Work Hard. Stay Humble. Give Thanks.

9 Dec

How does one work hard and stay humble? I am plagued by a predisposition toward pride, even in my humility. You would think doing a simple job without much fanfare, and doing it well would be the hallmarks of humility. Yet it’s so easy to start glorying in our successes, and even in the simple fulfilling of our daily duties.
Raising kids, waking up in the morning for work, putting food on the table, getting to the gym before the sun is up–humble, simple life. Nothing special, no recognition. And at some point, even this becomes a source of pride, a pedestal from which to look down on our peers and feel superior.
It is hard to work hard and stay humble, and I more than anyone need this reminder. I don’t advertise myself with boasts, and I generally deflect credit to others instead of myself. But inside, I am fiercely proud. I set out to be the best at everything I attempt, and I despise the pride I see in other people, especially if I feel their competence is inferior to my own.
People leave their junk scattered all over the gym, and I pick it up before I leave. Pride.
I ride my bike and take the bus to work. I’m not above using public transit even though most people would just get a second car. My “humble” action is laced throughout with pride. I am a proud bastard.
This is a difficult matter, because in one sense pride is a good thing. We take pride in our country, our work ethic, or family, and our appearance. I liken this to stewardship, or doing the best we can with what we are given.
And here is the daily reminder that I need. My intellect, my body, my family, my health, my spiritual state: these are all gifts. I did nothing to merit them. I did not determine my place of birth, my parents who informed my current values, or my Savior’s plan of salvation. These were all given to me, and therefore I have no business boasting.

My drive to be the fastest, strongest, most compassionate, and loving father and husband should be a given, and as such I have no room to glory in my own efforts. These efforts are to be expected in reponse to the gifts I’ve receieved.
That said, I will probably continue to struggle with pride until the day I die. I will work hard, I’ll battle my pride, and I will give thanks everyday. When I’m thankful I’m driven outside my self-centered shell, and it’s a lot easier to see that everytime I feel a pulse of pride, I really owe a debt of gratitude.
Work hard, stay humble.
Give thanks.

Notes on a Setting Summer

8 Aug

I believe in God, now more than ever. Now, even though I wrestle with doubts as to His existence, doubts as to the authenticity of scripture, doubts regarding my sufficiency as a husband and father–God has somehow found a way to use my fragile faith as a tool to strengthen it where it lacks. Where else in the world to you find an object whose weakness is used a means of sustenance and reinvigoration? And if you can think of anywhere else, isn’t it incredible?

This summer opened with my school district in a horrendous financial position, and my own career in limbo. I interviewed for the ap position at UJH, was first among the three not because of any particular prowess, but rather my participation and follow-through in the opportunity presented to me back in February.  I had my appointment sent to the board, then pulled at the last minute. It went back up, and I was approved. Everyone took a salary cut this year, but because of this promotion I’ll be making enough to support a few extra endeavors.
We thought we’d be getting a bigger place with a yard, but instead yesterday I signed a one year lease for the same place we’ve been the last three years.


8 Dec

Yesterday I turned thirty two. When my dad was thirty two I was playing twelve year old all stars, pitching in the sectionals championship game. I remember everything about that day.

Yesterday, on my birthday, we celebrated Jackson’s 6th birthday with an Angry Birds themed party at Miliken Park. I woke up early, went to pick up the eagle suit from work (it wasn’t there), then went to the gym. I tweaked my back on my third set of “heavy” squats. I was back up to 315, but it was a stupid move: I’m competing for the first time at Battlefit West next Saturday. There is no reason for me to be pushing the weight on the bar, and now here I am trying to rest a tweaked back muscle in time to compete next Saturday. I am thirty two years old, sort of in the best shape of my life, with a body that tweaks out under strain I used to adapt to without issue.

I need to take this moment to document the gifts I received on my birthday, other than the reminder not to be an idiot in the weight room.

First, I was able to celebrate my son’s six birthday. He is a blessing who God has used to impress upon me my weakness and my responsibility. He is helping me to become a better man.

Second, I spent the day with friends and family, celebrating the day on behalf of my son.

Third, I have a wife who takes joy in performing acts of kindness and selflessness for her children. She planned the entire thing, orchestrated the activities, and because of her, the day was possible.

Lastly, it is now 3 months past my birthday, and I STILL have not finished this post! Insanely busy once again, but I am a blessed 32 year old man. And I am learning how to walk on my hands! Handstand pushups, handstand walks, snatches, overhead squats, multiple rep muscle ups, clean and jerks—all new tricks I picked up over the last year. I’ve got the Spartan Race coming up, and I’m feeling ready to dominate!

32 isn’t so bad.


Goodbye Life-as-I-know-It?

13 May

Two years ago this month I had just finished my master’s degree at UCR, and I figured it would be quite a few years before I was ever that busy again. Maybe that’s true, but I feel like I’ve recently approached that critical mass once again. I have a hard time even listing all the activities and responsibilities I’ve taken on recently, and it’s a wonder I haven’t totally skipped out on one or more of my current obligations.

At the beginning of the year, I told myself I would seize every opportunity to make extra money, starting with accepting every period sub request. Ironically, I’ve only period subbed once or twice, but I’ve landed a slew of other tasks. I’m going to list them now, because in a year I’ll have forgotten almost half.

Mentor Teacher for a Struggling Colleague

I applied for this one at the beginning, interviewed before a panel of 5 educators, and landed the gig. I’ve been meeting with the teacher, observing her teaching, and she’s even come in to observe me a few times. There has been a modicum of improvement, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be. It’s discouraging that I wasn’t able to make more of a difference, but at the same time, I don’t believe the teacher grasped the urgency of the situation. I don’t feel she did everything she could to improve.

