Friday NIght Tired

When I was a kid, we used to call exhausting days on Friday the "Friday Night Tired." I tell ya, I feel absolutely wiped tonight. Wwhen I was in high school I thought people were old when they came home and all they did was veg out on the couch. And, well, I guess I am now "old." Lying on the couch and watching TV was so relaxing tonight. And, this afternoon I actually looked forward to it. Go figure....in my thirties and I'm old...who would've guessed it?
I did get a bit further in the car game. Although, I still have some homework to do. I know all this research for the right price is gonna pay off in the end. I see a light at the end of the tunnel.
38 days of school are now left...but I'm not counting or anything. :-)

Hello Spring Break!!!

I can’t believe it is actually here. It feels like this vacation has been just out of reach for months now. I shall wait no longer. As I write this post, I’m sitting at my desk sipping a wonderful glass of white wine and looking at the book that will occupy me for the next week. Having free time is such a luxury.

Today, as the hours dragged on until 3:00, I kept thinking about how I could just make it to the bell. It seems, spring break comes at this time of year for a reason. This past week, it has been hard to be patient. I’ve been reaching my boiling point a little bit faster. My tolerance for petty student conflicts is at an all time low. Rather than hash out yet another disagreement between Luis and Henry, I simply said, “Really, do you really want to waste our time with this two hours before spring break?” I don’t know if it was the question or tone of my voice that surprised them more. Apparently they didn’t want to waste our time.

As I sit here remembering the characters in the series I’m about to revisit, I can’t help but wonder… Does spring break come at just the right time, or do I know exactly how long I can hold on? Sort of like the chicken and the egg dilemma.

Busy is good!

So, last week I was a bum and I barely left the house. This week has been the opposite with plenty of things to keep me hoppin'!

The kids have been great. I had one drop to be homeschooled, and I was honestly glad. He is a good kid, but he is so low he required more of my time than I had to give. The past 2 days without him have been much less stressful. Apparently God does give us what we need when we need it.

The car shopping is finally coming together. I have decided what car I want, and am now starting the "pricing" game. I am just glad I know what I want. I feel blessed to have my Grandpa's car for the week, but am ready to be in something that runs a bit better! I also called on insurance prices, and it turns out that the car I want is cheaper to insure than I expected! Yippee skippee!

I had an interview tonight for something important to me and I think I did okay. I don't know if I won, as it will be a month before we find out, but I gave it my best, so it's all good.

They are adding a whole new part to my school this year. They're adding on 8 new classrooms. I finally got to see the new addition today, well, the inside of it. It looks neat. I'm a bit bummed though, as some of my buddies are moving down to the new part next year, but am looking forward to the nice changes that are in store for us next year.

Finally, I went to choir practice at church tonight. Now, I'll be the first to admit, I'm not someone you would pick to sing a solo in any capacity anywhere. However, I enjoy singing, and can do okay in choir. I was in our Christmas choir, and really enjoyed it. So, tonight was our first practice and it was fun. I admit, I lack in self confidence when it comes to singing out, but when my friend told me tonight that I did well, it kinda boosted me up. It reminded me of how important it is to encourage my students in a positive manner often. I am an adult and the kind words tonight really cheered me up. I wasn't down, it just sort of made me smile. Kinda cool....
Tomorrow if Friday! YIPPEE! :-)

Sometimes It’s The Simple Things

I have a very chatty class this year. I don’t mind a gentle hum in the room while the students are working. These guys can take it a little far though. Most days I’m on my game and can easily keep the volume in check. There are other days though…

Today was one of the other days. Spring Vacation is next week and I have to imagine that had something to do with it. The kids were nuts. Between Jimmy constantly calling out, at a volume that would indicate I am hard of hearing, and Simon who continues to share his stories, even while you are looking him in the eye asking him to stop, I was coming unraveled. By lunchtime, my head was pounding and my genial nature was seriously depleting. Surely, a nice lunch with the other teachers would center me for the afternoon.

