Tuesday, March 20, 2018

5 Tips for Anxious Protestors

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I have Panic Attack Disorder. I also care deeply about social justice issues. So what to do about attending crowded protests in downtown Chicago? Crowds, driving downtown, parking downtown, public transit, noise, and uncertainty are all triggers for panic attacks for me. Thus, I typically avoid those things. But part of living with an anxiety disorder is deciding what you can avoid and what is too important to miss. For me, marching for Black Lives Matter, for women's rights, and against gun violence are all worth it. I completely understand and respect if your anxiety is too severe to protest, but I wanted to share a few things that have worked for me:

1. Go with friends. Having a buddy makes a huge difference. If you can, meet up with them before you even get to the protest. If you can't, see number 2.

2. Have a plan. Part of what can make protests so anxiety-inducing is the uncertainty. Plan out your day as much as possible. If you can't meet up with your friend beforehand, set a time and place close to the protest location, but not too close (to avoid mega crowds). A Starbucks two blocks south of the usual protest location in downtown Chicago is now my meeting place go-to. I can get there early and calm down if I need to. Because cell phone reception might go out due to the large crowds (this happened to me at the Women's March in 2016), set the time and place the night before. You could even set a time limit-- for example, if the other person doesn't show up within 20 minutes and you can't reach them, you'll march separately. Did I mention I have an anxiety disorder??

3. Take public transit. I hate driving, I hate parking, and I hate public transit. Usually I just try to avoid leaving the house (mostly kidding), but one has to choose between necessary evils for the sake of justice! Even though public transit can be crowded and noisy on protest days, I find it's easier to deal with than trying to drive and park. Any downtown area is already hard to park in, and then with additional crowds and street closings due to protests, it can be just about impossible. 

4. Bring a charger. With all the texting, GPSing, and picture taking, your phone could easily die, contributing to your anxiety. Bring a portable battery charger if you can, or at least a plug-in charger. You can always stop in a coffee shop for 15 minutes to plug in your phone if you need to.

5. Take your meds. I know this tip won't apply to everyone, but if you have anxiety meds, for goodness sakes, take them! I have a medication that I take as-needed for panic attacks, but for some reason I am always hesitant to take it. Taking it BEFORE the protest instead of waiting until I'm having a panic attack during the march or on the train has been a game-changer. 

How do you deal with anxiety when protesting? I'd love to hear your tips!

Monday, March 5, 2018

March Teacher Care Crate Unboxing

Wondering what comes in the March Teacher Care Crate? Watch my unboxing video and check out descriptions of each item below!

Teacher Care Coloring Book: This adorable pocket-sized coloring book was designed by Alexa Contreras of Bilingual Scrapbook. It features teacher favorites like donuts, cacti, and unicorns! {Retail Value: $6}

Copper Fairy Lights: These pretty lights are battery operated (batteries included) and add a cozy glow to your home or classroom. {Retail Value: $6}

Tassel Bracelet: Inspired by yogic mala necklaces, this handmade bracelet can be used for meditation (use the beads to count affirmations or deep breaths), or just as a pretty accessory. {Retail Value: $15}

Art Print: This month's professionally printed 5 x 7 art print was designed by Ashley Tiburzi of The Artsy Apple. {Retail Value: $8}

Pink Clay Mask: This mask from True Beauty Organics contains Rose Kaolin Clay, Fuller's Earth Clay, Bentonite Clay, and Goat Milk Powder. It's suitable for all skin types and will leave your skin glowing. {Retail Value: $2.75}

Chocolate: This month's crate comes with two organic chocolate treats-- Equal Exchange 55% Dark Chocolate and ChocXO Milk Chocolate. {Retail Value: $1.25}

The March Teacher Care Crate has a retail value of $39-- you pay $29.99 with a month to month plan, or you can save by prepaying for three crates at a rate of $27.99/month.

