Monday, May 30, 2011

When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Networking. This is how I spent my nearly last day of May. I was required to meet with the magnet director for my school district. During the meeting, I discussed facilitating a Diversity Competencies Awareness session for 20 + TFA teachers, (as this is aligned with the magnet goals.) One of the lead directors suggested that I contact those coordinating DCA competencies for all of the district where I work. I am now helping develop employee resource groups!

I went to QuickTrip to get coffee, (I sleep 6 or less hours a night - I’m trying to hold it together here people, do not judge my 24 oz of coffee consumption). In line to pay for the coffee I hear “Ms. Hering?” One of my former students was behind me in a firefighter’s uniform! He is now working with me so that we are able to have a fire truck at our next pep rally and helping a current student of mine who is interested in becoming a firefighter... Let’s get fired up!!

I have made it to the in-person interviews with a charter school. If I am offered the position, I will be helping to start a new charter school in my city next year working 10 hours a month and receiving a stipend.

In the evening I checked my e-mail to find that I was recommended for an internship position for the summer that would help me develop as a professional and pay more than what I make as a teacher’s salary. I would also be in one of the following four locations:

My 6:15 meeting was cancelled, I bought a tent for Backwoods Bash this weekend, and I ate some Takis. Great day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


My students are very invested in my personal life, (and as it turns out, incredibly intuitive).

The student who asked what would happen if he showed up to my house with a bottle of wine asked if I'd come watch him play in his game. YES! Not even a question until I found out his motive. He wanted me to meet his coach. The student was actually trying to sell him to me... "He's really good with kids, he works at the shelter, he has braids. Do you mind braids?"

I refused to come to a game until I had the student's word that he would NOT try to introduce me. Arriving at my first game, I immediately regretted that decision. His coach was not only incredibly attractive, but he had such a calm and sweet demeanor. I didn't talk to him at the first game. I spent most of the game talking to another male teacher, (a friend), who I later found out the coach jokingly mistook for my boyfriend.

The second game I attended with a female teacher. I was waiting to say hi to my student when I noticed the coach leaving. I was a little sad and started walking out. The coach was walking kind of slowly and as I approached a narrow walkway he stopped to let me go through first. He noticed me. Game on.

"You're the coach, right?"
"I'm Tera. I'm ____'s math teacher." *shakes hands, typical introduction conversation* "I just wanted to tell you what a positive impact you have on these students. _____ always talks very highly of you and you can see that he really looks up to you."

"Thanks, that means a lot."

"I know this sounds facetious, but could I get your e-mail? _____ doesn't have a lot of parent involvement and if I could maybe e-mail you when he isn't behaving I think that would be helpful because he really does respect you." (While this was a very honest conversation, I didn't realize I had that much fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants game.)

Boom. He asked for my e-mail as well, but I just said I would e-mail him. Which I did immediately. When his e-mail read that "these things were better to discuss in person," all I read was DATE in big bold letters.

He is such a kind and considerate soul with ambition that matches his arms and abs. I'm incredibly picky. This happened a month ago and I'm still not tired of seeing him every day.

My students give me so many great stories that it's hardly comprehensible.

Friday, May 6, 2011


I will only see my students 16 more days until they are off for summer break. I can't imagine what it would be like knowing I wouldn't be working with students next year. I've decided an MBA is not my career path.

I am enrolling at OU in the Masters in Education program to become an administrator and changing my professional trajectory. I am going to Orlando, Florida this Sunday for a teaching conference for literacy. I am taking the Praxis to teach secondary English and Calculus.

I want to impact as many students as possible and I would give anything to do so.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's a lightening bolt of hearts.

I want to talk about Ty, a student who was defiant from the moment he walked into my classroom. He came to class high. I made him focus. He tried to talk the entire class period. I made him move. He yelled at me. I kept him after class. I set up a meeting with his father. His father never showed. These interactions, seemingly meaningless, demonstrated my desire for Ty to be successful and he began to rise to my high expectations. Ty came to class on time and wasn't even high most days. He actually let me see how smart he was and really caught on to inequalities.

(Example of Inequality Ty can solve: -3x + 8 < 17)

The only inequality he's going to see now will be from inside his jail cell... for at least 4 years longer than the white kid.

(Example of Inequality Ty won't have to solve to understand: 10 > 6)

They were both caught stealing while possessing drugs. My second hour informed me that it's just different if you're black. I felt as helpless as when a kid asked me if I could braid his fro. My skills are severely lacking in many capacities. Luckily, one of those lacking skills is crying in public.

