Tag Archives: texas

The “Tripod” of the Public Education System

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teaching

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week 🙂 Thank a teacher who supported you!

Now on to a less happy topic…

There’s this lovely “tripod” that’s supposed to be a thing in the teaching field: the students, the parents, and the teachers/administration. I remember sitting in grad school, listening to this tripod explanation, and thinking Yup, I got it, that makes sense, if we all just work together, we’ll have the perfect system!

I was teaching 7th grade English at the time, in Aiea, Hawaii, and I was struggling. The added stress of my masters program, my Teach For America responsibilities, and the craziness of uprooting from Texas was definitely weighing on me. I kept thinking Well, my end of the tripod is steady, for sure. I figured my kids’ third of the creation was probably sturdy as well. So I mostly blamed parents. Why don’t they check grades online? Why don’t they check their kids’ backpacks, planners, folders? Why don’t they show up to meetings or buy their kids supplies or make their kids read at night? Why aren’t they like MY parents, or like ME? It’s easy to blame.

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But as the years went on, and I moved back to Texas, I realized a much bigger problem: WHY is the teacher end of the tripod combined with admin? Shouldn’t they be on their own, a fourth leg? There’s a disconnect between educators and their bosses–a gap that’s growing and growing. To casually throw a backslash in between teachers and admin is ridiculous. Teachers/admin. As if we’re the same, as if we have the same job, make the same salary, deal with the same daily ups and downs…HA!

I’ve tried hopelessly to get to the bottom of why this disconnect exists and how it started. The only conclusion that really makes sense is lack of respect. We don’t feel trusted by our principals or assistant principals or curriculum specialists or whoever we’re “reporting to” on any given day…and I don’t think they feel trusted by us either. Respect, open communication, team building…all of those buzzwords that are major duhs in well-run companies are merely pipe dreams in the public education system.

We are told that it’s our fault if kids fail–by people who, five years ago, were (shockingly) teachers themselves, dealing with failure rates themselves. It’s kind of insane.

We ask for behavior help, classroom resources, parent or community relationship assistance–until eventually we stop asking. Because that’s usually what people do after so long of asking and not receiving–they stop asking entirely.

We fill out all the required busy work and attend all the unhelpful, mandatory trainings and simultaneously sew our lips together.

I’m only in my fourth year of teaching and I’m guilty of this. I start off the year strong, passionate. I begin fizzling and fading fast. So much time and effort…for what seems like nothing most of the time. I care about my students as if they are my own flesh and blood–I pour my heart into this job–and the “tripod” still topples. Every year.

Admin seem to blame teachers, teachers blame parents and admin, students blame no one because usually they don’t even see the real problem…

I think it’s pretty clear that this “tripod” is wobbly on EVERY end. There’s no 100% strong, healthy leg of the public education system. It’s not one group’s fault. I don’t even think one group is a little more to blame than another. Everyone knows we have a flawed system. Large strides are needed–from everyone.

But I do think that the first step in solving this massive nationwide issue is to close that disconnect between teachers and admin, so that maybe we CAN one day be teachers/admin.

I mean, if we can’t receive the support that we deserve from our superiors…how are we supposed to function effectively in the trickle-down of disrespect?

Prompt: Unexpected Night

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Sometimes, when I’m in a writing slump (which lately, is always), I allow Twitter to feed me prompts. There are an astounding number of tweeps whose sole tweet purpose is to motivate others to write. It’s pretty great. So here goes: an unexpected night.

Mystique-as-a-child-teen-and-adult

Blue paint was creeping into my nostrils and caking around every crease of my lips but I was two drinks down and feeling anything but blue. I guess I can be more specific—it wasn’t blue paint exactly, that was curdling around my eyebrows—it was (unfortunately) more like periwinkle. Luckily, I had a BLUE long-sleeved t-shirt, BLUE shorts, and BLUE tights to combat any confusion: I was blue (even if my face was periwinkle). A long, RED (orange-red, if I’m being honest) wig draped itself around my splotchy neck and YELLOW (definite on this one) cat-eye contacts continued to rotate creepily since I was wearing them over my regular contacts.

In other words, I was a bit of a mess. The paint wasn’t spreading onto my skin very evenly, in fact, it was being downright exasperating. I had chunks on one side of my face that were thick and wet, spots on the other side that were thin and dry, flecks in strands of my hair (real and wig), flecks everywhere else within a 10-foot radius… I looked like something out of a budget Smurf production. An elementary school’s Spring performance. An understudy for a second-grade Smurfette.