If you're ready to start taking care of yourself first, head over to www.teachercarecrate.com!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

3 Actions to Take Against Gun Violence

Yesterday, yet another mass shooting occurred in an American school. This time, 17 people died. As teachers, we can't help but think, what if it had been my school? My students? Me?  I think we are all frustrated by the meaningless "thoughts and prayers" that are delivered after every mass shooting. Here are three concrete things you can do to help end gun violence.

1. Don't vote for politicians who receive NRA funding. You can look up your representatives by state or name here to find out how much NRA money they've received. As long as politicians are relying on the NRA for funding, they're not to vote for anything that limits access to guns. Take your vote elsewhere.

2. Support organizations working to end gun violence. Consider Everytown, an organization that "seeks to improve our understanding of the causes of gun violence and the means to reduce it – by conducting groundbreaking original research, developing evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge in the courts and the court of public opinion."

3. Contact your representatives. Let your representative know that you want them to support measures to end gun violence. One of the easiest ways to do this is to text RESIST to 50409. You'll get a series of texts that will walk you through sending a letter to your representatives. Here's an example:

ANYONE can do these three things, and the last two you can do right now. If you're looking to do more, join the Facebook group Educators Against Gun Violence.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

7 Puzzles for Teacher Self Care

If you follow me on Instagram, you know one of my favorite self care activities is puzzling. People are always asking me about it, so I thought I'd share how I got into it, as well as a few of my favorite puzzles.

What can I say? One day you're a normal 20-something, and the next you're spending all your free time completing puzzles while listening to audiobooks. 

What actually happened was that my therapist assigned me the task of doing "nothing" twice a week, which seemed impossible to my pre-self care self. Around that time, I visited my in-laws in their retirement community in Arizona and helped complete a jigsaw puzzle. I got surprisingly sucked into it-- finally, I was doing my "nothing" homework!

After that, I always had a 1,000 piece puzzle going on my dining room table. It's the perfect de-stressing activity when you get home from school. Pop on an audiobook and just work on putting those puzzle pieces together. 
I've done a lot more puzzles than this (seriously, 1 every three weeks or so for the last year and a half), but these are my favorites. I hate anything vaguely Thomas Kinkade-y, and honestly, the longer it takes the better. All of these are 1,000 pieces and can be purchased on Amazon. All links are affiliate links.

1. Avian Friends The grid makes this one pretty simple to complete, but there's a few challenging bits with similar patterns on the different birds.

2. Lady with a Fan (by Gustav Klimt) I complete The Kiss puzzle first, and I enjoyed it so much that I did another Klimt! This one is quite a bit easier, but still challenging. I also think the lady looks a bit like me!

3. Birducopia (by Charley Harper) The big blocks of color make this puzzle an easy one, but I enjoyed the unusual elongated shape of the puzzle and of course Charley Harper's signature style.

4. Succulents I love house plants, so this was a fun one! I normally don't like photo puzzles as much, but all the different plant textures and shades of green make it a fun challenge. 

5. The Kiss (by Gustav Klimt) This is probably the hardest puzzle I've completed! But I really enjoyed getting to know the intricacies of the painting and the patterns within it. Just be prepared for a bit of a long haul with the big brown patches on the sides! Also, pairs well with The Golden Compass trilogy audiobooks, in case you were wondering!

6. Twelve Sunflowers (by Vincent Van Gogh) This is one of my favorite paintings and one of my favorite puzzles as well! When you first start, it seems impossible because it's all gold and pale blue. But as you work through the pieces you notice all the different shades and it's actually quite fun to put together.

7. Your World When I look at a puzzle I instantly remember what audiobook I listened to as I completed it. In this case, it was Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Kind of a weird pairing I suppose, haha. Anyway, this is a pretty easy puzzle but a lot of fun to put together because of all the quirky animals. 

If you're looking for a monthly reminder to practice self care, check out my self care subscription box for teachers, Teacher Care Crate.

