Category Archives: Teaching

The End of a School Year

The school year is coming to a close. That means several things. First, I’ll have more time to actually blog. April and May seem to be the busiest months of the year.

Second, it means saying goodbye to my seniors. Two years ago, my first batch of students graduated. These ones were my 8th graders from when I taught middle school English. Since then, I’ve had graduates every year.

Now, though, it’s a little different. Most of my outgoing seniors have had me both as a middle school English and high school French teacher. That means that I’ve had some of them for five of their thirteen years in school.

Every year, I think about the students I’ll miss. This year, one of them has a special place in my heart. Several years ago, I taught a middle school creative writing class that focused on novel writing, including going through NaNoWriMo together. Some of them weren’t so serious about it, but others really put their writing skills and passion to the test and wrote at least 30,000 words. This student is one of the ones who did it with me.

Even though he’s been in my French classes for three years, we haven’t really talked much about writing lately. That is, until Senior Breakfast. He was remembering great times while holding my daughter. And he reminded me of that creative writing class and the novel he was working on.

Like me, he’s set his novel aside for now. Life is busy, and he knows that novel needs a lot of work. Sounds familiar.

I think the most amazing thing, though, is how talking to him has given me a renewed desire to get back to work. When I started playing around with the formula I’ve been using for years, I wasn’t quite sure that it was working. In the past few days, though, new ideas are starting to occur to me. New layers that I hadn’t considered before are showing up, and I’m starting to wonder if perhaps things should play out a little differently than they are now.

Does that mean I’m going to whip the novel back out and start working? Maybe not quite yet. Maybe I need the pace to slow a little more before I can. But it does give me some fresh motivation to keep going. (I’m sure extra two hours of sleep last night are helping as well.) After all, I made a deal with a certain high school graduate to send him the novel when I’m done, and I don’t want to disappoint him.

What inspires you to get back to writing when you’ve lost motivation or are sucked into the busyness of life?


Lessons from a Student

There are many things that I love about teaching. But one of the hardest things is watching students walk through difficult times.

That was the case for 13 months, when one of my first high school French students was diagnosed with brain cancer. She was a strong and dedicated young woman who took French because she liked it and spoke it beautifully. Only a few months into her second year, she was diagnosed and rushed into emergency surgery.

Last month, she passed away. It’s hard to watch a 17-year-old go through everything that she did, but she did it with more grace and faith than many adults have. I know her attitude challenged me to rethink how I approach hard times and has changed everyone who knew her.

Besides memories and a few pictures, I have one thing to remember her by. A book that her aunt brought from France as a gift. Her mom wanted me to have it for my French classes.


The book is all about fairies. 

I love that something from her will always be a part of my classes, especially such a beautiful book. It’s a poignant reminder that life is beautiful, even when it’s difficult, and the power of faith and courage in the face of any trial.

… And Then There’s Just Getting Back on Track

The end of the school year is a bittersweet time, but this year more so than any other before. Moving from middle school English to high school French means that I have many of my former middle schoolers in my class. This year, a whole batch of my beloved middle schoolers — including several who were in French this year — have graduated.

It’s funny how life works. Watching people grow up and change and realizing one day that they’ve grown into adults. Knowing that they’ll always have a special place in my heart, and being pretty sure they’ll remember me too.

So that’s where I’ve been the last two weeks during my unintentional hiatus. Finishing out a school year and starting to think about the next (because that’s just how teaching works). But now that summer’s here, I’m back.

Graduation (A Poem)

I remember
when you were young,
sixth grade, awkward hair,
trying to find yourself.
You were the class clown,
teacher’s pet, quiet one,
queen bee, reflective writer.
I loved teaching you.
Years passed, you grew up,
but you never stopped
smiling at me in the halls,
taking classes just because
I taught them, talking about
the days when you were young.
But now you are grown up
ready to leave these halls,
and I am left feeling old
and wondering if I’ll see you again.
You toss your hat, leave the stage,
leave a special place in my heart.

Adventures with School Lunch

I spend lunch on Fridays with the students, and it’s one of the highlights of my week. The crowd is a mix of current French students, past middle school English students, and some of their friends.

Most of the time, the conversation focuses around a shared fandom: Zelda, Agents of SHIELD, Star Wars, among many others. Other days, the conversation turns to what’s in our lunch.

Recently, I went through the usual routine of making a salad for lunch. I’m not always as good about cleaning the lettuce as I should be. I’ll be much better at it from now on after what happened.

