All the Feels

It’s been an exhausting two weeks away from my family, traveling for work.

There have been many moments when I have questioned personal and professional choices, when I’ve been disappointed by people, and when I’ve wondered if I should just curl up for a long winter’s nap (I know it’s spring), do (and worry) less, and find a new calling.

But this morning, like last Saturday morning, I got to be with teachers, and not just any teachers, but teachers deeply committed to their practice, to growing in their professional lives and to remaining in a field that often tries to push them out. I got to be in community with these beautiful people who have been in community with one another throughout the year, who are working towards practices grounded in justice within unjust systems, working to make schools places that serve, affirm, and challenge all students, working towards better futures and becoming better teachers.

I love teaching and I love teachers.

I love learning, and I love opportunities to learn alongside teachers.

Teaching and supporting learning within the current contexts of schooling, particularly in public education spaces, is so complex. For teachers committed to more just futures for all students, it is even more complex. And yet, there are teachers who persist. There are teachers who, even after the exhaustion of their school days and through long school years, reach out to community, seek to grow, continue to reconnect to their roots.

Like all humans, teachers are imperfect.

Perhaps teachers are even more aware of their imperfections than the general public. We are, after all, reminded of our imperfections (quite often, in middle school!).

Yet, somehow so many teachers persist in our humanity and strive to be better, for ourselves, our students, our communities and our futures.

Teachers, in all of their complicated humanity, inspire me.

Being around these wonderful educators this morning reminds me of the joys of this work, that education, true lifelong learning, brings forth so much beauty.

This morning also reminded me of the gift of being a teacher educator and the privilege of doing the work in my new context. What a privilege to walk alongside and learn from teachers, to advocate for space for teachers to grow and learn together, to be able to do research that can be used to amplify teacher voices. What an honor to be welcomed into teacher community, to learn and unlearn myself, to remember the importance of joy and rest as part of resistance.

It has been an undeniably exhausting two weeks. There is so much more I could say about these two weeks, about love and mentoring, about frustrations and growth, about speaking from my heart when I cannot be silent, about the complexities that make the world so difficult to navigate, about humanity.

But those things to say are for another day.

I couldn’t be more grateful to be going home.

AND I am grateful to have another home I am building alongside a new-to-me, but beautifully inspiring and growing community.

I am learning to listen to my heart, to stay in my body, to find integrity in the spaces in between. Sometimes it is a space only I know, but I am learning the value of those spaces.

I am growing. I am finding spaces to blossom.

It can be exhausting. I am still working on sustainability. I am finding beauty in community and grounding in the struggle. I am sure I will still have moments when I question all the things.

And also, I think that I can find many answers when I look to community.

Every New Beginning…

Photograph of Seattle skyline with Mount Ranier in the background. Sky is a shade of purple

Photo by Zhifei Zhou on Unsplash

[Note: There’s an announcement in this post. I’ll bold it if this is tl/dr for you.]

I quoted from Semisonic’s “Closing Time” as the title of a blog post at the end of my first semester as an Assistant Professor at CSULB. In that post, I talked about the challenges of mothering a 6-year old through transitions from a bilingual program we loved to a new unfamiliar school system, designing new syllabi, transitioning professional identities, and finding strength in my voice as a teacher educator. I also talked with joy about the opportunity to live out my dream of teaching teachers, a dream which might not be a very ordinary dream, but which was mine. I quoted from kind student comments in our end of semester reflections that grounded me in the heart of this work.

Today, I am, in many ways, a similar person — a MotherScholar, a teacher of teachers. I am a very human person who continues to struggle with bouts of imposter syndrome and tries hard not to compare myself to others.

I am still a MotherScholar who consistently wrestles with the tension between what is best for me and what is best for my family, who feels pulled in multiple directions, but grounded in the enduring love of the people who are my home.

I am still a teacher of teachers who loves teaching and teachers and is constantly learning from teachers and about teaching in ever evolving contexts.

I am still someone who struggles with comparing myself with others, with wondering whether I am good enough, with thinking about whether my work is the right kind of work, with doubting that I will live up to the expectations of others.