Friday, February 2, 2018

February Teacher Care Crate Unboxing

Wondering what you'll receive in this month's Teacher Care Crate? Watch the video above and read the description below to find out exactly what comes in February's crate! Subscribe at teachercarecrate.com by February 14 to receive this box!

Deep Detox Bath Soak: This soak is equal parts Himalayan Salt, Dead Sea Salt, and dried rose petals. Pour into a warm bath for detoxification and relaxation. {Retail Value: $5}

Organic Tinted Lip Balm: The lip balm included in February's crate is handmade by Serenity and Blossom. I love tinted lip balm for school because you don't have to worry about reapplying as you do with lipstick. {Retail Value: $3} 

Affirmation Pencils: I'm obsessed with these pencils designed by Becca of The Teacher's Passport! Each box includes three different color pencils with beautiful affirmations created by  Becca. {Retail Value: $3}

Quartz Pendant: Did you know quartz is believed to increase positivity, patience, and perseverance? It's the perfect stone for teachers! I'm so excited about these pendants-- I'm already wearing mine all the time! {Retail Value: $18}

Art Print: This month's professionally printed 5 x 7 print was designed by Jess of Ink Chicago. {Retail Value: $8}

Chocolate: The chocolate was a big hit in January, so I wanted to include a little treat this month as well. Each box includes an organic OCHO coconut chocolate. {Retail Value: $.75}

Take time for YOU this February with Teacher Care Crate

Monday, January 29, 2018

Teacher Care Crate: Your Questions Answered!

Photo courtesy of Cooties and Cuties

I recently launched Teacher Care Crate, a self care subscription box for teachers! Here are the answers to some of your most frequently asked questions:

1. What comes in a crate?
Each month will be different, but will contain 5+ high quality items to promote teacher self care. For example, January's crate contained a homemade lavender bath bomb, an art print, a mini air plant, a handmade beaded mantra bracelet, organic dagoba chocolate, and stress relief tea. Each box will contain at least one handmade item, and often more! I always make an effort to keep the contents natural and/or organic when possible. 

2. When will I get my Teacher Care Crate?
I ship the crates between the 15th and 17th of each month. If you order before the 14th of the current month, you will receive your next first between the 17th and 22nd of the current month. If you order AFTER the 14th of the current month, you will receive your first crate between the 17th and 22nd of the following month.

3. Can I buy just one Teacher Care Crate?
Short answer: yes. Long answer: The platform I use, Cratejoy, is set up for subscriptions. So, to get one crate, go ahead and sign up for a subscription, opting to just pay for one month. Then just make sure you cancel before the auto-renew date on the 25th of each month. 

4. Is the Teacher Care Crate a good value?
Short answer: yes. Long answer: You are never going to receive a box that is worth less than what you paid for it. Often, by working with sources and making products myself, the items in the box are worth significantly more than the subscription cost. For example, the retail value of the February crate is $37. That being said, this box is meant to promote teacher self care, so my focus is providing high quality, relaxing items rather than bargain basement prices.

5. Is the "Be Gentle" print still available?
I'm so happy you all loved the "Be Gentle" print that went out in January's box! I'm happy to send a digital download for free to any current subscribers. Just email me at thedesignerteacher@gmail.com letting me know you'd like one! 

6. Can I contribute to Teacher Care Crate?
I am always looks for high quality items and designs for future crates. I especially love including teacher-makers! Email me at thedesignerteacher@gmail.com so we can discuss!

Please let me know in the comments if you have any other questions! You can sign up for your first Teacher Care Crate here.

You can also follow Teacher Care Crate on Instagram and Facebook for daily self care inspiration.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

An Interview with a Queer Educator

One of the things I love about the online teaching community is learning about and from teachers with different perspectives and identities. After getting to know Paige, an educator who identifies as queer, a little bit on instagram, I realized I knew very little about the realities of being a queer teacher. They were kind of enough to answer a few questions for me so I could share them with you! 