As I reached the bottom of the salad, I came to a strange conclusion. There was something weird in my salad. Normally, I can think and listen to the conversation going on around me at the same time, but it felt like everything went quiet. All I could see was the strange item at the bottom of the container: a huge bug.


In this case, huge was not hyperbole. Just the body was a solid inch long.

Everyone noticed that I had gone silent and the horrified look that I must have had on my face. They all peered down at the bug. We half laughed, half gagged at the thought that it had died in the head of lettuce I had chopped up that morning and had been buried here all along.

Then it got more interesting. Another student pointed out that its head appeared to be missing. The rest of it was completely intact, legs and all.

To this day, I have no idea if I ate the head, but at least I had a great group of students to be amused and horrified with me.

New Teaching Adventures

The last couple of weeks have been full of preparations for the school year to begin. There’s much to do on the administrative side (which I now handle), but there’s also a great deal to do as a teacher.

This year, I’m in new territory. For years, whenever anyone asked what I taught, the answer was simple: 7th and 8th grade English. When French I was added last year, I only mentioned it sometimes. Now, though, I hesitate every time someone asks me. I’ve handed my middle school English class off to a new teacher — one who’s more like a younger version of me. One who will continue to relate well to the students, I’m sure. After all, she plays Pokémon Go.

Amid the other administrative duties that come with summer, I’ve been working hard to learn more about French culture around the world to improve the French I that I’ve already taught and create a solid foundation for French II. This means my books on the French has only grown in the last few months.


Just some of my books on French or in French.


One that I’ve been thoroughly engrossed in is Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong: Why We Love France but Not the French by Jean-Benoit Nadeau. While I have French lineage, my family came to the New World in the early 1700’s, when the Huguenots were kicked out of France, so there’s not much French culture left in family traditions. (Not that any of it would look like the modern French since modern France really started with the French Revolution in the late 1700’s.) It’s fascinating to read how differently they view things. In some ways, it feels familiar. In other ways, their culture is as different as Japanese culture is from ours.

So here’s to a new year filled with many familiar faces and new adventures.

14 Day Writing Challenge: Day 14 (or, The Moment of Truth)

The final* writing prompt: Write about a defining moment in your life.

*Yes, I remember that Day 6 didn’t actually happen because I’ve tried so many general genres over the years, but I plan to have it ready by the end of next week. Steampunk it is!

My last year of college had begun, and I realized that I had a serious problem. I had a fiancé, a nearly-complete degree in English, and a love for the French language. One thing I didn’t have, though, was a career plan.

When I first went to college, I anticipated that I’d be a published writer by the time I was finished and live off of those earnings. As senior year started, though, I realized that those childhood dreams weren’t going to come true the way that I had always expected. In the meantime, I needed to figure out something to actually do to earn money. I was already working as an office assistant at my church, but I knew that’s not what I wanted to do with my life. Working in an office just wasn’t for me.

After some thinking and research, I narrowed it down to two different options: I could become an editor or (much to my own surprise) a teacher.

Editing seemed like a natural choice. I enjoyed reading and didn’t mind sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time. Besides, my aunt had worked at one of the big publishing firms before she had kids, so I had a glimpse into what that industry looked like.

On the other hand, teaching had never even been on my list. I’d planned to teach my own children one day, like my mom taught my brother and me, but that was the extent of it. Now, though, it seemed to make more sense. I could get some practice in before having kids of my own, and I genuinely love working with kids. So why not?

The trouble, though, was getting started with either career. So I waited for one of the college’s job fairs and decided to check both options out. As I walked in, I prayed that I would know for sure what direction to go before I left that day. I had no idea what would happen next.

I first walked up to the publisher’s table. The two ladies there greeted me, we talked for a few minutes, and then they told me that they didn’t currently have any editing jobs open. That’s okay, I thought to myself. I wasn’t ready for that anyways. Before I turned to leave, one of the ladies cocked her head a little and smiled at me.

“You know,” she said, “you look like a teacher.”

I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. I hadn’t mentioned anything about choosing between editing or teaching. There was no way she could have known. Yet here she was, saying exactly what I needed to hear.

Everything after that was a blur. I remember stopping at the public school system’s table on the way out, but I already had decided I’d rather be in the private school system if I went that route. The next clear memory was walking back to my car in disbelief. I honestly didn’t know what to choose, so I’d asked for clear direction. And I’d gotten it. It still amazes me.

What is a defining moment in your life? Have you ever had a similar experience?