Luckily, I didn’t give a damn. Amazing friends, Halloween excitement, and vodka do wonderful things to a mind, body, and soul. I hopped around my living room in my beige canvas slip-ons (apparently I don’t own blue shoes), sipping and laughing and unknowingly splattering a few paint specks on couch pillows and the likes.

“Girrrrrl, you are BLUE!” Anne giggled in her goddess dress and I eyed her (cat-eyed her) jealously. She looked like a goddess, with or without the costume. Giant green eyes, dark hair, olive skin, white dress, curves for days—she was straight out of a Greek myth.

“Do I even look like Mystique, though? Or do I just look like a blue girl?” Mystique has been an idol of sorts for years. First of all, holy hell she’s smokin’ hot. Secondly, she kicks ass. Third, she can literally be ANYONE she wants to be. I’d thought about buying a latex suit to look more like her—I mean, let’s face it, clothes really aren’t her thing. But um, tummy pudge is also not her thing, so yeah, I decided on the t-shirt-shorts-tights.

“Yes, you really do. You really, really do!” I knew she was lying, but in a lovely, daughter of Zeus kind of way.

“It’s actually creeping me out,” Jennifer the 80’s rocker chick chimed in. I was surrounded by such happy, “fluffy” costumes. Athena, the Molly Ringwald-esque punkstress, Tara was Rainbow Brite, and Sandra was a cute pirate. I stood out, obviously. I looked pretty evil, but like I said, Smurfette. So a Smurfette gone bad.

We eventually shuffled into a taxi and met up with a few more friends on Rainey Street. Here’s where I cut to the chase. Fill in the holes with (what else) drinking. There was lots of that. Also, random guys shouting out things like, “Ohhh, I get it! AVATAR!!!” and “Genie chick, cooooool.” To the bro’ who guessed that I was Beetlejuice: You. Are. An. Idiot.

—– cut>>>>chase:

Two pedi-cabs and lots of walking later, we drunkenly made it to our final destination: Gypsy Bar on East 6th to see our friend Brian’s band play.

Here’s where it’s important to know a couple things about me and alcohol.

  1. I’m pretty good at it.
  2. I get suuuuuper ballsy and confident and seductive sometimes (i.e. when I see something I want).

Also, I’d told Anne earlier in the night, “I’m gonna make out with someone tonight, OK? That’s the goal. You in?” And she was in, SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO EXECUTE THIS PLAN WITH ME. However, the goddess, Molly, Rainbow, and One Eye watched as I, and I alone, smoothly decided to yell at a stranger, “WHY aren’t you wearing a costume?! How lame! It’s HALLOWEEN, HELLO!”

Super sexy, amiright? Paired with my crusty paint job and rotating, wompy contacts, I was basically a catch. Did I mention that my skin was starting to itch underneath all that periwinkle? Downright foxy.

Look: he had dimples and he was really tall and someone obviously needed to yell at him for not wearing a costume (that’s just dumb…why even go out?).

Even closer: goddamn he was really tall and he had a random sprinkling of freckles and gray hairs and his eyes were kind of caramel in the light and he immediately matched my bluntness with, “Well, at least my paint isn’t weirdly coming off. And your contacts are all kinds of crooked too.”

Barely a breath between us: “Well then here.” I pulled the cheap tube of paint out of my purse—it was almost the only item in there. “And while you’re at it, go ahead and rotate my contacts for me please.” I leaned up towards his stubbly chin and opened my eyes wide, not allowing him to hesitate, my lips pursed in amusement.

All of our friends had vanished by this point, leaving us in a strange bubble we’d created within minutes. This is apparently the point in which I tell a stranger everything about me: teaching, my novel, moving from Hawaii…I don’t even know what else I told him, I just know that we were locked in conversation and we’d moved to a picnic table and it was ten minutes ‘til the bar closed.

“I really want to kiss you but you’re going to get blue paint all over your face.”

Yeah. That came out of my mouth.

He must’ve said he didn’t care or he might’ve not said anything at all, but as people shuffled out of the back gate and the lights were being shut off, Mystique made out with the costumeless man with two last names. He looked like he’d been periwinkle-pied. I giggled and tried to wipe it off of his lips. He asked for my number. I gave it to him, scampered off, and expected to never hear from him again.

Five months later and my friends still affectionately call him “Blue Man Group,” but usually just behind his back.

Sometimes it’s not a terrible idea to paint yourself periwinkle, take a few shots, and yell at a stranger.

The Sweeney’s and Beer: One More Week!

