I challenge you to burn the machine.

I’m a teacher, right? Yeah. That’s right. I teach kids. Which is often considered hilarious because I kind of still look like a kid (even though my ever-multiplying grey hairs would disagree).

But I do. I teach high school kids.

I have a really unique opportunity with them, you know? Like I get to see and hear them in ways that few ever do. Sometimes they don’t know that I’m listening or looking. But I am.

And you know what I notice? Adults aren’t fair. A LOT. Like, as adults, we pass a lot of judgments and generalizations off on kids. We spend a lot of time telling them that their generation sucks or that they’re snowflakes for getting upset about something. We don’t ask them about themselves or what they’re going through or why they feel that way. We just decide how they are because we’re older and we can do that.

We were young once, too.

But when we were young, we wanted to be asked why we did things or why we felt a way. We wanted to be trusted. We didn’t like it when older people told us we sucked or that we were fragile because we took a stand for what we believed was right. It just made us rage.

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Young. Prettied up for our first real dance.

And here we are, perpetuating the cycle.

So recently, I’ve been seeing our kids catch a lot of crap for things that I think should be encouraged. I’ve been watching us old people (yeah, dude, we’re old already), tell young people that they should shut up and be quiet. That they shouldn’t question authority because the old people “said so” and that’s how it should be. That somehow speaking up about how the feel is “wrong and disrespectful”. And yeah, maybe the way kids say things sometimes could be…improved…but they’re kids for Christ’s sake. They don’t have the benefit of experience to know how to express themselves and they’re trying their best–shouldn’t we, as their “elders” or whatever, help them do that?

Dear Young Kid,

I think you’re doing a great job. I know exactly how hard it is to be a kid–you’re at a really weird place where you want to have a lot of responsibility and also no responsibility. You wanna be a grown up SO bad. You have a lot of feelings about the things going on around you but any time you express them, someone is telling you that they don’t matter because you’re “just a kid”.
Well you’re not.
And those feelings? They matter.
Because here’s the deal, kiddo, one day you won’t be so young anymore. You’ll be the old person writing this letter and you’re gonna have a choice about how you treat those youngins around you.
So I’ve got some advice for you: a challenge, if you will.
I challenge you to challenge things. Challenge the system. Ask questions. If you’re unsure about how something’s done, ask. I don’t care if the person you’re asking is annoyed or is rude to you. GET YOUR EXPLANATION. Don’t settle for “it’s just the way we’ve always done it” or “because I said so”.
Those are lazy answers from lazy people who don’t care enough about the question. Demand answers and if the answers don’t satisfy you, develop new ways.
Stand up for what’s right and trust your gut–if something FEELS wrong, it is. Don’t let the glamour of fun or popularity influence you to walk away from the right choice even if it’s the hard choice.
If you feel something, SAY something. So many of you walk alone in your lives. In your loneliness and fear. You think that no one understands you or what you’re going through. But so many do and they WANT to help you. Find the good ones and hold onto them, they’ll hold onto you back.
Do not be afraid to be wrong, but more importantly, do not be afraid to be told that you’re wrong. Sometimes, YOU will be the one with the outdated ideas and ways–AND THAT’S OKAY. But when someone brings you something new and different, consider it. Give them credit and say thank you. They are making you a BETTER person because you now know more than you did 5 minutes ago.
I challenge you to do things with love–all things. And love challenges. It challenges hate Challenges hearts. Challenges ideas. Love challenges because it wants things and people to reach their full potential. I challenge you to stand up for each other, stand with each other, encourage each other and know that you are the ones who have the capacity to change the hearts of the people around you.

I know that there are some old people (like me) who believe in you, have faith in you, and know that you’ll make yourself and everybody proud.

So let’s do that.

Love,
An Old Person

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Senior Year, 2006. New York. Yeah dude, we were freakin’ SENIORS doing this. But we still wanted to be taken seriously.

Teaching the "Unteachable"

Ever since I can remember, I have been a teacher. 
I would teach my little cousins how to read, how to act, how to behave, how to, how to, how to.
As the daughter of a principal (one of the best, if I do say so myself), I grew up in schools. 

My favorite summers as a kid were the ones when my daddy was the principal on duty for summer school. Why? Because I got to take big kid classes. My daddy would take me to school, get me a binder and some pens and I would take class with the big kids.

It started at Edison Middle School. I was about 6, I think. My daddy told me that I would take English class with Mr. Dickson. I would take math with Ms. Davis. 

