September–Evaluating Chile, Ghana & Australia

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September started out solely as a countdown to Labor Day Weekend. School has been a hectic, demanding, exhausting 6-days-a-week, 12-hours-a-day emotional drain. The small amount of energy left at the end of the day as I text parents, put stickers on student papers, and input grades is summoned for opening bottles of wine, washing my hair once a week, and setting my coffee pot so there’s a hot cup of coffee ready when I crawl out of bed at 5:15am. Basically, recreational activities like reading (or staying up past 8:45pm) have fallen to the wayside, so an extra day off–to sleep in, to eat lunch with my boyfriend, to rent a movie on iTunes–has been worth counting down to for the past month.

Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune was my three-day-weekend book and while it wasn’t quite the spell-binding, page-turning vacation read I craved (ex: Me Before You, All the Light We Cannot See, Americanah), it was a smart look into a period of history I haven’t read much about, and even though the plot of an illegitimate pregnancy for a society woman is definitely a historical trope, Eliza is the stubborn and brave heroine I always adore. As mentioned above, life has been moving a little too fast for me, so a glimpse into Chilean aristocracy and the California Gold Rush were welcome sojourns from a day-to-day life I’m struggling to get ahold of.

Next, I turned to Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go, one I’ve been excited to read due to an aforementioned affection I have for the country of Ghana. Also contributing to my nostalgia for my time spent in west Africa is the fact that my fellow intern while in-country, now a long-time friend, is recently engaged, and she and I have been discussing wedding plans quite frequently, in addition to occasionally pining for a bowl banku or reminiscing about cab rides across Ghanaian countryside.

At first was hard for my scrambled bits of brain to grasp onto the jarring and choppy story-telling Selasi embraces, but as I got more familiar with the characters and the variety of issues that created them, it became easier. The doses of nostalgia for one of the happiest chapters of my life was also a welcome reprieve from countless busy days at school.

Lastly, I delved into Stolen for a quick, easy read to help me relax after emotionally taxing work days. Every teacher will tell you this is a job that doesn’t turn off, but it’s still hard to prepare yourself for how exhausting it is to be thinking about 50 adolescents at all hours of the day. Luckily, Gemma’s plot of being kidnapped and inflicted with Stockholm Syndrome was compelling, and I tore through this book in just two days (and talked about it as an example of foreshadowing in my class before donating it to our classroom library, where one other student was already read it just as quickly!).

While I finished Stolen early on in the month, I was forced to slow down my reading both due to being way tired but also trying to apply to a Master’s program fellowship–which required two essays, a resume, and a letter of intent. Forcing myself to eek out intelligent responses to any of those tasks has taken about every scrap of energy I’ve had left–and then some.

However, I was ultimately surprised to have read as much as I did this month. Pre-Fall Break is a tiring time of year, as students are settled in enough to display bad behavior, and there really isn’t an end in sight to keep anyone motivated and upbeat–teachers included. Last week, students were found with alcohol and tobacco on campus (not sure if I’ve mentioned that I teach 8th grade), and I’ve begun teaching essay-writing, a skill that many students struggle with and resist aggressively. As a result, each night I’ve been in my pajamas by 8:30pm, and my eyes can scarcely stay open long enough to get under the covers, let alone crack the cover of a book.

Additionally, as of this month, I’ve officially been working at this challenge for 9 months, and have read about 34% of my goal. But, whenever I glance at my monthly maps, it barely seems like I’ve made a dent in the list of countries out there. Sure, some of them are small and a few haven’t even been on the map (and to be totally honest, 27 really only accounts for 10% of the countries in the world, so it really is hardly a dent!). And of course, after devoting 9 months of reading and writing to this challenge, it can be a little disheartening to feel like I’ve barely made any progress.

Which, unfortunately, often resembles my feelings in my professional life, as well. After two months of teaching, of enforcing positive behaviors, of relentless grading and planning, it is sometimes frustrating to see students still struggling with concepts we’ve been going over since day one–especially when those students are the ones who misbehave. I work hard, and I do believe I’m a good teacher, and I know a lot of my efforts will pay off. However, it’s impossible to save every student, and that will never stop being hard to accept.

I guess the point of both of these frustrations is just to celebrate the victories, no matter how small, and keep working towards the bigger picture, no matter how challenging.

Here’s to surviving October (called Dark-tober in the educational realm, since this is usually the month of the worst behavior for a variety of reasons!) and lots of reading during Fall Break! #1WeekToGo

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