I have such a fleeting amount of time with my students. Today I was organizing archived folders of class work. I threw away 15 students' folders because I know I'll never see the people they belong to again due to expulsion, drop outs, or jail sentencing.

Watching this Oklahoma storm makes me realize what a brief flash I will be in most of these students lives. The most pressing issue on my mind is the approach I can take to really change trajectories for my students and help them find their path to the life they deserve.

I want to make my flash last longer.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I smashed my glass slipper to build a stained glass window.

I don't get a fairy tale, but I get a beautiful pane with which to view the world.

Flashbacks to Freshman Year

I had lunch today with my, (get ready for a removed sequence), roommate's sister's three-year-old son. He was so legit! He loves spider man, eats fruit, and can tell you the exact life cycle of frogs and caterpillars and which animals are herbivores and carnivores - he also knows he's an omnivore.

Me: "Give me a high-five. Isaac, you're SO awesome."
Isaac: "You're so a... cute. And awesome."
Me: "Well, aren't you precious."
Issac: "And you're tease."
Me: "A tease?!"
Internal Conversation: Dear Lord, did this child just call me a tease? Where did he learn that? Man... that's not the first time I've heard that...
Isaac: "Yes. Tease. And your eyes."
Internal Conversation: Whew. He was trying to point out features of my face, not accuse me of turning him on and not fulfilling my 'womanly duty.'

I Promise I Don't Shower.

I wrote the curriculum for our advisory class last week. Generally there is a counselor who does the lesson plans; however, I offered to help her. The lesson was on resumes and I've had some experience entering resume and interview competitions back in the day. I supplied the counselor with a two-page lesson plan, PowerPoint, and a copy of my resume (with my address, phone number, and e-mail blacked out), to use as resources for planning the lesson. She handed out all materials - including a copy of my resume for every student in the school - to all of the teachers. I gave her the items hoping for an edit, but I think she thought the material sufficient.

My colleague, (who I had taken to the hospital last semester), had an advisory class that was actually holding my resume up to the light to see if they could see through the blacked out parts to get my number. What the?

Malfunctions: Round 3.

I had blood work, x-rays, and an ultrasound taken last week. 2 years ago it was kidney failure and an intestinal infection. Last year it was Pancreatitits. This year they thought it was Gallbladder disease, which was infuriating as the disease is usually a result of poor diet. I can't eat without it hurting. After the ultrasound of my gallbladder showed no signs of malfunction, the doctor took more blood. Currently I can't eat gluten or dairy. I'm just going to be vegan with the exception of honey... I'm still not sure how I feel about agave nectar.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

On the wall.

Talking with my friend tonight was like looking in the mirror. Our childhoods were incredibly similar. Our family member's actions mirrored each other: physically abusive fathers, depressed suicidal mothers, dependent siblings, (yes I realize how incredibly trite these sound and no, please don't allow them to evoke pity*). Our lack of shame for our past, our blatant approach to communications, and our ever-positive perspectives on the impacts our pasts have made. All mirrors. And not the contorted fun-house kind either.

My friend mentioned that his sister wasn't around and constantly receives credit for being the strength in his family. He feels hurt by this as he knows he was the one who was there to take care of his mother. I'm afraid that this is how my own brother feels as I moved away... twice, and am constantly referred to as the 'strong' one. I - and literally no one else - was asked to finish my grandma's eulogy in the event that my aunt could not, (it was her mother's ashes in the box two feet from her, anyone would have shaken too badly to speak). My aunt's husband hugged and thanked me for being his wife's strength. Where does this 'strength' come from?

I saw my grandpa for the first time today since my grandma passed away. It felt like I was wearing a heavy led jacket that was crushing my rib cage. There was no one there to crochet with, or brush half of my hair, or laugh hysterically at Elf with me. My grandpa cried as soon as he hugged me and cried when I left. I drove 7 hours in one day because he was lonely and I love him and want him to be happy. But he was sad. I didn't cry in front of him.

Oh Tera, why oh why would you ramble on about these things? I am petrified that I have a disconnect with things to protect myself. This is frightening for two reasons. One: you can't protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness. Two: I want to live in the present and experience things as they are. Huh? Today I took a deep breath and said "focus on the present" to myself. The moment I did that I burst into tears. I spend a good portion of my time in hyper awareness. Yes, I teach Special Education. Yes, I now analyze myself. Hyper awareness means I move through life pushing onward not really experiencing the things around me. On occasion.