Teaching an After-school EL Writing Class

I taught this one from early February, and we’ll wrap up the class next week. We worked three days a week for an hour each day, focusing on critical reading and writing. It went well, but teaching writing for a seventh period is exhausting.

Homework Central

I began the year logging one or two days a week in the after school mandatory study hall, until it was time to tackle the afterschool writing class. It was a bit less stressful than last year, but I was glad when the writing class demanded that I retreat into the relative solitude of my classroom.

Saturday School

Worked every one of these I possibly could.

Academic Pentathlon?

I was asked to help coach the English section. The kids competed today at a local junior high, and I did a crappy job of preparing them. The craziness peaked one day when I was doing a book discussion with the pentathlon kids, supervising students who had not finished their work, and monitoring the writing of the students in my after school writing class. Three activities occurring simultaneously.

Student Teacher

Why not? I jumped at the opportunity, because one of my career goals is to get involved with the training of new teachers. She turned out to be an excellent student teacher, but there is still a ton of extra planning, management, and retraining of each class. There is a lot to be said for maintaining personal control over your own class for the duration of the year. I’m fighting hard almost every day to remind the students of what is acceptable and what is not. They are pushing the limits, and I feel like I’m having more major discipline difficulties than ever before. I don’t know if I’m slipping, if it’s the multiple sources of authority in one classroom, or if this years crop is just more wild than usual. I’m not the only one having issues, so maybe it’s the latter.

New Job Applications

I applied for an instructional coach position, which was awkward because I needed to ask both administrators for a letter of recommendation. This was the first time I let fly that I have been thinking about moving on for the last three years. I set my salary requirement at 80-85k, and I didn’t hear back. Too bad, because I felt like I was well-qualified.

Applying for the Administrative Credential

For the last year I’ve been considering applying to take the test.  A new friend, acquaintances, and even my own principal have recommended that I pursue administration. I don’t want to be a VP, but the administrative credential will open up a lot of doors. Now I have to pass a video component (me conducting a meeting showing my “skills and abilities”) and a written exam. I’m signed up for a couple hundred bucks, and I have to pass this sucker or I’m going to be pissed for wasting the money.

Scholars of American History

For the third year, I’m taking part of a cohort of history teachers who attend scholar presentations, technology education seminars, and field studies related to American history. I completed an in-depth lesson plan and a technological project which I will present at a showcase in a few weeks. This is essentially a college course in various topics of US history. We read books, create projects, post to blogs, and attend lectures and field trips. It’s a chance to hang out with some peers, but it’s still a lot of extra work on nights and weekends.

Applying for More Jobs

I’ve been thinking of applying to a few charter schools in the LA area, but the commute, even by train, is worrisome. I would need a stop right next to the school, or I’d have to pack a bike every day. I haven’t applied to any of these yet. I applied to the local high school, which just so happened to have an opening. I have an interview next week.

Add to this list the normal teaching duties, keeping kids after school for required make-up work on a regular basis, and participating in various committees and subcommittees (site based, PLC leadership, HWC leadership).

Summer is around the corner, and I just had a skype interview for a position teaching/chaperoning 5th grade students from Korea, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 5 weeks. I don’t know what the pay will be, and I’m not sure if I’m up for leaving wife and kids for that long. Local summer school is seniority based, and even though I applied, I think I missed the last teaching opening by one spot. Maybe another class will open up and they’ll need me, but for now, I’m considering anything. I just got done talking to my cousin, who manages trainers at a gym, and he sold me on attending a one day class to get a starter personal training certification. At least this would be flexible, and I’d have some variety in my day to day.

The weirdest part of all of this is walking around my campus during work and considering that this may be the last month I spend at this place. It’s been the longest chunk of time I’ve spent doing ANYTHING in my life, and I’ve made some good friends. I’ve developed as a person and as an educator. I have no idea what is going to happen, but I know I need to keep pushing myself out of the comfort zone.

And we bought a new car. Goodbye Mazda. Is this step one to “goodbye life as a know it”?

Happy Holidays 2011

23 Dec

Looks like posting on Farts and Letters is turning into a seasonal gig. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Maybe a St. Patrick’s day special. Whatever the case, I’ve locked myself in to a tradition of reporting on the last day of school before Christmas break.

Just like last year, the pattern of unexpected gift givers held true. Hot chocolate packs, candy canes, a new coffee mug, a Starbucks card, and a MONSTER chocolate bar from Trader Joes–all from great but unlikely gift givers.

It appears the rest of this post was just deleted because of a bad internet connection, so here is the exciting conclusion:

After making the kids work for 1/2 day, I gathered up my gear and made a beeline up to Mountain High for my second day of riding this year. After two hours of blustery snowboarding, I called it quits. The conditions were awful, but you know what they say about beggars. By 5 PM I was back in Rancho for two weeks of busy holiday.

In the next two weeks I need to plan for a three day-a-week after school EL class, research preliminary administrative credential test, and get those front-side boards down.

See you in 2012.


Pool Security Reloaded

10 Sep


My Junky Gym

5 Sep






This morning I was the second person upstairs in the weight room. It’s fairly pathetic when grown men and women can’t pick up after themselves, but it’s even worse when a huge commercial gym will not pick up crap off the ground at the end of the day.  This is not a 24 Hour Fitness either. How hard is it to make the rounds at the end of the night?