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Cliffs-of-Moher1

SPRING BREAK IS COMING. This teacher is definitely more excited than her students about the one week countdown. Oh goooooodness, I can’t wait. I’ve had itchy feet for a while now. Dying to “get outa town” as they say. Took a quick trip to Fredericksburg recently, but that didn’t really do the trick.

Six more days and it’s NYC (purposely lengthened our layover so we could squeeze in Aladdin on Broadway) and then Dublin for Saint Patrick’s Day!

Apparently if you go overboard with green and leprechaun mentions, you will be judged and shunned, hard. Glad I learned that. Who woulda thought that Americans have warped other culture’s traditions into their own versions… Strange.

Anyway. Guinness tour, Jameson distillery, St. Paddy’s parade, Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle, and more. GET HERE, SPRING BREAK, GET HERE NOW.

I should also mention that this intensely awesome and affordable Groupon deal comes with a rental car—so we will be driving ourselves all around the Irish countryside. What the. I know. I’m not very good at driving here in Texas so I can only imagine the danger we will surely be in with me behind the wheel in a foreign country.

But then again: beer.

Not to be combined with the driving, geez. I’m just saying: beer.

It’s going to be in the 40s and 50s and rainy the entire trip: beer. That one makes more sense I guess.

Also, it is imperative to tell you that we will be staying at B&B’s across Ireland, most of which are your average European hostel-type stays, HOWEVER, one of them is a legit farm overlooking the sea, owned by the cutest old couple named The Sweeney’s. I cannot express how excited I am to meet The Sweeney’s. I also may ask them to adopt me, if they’re as adorable in person as their picture and description portray. Isn’t it crazy how some people’s “norm” is feeding their donkeys, drinking coffee while gazing over the Cliffs of Moher?! Just, ya’ know, another day in the life. Meanwhile I’m over here in Austin, scraping myself outa bed and shuffling out of my crappy apartment complex onto I-35, realizing that I put in my left contact but not my right.

You know what, though? Even if The Sweeney’s turn out to be super creepy Roald Dahl’s “The Landlady” types: beer.

Texas Author Day: Nov. 9!

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2014TX author poster-sm

Central Texans- I hope you can make it to my first book signing! I can’t wait for the San Marcos Public Library (my childhood heaven) to host Texas Author Day (still can’t believe I received an invite).

There will be so many great writers there- so come out and smell some books!

Sunday, Nov. 9, 2-5PM 🙂

Calling All Austin, Texas Readers!

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BookPeople

Book People is now selling copies of THE WAITING ROOM!!!

You can find it in the local author section OR in their Romance section 🙂

C’mon Austinites, I need you!

Find out more about my novel at http://www.alyshakaye.com

 

Turkey: The Country and the Lunchmeat

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Istanbul

In three days, I’ll be traveling to Europe 🙂 Rome–>Athens–>Santorini–>Mykonos–>Istanbul–>Capadoccia! One of the things I’m most excited about is the Blue Mosque in Istanbul (the beautiful thing shown in the picture).

I’m not sure what I’m more nervous/anxious/thrilled about: this amazing summer trip or my new teaching job starting as soon as I get back. I am officially moving from 7th grade English to 9th grade English. I accepted a position at Hays High School, my alma mater! To top it off, I’ll be teaching alongside my mentor, my real-life Dumbledore, the guy who’s responsible for me writing and teaching (thanks a lot, I’ll be poor forever). My novel is actually dedicated to him! So hey teachers, feeling down? You never know, maybe a student will dedicate a book to you one day.

I’m really gonna miss my squirrely middle schoolers though. Not to mention my coworkers here in Del Valle that I’ve come to deeply love and respect.

Hence my clever title…lunchmeat, cafeteria….high school? Ok, so maybe the dots aren’t as easy to connect as I’d like to think, but whatever.

Why am I writing one blog to talk about two completely different topics? I’m lazy, y’all.

In fact, I’ve said all I wanted to say already.

Let me sum up (I just love making lists, to be honest):

1. Rome- I guess that coin I threw into the fountain a few years ago for “returning” worked. Now about that other coin…

2. Greece- Was anyone else obsessed with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants when they were younger? Yeah, I’ll be on the lookout for Kostas.

3. Turkey, the country- Please send good, safe vibes since it’s not exactly a prime time to travel there… Also: we’re going on a hot air balloon ride. Be jealous.

4. Turkey, the lunchmeat- Bring it on, freshmen.

 

Sidenote: it’ll be really nice to get away from all the book marketing exhaustion. THE WAITING ROOM is my baby and I love her…but she has been a real pain in the ass! Sorry to my WordPress/Twitter amigos- if I’m silent for a few weeks, it’s because I’m tanning on a Greek island. NBD.