No such luck. When it was time to go back to class, I felt only apprehension. How many hours do I have to get through? This isn’t the greatest attitude with which to approach a Thursday afternoon. Then I remembered the gift my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas… a plug in teapot. Could a fresh cup of tea put a different spin on the day?

I reached to classroom as the students were putting their lunch boxes away, gave the spelling tests to my “paper passer” and turned on the teapot.
Student 1 “What is that funny sound?”
Student 2 “It’s Ms. Teacher’s teapot, remember”
Student 1 “Oh, ya. It’s from her mom right?”
Student 2 “No, her husbands mom. That’s what a mother-in-law is.”

The teapot makes a very subtle whispering sound. It is actually quite pleasant. Once all of the students’ had their tests the water was ready. I made myself a decaffeinated Chai Tea latte with the supplies located in the cupboard behind my desk. One of the greatest things I have ever found, next to the teapot, is the vanilla powder used by “Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf”. Add a couple spoonfuls, a nice teabag, stir and enjoy!

By the time I gave the kids their first spelling word, I was already feeling better. We all managed to make it through spelling, math and even a social studies lesson on the beauty of spring.

Thanks Mama J, I couldn’t have made it without your gift!!

Oops

We took the students to see a play today. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for sooooo long. It seems like every trip we planned this year has fallen through for one reason or another. Not this time though. All 48 of us got on the bus and off we went. It was about a 45 minute ride with morning traffic. Thirty minutes in, I realize the tickets are sitting in my desk drawer. Hmmm. What does one do?

Well, first I asked the other teacher if she had the tickets. This seemed to be a reflex of some sort because I was pretty sure I knew where the tickets were. The reality was just too gruesome! When she looked at me in shock, I said, “ I’m sure they have a record of it. If not, I can call someone at school and have them read me the confirmation number.” This sounded good and seemed to relax us both.

When we arrived I went directly to an usher and informed her of my predicament. Apparently this was not the first time this had happened because she smiled at me and asked my school’s name, number in attendance and where our group was standing. Ten minutes later we were seated in the first row of the balcony. Pretty great seats and no one chastising me for being absent minded.

What a lucky break!

First Person Educat

So Go Away is functioning well with my friend.

I am so happy for my friend that she isn't dealing with the crap I had. Go Away enrolled in a former "problem" class. While my problem was the mean girls, my friend's problem was dorky boys (And how is it that mean girls all want to be sophisticated while boys just make fart noises? And how is it that these girls who want to be 25 also want to be with boys who want to be 11? Sociologists, at your marks!). Go Away might have just learned that she has now so disgusted 1/2 of our English II teaching staff that it's time to work on learning.

This is really good news.

BUT, it brings an age old teacher conflict. If you ever want to loose friends on a faculty, approach a teacher by declaring that "I am so surprised to hear Go Away isn't doing well for you. I never had a problem with her!". We'll start planning ways to poison your coffee, I'm not joking. My friend and I joke about this phenomenon and she's loved poking at me over lunch. "I think Go Away will be my best student. I'm recommending her for AP next year."

You know why that joke is funny? Because teaching is personal. This same friend of mine teachers honors for 10th grade. Honors kids are a joy in many ways but they carry with them the added burden of children who have been told their entire lives that they're brilliant. They have to remind you of their brilliance and they do. Early and often.

So my friend finds herself arguing the relevance of testing. For her honors kids, "because this is what the curriculum demands" isn't enough. "We've been identifying motif since the third grade!" they cry (even though they're presently failing the class) "this isn't what we need!". I talked with one of those kids later that same day. He let me know how frustrated he was with testing and I let him know how frustrated I was with his attitude. "Geez," he scoffed, "you can't take that personally.".