And also, in those 10.5 years, I have grown and changed. Just days after that post, my nephew would survive a mass shooting that would change our lives and my heart forever, making my grief and thoughts about collective grief a core of my public self. It would make this blog not just about an academic journey, but about a personal-professional journey because I would realize that the personal and professional (for me) are inextricably connected, that we are bound together in our humanity (if we let ourselves be), and that community is at the core of moving forward. (Note: I am aware that collective and public grieving is not the way for everyone, but this blog, at many moments, has been a source of deep connection to other grievers and to finding healing in my own humanity.)

I now see myself as a researcher, something I might not have said 10 years ago. I have been able to explore research on teachers and teacher educators in ways that have moved me and have helped me learn so much about myself, about teacher candidates and teachers, about teaching (my own and that of others), and about the ways structures and systems can often act to perpetuate the push up and push out of so many incredibly talented people from classrooms.

I am working on trusting myself and trusting my community, trusting the faith they have in me and that their love and respect are well-placed. I am working on the grace and humility necessary to respond (rather than react) when I am called-in and pushed to grow. I am working on trusting that the right opportunities open up at the right times, and it’s not for me to decide that I’m not good enough.

And so in all of that, I am invoking the lyrics of Semisonic once again to announce a new beginning:

Beginning January 1, 2024, I will be the Boeing Endowed Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Washington (Seattle) 

I will be staying at CSULB through the end of the fall semester 2023 to support the doctoral and masters students whose work I am chairing, as well as to support transition to a new department chair and finish up some grant work and curriculum development. I also get to teach one last class.

Our family will transition in time, the details of which are beyond the scope of this blog, but in a way which we’ve collectively decided is best for us.

This is a big next step for us, and for me, one that I have been processing for a couple of weeks, and am just now starting to fully embody and take in. If you know me, you know that the importance of this move is not in the title or institution themselves, but in the opportunities this position opens up for collective movement towards the greater good. I am grateful to be entrusted with these opportunities. And beyond all of this, I am so grateful for community, for the colleagues, friends, and family who literally made this move possible. I truly am because we are.

Stillness, Happiness, Hope

Photo of a small square black card on a red background with "Do what Makes you Happy" written in white script

It is a new year.

For the first time in many years, in the first two weeks of this new year, I have been held, I have been hopeful, and I have been (relatively) still.

I get stuff done.

I am always running.

I am often running from myself, from my fears.

Sometimes, I am running from what my heart wants most, and then running headlong towards it because I don’t know how to move towards the best things in my life with intentionality that honors who I am, what I deserve, and the communities that care for me so deeply.

This year, I want to move differently.

I want to do less. I want to force myself less. I don’t want to settle for less than I deserve.

This year, I am beginning with a pause.

In pause, there is space.

In space, there is creativity. There is beauty. There is hope. There is anticipation.

I am leaning into these things.

I am still afraid.

But I am sourcing courage from those who love me most. I am learning trust. I am trying to be patient.

I am working to do what makes me happy. I am allowing myself to want and to feel with my whole heart.

It hurts sometimes.

But sometimes it hurts to heal.

I am working on being more honest with myself, with my heart, with my limits.

I am being held (accountable) by those that love me more than I know how to love myself, who stand for better for me when I am unable to stand for myself, who are pushing for what’s best even though, in the immediate, it’s not what’s easiest.

The answers are all around me. I just have to look. Today, my daughter bought a box of “Happy Cards.” She left the one at the top of this post on my desk, and when I went to pin it on my cork board, I was reminded of these things:

A picture of two cards side by side, one that says "Believe in Impossible Possibilities" (Eva Evergreen, Julie Abe) and another that says "Create the Life You've Always Wanted" held up by a magnet that says, "Let's Do This"

It is a new year. I am trying new things. I am letting go of things that I’ve held onto so tightly because I was scared that they would slip out of my grasp if I loosened my grip. I am trusting that what is for me will be mine, and what is not for me has still taught me so much. I am breathing in gratitude, even as I feel sometimes adrift is a sea of grief.

I will breathe.

I will be still.

I will move towards happiness.

I will keep hope.

Happiest of New Years to us all. May we all move towards creating the lives that are our heart’s greatest desires.

Showing Up

Photograph of the cover of How We Show Up by Mia Birdsong

I’ve been reflecting a lot this weekend on how I show up and who I show up for.

I started rereading How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community by Mia Birdsong, a book that was gifted to me during an earlier part of the pandemic by my dear Sister-Friend, Ruchi, and that I had read then, but in a different space and place.

