Goodbye, Little 42

///I wrote this before and during the move, which will have already happened by the time I post this.///

This little apartment of mine, with all its imperfections, means a whole dang lot to me.

It was five years ago that I moved in, making this the longest I've lived anywhere since my family moved to the east coast when I was 14.

It is the only place I have ever lived -- and will ever live -- completely alone.

In these last five years, in this apartment and in this city, I think I have done more growing up than I did in the first 25 combined.

I remember the spring of 2009.  It was a weird time in my life.  I dragged my lowest lows and carried my heaviest insecurities up four flights of stairs into this space, where I could be alone with my thoughts and faced with my self.  Because I wasn't feeling myself.

It was actually a really hard year.  I was truly lost.  In navigating the grown-up pieces of life and work and humans in the big city, it took a bit to find my way.

Nobody really prepares you for how stupidly hard your twenties are going to be.

One of the first things I did was paint this on the wall, in the hallway near the door.  It was the first aesthetic decision I made, the first step I took toward figuring things out.  I welcomed myself home.

I made a home.

I had only a bed and a stack of wooden boxes when I arrived.  Finding the objects I would include in my space meant choosing the things I would bring into my life.

And now, it's all just stuff.  My stuff.  Seemingly endless amounts of it.

Packing this apartment is forcing me to confront all of it.  I've collected and amassed and gathered so many things, little details of my history here.  Business cards from people I've met.  Recipes for someday.  Craft supplies for ambitious projects.  A lot of junk, yes, but still, pieces of me.

The process of sorting. trashing.  treasuring. abandoning. is a bit overwhelming.  Part of me is happy to leave all of my things behind, to discard the excesses, to pare it all down to the things I truly love and need, to reduce it all to a new version of myself, the bare bones I want to start with in the new chapter.  The other part of me, though, knows how much these things, though simply things, are part of the story. Their only real value is in what they represent to the story that only I really know.

It's bittersweet, as I'm letting it all go.  It really is a welcome change to close this chapter.  To find long lost objects behind the furniture and realize I don't even want them.  To realize how easily I can detach from this space I've made.  To paint all the walls back to white and start something new.

Goodbye, Little 42.  And thank you.

In My Brain / 05

Thank you, Internet, for the good things you're leaving behind.

Here are the things that have made my brain happy lately:

Humblebrag Generator: "Ugh, so annoyed.  People keep offering me jobs even though I'm not looking for work."

My creative process, reflected quite accurately.

I won't tell you how many rounds I played of this most amazing game.
(Do you recognize the voice the background music?)

Even the cool kids get rejected.

Also making me happy is the lettering work of Sean Tulgetske, whose lunch napkin (above) is far sexier than anything I've ever made.  I love the type-on-photography pieces the most.  Following him on Instagram will probably make your brain happy, too.

Teacher Autonomy and Optional Margaritas on #engchat

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo!  It's also Monday!  Since I love being old, my night will look like this:
- a homemade margarita that is mostly juice
- microwave nachos with perfectly even cheese distribution
- festive boxer shorts, and
#engchat on Twitter at 7pm EST!

Will you join us for a lively discussion?  This week we're talking about teacher autonomy.

Teacher autonomy is a contentious part of the conversations around education.  As someone who believes teaching is inherently creative, I have a hard time with the arguments for standardization and conformity.  I can barely stomach scripted materials.  So much of what I do and why I do it revolves, for me, around the creating of the things and seeing them through with the kids.  On the other hand, I spend most of my time in my classroom's four walls, where my autonomy can leave me feeling pretty alone and disconnected.  I'm sure this is not uncommon. It's a big part of why I write and central to my pursuits in this profession.

Here are the questions for tomorrow's chat:

I'm hoping to learn a lot about what other educators are doing to take advantage of the autonomy they do have, the risks they're taking in their professional lives, and the balance they strike between professional independence and collaboration.

If you're new to Twitter, check out my previous posts about why I love it, how to get started, and how education chats work.  I hope to connect with you tomorrow night!

Classroom Tunes / 01

I like playing music while my students are working.  It changes the entire feeling of the room when the dominant sound is neither my voice nor the keyboards clicking.  

I don't DJ, though.  Taking students' requests can wreak havoc on a studious space.

There is a key to good classroom working music.  It has to be backgroundable.  The kind of music you can enjoy listening to without fully listening, because you're actually writing something important.  The kind you can't sing along to.  The kind that's secondary to the other things in your brain.

I asked Lamar Shambley, a fellow educator who is also my friend and a music nerd, to share a playlist he uses in his Brooklyn classroom.

