Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quickies: 200 Posts, 27 Days, 24 Hours

1. 200 Posts!
I don't know what a milestone counts as in the world of blogging, but I reached several milestones recently. On Sunday, I posted my 200th blog entry since entering the world of sharing my stories with anybody who wants to read them in the world. In the last week, I also surpassed 10,000 visitors to my website since I started. It is incredible to me that so many people are actually interested in my life...or that very few people visit my website that often! Regardless, thank you for all the support and for at least pretending that my stories are fascinating enough to earn your time and interest. I noticed that there is a new feature offered where you can take all the blog entries and turn them into a book! What a neat idea. I envision one day gifting such a thing to my children so they can see that I wasn't always boring and tired. (This is NOT a place for comment, AA - not the airline).

2. 27 Days
I don't often act spontaneously and I'm not sure I acted spontaneously in this case, either, since I have been talking about taking a trip for months. Well, with Spring Break coming up in 27 days the time has also arrived to make a decision about taking a trip. Flights are booking up, prices are high and in about 3 months when residency commences I won't have enough time to even tie my shoelaces. So, I took the plunge (corny pun intended as a hint as to what I did). One of my friends who also will be starting residency in June and I will be visiting some incredible places that I have never seen before as we set sail on the Carnival Legend for a 7 night cruise of the exotic Western Caribbean! We leave from Tampa and Port of Calls include the Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Honduras, and Belize. Add to that 2 fun-filled days at Sea on the ship and I am looking forward to one heck of a week. Now, I just need to find some airfare that is reasonably priced...

3. 24 Hours
The amazing debate and forensics teams from my high school (and through out the Central Valley) will be meeting up in Bakersfield this weekend for the National Qualifying Tournament. I am extremely excited for our kids and very much hope that many of them will earn a spot to Nationals, the most prestigious event in a debaters career. My debate partner and I from Edison qualified to Nationals our Junior year in debate and I qualified in "Congress" my senior year. As a result, I got to see Phoenix (way too hot) and Portland (amazing natural reserves!). I will be driving one of the vans full of our very talented kids and therefore will be out of town from Thursday to Saturday. Should be fun!

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Blog Design

Every so often I feel it is time to mix things up here on the blog. The old design I had started feeling stuffy and heavy. While I loved the outward lines of alternating patriotic beauty, the grays in the color palette started feeling too dark and dreary for my tastes. And the smaller than normal font on that blog design was starting to exhaust my eyes.

Enter this new design. I found it as one of the options, ready-made for those of us computer half-literate folks who like things ready-made, like peanut butter, sliced fruit, and blog designs. I loved it because it feels light, airy and exciting. It evokes movement and change, similar to how my life is moving forward and change is coming. It also feels more minimalist, something I have been striving to be as a way to declutter and simplify my life.

I have also discovered that I can make the font a bigger size and I have also added space on the screen devoted to the main text, allowing it to pop to the reader more easily.

I would love your suggestions and welcome you to comment on any changes you want to see to make the blog more accessible and easier to interact with. And as always, thanks for visiting!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Flashback Friday...on Sunday

While working as a Teach for America teacher in Baltimore, I kept a journal of my experiences during my first year teaching. We didn't have blogs "back then" so I used to email the journal entries to a lengthy list of folks. As a blast from the past, I will repost some of my journal entries here on this blog on Flashback Fridays. Some of you will remember some of them and I hope you enjoy it as much the second time as you did the first. 

Today's Flashback is to my very first journal entry, ever. It seems so fitting as I go through similar thoughts and anxieties over what is going to be arriving very soon - the start of residency in a few short months.

"July 1, 2004:
            I have been on the East Coast now for about two weeks. We were in Baltimore for our Pre-Institute Induction ceremony. There were lots of neighborhood tours and a general overview of the program. I’m filled with excitement and anticipation at the prospect of what I will be doing. The children of Baltimore need dedicated people…LOTS of us. I hope I will be able to contribute my little part to ensure that systemic inequality is combated and EVERY child has an equal opportunity at changing this world. The question that was posed to us is very profound: If not you, then who?
            Well, we arrived in New York a couple days ago. We are staying at Fordham University here in the Bronx. This city is eclectic! It is alive – always awake and full of energy. This school is pretty nice, too. We are staying in the dorms, teaching during the day and attending various professional development workshops in the evenings. My dorm room is air-conditioned and has its own bathroom! WOW – we definitely didn’t have this at Whittier! However, I have a feeling they aren’t going to send housekeeping to maintain the bathroom, so maybe it was better to have shared bathrooms…
            If not you, then who…"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thank You God

This has been one amazing week! It started with an awesome 4-word email (see Monday's post) and culminated today in THE most amazing news that I have prayed for, for a very long time! I found out today that I "matched" (that means was accepted by) the UCSF-Fresno Pediatrics program to start residency. This means I will be matriculating at one of the top 10 Children's Hospitals in the nation, here in Fresno! And I will be part of one of the best known names in Medicine - UC San Francisco.

