Planning the Dream Home: Study

My wife and I are starting to make moves toward buying a home. While, yes, there’s a lot of foundational things we need to do like getting pre-approved for a mortgage, researching neighborhoods and the market, one thing that I want to spend some more time on is the more shallow imagining of what our dream home would look like. I’d like to start a sort of series of posts where I can have some thoughts exercising this stuff, so if you have better ideas on the given topics, please share them! We would hate for our dream home space to be done and then made obsolete by an even better idea that we should’ve gone with.

Planning the Dream Home: Study

Well, more like the study/office/craft/hobby/classroom… whatever.

The Priority is Productivity

Every single design choice made for this room will be grounded in one foundational theme: productivity. Everything we include in this room must directly cater to productive means, or allow for the least amount of down-time and distraction for productivity. What this means is that this is not a “no fun zone”, but moreso a “get the most amount of work done in the least amount of time” room.

A Room with Many Hats

The study in our dream home will have to serve many purposes (because we’re not going to have a single room for every specific activity–there’s going to be overlap and multi-purpose rooms). The way I see it, this room will be used for the following:

  1. Studying for Lily and Teddy
  2. My workspace
  3. Reading room
  4. Craft/hobby room
  5. Learning/Teaching space (for me/Teddy)
  6. Home management space (printing, bill payment, mailing, file-keeping, etc…)

Everything should assist with these functions, and either make their processes quick and smooth. Each item should add to at least two of these functions (otherwise we better have a humongous study).

Filling the Space

A Craft Desk at Center

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Probably not this massive though

At the center of the room will be something like this: an artist’s table. Essentially, it’s a big flat surface that has storage (closed and open). With this at the center of the room, completely cleaned out–it’s just begging for a project to be placed on it. It’s a great welcome sign for whoever walks into the room that this place is just begging to be used.

Dry Erase Boards

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I’ll be more willing to forgive Teddy for drawing on the walls if it were erasable

It doesn’t have to be the whole wall, I just think there needs to be a dry erase board or even a dry erase-coated wall that can serve as an open space for markings. This means post-it notes can be stuck on, notes can be kept (on more than just a notebook). This will be especially helpful whenever Teddy needs some help with any lessons in school–we have our own pseudo classroom setup so he can be taught! This will also be helpful if I ever need to do SAT tutoring from our home.

Infrastructure for Tech

Major Disclaimer: This will all change based on whatever current tech sits at. Who knows, we might not even need printers in the near future — we sure as hell don’t need fax machines.

To live by one of the major tenets of our dream home is to reduce the amount of clutter. When it comes to an office, I always imagine loads of wires from the internet, from the wifi setup, and from the desktop computer and printer setup; while I’m confident in my wire management skills, I’m looking for a way to eliminate the need for wires ultimately.

Printer

When it comes to the printer, I want a machine that does the following:

  • Cost-effective toner (this is the¬†most important)
  • Possible to print en masse (when we need to print several copies quickly)
  • Wireless printing
  • Photo printing

Peripherals

As I continue to debate with the idea of a desktop computer, one thing the study needs is a good peripheral setup. If the family is going to be roaming the house with their own personal laptops, then the study won’t need a dedicated desktop. Instead, an additional monitor, desk lamp, keyboard, and mouse hookup there for anyone who wants dock their laptop in. Also, it would be helpful if there were a flat-screen TV in the room that can be hooked up to either the laptops or the dedicated desktop for when Teddy (and his future friends/classmates) will need to watch any educational videos to do more research.

Leisure

While the room’s purpose is to be diligent and productive, one thing that it should also be is conducive to recovery. If you’re overwhelmed or burnt out, the best way to resume productivity isn’t to keep working, but to recover as much as possible as quickly as possible. The study should be a comfortable space, allowing for comfort that will ensure that work is done in the best conditions. So here are a few things I imagine in that room:

  • Mini-fridge for drinks
  • Speaker (bluetooth or wifi-connected like a Google Home) for listening to music
  • Plenty of plants for good airflow
  • Comfortable bean-bag chair for the reading corner
  • Maybe a little space for a decanter for whiskey for yours truly ūüėČ
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This LoveSac thing is ridiculous, but it would make for a good seating space for the reading corner

The way I see it: the study is going to be one of the most used spaces in my dream home, which is why I want to make sure that it is set up in a way that matches all the needs of my family.

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Dream Home Series – 1: Key Themes

My wife and I are hitting that wonderful moment in our lives where we’re setting our goals to the next milestone:

A (Dream) House

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Barbie’s McMansion; girl knows what’s up

We’re starting the process now–getting our finances in check, calculating what range we’d want our home price to be within (so we’re not shackled to a mortgage), getting pre-approved for a mortgage, checking out neighborhoods, commute times, school systems… It’s an overwhelming process that is punishing, as every mistake we make will cost us chunks of money. Still, though, we want to go through with it. We want a home for our growing family, for our parents to retire in, and for the rest of our lives.

