The first few years after graduating college I was so focused on having a career, moving to the city, starting graduate school, and trying not to fail at life. In the process it felt like l stopped having time to do many the things that made me happy and made me feel more like myself. I felt like a less authentic version of myself somehow.
In February of 2014 I left my job doing community management/marketing at a technology company and in March I started working as a technology associate at an independent school downtown. The transition from working in an office to working at a school came really easily to me, I immediately felt happier. Over the past year I have had a lot more time to do the things that make me feel more like myself. All of these hobbies were things I had tried before in the past, in high school or college, and it felt great to finally have my life sorted out enough that I could get back to doing them. Here’s what I was up to in 2014.
From May-August I took several ceramics classes at Mugi Studio. I took a ceramics class in college but we only had three weeks to work on the wheel, which is what I am most intrigued by, so I was happy to have three months to work on my skills. By the end I was able to reliably center the clay on the wheel each time. (For those of you who have never done this… it is NOT an easy task.) I wish I had more time to practice at the studio, but once work started back up I just couldn’t commit the time to it any more. Maybe I’ll take another class this May.
I bough myself a fancy camera with my 2013 tax return. (I got my tax return on the same day I received a job offer- score!) I have not taken the time to learn how to use it properly because it has a really nice guide setting that does most of the work for me. In the future maybe I’ll try to improve my skills, but for right now I’m really satisfied with the massive quality upgrade from my last digital camera (and my iphone.) Here are some of my favorite photos from the year. (I didn’t take any picture that I’m in, so photo credits to Sam, my Dad and my friend Ben.)
Every Friday morning at school there is a jam session made up of about four or five teachers that play jazz songs and solos. I decided to break out my trumpet, which I hadn’t played in over seven years, and join the jam group. It’s been fun to have a reason to pick the trumpet back up because I thought I was probably done with it for good. But it has also been pretty challenging because I have never played jazz solos before.
I also finally brought my acoustic guitar into the city. My apartment is so small that the guitar is sitting in a wall mounted stand, not taking up any extra floor space. I just play my guitar here and there when I feel like it, but it’s still nice to have it with me.
Goodreads tells me that I read 18 books in 2014. I only read 5 books in 2013. I participated in a book club with some of my friends, and I also participated in the faculty/staff book club at my school. I also was able to read a bunch of YA books for fun. It’s been so relaxing and nice to get to read for fun again. The two best books I read this year were probably Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Roots by Alex Haley. I have a feeling both of those books will stick with me for quite a long time. I set a Goodreads goal for myself of reading 30 books in 2015, which is a lot for me. We’ll see how I do!
In addition to ceramics I also had time to do a little bit of crafting this year. One highlight was gold-dipped leather earrings that I learned about from the blog Merrick’s Art. I made them for most of my family and friends and everyone really liked them. I shared them on my Kollabora page and they were even featured the next day in the Kollabora blog post curating good postings on the site!
Designing/thinking about curriculum
I had to take a curriculum and instruction course this spring. The class was a lot of work but also the most rewarding and useful class I’ve taken at Teachers College. It was so useful that I almost thought of the class as a hobby, because I was able to learn more about some of my personal interests.
The class was great because it made us think about how curriculum is written and consider the power that comes along with designing a curriculum. One example that stuck with me is Apple’s 1971 article, The hidden curriculum and the nature of conflict. I’ll simplify it here, Apple talks about how often times curriculum is designed to generally avoid talking about conflict. He specifically highlights science and history. Both historians and scientists have a lot of conflict in their fields, debating the results of studies or debating personal narratives about historical events. But this conflict is overlooked in schools, leading students to think that history and science content is just a list of facts, dates and formulas that can’t ever be debated. That is a problem that needs to be changed with a curriculum that addresses conflict. This is just one example, we talked about lots of different things that you need to consider when writing a curriculum. (A bit overwhelming, really.)
Instead of working on a technology curriculum, I decided to work with the social studies group to design a high school African American Civil Rights Movement curriculum. Here’s an abbreviated version of the curriculum we developed.
I was really happy to get to work with some students who were in the social studies education program, that was the other program I was considering at Teachers College. My classmates introduced me great curriculums like Stanford University’s Reading Like a Historian. I also spent more time this year learning about more about curriculums that focus on anti-oppressive, inclusive humanities education, like Facing History and Ourselves and Teaching Tolerance. I’m not currently teaching social studies, but these resources are still great professional development for me in the meantime.
In my role as a technology associate I am not required to do any teaching at the school. So I typically wouldn’t consider teaching a hobby, but I have been trying to fit it in where I can. This makes my job more enjoyable and helps me feel more connected to the students and teachers at the school. I was lucky enough to be able to do my Master’s student teaching with the lower school technology teacher, so I’ve been teaching technology classes to 4th graders. I also helped plan the Hour of Code the school hosted in December. We had about 50 students in grades 2-7 that spent an hour learning introductory-basic programming skills.
When I started in March I also started advising Gear Girls, an after school club for middle school girls interested in technology. The club has about 15 girls this school year. They take apart computers, make paper circuits, learn basic programming languages (Scratch, Codecademy HTML/CSS class, etc) and soon we’re going to start making Rube Goldberg machines and learn about simple machines. We also have the girls learn about female role models in STEM fields. It’s been a real joy to plan out what activities we’ll do in Gear Girls and it’s been great getting to know these students- it’s certainly a highlight of the week.
As you can see, I had a lot of interests that began to fall to the wayside over the past few years. Upon reflection I can see that 2014 was a really great year, and it was a year where I learned more about who I wanted to become and I began to feel more comfortable being who I am. I hope I continue on this positive track in 2015.