The Runners Bargain

Runners shirt

One weeks difference! A week ago 2 miles was the farthest I had run since high school, and one week later I ran almost a full mile more!
One weeks difference! A week ago 2 miles was the farthest I had run since high school, and one week later I ran almost a full mile more!

Yesterday Mr. said to me, you are a runner now. While I don’t know that this is true I have been running. We moved two blocks from one of the nicest parks in Denver, Wash Park and I was determined to become a Park Runner, not just a one or two day a week runner, no a 4 or 5 day a week runner. So today I completed my 5th run in the park. I did 4 last week and then today I did my 5th and first one of this week.

When I started running I could barely run three minutes on a treadmill and last Monday I completed both my longest and fastest run yet, I ran 2 miles in around 25 minutes. Ok a 12 minute mile may not seem like much but it was everything to me, and it still feels good, I don’t have goals to become a fast runner, just a runner someone who can sustain running for a prolonged period of time.

I am getting there, and I have found that running is a mental bargain, every half a mile or so when I start to feel like my lungs are giving out or my legs are going to collapse I look forward to the next tree, bend in the trail, stoplight or any marker I can make in my mind and tell myself, just keep going till you get there, and if I can make it there it is another bargain to keep going just a little farther.

I have found that as long as I keep bargaining I can keep going, and then when I do need to walk for just a little while, I can bargain my way into running just a little more. I am not rewarding myself with anything except more running, but that running is starting to feel good.

Hell I still feel like I am dying but it is a joy, I am happy that my body keeps going, that when I see someone else running on the “Runners highway” that is Wash Park I feel like I am part of their club.

So what can you bargain yourself into? What ways can you make your life better by simply saying, I can go a little farther… how can we find bargains in everyday life that will allow us to make the progress we need in order to be the best we can be.

❤ Kelsi Rae

Becoming Ride or Die For My Students

Maya

When I began my residency, during the summer courses we spoke for hours about how to form relationships with students of all backgrounds and the importance of developing these relationships from the beginning of the school year. Everyday, I left partly confused how could you not form relationships with these students? How could someone enter into a classroom and not leave changed, molded a little bit by each and every student that they work with? I later have come to realize it is possible for some, but not for myself and for this reason my entire philosophy of teaching stems from this idea. That each student in my classroom will leave changed by the relationships and culture I foster and that those connections will push them academically and socially long after I am their teacher.

In one of my graduate courses this year we were introduced to Jeff Duncan-Andrade and the term, Rida’s while I had heard this term many times before in music and popular culture I had never heard it in relation to a teacher- student relationship. Duncan-Andrade describes the relationship like this,

“They risk deep emotional involvement with the majority of their students and they are sometimes hurt because of those investments. The depth of their relationships with students allows them to challenge students and get notable achievement and effort.” (Duncan-Andrade, 2007)

This deep emotional involvement is something I want to wear on my sleeve; I want my students to know that I am willing to take a risk for them, so that they will be willing to take academic and social risks for me.

This year I have been fortunate enough to make a deep connection with two of the schools most challenging students. These students are too young to have a predetermined path in life, they should understand that people care about them and want them to succeed, however for these students that was not the case. They believed that they were the “bad” kids and they were destined to be arrested or worse. By fourth grade one student understood the inequities of the world that I am still uncovering for myself. Through bonds I took months to build and develop with these students, they not only knew that they could come to me but that I would fight for them when needed and tell them the truth when necessary. I can remember on many occasions telling a crying student in the hallway, “Who is this hurting right now?” and walking them back to class, because that action was not taking away from their teacher but it was hurting them as a person. When a student knows that you care about them, I believe you can be more honest with them, and instead of shutting down the student will be more receptive to these requests. They will take an emotional risk for you because of the investment you are making in them; students will not take a risk for no reason.

I don’t want to form relationship because that is what you are supposed to do in order to be a successful teacher I want these relationships because that is how we grow. As humans we make connections to one another that push us to be better, or hold us back, we cannot live in a solitary existence no matter what sort of relationships you make they will shape you as a person. I want my students to come into my classroom and form the type of connections that push them to grow. As we grow together through the year these relationships will be something that form me as a teacher as well as forming the people my students will become. As they grow up they will become people who form this type of relationship with others because I formed one with them.