You want this to be personal. Imagine if it wasn't. If I didn't personally care about you and your interest level and your learning, you wouldn't stop by to say hi. If it wasn't personal, I wouldn't seek you out for scholarships and encourage you to apply for essay contests. Personal teaching makes both of us care. Your personal learning keeps me going every day. When you volunteer for a local candidate or attend political rallies or just for kicks attend a poetry reading, you give me a reason to keep excelling at this job, which makes me teach personally and makes you learn personally, and and and ...

Kids like Go Away thicken my skin a bit. Sometimes I need that extra layer. But joy comes when those kids come by to talk about learning with me, the person.

Friends are gift....

I tell ya what, today had some really really cool highs and tough lows and I witnessed something that absolutely tore me up, and I am blessed enough to have 2 very good friends who were there for me tonight. So often we look at the bad stuff and that's all we dwell upon. But, when you've got really good friends, they are able to lift you up and see the right "perspective" and move on. Tonight friends who were able to do that for me. They are a gift from God that I don't take for granted...
Well, I need to go. I get to go splunking tomorrow with fourth graders! Yippee! (seriously, no sarcasm there, this is the most fun field trip of the year) I love my job!

Expecting The Best

Haven’t we all read about the effects of a teacher’s expectations on a student’s performance? I remember a study we looked at in grad school where teachers were told they had a “gifted” group of students. Assuming this to be true, they taught the students more challenging material. In reality, they were average students who produced above average results at the end of the year. Hence, you get what you expect.

In September “Ziggy” was excited to be in my class. We already knew each other from different school functions. Academically, he was a tentative student. He didn’t raise his hand very often and always looked for reassurance before committing to an answer. After probing his parents and last year’s teacher for information about his abilities, I felt comfortable pressing him a little bit.

In November, while being sure to supply loads of encouragement, I began to push Ziggy. At first, he looked hurt. Why was he not good enough all of a sudden? I explained, “ you’re doing good work, but I think you can do great work.” He still appeared confused by my higher expectations. Soon, however, his sentences became longer and more interesting.

In December, he started to take pride in the slant his printing had taken on. After Winter Break, he crowed about writing 5 pages when only 3 were expected. The best, oh my, the very best is his love for reading. At least once a week he is at my desk giving me the run down of his latest chapter.

Every now and then he has a rough day. He is a sensitive guy and any interpersonal conflict can cause his work to suffer. Even on these days, we have a trust. He knows I expect a lot, but I know he just can’t give it all of the time.

So, expect a lot and understand when it just isn’t possible. I guess that is the amended version.

Just So You Know There's Goodness And Light In My Day

From my email inbox, moments ago...

Ms E--
I just had to tell you about the most freaking hilarious thing ever. That
Army guy on Deal or No Deal had his HIGH SCHOOL DEBATE COACH on the show to help
him. I would totally do that.

It's only a car....I think.....

So, my first day back at school was relatively painless. The kids were good, as they always are after a break. And, all of them acted as if they were glad to see me, which is a bonus! And, I received a letter stating I got an interview from our committee on teaching excellence. Not a bad day, eh?
It consistently boggles my mind how good days can have low spots right smack dab in the middle. Today that happened to me.
Over the past 2 weeks I've been through my own little nightmare with my car ordeal. To most people, it's not a big deal. Car wrecks happen all the time. Well, for me, this was my first. And, I have had moments in the midst of all this where I've shed tears, and today was one of them. I had to go tonight and get my car tags off and take out all my personal belongings, as they are totaling out my car. I was okay until the plates came off. 7 years in that car, I had paid it all off by myself. No parental unit, all on my own. And, I liked that car a lot. I went car shopping tonight, and it was too overwhelming to me. I didn't plan on any of this happening, it just did. It boggles my mind. This wasn't a person, it was a car. I'll get over it, I always do. It just sort of bummed me out. And, thank God, tomorrow is a new day. As a good friend of mine says, "and life, continues...."

