Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Second First

Well people, my first day of teaching for this school year is TOMORROW. Yes, TOMORROW. August 1st. I'll bet you're thinking to yourself, "Hey wait, Anna, I thought you just finished teaching last year like four weeks ago!" And to that I would reply, "YOU'RE PAINFULLY CORRECT." Okay, enough of me whining about the fact that my summer vacation is only four weeks long. The point is this: the new school year is starting! I have a few updates for you because so much has happened to my teaching career in the last two weeks.

Room 25. Tomorrow, the lights go on and kids stream in.
The main one? Are you ready for this? I will no longer be teaching second grade. This year I'll be teaching a class of 28 first graders! So while this is definitely my second year, it will in reality be another first, as I learn the curriculum content, developmental levels, and social needs of a 6-year-old kid. As I'm reading into it, it's actually a big difference between 2nd and 1st grade. Having said that, I met a few of them today and yesterday and they are so cute. They're babies. Like literally don't have enough self-control to sit in a chair. Or sit on a carpet. Or sit at all, really.

I'm also getting a new teaching partner in my classroom this year, and I am already a big fan. She has 5 years of experience at our school, so she already knows lots of the families. She truly loves the kids and has pretty strict discipline at the same time. That's what I like to see. Although I will dearly miss my co-teacher from last year (I would not have survived without her), I am feeling really good about my new one already.

I'm a strong advocate for child labor. 
Read, read, read. 
In case you want to know what we do all day. 
I'm feeling so many things on this night before the first day. I'm feeling denial, as I really can't believe that I'm in charge of a new batch of children again. I'm feeling nervousness, because the chaos, noise, and energy that happens in the primary grades of our school is kind of overwhelming when you're not used to it. I'm feeling excitement, for all the work I've already put into our classroom and the things we can accomplish together there. I'm feeling tired, as the 10+ hour work days are starting up again. I'm feeling happy, that the beginning of a new year means that I have a job doing meaningful work with one-of-a-kind children. I'm also feeling hungry, because the grocery list has not been attended to in all of the scramble to get ready. For now, I think I'll go to sleep. If you think of it, start praying for me at 8:00 am tomorrow. Then don't stop doing so until 4:00 pm. (Come to think of it, you can go ahead and repeat that daily process until June 19th.)

Stay tuned for the FIRST GRADE adventures in Room 25. Here we go! 

Friday, July 26, 2013


On Sunday, July 21st, I ran in the Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon. 13.1 miles. Yes! I did it! I'm throwing myself a small party with this blog post. I mainly do this so that one day in December when my life is a mess I can look back and see that, indeed, I was successful in accomplishing something this year. Last fall I ran the Hot Chocolate 15k so I figured I could step it up and try a longer distance. Somehow, I finished at about an 11-minute-mile rate. (All you real-life-runner-people-with-7-minute-miles, I don't want to hear your scoffs.) My next goal will be to do one with 10-minute-miles, but in the meantime I'm just giddy with excitement that I did cross the finish line and that I still have legs. It went oddly well. It made me oddly positive and happy and excited and proud all at the same time. Running will do that to you.

A gross, sweaty, yet triumphant picture of me, compliments of Brian. 

Once again, my favorite part of the race was the people watching I got to do along the way. Let me tell you about a few:

1. There was the guy in a Pikachu costume, a plush, heavy, and smelly outfit to wear on a race in the middle of July.

2. There was the engaged couple who apparently were mandated to run this race by whomever was facilitating their premarital counseling, because I spent about 1.2 miles with them as they bickered back and forth: "You go run! You hate slowing down for me anyway!"..."No we're DOING THIS TOGETHER, remember? I'll be the jerk if I leave you here!"..."Well if you wanna walk the rest of the way with me in silence then BE MY GUEST!" Whew. AWKWARD. Best of luck to you two.

3. There was this little old white-haired lady wrapped up in a turtleneck and blankets as she sat in her wheelchair and silently holding a tiny sign on the sidewalk that said "Go Sara Ann" and it may or may not have broken my heart of sweetness.

