Sunday, April 13, 2014

Finally....Sunlight

It's been a difficult year. One of the hardest of my life. My only therapy was the fact that I could run when my heart hurt. It is true what they say about exercise. While it probably isn't a complete cure for depression, it really helped me; but then I got hurt. My kind of injury wasn't one of those...."Just sit it out a few days and you can start again, " injuries. It was going to take much more. I need to burn away flab and replace it with lean muscle; but how? My life is so busy. How was I gonna fit it all in?...well after nearly a year of indecision, emotional lows, setbacks, and long work hours I gained over 20 lbs...and I can't fit my clothes. Plus it's starting to get too hot to hide in jackets...so I had to make a decision. Find time to exercise or keep explaining to people, NO I AM NOT PREGNANT!!!

So why sunlight?  Because my indecision finally became a decision. I have finally started to exercise. A walk here, cycling there, stretches, resistance training...nothing major yet, but finally a schedule. I feel better too. Not so depressed. So why so depressed? My life fell apart last summer and it has taken this long to finally heal. I never want to feel the way I felt back then ever again. I plan on working and training all summer so that I can prepare to run my first half marathon in April 2015.  I have decided that since I love to write I am going to chronicle my training on a separate blog Coco's Got The Runs. Makes it easier if I put it somewhere else, since I wander from one topic to another on this blog.

Anyway, back to my story. I am a confirmed bachelorette.  Although there were signs as early as when she was 14 years old, I think I have always known that there was a possibility my daughter and I would likely be lifelong companions. I decided years ago being single wasn't such a bad idea. I would meet men from time to time, but nothing major. I have been single almost my entire adult life, since my daughter was three years old and in that time no one really sparked a flame. Don't get me wrong there were a few men who caught my eye, but it always just seemed to pass. Last year that changed. It is difficult to talk about because this is the first time I had such strong feelings for a man who didn't even want me as a friend.

He never said, "Hey, I don't even want you as a friend." but when I stopped putting energy into our friendship there was nothing, no reciprocation from him at all. He seemed disturbed if I accidentally touched his arm. Deep down inside I always knew we weren't friends. Nothing in common. There is nothing more painful (well maybe there is but for me this was major) than caring for someone who doesn't feel the same....I believe he tried to tell me. I posted something on Facebook once about unrequited love....and he agreed. He put distance between us too. Never planned on telling me until I got it out of him one day. I knew all along I was making a mistake, but I couldn't stop how I felt. In the long run I learned to hate myself for it. I have heard women say, "I didn't like me when I was with him." I didn't like me, because of the way I felt around him. Stoking the fire of depression....Add another log please!!

So as my self-esteem was flushing down the drain, making me feel very low about myself I had to hospitalize my best friend last February. My daughter is the smartest person I know, but she struggles with major depressive disorder. Usually mommy's pep talks would pull her out of a major setback, but my talks stopped working. It probably didn't help that I was struggling with an emotional issue too. We were a wreck in this household. I was damaged spiritually and emotionally. After she was released from the hospital I continued to decline. I have always been a fighter. I got up, went to work everyday, and kept a smile through all the rain, but as soon as I was off for summer break...my fight ended.

We weren't meant to live alone in this world. Ask those who have spent time in solitary confinement. They lose track of time and space. For the FIRST time in my life being alone STUNK!!!...I cried everyday for months. I woke up crying and went to bed crying at night. Prayer, pleading with god, books, movies nothing changed that except time. Plus I wasn't alone. My daughter was there to help me too. Without her I can't imagine what I would be doing with my life. I would probably be in a relationship where I settled rather than stayed alone. I definitely didn't want that or I would have gotten married years ago. There were a few men that showed interest in me, but my feelings for them weren't the same. It's not that my standards are high...well I do like em cute, but hey...come on?...DON'T JUDGE!!!.... I am attracted to men that are very different from me. Besides my religious beliefs, I know it is one of the major reasons I am still single today.

Anyway, because I struggle to stay on topic, the sun FINALLY, came up. It's like the rain stopped, I walked outside and there it was....SUNLIGHT.  I started to remember my life prior to the pain, the small things I had accomplished, the young lady I raised alone, how I survived the tragic unexpected loss of both my parents, and the loss of my beloved grandmother. I remembered I was happy once, and by the grace of god I would be happy again,

I am sick of stupid sayings, "...only YOU can make YOU happy. Your never alone if you love the person you alone with. Stop relying on others to make you happy."...STOP!!!!....

Mental illness is SO misunderstood. The depressed and broken in spirit need compassion, patience, and understanding.  Not criticism or judgement. You can't rush a person to recovery...For some therapy is a struggle. I really tried to talk about my pain with a professional, but it hurt too much. I would cry so uncontrollably through the sessions that I couldn't go back. It hurt too much. I had to be strong for me and my daughter and she struggled watching me hurt too. She got mad at me sometimes to and wanted me to snap out of it, but I couldn't snap out of my depression any better than she could snap out of her's.

I got through it, but depression is dangerous. I truly believe that I was never in danger of hurting myself, but all the reasoning I tried to do (bargaining with myself and God), didn't work. I was really moved and hurt by the news of 22-Year-Old "ForBrownGirls.com" Founder Karyn Washington committing suicide. That's too young. It bothers me no one saw any signs, or if they did they didn't know how to help her.

