Friday, September 30, 2011


I'm not sure where I fit at school.

I'm not a student (gladly!).
And I'm not a teacher.
I'm just that elusive, nebulous "student-teacher."

This means that the students aren't really sure how to interact with me and neither are the teachers. Such as, the other day in class, Ken was out of the room making copies and a quite snide and difficult student said, "Where's our real teacher?" I didn't know the "correct" way to respond, "Mr. F is making copies. I am right here." He didn't seem satisfied. Neither was I.

Many of the teachers and staff know that I am just another student-teacher, passing through: here one semester, gone the next. I can't blame them for not becoming deeply involved with me, so I really appreciate those who do.

I think this may be one of the reasons I am finding it difficult to thoroughly enjoy student-teaching: I don't know where I fit.

My social life--once handed to me via classes with friends, ASB events, or just randomly bumping into people I knew at the gym or the cafe--is now gone. I don't randomly bump into anyone at school. It's hard to feel connected or fulfilled.

I don't necessarily find comfort or peace standing in front of thirty teenagers (pretty much a moving/talking target, like it feels some days). They can be fun, and they are the population that I am closest to in age, but they are not my friends, nor should they be. I don't necessarily find comfort or peace interacting with teachers either. A handful are in their twenties, but most are grown-ups with spouses, families, mortgages. Sometimes it's difficult to relate to them too.

So at the end of a 12 hour day (like Monday with parent-teacher conferences) when I shuffle in the door at home, the house is empty and I still have at least 2 hours of grading and lesson planning to attend to before heading to bed and doing it all over again, it's hard to feel good about myself or optimistic about the next day when I don't feel I've interacted with anyone who knows me or will beyond December.

This week, I overheard a conversation between two girls, "Hey, guess who I just ran into?"

The other replied, "Who?"

"Mr. F's student teacher from last year. Remember he taught us English 10?"

"Oh yeah, it's hard to remember student-teachers exist outside of school!"

I can't say that when I was in high school I was any less oblivious. Oh, I exist. In fact, I spend a lot of days reminding myself that I am more than just "Ms. Bo."

I am a friend.
I am a daughter.
I am a sister.
I am a girlfriend.
I am a student.
I am a learner.
I am a writer.
I am a musician.
I am an artist.
I am a dancer.
I am an athlete.

I am a person beyond and outside of this student-teaching experience.
I am a person.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


The other day, walking out of school, I thought, "What if I just quit this student teaching thing?"

The idea both surprised and comforted me at the same time. I don't want to be doing this, but I am and I need to and I will, but . . . quitting would just be easier. I don't want to stand in front of ornery teenagers and act like I have it all together, because I don't. So is it merely the title, the profession, the task, or the position that pours on this pressure to perform?

I am at a great school.
I work with excellent teachers.
I teach hard-working, intelligent students.
Yet, I dread going to school and look forward to the days when we watch a film in class.

So what's my problem?
Why am I not enjoying this?

Two possible solutions come to mind:
A. maybe I am just not meant to be a teacher
B. maybe I am missing some crucial, necessary part of teaching and once I figure out what that is, I'll like it. I need the missing piece.

The formal verdict is out, however, I'm leaning toward B. And unfortunately the missing piece is probably (brace yourself): me. One of my cooperating teachers, Ken, told me, "Ya know Ms. B, I've found that usually in a tricky situation where there are two choices, the right answer is usually the harder of the two." Eck. I knew he was going to say that.

You see it would be so much easier to say, "Nope, teaching is just not for me" (as it would be easier to say that about just about anything that makes me uncomfortable). I would rather just quit than face my fears, those fears that I will let everyone down, say something wrong, be wrong, be inadequate, not be enough, mess up, confirm how unintelligent I really am. I fear that my teachers and students will find out I am a fraud.

Lynn, my counselor, assures me (sadly) that this is normal. "It's called the 'imposter syndrome'," she tells me, "where early entry novices often feel like they are going to be 'discovered' for
not really being what they portend to be."

Fay called me Thursday night. We hadn't talked on the phone (via Skype, of course) in over a year. She and Tim still live and work in Cambodia. We talked. We caught up and she reminded me that I've felt this way before. When I taught English in Cambodia, I would often express similar doubts and fears. She always seemed surprised when I would tell her this. "But Heather," she'd say, "you're a human sparkler. Your worst opinions of yourself are invisible to the rest of us."

So if the feeling that I am a fraud is all in my head, how do I get it out of my head? Well, that's the million dollar question I suppose, because I've experienced these same fears and doubts in every single area of my life, feeling inadequate in one way or another. I call her Helga. She's pretty annoying.

For me, crowding Helga out means reminding myself who I really am. So this will be the mantra I write out each morning and read when I need to throughout the day:

"So, this is student teaching. After twenty-three years in school, I am completing the final two and a half months of my college education. This is it. I am doing it.

