Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fighting the Leech

Most days, I don't get a win in my position, but I made my peace with that a long time ago. Most days, I take it on the chin from irate students and less-than-competent supervisors, but I made my peace with that as well. Most days, I feel the leech, draining my core and making me forget why I chose education, but I refuse to make peace with that.

I already know that I will never be a duke, or a prince, or a king in the game of education. I will only ever be a knight. Maybe some of my friends and colleagues will push out of these trenches and climb the ranks, but that won't be me. I know where I'm needed, and I know where the fight takes place. And, even though it wears away at me most days, for every 50 negative interactions that come through my office, I'll get one of these gems:

"Thank you for being our teacher, Mr Chui. For the short time I had the honor of being one of your students, I honestly enjoyed US History for the first time in my life. But what you taught was so much more than that. You pushed us all do do our best for you, and that pushed me to be my best at everything I did. You are the greatest inspiration I have ever known, and I was forever changed by being your student. I'm really sorry if this makes you feel uncomfortable; I felt like you should know just how much you mean (yes I intended that present tense; you are still my motivator, "Do it for Chui" is written all over my planner and notebooks) to me. Thank you so much, Mr Chui, for changing me for the better."

And, that will be enough to remind me why knights exist, why they're the ones that shoulder, and carry, and fight. Now, more than ever, we need people who will stand by our kids and the value of an education. We don't need more GIFs, or memes, or social media likes. We don't need more people yelling at one another. We don't need any more finger pointing. We need to remember that there are plenty of youth and people in general who could use our help, who could use some guidance, who could use some love. Because, most days, we'll probably only see negativity and calls for social justice on our feeds, but we'll forget that change starts with us doing, with us going out there and remembering to be good people and teaching others how to be good and DO good in return. Because, maybe you won't have kids like I do, but you'll probably dig through your memories like I did: 


And, you'll know that the people who came through your life will be off and doing good in this world as well. Hopefully, that will be enough to fight the leech.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Swan Song

The first time we met, I was 16.
I was shy.
I was hesitant.
I was fearful.
The first time we embraced, I was 20.
I hated you.
I loved you.
I respected you.
The last time we'll come together, I'll be 28.
I'll honor you.
I'll cherish you.
I'll kiss you goodbye.

It's time. My brother taught me that good poker players know when to fold them, and I know it's time to do just that. After another hospital visit, reinjuring my tailbone, pulling another hammy, and not being able to push past a 7-minute mile this morning, I know I can't do this anymore. I started running when I was 16 when my brother introduced me to the world of cross country. It was a love affair that continued for over a decade. That chubby, asthmatic boy found a calling in the streets and hills that yearned for graceful feet. And, for the past 5 years of competitive racing, that chubby, asthmatic boy found his way into the top 1% of finishers year after year, race after race. He even won his age group several times.

But, all good things must come to an end. Despite still being light and agile, I can't push the way I used to, and my body doesn't respond the way it did even a year ago. The injuries took their tolls, and the dark, pre-dawn runs made for more short nights than I would care to ever wish for. So, tomorrow, I will lace up one last time, and I'll kiss my girlfriend at the start line, and kiss her again at the finish line. I'll collapse at the end as I always do, say a quick prayer, and walk away from it all, drenched in sweat, and probably a few tears. It will be a fitting end to something I love so dearly. And, while I'll continue to run and train, it won't be for anything more than just love of the sport. Tomorrow will be my swan song. To all my fellow runners out there, I wish you the best, and if you ever want to lace up and go for a quick 8-miler and brew, I'll always be here.

Monday, May 23, 2016


This post is for my partner, whom I've grown to respect more in one school year than I do people I've known my whole life. But, I bet it will resonate with plenty of others as well, particularly educators. This year has been an amazing amalgamation of experiences. From learning ad hoc self defence to navigating educational politics to visiting more homes than I can count, I don't know how else to sum up the year than with this:

I was told this year by multiple people to toot my horn more often, to make my work public and known, to post, to advocate, to advertise myself and my achievements. I didn't, and I will continue not to, and I'm not sorry for doing so. Why? Because, people like us are raised a certain way, which means people like us act a certain way, people like us work a certain way, and people like us keep our heads down a certain way. We chose our jobs, we show up, and we do it well. We ask for nothing and expect nothing in return for doing our jobs well. We simply take pride in our work, and when others need a helping hand, we do that too, not because we want extra thanks or rewards, but because it's the right thing to do. And, when our colleagues and peers don't do what they're supposed to, we do that as well. We do everything that needs to be done, and we do it with our whole hearts because we understand commitment and community to be two of the most important values someone can have. We don't know another way.