Mirror mirror...

*I ask for no pity because I have none unless I feel that someone has really, truly struggled. Many people walk around like they have holes in both of their hands while they never really know sacrifice.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Jenn and I were cutting through HIT's main campus, (in the heart of Harbin), to get to our favorite French cafe - inexplicably the best espresso and crepes in all of China. We just had hour-long massages at a place that cost roughly three U.S. dollars and we were lazily seeking sustenance from receiving the beating that is a good Chinese massage.

(this is my little La, Jenn)

In Harbin Spring-fashion, the heavens opened up and dumped an entire lake's worth of water on our heads in less than 30 seconds - which was exactly how long it took us to realize that running was futile. There's no need to run when you're wearing a jacket and your bra is already soaked through. I stopped at a little store on campus, (where many students were huddled under the awning), and bought a plastic bag in which to wrap my computer. Jenn and I put our things with the students and began kicking the water from the quickly flooded streets onto each other.

Brazilian Jujitsu. Jenn and I had joined a bjj class during the winter months to avoid being cooped up as Harbin's weather plummeted to a brisk -30. I'd specify if it was Celsius or Fahrenheit but honestly, around that point, the numbers actually start to equal each other.

(through the ice)

Knowing this side fact, it's easy to imagine that kicking water at each other could quickly turn into a full-on throw down. Which is good. Because that's what happened.

Jenn and I literally wrestled in a flooded street. When I say flooded I mean at least 7" of water in any given point of where we were picking each other up, tripping each other, and dunking each other. All the while the spectators under the awning looked on with perplexed expressions. I'm sure they were thinking "crazy foreigners..."

3 years ago we fought in a street in China, grabbed our things got some Boba tea and hopped in separate taxis.

(the day you left)

Today I will be picking Jenn up from the Tulsa airport. Life is such a blessing and words can not fully express my euphoric feeling.

(The last time I saw Jenn... 1.25 years ago)

Monday, March 7, 2011

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

7. 35. 100.

7 of these:

$35 a piece.

100% class participation.

My 5th hour class typically looked like this:
A student with Asperger's stabs a student with Cerebral Palsy with a pencil and he screams "MUTANY!" They argue over who's going to shake whose hand first while I try not to look perplexed as to why they are even shaking hands to begin with.
A girl with emotional disturbances yells "shut the f* up" and throws her calculator because the child with Cerebral Palsy is ticking.
One student talks loudly out of turn because the girl with emotional disturbances is trying to borrow his paper.
Two other girls bicker over who can get the kid that keeps on talking to the other girl pay attention to them.
I bring everyone back to attention, we start taking notes, the students finish writing at different times, problems restart.

Thursday I gave everyone in my class an exercise ball with EXPLICIT instructions: no, you may not lay on the ball; yes, you can bounce, but if I hear you the ball goes up; no, you can not recline on the ball; if you fall off the ball, you lose the ball privileges for the week; if you are talking, you put the ball up; if you are late, you don't get to sit on a ball.

When students finished taking notes on a slide early they merely rocked back and forth on the ball and clapped their hands to Freelance Whales I had playing in the background. My student with Asperger's whispered "That was a great transition, Ms. Hering." He was absolutely correct. No one got stabbed with a pencil. No one threw a calculator against a wall. Everyone was on task or waiting patiently for others to finish. My child with Cerebral Palsy had time to get all the notes that day before we 'had to move on.'

This makes me teary-eyed when I think about it. I love my job and finding solutions that create a positive impact on my students' learning environment.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I like to make things as awkward as possible.

Sunday I still had the mustard-yellow paint on my hands, hadn't showered, and spent the morning cleaning my old house. Internet still hasn't been hooked-up in my new house yet, so I ran to my favorite coffee shop to e-mail my program director.

The guy behind the counter, who is always really nice, said "you're late for your typically Sunday meeting."

"Yeah... I just bought a house and had some things to take care of." He looked at me with a perplexed expression and asked how old I was, which was immediately followed by him asking my name and telling me two times that it was nice to meet me.

He gave me my coffee, I sat down and wrote a note that read:

Do you want to be friends?

Circle One
Yes No Maybe

If you circled yes
(arrow to flip over fold in page)
*my phone number*

Anyone who is going to hit on me when I look like that deserves the digits.

I am an old woman and I go to bed around 9:30 sometimes, last night was no different. I was awoken by a number I didn't recognize around 10:45.

