Why My Career Ended Before It Even Started.

As lost as I seem to be these days, when someone asks me, “Well, what do you eventually want to end up doing?” My answer will always be teaching. Working with kids, and actually seeing them learn, knowing I was a part of that is the best feeling. I love changing their mind-set, molding them, and hopefully being a small fragment in their life that they might look back on one day when they need to. Everyone always asks me, “Have you ever thought about education?” Um, yea. Been there; wrecked that.

My first year in education was magical. Mainly because I worked four hours a day, and was teaching Pre-K. It wasn’t just colors and shapes, but I took my work very seriously. My kids were learning that full four hours of the day from manners, to movies. Everything connected, and I loved it. My students were beautiful, and they were my true loves for that year. To see a Spanish speaking student (who refused to talk for the first three months) finally, and proudly announce that he was coloring with orange, then spelled it, made me want to lie on the floor and cry. I was exactly where I wanted to be. My second year (and third) in education came a change in administration, and hours. My first full-time year, and this time I was making rounds as an actual assistant. I saw a change in my desires to teach, as I now was leaning towards a more middle school atmosphere, and I also felt a pit in my stomach. I heard the meetings, the push for tests scores to get higher, the invasion of teachers thoughts and classrooms, and the overall destruction.  It became clear to me that it didn’t matter what they were wearing, feeling, eating, or experiencing…all that mattered were what they were scribbling out on their test packets with their plain yellow number two pencils.

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With teachers being pushed to their limits, working twelve hours a day, conferences, meetings, and still taking papers home, they are not equipped to teach. Which brings up another issue; Are our teachers really teaching? I want these students to leave my class educated, and what our teachers are doing is not that. They are test scorers, givers, reading from pamphlets, egg-shell walkers who answer to the report of their numbers from the boss like salesmen would. Its annoying that these little humans are no longer people who have feelings, problems, and bleed red…they are walking numbers who have the potential to possibly be in the whatever amazing “percentile” that will pass!!! We don’t care if they learn a damn thing, as long as they pass!! We don’t even care if they end up serial killers, but hey, they passed their standardized tests in fourth grade! Not only how we are treating our students is a massive problem, but how we are treating our educators; their feelings reflect in their work. We cover our asses in inventing little programs that make students feel special, and family nights (which teachers will be mandated to attend with a fake and tired smile on their face), and we buy all the teachers their favorite drink one day a year. These fake attempts to reach out do not cover being told they are not enough, to work harder, you are not making a difference (WRONG) because their “scores” don’t show a difference…its bound to leak through your pores onto your chalkboard. Enough is enough after a while; a reason why so many educators have retired, or walked away…simply because they are no longer educating.

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After walking the halls, and being pushed to tears in what could be in these classrooms, excuse me, testing rooms, I had to walk away. Children are not professional test takers, and little robot machines. They are human, and they will be better little humans when they are actually learning about the actual world they live in; When they study their culture, their environment, and things that will make a difference…not fictional math problems, and why Suzi used that word in that paragraph. Really? Standardized testing has literally taken over the world, and destroyed education. We spend our entire year teaching children how to study for a test, rather than teaching them important things in life that will stick, and teaching them how to love school. We don’t even have time for that anymore! We only have time for tests, practice tests, workshops and tutorials!!! Thats all that ever matters!! Screw fun, guest speakers, time outside, and field trips!! How is any of that educational?!?! Don’t forget to plan that two weeks of when we lock down the school like a state prison with teachers roaming the halls, one at every corner, and even listening to you pee in the bathroom. Don’t you even think about talking about this test you little nine-year old! Stick to your script teachers on how to answer that question (you’ll be arrested if you don’t) sign this contract (yea, you might actually go to jail) and here is a step-by-step instruction guide on how to protect the test packets if a tornado hits, or a child vomits on the valuable packets.

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So, after all these standardized tests, and billions of dollars pumped into it, what do we have to show for it? Well, here are the highlights of my research.

1. Standardized testing has not improved student achievement.

After the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) passed in 2002, the US slipped from 18th in the world in math on the PISA to 31st with a similar drop in math, and reading.

2. Standardized tests are an unreliable measure of student performance.

A study published by the Brookings Institution found that 50-80% of year-over-year test score improvements were temporary and “caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning.”