No one will know what we do on a daily basis. No one asks, and we don't tell. If they do, we give credit to others. Things get done, and we walk away knowing that it was done well by us, but no one else will know. They don't have to know. We do it because it's the right thing to do, not because it can help our cause, push our advancement in the ranks, or get us raises. We don't complain, we don't whine, we don't delegate. Our lives are difficult, but our parents' struggles were immeasurably harder. We learned from them the value of hard work and silent virtue, and we'll carry those traits with us the rest of our lives. We won't reach the same pinnacles our self-touting and self-aggrandizing peers will, but we'll lead full lives nonetheless. And, when we walk away from everything, we won't have large pensions, millions of dollars, or thousands of friends and followers. We'll simply have pride in knowing we made a difference. And, no one else will have to know.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Danny Sucks at Dating - Giving Poor Advice

It's only right that seeing as how it's my brother's birthday, I would share some of the best advice he's ever given me. It's certainly helped me grow, and it's something that I keep in mind every day. If you knew me in college, you probably knew that I wasn't the smartest or best of people, but at least I had my brother to keep me in check. This probably isn't true for most people though.

When I'm not staking out bathrooms, working on my interrogation skills, or paying home visits to truant students, my office tends to turn into a revolving door for girls with boy issues. I don't know how or why I became the go-to person for advice on these matters, but seemingly, I am a wise man with plenty of knowledge to dole out. I think these students might need to reconsider their options. They're taking advice from a guy who threw up on his fifth grade crush while we were sitting together on a field trip. I have no idea why she never talked to me again.

If there is one piece of advice I give them every time, it's what my brother told me many years ago: boys are stupid. They're young, they're impressionable, and they're eager to please. They don't ever really grow up; they just learn to hide their immaturity when it counts. And, for the ones who can't, well, they're really not worth your time. However, this is not to say that you excuse them for forgetting important dates, things you said, or just being good people overall, because, at the end of the day, it doesn't take that much to remember something that your girlfriend was taking a long time to look at while shopping, or to text her, "Good morning" or "I miss you," or to just spend time holding her hand. If you can spend a couple of minutes updating the world on your snapchat or tweeting about your new shoes, you can remember that the best interactions are the ones you have in real life with the people that matter. So, if your boy can't do that, well, maybe you should slap him upside the head a little bit. And, if he still doesn't get it, then he doesn't deserve you. Just don't lose any sleep over all of that. There are plenty of immature boys out there who can hide their 16 year-old selves at 28 just fine.

Remember, life isn't that serious. Just be careful of stupid boys.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Secret is in the Telling

Remember when you were a little kid and someone told you a secret? You would feel giddy and anxious all over for days. It was a pretty good feeling, and it was fun. No one really got hurt. Sure, little Timmy might have peed his pants while trying to talk to yet another girl, but that was the extent of the pain. Laughs were had (and are still had) all around.

However, as you got older, secrets became worse. Your friend accidentally got someone pregnant and told you not to tell, your sibling cheated on his/her significant other...and told you not to tell, or one of your close family members became sick with a terminal illness, and you still couldn't tell. Knowing those secrets meant being backed into a corner, and they became not so fun anymore. If you had a secret of your own that you were trying to hide from others, well, that made life feel like a ever-tightening space. In that space, the walls that kept your secret contained became your home. And everyday that that secret remained inside of you, was another day that the walls closed in and made you even more withdrawn. Secrets became burdens.

That's the thing about secrets. The reason why they don't hurt anyone when you're a kid is because you were still following the golden rules that Sesame Street laid out - always be nice; always try your best. Timmy may have hurt his dignity and pride when he peed his pants, but that was it.

As you got older and kept more secrets about others and yourself, you lost more of your ability to trust. That box, or closet, or whatever other container you had to live in in order to keep that secret tucked away became a place where nothing good could grow. It was a place to survive. And you know what? Surviving is fine for a short while, but at some point, you have to ask yourself  - do you want to just survive, or do you want to live? We both know the answer to that question. Because, the truly strong ones are the ones who understand that the secret is in the telling, that their photoshopped, perfect selves on social media are not their true selves. The truly strong ones showed their real selves, with all of their imperfections and shortcomings, with all of their humanity.

So, do you want to know a secret? I believe in you, more than I believe in myself most days. I believe that you will always try to do the right thing, and that when you don't, you'll try to fix it instead of bottling up a secret. I believe you won't take your significant other for granted by saying work or other "busy" things take priority. I believe you'll remember to appreciate all the people in your life who love you and you'll try to return that love every day because tomorrow might not be an option. I believe you'll let your armor down and let people in, instead of keeping everyone at arm's length. But, most of all, I believe that you'll remember the golden rules - Always be nice. Always try your best.

