memories last forever. It’s about making an archivable product that people open and say, Holy Cow! This is the best school ever. I want to go there! It’s about telling those stories that last forever in the best way possible: through words, photos or design. It’s about giving the invisible a voice, if they want it, and showing how even though we’re all different, we’re still all Raiders (insert whatever mascot if you’re reading this and not part of Raider Nation). It’s a stereotype breaker, a demanding product that requires hours of time, complete collaboration and thinking outside the box or else it gets redundant, and you don’t want that. It’s on the job training, summer training, fall training and constantly working to get better and better and better. It’s OHMYGOD nerve-wracking because what if people don’t like it?!? It’s a place to learn the thick skin needed when you have the courage to publish your work because GUARANTEED someone WON’T like it. It’s fun and amazing and hard and, dear Jesus, it’s expensive. BUT it’s also so, so priceless.

And it’s a lot like newspaper. Different, but the same.

And I love it.

That chip on my shoulder was smashed to pieces when I took on the yearbook, and I’m a better teacher because of it.

I thought yearbook was fluff. I’ve learned it’s life. It’s the school. It’s forever.

I’m so, so blessed.

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18 yearbooks advised this year. 21 newspapers. #Awesome

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Don’t feed the monster

One of my students came in with hurt feelings yesterday. The kids were a little overzealous with their yearbook marketing and some people were mad–one of the things they were mad about were standard marketing ploys, one crossed a line. Instead of coming to see me, some of those upset kids took it out on my student instead. Not okay. 
BUT

The lesson here was huge.

See, some of the kids who were mad DID come to see me and my response was either I’m sorry that was not okay OR oh, come on, you know that was funny. In both cases the issue was resolved immediately. Overzealous: window chalk. Those kids who were upset said, you know what? It wiped right off. It wasn’t really that big of a deal. Standard marketing: you’re right. That was funny.

The thing is the kids who didn’t come see me weren’t interested in really fixing anything. They just wanted to gripe and complain. They like drama. They live for those Real Housewives table flipping moments. OR

They weren’t really all that upset until they ran into the drama is my main game person and the little thing turned into a big thing. Not a REAL big thing but one of those righteous indignation over cold oatmeal problems.

Both negative groups can be tough. But you need to be aware of which you’re facing and you must NEVER feed the monster. (Drama, drama, drama!)

It was a good conversation for me to have because I’ve been the grumpy make an avalanche out of a snowball person and I’ve avoided facing issues that could easily be diffused when I’m facing those dramafied people. I actually think I learned more in a five minute conversation than my student did! 

Peace

It’s so easy to get to end of a school year and reflect on the things that made the going rough. For me, once again, I struggled this year with letting go and letting God. It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life. I want to jump in there and control the mess even when it can’t be controlled. It’s like trying to reign in a tornado, it’s just not going to happen, and still I try. 

I’m sick and it’s yearbook delivery week, so I have to be at school. Yesterday I prayed seeking peace instead of that urgency to “fix” the messes. 

Today there were so many messes, but the peace was there, too. A complete acceptance that there truly are things I can’t fix and that has to be okay. 

And it is. Okay, I mean. Usually I say the words with all the sincerity of a cereal commercial. This time, it’s crazy how completely okay I am. (God, please let this continue next week with yearbook distribution!)

I guess I’ve stumbled on to the perfect let go, let God combination: sick+end of year stresses+mayhem=peace. I don’t understand the psychology of that equation, but it’s working. 😊

Happy Mother’s Day

To all the moms in my life now and in the past, thank you.

To my mom, I love you. I don’t know how you did it, growing up the lone girl with seven brothers. You became Mom in such a time of change. You raised me to be a strong independent woman, to believe in myself and chase my dreams. You encouraged me to think and to learn and to read everything. You prayed and played with me and still do, thanks to Phase 10, where playing and praying go hand in hand. 

Thank you, Mom. I love you.

*this is one of my favorite family photos. ❤️

Wherein I venture into TMI Territory

I thought about starting with one of those clever little stories that make people laugh, but ditched that idea to get straight to the point.

I started menopause early. As in before 40. As in almost a decade ago. (If the word menopause freaks you out, stop reading now because EVERYTHING that follows is about that.)

Dr. said it was unusual but since I was healthy, no big deal.

And I bought that. I mean I had an 18-year-old daughter at home going through all those preparing to leave the nest growing pains. Who the heck cared about a little menopause grumpiness added in for good measure?

The next year I was fumbling through empty nest syndrome AND recovering from a nasty injury. A few extra tears meant nothing.

I’ve gained and lost 140 pounds–70 pounds TWICE–since then. (I’m on the losing side of things again now. It’s Low Carb High Fat for life where I’m concerned from now on. Feel free to eat cake in my presence. I’ll be snacking on a ribeye and maybe a cheese stick.)  I’ve always been a yo-yo dieter, but dear God in Heaven menopause made things crazy.

I gained enough weight this yearbook season to make yearbook distribution a symbolic birth. No kidding. My ability to hold tight to positivity in the face of darkness has switched to snarky sarcastic bitter don’t-mess-with-me-I’ll-go-Mommy-effing-Dearest on you. I’m usually pretty good about keeping those moments to myself….but sometimes it ekes out, and boy is it ugly.

Hot flashes….ha. More like dips into the Lake of Fire.

Simmering rage….uhm…never mind.

Stress…I used to love stress. I used to LIVE for those double deadline computer crashes, teenage drama, come on guys let’s have a dance party moments. Let’s just say there’s been a flip in feelings there. And OhMyGod if a kid gets mouthy, something I used to laugh off…no. Just no. I have to literally bite my tongue.

Exercise helps. Low carb helps. Escaping into a great book helps. Large groups of people make me want to rip my hair out. Large groups of rude people nearly send me over the edge. This year it’s like I’m not even me.

I’m giving it three months to get better, and if it’s not better, I’m going to the doctor and saying give me the hormones who cares about the side effects. It’s that or take up daily doses of tequila. Never mind. Tequila gives me hot flashes and God knows if I have more of those I’m liable to find out that X-Files about spontaneous combustion was actually based on fact.

So pray, people, pray. Something has to change.