We can't ignore the signs. We should never assume her pain, our pain, or the pain of our loved ones will just go away. For more information on depression visit Help for the Depression: 14 Treatment Options and Where to Find Help.

I am a work in progress....progressing....becoming me again. Maybe I will be blessed with a good man one day that will love me, kill bugs for me, clean the hair out of the shower drain for me. Maybe he will be tall (I like em tall), and can reach the top shelf to get stuff for me...but if not I am sure I will be okay....I was before.. What's so different now?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Lace Up Black Girl....It's ON!!!

I hope I get out of bed in the morning? It is really touch starting over again. It's not an excuse when I say I have a full schedule, but it is safe to say that may never change, so I have to figure out how to fit it all in. Death will come whether I have time for it or not. Maybe I can improve my quality of life by being as active, happy, and healthy as I can be before it (the imminent) gets here. I decided to find a way to hold myself accountable for getting things done by keeping a written record of my progress. This is already starting to look kinda boring, but it is good outlet for me (the writing). I like reading experiences from others regarding how they made major changes or strides in their lives in order to overcome a hurdle.

I got hurt almost a year ago and lost the momentum to run and gained weight again. I say again because it has been a battle my whole life. Today I walk around, hiding in jackets always feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Truthfully, who am I hiding from? How do I hide all this person?

I want to run, but my right knee won't let me. I have to tone my body from head to toe or running is just going to eat away my fat and muscle (according to some studies) which will not help my runner's knee. Plus I don't want to be a flabby runner...I don't think anyone wants that?

I love the idea of getting out there and hitting the pavement. I really miss that freedom. My patellofemoral injury demands that I build the muscles around my knees and the biggest challenge is that I will have to continue to do so (FOREVER) or I will never be successful at running.  So the long and short of it...I have to dedicate time to conditioning and building muscle in order to get out there and "pound the pavement" and I haven't been able to do that successfully.

So I paid for a bunch of races, simple stuff a few 5ks. So far I haven't shown up to two and tomorrow is the third. I haven't done any training, but I refuse to lose more money because I am struggling with scheduling and motivation.  I am a little embarrassed. I haven't seen any of my friends from my running club in ages...but I have like 3 or 4 more races over the next few months. I could have used that money to buy shoes...both races two entries lost...that like....a nice pair of boots or something....

I gotta walk this one out...with my daughter who is also a reclusive reluctant hates to leave home...both of us will be out of our comfort zones, but at least we will have each other.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Run BLACK GIRL RUN!!!!!

I was never an athlete in high school...never encouraged to be one, so I wasn't. My shoulders are weak. Can't really throw a ball with any precision, could never play softball, not with my bad eyes...couldn't distinguish the difference between that tiny, white ball, and the big, blue sky. I loved basketball, but I can't shoot.  It was always a good idea for me to pass the ball and fast before I did something wrong.  I always hated playing sports with the boys too.  I am short, and easy to knock over.....I would just freeze, too afraid of getting hurt.

I learned several years ago that I could run, but I am accident prone (okay maybe not accident prone...just back then untrained). I was a walker. The faster I walked, the faster I got...until one day I just took off running....and didn't stop...for about 4 or 5 months until I ran myself into a knee injury. I had no idea what I was doing and I was wearing the wrong shoes...didn't even know what type of shoes I needed...so that ended... 8 or 9 years ago.

So after nearly a decade goes by I started again. This time I did it right. I read books, my daughter and I picked out the perfect shoes for flat footed runners, and I got out there, walking first...then eventually running....until I ran the soles down in my new shoes, and had to buy new ones. Well to say the least, bought the wrong shoe, and my right knee started hurting again...eventually to the point where I had to give in a see a doctor, who sent me to a PT, who stated..."You need to let your knee heal." What was supposed to be a three month break, (giving me time to strengthen the muscles around my knees), turned into six.

Today I ran for the first time since this summer when the PT told me to lay off for a little while.  It was awful...I wasn't in any pain...that was the only good part.  I am just so out of shape and practice. I expected my breathing to be labored, and for me to be a sweaty mess when it was all over. Well none of that happened. Instead, my legs where like led.  I couldn't lift them up. I should have, at some point, just stopped and walked. As slow as I ran I could have beat myself walking, but I ran anyway....a 15 minute mile. Now I have never really been very fast. My best time was just under 9 minutes. My average 10-12  minutes...depending on the day and the conditions (you know stuff like - had I had a nightcap the night before with dinner - was I rested enough - was my knee hurting).

I can say for absolute certain that the strength building exercises, using resistance bands to build up the muscles around my knees worked. I have patellofemoral syndrome (runner's knee). Truth is I will always have it. Today I had no pain, but a tingling (like a reminder) in my knee. I will continue to strengthen, stretch, and condition the knee. I am adding cycling to my routine too. I am excited that I got through the run with no swelling or pain. I love running, and although I may never run marathons, I am perfectly happy running for me. When things were going good I was running an average of 3 days a week, 2 to 3 miles each time (like my own 5ks minus the t shirt and crowds). That's good enough for me...I do plan on running 5ks from time to time no doubt.  Hey, I might even throw in an occasional 10k now and then.  Don't know what I would do if I couldn't run....


Sunday, June 16, 2013

No Parent Should Ever Face Burying Their Own Child...