In order for the bonds I build in my classroom to continue to make a difference after the year is over, students have to learn to create these relationships with each other as well. The friendships that students build with each other in my class will cross cultures, languages, disabilities and more to create a community where each student feels valued and supported. Through creating these friendships between each of my students, and hopefully my students and other students throughout the school and the city, my sphere of influence will grow exponentially. Many of my students have more than one factor, working “against” them when it comes to forming lasting relationships, often they are from different backgrounds than their peers and have one or more disabilities that may cause them to look or act differently. In order to become truly an agent of change in the district I want to begin to break these barriers down and show that though some people may need something different, that if we all work towards our goal each individual can succeed. This year I was able to work with the Affective Needs classroom, often these students were talked about by adults and teachers as “those kids” and they were rarely included in school or classroom activities. In the spring we fought to create a dance number and perform it twice in front of the entire school at the talent show. The students were able to hear the cheers from the crowd and give high fives after and to just be kids, as opposed to “those kids.” This small step allowed a few barriers to be broken down with their peers they began to form relationships based on shared interests rather than animosity based on the differences. People will never become blind to the different colors, cultures and disabilities my students have but by creating relationships with them these things can be seen for the value and not the differences they represent. As students grow they will become the people that set the standard for these connections, they will be able to dictate the type of bonds that are made with people of varying backgrounds. I can only control what is in my arena to control and influence but the more students I come in contact with the more I can create change, long after they have forgotten the rules for lattice multiplication.

In order for my students to be able to make the most impact possible I need to be able to push them academically as well. The achievement gap between students with disabilities and those without continues to be staggering not just in our district but also across the country. In order for my students to become my extra arms to influence the world I have to show them the value of their education as well. The idea of rigor has been something I have struggled with throughout my residency year. I wanted to push my students to make connections, to learn more and understand the intricacies of each text genre that we studied, to be able to put their words into writing but I was unclear of how to make this process rigorous for them. During my final lead teaching experience I decided to implement a writing block during our group sessions, each week the students completed a constructed response question and throughout the week they would reflect on their writing, edit it and ultimately assign a grade to their writing. At first students would give themselves a perfect score even after numerous conversations we had about things that could be improved in their piece of writing. Through open conversations and one on one meetings with each student by the third week they were able to truly become critical of their writing and think about what they wanted to change in the future. This task had become rigorous in thought because the student was not only thinking of completing a task at hand but looking to the future and how this task could help them as they continued to grow as writers. In one of my coaching conversations I received feedback that students were not afraid to have these one on one meeting about their writing with me even if it wasn’t their best work, and that students were comfortable having a differing opinion as me when it came to assigning a final grade to their writing. When a student in 4th grade can come to a teacher with a well developed argument regarding a grade they are becoming prepared to have difficult, professional conversations throughout their life. They will not only have to argue for grades, but jobs and other advances their entire lifetime, and these skills will last long after they have forgotten what the R in the RACE strategy stands for.

As I look both behind me through my residency year and into the future of what I will become as a teacher, one thing is clear I want the skills and connections my students make in my classroom to outlast the small academic victories they have. These skills will push their academics they will continue to grow and to close the achievement gap when they discover these things about themselves. These risks will be rewarded with grit, empathy, resilience, optimism and more, the life skills of a successful person and will lead to academic success as well. I want to create well-rounded students and students who want to challenge the status-quo. To say it is not always right simply because it is the way it has always been done. Like in many cases Maya Angelou said it best, “ People will forget what you said, will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I want to make my students feel that they are the agents of change; they can create a difference in the world if they set their minds to it. And I will do that by showing my students that someone truly cares for and believes in them at school, that when they come to school someone is happy to see them. I will roll up my sleeves and get to work being a Rida for my students.

Let’s build a bench…err Marriage?

So a big thing happened this weekend, Mr. and I moved in together! This is the first time I have ever lived with a boy, including family members so I am interested to see the things how the stereotypes live up, so far I would have to say living with a boy is AMAZING. But I am also only 4 days in.

