Revision Blues

Those of you who follow this blog know that I’ve been struggling with an article revision for awhile now. Today, I finally broke down the article that I wanted to write about building an emergent professional identity as a teacher of literacy and it turns out that while I’m really excited about this article, I can use all of about 15% of my past article.

These are the moments that the writing and revising process really frustrate me. I know that there was purpose in doing the work that I’ve done and that perhaps some of the ideas from the other piece will come up again in a later piece, but in this moment, I feel like I’m starting over again (because I basically am) and that is a bit discouraging.


What’s the Big Deal About (Educator) Identity?

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written. Ironically, hours after my last entry, “Ebb & Flow,” I was involved in a minor car accident in which I totaled my car and had to really think about the balance or lack thereof in academic and personal life. So, I’ve taken a couple weeks to sleep, reflect more privately than publicly and regroup before coming back to the blog.

But, here I am, thinking aloud publicly again, on the topic of identity.

I wrote a recent piece that was ostensibly about the adoption of an identity as a “teacher of literacy” in addition to an identity as a “teacher of content” among secondary single subject teacher candidates (middle & high school teachers who get a credential in a particular subject). My argument was that, by expanding one’s notion and understanding of literacy in a way that allowed for the relevance of literacy to be an important part of one’s emergent instructional identity, literacy teacher educators played an important role in supporting the development of teachers who would not only teach students math, PE, music, or social studies, but also teach them to be literate in these fields.

The article was rejected for not bringing sufficient new “insights” to the table.

So, as we academics do, I went back to the drawing board and infused the article with evidence that teacher candidates not only developed a stronger sense of their identity as teachers of literacy and teachers of content, but that they also developed capacity to integrate literacy strategies into their lesson planning which supported their strength as overall teachers.

I haven’t resubmitted my article yet as I’m working with some feedback from a friend and fellow researcher about the fact that this additional information seems to take away from the identity lens, but I realized that my natural tendency to integrate “evidence of effectiveness” is a result of my questioning that teacher identity is really ENOUGH to be important.

This is ironic since my dissertation and first major research publication is on teacher professional identity.

It’s even more ironic since this blog is really about the struggle of the intersections of many parts of my identity: mother, assistant professor, teacher educator, writer (not to mention those roles like wife and friend that don’t even make it onto the blog most of the time).

Well, and to add another layer of irony, identity is the lens through which I think about most of my life as well. My identity as a mother has, in large part, shaped advice that I give my students in many areas such as homework, communication with families, and classroom management. My identity as a social justice educator frames the texts I use and the way that I present literacy in my classroom, as I push students to read the world as well as the word. My identity as a teacher educator shapes the way I approach my son’s schooling, my social media use, and to some extent my interactions with friends.

We bring in who we are, everywhere we go.

So, in many ways, identity is not only enough to be important, it’s the driving force behind many of our choices, personal and professional. And, if my article wasn’t sufficiently insightful, perhaps it didn’t suffer from a lack of importance so much as a lack of clarity.

I’m not sure yet, but I’m sure I’ll keep working at it until I figure something out. After all, tenacity in reflection is a sure (and important) part of my professional identity. I’ll keep the blog posted…

Ebb and Flow

Today is a new day.

This morning when I woke up, I was not feeling cheery and optimistic about facing this day. In fact, really what I wanted to do was sleep for most of the day, resign my service duties at work, quit the PTA and wallow in my misery. Fortunately for me, I resisted these strong urges and got myself out of bed.

My son wasn’t feeling great this morning and I was worried about sending him to school. He didn’t have a fever, but was a little sniffly and actually slept in past 6 am which is a rarity on a school day, and of course, I was worried that I had caused him irreparable scarring for life by going to last night’s PTA meeting which had also caused me a few flesh wounds. Still, he insisted on going to school (he was worried about falling behind on his homework and missing the barbecue at daycare after school) so I drove him and dropped him off.

On the way back to my car, I talked with a friend & fellow mom who listened empathetically to my plight of feeling overwhelmed and shared that it sounded less like it was the commitments that were bothering me and more about the inflexibilities in time these commitments created. This made a lot of sense to me. When I can do things at my own pace (and often at my own place), I tend to feel a lot less stress and pressure. It was a great brief conversation to start my day and the dark cloud over my head began to lift a bit.

Then I went to the bank and got a smoothie for myself. This may not seem particularly revelatory, but after yesterday, it’s the little things that need to be celebrated.

When I got home, I had a productive day full of letters of recommendations, discussion board posts, pen pal coordination for my courses, revision of a manuscript, ordering Halloween costumes & plane tickets for the kids, a belated birthday gift for a friend, lunch and a nap. Then I took off early to pick up my son so we could hang out for a bit before I leave for a meeting at 6pm.

When I got to daycare, my son was smiling, feeling a lot better and had a plateful of barbecue food to take in the car. We joked and laughed on our way home where he’s now working on his homework before he’s going to show me some moves on his new video game. He even just put his paper plate in the recycling without being asked.

Do I feel like world’s best mom, best academic or best person today? No. Feelings leave emotional hangovers. But, I feel my full humanity which is an asset to my motherhood, my academic life and to myself. And, it’s a reminder that this journey is about ebb and flow, about growing and learning, all while shedding a few tears of imperfection along the way.

The Struggle

This post will pretty much be the opposite of the post that I wrote this morning, but it has to be written, as a record of what happens when I don’t listen to myself, when I don’t take breaks and when I don’t honor who I am, trying instead to please others or be the person, scholar, parent, that I feel like others think I should be.

I end up feeling like a hot mess.