3. Standardized tests are unfair and discriminatory against non English speakers, and students with special needs.

I don’t even need to find some fancy evidence to support this; I saw it first hand. They are pulled into classrooms with a one on one teacher which yes, you think would help them, but all the students know why they aren’t testing with everyone, why they get more time, and not to mention they are being watched like a hawk. It’s just not fun to be “different” because you are with one teacher all day (even during lunch) and who wants to listen to a teacher talk directly to them, then watch them eat their sandwich? Didn’t think so. They want to talk about Power Rangers, and eat lunch with their friends because they are eight freaking years old. Also, what teacher wants to be with this one student all day reading a script? Exactly.

4. Standardized tests measure only a small portion of what makes education meaningful.

AMEN. “Standardized tests cannot measure creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, self-awareness, empathy, leadership, compassion and so on.” Once again, AMEN. They cannot measure HUMANITY and TRUE LEARNING.

5. “Teaching the test” is replacing good teaching practices with “drill n’ kill” learning.

As stated above, if you even present a fun idea to a teacher, they have the stressed response of, “I don’t think we have time for that! We’re getting ready for the test!” I’m not surprised. I’m glad that test will change their lives, it’s so awesome! Thumbs up for learning! NOT.

6. Instruction time is being consumed by the monotonous test preparation.

On September 11, 2002 students at Monterey High School in Lubbock, TX (Hey, this was my dad’s high school!) were prevented from discussing the first anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks because they were too busy with standardized test preparation…yep.

In a society so mentally, and emotionally at risk because of things exposed to them at such young ages, they need to come to a place where they can correctly learn things that truly matter that they might not be learning in their home life…if they even have a home. They need teachers who are happy, not stressed, and have time. They need administration who can look past the rule book at the little human being on the other side of the desk. These students need to learn about the world around them so that they understand love, compassion, leadership, and determination to become better little human beings…while also being disciplined correctly. Why, WHY would they want to put themselves through college when they have been working, and studying like a college student since second grade? By the time these children graduate, they will have literally learned nothing, but will be so tired of looking at books and attempting to comprehending their own scores (that they think rates them at how worthy they are at life) that they will be done with education, and learning. How sad; they were never even shown how to truly learn to begin with.

I’m tired for these kids, and I’m upset. I’ve been cheated out of a career that I thought was a lot different. “It wasn’t like it was when I first started” is something that falls out of so many educator’s mouths. I’m deeply saddened that these kids have no time for mistakes or to even act like a human child. I’m angry that they do not learn, that they merely study. I’m shocked and overwhelmed how much worse it gets; their attitudes, their issues, and these internal educational problems in the system.

Show me a school that wants children to learn, and mentally and emotionally grow, and I will gladly work for my masters in education. Because EVERY child despite how many times they yell in your face, and breakdown is worth educating and loving.

-haley.

The list goes on forever, literally. If you would like to read more (even the pro’s) you can visit standardizedtests.procon.org

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Human Hurricanes.

My life is so full of physical limitations, but I still become that person where if you tell me I cant do it, I will. But sometimes when I find myself breathing harder, or losing consciousness (oops), I realize that maybe working my physical body is not my calling. While looking at someone who is physically appealing (those fabulous abs, and arms) it shows this discipline and strength that radiates off of them. But what about when you choose to constantly work on or workout your soul, and heart? Yea…what? A renovation, or working on your soul is probably one of the hardest things a person can do. To change themselves internally, to change everything they think they’ve ever known, or to work on something that is not tangible. It sounds insane, and most of the time you feel insane when you realize that maybe something things in this area will be, um, hard to reconsider. Understatement.

You see, for a long time I really didn’t care about people. I floated through high school on a very unhappy cloud (I have no regrets) and didn’t give two damns. I’ve always cared to an extent, but not once did I exercise a bit of patience with anyone or myself. Working with young children was a turning point in my life. I was working with tiny, and happy souls, some more than others, and they felt everything so deeply. They were brand new, empty of judgement, and they hadn’t reached this adult stage yet; they were not broken. I saw the humanity in their eyes as I felt their tiny arms wrap around my knees. Everyone was here at one point. We are still human, and despite how much we choose to cover it, we are so worth loving. Extending past my Pre-K and first grade experiences, and onto fifth grade, these tiny humans were hormonal devils. They were going to show you how insane, mouthy, experimental and defiant they pretended to be before they were ever funny, or told you how much they cared about you. Despite the fact they were leaving me for middle school, I still saw them as a version of my pre-k kiddo’s with a few bumps, and scrapes society left upon them. But the days they buried their faces into my shoulders crying, screamed my name down the hall because they were excited to see me, or felt the need to deliver me Valentine presents were worth the awful human hurricanes from time to time. But, I believe there is a hidden beauty in each person, and I so deeply want to find it, and teach them how to radiate it. Seriously though, it’s there in everyone.