We want to set forth a pretty solid plan for expectations for our home, so we don’t end up compromising on a home that doesn’t provide what we want. This means planning out the heavy stuff like mortgage and payment plans. This also means planning out the “light” stuff that people tend to scoff at, because it’s not as important as the foundational stuff: what we want our home to look, feel, and be like. Well, that’s the purpose of this series: thought exercises where I (in tandem with my wife even though she’s not writing any of these pieces) dwell and decide on what we’d like in our home.

To start off, I don’t want to bog down with all the little things like “I need an Alexa in every room” or “purple lights and a ‘Live. Laugh. Love. sign in the kitchen”.

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Cringe.

To ground our home and dictate the direction and focus of it all, are some key themes:

1. Easy to Clean and Maintain

This is the most important key directive in the designing, furnishing, and placement of everything in our home. Without it, it all goes to crap, and our dream home turns into another decrepit waste of space. The furniture should not have any unnecessary frills that make it too difficult to clean. The shoes (which will be taken off in the house) must be arranged and stored properly at the entrance to the house. The bathroom must be easy to clean. When dust eventually finds its way to every crevice of our home, I want full confidence that each nook and cranny of dirt can be addressed.

This also means that everything must be organized so that all the cleaning supplies must be placed in ideal, ergonomic, and central locations. I don’t want to go to the other side of the house to grab a bottle of all-purpose cleaner. When garbage day rolls by, I don’t want to empty a small garbage bin out of every single room. Oh, and I want a Roomba, because it allows us to passively maintain a clean space.

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Give away my house’s data so I don’t have to sweep? Yes please.

2. Minimal and Pragmatic

My father is a hoarder. I’ve seen massive livable spaces compromised because of his desire to keep everything, tendency to pick up junk, and reluctance to let go. It brings on clutter, and clutter pollutes a space. My wife and I want as little junk as possible in our home. This means that we reduce as much¬†excess as we can.

  • We don’t need a thousand pots and pans, but we need enough to cater to our every need in the majority of cooking scenarios (because we’re going to entertain plenty).
  • As mentioned above, not every room needs to have a garbage bin in it. Not every bathroom needs to have a full stock of toilet paper and toothpaste. Some redundancy is nice, but too much can lead to clutter.
  • No¬†mono-use items! Even then, any appliance, tool, or any item in the house for that matter should serve a purely singular purpose if it is a big item. Versatility is key, and mono-use is only justified if the item is used often enough.

However, do not mistake this for a desire for few things in our home–essential and pragmatic is what we’re going for. Everything will have a purpose. If there is something in the house that does not serve its purpose or does not serve it well, then it will be relinquished!

3. Eclectic and Cute

This is more my wife’s taste and expertise, as my sense of design is pretty limited and tame. The way my wife sees it, everything within your home–from the furniture you choose to the salt and pepper shaker you arrange on the dining table–is to be viewed a like a collection. Each and every single decision in your home is a reflection of your taste and style. So when it comes to every piece that is in our home, it will be personal. My wife (and her whole family for that matter) has an infatuation with cute things. Their idea of cute doesn’t seem to align with traditional American cute: things that are pink and have polka dots or whatever. They’re interesting, unique items that carry a special aura that I can’t seem to describe very well. All I can say is that my wife’s decorating skills will fill our home with some very cute objects.

4. It NEEDS Central Air

This is less a guideline but more an absolute necessity. I sweat easily, and I sweat a lot. This actually coincides with #1 and #2 because it ultimately will save us money, clear clutter, and be a massive contributor to our standard of living.

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I swear, I have this.

Thus begins our adventure. I’m looking forward into this brainstorming exercise; it’ll be a nice way for us to start taking inventory and discern what truly matters in our future home.

Transitioning

Right before spring break of this year, I had to come to terms with two things:


  1. I was horrible at this job
  2. Teaching was eating me alive.

First off, I sucked at Teaching

I mean this as honestly as I can: I was bad at my job. To excel at teaching, you needed to be a person who had a handle on so many different aspects. You had to be able to assign work that taught the students. You had to bring them in and engage the students. You needed to make sure your lessons and work checked all the boxes required of you by the State, your city’s Board of Education, your supervisor, your principal, your departmental coworkers, and ultimately the students you were going to teach it to. You had to attend events and actively be an agent for positive change in the classroom and out. Teachers are under an immense amount of stress, at least those who worked in my specific building–housing plenty of useless drama, politics,

I think the best way to describe teaching is that we are cooks. We work in a restaurant where the cooks, us teachers, provide food for the diners–the students.

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“Does the food have to taste good?”