"So... I circled yes."


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Snowpocalypse Swagger

I haven't seen my students in almost 2 weeks. I anticipated, (incorrectly), having to give up my spring break plans due to the inclement weather disrupting copious amounts of time to prepare for our EOIs. For those who don't know, if my students don't pass, they don't graduate. If enough of our students don't pass, our school doesn't make AYP.

Tuesday night brought yet another looming snowstorm, keeping me from my students yet another week and increasing the pressure I was already feeling. Last week I didn’t see a human being for 3 straight days. Ask everyone in my phone, as I’m sure I texted them this. I was not about to stay in Tulsa for snowpocalypse: round 2.

I asked a friend to accompany me to Mexico during my accounting class Tuesday night.

My friend luckily took me seriously and we left within 30 minutes of my class disbursing. We drove nearly 15 straight hours until we saw the ocean in South Padre Island.

I immediately scribbled "suck it, snowpocalypse" in the sand as I felt an instant victory over the plague of snow I had endured the past week and a half.

The following day we accidentally drove into Mexico. Schwoops! It was surprisingly easy to enter another country without the proper paperwork. We drove around for a few minutes before our return, despite the fact that we added an 'R' in Matamoros to accurately represent how Americans were received in the city according to the homeland security website. Matar means 'to kill' in Spanish.

We were searched on our return to the U.S. I wish I could have got a picture of this for you. After asking our profession, I’m sure the border inspectors made assumptions as to why America’s education system is currently struggling.

The third day we explored Spanish Missions, the Alamo and the river walk in San Antonio. Flip flops, ice cream, sitting the in the sun, and loving life ensued.

I appreciate people who indulge in spontaneity and subject themselves to the depression one feels after returning from such a glorious reprieve.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Days like these help me sleep so hard.

I woke up one morning and found an extra glove and a door that opened too easily. What I did not find was my stack of scratched-up, old CDs or my registration.

I called the police. They suggested that I report the issue online. I decided to do this at school as I was already late. Upon my arrival we went into lock-down and I was stuck in the choir room with 100 students and a few other faculty for a disaster drill.

We were evacuated to the fairgrounds. What does that look like, you ask? 600 students crammed into buses and a police escort to a giant cement room that smelled like animal and disinfectant.

It's hard to call insurance companies and file police reports from a barn filled with hundreds of students.

Mr. _____ was watching a door so students couldn't leave and he asked me to grab a water for him when I went through the food line, and yes, we had to eat lunch in the barn during our 4 hour stay. I asked for a second drink, and the lunch women told me I couldn't. When I mentioned it was for Mr. _____, I was told he could get it himself. When I said he was guarding the door, they made a face at me. I then said "My name is Ms. Hering," and showed my ID, "and I would like to grab a drink for Mr. ______." Fantastic how quickly things happen for you when you're not assumed to be a student.

My favorite person at my school has been there for 50 years and is the kindest soul I've ever met. I ask if they needed anything and they looked me in the eye and said "I'm madder than hell." I don't think I've ever heard this person utter an angry word before this day. Ever.

The bright side of all this? I got out of my lease early by claiming that I "don't feel safe," which is a farce. Scary things constantly happen in the hood. I'm aight.

I wanted out of my lease to purchase this:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Words fall through me.

I just wanted to quickly document the reactions I've experienced since I got my hair did.

  • People occasionally rub the right side of my head. Without permission. What is this, China?
  • One guy looked at me and asked if I liked Britney Spears. When I discussed my students' fund raising project, one of his friends hugged me.
  • An intoxicated individual - whom I've never met before - continuously kissed my head. When I moved to avoid this, he kissed my eye. Ew. Stopit.
  • One of my friends was sitting a room away from me in a coffee shop. He texted me to inform me girls sitting around him were discussing the state of my hair. When I inquired as to what they were saying he texted "One wishes she could do that and say 'yeah, I'm a badass.' " I find this humorous because she can do it. It's not as if I have magic razor or that this is some insurmountable feat.
  • People - magnet coordinators, colleagues, students - STILL stop by my classroom just to look at and comment about my hair.
  • It has been stated that I am not attractive due to my hair.
  • It has been stated that I pull this hair off well.
  • "You're the f___king hottest girl in this f__king place. You have to be so confident to rock a hair style like that. You're so f__king gorgeous" -- to which I responded "Uh..." and walked away.
  • People I don't know kiss my head. Even girls. One person mentioned it 'must feel like kissing down there.'