Death is something I have dealt with before. By the time I was 34 years old I had lost both parents, and both sets of grandparents. My father had been sick for a few years. Knowing how sick he was didn't make losing him any easier. My mother died unexpectedly in her sleep.  I took my father's death the hardest, not to say that both deaths weren't hard to deal with, but none compares with the death of a child.

I met a young lady that touched my life. She was a student of mine. Bright, full of life, and by far one of the nicest individuals I have ever met. I know it sounds cliche, because people always seem to say that when someone dies, but she really did have all those wonderful qualities you rarely see in people today. She was sick when I met her. I should have been prepared to lose her, but I wasn't. 

I decided I wanted to make a little extra money so I took on the role of Home and Hospital teacher after school. This is an opportunity for credentialed teachers to work with students not able to attend school due to health issues.  I was assigned to a young lady too sick to attend school full-time. At the time I met her she was 17 years old and a year behind in school. She should have been a senior, but because of all the time she lost in school due to her illness she was in the 11th grade. 

First I met her dad, a wonderful man and an assistant pastor at his church, her mother a quiet, humble lady with an infectious smile. She had two older brothers and to small nieces bursting with energy. Her mother watched them during the day. I loved to watch them run around and play when I visited their home. The little ones clearly got on her nerves...I loved how her mother would respond with a smile whenever she complained about their boisterousness (I would laugh inside). She would profess..."Ma!!!!....please come get them....they are getting on my nerves!!!"

We worked on everything together from science to math...neither of us very fond of math (geometry). I will be the first to admit I don't like math and I was always grateful I had the answers...because clearly we needed them to get through her assignments. Something about having the master key (the teacher's addition of the textbook) always brings me great comfort. 

This morning at approximately 2:45 am I lost my sweet angel after a long battle with cancer. Since hearing the news I have been asleep most of the day. The mention of her name or the thought of me not being able to see her again brings me to tears. This has been a tough year for me, personally one of the most difficult in my adult life.

I was fairly happy the past 5 or 6 years. I had left behind a stressful job in 2007. I started teaching in 2008. I finally found my niche in this life. I was so worried personally, because things were going so well. I know that sounds silly but I never wanted things to change. I was finally content with being single. It's hard to believe for some, but I had actually made peace with the fact that I would probably never marry.  I have a few friends my age that are single due to divorce, death, or simply not meeting the right man. These ladies had learned to live with it and actually live full lives. I had a job I loved and I was starting to develop some hobbies that kept me busy. As long as men still looked at me, and occasionally opened doors for me, I knew I had a choice. Under those circumstances being alone wasn't so bad as long as I was calling the shots.  That all changed this year.

Some of the sadness and depression I am feeling I believe can be attributed to my age. I have lost love before. It has been denied or taken from me, love has been severed from me in death. Last year I was told I couldn't have any more kids.  My period is out of control (I often have 2 a month). My doctor recommended that I have a hysterectomy which I put off until summer so that I would have time to recuperate. When my doctor told me the news I didn't even flinch. I already had one child and plus I am in my  40's...no a big deal, right?...but then out of nowhere the loneliness and depression started. Working with my little lady kept me so busy that during that time I was able to forget that I was hurting, but in the past month since school has been out I have cried almost every day...there are days I wake up crying and days I cry myself to sleep. 

I started walking to improve my mental well being and to lose weight back in December. In March I started running. That helped for awhile until recently when I hurt my knee. I tried to do everything right. I bought running shoes, I read articles, and books about running, but since my early twenties my right knee has given me trouble. I ran Thursday hurting, and after a few days of rest I tried again today, but my knee was just too sore and I ended up walking. Today, I also came to terms with the fact that I need therapy. I no longer have the tools to do deal with this on my own.

My little lady made me laugh and I will miss that. We kept busy doing school work. She had dreams, she wanted to be a nurse like her dad. She dreamt of going to college. In the fall we were going to start looking at colleges and scholarships for her. We even talked about her attending school online until she felt strong enough to attend school physically. Even though she was very ill, she was strong. She was a real fighter up until the very end. We never talked about her disease or prognosis. Over a period of 8 months I spent time with her regularly, and during that time I came to love her very much. 

I got to see her this past week. I told her I loved her and that it was a real privilege being her teacher.  We texted back and forth yesterday. I was supposed to go and see her, but I cracked a filling and had to go to the dentist. I promised her that I would bring her a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino from Starbucks, today but at 2:45 am this morning she passed away. I was devastated when I got the news because I didn't get to take her, her favorite drink. I was reminded today, by a very kind lady, that in actuality whether I was aware of it or not I did get to say goodbye. She reminded me that I saw her on Thursday. I talked to her, and kissed her little forehead , and told her I loved her. After being reminded of our last visit...I can muster up enough strength to say I am proud of that memory. 

I don't know if I have the strength to work as a Home and Hospital teacher again. I don't know how to detach myself. I couldn't have prevented myself from loving this little girl had I tried. Love has this way of coming into your life whether you're ready or not, whether you want it or not. Afterall who can deny its strength? We can't help who we love and we would be hard pressed to even try to stop it...we simply can't.