Lamar would basically be the math teacher of your dreams.  He is passionate and full of life and energy, and I imagine his classroom is a semi-magical land where students aren't afraid to get excited and nerdy.  Which, if you ask me, is the best way to be.

During his musical work times, Lamar tends to play entire albums, which is a sensible practice for keeping the energy and mood of the room consistent.  Here are his favorites:

Thank you for sharing your classroom sounds, Mr. Shambley!  I know what my writing lab will be listening to as we close out the school year.

Interested in contributing a classroom playlist?  Email me your ideas at

HBD, Shakespeare

Every English teacher on the planet is doing a nerdy little mental dance today to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday.  Students everywhere are subject to mini-lessons that aim to remind them of the bard's masterful wit and wisdom, featuring common phrases we owe to his writing and terrific insults we should be keeping alive.  I always used to put my favorite Shakespeare joke on whatever the classwork of the day was.

There's something so powerful about the fact that his works have remained so relevant and such a fixture in English classrooms across the globe.  That the characters and the themes and the language haven't gotten old (not a day over 450!), and that students are still able to connect with them.

Also.  How lovely is this type by Allie Brunton

Spring Break: St. George Island, FL

St. George Island - Spring Break 2014

I just got home from our spring break trip to St. George Island.  No matter how beautiful and relaxing and necessary a vacation is, I so love the feeling of returning home, which hits me as soon as I see the skyline from the airplane window.  Even in cloudy and misty New York, within minutes I was in boxer shorts and eating the sushi that was delivered to my apartment (spicy tuna topped with spicy tuna ... whattt) and I'm going to continue this chilling out for a little longer before I begin unpacking and cleaning everything and fully hammering down what I'm teaching tomorrow morning.

I mean, I have a general idea.  Be real, people.

Allow me to use this procrastination break to share a little bit about this island with you.

St. George is a really special place, in general, and to us, in particular.  We've been visiting the island since the beginning of our relationship, and we're getting married there this summer.

St. George Island - Spring Break 2014

I haven't explored too much of Florida, but I'm going to go ahead and declare this island my favorite part of the state.  You get some wonky Florida-ness (absurd heat, vicious flesh-eating mosquitoes, extreme Southern-ness that I always forget about) but this place can be so lovely and idyllic that it's kind of perfect.

I almost don't want to tell you about it because you'll tell your friends and they'll tell their friends and eventually everyone will ruin it together.  These are my fears!

St. George Island - Spring Break 2014

But seriously.  It's not unlike an earthly, Southern, backwoods paradise.

Here are eight fun facts:

1.  The entire island is 28 miles long and less than a mile wide.  It is divided into three sections:  the protected state park, the public town/beach which has a handful of businesses in it, and an exclusive/fancypants gated community.  We stay in the public part.

2.  When you cross the bridge from the mainland, you might notice pelicans hovering over your car.  They look like actual dinosaurs, but they're harmless and funny when they dive.

3.  There are zero stoplights on the island. Most people ride bikes or drive golf carts there.

5.  Apparently the Gulf of Mexico is where all the dolphins hang out.  You'll see them go by almost every day.  They are a species that devotes over 90% of life to playtime, so I support them.

St. George Island - Spring Break 2014

6.  There are a zillion types of birds on the island, in all of the colors and aviary hairdos.

7.  There's an interesting economic mixture on the island.  You have some jillion-dollar homes, and you also have bars with corrugated metal roofs and dirt floors.  You have some of the most exclusive and expensive properties on the Gulf of Mexico, in one of the poorest counties in the state.

8.  It is not foolish to plan your day around oyster happy hour.  It is a deal not to be missed, especially since the oysters are from rightoverthere.


On the sunniest and brightest day of this trip, we took the boat out to Little St. George, which is a separate island just a wee swim away from our island.

St. George Island - Spring Break 2014

You know, in case the bustling metropolis of regular St. George becomes too overwhelming.

St. George Island - Spring Break 2014

Little St. George is uninhabited, covered in shells, and where all the cool pelicans hang out.

We took walks, collected shells, and enjoyed a picnic.  There was a perfect breeze, which made my sunburn a nice little surprise for later.

St. George Island - Spring Break 2014

Hanging out on a deserted island looks like this, mostly:

St. George Island - Spring Break 2014

I took all of these photos on my iPhone, and I did zero editing.  That blue is real.

We talked about our love for this little corner of the country, and how we feel like we belong to it a little bit.  We talked about wanting our own family someday, and maybe we want to include coming to St. George, or somewhere, as part of our family traditions.  It's funny how we become attached to places and make them part of our stories.  I like that.

It's back to work tomorrow, but we're so excited to go back to the Forgotten Coast (as the locals really do call it) this summer and share this magical little place with our friends and family.  Is it too soon for a countdown?