Each diner has a different taste when it comes to food. Well, some students have different preferences when it comes to learning. Some like the traditional¬†plug-and-chug approach because it works for them–and that’s fine. However, we need to make sure we can prepare a dish that caters to all tastes. Not too unreasonable, right?

Ongoing Checkboxes

Things then get a bit more complicated. To begin with, you need to serve the menu of the restaurant (the curriculum). That’s fine though, because you work at this restaurant (school), so you should be able to cook what’s on their menu. One diner, your supervisor, comes in. She tells you that the whole menu needs to be cooked on this new stove system that the other franchises have been using; so you need to prepare the same dishes on this new machine. She also tells you that you need to start serving oysters (Cornell note taking) even though you’re a family restaurant. You were ready to serve burgers, fries, shakes, and the typical American fare. Then your manager comes in and tells you that you need to start incorporating this new knife-handling technique that the culinary schools have been employing (updated structures of Socratic Seminar, student engagement methods, and other buzzwordy things). Oh, and you have to serve sushi because the Japanese restaurants all do it, and all the people who eat there love it. It continues, and things are rarely removed from the menu or your task list.

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Anton Ego can totally be the board of education, hah!

Worsening Standard of Life

Cooking aside, let’s just look at this as a job. You are always working overtime (because I have never met a teacher who clocked in and out, unless they’ve already given up) in so many ways. Sometimes you’re out promoting your restaurant (joining school committees and public outreach for the school), or maybe you’re trying to help calm down an angry customer who’s pissed that we gave him sushi at an American diner (dealing with angry students and parents about things out of your control). Your health coverage gets more expensive. The chairs and tables of the restaurant are falling apart, so you start spending your own money to keep it clean and functional (dipping into your own pocket for school supplies). The restaurant, as it is for most chefs, becomes your life. You marry it.

Oh, and your successes are chalked up to the people above you, who aren’t in the kitchen cooking, but instead serve as the face.

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“My leadership is what made us successful!”

That’s enough of that metaphor. I couldn’t survive. I couldn’t check all the boxes. I couldn’t keep up with the fast-paced life while balancing all the things going on within my own circumstance.

Secondly, This was Eating Me Alive

Despite the worsening conditions, the increasing demands, the horrible building, the corrupt nepotism for promotion (the few that were even available)–what kept me going was what keeps any young idiot going in any unforgivable career:¬†passion. I sucked at teaching, but I¬†fucking loved it. I loved being the one to push my students to do better. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to shape these kids into someone better than the day they came into my door, preaching to them the lessons and vicarious lives of literature.

But it was not sustainable. I had anxiety attacks every Sunday. I would take sick days just to catch up on grading (once again, this is all my fault for not being more on top of my own stuff). I lost sleep. I was unhappy.

So I quit, and I threw my resume out there to see what it could get me.

And So I Joined an EdTech Company.

I had a passion for technology in the classroom, and it felt like no matter how hard I tried to bring it to the attention of my superiors, it ultimately would fall on deaf ears. “Hey, Tang, you’re good with this, so maybe you should give this internal role a shot!” — nope, gave it to the technologically illiterate teacher who ended up just asking me to do everything for her until I made a mistake. My first year I had run an entirely paperless classroom, and I was so excited to see that even the State had come in to see what I had to show (my VP directed them to me, which was a great vote of confidence). Whelp, that VP ended up becoming the Principal of another school, and I got weaseled into losing my cushy position by a veteran teacher and tossed into a hellhole.

Then I join this new company… and honestly, it feels unreal even after it’s almost half a year since I left my last teaching job.

The culture is so different. The office is clean, air conditioned–it’s built to provide an actual functioning workspace. We have access to a pantry full of food (mostly deli sandwiches, fruits and vegetables, and cereal) and a snack bar that we can enjoy at any time. Hell, they even let us take the stuff home if we really want to. We get unlimited Paid Time Off, as long as it’s within reason and we’re covered. My team is amazing, as they don’t backbite, manipulate, nor try to dominate and intimidate me. Our product is something that I sincerely wished I had in all my years of teaching. My superiors have yet to throw me under the bus. There’s a great deal of transparency within the company in terms of direction and motivations. I don’t take work home with me. There’s a fun atmosphere. I look forward to going to work!

Most importantly: there’s so much room to grow.

It’s not entirely perfect, sure. However, it’s got all the key things that are making me much happier. I’m in love with this place, and I’ll drink whatever Kool-Aid they’re serving.

Schoology is Amazing

I work with a lot of former teachers here, and they all say the same thing:

We all miss teaching, but we would never go back.

Well, at least not in the condition that teaching currently is in, no.