I Corinthians 13:7, 8 "Love endures all things. Love never fails." 
     - New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures   

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Career Toolbox...Valuable information for educators and those interested in distance education

I had a lady reach out to me regarding collaborating and sharing information on my blog about her site. I don't normally respond well to these types of requests. I immediately get on the defensive when people reach out to me to "link" to my blog; because, I don't earn any money doing this. This is more of a hobby for me. In a different life I would have been a writer. It's really obvious that I passed that seed on to my daughter. She was an English major in college and always manages to find herself in the middle of writing projects. She is the happiest when writing or playing football on my Xbox (long story odd combination I know). Anyway, I have had individuals looking to make money contact me and well just anger me in the long run...but this was different....I am getting to that, but first I have to go off on this tangent.....

So People who know me know I am a talker. Yes, I have tried to change...but that's like telling a quiet person..."YOU'RE TOO QUIET....YOU NEED TO TALK MORE!!!"...I disagree. If you have ever known or hung out with someone shy or quiet, (keep in mind quiet doesn't necessarily mean shy), you might be surprised at what comes out of their mouths if you force them to talk. Better to leave the quiet, quiet because as the old folks say..."still waters run deep"....and well talkative people like me....no mystery....sorry!

Anyway, if not for online and distance learning I don't know how I would have managed to complete 3 degrees online (well I attended a community college for my Associate's degree...NONE of that was online). I earned a Bachelor's degree, and a Master's online. The teacher credentialing program I completed had some residency requirements that I had to complete at a "ground" campus, but for the most part that program was online too.

Okay so back to this site. It turns out it has some really relevant information for distance learners and those interested in pursuing degrees online. There are a lot of opinions and discussions around online degrees. I think that it is important to do research, talk to others that have completed online degree programs, and get as much information as you can, especially getting answers to questions that really matter like..."How employable are individuals with online degrees?" It has propelled my secular experiences. I am an individual who did much better after earning advanced degrees. It didn't seem to matter that they were online. What mattered was that the schools I attended are accredited.  I have been a supervisor, a project manager, and now a teacher; but I also think that it depends on what you major in too. I am sure that there are other individuals out there that could tell different stories...but so could those that have attended popular mainstream brick and mortar colleges that didn't propel them further than the unemployment line!!...So again what's important is your major, and how well you sell yourself at the interview.

The biggest drawbacks for me had more to do with the lack of scholarships available to online students at the time that I completed my programs. My understanding is that there are more scholarships available to online students now, due to the growth in that area; but I don't have any specifics. This site might?.. I was considered an out of state student for most of my undergraduate studies, not part of any sororities, (don't have a lot of those in the online world), and I couldn't take advantage of local grants specific to the state of California (like Cal grant).  I did get Pell, but that is a federal grant that just about anyone with a financial need can qualify for. Most individuals who attend college out of state face that same dilemma too unless they attend on a partial or full scholarship. I, on the other hand, will work until I drop dead and probably still not be able to pay off all my loans. Anyway, I started reviewing this website and found a lot of useful information. I plan to review it again. It's not just for educators. The site has different writers that contribute information on some of the best online and distance colleges, career paths for various degree programs, and a lot of information on online and distance learning. There is information on this site about certification programs, cheapest online programs, but what caught my attention was the career toolbox for educators. 

 Is it a commerce site? Well...sure in the long run probably so, but...."is there information that could be valuable?"  I think so... Bottom line for us educators is I think it might be worth investigating the website...especially if you're looking at student loan debt forgiveness, or becoming national board certified. I am very interested in National Board Certification. I want to travel and live somewhere different...like the east coast...(bucket list item). I saw some interesting information regarding adding technology, and different skills to your (toolbox) resume. There is even something on growth, and what to expect as an educator.  They are on Facebook too!

The Career Toolbox

Saturday, May 25, 2013

What's the Point?

It's been so long since I have done this...not even sure what's the point of it all? Blogs are personal opinions. Most of us writing are not authorities on any particular subject, and oftentimes we are writing about something no one else really cares about. It was a fad and for someone like me who loves to talk about everything it is an outlet too; but what is so important that I have to let it out on such a public forum? Is it appropriate to put one's feelings on the line or out there for everyone else to see? Can it be in some ways helpful or is it just a sign that I am attention starved? I don't know? Sometimes I think it is more about searching for answers to what bothers me the most and keeps me up at night. There are those questions in the back of my mind...."Has someone else gone through what I am struggling through and how did they work through it?"..."Is there some insight on how to handle this or that problem?"..."Will I find the answers I need from the opinions of others?"..."If I put it out there and write about it will it make me feel better once I write it all down, even if my audience is built primarily out of strangers?"... Shared experiences can make us feel like we aren't alone. Working through a problem alone can be in itself devastating, especially if we have no one to talk it out with. I am proud to say that I am growing. I recently turned 45 years old and it wasn't so bad afterall. I am middle aged...Wow probably passed the middle already. I can't imagine that I will live to see 90, or that this world is even going to still be around in another 45 years at the rate we are declining...but that is a topic for another day. What I like about this new milestone is who I am inside. Twenty years ago I was a loving, caring individual. Today I love even deeper. I am affected in a much more intense way than ever before. If there is one thing that older people have to offer each other and others around them is the ability to love very deeply. The cost that comes along with that is that I feel pain in a way that can be difficult at times to shoulder or shake. I am much more emotional in an outward way too. I don't do as good a job as I used to hiding how I feel. Sometimes I don't care too. I cannot imagine losing a true love at this age if I was in a serious relationship. I don't know how some of my friends survive divorce, at any age really. Honestly, is it really better the second, or third time around? How does one shoulder falling in love with someone that stops loving them or that crush on someone that never really felt the same? Now there is a topic I would like to hear more about.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Not All CSET Preparation Sites Are What They Say They Are

Something that really irritates me is when some outfit finds my blog and decides to post some bogus response in order to link their crappy site to mine promoting commercial garbage. There is this one CSET preparation website that sells either study guides or flashcards that has this really bad. I delete more of their posts than any other crappy piece of spam that tries to link to my blog. What is really disappointing is the poor grammar and spelling associated with these links.