Go Away, Little Girl

I had to take Bulletproof at his word today. The computers were down for the better part of the day and I couldn't check to see if Go Away had been transferred from my class.

I heard her, though, during passing period. She told her friend that she was being transferred. I didn't stick around to hear what reason she gave for her departure. And did I care? I think you know the answer.

Class went along in comparative bliss. It wasn't perfect, but the malicious tone of days past was gone. End of Instruction exam review plodded along without question. One kid even noticed out loud how much quieter everything was without...and then I cut him off. We weren't going to discuss Go Away. In my mind, though, I basked in her absence. Glorious.

Lunch splits our class time this hour and I ran into a principal (not Bulletproof). He pulled me aside to tell me that Go Away was already in Bulletproof's office for refusing to review for the End of Instruction exam in her new class (Go Away is repeating English II and has already tested). She told her new teacher that Ms Educat told her she didn't have to review (lie #1) and with her middle and index fingers crossed, told her new teacher that she and Ms Educat were "like this" (lie #2. I later told Bulletproof that if she removed the index finger, she'd be much closer to the truth).

So now her second English II teacher has Miss Go Away removed from her class. She failed English II with her last year and therefore cannot repeat the course in her classroom.

I have already sent an email apology to her third English II teacher, a dear friend of mine, and promised to knit her something.

Wouldn't it be great if we could worry about helping this child and not tolerating her?

This Isn't Real Writing, But It Sure Is Funny

I have more weighty things on my mind, but it's taking me a while to flesh them out. In the meantime, storm season has arrived here in tornado alley and this hit my email inbox on Friday.

Non-locals may or may not forgive this, but Gary England is a prominent local meteorologist. He's been around for a zillion years and you can even catch him on the movie "Twister".

...and now he's a drinking game.

Pregame
1. Everyone selects a storm chaser other than Val Caster. Every time Gary
talks to your storm chaser, you take one drink. Take two drinks every time we
see footage from your storm chaser. Take four drinks if your storm chaser says
"tornado on the ground."

2. Everyone selects a county other than Pottawatomie County. Every time
Gary mentions your county, you take one drink. Take two drinks every time we see
footage from your county. Take four drinks if a tornado touches down in your
county.

One drink
1. Take one drink every time Gary says the following:"Hook echo"
"Updraft" "Metro" "Doppler radar" "Wall cloud" "Ranger 9"
"Underground" "Mobile home"
2. When Gary gives a list of counties, take one drink for every county in
the list.
3. Take one drink every time Gary interrupts a program. Take one drink if
Gary says "You're not missing any of [program name]." Take one drink when Gary
says "We'll keep you advised."

Two drinks
1. Take two drinks every time Gary says the following:"Baseball-sized hail"
"Waterloo Road" "Pottawatomie County" "Deer Creek High School"
2. Take two drinks every time Gary mentions the following towns:Altus
Burns Flat Dill City Gotebo Hydro Lookeba Meeker Mulhall Oktaha
Olustee Shattuck Slaughterville Tryon Vici Waukomis Wayne (or Payne)
Weleetka Wetumkah
3. Take two drinks every time Gary talks to Val Caster.

Three drinks
1. Take three drinks if we see footage from Val Caster.
2. Take three drinks if we see footage from Pottawatomie County.
3. Take three drinks if Gary mentions the following:"Immediate tornado
precautions" "National Weather Service" "Mesocyclone" "Portable Radio"
"Take shelter" "Tornado warning in effect until *"

Four drinks
1. Take four drinks if Ranger 9 must land to refuel.
2. Take four drinks if Gary issues his own tornado warning, not recognized
by the NWS or says the following:"Will someone please answer that phone?" "Do
you see power flashes?"
3. Take four drinks if a shirt-less tornado victim is interviewed.

Finish your drink
1. Finish your drink if someone uses the word tornado as a verb or if Gary
mentions the nearest cross streets to you.
2. If Gary says "We've lost Val," pour a little out for your homies and
finish your drink.


