My first semester as a full-time high school teacher

What a whirlwind couple months!

If you had asked me five years ago (during my first semester at SUNY Geneseo) where I thought I would be in five years, there is absolutely no way I would have had any inkling it would be where I am. My roommate Becky and I were too busy annoying the obnoxious girl next door, making our room into “A Little Girl’s Mind” for my art class, and getting used to living together.

I would never have imagined living in New York City with a teaching job that I enjoy as much as I do. I wouldn’t have said I would be married to an amazing guy like Tom, or that I would’ve received my Master’s degree (let alone from Columbia U).

It’s so cliche, but I don’t care. I have been blessed beyond my wildest (within reason) dreams or (realistic) expectations. I mean, I can think of crazier things to include in my wildest dreams, but I am much more of a realist (like Iggy Azalea, duh).

But anyways, I love my coworkers, I love my students, and I love waking up and going to my job. Sure, Mondays are usually difficult, and 6:15 comes way too quickly most mornings, but I have never had a job that I was actually happy and excited to go to every day. Until now. [Disclaimer: I also love my friends, family, and my husband and our future puppies and kitties and children and so on, but that didn’t fit so much seeing as this post is mostly about my job.]

From my first job as a newspaper deliverer at 12 years old (that lasted a couple months), to serving at Dunkin Donuts (for a year during college), cashiering and supervising at Walmart (4 different times over the course of 4 years because of college), and my two long-term substitute jobs (7 weeks and 10 weeks), nothing has been as satisfying as my full-time, first-year teaching job.

And I know how rare and wonderful that is. I’ve heard so many teachers complain about their first year(s) being hell and beyond stressful. Yes, of course I’ve been stressed and sleep-deprived and run ragged some days/weeks, working 12+ hour days, taking work home, and learning how to work with each student and each coworker individually.

BUT. Overall, I am completely content at this point in time and feel like I’ve been successful for my first semester of teaching. I’m actually contributing to the lives of young people, and I’m hoping they take at least one positive thing away from my time with them, whether it’s math-related, life-related, a sense of humor, or higher self-worth (or, bonus, all of the above).

Holliday is the Best

And not only that, but they’re contributing to my life as well – they make me laugh, but they also challenge me and make me think and re-think my ways, both in and out of school. They make me a better person…just don’t tell them that, or they’ll get big heads.

It wasn’t always this way, especially in the beginning of this school year.

I worked at my current school last year as a student’s personal aide, so I already knew all of the staff and most of the students (except, of course, the incoming freshmen this year). In that sense, it was a little easier getting more acquainted with my coworkers because I had already interacted with them and gotten to know them last year. They invited me out to happy hours on Fridays even though I wasn’t technically part of the faculty.

And we still go to happy hours every week – sometimes, we don’t all go because we all have our rougher-than-usual weeks where we would rather just go home and crash at 6 pm, but that’s completely understandable. But I love that our faculty is such a close-knit community. Even within our school system, the elementary and middle school faculty don’t seem as close as we at the high school do. Yay for community!

As easy as it’s been to incorporate myself into the faculty, it wasn’t as easy among the students. I think they still saw me as ‘that girl’s aide’ and couldn’t see past that to see me as a competent and college-educated math teacher. But I think we’ve gotten past that because the amount of trust and respect I’ve gained since September is significantly higher. I mean, check out the amount of chocolate and cookies I got from them yesterday!

Teacher haul

The last two weeks were especially stressful with meetings, covering fellow teachers’ classes, and scrambling before the upcoming break. And now we’re off for 2 whole weeks for winter break. Ah, the perks of being a teacher.

My Invisalign Journey (1): Yes to Invisalign and Finding a Provider

I started using my first set of Invisalign liners yesterday! I figured I would document my journey with them so maybe I can help someone decide they want to give them a whirl. And also because I’m so pumped to see my teeth and bite transform and improve and become beautiful!!

So let’s start from the beginning: my choice to get Invisalign and the process of finding a provider.

I’ve been wanting braces since I was in middle school. Back then, everyone was getting them. But they were expensive and I never had dental insurance, so it was not an option. I guess I would say my teeth aren’t horribly crooked, but they aren’t straight. And my two front top teeth are noticeably larger than my other teeth because of the crooked way they are positioned.

Aside from their purpose in straightening teeth and correcting bites, the other great thing about those braces were the fun rubberbands. Do you remember how cool the rubberbands seemed as a kid? I was always jealous when one of my friends came to school with a new set of colored rubberbands! They usually coincided an upcoming holiday (green and red for Christmas) or they were the person’s favorite color. And don’t even get me started on the glow-in-the-dark ones!

And then, in high school, people started getting their metal braces taken off, revealing straight teeth and beautiful smiles. As if the rubberbands weren’t enough, the end product of years with braces made me even more jealous.

Since middle and high school are deemed “normal” times to have metal braces, after graduating from high school, the idea of metal braces was out of the question for me. I know there were those “tooth-colored” ceramic braces and they have come a long way over the years, but they still weren’t ideal.

I remember a teacher in elementary school with these “clear” braces, but they actually made her teeth look really yellow. And they still had the metal wire, so there really was no concealing the fact that she had braces. Nowadays the ceramic braces come with white wires to make them less noticeable (see comparison below) but they’re still kind of obvious.

Luckily within the past 10 years, the creation and improvement of clear aligners makes straight teeth without metal or an off-white appearance an option.

Except it’s still expensive. I have encountered a few people throughout the years who have been able to afford the multi-thousand dollar service and have said that it was totally worth every penny. But realistically I just could not afford it. Other than improving my self-confidence, they didn’t seem necessary.

