Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King

(Source: Google Images. 18 Jan. 2022)

People have let me down numerous times. I have learned not to trust people. Therefore, this quotation by Dr. Martin Luther King resonated with me: “Faith is taking the first step even when you do not see the whole staircase.” Since I am also not a huge risk-taker, I have anxiety when stepping out of my comfort zone or changing my routine. I have to replay all the possible scenarios in my mind, similar to me planning my next move during a chess game (metaphor). If I do not make a move, then this will happen. If I do take this bold move, I may place myself in jeopardy. The queen may trap me. The hardest part of my journey is “taking the first step; it takes me years to gather the courage and take the initiative, to walk off the cliff. Perhaps I am too complacent, which is a fancy way of saying I am too lazy.

However, I am proud to say that I did take my baby step yesterday on Dr. MLK’s birthday. Yes, folks, it was exhilarating. This morning, I was eager to start my day, and I walked with my chin lifted a little higher. Yes, the first step was time-consuming. It took me hours to research the information, read the directions, follow them, and then pay for it. It was not cheap, but I saved enough money to afford my dream. Sometimes, money can be an obstacle that prevents you from achieving your dreams. It was a long time coming, but I am proud of myself for starting the process, especially since not knowing what is in store for me makes me more anxious. However, my hero Dr. King, reassures me that my feelings are normal when he speaks to me: “[At this point] you may not see the whole staircase.” Yes, I may see the entire staircase or what is around the corner. But I know that there is a bright new world waiting for me around the corner or at the end of the tunnel. I will also allow myself to close my eyes, trip sometimes, bump into a wall and even fall. But when I fall or encounter disappointments, I may want to cry or scream, but I will pick myself up and keep walking until I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will see all of you a the end of the tunnel. There’s no turning back now.

Ready to Hit Submit

(Google Images, 4 May 2021)

During Period 11 English, one of my in-person students walked in late.

“Ms. Pham, I am not feeling well. I have a low fever and body aches.”

I looked up my student and tried to hide my fear.

“If you do feel well, you may go to the nurse’s office.”

The next day the student did not return to class.

When the student was out the following day, the other students asked, “Does ______________ have COVID? Is he vaccinated? Do we have to quarantine? I knew this was going to happen.”

I tried to reassure them, but I was nervous as well. However, I was grateful that I got my shots two months ago.

He was out for the rest of the week and believe that he was getting tested for COVID.

Due to this situation, I was unable to attend the Pre-Graduation Party at the Hot Pot. I was disappointed.

As for my MA Thesis, I am looking over it, and ready to hit, Submit.

Graduation Fever

(Google Images, 27 April 2021)

It is finally sinking in: I am graduating on May 14, 2021! Winter 2020 has been a dark struggle for me as well as for everyone else. But I managed to survive. The pandemi years have been a test of our resolve, and there had been time, I have been mentally exhausted, lying on my bed, defeated and bone tired. Now I see the light: submitting my MA Thesis, graduation, and summer. I am getting excited to be walking with my fellow graduate students, while our proud graduate advisor, Dr. Zamora, cheer us on. Thank you, Dr. Zamora, for your empathy, compassion, and support!

The Chronicles of an Educator and a Graduate Student During Pandemic Learning

Google Images, 19 April 2021

Wearing a Mask for 6 Hours a Day and Revisiting my Literature Review

Monday, April 19, was the first day of a regular in-person school day. It was nice to see my students, but I also saw the repercussions of remote learning, which is the addictive urge to be on one’s phone, checking notifications. I had to remind my students, even the best of them, to put their phones away. Trust me, I have also developed this nasty habit of checking my phone when I am bored. By being mindful of my habit will help me, along with my students, to break this habit. Also, I am getting used to wearing a mask for the entire work day: from 7AM to 2:30 PM. At the end of the day, I rush to my car at the end of the day, I rip off my mask. It is difficult to teach with a mask on. Throughout the day, I find myself struggling to communicate with the students.

“Can you repeat that?”

“What did you say?”

In response to this problem, I find myself using my visuals, more slides, more JamBoards, more written words.

As for my research proposal, I went to check to see if there were any updates in my research areas of online grammar checkers that was not already noted on my Literature Review. And I could not find any other research. So, I spent more time revising and editing my Master’s Thesis in preparation for peer review tonight.

Post-Spring Break Blues and Editing my Passion Project

Google Images, 12 April 2021

Since my return from Spring Break, I have been experiencing some spring blues. Although it is officially Spring, it has been chilly and rainy outside. The weather to an extent impacts my mental health; on sunnier days, I tend to feel happier, while on dark, gloomy days, I feel tired and sad. I am tired on my quarantine routine. To add to my anxiety, we are returning back to school on April 19 with a full-day schedule with a 20-minute lunch break. We have been following a Hybrid Schedule with a 1-hour break and with an early dismissal on Wednesdays for deep cleaning. For some reason, we do not need deep cleaning on Wednesdays anymore? Also, during this period, I am trying to finalize third-marking grades and to file my 2020-2021 taxes. This past week I have been busy tending to mundane tasks, so I was only able to edit my passion project. I look forward to listening to Ryan’s project.

Waiting for Daffodils

Google sites, April 5, 2021

On a whim one cold October I bought a bag of 50 daffodils. The firm, sturdy bulbs I carefully planted on my yard as if I was planted buried gold. My neighbors even stopped by to ask, “What are up to?” Yes, I was always up to something, some project, some reason to be outdoor during the pandemic. Or as other neighbor said to my daughter, “Your mother enjoys toiling on the land.” I like that imagery. Nonetheless, I waited after two snowstorms, worried about my bulbs, knowing that there were asleep with warm organic fertilizer on top of them protecting them from the wrath of Mother Nature.