So what does this bench have to do with my marriage?

Well we built it.. no kit, not precut pieces of wood, nope just a youtube video and a trip to home depot later and we were making a bench. This took both of our strengths and some I don’t think we knew we had in order to accomplish it.

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Here I am at home depot, bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to construct our very own bench, something that will hopefully last 30 years so we can pass it down to our children, as his parent just did with a picnic table Mr.’s Dad built 30 years ago.

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Did I mention we decided to build this bench on the day it snowed in May? No? Oh well here I am bundled up in our garage waiting for the snow to melt as we begin sawing.

But we get underway constructing this bench and just like I imagine we will in marriage, we started to hit some bumps, my bright eyed and bushy tailed turned into curse words and we were soon doubting if we could put this bench together at all. It started when we realized we didn’t charge the drill, and were left screwing most of the screws in by hand, do you know how many screws it takes to put a bench together? Way too many to screw them in by hand I tell you that.

I started to think that this was Ben’s fault and that it was his drill so he should have been responsible for the charge of the battery and as my wrist became more and more sore, I had two choices to continue blaming mr. and become resentful, or realize that this is something we are in together, realize we both will make mistakes and that as a team we will work through them, so on I went screwing in screw after screw by hand. ( And to be fair, he was also participating in this, it wasn’t like I was left with a screwdriver on an abandoned island or anything)

And I am sure he was thinking that I could be helping more, or stop nagging him about the directions, I am sure I screwed a screw in wrong, or measured the pieces of wood too small ( ok  I know I did that one once) And he could have taken those things and created a list, an arbitrary checklist of the ways I was failing him and allowed that running record to eat away at his faith in me. in us. But he didn’t every time no matter how frustrated he was he would look at me, smile, say “you are doing great babe”, and move on… EVERY time.

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And then we screwed the legs together wrong, leaving us with what would have been a seatless bench, not very effective right? So unscrew the pieces, and start again, this time following the directions. This is where we could dip deep down into those gender stereotypes pull out the one that says men don’t follow directions put a big ole check mark on it and slip it back into our pocket of low blows to use next time. But if we are going to create a marriage that is built to last, what we really need to be doing is digging into that pocket of stereotypes and low blows and throwing them in that brand new recycling bin we just got and let someone else compost those. Because holding on to these things just creates an environment where both Mr. and myself could be digging deeper and deeper at each other until one of us breaks.

Now 50 years into this bench building marriage we will have so many of these things we could be throwing at each other that there is no way to survive all of those bad experiences, but if instead we choose to recycle that crap, chalk it up to a mistake we both made and move on, then in 2,5 or 50 years we won’t be counting all the ways our spouse has messed up over the years right?

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It was starting to look like a marriage…. I mean bench, the pieces were all where they needed to be, it had legs it could stand on and a sturdy seat two people could sit on. But there was something missing, just like our marriage which has 79 days until it becomes official ,our bench was missing some crucial pieces to it’s structure. But this is where it really got tricky, the video said to put the back at a slight angle so that it would be more comfortable to sit on. The guy used a fancy tool to measure and then drill sideways through the posts in order to accomplish this with ease. However here we were with our dead drills, no fancy tool and only the few screws that we had purchased which were now to short for this job. How were we going to accomplish it?

And then Mr. had an idea, he said why don’t we use extra wood, create a back for the ends and use that to nail into, that would cut down on the amount of screws we need and allow us to create the comforting angle we had heard about in the video.

There you have it folks I am marrying a genius this is where I got to celebrate with him, think about how I never would have thought of that on my own and rejoice in his accomplishments, I could do this without fault because I had already thrown my earlier reservations in the recycling with our bench building mistakes.

So that is what we did, and it worked!

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And there it was our beautiful bench, it is still not perfect all the pieces don’t exactly line up, the wood is not sanded or painted to perfection, the back angle isn’t exactly even or at  the magic comfort angle that was prescribed, but let me tell you what…it is sturdy,

And in 30 years when our marriage has seen the test of time,  I hope we will look at this bench think of all the things we could have held onto over the years, all of the little mistakes that could have torn us apart but instead made us a better team and think it all started with this bench.

