Monthly Archives: December 2016

Reverb16: Favorite Things

(For the past six years, I’ve used Reverb10 prompts to give myself a question to answer every day of December. It’s a great way to reflect on the year and set goals for the future. I’ve kept my favorite prompts, added a few from other sources, and created my own month-and- a-bit of questions.)

Favorite Things. List your favorite things from the year. Could be material items, food, people, anything!

It’s a small list this year. All things that might seem silly to pay for, but was money well spent for me. 

Voter’s Edge – a great online resource that made voting easier. I could see every item or person I’d be asked to vote on, as well as background, major contributors or opponents, and links to relevant news articles. It saved my choices and let me have access to that list when I was in the polling place. I liked it so much I donated 10 bucks to the non-profit that makes it so the service can be around in another 2 years. 

PocketCasts – I paid for a podcast app for my phone. Some could argue it’s completely unnecessary as you can get things like this for free, but I love it and am so glad I shelled out. The interface is great, it’s easy to discover new shows, cue up a whole playlist for playing in the car, and it has a LIFE CHANGING feature. I can listen to podcasts on a mode that adjusts speed, snips silences, and boosts volume. I can listen to the news at 1.5 speed to get more in and Spanish language podcasts at .7 speed to catch more words. Best 4 bucks of the year. 

The Museum of Jurassic Technology – a strange parody (I think?) of a museum and an oasis of calm in this crazy city and well worth the 10 bucks to get in. It’s dark, with lots of twisty rooms. We saw a fake exhibit on the lives of Russian Canine Cosmonauts and the excavations of mobile home parks. There’s a dovecote on the roof and live Sitar music. It’s hard to describe, but I loved it.


Reverb16: Skill

(For the past six years, I’ve used Reverb10 prompts to give myself a question to answer every day of December. It’s a great way to reflect on the year and set goals for the future. I’ve kept my favorite prompts, added a few from other sources, and created my own month-and- a-bit of questions.)

Skill. What skill would you like to cultivate – learn or refine – in the next year?

This year I decided I wanted to learn Spanish. This is one of the hardest, most foolhardy, and oddest quests I’ve ever embarked on. I’m mildly dyslexic, and did not take a language in high school. I took Latin, which you don’t speak. My one and only French class in college was a complete mistake. It’s kinda nuts that I’d want to do this at all.

This summer I was sitting in my office with a student, her mother, and our Dean of Students. I spoke only English and the student’s mother spoke only Spanish. Her daughter knew a lot of Spanish, but not the words related to financial aid, standardized testing, and college. (Just all the topics we were there to talk about.) The Dean had been a Spanish teacher. It took all four of us to have a conversation about this girl’s future. And it hit me. It should not be this hard. It was time to suck it up, stop relying on my privilege as the “nice white lady who is kinda trying” and actually learn the language.

I signed up with a language academy halfway between work and home. We meet once a week and we have homework. Yipes! I asked my students what I should be doing about flashcards, and they hooked me up with an app. I’ve got Spanish podcasts on my phone. I’ve started watching Destinos, a telenovela for language learners at the suggestion of the the super-sweet Spanish teachers at my school. They have suggested resources and I even have a few of the materials from Spanish 1 to supplement my classes. I also asked for a placement test for Spanish 2. That’s a worthy goal for next summer, to test into Spanish 2. Not Spanish Honors, which is also what the test evaluates. That would be a minor miracle, because …

It’s been 4 months, and it sucks. I regularly blank in class. I don’t practice, so my vocabulary is that of a toddler. The homework makes me want to cry. And yet, I just signed up for another 8 weeks of classes. I hear that the first 6 months of any language just stinks. You need to, as my students say “embrace the suck” and just ride it out. There will supposedly be a moment where things click. Right. 

This is pushing all my buttons. I am overly invested in my ideas about being smart, and a good student. And I am not good at this, and my homework is always riddled with errors. But, I’m not getting graded. There are no tests. The only test is my ability to have a stilted conversation with someone someday about helping their child go to college.


Reverb16: Lesson Learned

(For the past six years, I’ve used Reverb10 prompts to give myself a question to answer every day of December. It’s a great way to reflect on the year and set goals for the future. I’ve kept my favorite prompts, added a few from other sources, and created my own month-and- a-bit of questions.)

Lesson Learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year?

I happened upon a question at just the right time this year.

“Are you more motivated by success or failure?”

Suddenly things were in focus. In that one moment I realized something about myself that was really important. So important I can’t believe I’ve never articulated it before.

I have a low tolerance for failure. It crushes me, even if that failure is small.

I hate those stories of people who got cut from the team three years in a row but never gave up and finally got on the team after all those tries and scored the winning goal. I hate those stories of people who got the book rejected 100 times before finding success. It’s not that I begrudge anyone success – good for them. The narrative irks me. This idea that there is an inherent nobility to failure. Or nobility in slamming yourself up against a wall a thousand times without changing tactic. If you fail 100 times, shouldn’t you course-correct?

Also, I’d have melted into a puddle of self-hatred by rejection 5. I can not pick myself up off the floor that fast.

I am, however, motivated by success. Disproportionately motivated. If I feel like I’m good at something, doing well at something, I’ll try even harder.

This explains why I’ve stuck with running, and am struggling with Spanish. My running plan involved setting the starting bar really low, and only challenging myself a little bit beyond my comfort zone each time I run. I’d read that you should only increase your challenge with running 10% a week, and I’ve stuck to that religiously. As a result, I feel like an Olympic champion most of the time, and readily show up to get on the treadmill again to meet that (relatively easy) goal. Spanish is another story. I am behind on my memorization, regularly feel like an idiot in class, and feel like a failure at class, life … everything afterwards. Is it so hard to imagine why I might want to quit? I work all day. Do I really want to take time out of my nights to fail at something over and over again? NO! If it was fun, and made me feel good about myself, I’d go, but as of now it’s a struggle to turn up to class regularly.

So, going forward, I’ll be setting different goals with Spanish. Little bite sized goals that build my confidence. A verb a week, not 20.  Seriously, this knowledge is going to change everything.

(P.S. Last time I wrote this.)