It is not my job to please every student, to make them happy, to make them like me. They do not reflect me. I need not take their facial expressions, moods, grades, or responses personally.

It is not my job to be perfect, to be flawless, to never make a mistake, to always have all the answers. It is not my job to pretend or "act" like I have it all together, because I don't.

It is my job to be a teacher-in-training, a student, a learner, a grower, to do my balanced best which is all I can ever do, which is always enough."

Yesterday, after another long week of school, I nearly fell out of my chair when Ken told me, the day after Fay reminded me on the phone, "Ms. B, you are a human sparkler, has anyone ever told you that? Because you are."

That's what I hear.
I'm slowly learning to believe.

Monday, September 19, 2011


The upcoming unit in my English 9D class is a unit on personal essays. To teach this, I am going to teach the students how to write an essay to contribute to the "This I Believe" radio program on NPR. If you've never heard it, check it out.

I'm going to use this one in class on Friday:

"When I was seven years old I quietly dressed my self one morning in my favorite pink gingham dress that my mother always said was too small, quietly tiptoed out the door, and ran away from home. My sister who was five and who I told everything to didn’t know, my father whom I loved didn’t suspect a thing and my mother whom I tolerated didn’t know. They were all still sleeping.

I walked that summer morning many miles, from one end of Fort Collins to the other. When the police car found me I was walking in front of Jax, my dad’s favorite hardware store not knowing what to do because only mountains lay before me. I was surprised when I turned around, I had gone far and I had never looked back.

Not long after my adventure across town, my mother divorced my father, packed up me and my sister and took the alcohol that had caused so much hurt with her. We ended up next door in Loveland, the sweetheart town. I had hoped for a fairy tail, a dream-come-true, with that kind of name, but I ended up in a nightmare.

My mother remarried a monster. He did all of the terrible things monsters do. I tried to run away again but he promised to kill my sister my mother and my father if I left. And so I ran. I ran at school and beat the fastest runner in the 6th grade who was a boy named Simon and I never looked back. Looking back while running slows you down.

In high school I ran for real. I ran far. I raced. I loved it. I graduated, went to college and even ran there. I left my mother, kept my father and drank with my sister. I met my husband, fell in love, and then one day, quite by accident, I looked back.

There behind me stood a little girl, about seven, frail and skinny and tired. I didn’t recognize her but she seemed somehow familiar. She told me that she was a runner too. We sat down together and she told me everything I already knew and many things that were new. Then she asked the question no one had answered for me, “Do you believe me?” And without hesitation or doubt or running away I answered, “I believe.” "

Darcy - Pagosa springs, Colorado

(Entered on January 18, 2007)

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I wrote a blog recently called "Twenty Months" about progress.
About healing.
And growth.
And change.
And movement.
In a good direction.
Toward wholeness.

Later that day, I walked to my friend, Kylie's, house.

"Heather," she said, "I just read your blog. I am SO proud of you! Can we jump up and down and cheer because I think this type of event is worthy of celebration."

And we did. And it felt good. We hooped and hollered and jumped on her kitchen floor in our socks until we felt we'd adequately celebrated.

And that "small" act mattered greatly to me. That "small" act said, "You matter. You're worth being proud of." She's just that kind of friend.

Ya know, the kind that celebrates with small (or large) accomplishments,
who texts just to say, "I'm thinking about you,"
who smiles abundantly and listens compassionately,
who seems to like you even though they know everything about you?

Yeah. That kind of friend.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Four weeks ago school started.

My private-schooled, twenty-three year-old, student-teacher-self walked into this big, scary world of "public education" and has been learning and taking notes ever since.

Each morning at 7:30am, the marching band toots their horns and hammers their drums in the grassy area in front of school. The cars circle around at 15 mph dropping off eager, sleep-deprived high schoolers as the band members march to their own tunes. Sometimes the tunes are oldies. Sometimes the tunes are rap songs. Either way, it's not usually the music I'm paying attention to.

I'm looking for my students. J and C are drummers. A plays trombone. T plays, ya know, I don't know what he plays. He's usually just there socializing. And dancing. Like the other day, I parked and watched T start a sort of mosh pit among the cymbal and xylophone players and soon the entire percussion section was jumping, hopping, and bumping. It wasn't long before the trombones jumped in and at that point the chances of someone getting thwacked were about even with the chances of getting punctured in a mosh pit with unicorns.

As it turns out high school isn't much like the movies. This insight came straight from my freshman English journals. They are shocked. And happy. The cheerleaders are not the most popular. Neither are the football players. I don't have the full spectrum of the social norms here, but let's just say all the cliches are not true. Surprise.

Yesterday, H showed me her new tattoo--a large heart on her hip. A gift from her boyfriend for their 5- month anniversary. 'Nough said.

