For hire

0x600Twenty five minutes for 10 questions. Why do we expect potential employees to explain themselves and qualification and show their leadership potential with two and a half minutes per broad question?  It is difficult, even for someone who considers herself good with words, to convey who I am in a very short amount of time. It’s easy to look great on paper or to look good in an interview or a demo lecture. It’s in the day-to-day work that true efficiency and/or talent can be witnessed.

I have worked with people who gave great interviews and turned out to be terrible.  I have also worked with excellent speakers who turned out to be great employees. As with anything, whether it’s an interview or a first date, the outcome will depend on the people and circumstances involved.  Are you what the other party seeking?  Is the other party what you seek?  Do you know what you want and expect? Can you communicate those expectations? It is not an easy process and sometimes feels unnatural.


I’m good with words but words have to be followed with actions. You have to live what you say. I know someone who is constantly promising all the changes that will be made. This person has not changed. This person is behaving in exactly the same way as usual. One of my professional mentors has pointed out that people always show us who they are. How do we react?

I constantly reflect on the difference between being proactive and reactive. We are always going to be reactive. We have to ensure safety so we are always going to react when someone’s actions are inappropriate, unsafe, or unacceptable. We have the choice to be proactive. From the first sign of problems, we have the power to decide we will not invest further time and energy into a situation.  I believe in second chances; hell, I’ve given people dozens of chances. As an aspiring leader, I have to decide if my workplace will be the land of a thousand chances.

As for me, I know that if given an opportunity, I will strive to not disappoint. If I make a mistake, I will rectify the situation. I stand by that.



Literally back on the mic


Though I began writing fiction at 9, I started writing personal reflections in my monthly column in La Voz de Berkeley when I was at Cal. I then created a blog, Mujer Hollering, inspired by that column, and more recently, my blog, Mujer Evolving. While writing fiction is a long-term goal, my #40blogsfor40days challenge is a great opportunity to share my work and honor my voice.


I have suffered from writer’s block for many years partly due to time management. So am I going to complete this writing during Lent?  I decided to solve the problem this year by beginning my blogs as voice recordings. During my morning commute, I have been recording five minute voice memos to capture my thoughts. There’s plenty of writing material whether it’s personal experiences, music, TV, or themes I have pondered.  The commute has allowed me time to do some uncensored reflecting. When I’m at the computer, I get stifled by the desire to wordsmith or produce a clear and concise piece in a short amount of time.  Drafting differently gives me a chance to voice my ideas.

Then it is time to transcribe. I don’t type it word for word. I do some revision as I go. Sometimes I stop the playback as I tend to speak quickly.  I don’t want to lose any key ideas. Once it’s transcribed, I read it. I start the editing process. I take out repetitious phrases. I rearrange paragraphs. I add topic sentences, details, commentary, and transitions. I was an English teacher for thirteen years so I have those skills to help me produce a polished piece of writing. The verbal rough draft and more intense editing process has allowed me to produce work that is much more coherent. I’m excited that this may be an opportunity to fully commit to writing on a more regular basis.


Right on schedule


“He’s a God you can’t hurry,

You don’t have to worry;

He may not come when you want Him

But he’s right on time, right on time. “Traditional Gospel hymn

I have refused to give up on this Advent. (Last year’s Advent of struggle ) As expected, I have been put to the test during this season. On one hand, I have a wounded dragon heaving its last toxic breaths.


Vandervals’ “Wounded Dragon”

On the other, there is the prospect of yet another round of hoping for a leopard to willingly change his spots.


The guy on the right is the inspiration for The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”

(Truth be told, I’m not waiting at all but I’m loyal to a fault and I will do as directed, even if I get a little Ben Linus on occasion.)ci-59798115230130361

I had a moment yesterday when I wavered, when all my anger, frustration, and indignation threatened to cloud my mind and fill my eyes with tears.  But I remembered to breathe, pray, and hold tight to my commitment to this Advent.  I moved forward in more ways than one.  Yesterday, I made a choice.