Social Media and My Life

Social Media Takeover

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The “good ol’ days”

I remember the day I got¬†Myspace. I got caught up in all the hype of it. I didn’t like to go too hard and mess around with the HTML coding (I wonder how many people found out that they had a knack for programming from those Myspace days), but I obsessed over my “Top Friends”. It made my shallow little heart melt when my friends would put me up there. I liked to post witty crap that was only funny to one person: me. I brooded like any angsty teen and posted poetry. It was silly, but that was what was in for my generation. Well, as you can tell now reading this, that has¬†all changed. Myspace is dead, and Facebook is the king. Social Media became a giant that wasn’t just the “cool thing for the kids”, it embedded itself into all of our lives and into the internet itself.

What It Was Before

My first true blossoming into social media was with Facebook. It’s sad to say, but I was pretty tame and well-balanced with Myspace. It was Facebook that devoured me whole. I joined it back when it was the¬†elitist thing to do–it was only open for college students, so we had our own little “safe space” to frolic and post our crap in. Couple that with the ever-evolving technology in digital cameras and camera phones, and I found myself possessed into constantly posting photos with updates about my life. It was a great time because it allowed me to get to know all my new dormmates, classmates, and friends in other colleges. It gave me extra information to use to get to know other people, thus lending a great hand into my social development as well.

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Simpler times

It was the best! Facebook in its infancy was pure communication. It didn’t have all these pages, or groups, or reposting memes or whatever content. The overwhelming majority of content was original, and created by the user base itself. Much of it probably wasn’t as impressive as the stuff you see people posting today, but there was something oddly alluring about the baby that would become a juggernaut:

It was genuine.

Soon, other juggernauts were being born, and other would-bes among them. More and more, people were starting to enjoy the gratification that came from friends and strangers alike applauding each others’ stuff. Twitter, YouTube, Skype, whatever. The craze was on, and anyone who’s¬†anyone had at least one social media outlet (probably before it was called social media). If you didn’t, then you were probably some lame old person or a formula-drinking infant baby.

Its Progression My Late-Teens

Myspace imploded, and Facebook was becoming the¬†Chosen One. They opened the floodgates by allowing even more people onto their platform, and all these other random wannabe Myspaces came up. As for me, I was living it up. I had gotten a digital camera as a gift, and I was taking pictures of anything and everything and posting it up. Just like many other people in my generation, there was this incessant paranoia to log and record every single waking minute of my life with the fear that I would lose it all someday when I’m old and demented.

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Nobody cares, man

I posted like mad. Every time I met up with a friend, you’d see a status update of “Guess who I’m with!?!?!” or with every ridiculous holiday, you’d see a “Happy St. Paddy’s day! Who wants a Guinness with me!?” I lived and breathe online, and it was strange because I found my reality and my online persona slowly merging together.

 

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AH! REMEMBER THIS!?

Prior to sites like Myspace and Facebook, the internet was always a sort of mysterious Wild West. I met a lot of my friends through the internet back when we would just hide behind black screens and usernames (Gameboy88, Kickinaglass81, natakuoo5, and into its final resting place of makenshizero). It was weird then to see that the guy I went to class with could see my online persona, or my sisters, or my crazy uncle. It was all out there, and I was relishing in it because I was finally getting attention for all the little things. How gratifying!

Post-College

When I graduated college, my abundant diet of social interaction was cut into a fraction. I worked for a small company (maybe 15 people in the office max?), and the only other people outside of coworkers that I saw each day were a bunch of Indian children (we serviced a very privileged and educationally-driven group in Ohio). Social Media became my outlet; my escape. I was in Ohio with just my girlfriend (who is now my wife <3) and a few friends–nothing like my days back home. Social Media helped to fill that gap. It let me catch up with friends and family, and even allowed me to get to know some people from my past that I never had a chance to really sit down and truly meet. There were many friendships that would never have been if not for Social Media. It just made being social so much easier since I didn’t have to schedule time to go see someone, or memorize their phone number to call/text every day. I could just look up their name, their profile, see what they’re up to, and it’s like we already interacted without me needing to do so. What a sweet deal!

There are Ads in My Feed; My Friends are Ads

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We all have that friend

Things have greatly changed. I don’t know when it did, but Facebook started having integrations with anyone/everyone. YouTube was proving to be lucrative, and so everyone wanted to start their own channel to make money (I’ll be damned if I didn’t day dream about that either), and there was proof that companies would give popular Instagrammers free stuff! You could be rich from your influence on Social Media! Well, everyone and everyone wanted to chase their dreams of being stay-at-home millionaires. Then came the hollow, cheap, and fakeness that plagues Social Media today.

There are ads everywhere–don’t get me wrong, I understand that a company offering access to the greatest and strongest social member base doesn’t do things for free–and all I see in my feed these days are useless memes, clickbait half-assed articles (You Won’t Believe What This Boy Said About Ants!), and advertisements. What makes it worse is that a good portion of my friends are now walking advertisements.