My blog is not a commerce or commercial site. I didn’t create it with the intention of earning an income, although it is my information, (see copyright below), and I value it. It's not for sale. Please do not post if you’re not a real person with something of value to add to the original post. There is no short cut to teacher preparation and there are a lot of websites out there with study guides that are garbage. I know I have wasted money on a few back when I attempted to prepare for the CSET Business exam...that was a real waste of money. The bright side of that experience was at least I got my money back.

If you choose to use a site that promises to help you pass the CSET make sure:

1. They can spell and put together a sentence

2. They are a member of the Better Business Bureau

...that way you can get your money back if need be.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Is There Really Life After High School?...From the Diary of a High School Reject

High school was a weird time for me, not surprisingly for my daughter too, which is why I think I have always been "hyper-sensitive" towards kids that don't fit in. The irony in all of this is that I now teach high school, but before I go on I have to be really honest, teaching high school was not my first choice. I love kids at any age, but I have to admit I really enjoy the energy and fun that flows from elementary age children. The older kids get the harder it is for some of them to fit in, especially when dealing with others. It is a time when a lot of students report that they feel the most misunderstood. I can relate to that. Many pull away from their parents, and rely on kids their own age to confide in. But, what about those of us that felt we didn't have a confidant, even in those our own age? I see the kids that don't fit and the strong desire they have to run away from everyone else...A desire that can sometimes manifest itself into something really scary. These kids today really do have it much harder than we did when I was growing up. A sign of the times no doubt.

Today, I was faced with the decision of whether or not to attend my 25th year high school reunion. A big part of me really wanted to attend. The last time my class had a reunion was the 10th year; but I couldn't attend. I was living pretty far away, in Southern California, at that time and too focused on what was going on in my life then (okay I was broke). I figured I would catch the next one. I had no idea 15 years would pass before there would be another one. Now at year 25 things are different. I live much closer, just a little under 75 miles outside of the small town where I attended high school; so, getting there wasn't as big a challenge, plus I hadn't seen many of my friends in 25 years. A few I reconnected with on Facebook and that class reunion site. At least a half dozen or so of them that I never forgot I really, really wanted to see again; although I was a little intimidated over the challenge of remembering everyone else. I imagined my embarrassment over all the awkward conversions I was bound to have throughout the night...well if anyone even bothered to talk to me.

Why?...because truthfully...high school for me was painful. I left high school confused, pregnant, and broken hearted. Not to mention through all of this my father was dealing with the bitter disappointment, and despair over my uncertain future, and delicate state. No one knew all the pain I was going through, because I wasn't popular. Who cared really? I remember my stepmother calling my closest friends, "sweat hogs"...Most gen Xer's and baby-boomers know what a sweat hog is from the TV show "Welcome Back Carter" where John Travolta got his start. For those of you who don't know what a "sweat hog" is...they were losers...and in a sea of uncertainty I was very lost.

Well to make a long story short none of that mattered anymore. I got my life together, had some fun along the way, and I am now past all that pain or so I thought? I am certainly not past the fear of the unknown. My yearbooks are in storage, so I have no help at my finger tips now in trying to figure out how I was going to recognize or remember people. Who would I talk to? What would I say?...

As fate would have it...I didn't attend. I had a flat tire, which just deflated my whole day. Too tired to deal with it, I had just returned from a recent trip a few days prior to the reunion...So, I gave up and afterwards started to feel regret...I would have liked to have known. Did anyone remember me? Was I even missed? I always tell my students, as I told my daughter during her difficult school days, keep your head up. Life can be a wonderful adventure, or a painful trip...it's your choice. Make the best of it and keep moving forward...Although it would have been nice to peer back into the looking glass for just a moment, I let that moment pass...crap I hate regret!!

In the long run...I am really proud. Even if I didn't get to share it with anyone tonight I am amazed at the path my life took! I would have never guessed I would end up where I am today. Now don't get me wrong. I am not wealthy, don't wear expensive clothes....I don't own my home (yet); but, none of that matters either, because I have choices. If any of that really mattered to me, I would have it. The point I am trying to make is this...Life is TOO short to destroy early on...really at any time...

For those of us that didn't or don't fit in...it is amazing what a positive attitude and a never surrendering self-determination can do. I survived life after high school and I can say with certainty to my students...my kids....So can you!!!...THIS TOO SHALL PASS!!!!..

High school is survivable and it really isn't the end of your life. Let's get out there and make some good decisions together shall we!!