I’ve already owned my penchant for pettiness. Shoot, I even have the casual Fridays t-shirts to prove it. My pettiness is amusing at times, other times worthy of criticism. But it hasn’t held me back in the way my lack of self-confidence does. Oh sure I’ll dance on stage or on the streets with little practice. I’ll take the mic and put together a speech on the fly. But my career has been stifled by my inability to see myself as a leader.  I have worked for twice as long as several peers who are at the helm their own ships.  Yesterday, through the darkness of my emotions, I found the strength to own that my time has arrived. It is my time to lead, guide, and shepherd. I have vision, purpose, and integrity; now I am emboldened by the courage to stand alone.

At the end of a stressful workday or any day for that matter, I have to answer to myself, my family, and my God.  How have I been the best version of myself today?  How am I going to be the best version of myself tomorrow?  Soon, I will live out the answers to these questions in the spotlight.  My mistakes will be my own.  My decisions will be my own.  I will struggle and fail but I will learn.  That in turn will help me grow in the woman I was born to be.

While I may be tempted to take Hot Sauce out my bag and mess up a window or two, I can’t let others’ tomfoolery make me resort to my worst self.  I am finally going to fix myself some long overdue lemonade.beyonce-car

These hands will have to stick to prayer and to getting my paperwork together for my next job.  God will continue to give me the strength and patience.

Upside the head

“Just because you don’t believe that I want to dance…” The Gap Band
Nothing makes you more “woke” than a projectile launched at your head. It was a helluva year at work and no amount of running, samba dancing, concerts, books, film, and hugs from M can change that fact. With a few days left in my beloved vacation, I am reflecting on the year that was and the year to come. It will be my 21st year in high school education; despite the patronizing attitudes and perceptions of certain colleagues, I’m a grown ass educator.  There are times when I feel like not much has changed since I stepped straight off my college campus into the classroom. Thankfully, I have so much more experience, knowledge, and patience (one of these days, y’all gonna wear me out!) to stay committed. 
The projectile story illustrates some of the issues I consistently ponder.  See, what had happened was (you know it’s going to be a good story when I open with that phrase), we were having an ongoing issue with lunchroom fruit being launched against the walls.  Our school, like many public schools, does not always receive the care we would appreciate; it can sometimes look a mess.  So, we encourage our students to pick up after themselves to help maintain a clean campus.  
One overcast morning, I had said something along those lines to one of my students, A, as he exited the cafeteria with two apples, “I swear to God your auntie is going to get a call from me if either of those gets thrown today.”
“You won’t need to call her because you know I wouldn’t do that with you standing here watching me.” 
We laughed and he took his usual seat at one of the long tables in the quad.  Another student, B, approached A immediately and they engaged in a whispered conversation.  A shook his head and waved B away; he made sure I saw him do so. In the meantime, a group of students asked that I open our multi-purpose room so they could get out of the rain.  I opened the door and stood there so I could watch both groups simultaneously.  To my left, I noticed B grab one of the apples. I figured he would launch it at the wall in defiance of my earlier directive.  As the apple flew towards my face, I stepped away quickly. It struck the door with force. Pieces of fruit splashed onto my eyeglasses and face. The apple tumbled to the ground in chunks. Both the quad and multi-purpose rooms went silent.  I immediately called for B to approach me. Students began to use profanity as they expressed their disbelief at what they had witnessed.  I directed the apple-thrower to head to the office and used my phone to call his parent. I took photos of the ruined fruit and then continued with lunchtime supervision.  
This incident isn’t unusual on a high school campus.  Every day, a teacher or administrator faces incidents of defiance and disruptive behavior. Every day, students make choices that result in consequences that affect their academic progress.  Every day, parents are faced with the challenges of navigating adolescence with their children. Every day, I am called to treat each individual with respect and to remain calm in the face of volatile situations. Every day, I need to be ready to step aside for my own safety. 
There are two main reasons the apple-dodging incident strikes me as unusual.  One is that it was a first. I’ve been defied, ignored, cussed out. Once a student kicked my office trash can over. But I’ve never been physically threatened in two decades of physically breaking up fights and talking down angry students.  I can admit it shook me up for a day or two.  But that temporary anxiety does not compare to the trepidation I feel in working with certain persons.  I would rather field more flying fruit. That actually WASN’T the worst day in the work year; that is the unusual and somewhat sad reality.   After twenty years, the kids still aren’t the problem.  
Pretty much a daily task 
All this talk of rattlesnakes in pockets, el chamuco sitting up in that room for the exorcists to show up(Advice from The Exorcist) and finding my #innermongoose( #innermongoose) are extended metaphors, mi gente.  If you don’t know, now you know.  Y ahora que?  It’s time to woman up, get back in my heels and do what I do best: Lead.   