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Overall, that job worked me internally. I might not have abs, but my heart has been strengthened more than I thought possible. I felt things beyond deeply, my stomach fell into itself sometimes, and you never knew when you had to step into an empty classroom to cry for a second after handling a situation that blindsided you. That job made me see the humanity in this society (sometimes the inhumanity as well) and showed me that every person is so worth loving. It taught me a lot about my disease, my life, and how much I choose to love others. People will often say, “I just don’t like that person” , “They are so difficult to deal with” and I find myself loving that person the most. Why? As I’ve heard many times “the people who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.” My response? Everyone is So Worth Loving.

Check out the beautiful company that I am beyond a fan of, So Worth Loving, and their blog post about my story. I hope they show you the worth that exists in you, and other people.

Dedicated to all my wonderful students. Even though I was the teacher, believe it or not, you taught me too.

-haley.

Instagram @haleyann92

They Did Their Part.

It is “Invisible Disease Awareness Week!” WOO-HOO! Share blog posts, pictures or anything that will tell the public about Pulmonary Hypertension. Anyways, while cleaning my room the other day (thank you Jesus that finally happened) I found these wonderful works of art that some of my 5th grade students did last year. While learning about body systems last year, I educated them on my disease. I cannot even believe how well they picked up on what PH does, and how interested they were! These eager ten-year olds were fantastic. To encourage further learning, they all got to wear awareness ribbons, there was a raffle of PH prizes (paintings of the lungs) and then they had the chance to make their own PH Awareness poster. The winner received a Just Breathe shirt as well as the picture of their work on my blog. I love them so much. ALL of my kids are incredibly talented in their own way and it was amazing to see them show their skill! I cannot speak ENOUGH about how important my kids (students) are to me. I’ve said many times that as a teacher, your students should be number one in your mind and lifting you up. When you are concerned about friends, scores and money…you need to find another job. Children have a sixth sense of knowing who really cares about their existence and happiness, and who doesn’t. They just know. That’s when a student-teacher bond is formed, when they can sense that you care. They are still your student, and they need hard discipline, but they need to be loved as well. Evaluate your actions carefully.

I love and miss these kids so incredibly much just talking about them! I can’t believe how excited they were to learn about PH! Here were our contest winners:

Brianna, 10 years old

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Ruben, 10 years old

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Arent they so talented? I love them. I love my students. I love kids. Thank you to all my sweet babies who learned and did their part in raising awareness at such a young age, and truly caring. Are you doing your part?

-haley.

Obsessions

So this post doesn’t have much to do with PH. But yáll can live with that right? Good. 🙂

I just wanted to share the latest things I’m in love with, well because I feel like it. This is just an arrangement of things that mean a lot to me and that I like to talk about (obviously) and maybe you can check them out as well. Here weee goooo.

BLACK CATS

This will ALWAYS be an obsession. I had my first black cat when I was 8 years old. She was crazy, smart, talkative and still is her sweet self today at 11 years old. I love my little Fantasia – shes beautiful! With having her, I knew I wanted more! I just love the panther look and 2 years ago I was determined to make another mine, and I did. 🙂 I brought little Rocco home at 6 weeks home, and had to bottle feed him. I was on bed rest for PH and he was perfect company and someone to take care of. As a result, we both are super close. I’m going to have to do a complete separate post about my Rocco and the ironic challenges we are going through with him. But anyone who knows me well and has been in my room, there is black cat stuff everywhere. They’re beautiful, simple and sweet. And will be my next tattoo. Isn’t Rocco handsome?! 🙂

MICHAEL JACKSON

I will always defend him, and even with all of the strange things that consumed his life he was an amazing artist, dancer and person. And not to mention extremely sexy until about 1990. Oh I love Michael, just like the rest of the world! “Dancing isn’t about thinking, it’s about feeling.” Oh and look at that, Michael with a black cat…perfect!!

BUTTER LONDON TROUT POUT

I am a nail polish freak. And it seems like the rest of the world is getting there too! I paint my nails about twice a week, and almost immediately if they chip. So I have a little collection of colors growing in my room and so far my absolute favorite that I got on sale this week would be Butter London’s Trout Pout. It’s such a cute pink, however these polish’s are normally $14 a piece. I got a buy one get one free sale this week at Ulta. Be prepared to pay big bucks with no sale. But anyways, I love this color.

JANIS JOPLIN

I’ve loved this bluesy girl for a long time, but just recently I was curious enough to watch an interview she did back in 1970 and fell in love with her even more! Her personality was so true blue, honest and she was extremely smart. Her life ended such a sad way and she didn’t have much to be happy about, but she was extremely talented. Check her out, if you weren’t already a fan. Woo-hoo, proud to be a Texas girl with Janis.

