An Update

The young nurse asks how my day is going as she wraps the blood pressure cuff around my arm. I pretend to be relaxing on a yacht to yield low numbers, and the machine beeps 124/74. Dammit, I’ve never been above 120 — the yacht is sinking and death is near. She tells me that the procedure I’m about to undergo is quick. Math practice number six beckons and I ask, “What is quick?… Like five-seconds-kinda-quick or…?” She smiles, “About fifteen minutes.”

I want to choke her. I hate pain, any kind of pain, especially the needle-poking kind of pain. You know the 0-10 pain scale they post in the exam room? Getting a flu shot registers at least a 7 for me.

The doctor, who also looks very young, explains the procedure that she’ll be performing. Her voice is remarkably well-modulated and soothing, but not enough to drown out words like a long needle, grade two, some pain, numbing, cauterize, burn, death. Maybe I imagined that last one. I want to ask her where she’d obtained her training and how many times she’d performed this exact procedure. But I’m afraid that sounds like profiling which will trigger her dulcet voice to morph into a shriek, You are the worst patient! I should just let you bleed to death!

I want to hold someone’s hand. I need to hold someone’s hand. I’m so tempted to ask the nurse if I may hold hers, but she’s busy getting all sorts of scalpels, chisels, and cleavers for the doctor. I should have brought me a fake hand to hold. I settle on holding my own, my right holding my left. I want to pass out. Instead, a few minutes in, I can’t hold back the tears. I’m quietly sobbing. I ask for some tissue paper. The doctor’s soft voice, “Are you okay? We got you, here you go, you can have the whole box.”

She asks about my pain level. I tell her, honestly, that I’m okay, pain wise. “I’m just stressed.” My brother Vinh passed away two weeks ago. My cat Charlie has been missing since the evening before. Now, this.

I drive straight to work afterward. A few hours later, my son Gabriel texts me a picture of Charlie safe and sound. (Charlie is at the forefront, the other monster is Tugboat.)


My math coaching job is great. It’s new yet familiar, structured yet flexible. No one has to remind me how tough teaching is. But I did forget. I forgot about stuff that became second nature to me, like classroom management, building a rapport with students, speaking up for them, and planning a lesson.

I now have the privilege of observing different classrooms, modeling a number talk or task, designing a lesson and co-teaching, working with younger students, facilitating PD, creating slide decks and docs that might be helpful. There are three of us TOSAs in the district: English, ELD, and Math. I don’t get to see much of these two smart, strong, caring women outside of meetings, but they make me laugh and have my full admiration. There’s something special here with personnel. I liken it to the DNA that Oregon Ducks’ head coach Cristobal often speaks about, the DNA of each player that collectively makes up the team’s DNA. The culture is good here. My bosses are passionate and grounded, their roots are strong within the community because they are part of the community; their history is their present. It’s a cool place to be, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of an incredibly hard-working and caring network.

On the pain scale, work has not exceeded level 1, so I’m grateful. Wouldn’t it be great if somehow our pain level could be visible to others and our charge as humans is to lower each other’s numbers? And the more people’s numbers we can lower, the lower our own number gets. I think kindness is a potent pain reducer and can be self-administered too.

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