1. To start, could you tell us as much as you are comfortable sharing about where/what you teach, as well as how you identify?
I teach in Philadelphia, PA. My school is a charter elementary school in the heart of South Philadelphia and is a Title I school. This is my third year here as a special education teacher. Though I do not normally bring it up in my professional setting, I identify as a queer, non-binary educator. My pronouns are they/them.

2. You told me that you can be fired in your state for being a person in the queer community. Are you out to your school? What about your students?
In many areas of the United States and with our current political climate, many schools and districts do not seem to follow the Civil Rights Act of 1964  (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.) [aauw.org]. In public and charter schools, there are many that state you will not be judged regarding your sex (i.e. gender identification), race, sexual orientation, yet so many administrators caution queer educators into "being quiet" in regards to their identification, gender, and/or sexual orientation. This also goes for Catholic schools. At this time National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) says they will "not change" their stance on hiring queer educators. Unfortunately, this has been the reality as long as the institution of education has been built. I am "out" to some of my peers that I trust, but not to my administrative staff, students, or parents of students at this time. 

3. Do you think identifying as queer and transgender affects your relationship with your students in any way?
Honestly, I don't. Since I teach kindergarten through second grade Life Skills Support (LSS), they are usually the most kind and understanding group of students. Sometimes, they'll ask me if I have a husband and I say I have loved ones I live with. Or if they see a picture of me and my family, they will ask if that's my sibling or friend and I repeat that they're a part of my family. Keeping things as neutral as possible is key and I feel even if I were straight/cisgender, I would keep that part of my life separate (that might just be my own personal opinion).

4. Do you have any advice for other queer teachers, especially ones that might just be starting out?
I would say being as neutral as possible is key and be yourself from day one. Kids can smell out fibs (as we call them in our room) so be as honest as you feel comfortable with. But, be aware of your school and state policies and regulations in regards to your occupation protect laws. If you feel as though you are being forced to be someone you are not or lie, do not feel like you are stuck. There are so many different schools that would love to have you as an educator! 

5. Are there are any books or resources you would recommend to teachers looking to learn more about the LGBTQA+ community?
There are different organizations and teachers out there that are either fellow queer educators or allies online and in person! Check out instagram, facebook groups, and twitter.  Social media can be a beautiful tool to get connected. The NEA-GLBTC is one group that may interest you in becoming a member and is something I am looking into myself. 

Teaching Queer: Radical Possibilities for Writing and Knowing by Stacey Waite and Queer Teachers, Identity and Performativity edited by Anne Harris & Emily M. Gray are great tools and resources to have. Teaching Tolerance has a site that is a digital magazine that has loads of helpful articles on how to be intersectional and supportive to groups of individuals that face adversity, and not only for the queer community. I think this is probably the most important key detail to discuss: not every queer educator is white. It is critical that we look at a person with all their identities and orientations in order to become a more empathetic and intellectual world. 

I find that there aren't that many books and resources about this specific topic. I actually hope to change that after I finish my Master's program. Shout out to Brittany Wheaton (aka The Superhero Teacher) for being an out and proud queer educator that is changing the world one classroom at a time! 

6. You sent me a great fact sheet about Workplace Equality, which readers can check out here. Do you have any specific actions you'd recommend for teachers who would like to advocate for LGBTQA+ rights?
GLSEN has a Safe Space Kit to support LGBTQA+ youth that is very informational. The kit provides educators tools and resources as well as Safe Place stickers to hang outside their doors or in their classrooms to alert others that they are an educator that is also an ally. Read the book The ABC's of LGBT+ by Ashley Mardell! Also, have more books and posters and information dedicated to queer individuals that don't all look the same and identify the same. 

The last thing I'd like to add is that I only speak on behalf of my queer identity and journey. Though I am non-binary and queer, I still hold privilege of "passing" because I appear feminine. Additionally, I feel that the the fight for rights in the LGBTQA+ community is still something I will face probably the rest of my life. Intersectionality is key to unlocking freedom for the future.  

Paige, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and for all you do for students! You can follow Paige on instagram here.
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