We added catagories.
1. If Gary speaks directly to children who are home alone, take a drink.
2. Take one drink for every article of clothing Gary takes off or loosens, take a drink. Touseled hair counts as well.
3. If ever ever again Gary says "We aren't fartin' around people!" the way he did on May 3rd, 1999 (I cannot testify to hearing it, I was taking shelter in the bathtub), drain the bottle.

Take the kid out!

Greetings all!

So today I moved up from couch status to movie theatre status! I have spent this whole past week on the couch (and have loved it, which is a first, usually I'm ready to get back to the classroom...not this year!) and a friend of mine invited me to see a couple movies in the theatre today. I was excited! I haven't done a double feature day in years! Sounds good, right? It was, but, not without a bit of drama...

So, first we saw "Memoirs of a Geisha", which was quite good. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it! It was an education for me in and of itself, as I've never studied other cultures like that in depth. Hey, I teach Fourth and Fifth Grade Special Education kiddos how to read and write, we don't exactly get to go indepth on other cultures! Anyway, good flick. And, it's an adult flick, no kiddos present! Yes!
Then we left that theatre, bought our tickets for our next flick, got our pop refills, and headed for the next movie. Now, I should preface this by stating, our double feature was at the dollar theatre here in town. (I can hear you now, "Uh Oh, EVERYONE goes there!") Yeah, very popular place today.
So, we walk into the "Chronicles of Narnia" theatre. This movie, I have looked forward to seeing, even though I just started reading the series. I wanted to see it before it left theatres. Of course, this theatre is packed more than the other one, and is full of little children. I do the usual "teacher" look around the theatre...whew, I didn't recognize one child! Yippee, Spring Break continues! So, of course, the only seats available are right behind a single mother with a 2 year old (my guess is 2, he certainly played the part well!) and a 7-ish year old kiddo. My thoughts were "okay, God, please let this go well!" Yeah, not so well...
We're within about the second preview and this 2 year old is screaming at the top of his lungs "no!" as the older sibling grabs popcorn out of the bag. Now, at this point, my thought is this: if he doesn't get quiet I'll be the one screaming! Yeah, haven't you been there? Haven't we all been there? I get a first row account of the drama between mother and children while trying my best to watch this movie (and it was good, I highly recommend it!). It made me wonder, where the drama was really happening, on the screen or in the row in front of me with a parent who doesn't quite grasp discipline with her children? And yet, at a pivotal point in the movie, where I'm trying to watch, brat-boy lets out a scream in which you would think his life is coming to end! I am finally thinking, "okay, do I ask her or tell her to take her kid out of the theatre?" She finally walks out with brat-boy in hand, 2/3 of the movie is shown by this point.
Now, in a normal theatre, at least in my corner of the planet, she would've been asked to take the kid out by the movie theatre staff well before she did. Kinda makes youwonder what the difference should be between a dollar theatre and a "regular" one. To me, it should be nothing, but this is real life...
In the end, the kid never returned with his mother (to which we can all applaud now!) and I did get to see the last third of the movie with my full attention on screen. However, the lesson, "Take the kid out" will stick with me for a lifetime.
If I ever get married and have kids (which I am hoping for, I think) I will take the kid out if I need to. However, I am left wondering one thing: Should a 2 year old be taken to a 2 and a half hour long movie in a movie theatre? Not in my world during this lifetime....
Don't worry, I return to work on Monday....

How can I possibly be tired?

I have spent all week being an absolute bum on the couch, and have been up until at least 1:00am each day...however, tonight I am really tired. Ya know, maybe if you are a perpetual couch bum, then you do wear yourself out just sitting on the couch. Who would've thunk it? I tell ya, the furthest I went today was the mailbox to check mail and the laundry room to do laundry in between DVD's and TV shows. I have never been good that the bum thing, until this week. Usually by this point of the break I'm thinking "okay, I'm ready to go back to school now." This year, not so much.
How long until Summer Vacation?