But through the years, I knew that I wanted to have straight teeth for my future wedding, whenever that actually happened. So when I got engaged this summer, it was time to seriously contemplate whether I was going to take the plunge and get Invisalign. Tom and I talked about it and agreed that I should do it, so I began doing my research of local Invisalign providers.

“Coincidentally,” Groupon actually sent me a deal for a certain amount off an Invisalign treatment. As tempting as that was, I figured it would be a good idea to look further into this “deal”. I found a bunch of negative reviews and “buyer bewares” from people:

  • the provider offering the discount was not a recognized Invisalign provider (Invisalign “trained” instead of “certified”)
  • the provider offering the discount was new to the field and was pretty much trying to get more patients
  • treatment might not even use Invisalign liners
  • provider might try to push other services before actual Invisalign treatment is allowed

Check out this article I found about avoiding Groupons for Invisalign treatment. Among other things, the author explains that “it’s illegal for orthodontists and dentists to engage in fee-splitting activities…”

So I decided against the Groupon thing; these are my teeth and I don’t want to mess with them just to save money. So I went to the Invisalign website and looked at New York City providers. Providers are rated based on how many Invisalign patients they have treated (Elite, Premier, Preferred, and General Provider) as well as whether they are included in the top 1% of North America Invisalign providers.

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I chose one of the best: Dr. Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling. She is an Elite Preferred Provider as well as in the top 1% of providers, so I figured if anyone could give me a great smile, she could. Plus she had multiple offices throughout the NYC and Long Island area, so I figured that multiple locations meant that this lady knew her stuff and was doing really well in the world of orthodontia.

Further research of her proved my assumptions: everyone had nothing but great things to say about her, her team, and their successful treatments.

I contacted her office and scheduled my consultation with her midtown office. So (as long as I felt good about Dr. Jacquie and her team, the price wasn’t too extreme, and it seemed do-able) I had a provider!

My next post will be about my consultation and first official appointment, so keep your eyes posted!

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” OR Happy Birthday to me!

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. –Ephesians 2:8-9

5

This past Saturday, April 27, was the five-year anniversary of my being saved. I found myself thinking a lot that day about how things change in five years; how much we grow (physically, emotionally, mentally), how many decisions we make (whether right or wrong), the people that come and go. I think it is important to reflect on our lives often, not just to reminisce, wish for the past, or dwell on regrets, but to realize how far we have come in our lives and all the events and people that God has placed in our paths along the way.

April 26, 2008, I was in a car accident (ironically on my way to an event at church) that I came away with just some scrapes and bruises. I don’t know if I have any pictures of my car anymore – it was considered totaled after it flipped over, both of us upside down on the side of a country road. I rounded the curve too close to the outside, hit some gravel and overcorrected, then swerved violently before finally flipping over and landing upside down. My stomach still drops when cars make swerving motions, and I still feel anxious when I hear the sound of screeching tires. I called my mom sobbing because I didn’t know who else to call; she has Multiple Sclerosis, so there wasn’t much she could do for me other than making some more phone calls and worrying about me. Real smooth, Holliday. Real smooth.

The next 20 minutes were such a blur, but the people that I encountered are still pretty clear. A man drove by the scene shortly after and called 911 for me; I remember he had a verse of scripture on his shirt. I had been following my friends’ family so when they realized I was no longer behind them they came back for me; their hugs were so comforting at that moment. The police officer in the ambulance told me that God had a bigger plan for me that day. God certainly provided me with comforting people that day. How else could it be explained?

Later that day, my boyfriend at the time had asked me, “If things had turned out different [AKA if you had not made it out of this alive], do you know where you would be right now?” I had been attending church regularly for the past year. I volunteered for church events. Heck, I had been on my way to bond with a group of women from the church to make soup! I had never done drugs, I didn’t drink, I didn’t swear; I was a good person. But somehow I knew that these things weren’t enough.

So the following day, Sunday, I walked into Pastor’s office and prayed to God to save me and take hold of my life. I was baptized a couple months later; my testimony verse is Romans 5: 3-5, which says

More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Over the past five years, I have stumbled. I have looked to God for selfish reasons. I have tried doing things my own way. I have been impatient. But just as well, despite all of these things, God has never ceased to bless me. No matter how many times I fall, God has never failed to pick me back up. He has thrown things in my path that, at times, seemed insurmountable. But He has also blessed me immeasurably.

Five years ago today, if you asked me where I would be in five years, I would have never guessed where my life is today. I never would have thought I would get accepted into SUNY Geneseo, get involved with InterVarsity, meet so many wonderful, amazing people, and receive my Bachelors degree. I would never have guessed I would meet and fall for a tall, red-haired guy named Tom at a church event. Who knew I would be accepted into Teachers College, Columbia University, and move to New York City?

There are so many things that I never would have imagined for my life. But God is funny in that way; we think we know what we want, we think we know what is best for us, but God knows so much more and has so much more planned for us. Like Isaiah 55:8-9 says:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

These past five years have shown my how much deeper my testimony is; in the beginning, it was because I was afraid of dying and going to Hell. I realize that I was saved even though my reasoning may have been pretty shallow – I mean, being saved is being saved, we shouldn’t feel the need to compare our testimony with others.  Tim Hawkins is a Christian comedian and he has a short skit that addresses this need to compare testimonies and the desire to have a “good” testimony (watch it here). I have grown to realize that my whole life is a testimony to God; He has gotten me through pretty crappy stuff, sometimes without my consciously realizing it.

Who knows where I’ll be in five years? I sure as heck don’t! And I don’t really feel like limiting myself to who/what/where I think I’ll be in five years. Whatever I think, God’s plan is so much better than I could even imagine. Cheers, God. Here’s to another five.