Scott is like a pop culture juke box. When a word or phrase triggers a song, he sings it. Even in class. It makes me laugh.

A conversation in American Lit class turned to globalization and consumption. Ken pointed out that the closer we eat to the source, the better it is for our planet. P and T, two junior girls, asked me, "Are you vegetarian? You look vegetarian?"

"Yeah, I am."

She continued, "Ya know, I've never met a guy who is vegetarian."

I told her, "I actually know more guys who are vegetarian than guys who aren't."

The girls stared at me as if I had a booger.

I went on to explain, "See, I belong to a particular, um, sub-group where this isn't that extraordinary."

"And what sub-group is that?"

Oy, always an interesting question.

On Monday, we talked about the 10-year anniversary of September 11th. These kids were in first grade. The conversations were short and shallow. Their memories were scarce. It wasn't a big deal to them. We spent the entire class period answering questions such as, "What nationality were the terrorists?" and "Why did they crash into the buildings?" Or even, "What is all this Al Qaeda stuff about?" They knew there was an "incident" they don't really understand why it happened or why it matters.

Last week, I was on-campus at my college for my bi-weekly evening class. I arrived early with my teacher bag, my lunch box, and my cardigan. A new freshman who was working custodial poked her head into the classroom to empty the trash can and asked me, "Oh, sorry to interrupt, are you a teacher?"

I half-whispered and half-blurted, "No. No, I am not. I'm a student."

Knowing that really, that's no longer true.

Monday, September 12, 2011


This is my latest favorite song. Like, whoa, I may have exceeded the daily limit of times one person should listen to one song. It's by The Autumn Film, another one of those bands that Ben and Ashley introduced me to.



Safety pin me to your chest so I can stay close
Please don't leave me in this mess cause I am this close to unraveling, unraveling

Don't give up on me now, this can all be mended
We can iron this out, it can all be mended
When you're tearing at the seems, it can all be mended
It can all be mended now

Little walls are tumbling down, I feel them crumble
There's nothing left to tear down, there's only gravel
I'm breaking out, I'm breaking down

Don't give up on me now, this can all be mended
We can iron this out, it can all be mended
When you're tearing at the seems, it can all be mended
It can all be mended now

Don't give up, don't give up
Don't give up on me now, this can all be mended
We can iron this out, it can all be mended
When you're tearing at the seems
Tearing at the seems, it can all be mended now

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Twenty Months

It has been twenty months since the last time I purged.

Twenty months since the self-hatred and fear took over so powerfully that it seemed my only option was to seek temporary relief.

It was not my only option. It has never been my only option. But five years ago, I started to believe it was. I started to believe that controlling my body was a reasonable solution for controlling my life. If only I could get this area under control, than everything else would soon follow. Starving didn't work. Binging and purging didn't work. Yet, I kept trying, because I'm perseverant, you see. I'm a go-getter. I don't give up that easily. No, I was going to accomplish this goal even if it killed me.

I re-read journal entries of that time and she scares me. She isn't thinking clearly, logically, or rationally. She's not all there. She's so narrowly focused on this one thing (control) that she's missing just about everything else.

She spent hours exercising and seconds eating.
She meticulously calculated calories and pounds.
Hoping for the day when everything was under control.
Everything was calm.
Everything made sense.
Hoping that when at last, after all the self-hatred and abuse, she would finally feel good enough. Peaceful. Content.

I've learned that feeling good enough and being good enough are very different things.

Worth is not a feeling. It's a fact.

Worth is granted to each and every one of us from the instant we are conceived to the moment we take our final breath. We don't usually start labeling the worth of human beings in the maternity ward. Nah, we usually wait at least until pre-school. Then we start labeling the "good" and "bad" characteristics of human beings and from then on it never really stops.

We judge people based on their grades in school, the behavior on the playground, the cookies they did or did not eat, who they date, what they say, how they walk, how they dress, who they are. This labeling of "good" and "bad," "satisfactory" and "needs improvement" isn't helping anyone. Because at the end of the day, we are still what we were at birth and what we'll be when we die: worthy.

The dream is to realize this and believe this as soon as possible. Because some people never do.

Some days I believe in my worth. Other days I don't.
On the good days, Heather is talking.
On the not-so-good days, Helga is talking.
And let me tell you, Helga is a bitch.

Healing has meant giving Heather more stage time.
Telling Helga to take a back seat and "Please, if you don't mind: Shut up. Now."

Healing has meant giving myself a break.

Healing has meant learning that fear is not of God. So when I am afraid, Helga has had too much freedom.

Healing has meant taking deep breaths.

Healing has meant seeking help: from friends, family, and counselors (yes, plural).

Healing has meant sharing my story with others. Turns out I'm not the only one with problems, we're all just too-dang talented at hiding it. No more hiding.