In coming to it this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about chosen family and the ways I show up for community and how I allow community to show up for me. This has been particularly in my heart in the wake of the ClubQ shootings and as we approach the 10th anniversary of Sandy Hook.

I think about my LGBTQIA siblings; I think about my own brother and my nephews and their town; and I think a lot about how to show up, using my platform, positions of power, and proximity as ways to hold space, reach out, speak out, or do work unseen, all grounded in love and community and centering those who are suffering most.

I have also been thinking about how I show up, given that this has been an incredibly busy and challenging time for me, and will be, for the next few weeks, a time in which I need to be fully present, as much as possible, while holding space my own continued grief, for the trauma and loss of people that I hold dear, and while also helping my sister with an unexpected move and my daughter with unexpected and lingering unemployment.

All of this leads me to the realization that I cannot show up (fully, authentically, truly) for others when I am not showing up for myself.

This is funny to me, in some ways, because my whole life has been about compartmentalization, and showing up for others in spite of a profound lack of connection to my own heart and longings. But showing up in that way has left me at a loss, exhausted, and in many ways broken.

I have been on a journey to reconnect with myself, and in finding myself, to find my community.

I have been on a journey to reconnect with my community, and in finding my community, to find myself.

In this moment on this journey, I know that I can only do what I can do right now, that this is the best I can do. The limits of the grace I can show to others, and the space I can hold for them, and the ways I can show up, is bound in the ways that I show up for myself and in the ways that I call upon and connect with community in ways that allow them to show up for me.

I am trying to let go of the guilt of not doing more.

I am trying to remember that I am enough.

I am trying to feel with each breath that those I love know that I am always with them, and that our love for one another is not contingent on what I can or cannot do in a moment, because we journey together over a lifetime.

I am trying to hold on to love and rest as resistance.

There will be other opportunities to show up if I cannot show up today.

But I need to be around to show up for them.

I have been reminded in the ways that those I love have shown up for me recently that my life matters deeply, that needing to rest is human, and that I do not need to keep running. I can simply be, and the next right thing will come to me. I can simply be, in all of the complexity that being may bring, and feel the love of those around me.

That love, and that being, will bring forth my love, and my authentic voice, which will speak in its time.

There is nothing to prove to anyone.

Those who need to know have always known or will come to know, and those who do not understand cannot be convinced. Those who feel my heart are connected in ways that need not be seen or known.

I just need to work on trust, trusting myself, trusting those I love, trusting community, trusting that in whatever time I have left, what is mine to do will be done.

I am showing up as best I can, for myself, and for those I love.

And that is enough.

Uncharted Waters (Final Reflection Fall 2020)

Dark sunset over water

Just over 10 months ago, I accepted a new position.

Just over 9 months ago, the world, and with it the educational world that I had previously known, completely shifted.

6 months and 3 weeks ago, I started a new position.

Just about 4 months ago, I began the fall semester, teaching courses I’ve never taught before, in a new university, using a new LMS, with new administrative responsibilities, in a very different educational world, with a child starting online bilingual kindergarten in a language that neither her father nor I know, with another child starting 9th grade, with everyone at home.

It has without a question been the hardest semester of my life.

I can only completely feel the weight of this as I look back.

During this semester, my primary goal was to make it to the end, to survive.

I kept focused on what was directly ahead of me at all times, moment by moment, facing directly ahead and moving forward.

I hoped desperately that my family would be alright, that my students would learn something, that I could contribute to my program, and to the many individuals and communities that I hold dear.

But honestly, I just wanted to survive.

To do this, I had to draw from everything I’ve developed over my lifetime that has helped me to survive: hard work, years of classroom teaching, my love for teaching and learning, an adeptness with technology, my partner who loves me wholeheartedly and supports everything I do, my community who reminds me to care for myself, my refusal to do less than I’m able in any circumstance, therapy, tears, and incredible focus.

I made it. I survived. My family did well, all things considered. My students reported learning.

But surviving has come at such a cost.

It is my first real moment to sit down and reflect on it all, the victory and the cost.

The Victory

There is always beauty in the growth of my students. They grew so much and brought so much to our classes and our community. I got to bring in friends and educators from across the country to speak to these talented future teachers. I got to teach subject specific methods in my three credential areas which was a joy.