GOODWILL

It sounds ridiculous, and I just don’t care. I grew up thrifting, and still do. I’m not saying I live in a thrift store and don’t come home with bags of questionable stuff (ewww). But really I hunt for vintage finds and have run across some amazing stuff so far!! LOVE it.

PUMPKIN SPICE

Who isn’t obsessed with these?! Other than the millions of calories and sugars you consume within 20 minutes and the 10 pounds you’ll put on instantly, these things are fall heaven. Seriously, if I’ve been good (I make a lot of exceptions) then I’ll treat myself to one. Join the club if you haven’t already.

BETSEY JOHNSON

Another thing that will always be on the obsession list. I love her, her clothing, stores, personality…just everything.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

I’m a teacher, and I hoard little things because I’m trying to plan for the big picture someday (my classroom). I get ridiculously excited with cute class decor, erasers, new crayons, coloring pages, stamps ANYTHING! I love it all! I have to pry myself away from Walmart and Target most of the time cause they have such cute stuff. Oh school…my happy place!!

MARVIN GAYE

I’ve been loving his music the past week! It fit my very chill mood and has even fit our cloudy weather the past couple of days. Sad life he lived as well, but once again, such talent.

Random much? Yes, but I hope you enjoyed it anyways.

-haley.

You’ll Grow In My Heart

Sneezy nose, body aches, and chills…I think I’m getting sick since I’m back to spending most of my day with kiddos, and all kinds of germs! Despite the whining, screaming, and dealing with sickness all the time I am absolutely in LOVE with my job. It’s amazing to watch teachers that teach from the heart and others who are there to collect their paycheck. I’m sorry, if you don’t love kids get the HECK out of this profession. I have always had a soft spot for kids, I absolutely love them, and for a long time have looked forward to the days when I can show off my baby bump as well as my moody teenagers. Having Pulmonary Hypertension has definitely put a dent in this dream.

Going to work is a daily mental battle for me. Most people think that dealing with PH only happens when you’re in a hospital. WRONG. The littlest things set it off. For a long time now I’ve wanted children of my own. I know what I want, and I know what is right for me.

I’ve always had my mind set on four kids, and still do if its possible. One of the questions I asked right after I got diagnosed was, “Can I get pregnant?” When the doctor told me the mortality rate was around 85% for women who try to carry with PH I was absolutely heartbroken. I was going to be one of “those girls” going through the adoption process for years, getting turned down left and right, and spending thousands of dollars. I wanted my baby bump, to know what it felt like to have my own, and I did not understand (and still don’t) why this disease kept taking things from me. Working with kids, I treat them like my own because in a way I feel like its the only chance I’m going to have to connect with a child and take care of them. It’s very hard to let go for the summer and watch them grow up. I got SO attached to my class from last year (it was my first year of teaching) and actually cried the first two days of this week watching them go to their different classes. I get very emotional when they show improvement too.

Having kids is just a touchy subject. I dated a guy for a very long time, and when his sister in law got pregnant it was very hard to cope with. I was truly happy for her, but being around pregnant friends in general, I have to lock up my green eyed jealous monster with a smile. He did not understand how worthless it made me feel knowing I couldn’t do that, especially when he played with his nephew. I realized he wasn’t trying to make me feel worthless at all he was enjoying his family, but with those unresolved emotions it can just bring up the sadness all over again. And when someone doesn’t understand that or support you, that’s even worse. Walk away from that person immediately.

I found this lovely picture on Pinterest about adoption that says “You grew in my heart instead of my tummy” and that made me so happy. I’ve watched a good friend raise her adopted daughter who is just wonderfully cute, and completes their family perfectly. My mind is slowly starting to accept adoption, and I’ve talked to my doctor about surrogacy when the time is right. If you are going through this as a young woman, or have gone through this, I feel for you. You don’t understand until you’re going through it yourself, and its amazing the little things that set it off. I love my pregnant friends dearly, as well as their children but I definitely avoid the hospital gift shop with it being covered in pink and blue “welcome to the world” crap. I always take a friend with me when visiting friends who just delivered in the hospital, so someone can take the breakdown I have when we leave that floor. Therapy helps so much in so many ways! One day this wont be as big of a demon to fight, but for right now its one of the biggest. I will get through it someday and so will you. Explore your options, talk to your doctors, support your pregnant friends and talk to someone. For me its been the only way to somewhat heal.

-haley