4. There was the Pentecostal church who volunteered to hand out water to the runners who said "You are BLESSED! KEEP GOING!"..."Today is YOUR DAY!"... and "GIRL I KNOW YOU CAN DO THIS!" as I went past their tables. This event was good for my ego.

5. There were the frat boys in the bro tanks and very short American flag running shorts. They wore neon green Ray-Bans and high fived a lot.

6. There was a 12-year-old who ran by me at the speed of lightning right before Mile 1 and by Mile 2 was sitting down on the curb catching his breath. Nobody gave him the pacing talk. Poor kid.

7. There were a lot of chicks in tutus. Weird.

8. Finally, my favorite people were those cheering everyone along; bystanders were indiscriminately handing out encouragement for free to just about every single runner. I saw hilarious signs that read TAKE A TAXI IT'S WAY FASTER, JUST KEEP SWIMMING, and, my favorite, at mile 12, IF YOU HAVEN'T POOPED YOUR PANTS YET THEN YOU'RE ALL CHAMPIONS.  Profound.

Other than the fact that my hamstrings still feel as tight as skinny jeans fresh out of the dryer, I'd say the whole experience was a success.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Peach People

I took a class towards my Master's degree this summer that has my mind spinning. It was a course called "Teaching in Diverse Classrooms" and focused on issues that surround diversity of gender, race, socioeconomic status, ability, and more that we see here in Chicago. It forced me to exercise those dormant brain muscles reserved for uncomfortable, convicting, and troubling conversations that surround these kinds of categories.

We read course texts and took notes and all that good stuff, but we spent most of the time in class reflecting and discussing these things in relation to our own experiences and the experiences of our kids in the classroom. We discussed things like gang rape. White privilege. Segregated proms that are still happening in Mississippi. The pressure on girls to be perfect and the ads, TV shows, movies, and songs that promote it. Racial slurs. The American Dream. Hate crimes. Affirmative Action. Food deserts. Unjust systems, societies, and sovereigns. Immigration. Where they money goes. And more. I know a lot of those things are buzz words for people on both sides of many of those issues, and believe me, my head has been buzzing ever since.

I often left class feeling overwhelmed. But it was good.

When I was a kid, I thought people were peach. I had a crayon labeled "peach" and it more or less matched my skin color. I looked around me and all I saw were other peach people. Every so often I would encounter someone who wasn't a peach person and I mentally noted which crayon he or she might be. I distinctly remember doing so with one of my favorite people: I loved Michael Jordan when I was growing up, and he wasn't peach. So I figured he was "brown" because that's the crayon that matched him. Later on, I learned that my coloring-book-theory of race relations was not acceptable. I was white. Michael Jordan was black. And that's without addressing all the other kinds of people on this earth besides the two categories we so harshly box up with neat little labels.


But back to the class.

Beyond being simply a student, I carried my faith into that classroom with me each day that made all of the brokenness and darkness that we dug up to be all the more harsh, confusing, and disorienting. I still have a million questions swirling around. How could our world look like this, so broken and hurtful? How am I supposed to move on? How can I, just one person, love people like Jesus loves people? How do I embrace all the differences we have and be someone who looks past the neat little labels so carefully affixed by people to other people? I'm somewhat frustrated at myself that at age 23 this is the first time so many of these questions have been on my mind. I'm frustrated at all of us for being so unloving to one another in the most nasty and subtle of ways. How do I even start? I'm just that one person, remember?

In the week since the class ended, I've been thinking about what it means to be a peach person in this black and white world. The starting place, I've decided, has a lot to do with my everyday life. It has a lot to do with the words that come out of my mouth, the thoughts I assume about people, and the time I put into listening to others. It starts with me deciding to be an ally against injustice. It starts with me waking up each day of teaching this year and asking God to help me love my kids for who He made them to be. To encourage all the hues of personalities, people, and ideas that come from our neighborhood on the west side of Chicago. To see the box of crayons for all of its beautiful colors. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Good Friends

Last weekend, Karley Mae did what she does best: she got everyone together. We all need people in friend groups like Karley. We'd never see one another or do anything fun without her.