Still slaying in New 52 costume

Prom is a four-letter word

Prom is a four-letter word, perhaps the one word most dreaded by school administrators like me.  
After all, apart from graduation, it is the quintessential high school rite of passage and therefore brings forth all sorts of emotions.  Prom can lead to temper tantrums, tears, bouts of paranoia and rage.  Sadly, I’m not talking about the students attending. Perhaps all I ever needed to know about prom came from watching Carrie back in the 70s. On the eve of the 19th high school prom I have attended, I am waiting for that bucket of blood to fall on my head.

What is it about prom that can bring out the worst in some?  Why does one night hold so much power? And shouldn’t we have outgrown our adolescent aggrandizement of a dance?  I will be the first to admit I’m not particularly sympathetic to those for whom this night means more.  I know many see the prom as a night of beauty, romance, sophistication.  I realize that for many people, young and old, it is the one time in your life you look red-carpet ready. Maybe because Prom was neither the magical night to conclude my high school years nor the only time I have looked fabulous, I simply don’t understand.  While I have enjoyed the many proms I have organized and/or chaperoned, I wasn’t disappointed when my new boss said our school wouldn’t have a prom.  I have endured many an insult and outburst over prom; imagine my chagrin when I realized this year would be no different. Telekinesis would have come in handy this week.

Despite the occasional drama at work, I’m not against prom.  As the parent of a little girl, I now see this event differently and I look ahead to the days when I can help my M get ready.  In my heart, I know that to give anything, whether it is an event, a person, or an object, so much importance can backfire.  In real life, it is a dance, one that requires organization, attention to detail,and the involvement of big bad administrators.  Better that I be the target of the negative emotions than the poor kids endure some Stephen King moment.

So I will act professional, look nice, and compliment the kids. And I will look up at the ceiling just in case.


I once stood in the path of a stampede. Of teenagers, not cattle. After one too many fights broke out at a poorly planned school dance, I decided to shut it down. Chaos ensued: vandalism, violence.

As I stood in the parking lot during the aftermath, I felt overwhelmed, drained, and very small.

I feel that way again. Like I don’t know how to do my job. Like I don’t know where to begin.

What just happened?

I used to love my job. Sure it can be draining and overwhelming but I used to look forward to it. Now I dread coming here and the feelings it has begun to inspire: inadequacy, insignificance, resentment. I don’t like to hold grudges or to bottle in my anger and frustration. The fallout from my inability to appropriately express these negative emotions has cost me a lot in recent months. Will it jeopardize my livelihood and career?
I’ve only been here for two hours this morning and I want nothing more than to say I’m done. To walk away from these children, from my friends, from the decade of grassroots hard work and local-kid dedication.
I want to quit.

The return of Mingles

Mingles is my loyal sidekick at work. He is one of our three security guys, the middle child, if you will, a Seinfeldesque character with a knack for witty comments and sitcom-ready idiosyncrasies. With a baseball cap perpetually covering what is rumored to be a Darth Vader-like bald head, always dressed in black and white, Mingles keeps the jokes coming. Mingles keeps me sane.

I first met Mingles before I took on my current leadership position. He struck me as affable and down-to-earth, maybe even cute in that just-one-of-the-guys way. Once I became his boss, Mingles proved to be instrumental in helping me feel at home. He has become an older brother figure, someone I can tell about some of my personal business, someone I can vent to when I’m ready to punch my not-so-supportive colleague, or the first guy I call when I need to search a locker for drugs or stolen goods. Mingles teases me when Porky sniffs his big snout around me, praises me when I make a smart remark, and gets me lunch when I forget to pack one. As is the case for most folks, I didn’t realize how important he was to me until he was gone.

Mingles lost his mother after her long battle with liver cancer. He has been away from work for three weeks. I have had to monitor the front of campus by myself, which in itself is no problem, but I’ve missed our inside jokes and banter. I have missed his 40something male advice on my personal life. Today, Mingles returned and I am grateful.