There are more, but it's time to be responsible and devote energy into PHENOMENAL Geometry lesson plans.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How do I fix my head?

When I'm honest with myself I'm able to communicate better with others and accomplish things. There's a huge portion of my thoughts that I've neglected. I would say I've 'left out' these thoughts, but they've always been there - just intentionally muted.

I arrived in Tulsa freshly single like fish chum in a tank with starving great whites.

I was heartless towards those who tried to date me because I was just that: heartless.

I buried myself in work to fill the empty spaces.

I made rules about not dating - that I did not follow - until February when I'd have more time. Now that February is fast approaching I'm realizing that I'll feel the same way next month as I've felt since July.

I dated within TFA, within Tulsa, with an open mind. Nothing made it different. It's not like I didn't try. I faked it hard enough to please people, but not in an intimate way.

I had an Irish friend in China do a pointing dance move towards me any time this song came on:

While humorous, I don't want it to become a reality. I told "every girl's ideal" guy I dated a few months ago that I like my coffee how I like my soul, (black). He replied "Starbucks has a heartless, masochistic blend. Maybe you should switch to that."

It's a little sad because he's A. correct and B. handsome/smart/funny/notforme. Sometimes it makes me feel like damaged goods.

Please don't misinterpret this internal ramble.

*I don't feel sorry for myself. I think we walk around as if we have a hole in each hand while we never really know sacrifice.

*If we don't talk about things we forget them faster, but if we bury things they fester. This is me lancing the boil.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What I'm trying to keep straight.

Tomorrow starts a new semester of graduate classes, Monday - Thursday 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The circles under my eyes don't stand a chance. Exhaustion.

One of my cheerleaders brought me a card, a blanket to represent warmth from her family and a $15 Starbucks card. Her mother signed the card with "Your loss, God's gain!" Precious.

I'm not giving my students a semester final exam because I want them to catch up with the other classes and I am required to incorporate broadcasting themed lesson plans to keep our funding for the magnet program. These topics aren't on the End Of Instruction Exams. Frustrating.

I've applied to multiple summer jobs with Teach For America. If I get one I will put grad school on hold for the summer semester, continue to work towards ending educational inequity, and earn some monies. Excited!

Vipe Magazine - a local sports magazine that typically uses photos of OU cheerleaders - took pictures of my squad at an away game, and not the home squad! Proud.

I taught myself how to do a flip turn in the pool! Chicka chicka.

One of my friends knitted this for me for Christmas! Blessed.

Exhaustion. Precious. Frustrating. Excited! Proud. Chicka chicka. Blessed. It's just the tip of the iceberg my friends.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Clif bars and hospital floors.

This is how I spent my New Years Eve. They told me to tell my grandmother goodbye because the pump was the only thing keeping her alive, despite her surgeon's proclamation that he was a "kick-ass surgeon." I forgot that I could cry like that until I saw her.

I told her goodbye and I loved her.

I told her my scarves look like shit and I need her to rip the knots out.

I said the Benediction with her.

Two hours later my grandma became responsive. I read Psalms to her. When she mouthed the word water the RN brought a sponge on a stick. I couldn't help but think of Christ and "I thirst." I told her stories about my students. I told her I'm going to do her hair for her, (my aunt suggested purple, that was quickly rejected with a vigorous head shake). We upgraded to spray bottles. I held her hand. I tried to read a little non-fiction, but she wanted a romance novel! I sprayed water into her mouth when she mouthed the word "thirsty." I watched her mouth the words "I love you, too" around her breathing tube to people as they came in and said goodnight. I told her "I'm sorry, but we can't yet" when she mouthed the word "drink." I saw the hole in her chest the size of two fists. We watched the ball drop in New York. I played with her hair. I sprayed water into her mouth when she mouthed the word "thirsty." I kissed my grandma. The RNs "strongly recommended" I leave the room.

It's funny how my mom needs a cigarette when she can't breath.

I felt like I was left to suffer hope.

"The only infallible truth of our lives is that everything we love in life will be taken from us."

We all got to hold her while they turned the pumps off. We told my grandma she looked pretty. We lied. She looked beyond beautiful. My grandpa told her he was taking her dancing when she got better, that she was his baby, that he loved her more than anything. We said the Lord's Prayer and I said the Benediction one last time.

I didn't cry until her heart stopped and we left the room. I erupted. It was volcanic - violent and hot. I made people uncomfortable.

Happy New Year