Healing has meant committing to accountability. When I fully agreed to honesty, that meant that anytime I threw up I promised to:
tell Jeremy
tell my counselor
tell my parents
tell Ben and Ashley
and write a blog about it.
Strangely, throwing up seemed much less appealing. Quickly.

Five years ago, I was over my head in eating disordered behaviors.
Three years ago (in Cambodia), I was purging. Daily.
Twenty months ago, the eating disorder won.
Since then, I've won.

There's actually a really good chance that I will purge again. Let's be honest. It's not out of my memory. It will never be totally gone, beyond recollection. But healing doesn't mean finding perfection, nor does it mean giving myself permission to be self-abusive. No. Healing means accepting imperfection. Heather and Helga still get into arguments about the best way to manage my stress. There are still days when I look in the mirror and think, God, you really could have done better. But alas it's less about healed and more about healing.

I read a story the other day about a 94 year-old man who said, "The most important lesson I've ever learned is that I still have a lot left to learn."

Girl, you're only 23. Take a deep breath. Be proud.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fin De Semana Tres

And so came the wedding day...Yes, as if it were a first bra, we were pretty-freaking excited about our new K-Mart slips.The lovely bride mounting her steed to take her to the wedding location. That's how we do it in Colorado.The wedding location was a bit of a hike......but well worth it for the view.
We like to sing and dance to the Beatles. Particularly, "Oh Darlin'"

Look at 'em. So cute (nice pic, J).
Meh, we're kinda cute too.
Post-wedding, we drove home. But got stuck in traffic. Jeremy decided he had never run along side of a car while driving. So he did. As we pushed more than 5 mph.
And I decided I'd never done yoga on top of my car before. So I did.

And it was good.

Fin De Semana Dos

This weekend at my friend Tiffany's wedding, the married couple-to-be got into a minor cake fight at the bachelor/bachelorette party.

Diego is from Argentina and doesn't speak any English. A couple days before the wedding Tiffany asked me to sing a song for their wedding in Espanol. Oy. So we laughed through me practicing the song.
I might've added some drama (via what I've seen on Spanish soap operas). Then we played the only game I could think of that Diego might enjoy considering the language barrier. Charades.

It was a blast translating and fumbling for Spanish words. Acting in different languages. Laughing in different languages. By the end of the night we didn't feel so different.

Fin De Semana Uno

This weekend, I went to my friend Tiffany's wedding. We've been friends since 5th grade. We've played basketball together before we could dribble. We crushed on boys before our hormones actually kicked in. And now she's met a boy from Argentina and they're getting married.

The wedding happened to be in Colorado which made me happy.

I made the road trip with my wonderful chauffeur of a boyfriend, Jeremy. He drove and I graded freshman English essays. But we got in late Friday night.

He's silly.

I also got to spend some "quality" time (48 hours) with my dear, dear friend, Rachael.

She's kinda silly, too.
Okay, so we both needed slips for our bridesmaid dresses. We decided we wanted to wear them right away. So we did.
Rachael makes my life...richer.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Black socks and Birkenstocks. That is a trend I did not see coming.

Oh, and the newly-renovated fanny pack, these Northface Brand roo bags. They're everywhere.

Ken makes me laugh. He's kinda silly. We both listen to NPR (specifically, On Being). We read similar books and articles. Apparently, we both play Ultimate Frisbee. Yesterday he said, "Ms. B, the more I learn about you, the more I like you."

Scott relates well with students. And strangely, reminds me a lot of my brother.

Two days ago, I didn't want to be at school. Helga took over and told me everything I was doing wrong. I didn't want to spend my weekend driving. I didn't know how I was going to get packed and ready for the trip in time. Too many lesson plans. Too many requirements. Too many papers to grade. Too many feelings to feel. Too much to accomplish before Friday.

But then...I did.

You'd think I'd learn what parents have been telling their anxious children for years, "This too shall pass," but I don't. I struggle to remember. I forget. I fear. I worry. And then it all turns out okay and instead of recognizing the peace, I fret over the past stresses.

Jeremy and I are driving home for a wedding.

Four days ago I was asked to sing a song for this wedding. In Spanish.
I don't speak Spanish.
Sorry, Senora Haid.

The division chair of the English department said, "I believe in a well-placed curse word. Especially in the first week of school."

My pop culture class is fun. They smile. We talk. They share ideas. Sometimes we agree. Sometimes we disagree. On the first day of class J made a comment to a friend about one baseball team "raping" another. I wanted to scream and yell and strangle him. But it was the first day and I said nothing. I'm excited for our upcoming unit on gender issues when we will discuss the infinite imbalances, our language, history, the media. Oh, J. He doesn't know what's coming.

It's been three years since I taught in Cambodia.
I think I'm doing okay.

Scratch that.
I'm doing great.