Super Asian chubby Danny says it's okay to show others that you bleed as well.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Motivation for Monday (and for every day)

I guess I've been taking it on the chin lately. Last Friday, my colleagues said to me,  "Kid, you're looking beat.", "You're the shit catcher, you gotta keep your chin up.", "Man, I wouldn't want your job." I mean, I did literally throw one kid to safety and restrain another that day, so maybe I looked slightly worse for the wear, but overall, I'd say that I am looking pretty rough these days anyway. At some point, we all pay our dues. As a dean, I guess I pay more of mine on a daily basis, and it seemingly manifests on my already-haggard physical appearance. Next time you see me, don't comment on the bags under my eyes. They've only enlarged since the last time you saw me. Be nice, and let's just drink in relative silence, or talk about sports. Go, sports.

Let's be honest. Being in education can really suck sometimes. Most of the time, it's as rewarding as a career can get, but the job can take a serious toll on you. That's because this is a job that's unlike any other. There's no monetary or otherwise extrinsic motivator to do better for your constituents. The only thing you really get at the end of the day is peace of mind that you did your best. Everything about education is intrinsic. That's why the burnout rate is so high for fledgling American teachers. If you've ever wondered why 3-5 years is the average career span of a teacher, look no further than the long hours, low pay, and endless hurdles that teachers go through every day just to do their jobs.

Aside from those reasons, being an educator is unlike most professions. You wake up at some ungodly hour, and the job is there with you, sharing your bed with you and your significant other. You leave work at whatever ungodly hour you can manage, and the job follows you home, or to the restaurant, or the bar. You try to take a vacation, and the job follows you there too, to the beach, or the resort, or the bar. Did I mention the bar? It's no wonder so many teachers burn out so quickly. The job latches onto every fiber of your being if you actually care and do it right.

So, here I am, looking to give all of my fellow educators a leg-up on Monday. We've made it this far because we've found something special in education. Is it the scant pay and inordinate number times we facepalm every day? Possibly. Or maybe it's the feeling of being indoors so long that you've forgotten what sunlight looks and feels like. I personally enjoy mounds of paperwork. You know you like it too. Let's admit it, if you're a lifelong educator, you're fairly masochistic. However, you also know how to thrive under pressure, and you do it knowing full well that you won't get thanked for it very often, but you do it anyway. Your sense of silent virtue is stronger than most. How many students have now come through your doors and made something of themselves because of your efforts? I bet that number is pretty damn high. Those are the educators I love and keep in touch with, even if they knock out at 9pm on Friday nights. They keep doing it, and no one sees or thanks them for it. You want humility? Find a good teacher.

The only thing I have to say to you is: whatever you need to do to keep making it worthwhile for your students, do it. Whether it's daily yoga sessions, getting up early for a run, or shooting the breeze at the local watering hole with your favorite soldiers-in-arms, don't forget to lean on your fellow educator every once in a while. It's a long and thankless job, but here's a thank you from a lowly dean. You kick butt, and sometimes, your students recognize that too.

(Always remember, wear a tie, and keep your finger out.)

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Upside of Fear

Mark Twain once said, "I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened." I'd be lying if I said that I didn't spend a lot of time in my youth being scared; some days, when things get really rough at work, the concerns about the future and the fear/stress of tomorrow still weigh heavy on my mind. In fact, my lack of any modicum of courage actually lent me the nickname of "play it safe" when I was younger (you can thank my brother for that one). That was a...not so pleasant time for me. Think 6th-grade Danny holding up an entire line of people trying to cross a suspension bridge because of his fear of the ropes snapping, which consequently paralyzed him at the halfway point. Add on some pretty disorienting swaying, and you've got me clutching onto the ropes for dear life. And then imagine my mom coming to try to rescue me from my crippling fear (and also from the hoards of angry tourists piling up behind me), and you pretty much have the whole scene. Embarrassed beyond belief wouldn't even begin to cover that moment.

Do I still worry about the future? Hell yeah, I do, but most days, I can hide the crazy. If you've seen the crazy though, I apologize to the less-than-handful of people who have had to deal with me losing my cool. It's not pretty. These days though (for the most part), I embrace the possibility of failure with gusto. Because, here's what I've learned about fear over the years - it has two faces. On the one hand, it can paralyze you with concern about the future so much that you cannot enjoy the present. That's really no way to live. On the other hand, fear has an upside too; it can be your best friend. Fear lets you know that you care, just as much as love does. The things that you're scared to do, the feelings you've kept locked up, and the people you're concerned about losing, that's fear letting you know that something is probably worth doing. That's fear telling you that you're invested in and care deeply about someone/something. And that's fear putting you at the fork in the road - Choice 1) Let fear freeze you and stop you from putting yourself out there. Choice 2) Embrace fear and put it on the line (with the potential for catastrophic failure, but at least you'll have a great story to tell). That would be you choosing what is right over what is easy. Your move, chief. New year, new you?

Definitely not my proudest moment. As you can see, the bridge was only wide enough to go single-file in each direction. I stopped it in both directions. Go, me.