Ms. B

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Helpful Materials for Passing The CSET, Multiple Subjects Examination for Teachers

Recently, I was asked what tools I used to pass the CSET California Multiple Subjects Examination for teachers. I didn't realize until asked that question that I had not shared my resources. I love to do research, and I did some on one of my favorite sites, Amazon, and followed the advice of other teacher candidates who had taken the test and posted reviews on what worked for them. The first thing I did was take the practice exam at the California Subject Examination for Teacher Website. You have to be familiar with the test and ABSOLUETLY DO NOT skip the written questions. Much of what you see on the actual test you will find on the practice exam. I took the practice exam more than once until I passed it several times in a row. Many candidates take for granted how important it is to do the practice test. Of course practicing the test alone isn't enough. I also used other materials.

There are four small books (desk references), that I used that I purchased from the Amazon website for around $2.00 or $3.00 dollars each. I purchased the books useds. It's a good idea to purchase a test preparation book such as the CliffsTestPrep or Kaplan. The other books are part of the Scholastic Homework Reference Series titled, Everything You Need to Know About English Homework, Everythink You Need to Know about World History Homework, Everythink You Need to Know about American History Homework, and Everything You Need to Know about Science Homework.

There are also books in that series for Geography and Math, but the math wasn't as helpful. The books are written by Anne Zeman and Kate Kelly. The books are the fourth to sixth grade homework series and not only a great desk reference for elementary students and their parents, but also perfect for any future elementary teacher candidate studying for the multiple subjects exam in California.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

How To Pass The Revised RICA

Most of the advice I have for this one is in a previous post. I am happy to report I passed the revised RICA. Many are struggling with this test, and I do agree that since the State of California revised the test in August 2009 it is a lot harder to pass than before. I met and spoke with a teacher who let her credential lapse after taking time off from work to start a family. She explained to me that she had previously taken the test and passed it prior to the revision. When she retook the revised version back in July she was shocked to learn that she had not passed and was repeating the test at the same time I was attempting to try again too. What I can say from experience is if you walk in prepared it is a test that can be passed.

I don't know of nor can I recommend any preparation programs here in the State of California, but I can teach you some strategies you can use on your own in order to help you pass that test. Like the average person I will attest I "HATE TAKING TESTS." Standardized tests are about the worse. For an individual seeking to be a newly credentialed teacher in the State of California this one exam can make the difference between finding and keeping a job. It truly is not the end of the world if you walk in prepared.

The good news is not everyone has to take this test. If your seeking a single subject credential in the State of California you're looking at taking the CSET specific to the disciple you are interested in teaching and the CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test). On the other hand if your interested in becoming an elementary (K through 6) or Education Specialist (Special Education) teacher both of which I am pursuing, or if your interested in becoming a reading specialist then yes you're one of us folks that has this exam to face.

But on to how to pass it, there were a few methods I tried and they were well worth it. Rather than repeat myself a million times I will refer back to my first post on Passing the RICA were I share what worked for me. If you don't have time to read that whole post then the cut and dry of it is this....First and foremost don't walk in blind or unprepared. The two books I recommend without hesitation are Ready for the Revised RICA, the third addition by James Zarrillo and Case Studies in Preparation for the California Reading Competency Test, third addition by Joanne Rossi and Beth Schipper. You can get these books really cheap at Amazon.com

Keep in mind the Case Study portion of the RICA is worth 20 percent of the total grade. That has both its advantages and disadvantages depending on how you look at that 20 percent. My advice is that you make sure to become familiar with as many case studies as the Case Studies in Preparation for the California Reading Competency Test as possible. You will not regret it. In the long run practicing the Case Studies will also prepare you for the rest of the tests because the Case Study covers all the domains of the test. Don't misunderstand me. You cannot rely on just the Case Studies book alone, James Zarillo's book is first and foremost the tool that you need to get ready for the test. Rossi and Schipper's book really only prepares you for the Case Study.

Back to why I say the 20 percent is both good and bad. Keep in mind the Case Study is only 20 percent of the test. In reality if you're one of those people that is an excellent test taker you may be one of the very few that could bomb the Case Study and still pass the test, but I wouldn't rely on that alone. That test is no walk in the park. Prepare well for the entire test and you will do well.

Sincerely,
Coletha Browning
Education Specialist

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My First Attempt at Passing the Revised RICA

Okay - So in the last post, Journey of a Newly Credentialed Teacher, I kinda got this wrong...hmmm. I was totally confused. Is that okay to admit?

This whole I have 5 years thing to complete the RICA (Reading Instruction Competence Assessment)...yeah...no...less than that. The time frame varies depending on your program of study and the credential you're pursuing; but in order to apply for a preliminary elementary, or special education credential, you have to take the RICA and the CSET exams first. I worked for 2 years as an intern while I finished up all the requirements to earn both credentials, but I was only partially credentialed. I was working under an Internship Education Specialist Credential, which I was able to obtain through the State of California after passing the CSET, but that credential is only good for two years.

With all the state requirements that I have to meet I get so confused that I don't know if I get it all the time. Well here I am in my last class WOOHOO!!!...and I gotta take this one last test in order to receive my preliminary credential...man I so thought I was past all this crap!!!!....So I made the mistake of rushing without preparation into the belly of the beast...THE RICA!!!!

Okay so I prepared over a two week period....SO NOT A GOOD IDEA!!!...This test is a MONSTER!!! The RICA was revised recently in August of 2009 and it is true what they say it is A LOT harder than it was prior to the revision... Anyway, not to get off on the wrong foot it is a doable exam. I almost did it last week. The multiple choice portion of the test isn't the problem, it's the case study that blew my socks off.