My program co-constructed a beautiful collective vision. It can become our North Star, and move us forward towards transformation. I got to co-facilitate beautiful and powerful professional learning workshops with an incredibly talented colleague and friend (shout out to the brilliance of Dr. Kristal Andrews). I got to work alongside some incredible educators and future educators. I got to work with leadership that sees transformation as the goal of our work. We are building with the help and support of the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity. I’m making fewer mistakes.

While I try to limit the pictures of my (home) family I post here, I am so proud and grateful for them. They have somehow thrived in this time, of all times. My 5-year old has learned so much Korean in the last four months. My 14-year old and I have made a tradition of Tuesday-Thursday hot beverage runs and he has largely self-managed himself to an earned 4.0 in the first semester. My husband still loves me despite taking on a large portion of the childrearing responsibilities while working full time from home.

My communities have been a constant encouragement. Whether they are colleagues from my current or previous institution, whether they are friends and/or friends turned family, whether they are church family, social media connections, they have helped me, encouraged me, walked alongside me, loved me, empathized with me. I couldn’t have made it without you.

I am so grateful.

The Cost

I am so exhausted. I am spiritually, emotionally, and physically drained. I was listening to the brilliant Season 2 Episode 7 of the Black Gaze Podcast and the concept of taking on too much as violence against the self hit me hard.

To survive, I have begun in the last few weeks to read books for my survival: Healing Resistance, Emergent Strategy and How We Show Up and I have fought for my survival through therapy (individual and collective) and the message from God and the universe have been consistent. I cannot keep contributing from emptiness. If I am to engage in non-violence, I cannot continue engaging in violence against myself, giving away my time, energy, heart and life to institutions and systems without consideration for myself and my community.

There is a lot of unlearning, relearning and learning to do if I want to move past survival into a life where I am thriving.

These are perhaps the most terrifying uncharted waters.

But I keep being led here.

I keep finding myself washed up on shores and looking out at the horizon, but wandering the same ways to find something better.

I am not where I was 10 months ago, or 9 months ago, or 6 months ago, or 4 months ago. I am not where I was yesterday. I am where I am, and choosing where to go next.

There is power in choosing anew every day.

Tonight is the winter solstice.

Tomorrow the days get longer; there is a bit more light.

May it guide my choices.


I am not okay, but I will be.

First, I want to start off this post by thanking God, my family, and my many friends and colleagues who have expressed concerned about my well-being during this time, or have seen the signs of stress and overwhelm, overwork, and the unproductive patterns of people pleasing. You all gently, but firmly, have been reminding me to prioritize self-care, drink my water (Marian, you know I’m talking to you!), and turn off my computer when I need to. You’ve said no for me (thanks, Jung) when I hesitate to say no for myself. You’ve supported me when I’ve been too tired to move forward. You’ve modeled for me your own self-care. In a million big and little ways, you have reminded me I am not alone, even when I feel most alone.

But sometimes, all of that, and all of the strength in the world isn’t enough.

Two days ago, my friends, Dr. Kisha Porcher and Dr. Shamaine Bertrand held a special live Black Gaze Podcast with Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz on transparency & healing, a follow-up to their recorded conversation with Dr. Yolie on Radical Black Self-Love, and it was a word.

It was such a word that it prompted me to do what I KNOW that I’ve needed to do for the last several months (at least since COVID social distancing started), but that I “haven’t had time to do.”

I got serious about getting back into therapy.

I have been in therapy before, during some of the hardest and most stressful points in my life. I kept telling myself in the last few months that, although things are stressful now, they’re not THAT BAD (because you know, when you have experienced multiple major traumas in your life, a global pandemic with xenophobic racism directed towards your racial group and a major job transition are actually just not that bad), and I can just use the tools that I’ve gotten in therapy before (which I have been doing) and I could lean on my communities (which I have been doing), and I can just push through (which I have been doing).

But this week, it hit me, that I can actually do more than survive (thank you to the brilliant Bettina Love for introducing that thinking to me through her brilliant and powerful abolitionist teaching book), that it is possible to have the tools, communities, and strength, but actually want for more, to freedom dream in my own way, individually so that I can have the strength to do the work collectively that I am called to do.

Because, good Lord, I have only been surviving, and barely doing that, in these last few months, despite all outward appearances.

And what I want is to thrive, and be free to set boundaries so that I can do the work that I am called to do. So that we can do the work in community for the world we deserve.