Mr. Dickson and Ms. Davis both taught 7th grade.

I can’t really imagine what either of those teachers thought when a 6 year old walked into their classrooms on the first day of summer school, but I was so excited to be there. I sat right in the front row. I sat next to a girl who WORE LIPSTICK. I was amazed.

Mr. Dickson and Ms. Davis were incredible teachers. They made their subjects palatable enough for me to understand while simultaneously engaging their 7th graders. I learned all kinds of things in 7th grade English and math that summer. 

A couple of years later, my daddy got moved over to Furr High School to take another Assistant Principal position. 

And I was SO excited to go to summer school. 11th grade English class. I was 9. Dr. Coulson gave me a 4 inch binder filled with literature strategy worksheets the first day. I was the happiest girl in the world. Static characters. Dynamic characters. Irony. I loved it.

So. Much. Fun.

And then I grew up. 
And I did not want to be a teacher. 
I wanted to run as far away as I could from education.

But it called me back. 
In 2011, I found my way back to the classroom. 

 It would be easy to say that Istrouma was a rough school. A lot of people told me that the kids there didn’t care about education. They didn’t care about learning. They couldn’t be taught. They were kids from the ghetto, after all the 70805 zip code has the highest murder rate in Baton Rouge, and all they cared about was being “’bout that life.” They were unteachable. I’d be lucky to make it through the year alive, much less hope that these kids actually learn something.

They were wrong.

I got to Istrouma and found a group of teachers who cared about their subjects, their students, and their fellow teachers. I found mentors who would guide me through bad days, tough curriculum, and frustrating educational endeavors. They were my family.

We wanted for some things, but we made do. I got to teach my kiddos about democracy, their constitutional rights, and how people decide who gets to talk at a meeting of the senate. We debated hot topics like legalization of marijuana, abortion, and designer babies. They led their own debates, choosing their own political parties to represent. They learned to budget and how investing in Jordans would be more financially beneficial than buying Jordans. They taught target markets to me by using hair perms as examples and explained to me that our national budget would be balanced if only “those rich old white men” had taken my economics class. 
To say I was flattered would be an understatement. 
They impressed me by being thoughtful and eloquent. They frustrated me with the use of curse words, the occasional misbehavior, and a sometimes lack of interest (which was often due to things far beyond my classroom). 

Most of all, they learned. 

They learned about social studies, but they learned how to respect themselves. They learned that sagging pants and excuses would not be tolerated. They learned to show their elders and their classmates respect. They learned that if they couldn’t communicate without curse words, then they couldn’t communicate at all. 

They weren’t all good kids, but they weren’t all bad kids, either.
People said my kiddos were unteachable. 
Teachers at Istrouma proved everyone wrong everyday. 

Yes, it was hard.
It was frustrating. 
There were a lot of days that we wanted to quit.
But we were there to give those kids what they needed: a teacher, a mentor, a parent, a guide, a shoulder.

I’m tired of hearing about “unteachable children”. 
Because they aren’t real.

Quit shutting down our teachers and handing our schools over to these so say “progressive teaching movements” where we’re teaching kids to be “college ready” by having a 2 step math problem completed in 108 steps. Where we constantly train kids to believe that in order to be successful, you have to have money and if you’re poor, you’re not going to be able to be anything else but poor.

Because none of that is true.

Let teachers teach kids. 
Let us teach them subjects, but better yet, let us teach them how to be people. 

Give us your “unteachable” and stay out of our way. 
Let us show you what we can do.


Go. G-E-A-U-X. Geaux.

Can we please stop for a second and revel in something? Okay, so I’m a grad student right? I’m working on my masters in Kinesiology focusing in pedagogy and strength and conditioning. I finished my first semester in August and cheese and rice it was hard.

Thankfully, I worked my entire ass off and-lo and behold-I got a 4.0. Which is definitely worth it considering all the nights I stayed up actually reading all those case studies for Dr. Garn’s class. 

Say what? Did this really happen? It did. (sorry for the crappy screenshot. I suck)

And THEN…I got offered a Graduate Assistantship with my department. In case you’re not aware of what that means (don’t be shamed, I had NO idea what it meant), I get to teach class at LSU. Like, I get to TEACH CLASS at LSU. So I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to teach Weightlifting, Jogging, and Principles of Conditioning…AT LSU. Holy crap. 
That shiz is cool.
Not so cool? The first day of school is literally 4 days away.

Me, writing my syllabi.