The test used to be 5 hours, now it is 4 hours. The case study alone takes about an hour. You really have to pay attention to the details and make quite a few recommendations in writing. In addition to the case study there are 4 written responses. The first response has to be 75 to 150 words, the other three average 150 to 300 words. Not too bad, although you have to pay attention to the question and not give too little or too much information. If it asks for one instructional strategy...DO ONE. First of all you don't have time to add more than what is necessary if you want to finish in 4 hours, and secondly they look for how well you pay attention and follow directions. Not paying attention to what they are asking for can lower your score.

Anyway, SO.....I was feeling fairly confident until I got to the case study. Talk about wanting to cry. I was like, "WOW!!...Guess I will be taking this test again!" My biggest mistakes...I took way too much for granted when it came time to prepare for this test.

I really worked my butt off studying for the CBEST and CSET Multiple subjects. I got through both on the first try. Both tests where a piece of cake compared to the RICA, but the one thing they all have in common...That practice test at the Pearson Website.. I took the practice exams for both the CBEST and CSET as part of my preparation. I even took each practice tests more than once. I also purchased books to help me prepare for the CSET and I attended a workshop for the CBEST, so when it came time to sit down for both those exams, upon looking back I knew that all that preparation was to my benefit especially, during the written portions of the tests. I knew that if I hadn't taken the practice tests that I probably would have struggled to pass the CBEST and CSET.

Regarding the RICA I started looking at the practice test the morning of the exam...I started answering the multiple choice questions and I was nailing them...getting them all right with a big fat smile on my face. So I moved on and didn't focus on the sample Case Study. That was a big mistake. I didn't dare skip any steps on the CBEST or CSET. As a matter of fact I passed all the sections of the CSET including the writing, which I didn't have to take because I had taken the CBEST. I could have skipped the CBEST all together....talk about getting big headed.

So back to the test. As I was sitting there looking over the case study and I came to the conclusion..."I can't do this, not today, so I looked it over realizing what a mistake I had made not going over the practice exam case study at the NES website, and I decided this time it wouldn't count, so I walked out.

Another mistake I made. I purchased a book "Ready for The RICA" that was outdated. There is a revised addition and as a matter of fact you have to look for "Revised" in the title or you'll end up with the wrong book. The "Revised Ready for The RICA" by James Zarrillo is probably about the best one. His old edition comes highly recommended. I had the older one and it had enough information in it to get me through the multiple choice questions, but his new addition has more information that is very helpful, although it may not be enough on it's own when it comes to the case study. Another really important book is "Case Studies in Preparation For the California Reading Competency Test" by Joanne Rossi and Beth Schipper. Believe me you can never study too many case studies. Plus an added benefit is that all of this preparation does strengthen our practices in the classroom when working with students who struggle with reading, or who are learning how to read for the first time.

So in closing, I am anxious to do it again, to test out my theories about where I went wrong, especially after attempting the test, and I am anxious to test out my preparation materials to see if they really are enough to get READY FOR THE RICA. I anxiously await for August when I can take it again...(because OF COURSE keeping my job would be nice)....more to come then.

Peace and Blessings!!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Journey of a Newly Credentialed Teacher

Today I am reflecting. It's been a long week. I didn't get much sleep, which I blame on me being in high gear all week. I reached a milestone in my career and I celebrated it by spending the day shopping with my daughter. I totally forgot that my childhood best friend was giving her daughter a baby shower today...so I know I will be spending the beginning of next week mending an important relationship.

Okay...so back to reflecting on why I have had such an energetic week. Just this past Thursday night I sat down with a credentialing advisor at school and he said something to me that I have been waiting to hear certain that it would take forever before I did. He told me, "You're approaching the light at the end of the tunnel." I thought "Wow, really?..This can't be almost over?" The State of California has made me jump through so many hoops that I thought it would never end.

I remember asking, when I started the credentialing program, how long would it take for me to become a credentialed elementary school teacher, and I could never get a straight answer. "Well, since your looking at a dual program which allows you to earn two credentials (I am working on credentials in special education and general education) it just depends. It is different for different people...Some people do it in two years or so, some longer." I thought "Wuh!?!..That's not an answer!"....

Okay, (sigh),..anyway, I was told along the way there were tests I would have to take. "Well in order to meet the requirements set by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing you have to take the CBEST (California Basic Education Skills Test) to meet the basic skills requirement, then CSET (California Subject Examination For Teachers) to show subject matter competency, and then after that you have to take the RICA,(Reading Instruction Competence Assessment) at the end of your program, but you have five years to complete the RICA...

What is important now is getting through CBEST and CSET in order to get your preliminary credentials out of the way". Blah...blah...blah...yadda...yadda...yadda...All I knew was that I wanted to be a teacher and no matter how long it took I had time, (actually that is not true there is a time limit if you're already working in the classroom...ANYWAY). I learned that I could teach while working on the credentials. There were some prerequisites I had to complete, but as long as I had a Bachelor's degree at the minimum I could work while in school.

Before entering the classroom as the teacher of record I had taken and passed the CBEST. I had also worked as a substitute teacher the year prior to getting my own classroom, so I felt like, "Okay I think I can do this!" I fell in love with my students and my job and thought, "Wow there is nothing else in this world that I would much rather be doing right now except for this!"...And believe me I have tried a few things. In the past 10 years or so I have worked as a secretary, administrative assistant, clerical supervisor, and project manager and hated it all...I had worked my way through the ranks in the business sector and never found as much joy as I do working as a teacher.