When I get serious, I get moving. Had a consultation session with a therapist today and my first appointment on Tuesday.

This is a big step in radical self-love, that I can commit to healing “even when things aren’t that bad,” that I can commit myself to more than just surviving, that I refuse to fight myself for scraps of my time for the people that are most important to me, that I can be important enough to myself to want better.

I’m writing this because if I had not heard and witnessed the transparency of healing from the Black Gaze podcast and through the words of Dr. Yolie, I might not have had the courage to claim my own healing. And for some of you, maybe this blog is that push you need. Maybe it’s therapy, maybe it’s boundary setting, maybe it’s the courage to say that you want and deserve more.

But get serious, and get moving, because we’ve got to commit to ourselves.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Dear graduating 2019 MA Cohort in the Linked Learning Curriculum & Instruction program (and friends),

This morning as I woke up, I saw your many posts from commencement last night.  I saw the joy of celebrating this momentous occasion with students, colleagues, friends and family.  I saw the light of the culmination of a program that has had its ups and downs for you all. And in all of that, I saw hope, my hope and yours, reflected in your radiance.

I also woke up with the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (see video above) playing into my head, and it made me think of you.  (Note: While this song is most recently famous for being the team song for the Liverpool Football Club, I know it from the musical Carousel and more specifically from my high school choir, and it’s stuck with me all these years.  I really loved the version that I posted above, which took me a minute to find on YouTube)

So, with all of this, in my head and my heart, this is my commencement speech to you, which is more like an open letter to you, my last lecture, I suppose, about the times you will feel alone, but that you will walk on knowing that truly you are never alone.

Teaching can so often feel lonely and isolating.  When we are in our classrooms and our lessons aren’t going well, for whatever reason.  When we are looking at our grade rosters, knowing that each student has such amazing potential for success and feeling their greatness in our hearts, then seeing that those numbers and letters don’t reflect that greatness, especially for students from historically marginalized groups.  When we are trying to advocate for what’s right for students, colleagues & communities and coming up against institutional barriers, so many institutional barriers, at so many levels.  When we are fighting for a living wage after coming home exhausted each night.  When we have to say no to myriad social invitations (because, hey, we’re still cool and have friends) because we need to prep or grade or do something extra that prompts our non-educator friends and families to say, “Why are you working so hard? Why don’t you just show them a movie?” or “Don’t you already have a worksheet for that?” or “Aren’t you done at 3pm?”  When you are sitting in a classroom, trying to grow yourself, and being saddened, sickened, frustrated by how much you know and don’t know about the educational system and how much there seems left to do. When we, on the regular, stare inequalities and inequity in the face and don’t know what to do except for cry, then regroup and come back to do better.

I know all of those feelings.  I’ve felt them all in the last month, maybe even the last week.  I want to acknowledge that these are the realities of being an educator that cares deeply for students, that believes in their greatness, and that teaches in a  school system that is so far from ideal that the injustice wears you down sometimes, especially when you know that even with many individuals at many levels trying their best, the systemic nature of inequality is persistent.

But, here’s where the lyrics to the song come in.

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark 

(Well, don’t be so afraid that it scares you into inaction)

At the end of the storm is a golden sky and the sweet silver song of a lark

(There are always moments of golden sky and sweet silver songs — they come in the small moments of seeing student growth and improvement, your own growth and improvement, those incremental changes in your classroom & schools.  They also come in the big moments of commencement, of collective action that results in better teaching and learning conditions for students, in structural change that I know can come through our collective advocacy)

Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain,

Though your dreams be tossed and blown 

Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart,

And you’ll never walk alone.

You’ll never walk alone. 

My dear forever students, colleagues and friends, walk on with hope in your hearts.  Hold it, keep it and cherish it, like I hold on to you, your growth, your commitments, your collective action, like I cherish each and every one of you.  I will never walk alone because you all walk with me.  You will never walk alone because you walk with one another.  You carry me.  You carry your students, in your heart.  Teaching is about not walking alone.  It is about being a collective; it is about working together to bring about structural change, because we cannot do it alone.

Stay with one another when your dreams are being tossed and blown, when you see the end of the storm.  Celebrate your victories, regroup after your defeats.

I love you.  I believe in you.  I know that we will continue to build coalition and to work towards change.  I am so proud of all you’ve accomplished in this program, but I know that it is truly a commencement, the end of a program, but the beginning of a lifetime of continued growth and improvement.