I don’t use that term lightly because literally, sitting and writing this post, I feel just broken.  It’s hard to believe that 24 hours ago I wrote the last post that I did about taking a break.  What happened wasn’t anything particularly unusual, but it was a reminder that my life can easily spiral into overcommitment at my own hands.  Each individual action is well thought out and doesn’t take a lot of time or energy, but put together, it’s almost like a self-induced hazing.  Let’s relive my day.

Last night, I got home from my trip later than I usually go to bed and I haven’t been sleeping well so I woke up this morning in a bit of sleep deficit.  I took my son to school and then headed to work where I went to 3 successive meetings from 9 am- 1:30 pm (with maybe a 5 minute walking break between each, one of which I serve as the recorder for–I volunteered for that AND then I decided to volunteer for another ad hoc committee because I like the people on the committee–thank God they served lunch at my noon meeting!). I then ran copies to prepare for class in the 30 minutes I had between my meetings and office hours.  After working through office hours responding to discussion board posts, grading assignments and tinkering with lectures, I got a chance to chat with one of a dear former student which resulted in me leaving campus right in time for rush hour.

I got home at 5:25pm.  I had to leave for the Mandarin Immersion Parent (MIP) meeting and PTA meeting at 5:45pm.  In between, I scarfed down a sausage and promised my crying son (who hadn’t seen me all weekend and was not going to see me that night because of these back to back meetings and also won’t see me tomorrow night because I have to get the PTA taxes done) that I would pick him up early from daycare tomorrow because he just wanted to show me some video game moves on his new game, but he knew he wouldn’t finish his homework in time to show them to me.  Then I left for the meeting, started my copies when I got to school, went to the MIP meeting then immediately to the PTA meeting where I literally lost it because someone suggested that we return money to people who had purchased shirts who were volunteers (I am the PTA treasurer.  I have spent literally 5-7 hours/week, minimum since school started on this non-paid, volunteer position so the time required to do this may not have seemed like much of a price to pay to do the right thing for these volunteers, but I began to wonder who does the right thing for the volunteers who serve on the PTA board.  This “not much time” is not much off of the nothing that I have left at the end of a day like today).

I left the meeting and called my best friend crying.  It was a hard day.  He reminded me of the place I was in less than 24 hours before and urged me to remember that place.  My student had pretty much said the same thing in urging me to let go of some of the things that I hold myself to doing all the time, which, while valuable, were not my passion.

And it’s true.  I know I need to do these things.  I have seen the fallacy of giving when there is nothing in one’s own well.  I have counseled my teacher candidates against giving so much that there is nothing left.

But, it’s a struggle. It’s a struggle to give and give and give and to end up feeling like it is never enough, that you are never enough and that you are always letting someone down at the end of the day.  I know that this struggle is not the truth, that I am a good mother, teacher, scholar, volunteer, friend, but when my own tank is empty, it is difficult to feel like I am enough.

So, I guess it’s time to take another break or time to work again on creating a more sustainable life.  While this may not happen in a day, this blog post is a first step.  My life isn’t perfect.  I’m not great at everything.  I work really hard and sometimes I let others down, but I am proud of my truth and proud of who I am (not just what I do) and that will have to be the first step towards good enough.

Taking a Break

This weekend I did something that I rarely do.  I listened to myself.

I had planned a weekend trip away from home a few months ago.  I had planned this weekend, after I submitted my Reappointment file, to celebrate my birthday and my submission.  Originally, I had thought I would take a Friday to a Monday (since I don’t teach on Fridays or Mondays), but Friday flights were too expensive and about 3 weeks ago, this Monday suddenly became a Monday of meetings from 9am-4pm (plus PTA in the evening) and my relaxing weekend suddenly became a turnaround trip.  I almost cancelled.

But I didn’t.  Instead, I rescheduled my Monday flight for Sunday night, decided not to overbook myself trying to see everyone and their mother and made sure that I spent this weekend celebrating in a quiet, honoring and connected (with the few people I did see) yet disconnected (I didn’t spend a lot of time online) space.  I rested; I recharged; I spent time with some really important people; I ate well; I took naps; I listened to my body and I listened to my heart; I let go of the things I couldn’t control and stayed grateful for each moment that I had.

And I realized, I need to do this more often.

In a life that is full of giving and serving, responding to the needs of others in love and making a difference, sometimes remembering oneself is the best gift in the world.  I’m thankful for a weekend in which I can remember how truly loved and understood I am and how essential this is to my well-being.

The Morning After (a blogging challenge)

Yesterday, after completing Teach Thought’s 30-day Reflective Teacher Blogging Challenge, I felt a great sense of gratification at being done and being able to return to my daily blog-free life–or at least not feeling obligated to blog each day.

Then, a funny thing happened this morning.  While I have plenty to grade and do and think about, I realized that I had about 10 minutes of time in the morning after breakfast before dropping off my son in which I could try cramming in grading a couple of lesson plans (and feel inevitably rushed), read somewhat frivolous entertainment stories and what’s trending on Facebook, or I could blog.

So, I figured I’d blog.

It’s interesting that without a topic after writing to a prompt for the last 30-days seems a little odd, but I so appreciate that over the last month, I’ve written at least 5 hours (averaging 10 minutes a day for 30 days) Although I probably need to focus some of that writing mojo towards a revise-and-resubmit article or one that was not accepted, but that I feel has a lot of merit, the act of daily writing has been liberating.  It’s reminded me that I can compose things that people will read or not read, but that helps me to clear my mind, to practice my craft (even if it is largely brain dumping), to record my thoughts–it’s a luxury and a break.  Something simple that I can give to myself in the midst of a pretty complex life.

And it gets me present to the fact that I’m grateful for writing and grateful that writing is part of this academic life.  Ah, the gift of blogging…