❤ Kelsi Rae

Length Check Lifestyle

So it has officially been 16 months since my last relaxer, and 14 since my last real hair cut, I have since trimmed off most of my relaxed ends, but that was done at home too. Since becoming a DIY’er I forgot how much I love to have someone else do my hair. So this week with the last of my birthday money, I splurged, I went out and go a conditioning treatment and style from a hair salon. Now while I cannot see myself spending that kind of money for something I can do at home often it sure was nice to have someone else deal with my hair for awhile.

So here is the update . .

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We are getting somewhere,  I started using my tattoo as a measurement months ago and I finally covered the second star on my tattoo a major accomplishment, 15 months ago I was just about neck length and so when I start to think I am not making progress I look back and make myself see the progress

IMG_1517My bra is covering the second star in the 1st picture but that is probably a good 2 and a 1/2 inches of growth in order to cover it.

This week it reminded me how much I love the versatility of my natural hair, it can go from this

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To this

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In well with some hardship and 4 hours of straightening. . . ( or only 1 and a half by a professional)

This week has made me the most happy that I made the decision to go natural, when the hairdresser said. . your hair is really healthy! She didn’t make any comments about my “self cut” and she wanted to know all about my DIY braids and protective styles.

Before starting this journey everytime I would go to the hair salon they would comment on the damage of my hair or the uneven ends or something. . I was expecting the uneven ends comment since I have been freely chopping off my straight locks for a few months now, but no she was impressed with the state of my hair, she could tell it hadn’t been cut in a while but that was the only comment she made.

So onward and upward we go, as the fro continues to grow where it will stop, we never know. ..

❤ Kelsi Rae

When God Moves you

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We have this time at House Church where we all go around the circle and share what God is doing in your life at the moment. I have always resisted this piece of the time together, why does it have to be what God is doing in my life, when did my free will and decision making go out the window and I become a puppet, this is not the kind of God I believed in.

I always wondered if maybe God had just never asked or pushed me to do anything is maybe I was resistant to this piece of time because God had thrown me aside long ago, before I had even come to know him and decided I wasn’t worth talking to, just let her make her own decisions, she values her free will so much let her see where that gets her. I found myself envying the people who could come with this profound things that God was calling them to do, and even the non-profound ones, the everyday ordinary askings of God, because that meant that they were feeling something that I was not in on. I did not have the key to this piece of God. Or maybe I had been fooling myself for the last year and a half maybe this faith that I had concocted was just a facade and this is why I had never heard from God, because I truly didn’t believe in him

So when this time came on Wednesday I thought for a minute and I felt something! I mean I really felt that there was something I should share.

In the last month or so I have had the feeling, aching, gnawing feeling that I need to stand up, I need to inject myself into the conversation about Race and compassion.  I cannot stand in neutral and not disturb people so that I don’t make waves.

But now how do I do this? What way can I demonstrate grace and love in this journey.

And then something amazing happened. after I shared the way that God was moving in my life, two other people in my house church shared the revelation that they have been feeling this same calling each with variations rooted in their own lives but with this same racial base this same love of many cultures and the desire to spread this and get involved in the changes occurring in our city. There have been twice as many gang related killings in the Near North East corner of Denver in the last 5 months than all of 2014, we discussed the boxing in syndrome that is happening in this corner of Denver pushing groups together as “white ladies with strollers” take over more and more of the historically Black neighborhood.

I think this is what God looks like, finding ways to make multiple people have that same gut wrenching feeling that they a new direction in their life. This is how God makes his presence known, maybe it isn’t this supernatural voice that lets you know that you are supposed to do this and not do that you are supposed to make whatever it is a part of your life in a real way.And then giving you a sign, something that pushes that deeper, like the shared feeling with others in a common place. That movement of an entire House Church towards social justice.

There is no reason that the three of us, from vary different ages, walks of life, and ethnicities to all be pushed towards this calling in Denver Colorado, in this one room on a Wednesday night, but we are, we are all feeling this ache to help the rest of the world, to bring other people into this space and that must be God.

This is what happens when God moves you, it is not a loud speaker but a whisper.

❤ Kelsi Rae