Spring Break Drama!

So, here I sit, no kiddos for a whole week, and loving the time off...then I get the phone call. Almost two weeks ago I was in a car accident. Now, let me preface this by stating that it WAS NOT MY FAULT! Long story short, (very long story, I shall spare you, this drama would take longer to type than a made-for-TV movie!) I am sitting on my couch, puppy in my lap, the phone rings, and the insurance adjuster calls and says "we're totalling out your car." Wow...so, okay, my whole Spring Break just shifted. I am now going from bum status to car shopping status....And then it hit me...at least it's happening over Spring Break, where I'm not knee-deep in children's drama, meetings, or general parent-crowd-control stuff. So, I hit the websites, start browsing...at least I've got the time to do my homework! If only my student's would be so motivated, eh? Seriously...
I got a call today from one of my friends who was substitute teaching in a nearby district that actually had school today and she told me about one of my former students I had 2 years ago and how he is in some deep trouble. I hate that. This was a kid I wanted to adopt (okay, not really, but you know what I mean). I mean, it's one of those crazy deals where I had the Wally and Beaver Cleaver kind of home growing up, and so I know how it can be, and this kid has been shuffled and moved around so many times, he doesn't have a good, healthy "perspective" on life. It makes me think a couple things. First off, I need to call my parents (again, for the upteenth time) and say "Thanks" for everything. And, second, I need to call the kid. I have a friend who goes to church with the family. I know, I can't change his situation, but I can make a phone call. I had a good rapport with him, and he knows I care about him. It won't change the world, but it won't hurt to try. We shall see what happens. I have thought about him a lot today, as I have sat on the couch.
Even on break, I'm thinking of kiddos. The job never ends...and I like it!
However, with that being said, I'm glad we don't have school tomorrow. Did I mention I love Spring Break

It's Personal

Somehow, I have managed to tame most of the means. I'm not saying they have grown souls that love, but we've reached a sense of survival. Soon, I think our little society will even thrive. After we get rid of the head mean. Bulletproof, the assistant principal has promised to transfer her out when the quarter ends tomorrow. When I see Bulletproof in the halls, I remind him that head mean has a name that rhymes with "Go away".

So that is what I will call her.

Go away is out of control. She's made it personal. She's made remarks about my sex life and indicated that the only reason I could possibly request that her classmate put her cell phone away during class is that I "ain't got no life". Today's referral went to Bulletproof with the request that he put her before a firing squad before removing her from my class. If she remains in my class (which she will not), I will follow the process to file harassment charges.

This is not a post where you tell me what I did wrong, I've mulled that over for nine weeks. This is a post where you commiserate. Got it? Commiserate.

I'm not deaf, I can hear you!

Greetings all!

So, this Spring Break stuff rocks! I tell ya what, what other job in the world do you get paid to sit on the couch and watch movies for an entire week? It's a good gig, if you ask me! Don't get me wrong, I love my job, I really do, I just think I was overdue for some downtime! I could get used to this stuff!
So, I was sitting around today, and it hit me that I hadn't been to the Y to swim in over a week, and my back was in knots, so I knew I needed to brave the cold (yeah, Spring Break and it's 32 degrees outside, go figure!) and go for a swim. So I did it, I ran a few errands and thought to myself that a workout would do me some good. So, after I had my 30 minute long swim I was worn out, and I was in the locker room doing my hair, and these kids were in there. Augh! You mean I need to see kids on my break? Go figure. None of these kids were kids I knew, so I was safe. Being a teacher is quite the gig, as you're a mini-celebrity at times. You never know who you're gonna see. So, I had to walk back to my locker in front of all these kids I have never seen before, and they stare at me. This, I am used to, as I walk with a limp and people always notice it. So, I'm walking back past these kids (in my sweatshirt, jeans, and shoes) and I hear one of them say "See, she walks funny. Look at her." At this point, I turn and smile at them! I tell ya, it's fun to do that, as people immediately feel guilty and look away. Now, what I internally said to these kids was "I'm not deaf, I can hear you!" It's not like the limp means I'm stupid, I'm not at all, nor am I deaf, I can hear everything everyone says and interpret it fine. (I teach for pete's sake, I'm not stupid!) However, I was kind, well, sort of....you think smiling on purpose to make them feel bad is a good thing? Probably not, but I had fun!
I love Spring Break!

