About Alysha Mendez

Alysha is in her second year of teaching 7th grade English on the beautiful island of Oahu. She's originally from San Marcos, TX and dearly misses Mexican food, but she can't really complain with all the palm trees and whatnot. She received her BA in Creative Writing from Texas State University and is working on her Masters in Education at University of Hawaii. Being a writer and teaching writing to 130 pre-teens is hard, but her goal is to become better at both.

Culture Shock: Teaching In A Drastically Different Region

whiskers bindle

(Photo credit: chatblanc1)

In June, I’ll be moving from Hawaii back home to Austin, TX. I spent 22 years in Texas, surrounded by a large Hispanic (mostly Mexican) population. I myself am half Mexican. But as for teaching experience? I’ve taught approximately two Hispanic kids in the past two years. Here in Central Oahu, the student population is mainly comprised of Japanese, Hawaiian, Filipino, Samoan, Micronesian, and Chuukese ethnicities.

So when I accepted a teaching job in Texas for next school year, I couldn’t help but worry. Will I be facing a major culture shock? It’s kind of ironic, I realize. I was born and raised in the area, I’m obviously super familiar with the Hispanic culture. But teaching is a different story. I’ve finally reached a point where I feel qualified to teach Hawaiian mythology and “local, Pidgin kine poetry.” I feel comfortable discussing and analyzing the differences and similarities of Asian cultures. I’ve finally mastered the stereotypes, resentments, and unspoken bonds between these groups here — it’s been incredibly hard; the islands are home to such a diverse population — it’s nothing like Texas.

So will my teaching suffer?

Will it be like my first year all over again?

What about my ELL kids? Will I know how to accommodate them? Is it the same?

How to Make Non-TFA Friends

Lunch Group

(Photo credit: Beppie K)

Surrounded by corps members and feeling a little … limited? Been there. I love my friends that I’ve met through TFA but let’s be real — ONLY having TFA friends gets real old, real fast. Conversation always seems to come back around to teaching or “Remember that time at Institute …” or MTLDs or SYLCs or some other acronym. Even if you try really hard to NOT talk about those things, the fact that they are your “TFA friend” is a looming, always present fact.

It’s healthy to have at least one person you can grab dinner or a drink with who is not going through the whole two year struggle thing with you. It’s refreshing — someone who hasn’t lived an extremely similar life as you since Induction, someone who won’t reply with “Yeah, well in one of MY classes last week …” whenever you tell a teaching story.

But if you’ve moved to a region far away from home, as most of us do, meeting these elusive non-TFAers can be hard. It’s definitely been one of the hardest things about living here on an island in the middle of the Pacific (yes, I promise, there are downsides to living in Hawai’i).

Here are 7 ideas if your life starts to feel like one big ACE:

By |April 18th, 2013|Your Best Self|Comments Off on How to Make Non-TFA Friends|

Faith In Failure: A Parent Visit Gone Wrong

138/365 Frustrated.

(Photo credit: martinak15)

DJ was my “special project”. That kid who you hear about from every MTLD, CMA, and other acronymed people. That kid who you work insanely hard with all year—results always too close to tell what will come of them by the end of school. He started out as my future trophy story, but my perspective completely changed the day I visited his house.

I had never been inside the gates of government housing, much less into an actual apartment. But I had to meet DJ’s parents. DJ, or Danu, who had just spent a whole hour after school with me, perfecting his essay while humming rap songs, picking at the scrapes on his arms, and drumming on his desk. He had jumped at the chance to get a ride home, but begged me not to come up into building seven. Too bad, so sad. I was going to light some kind of fire, I was so confident. This was step one in my naïve plan. The parents would see how invested I was and they would therefore also become super involved in DJ’s English skills. It was going to work like magic. I was smiling as I climbed rusted steps, lined with “slippahs”.

By |March 28th, 2013|Your Stories|3 Comments|

The Big Complaint

Complaint Department Grenade

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you’re a teacher, surrounded by other teachers, it’s SUPER easy to get caught up in the complaining game. Who had the worst day, most stressful week, or most hectic quarter? Who has crazier students? Who has the most to complain about?

I complain about teaching a lot. I complain about my students telling me I should wear my hair down, wear contacts, and wear more dresses and makeup (Why, you ask? To get a husband of course!).

I complain about the missing homework, the failures, the tardies, the absences, the laziness, the lack of organization, the disrespectful words and looks, the dress code violations, and the desk vandalism.

I complain about the “IDKs” and even worse, the “IDCs”. I complain about the “As long as I’m passing, Miss” and the “Oh no, we weren’t talking, I was asking for help!”

By |March 14th, 2013|Your Stories|Comments Off on The Big Complaint|