I get it, it’s a fine line to walk because you want to be supportive of your friends and their endeavors, but there’s gotta be a line somewhere. When I check out your profile, I want to learn more and catch up on you, not buy some¬†Essential Oils, learn about¬†Herbalife, or click on your referral link to some money pyramid scheme. It’s annoying, and I don’t blame my friends for trying their best to cash in on their local and microcelebrity to try to get ahead and get paid. Hell, I’m a hypocrite with this too because I advertise my blog every once in a while too.

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“Destined to travel”

Social Media has transformed right before my eyes–and I’m starting to become wary of it. I don’t post every damn day like I used to, and I’m okay with that (not to mention I finally have realized that my daily musings¬†just aren’t important). I don’t repost random political crap that just appeases my echo chamber of friends.

“If you voted for X, unfriend me now.”
— Another huge problem exacerbated by Social Media.

It’s taken many steps back in my life. It still carries great importance–nothing allows me to catch up with friends and family better right now–but I am no longer dependent on it like I once was…

…and that makes me glad.¬†

Parenting Gut Check

Lessons by Teddy

Do you see the resemblance?

On August 4th, one of the greatest life events in my life happened: Theodore Tang. It’s been almost 10 months since that day, and I haven’t had a moment to recollect until this past weekend, when we went to Arizona for my sister-in-law’s Medical School graduation (congratulations, by the way, Nancy!). As Teddy hit another milestone–standing–I found myself flooded by thoughts of the relatively recent past. It’s not even been a year, but I could barely remember a life without this beautiful boy. I wonder how much I’ve grown or changed?

How am I an Adult?

I’m still a kid, right? I still live with my parents (it would be insane to pass up no rent, occasional free food, and plenty of support for Teddy), I play video games still (although not nearly as much), and I still whine about stupid things. Yet, many things about me have changed. It’s hard to pinpoint the increments of this transition, but I am–without a doubt–a changed man. And I have my boy to blame. Looking at his pure, untrained mind and body develop has been a fascinating science project for me. I see how he learns, how he develops his thoughts and actions. The human body is amazing, and I can’t wait for him to discover language, or when he can run. I see life much differently now, and I think that is what contributes to my adulthood; added perspective. Through him, I have learned so much, and that has changed my life.

When will he be smarter than a dog? Beats me.

Reevaluate Life’s Priorities

The moment my wife announced to me that she was pregnant, we both collapsed in each other’s arms sobbing happily about the idea of a baby. We were overwhelmed with the curiosities of what he would look like, sound like, how tall he would be, or what his favorite food would be. More importantly, though, my view of life was greatly shifted. My priorities instantly changed. What was I working for? What was I spending my money on? How was I spending my time? Have I been maintaining my health properly? Am I conducting myself to be the best man possible so I can be a proper role model to my boy?

And just like that, life shifted. Some of the things that stressed me out before just seemed so meaningless. For example, I was a wreck when it came to work. I lost nights worrying about grades, deadlines, lesson plans; well, that didn’t matter at all anymore. One of my biggest fears was losing my job. I thought that my life would be over if I were to ever lose my position as a teacher in Elizabeth. Well, it happened… and well, I got over it.

It’s just a job, in the end.

As much as a job provided money, which then provided wealth and security so that I could help build a better and more privileged life for my family… it wasn’t that important to me anymore. Hell, he’s one of the deciding factors in what made me quit my miserable job. I still poured my heart into it, but I didn’t let it get in the way of spending time with my boy. I played games less. I ate better. All in all, I just appreciate the little things in life more. All because I get to share these moments with my wife and son.

I Appreciate My Parents More

I used to dream about running off to some city where nobody knows me, where I could take on the world by my lonesome, independently. Well, that dream died when this boy came into the world, and it was buried when I saw my parents holding my son. If you cared at all before, you know that I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to my parents. They can be stubborn, overbearing, annoying, outrageous, and difficult to work with. But, with my boy… they’re the best grandparents in the world. My mother rushes in the morning to pick him up when he wakes (and the wife and I have to get ready for work). My dad smothers him and takes the best worst photos.

Teddy vs Squash

I can be bratty at times–sometimes for good reason–but all my resentment, my anger, my bad attitude… they all just ring hollow when I see my parents with my son. They love him. It melts my heart seeing them together, and I try my best to avoid thinking of life without my parents. I know that Teddy will not be able to see them for the rest of his days, but I know that he will look back at all the photos and videos we have and burn them into his memory. I will not let him ever forget a single detail of his grandparents, who love him so much.