We drove out to New Buffalo, Michigan (adorable little beach town just over the border) for a camping trip and a day at the beach. Let it be known to the world that I DID GO TO THE BEACH THIS SUMMER. For once. Last year with the chaos after TFA Institute my only day at the beach was on Labor Day. This year I now officially went to the beach in July. At least once. We made pudgy pies (yum), played board games, slept in a 10-person tent (it pays to have friends who receive cool wedding presents), hung out at the beach (the freckles are back, people), ate at Redamaks, and sat around a bonfire with good friends That, to me, is bliss. 


I needed this kind of thing in my summer so badly because I was starting to feel a general aura of melancholy at the shortness of my break. I ended teaching on June 19th and go back to school July 24th. The kids' first day of school is August 1st. So, yep, four weeks of summer for me. And then beyond that, I decided it would be a good idea to take a class this summer for grad school. I'm sure I'll be glad I did it, so that I have less coursework to worry about during the school year, but it took away that summer feeling of freedom that I had been looking forward to so earnestly during that last stretch of teaching. I was starting to think that summer wouldn't deliver on its promise.

What I've found now is that it's not about getting long, uninterrupted time in which to waste away and do nothing. I don't need that. I need moments and breaks in the chaos with good friends. With good people. When I can find moments like those, my brain can start to decompress. Even though, in June, I was looking at the schedule ahead of me and thought that summer was starting to be a figment of my imagination, I've found this time to be so wonderful. Even when I'm busy and even when I have work to do and even when I'm watching the days fly by. All you need are some good friends.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Eating Out

Spring and Summer in Chicago has seen a big change in my budget. The amount alloted for food has been severely increased. And we're not talking groceries. The weather is nice and I am just throwing money out the window on restaurants. In some ways I feel guilty, but in other ways I just am embracing the goodness of getting dinner with friends.

What is it about eating together that makes us so happy? (Or, rather, makes ME so happy?) Going out to eat is quickly becoming my favorite way to spend my money. Almost over going out, concerts, or traveling (although I love all those three things of course). Without much of a summer (I go back to school in less than 2 weeks...) this has been one little way I've been making my summer feel more like a vacation.

Jen (the roommate) at Ba Ba Reeba
out at Native Foods (a vegan place...I'm branching out people) 
Heidi came to visit!


Monday, July 8, 2013

Stuff Students Say: End-of-Year Edition

Whew. It's been a crazy few weeks. I still feel like I haven't had much time to internalize my last year and yet here I plug along, taking grad classes for my Masters of Arts in Teaching and marching right on to my second year on the West Side of Chicago. I feel like I could write fifty pages about everything going on in my mind and yet when I sit down to actually do it, I have nothing to say. More on that later. With all the swirling thoughts, I forgot to add my absolute favorite thing on my blog: the student quotes from June! So here they are. In all of their almost-third-grader glory. (I miss them already.)

(A student trying to sing "Gangnam Style"...)

Me: Please just stop talking now.
Student: But then why would God give me a mouth if I was supposed to stop talking?

Ms. Gasssh. I'm sweating like a bulldog. 

(Looking at a picture of Karley and I on my phone...)
She look just like you! Same face...same lipstick...same teeth and everything!

Student 1: I spy with my little eye...something white. 
Student 2: Is it Ms. Gesch!?!
Student 1: Oooohhhh it's getting racial in here. 

(I was in the process of putting a bandaid on a student's finger...)
Does this mean I'm going to grow an extra finger?!

Ms. Gesch you ever been on TV? There's a commercial on and I saw you. 

Can I touch your hair?

My boyfriend's name is Chris Brown. You heard of him? He's cute. 

Student: Ms. Gesch you wearing a shirt to school tomorrow?
Me: Yes. As I always do.

You and Carly Rae Jepsen are twins. 

You guys Ms. Gesch hair smells like silk. I bet it smells like water! 

Ms. Gesch can you tell me if I'm going to third grade? I won't tell nobody if you tell me. It'll be our little secret. 

(On the last day of school...)
Ms. Gesch I feel like crying. I don't want to leave.