While teaching is not new to me (duh) this is definitely a new endeavor. 

SO! Say a little (or a whole lot) prayer and wish me luck as I’m officially on staff at LSU as a graduate assistant. 


AND there are less than 14 days until kickoff.
GEAUX TIGERS!

An Open Letter To My Students

Today is bittersweet. It was the last day of school for my students, graduation day for the first class I ever got the honor of teaching, and my last day as an EBR school teacher. 

I am conflicted. 

But with all the crazy emotions going on in my head, the one prevalent emotion I keep feeling is joy for my Istrouma kiddos and for my Tara kiddos that have graduated and are about to be unleashed onto the real world, ready or not.


Thanks to this very open forum, I really hope that my kids will humor me with a few words (even though I’m sure they’re sick of hearing my voice!) 

Dear Senior Class of 2013,

First, congratulations. You have finally made it out of high school and gotten the sheet of paper that identifies that you don’t have to come back. That’s great news. 
Everyone is going to congratulate you, but you know that I am good for telling you the truth and the whole truth. 
Now that you are “grown,” please always be kind. You know not what battles others are fighting at all times. If you can’t be kind, keep your mouth shut. Or at least have the courtesy to find a good friend to be unkind with out of the earshot of others. Please call your mama every Sunday. No matter what your relationship with her is. No more tattoos. No matter how cute you think that playboy bunny is going to look on the right side of your chest. It doesn’t look cute now and it’s gonna be really tragic in 10 years. Please realize–sooner than later–the real value of education. I’m not necessarily talking about what you learn in the classroom, but what you learn about being a human and how to treat other humans. People pay much closer attention to what you do than what you say. Please always say ma’am and sir. Please always remember that if you start off in a situation mad, you have no where to go. Young men, realize that sagging your pants is a good way to attract two things: trouble and sex starved men fresh out of prison (it’s true. Google it.) Young ladies, please always remember that walking in heels means placing one foot in front of the other and when you sit in a chair you should cross your feet at the ankles and place them to the side. If you ever wonder if your skirt is too short, it is. If you don’t wonder, but your skirt does not touch your knees, it’s too short. Please learn to tie a tie, cut a steak, and eat soup correctly–with a soup spoon. Please remember that people don’t “be doing” things, they do things. “Is” and “are” are not interchangeable and their/they’re are two different words. Please learn to watch your mouth and communicate without cursing, because if you can’t communicate without a curse word, then you’re not communicating at all. 
Please remember that excuses are tools of the incompetent and don’t use them. 
Be confident in setting goals and do everything you have to do to reach those goals. Even when it’s really hard. Because it will be.
Please remember every teacher that led you here and will lead you throughout your life. Remember every “good morning”, “see ya later”, “have a great day”, and “sit down, stop talking”. Please remember teachers that stayed up at night to say a prayer for you, stayed after school to help you get through, or shared their lunch with you when you had none. 
Always remember where you have come from and enjoy setting your sights on where you will go. 

Lastly, always do whatever you do with pride and confidence. Love what you do and your love will show in your work. 

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Love, 
Miss Herrera

Dear you, Love, A former fat girl

As a teacher, my kiddos think it’s completely ridic that I live a (fairly) normal life outside the classroom. I swear, they think that I live in this little classroom and never leave. God forbid they see me at wal-mart doing something normal (like buying DVDs) or maybe something not so normal (like buying 4 gallons of almond milk).

But I share stuff about my real life with them and they share stuff with me. You know, we get each other. Kind of. 

Some kiddos read my blog.
Some kiddos are fans on my facebook page.
Some kiddos follow the blog instagram.
All of which, I feel like, are amazeballs.

So it’s not all that unusual for students to ask me for fitness/health/life advice. And I’ll give it. Anything to help them out. 

I had one student in particular come ask me for advice about last week. She is struggling with her weight and her doctor has told her that her current weight is having a pretty negative effect on her health. So she came to me for some guidance and I gave her a starting point, not really knowing if she would really take my advice to heart.

This week, everyday after school, I have seen this girl working her ASS off at the school. She doesn’t have access to a gym, so she’s made our school her personal gymnasium. She’s been using our hallways to run sprints with sets of squats at the end of each sprint. Yesterday, I caught her doing jumping squats, push ups, and handstand holds. Sweating her ass off. Breathing so hard. And keeping on. When she sees me, she pauses–just briefly enough–to say “hey, Miss H!” and keep moving.

TOTES RIDIC. I am so incredibly proud of her.