Surrounded by Love

My mother-in-law, my sisters, my sisters-in-law, my brothers-in-law. My family has grown, and it’s fun to be surrounded by such chaos (I’ve got 3 nephews and 1 niece right now). The hand-me-downs, the parental advice when my wife and I were still trying to figure our way through this mess that we weren’t prepared enough for… we were taken care of, as we always have been. I love it when my son goes and bothers his cousin Nathan (poor Nathan just wants to watch TV and Teddy just wants to lick his elbow). It makes me forgive my diva of a niece when she comes over and rushes past everyone just so she can say hi to my son. I find myself cracking the widest grin when I call my mother-in-law in Texas and she screams a song at Teddy that makes her look like a damned fool, but she does it because it always makes him smile. There’s so much love surrounding my boy, and it makes me proud.

Don’t kill me for this photo! I CAN’T HELP BUT LOVE IT

Smitten by My Wife

Being a new parent is terrifying. It’s a constant game of please-don’t-accidentally-kill-my-son in the beginning. There’s little sleep. There’s hardly any time for yourself. There’s so much to learn and do, and you can barely keep up. Well, we can keep up because of her–my wife. She does all the research when it comes to when to feed him, how to sleep train him, and all the other little things that are now second nature to us. She’s the reason why. I thought I lucked out when I found a woman who was so successful and beautiful, but now that I know that she’s a great mother–boy did I hit the lottery! Watching her spend time with our boy is my favorite thing to do. I love how she talks to him even though she’s introverted. Or maybe the way she sings to him even though she’s not good at singing. It’s all the big and little things that this woman does as a mother that makes my lip quiver and my eyes swell with tears. I never knew that I could love her more, and parenthood has proven me naive once again.

Love is Complex

One of my biggest concerns as a new parent was that my son would not know me nor love me the way he would love someone else. With a new job for me, I knew that my hours would keep me away from home longer. With my wife on call once every other week, that meant that she would spend days away from our son. Insecurities ate at us at every turn, and we were hyper critical of every little thing.

What if he prefers his grandparents more than his parents?

What if he doesn’t recognize me?

What if he doesn’t love me?

All that jealousy got expelled the older he got. His personality was coming out, and it was becoming very apparent that my son was a very happy baby. He smiles at everyone. He laughs pretty easily. He lacks stranger danger and wants to play with people. I see it now when he’s with my parents, or with my sisters, or with my mother-in-law, or with my friends.

This boy just loves everyone.

I had learned from my son that love isn’t measured like bars on a graph, but instead that it’s far more complex than that. My jealousy that he would love someone else more than me was incredibly stupid. He loves everyone uniquely. He goes crazy when I play the “shovel game” with him. He laughs at every little thing my dad does–even when my dad isn’t trying to make him laugh. Whenever we travel and he needs to sleep upright, he sleeps the best on his mom’s chest. Teddy has built a unique bond with everyone in his life, and he loves them each uniquely for it. There is no competition when it comes to him, because he’s just got nothing but room for affection for us all.

P.S. We totally have 10,000+ photos/videos of this kid…

Living With Friends

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Back in 2006, when I was only 18, I was surrounded by some newfound friends and we had all fallen in love with each other’s company. We braved this new world of a state university and took on all of its challenges and rewards together. We were a mixed cast, with people varying in ambitions, disciplines, and upbringings. However, we were bound in that we all lived in the same dorm without A/C, where we had to deal with this really creepy guy who lived in the single dorm, and we confided in each other that we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into with college. We were good friends for that year–passionate is the better word to describe the intensity of it. Many days and nights were spent together on the roof of cars watching the sun rise, in the thick backwoods behind the highway talking shop, wheeling these giant spools up and down the lawn, and throwing our own wholesome parties with our own homemade Slip-n-Slide.

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If I could go back in time… I’d tell us to NOT use laundry detergent as lubricant. A lot of smokey eyes then.

Many of us are still around today, still friends. Things are, however, much different. A few fell out. A few grew apart. Others just faded away. It’s not the same as it once was, and I’m okay with that–we all have our own lives to live. This is just the way things are these days with everyone. When you form a group of friends from all over the country (and some parts of the world) with such varied interests… it’s understandable that we’d all find our paths leading elsewhere. We just celebrate the small moment where all our circles shared a piece with each other.

There was always this one recurring conversation that comes up whenever we all find a moment to meet up, and catch up. It’s a simple statement, but one that always sparks so many dreams and then always ends with a heart-breaking pang.

“Wouldn’t It Be Cool if We All Lived Together?”

 

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Ed, Edd, and Eddy’s Neighborhood

It would. It would be perfect. Imagine: if all your friends and family (who you cared about) lived just a few blocks–hell, maybe even just a few minutes of a drive–away? How amazing would that be? It was always just a light-hearted and idealistic joke, but I remember that this is what Smalltown America was like before (not saying it was without its drawbacks) globalization. My friends and I would joke about how our kids would grow up to be friends just like we were, and that we would go over each other’s house just like we would go over each other’s dorm rooms. Then we laughed. Then we grew up. Then life went on.