Writing just like planting daffodils is a slow process. It requires patience. Now, I am see the fruits, or shall I say, the daffodils of my labor. Their tiny roots are now bursting from the ground, as I greet them with a huge grin. “I have been waiting for you.”

My writing has been slow and steady, and I continue to polish my writing as I reach the final stages of my writing process. I realized that my writing process very fluid: brainstorm, research, outlining, more research, read, revise. write, reread, and first draft, second draft, and now third draft. My deadline is May 3.

Enjoying Spring Break…

Here is a brief update: : No Zoom meetings. No technical glitches. No MIA students. No creating lessons. No stress. I am devoting this week to revising my article. I am excited to revise and edit tonight with my writing partner. I am also excited to listen to my classmates’ presentations, which are little bits of themselves.

(P.S. I am excited to share a link of a draft of my article.)

Research Day, Three-Minute Thesis Competition, Graduation, and Anti-Asian Women Hate

This week was productive in terms of working on the oral presentation , submitting in the thesis for the 3-Minute Thesis Competition, and registering for my in-person graduation in May. I am accepted my invitation for the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. I have been writing a draft of my scholar article in hopes of submitting it by May 2021.

In the backdrop, I was thinking of victims of March 16 Atlanta Spa shooting. Then I scan the headlines, “Hate Toward Anti-American Women.” Why hate toward Asian women? According to Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, he believes that “there is an intersectional dynamic going on that others may perceive both Asians and women and Asian women as easier targets,” he said. Research shows that Asian women are perceived as “meek,” so they are easy targets.

Am I a target? When I was shopping at the Lotte Asian Market I thought about a possible shooter in the supermarket. I shuddered at the thought and ran to my car and locked my door. I also thought of adding pepper spray to my arsenal of hand sanitizer, Lysol spray, and Clorox wipes. I am still deciding on whether to purchase the pepper spray. I always safe in my neighbor, perhaps my most dangerous encounter was a deer on my block.

And I thought 2020 ended, but it seems that this is a consequence of all the Chinese virus and Kung-fu virus rhetoric of 2020. It appears that 2020 and all its implication will not fade, even with hope of the vaccine and return to normalcy. It brought out suppressed hate, fear, and darkness.

Yesterday I watched sadly the shooting in King’s in Boulder, Colorado.

Spring Forward and the Winter Blues

(Google, March 16, 2021)

On Sunday, March 14, 2021, my analog atomic wall clocks and cell phone clocks in my house were automatically and efficiently adjusted to Daylight Savings Time. As for my natural rhythms, no so much. I have been feeling more tired than last week, and my students are also complaining of being tired during our daily check-ins. I told them that it will a tough two weeks ahead of us with cold, dark days; today we had light snow drizzles and the temperature dropped. We are counting the days until our much needed Spring Break. I am trying my best to motivate myself so that I can motivate them. Every day is a struggle.

As for my thesis, I am proud to say that I am in the process of registering for Research Day and plan to submit my thesis for the Thesis Competition. After my presenting my research and receiving feedback from Dr. Zamora, I am revising my scholarly article by adding signposts to organize the three parts of my article: Introduction, Autoethnographic Short Story, and Research. I will post a draft by the end of the week.

My Research Passion: Becoming “Linda”

Becoming Joey

José’s ten.
Looks six by size,
twenty in the eyes.

the school-morning street
José ambles along
dotted lines of busses and cars
spitting exhaust like expletives.
They disturb his meditation,
a few final moments of peace.

José is frail but upright.
Smartly stitched hand-me-downs
hang from his slenderness.
Soles flop beneath battered shoes,
long worn but hanging on
if only by a lace.

José pauses in the schoolyard
where fairer kids laugh and scurry unaware
of this, his battle;
of this, his burden;
of these, his borderlands.
Behind him: cracked
sidewalks, frosted nights,
Before him: playgrounds manicured,
classrooms heated against
some sorts of cold,
earnest lessons about a world
that doesn’t see him. 

Still José moves forward;
what feels in his stomach
a backward sort of forward.

Pausing in the doorway
José straightens his shirt,
trying to dust away
the stains of ancestry. 

Pausing in the doorway
José clears his throat,
trying to spit away
his alien voice.

Only then,
becoming Joey,
he crosses
into school.

(Republished with permission from Paul C. Gorski)

This poem speaks to me in so many ways in that it reminds me –and so many others–immigrant story. Growing up. I was given a name “Tu Nhi” or in translation, First Born. It was a respectful name that conveyed my birth order and the significance of my position as the eldest of three children. My siblings were Chieu and Tu Lan. Second-born and third-born did not carry as much significance as first-born.

When we started school in Morrisville, Pennsylvania after arrival from a Malaysian refugee camp in the 1979. I skipped kindergarten and started first grade. Throughout my educational experience, my first days always went like this:

“Clay Anderson.”


“Robyn Clarke.”


“Heather Parr.”


My teacher was struggling to pronounce my name, so I stepped in to help. That always been my first-day-of-school experience, which I do not bemoan. However, when I was a senior in college, trying to find a good job with medical insurance, I got another collective societal response.

“Mr. Pham, we regret to inform…”

Suddenly, I became my Dad, Mr. Pham. My name was foreign, difficult to spell, even more difficult to pronounce, and gender neutral. After sending 30-40 resumes, I realized that my name was “too foreign” for Human Resources personnel. So, I conducted an experiment. I sent out resumes with different first names: Elizabeth Pham, Samantha Pham, Anna Pham.

One weekend when I was home from college, I casually asked my aunt which name she liked. Without hesitation, she said, “Linda.”

So, I started sending out resumes with “Linda Pham,” and it worked! I had several interviews and finally landed a job with Prentice Hall. Go figure. I did not change anything else on my resume except my first name.

Names are important.