When I started medical school back in 2006, I was very depressed and didn't think I could make it through. Many self-destructive thoughts went through my head, like "I'm not good enough" and "I had to go to the Caribbean so that must mean I don't belong in this profession" and "no reputable program will ever want me" and "I will never become a good doctor" and on and on. Sensing my despair, God spoke to me through one of the online "Bible Quote" programs. I offer it now to help any struggling medical student or anyone struggling in life. Always remember to...

"Rejoice in Hope, be Patient in tribulation, be Constant in Prayer."
Romans 12:12

Monday, March 14, 2011

4 Words

Sometimes, the best things, including news, come in the smallest packages. Today I received an email from the National Residency Matching Program that simply stated, in 4 brief and incredible words:

"Congratulations! You have matched."

Thank God.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Quickies: Prayers for Japan, Lay Off Notices, Residency Posting

Time for some quickie updates:

1. Prayers to Japan and all those affected by the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami on Friday. The power of Mother Nature is indeed awe-inspiring and should not be underestimated or disrespected. There are some absolutely startling before and after pictures that the NY Times posted on its website. The link is:

Also, there are lots of very well-written articles explaining how nuclear energy works to help understand the whole "meltdown" hoopla some in the media are trying to blow out of proportion. I highly recommend you read the article by going to my website for work then scroll down to the bottom of the screen where it says "Science Headlines".

The link to my class website is

2. Lay Off Notices:
I have been joking about my imminent lay-off for months, but at the moment on Friday when I was actually personally handed the envelope putting me on notice of my imminent lay-off at the end of this school year, I actually got emotional! I was hired as a "Temporary" teacher on a year-long contract (as all new teachers typically are in my district) so this isn't a surprise. I absolutely knew it was coming (State Law requires notice by March 15). And unlike Baltimore where they just put a notice in our teacher mailboxes, I actually met with the Assistant Superintendent for my School area and my Principal in his office, where we discussed options. As I have been saying to anyone who will listen, this District takes care of its people and prides itself on a culture that values its employees. And I love my current job and my colleagues and the awesome environment that has been created at my school for adults and kids. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to work at my school. My lay-off notice, however, does make Quickie #3 below that much more imminent!

3. Residency Posting: 
I find out about Residency very soon. I have suddenly gone from being quite content and calm to having some pretty major butterflies. "Match Day" is the culmination event of 4 years of ridiculously hard work, plus a 5th "bonus" year since I didn't graduate in time to start residency last year.

The Match email will say one of two things:
OPTION 1: Congratulations!! You have been accepted by a program for residency.
OPTION 2: We are sorry, but you have not Matched into a program for residency.

Obviously, I am hopeful for Option 1. Option 1 means I get to relax all week until they send the email a few days later letting me know at which hospital I was accepted to do my Residency. However, Option 2 means I spend the entire week in the "Scramble" - literally scrambling and calling every single program with a listed opening and begging and pleading for a residency position before the week ends.

This coming week will either be an extremely joyful and happy week (affirmative on residency), or one helluva depressing week (no residency AND laid off). Needless to say, my issue is absolutely nothing compared to what our brothers and sisters in Japan are going through right now, so please don't divert your prayers from them!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Good Teachers Being Turned Bad?

I have always been passionate about the fact that as teachers, we haven't done enough to ensure that we are guiding the discourse on what we need to do to "improve education" in our country. As a result, a bunch of "Education Experts" with little to absolutely no experience in the field of education have been given almost unbridled access to the power-that-be to effect changes that are at best untested and unsupported by research, and at worst proven to be ineffective and plain out wrong!

In this article by Joel Shatzky, a retired English teacher who taught at SUNY (State University of New York), he shows how true "Good Teachers" are often rated as bad due to their willingness to actually fight for evidence-based good teaching. I am blessed to work at a District that actually does value great teaching, but even here we are faced with the testing industrial complex that has dominated all of the education field for now. Let us hope that this, too, shall pass in favor of what used to be an innovative education that placed more prowess on critical thinking rather than fact memorizing. Or at the very least, we have to start developing richer standards and evaluation tools that examine a student's true strengths and weaknesses more regularly and through more than just a paper/pencil multiple guess test once a year.

Click Here to access the article. It is a must read for any teacher and for anyone with a vested interest in their child's education. If we don't put a stop to all the crazy policies being floated around in education right now, we will be faced with an entire generation of kids who are incapable of doing basic thinking on their own.