The hardest part of my credentialing program has been taking the required state tests; but with a lot of hard work (really lots and lots of prayer), and study I am at the end of my tunnel like my credentialing advisor said. I passed the CSET all the subtests (it's a three to four part test depending on the credential) and of course now I will move on to the RICA, although I have a little time. Over the next few weeks I should be receiving preliminary credentials in the mail with a State of California seal on them. The hardest part is behind me, yet this still feels like the beginning...the beginning of a new life, and a new career. I am 41 years old in my second year of teaching and I feel like I just got started...like a kid fresh out of college...You know they say life begins at 40...with that being said regarding that last statement I would have to agree.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wuh?!!!.....

I expected to rest a lot this summer. I mean to tell you the truth teachers look forward to summer break just as much as their students do; but instead I got totally addicted to playing online games on Facebook. I would spend hour upon hour playing games until sitting in the same place made my butt hurt. Now I ask is that healthy?...Back in April of 2009 I read an article on the subject that looked at both sides of the argument by first asking the question does spending too many hours on Facebook lower student performance? It also highlighted the opposite by asking the question can Facebook actually booster student performance? Does it hurt or help? Okay readers I will let you decide. Can spending hour after hour in front of a computer playing game after game and doing nothing else for days at a time until your body aches really hurt you?...Well duh?...Do the math....if after this experiment you can still remember how.

Cheers!!.....

For more information read more here on the subject Does Facebook Use Affect College Grades?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Why this?...

During a math lesson on Friday one of my high school students asked me. "Ms. Browning....why are you here? Why in the world would you want to work with these bad kids at this school?"

I work at a community school for students who have been kicked out of the district due to occurrences with bad behaviors. Some of my kids are just misunderstood, while others manage to get themselves in so much trouble that they wind up here. This is not the first time I have had a student ask me that question. So I asked him, "Why do you ask? Don't you think everyone deserves a second chance?"...his response, "I don't know?...Depends on what they did...but I wouldn't go to college all them years like you and wind up working here for nothing."

I had to laugh and pause just for a minute....I could relate to what he was saying, but for me so much had changed that this young kid probably wouldn't understand. It's one of those things you just have to live through. Two years ago I was a project manager. I worked in healthcare and I made a lot more money than I do now. I was driving a new car, credit cards maxed to the limit, more stress then I could handle. I was depressed. I had managed to work for the same organization for 10 years. I worked my way up from secretary to supervisor, then project manager, all the while telling myself things would get better and they never did. I knew I needed a change. The only time I could remember being happy back then was when I was in school. Even my daughter said to me..."Mom you are a different person since becoming a teacher. I don't remember during the time I was growing up you having a job that has made you this happy."

I will admit, I did take a loss in income. I had to liquidate some debts, and restructure my life. We had to move into a cheaper place for the umpteenth time. My daughter and I have moved so much our furniture should have roller skates on it...actually I bought some new furniture this year since moving, so that was a fun change.

Today, I spend more time visiting with family, I exercise, I go places, We eat out on occasion and catch a show every now and then. I have long periods of time off. I only work 9 months out of the year, and being a teacher is the best job I have ever had. I take pride in what I do and I am learning new things all the time. Heck I learn stuff every time I have to plan for a lesson. I explained to my student....

"One of the most important things you can do for yourself is get an education. It gives you choices. I can always go back to what I was doing, but I don't want to. So I make less money. We are living better then we ever did when I was making more money." He totally didn't understand that last part. How can you live better with less?

Well, if there is anything I want to teach my students it would be this...

You only live once. It is never too late to follow a dream. You can do what may seem like the impossible, I did. Never put a dollar amount on your happiness....because no matter what anyone says money cannot make you happy. It may not sink in for a few years, but if they hear it enough...just maybe they will remember it one day...if not directly from me, just know that it is possible.

I never ever thought I would ever hear me say that and mean it. As a matter of fact I am going to go take a walk with my daughter around our neighborhood right now. Smell some roses, look at my neighbors landscapes, walk past a park or two (lot's of parks in my neighborhood). All the people I used to envy walking their dogs, riding bikes with their children, playing on the swings with their kids, jogging past me on the bike path I will waive at...I don't have to envy them anymore...I am one of them now. I thought I was suppose to envy the lady passing me by in the Lexus....nope not with that car note

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Now playing: Mariah Carey - Anytime You Need A Friend
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Follow up to a Mother's Love

Look.....I don't profess to be a poet. When I started writing that post about my daughter the words just started to flow...I know some of it really doesn't rhyme, but that was not my intention, (to write a poem). That post had more to do with us becoming runners. It's about a mother's love, and pride in her only child. I cherish her and if I could I would shout it from every rooftop in town I would...any town at that. Am I apologizing for my attempt at writing a poem..NO...well sorta...only to my daughter who is the real poet in this family...

Dis mama's old butt trying to hang ;0)

......but don't worry sweetie I won't quit my day job (smooches)...oh BTW I started a journal of our journey to become lifetime runners....starting with training for our first marathon at LiveJournal...my online diary, one day at a time.

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Now playing: Babyface - There She Goes
via FoxyTunes