Rebel: Heart to Heart

In addition to teaching English to my students, I have been a health educator for about 15 years. The stories of how that came about are complicated, but basically, when I was pregnant and then had a baby, I became the best person to talk to teenagers about why they DIDN’T want to become parents too soon. I was supremely cranky and sleep deprived, and they were the unfortunate audience to some not awesome days.

When I started, I was pretty naive but enthusiastic. I dove into a lot of resources, and was fortunate to have a lot of students MORE than willing to try to make me uncomfortable asking weird questions. I also have a very supportive boss who supported my curiosity and desire to create space for sex ed in an English class.

I was so fortunate to have learned what I did early in my parenting, because I have come across many resources that I think are invaluable for parents of kids of all ages. It requires a little bit of rebel inside you to embrace open talk about sex and sexuality with your kids, but it is worth it.  I have been fortunate to see my former students become sexual health advocates for their peers and even go into professions around health advocacy because they learned how to talk openly about sexual health and seek resources that worked for them.

As a parent, I am a huge fan of the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital Program: Heart to Heart. It provides honest information in a non-confrontational, funny format to help teens and tweens understand the journey to adulthood ahead.  They do it in a way that is as non-restrictive as possible but also creates room for all parents to follow up with conversations that fit their families. It has a basic introduction to sexual reproduction that can be uncomfortable (one of my children refused to speak to me afterward because she did NOT want to grow up YET!) but scientific and, again, created space to start a conversation at home where each child was.

If you are thinking about going and have questions about my experiences going twice with two VERY different daughters, let me know! 

Read: What I’m Teaching – Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

\ I am relatively new to non-fiction, being a fiction devotee most of my life before teaching.  And while I have been teaching non-fiction to high schoolers what seems like forever, I ask a lot of people for a lot of ideas when I am looking to update curriculum. 

A good friend who is a science teacher recommended this book. When I heard the title, I had a little too much Breaking Bad on my mind and was convinced it was about meth. Did I mention that I have an almost problematic obsession with True Crime? But, after it was explained that this was, in fact, about a botanist, I realized it was probably classroom safe.

It has truly been a gift in my high school classroom. The first reaction of most students is “This is boring! Why do I care about this scientist or plants? This is not for me.” They would rather be reading about murder (I can’t blame them) and drama, but it does not take long before Jahren casts her spell and the kids get swept up.

I know, it sounds impossible that a book about a scientist and plants could be so engaging for high schoolers.  But, Jahren is ridiculously talented.  She weaves stories of her discovery of science, some epic failures in the laboratory, and her struggle with manic depression all into a beautifully written narrative of one of the most important friendships in her life.  All of this within the framework of lessons about the complex and strangely human lives of plants.

It is hard to share the story of this book without ruining the pleasure of discovering it for yourself.  And that I am able to say this about a book about plants continues to shock me.  But even better is the surprise students express when they learn something from Jahren’s book or notice something about her style.  In a particularly complexly written but easy to read chapter, Jahren uses quotes that she memorized from David Copperfield BECAUSE SHE DID NOT UNDERSTAND THEM in order to describe her work as a med tech and uses them to illuminate the moments when the quotes and her life start to make sense. Or, when she sets up an analogy using roots to later show friendship roots us in unique ways.   These moments make my English teacher heart sing! When students see what she is doing, they are equally surprised and feel as brilliant as they are, scientists themselves discovering something new and interesting about another person. 

If you’ve read Lab Girl, let me know what you thought.  Or, when you read it, share some insights!

Recharge: All good plans…

As many of my friends would tell you, I am a woman with plans…. that don’t always make it to fruition on the timeline I imagine.  When I started this blog process this summer, I thought I could totally get it pulled together before school started.

Now, the first marking period has ended and I am laughing at my August self.  But this is the life of a teacher! I always overestimate what I can get done in the time I have and always see possibility to change and create things. I guess that keeps me going during tougher days.

This week, I have been thinking about small ways to recharge myself that don’t take WORK. I have always been a DOER.  It is very hard for me to rest.  I am trying to find things that don’t bring out “TYPE-A”my but rather the lower case amy. 🙂 Doing nail polish with a friend on a semi-weekly basis has been a great option.  Trying to schedule lunch with friends, even in my packed schedule, at least one every other week has also worked. 

I have also been indulging a lot in True Crime Blogs on my way to work each day.  My current addiction is The Mysterious Mr. Epstein from Wondery. It is narrated by *NOT THAT* Lindsay Graham and it is simultaneously engaging and horrifying. Granted, this may sound stressful to many people, but for me, I get energized by thinking about something new. The content is full of content challenges – every episode has a content warning at the beginning – but the storytelling is so engaging it is hard not to listen. Books can be tricky for me – if I start reading something good, I quickly jump into English Teacher mode and it becomes work rather than fun; so I end up reading a LOT of mysteries and police procedurals (do you sense a theme?!?). I have been trying to practice taking off my teacherly hat a little to read more challenging fiction, but podcasts provide a lot of the same pleasure without me immediately trying to lesson plan (but it does happen… Serial Season 1 is now a staple of my 10th grade class…)

I love things I can count on and carve small spaces into my weekly plan to make me feel more connected to my friends or the world. What do you do for a little recharge during the week? I’d love to hear your suggestions!