Better Early Than Late: When pub dates go wrong…

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The Waiting Room on Amazon

If you’ve self-published, you probably know the exasperation of CreateSpace and Amazon.

In my case, I wanted to make sure my novel was out on July 1, the date which I’ve advertised everywhere. CreateSpace warns that the print process sometimes takes up to 5 days…so, of course, I uploaded 5 days before the 1st.

And then my book magically appeared on Amazon a day later. Friends and family excitedly posted on my Facebook and I deflated in my humid, Texas apartment.

“Well….better early than late!” My friend Nathan graciously pointed out. I drank three mimosas at brunch and decided to go ahead and let the world know: my book is available!

Here are the links, hope you check out THE WAITING ROOM 🙂

Kindle version:
http://amzn.to/TupzK9

Print version:
http://amzn.to/1ofMTXn

Sandfest

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Sandcastles pretty much never stop being cool, am I right?

At least that’s what I was raised to believe—I didn’t say building your own sandcastle; I just said sandcastles. This obvious fact is proven by Port Aransas, TX—a seemingly unremarkable Texas beach. I mean sure, the Gulf of Mexico provides somewhat…shall we say murky waters and its coast is anything but “powder white sand”…but Port A has its own charms! Sandfest is one of those charms.

Every April, sand sculptors from all over travel to “that tiny beach next to Corpus Christi” and they create pure magic. Masterpieces like these:

Sand Wars?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used to go every year as a kid, and honestly, I have had more fun the older I get. Obviously, now I can combine drinking with sunbathing, which is a major upgrade. But also, I think that the art is more meaningful now. At this age, I feel like I can fully appreciate the sculptures. Don’t get me wrong—kids are just as enchanted. But I remember seeing them and just being blown away that there was a castle in front of me, ten times my size, made completely of sand. Whereas, this year, I found myself in all kinds of psychological debates (in my own head…hmmm…normal?) about the possible messages. Such an English teacher. But seriously, ponder over these for a while:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alas, I still bought a toe ring from Ring Around the Toesies. Don’t judge me, I like foot bling.

My friend Brian spent many hours digging a hole that my friend Pete would later ecstatically build a campfire in. Johanna was over the moon about Winton’s, the local candy shop known for their “Good”. Stephen even checked out our condo’s gym (Sandcastle Condominiums are right on the beach and pretty dang awesome). Some people preferred lounging by the pool and hot tub; others just sat on our balcony and relaxed. My mom and her friends were there too—getting sunburned and sipping vanilla rum.

It was an amazing trip. So start planning now for next April—hotel rooms fill up fast! And next time you’re building a sandcastle, try not to feel too inferior.

Love Letter

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Dear Hawaii,

I will miss your sand and everything attached to it.

I will miss the way the GPS says “Kah-may-ha-may-ha”.

I will miss warm malasadas and crunchy chicken katsu at potlucks.

I will miss those few and far between hapa hotties and North Shore board short-ed booties and tantalizing tribal tatted triceps.

I will miss driving through the mountains of H3, spotting Stairway and doing an inner I CONQUERED THAT happy dance.

I will miss the pineapple and pupus and Pidgin and the Pee-peh-lee-neh joke and Papailoa, where I go to read and bask alone.

I will miss my ohana (those staying on the island and those leaving) and so many moments in their lives, big and small. The birth of Cassie’s little man, the next time Kelly dyes her hair, the day Phil cooks a meal that doesn’t involve any frozen food and Annalise gets engaged and Leslie decides to stay a third year…

I will miss my keiki, who take up so much of my heart. I don’t ever need to have kids because I already have 200 it seems!

I will miss so much I could write a novel about the things I’ll miss. I could write a novel about the extreme anxiety I felt when I said goodbye to my favorite beaches and restaurants. I could write a novel about how the birds here are royal, expecting you to drive around them…yet, I’ll miss them.

I will miss every aspect of life here, all things, good and bad, because that’s how you miss wholly. Therefore I will miss the radio stations and lack of Mexican food right along with the rainbows, leis, honu, and mai tais.

I will miss calling this rock home. But I left home once so that I could return, maybe I’ll do the same again.

Oahu, I will miss your skies and smiles and waters, your colors and kindness. Mahalo for your patience and your always warm embrace. I will love you always, I will carry you everywhere- your sand and everything attached to it.