Thank you for letting me walk alongside you in this journey.

With all my heart,

Dr. Hsieh

Doing the Work: Focusing on Thriving — A Post-#AERA19 Reflection

I just returned from Toronto and the 2019 meeting of the American Educational Research Association.  AERA, for many years, was exhausting, in a way that constituted a seemingly endless search to figure out who I was.  I would often reconnect with friends from graduate school or would connect with scholars whose work I admired, and I would wonder why I wasn’t doing what they were doing, how I could do more, be more, do something different, be someone different, make more time for research, apply the theoretical to my practical.  I would leave feeling conflicted about who I was and the work I was doing.

This year (and last year to some degree) was different.  This year, AERA, while always full and exhausting, was a time of embracing my professional identity, learning from others, refueling, connecting, and getting clear on the work that there is to do.  It also was a time where I was able to see myself through the interactions that I had with others, one of which (Thank you, Sunny!) encouraged me to take the time to write this blog.  I realized that people are reading what I write, learning from my work, and that I have community.  I learned that doing work that honors who I am is not theoretical, but personal, practical and important, with the potential for structural and transformational impact.  I learned that raising my voice is not only important, but essential, in challenging the normative ideologies and practices that, in the words of Bettina Love, spirit murder Black children.

My work, I know, focuses on teachers of color, and Asian American teachers/teacher educators in P-16 spaces.  It focuses on challenging dominant narratives of who teachers (and teacher educators) of color are and what they do, to begin unpacking the complexities of how they navigate and survive in a system not made for them, not made for us.  My work focuses on giving voice to complexity.  My writing (including this blog) reveals the complexities of being a mother-scholar, critical Asian American scholar, teacher-scholar, heritage language learner-scholar, advocate for equity-scholar, anti-anti-Black scholar, co-conspirator scholar among many other parts of my identity.

It is good work.  It is important work.

But this AERA, more than ever, I realized that it is work that will consume me and that could destroy me, if I do not commit to doing the work of thriving and promoting personal and professional sustainability.  As I work to grow as a mentor and as a learner, I am so clear that I need to grow in boundary setting.  There are no shortages of opportunities.  The work is so important.  But, so is my 4-year old who told me this morning as we were cuddling before she went off to preschool how much she missed having someone lay next to her as she fell asleep.  So is my 13-year old telling me about rock climbing in Joshua Tree and appreciating the maple flavored treats I brought home from this trip.  So is my sleep-deprived partner, who always encourages me to do the work and follow my passions. They are also my passions. Even more importantly, they are my heart.

And honestly, so is my time to reflect and to write, both for formal work and for reflective learning.  So is the space to be vulnerable, to be present to the life I have created and am creating.

From that place, we can all grow. It is all the work, but I must commit to prioritizing the work of living for my voice to feel its power.  That is the work, the humanizing work, that helps me see the people in my studies, to hear their voices, to support the co-construction of their stories, to make a difference.

And figuring out that work is such an important place to be.

Peace in the Process

Last week, my son got a D- progress report that I received via e-mail with no warning.

If you know me (and/or my son) in real life, you might imagine that this was an incredibly shocking moment for me.  My son rarely gets a B in his academic classes and since the beginning of this calendar year, we’ve been closer, not more distant, so I was sure he would tell me if he was struggling.  In fact, we had just had a conversation about the class he got the D- in (English, which I used to teach) because he’s reading The Outsiders which I used to teach regularly. He hadn’t reported any issues, in fact, he commented that it was way easier that Twelfth Night, which he read at the end of the last quarter.  This is a class in which he got an A- in the first semester.

Given all this, my first reaction was understandably denial.  This seemed so out of the realm of possibility that I thought it was in error.  Then I was angry, at the teacher and my son for not informing me of the situation before being hit with the progress report.  I texted my son, logged onto powerschool, saw the culprit grades (a poor notebook check where he had a D in classwork and low F in homework) and texted him more to find out more information. I also e-mailed his teacher.

Then, I had to calm down.  I had an interview to conduct for my current research study and I had out-of-town family coming that afternoon, ironically to celebrate my son, whose birthday was at the end of the week.

My son arrived home and our relatives were at the house already.  I could tell that he was trying hard to keep it together and be pleasant while also looking sideways at me like, “How much trouble am I actually in once they leave?”