If everyone I knew and held dear lived close, what an enriching life my life–and my family’s life–would be. With my group of friends and family nearby, we wouldn’t have to cook dinner every night; we’d just rotate between each other’s homes and host each other all the time. If Lily and I were working late, Teddy would just have to stroll over a few hundred feet to a friend’s and hang out there. We’d all help each other out, and we’d all help each other grow and raise each other’s families.

I loved the idea of Teddy growing up around my friends and family. How lovely it would be if he could just go around the block to learn how to sew from his aunt Cindy, or could just go over to hang out with his cousins? I want to send him out to the mountains with his uncles Mark and Alex, so he could learn how to be an outdoorsman and be a martial artist. Maybe Olga can teach him how to sing, or Tim can teach him how to be an FPS god…. The sleepovers, the cookouts, the birthday parties, the trips. The examples go on with my multitude of friends and family.

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BRING BACK THE COCKTAIL PARTIES

I’ve been thinking about that more these days. As I watch Teddy play, eat, sleep, and be the cutest damn baby I’ve ever seen… I think about his future quite a bit. I think about the school he’ll go to, the friends he’ll meet, the weekends our family will have together, going over his cousin’s house to play, hanging out with his uncles and aunts–even the ones who aren’t blood related. I’m reminded that the crop of aunts and uncles for Teddy to visit is much smaller than what I had dreamt of a decade ago. One of my sisters lives 4+ hours away, another lives only 45min (and even then I consider that a stretch of a drive). I’ve got friends in California now, or in Colorado, and one of them is in Amsterdam, and another just bought a house in Long Island. Friends and family are getting farther and farther away.

I know there are a multitude of legitimate reasons why this will never be, but I just wish we could all chip in to buy a big chunk of land, a massive property, and live in a commune.

Just a nice thought, is all.

I Quit Teaching

 

On March 22nd, 2018, I resigned.

 

I had reached a breaking point in my career. I was still coping over the heart-wrenching firing from my time at Halsey. Why I had not read the writing on the wall after the joke-of-an-administrator even went so far as to write me an uncharacteristically scathing observation of me, I don’t know. I had gotten too comfortable there, and taken for granted the privilege of my position. I just thought that, as long as I was up there every day slinging what I thought was engaging material to the students, that would be enough. Ends up it wasn’t.

Let me disclaim this:¬†I deserved to be fired from my last job. I’ve come to terms with it. I understand it.

  • I did not get grades in consistently and in a timely manner.
  • I did not submit lesson plans (and when I did, they were horrible).
  • I did not align all my lessons to the correct Common Core Standards and SMART goals.
  • I did not differentiate my classroom enough when administrators came in for observations.
  • I took too many days off (granted, I missed an entire marking period because of my eye surgery).

I did not do many things, and so I understood the reasons for my termination. However, I could not comprehend why I was such damaged goods to them. I deserved to be kept.

  • I built camaraderie and community within the school–made it seem less of a prison for both the students and the staff.
  • I helped however I could. I pulled strings to make events happen. I found loopholes and random resources so that my students could have enough books in their class.
  • I pushed forward some major initiatives in regards to technology–hell, I trained half the damn staff on some of the things they had us do.
  • I was a part of the professional learning community. I contributed ideas and lessons which were successfully applied by my compatriots.
  • I showed up ready to teach.
  • I gave my heart and soul to the development of the students’ mind and character.
  • I made the kids give a damn about school.

(my idol when it comes to being a teacher)

It was a slap in the face when I was terminated. Yes, there were legitimate reasons behind it, but I could not help but feel slighted when I received farewells from the teacher who slept in class, or the teacher who played movies in front of his kids every damn day, or the teacher who took my position away from me because he wanted an easier day-to-day. How could these horrible people stay, yet I had to go? Was I that bad? Was I that crappy of a teacher?

I Carried That Resentment to ACHS.

I interviewed only at a handful of schools over the summer–my resume was not impressive enough to warrant even a look. The only reason I was in contention for ACHS was because of friends I had. Pathetic that I needed hook-ups in order to land an interview. Eventually they hired me, and I found the spark of teaching again, if only for a short while. The environment didn’t seem toxic (at the time). The direct administration (the principal and VPs) were amazing–particularly worth noting was the unicorn that was ACHS’s VP. She was a teacher for over a decade, hired from within, and has the makings of someone great whose heart and soul were in it for the teachers and the students. I greatly respected them, and I was grateful that they gave me an opportunity. Well, that did not last long. With a newborn in my midst, I had a massive life event. Having my son completely changed my life.

#iloveteddytang — I’m obsessed

I Could Not Balance Everything.