Of course, I can’t just tell her to her face, because she’s a high school girl and she’s way too cool for that, but I know for a fact she reads this stuff I write. And I know there are plenty of other people who have decided to make a lifestyle change and read this stuff, too. 

So if you’re pushing yourself to be better, this is for you.

Dear you,

You’re pretty much a badass and I am so proud of you. I know starting anything new can be way scary and suck–real bad. But you’re doing it. It’s hard. It sucks to be out of breath, feel like your lungs are on fire, be tired, and have your mind screaming at you to stop. It sucks to change your diet and be tempted by all those awesome tasting, terrible for your health things. I know. I’ve been there. 
But you’re making this happen. You’re taking care of yourself. Because you’re the only you that you’ve got. Your mind is going to quit on you a thousand times before your body will. So show your mind who’s boss. People are going to criticize you. They’re going to tempt you. They’re going to underestimate you. They’re weak. You aren’t. You don’t make excuses because excuses don’t make shit happen. And you are determined to make shit happen. 
From a former fat girl, you can do this shit. You are bigger and better than this challenge. And you’re going to be better for it. Keep it up. Keep moving, watch those clothing sizes drop and watch the numbers on your weights go up. 

You got this.

Love,
Ace

I get that they aren’t the best photos, but I make changes. You can, too. Left: LSU v. Arkansas game-mid beer pong. circa 2007 Right: Hurricane Isaac, August 2012.


Thankful Wednesday on a Monday?

I normally do Thankful Wednesday on…uh…Wednesdays, but I had to post this today. 

Most of you know that I’ll be starting a new adventure this summer. I’ll be heading to Graduate School at LSU where I’ll study Kinesiology. I am super excited about it and I’ve been really looking forward to it. The one thing that’s really been stressing me is: how am I going to pay for it and how am I going to survive while I’m in graduate school?

I am a teacher and while, yes, the paid hours are pretty good, most people don’t really realize how much time and unpaid hours it takes outside of school to be a good teacher. There’s 
planning, 
grading, 
developing, 
analyzing, 
more grading, 
more planning, 
planning for the unplanned, 
developing alternate assignments for gifted students, 
and developing alternate assignments for students who need extra help. 
It’s kind of a lot. And that’s just when you teach one subject. If you teach two or more subjects like me, take everything I just said and multiply it by 3. 
Ew. 
And let’s not even talk about how it’s been made so complicated for me to finish my certification program. Gotta be kidding me!

So over the weekend, I did a lot of thinking and a lot of discussing my options with Mama Nancy and Daddy Carlos. 

And, finally, we came up with a plan:
Begin my program this summer and continue with a minimum 9 hours of coursework every semester.
No teaching next year-I want to make sure that I can focus on school and getting the best grades (and experience) I can.
Re-prioritize my budget to shrink down bills and consolidate money to save.
Ultimate goal: complete grad school program in a year (year and a half-max) and return to the Lone Star State.

Decision: made.

And with all that stressful decision making out of the way, I wanna take a moment to say how THANKFUL I am for my parents for putting up with me and my crazy life.

So thankful for these guys! (And no, that’s not me with my daddy-it’s my sister, Celina. But it’s the best picture of our dad!)

Mom and Dad,
Thank you so much for always supporting my crazy dreams. I know sometimes it feels like I change my mind every other day, but thank you for always keeping me grounded and focused on the things that I need to do. Thank you for always filling up my gas tank before I head back to Louisiana from Texas. Thank you for always making sure that my meals are paleo when I come home and for keeping my room open for me when I visit. Thank you for never erasing the height marks that Anthony, Brittany, and I made in my bathroom (although, to be honest, we made them in brown eyeliner pencil, so I’m not sure they’d come off anyway). Thanks for letting me sleep in when I’m home even though “sleeping in” now is 730 am. Thank you for the endless pots of coffee, always answering the phone when I call, and daily morning text messages. Thank you for making continuous strips of bacon, taking me shopping when I need new clothes, and Sunday afternoon phone calls. Thanks for all the “phone call favors” you call in to St. Jude for me and always praying that I’ll find happiness in whatever I do. Thanks for being involved in my crossfitting and always asking how it went, what I’m doing, or what PR I’ve hit recently…even if y’all do think every lift is called “snatch”. Oh, and thank you for finally reading my “blog-journal-thing”. It means a lot to me that you guys realized I write good stuff sometimes. 

I love you both, big big.
-Aislinn Alysse