With aloha,
Alysha

The Keiki

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Gangstas v. Surfers

I have officially accepted a teaching job in Texas. You’d think I’d be ecstatic, right? A solid job to move back home to, back to the land of delicious Mexican food, sweet tea, and floating the river. I’ll finally get to be roommates with my best friend, I’ll finally keep a job for longer than two years…

But honestly, there’s something bothering me that I can’t quite shake. It’s not the fact that I’m leaving paradise—perfect weather, perfect tan (see I Heard This Place is Hard to Leave). It’s the keiki, man.

The kids.

I’ve been pampered for the last two years. My students might drive me crazy, but they freakin’ adore me. The biggest issue I’ve ever had is their lack of motivation…and I don’t blame them. I’d rather go to the beach than do homework too.

I remember what the kids were like in school back home. Also, I’m allowed to talk shit about the ghetto Mexicans and the white trash since I am both Mexican and white. Boom. Please remember that for the rest of this blog…

Those two types of people make up a LARGE percent of the population. Rednecks and gang members, knife fights at lunch, “pinche” being every other word out of most of their mouths, and a huge teen pregnancy problem. Ah, Tejas.

While this is an exaggeration, it’s only a slight exaggeration. So basically, I’m scared.

I spent 22 years in Texas, surrounded by a large Hispanic population, most of whom I was probably related to. But as for teaching experience? I’ve taught approximately two Hispanic kids in the past two years. Here in Central Oahu, the student population is comprised of SO many different ethnicities—Japanese, Hawaiian, Filipino, Samoan, Micronesian, Chuukese, Tongan, Korean, Chinese, and more. They’re so mixed that most of them don’t even know what to check for race on surveys. They think it’s weird that I’m “only two things” and they don’t tease each other about being “too much” of something or “not enough” of something else.

Duh, there’s still racism and homophobia and bullying and drug abuse and all those other terrible things that happen everywhere.

But I swear, Hawaii’s kids are probably the most tolerant human beings in the U.S. It’s all aloha and shaka and howzit and bruddah and sistah and auntie… it’s kind of crazy how happy people are here. Oh wait, the sun shines every day. There are rainbows every day.

The kids I went to school with would beat these kids to a pulp and then tattoo something about it on their necks. Or they’d tie my kids to cows and pour Lonestar all over them. The white kids I went to school with would call my kids Mexicans and when my kids would try to explain that they’re actually a Hawaiian-Japanese-Filipino, they’d say, “Whatever, you’re brown, so you’re Mexican.” The Mexicans I went to school with would call my kids wannabe Mexicans.

I could go on and on, trashing and exaggerating about the kind of kids I went to school with (reminder: I’m allowed), but what I’m getting at is I DON’T WANT TO TEACH TEXAS KIDS, I WANT TO TEACH HAWAII KIDS…BUT IN TEXAS.

Sigh.

Will I be facing a major culture shock? It’s kind of ironic, I realize. I was born and raised in the area, I’m obviously super familiar with the Hispanic culture. But teaching is a different story. I’ve finally reached a point where I feel qualified to teach Hawaiian mythology and “local, Pidgin kine poetry”. I feel comfortable discussing and analyzing the differences and similarities of Asian cultures. I’ve finally mastered the stereotypes, resentments, and unspoken bonds between these groups here—it’s been incredibly hard.

So will my teaching suffer?

Will it be like my first year all over again?

What about my ELL kids? Will I know how to accommodate them? Is it the same?

I know that this entire blog is probably a huge freak-out, completely uncalled for and unnecessary. I’ll adapt, I’ll be fine, and my memory about how horrible all the kids were is probably extremely blurry and skewed. Let’s be real, I only remember one knife fight in my 13 years of schooling.

Every culture is unique, and I know how important it is to learn about my students’ cultures and incorporate them into my work, but does every culture require some sort of special, secret teaching skill? No, of course not. Teaching with love, passion, and curiosity is across the board—that’s all I need…which is good, because sometimes I feel like that’s all I have to offer as a teacher.

Hopefully, my Mexican kids will love me just as much as my little mixed plate loco mocos do here. Hopefully they won’t judge me based on the fact that my Spanish is only at an intermediate level (only when I’m drunk). At least I know all the bad words, that’ll be helpful.

I will adapt and I will do it FAST, just like I did here. I still remember the first time I tried poke and spam musubi, thinking they looked like the most disgusting things I’d ever seen. Look at me now—using chop sticks like a pro and giving directions like a local.

I still say flip-flops, not slippahs. Not budging on that one.

I’ll miss this place and I’ll miss these people so much. I don’t think I’ll ever love my students more than I love these, my Hawaii babies, my keiki. But you never know. All I can do is try.