Being an English teacher sucks. That, coupled with the largest student load I’ve ever had in my career, mixed with a lack of a classroom–it was the makings of disaster for a person like me. I found it difficult to grade essays, teaching reading, writing, and vocabulary was daunting enough. Keeping tabs on special education students who literally¬†could not fail my class, having to write up infractions (to cover my own ass–why the hell do I need to cover my ass against a student who acts out? What happened to the benefit of the doubt to the only professional in the room?), preparing kids for these outlandish standardized tests, teaching the way that the curriculum dictates…

There are so many boxes that an English teacher needs to check, and I got tired of checking all of them.

Due to my lack of organization, sleep (the first three months were crippling because Teddy could not sleep soundly throughout the night), and general incompetence with teaching, I created a whirlwind of disaster. I could not balance. My entire teaching career, I had always taken work home. When I eat dinner, I’m thinking about lesson plans. When I shower, I think about how to practice this presentation so that even that one kid who just hates English class and will find any way to say it’s stupid can buy in. When I have spare time sitting, I would be grading. Well, all that time was taken away by my son–and I have no regrets nor reservations about it.

Having my son helped me see the priorities in life, and–for me–being a successful teacher was knocked down several notches.

I Was Wrought with Anxiety.

I had learned to hate work. Not because of the students, no–they’re always the fun and interesting part about work. I hated going into common planning where I would just feel complete guilt because it was 40 minutes of my day (that I would rather spend planning, grading, or just decompressing about my day) dedicated to meeting with a teammate who would only show disappointment and annoyance in how inept I am. It was sitting there, basking in the casual conversation but never being able to freely speak due to the feeling that–if I had time to chat, I had time to catch up on work.

I was drowning in work, and it gave me anxiety to come in every single day. I hated reading my emails from my very first helicopter parent. I hated hearing about how I did something wrong because¬†that’s just how we do it here — I wish they had a handbook or some stack of documents that I could read so I could know what the standard procedure was. I loathed Common Planning every single fucking day where all I could do is sit there and take in the “Why haven’t you done this? Why don’t you have that? You’re doing this wrong.” I don’t need a daily reminder of how much I suck.

My Building Was Pathetic.

Worst paid teachers in the district. Air conditioners were broken–the few that worked would blow out the fuse. I’d have to go down the hall to turn the fuse back on. Windows were broken. Mice. Cockroaches. Desks too small for middle schoolers to sit in–let alone high schoolers. Special Education students who went around like they owned the place because they knew that couldn’t fail any class because it was¬†against their IEP (that’s not what it says, but that’s what it essentially was). No contract (thus why I was able to resign so suddenly). No funding. Technology–the one thing that got me excited for education–was embarrassing. First day of orientation, we were told to prepare for 1-to-1 distribution, and that we would be a technologically capable school. Nope. Laptops in carts. Poorly managed (the locks were pipe cleaners tied in a knot).

This was where I worked. This was what I had amounted to. It was miserable.

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When each of these four pillars were waning, I found myself without equilibrium.

I Needed a Change.

As you can tell from my gripes, I was unhappy. I felt no joy from work, aside from the wonderful moments I had with students where I could be there to help them grow, expand their mind, and push them into being a different person. As much as I love the students, the¬†feel-goodies were not enough to sustain me. I did not feel the joy of teaching, because whatever joy I had was quickly followed by reprimand. I did not feel appreciated from my pay–I took a massive pay cut to come here. I did not feel valued, because I knew I did not have my shit together. Worst of all, I did not think that I was particularly good at teaching anymore. My love for teaching had been sapped away, and it had instead turned into a horrible beast of resentment, anger, and guilt.

And so I quit.

Goodbye, Mr. Tang. You were a horrible teacher, but I loved who you were. I loved the lessons you taught. I loved the energy you brought into the classroom. I loved how you carried yourself among the students–the ones who fucking matter. However, I’m glad you’re done. I’m glad you’re dead, so you don’t have to see more benchmarks, PARCC exams, SMART Objectives, and Gradebooks. I’m glad you’re done with propping up events meant purely as positive PR moves for the school without soul. I’m glad you’re done trying to tell the kids that they all have to go to college in order to be successful. I’m glad you’re done dealing with the most toxic community: teachers.

As you leave, do not pay attention to the negatives: how you left the kids mid-year, and how it haunts you that they could have possibly had a better teacher to push them and teach them this year, how you were identified as the incompetent teacher by your coworkers, how your administrator from your last school fired you after you had come back from surgery and after finding out your wife was pregnant.

You fought to stop Y from dropping out of school. You talked to J every single God-damned day to not kill herself. You made a bet to A that you’d get him pizza if he’d throw his menacing behavior aside and finished the year with As–and you got him that pizza. You gave N the confidence to read, even though she was reading at a 1st grade level, aloud in class until she got competent enough to make it into college.

You didn’t quit teaching because you were a loser. You quit because you wanted to be happy.

Mr. Tang — 2012-2018