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Week 15: still climbing uphill

We made it through (almost) a semester at Markham Middle School, which according to teachers at our school is “like getting through six semesters at any other school.”

Yeah, I’d have to agree. The situations and issues my team has dealt with – whether that has to do with academics or behavior – are either challenging, unbelievable or make you wonder, “Did that seriously just happen?” We still have a long, long, long ways to go with our students, so I don’t think we’ve reached the peak of the mountain yet. We’re still climbing uphill.

Yet, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. In just one semester, I’ve met a group of 30+ talented leaders (all of my roommates and teammates), students that I’ll never, ever forget and I’ve been surrounded with people who have similar aspirations. However, I’d rather leave the “how much my life has changed” debrief until after the full school year is over (I wonder how long the post will be… I have a tendency to write a lot and disregard any word limit an editor tells me I have).

My students were pretty checked out this week; it’s like they turned a switch off in their brains. They were more focused on all the holiday sweets and treats that we’re floating around the school. I still took students out of class, but they still had trouble focusing.

It rained really hard on Monday, which is not ordinary in LA. On the way back from first period some of my girls started puddle jumping and running under all the drains. Needless to say, they were soaking wet and hugging me to get my clothes wet too. Although they were told by their teachers to stay out of the puddles, I just laughed at them because that’s exactly what my middle school friends and I used to do. Every time it would rain we would plan to wear tennis shoes and swishy pants so we could jump in all the puddles at lunch. We would have a competition to see who could get more wet. How can I get mad at my students when I can live vicariously through them and be nostalgic?

But, the best highlight of the week? My team leader Lauren got into Harvard for undergrad.

20111221-122211.jpg At the end of our after-school program she was standing next to me, my other team leader and a couple of other teammates and calmly said, “I just got into Harvard…” with a confused look on her face. The moment she said that we jumped up and down, hugged her and screamed, “CONGRATS!” I can genuinely say that I am happy when others are happy. I love seeing others who are close to me succeeding, especially the ones who deserve it the most. Our team leader Lauren may only be 19, but we all look up to her and learn so much from her; Harvard is lucky to have her.

The Markham team just LOVES to do sappy appreciations and “thank you cards” for practically everything (we have a “Markham Productions” card company). Living up to our appreciation traditions, we threw a surprise “congrats” party for Lauren on Tuesday. Some of my teammates acted out a skit for Lauren (see video below) and then we all gave her a note of college advice that she isn’t allowed to open until she heads off to Harvard.

I’m back in the Bay Area for Christmas! This is probably the longest I’ve been home for a while. I didn’t bring any City Year things because we have a week of training before school starts so I’ll work on City Year lesson plans, interventions and behavior management systems (which boy, oh boy do I need to work on) when I get back to Los Angeles. We all just need a well-deserved break.

On Tuesday, we circled in Pershing Square and toasted off some apple cider to the New Year. One of my teammates Angie had us go around the circle and say one thing we love about ourselves and one thing we want to work on in the New Year.

20111221-122332.jpg I said that I love that I have recently learned to love who I am and my personality and the passion I bring to things (whether that is journalism or City Year). It was a huge, huge shocker that I said that I had to work on not getting so stressed out/stressing over the little things in the New Years (not gonna lie – this has probably been my New Years resolution every year).

My Peace Corps recruiter said she’d be in contact with me in December. Christmas is approaching, so I would assume that she would be in touch before then, but I still haven’t heard anything. I’m exercising patience once again, but right now I’m toying with the idea of doing a senior corps year with City Year in Los Angeles then leaving for the Peace Corps directly after my City Year service ends.

Markham-ism of the week?

My students Google-stalked me during math computer lab. I’m just crossing my fingers they don’t come across my blog or other social media profiles (I’m a former journo-kid, I’ve got to personal brand!) Anyways, they thought it would be funny to change the desktop backgrounds on the computers to my face. I thought they were kidding when they told me they did this, but they weren’t. City Year had to use the computers the period after their math lab and as some of my teammates turned on their computers, my face was smiling back at them… ohhhh students, you crack me up.


Don’t forget to check out my latest “A City Education” Series article on “Going Back to Basics is Key to Achievement”

Happy Holidays!

Reporting from the yay area,


One Comment Post a comment
  1. Dear Liz,

    You make me sooo proud…. and so much wiser…reading your blog. Thank you for such wonderful, enjoyable writing and yet more appreciation for teachers, especially ones like you and all the City Year team.


    Heng’chish po’choxevo pi’ ‘iipit tawpush, pi puyaam mollix: “noo noma’max ‘oy — puyamm pi’ pitoo'”

    December 30, 2011

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