But, something miraculous happened, dear reader.

Once our relatives left, I talked to my son (sternly, but without yelling at him).  I had him take out the notebook rubric. He explained to me that one of the sheets was in his binder (not his notebook) but that he had lost one of the sheets and gotten half credit on a bunch of his homework because he had misunderstood the directions. Upon further probing, he said that the substitute had told them to take reading notes instead of annotations for one chapter and he had assumed (despite the fact that the prompt said “annotations” and he knows what annotations are) that he just needed to take notes for all the homework.  We walked through the other assignments that he got half or no credit for, found a few errors, but he acknowledged that the bulk of the responsibility was his.

I sighed. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed in him, and maybe a little in myself, but, I mean, what was there to do about what was done? Nothing. So, what could we do moving forward, working with the situation we had.

We reviewed the teacher’s policy on late work, and came up with a plan.  He would go in the next morning, apologize for the poor quality of his notebook (which was not his best effort), show his teacher the assignment that was in the notebook that hadn’t been checked off, ask if he could use a late pass for the assignment he did have but didn’t turn in, advocate for the miscalculated half credit on the homework, then he would do better.

He would not ask for an exception to any of the teacher’s policies, nor was I going to go and do it for him.  We talked about how this was an important lesson to figure out in 7th grade and how he had put himself in the tough position of having to pull his second semester grade up from a low start, a position he wasn’t at all used to.  We also talked about how this situation meant he needed to go beyond the minimum if he wanted to show that he wanted to improve.

His teacher was lovely.  Although she hadn’t contacted me prior to the progress report, she was responsive to my e-mail and generous (more than I expected) in terms of her willingness to let him turn in the entire notebook assignment in late (counting it as a single assignment rather than a conglomeration of smaller assignments) to be regraded.  I know my son, so her other offerings to help him work on organization and to help him focus in class by changing his seat were appreciated, but not necessary at this point.  The goal wasn’t to punish my son, but to do the things that would help him to best succeed in the future.

This is probably the biggest parenting win I have ever had.  That D- was an opportunity for me to prove to my son that what mattered more than a grade was who we needed to be in response to the disappointments in life, even and especially when we have some responsibility for them and can take action to address them.

It was not all a week of wins, but this was a big one, and it showed me that peace is possible in the process of parenting, even when you hit major bumps in the road, and there are always bumps with a toddler and a teenager in the house.

Striving Towards Imperfection

Tonight, at family dinner time, I posed this conundrum to my son and husband, “Since I used to work 12 hours a day, and now, I work, roughly 8 hours a day, and am trying to do better about work-life balance, it’s physically impossible to cram the same amount of work into that much less time.  Yet, I still have so much work. What should I do?”

Their answers were roughly the same.

My 12-year old said, “Just do what you can and don’t stress about it, if that’s possible.”

My partner said, “I think you’re just going to have to let go of some things and be okay with imperfection in some areas of your life.”

They are wise people, my son and husband, and so I asked, “How do I not stress about not getting everything done since I’ve built my life around productivity…or rather, how do you guys do it?”

They shrugged.

My husband said, “We started early. Lots of practice.”


I got my first Chinese test back today — 97.5%. On both homework packets (pictured above), I’ve gotten 96%.  I know this “not stressing about things” and “being okay with imperfection” is going to be a journey since an A (instead of 100%) still annoys me.

But, I think what they’re saying is really that it’s a shift in perspective for me.

I am so, super excited about the research I’m doing and the people it’s allowing me to connect with (as collaborators and participants).  Doing interviews and hearing people’s stories gives me so much life.

I am loving learning Chinese.  I can feel my brain growing and am so grateful for the way it’s allowed my son and I to work together. I’m so grateful for his help, support and tutelage.

I am loving that I am not a slave to technology ALL THE TIME. I appreciate turning off my e-mail program multiple times a day.  I love family dinner time.

I still often work 12-hour days.  It’s not like I’m slacking off.  I’m just changing my pace.

And, I’m happy because I feel like my time is aligned with my values, with my commitments and with my goals.  My work has been intentional even if it hasn’t (exactly) been as externally as “productive.”

It’s time to tuck in my 3-year old for bed so I’ll go now, grateful for the imperfections of a too-full life, and the perspective to appreciate it.