For Me, The Genre Ends Here

I hereby apologize to every church sign that ever made me giggle, for I have seen the medium at its worst.

A local congregation has an electronic jumbo tron for their marquis. As I drove by today, it flashed...

People read this sign!

You just proved it!

Advertise your business here!!!

A Pleasant Surprise

I adore the Olympics. It doesn’t matter to me if it is the Winter or Summer Olympics. I’m in either way! Luckily this year we were able to work the Winter Olympics into the curriculum nicely. It is such a great way to teach good sportsmanship, geography and writing. I even managed to get it into a math lesson here and there. The kids loved using information about what they had watched the night before.

As part of this unit, I asked the kids to write a paragraph about who they think should carry the Olympic Torch. We talked about what kind of person deserves this honor. Someone you look up to, admire or really respect. Someone who is a good role model to others would be a good choice. I loved reading who they chose as I began correcting rough drafts. I read things like mom, dad, Body Miller, Grandma Sally, Ms. Teacher, Ms. Teacher, Ms. Teacher. I couldn’t believe it. It had never occurred to me that anyone would choose me. I hadn’t realized I was an option.

That was a great day.

Fire Drill Update

For any of you who have been sweating it out, the crier made it through. I happen to be meeting with our head of elementary when the alarm sounded, so I had to run in order to get into place. I told my little man that I would be waiting right outside the Spanish classroom. He came out searching the hallway with bloodshot eyes. It was clear he had been crying, but was not at present. I gave him a big smile in exchange for a high-five. He smiled and took a deep breath. I’m so proud!

Perspectives on life--an intro

Welcome to Perspectives on life.....I live in a small corner of the world, so obviously I don't have all of life figured out, but in teaching small children daily, I have learned a lot. In teaching, I think you learn just as much as you impart to the ones you are teaching. In my short little teaching career, one thing has become apparent to me, life is definately about perspective. All around are both good and bad perspectives, and I hope this site will help you to see the good that can come out of even the worst scenarios. Well, or maybe it will help me see the good, we shall see.
At any rate, I don't know who will read this, as I am new to all this blogging stuff, but even if it's just an avenue for me to keep my "perspective" on the right track, that is okay by me! Enjoy!

Silly Thoughts While Sleeping Off A Really Bad Lock In With The Food Network On TV

  • Are Rachel Ray's hands unnaturally large? Or are they just shaped funny? Maybe she just has short fingers...
  • When Sandra Lee does stuff with the other Food Network hosts, do they laugh at her? I mean, Barefoot Contessa makes her own marshmallows and Alton Brown analyzes the chemistry of mashed potatoes. Do you think they laugh at Sandra when she mixes vodka with Kool Aid?

It's Not Comedy If It's Quoted Directly

"Hey, Ms. Educat, I didn't get my work finished over Spring Break because I was gone on mission trip the whole time."

"Ok, let's get it done this week. Tell me about your mission trip, where did you go?"

"(name of town totally escapes Ms Educat), Mississippi."

"Oh, wow. That's great. I hear things are still pretty devistated there. I bet that was some good work"

"Yeah, we were in a pretty nice town so it wasn't bad, but we drove out to the coast one day and it looked just awful."

"So what did you do on mission trip if you were in the pretty nice town?"

(looks down and mumbles) "Yeah, I thought about that."

Pretend You Are Fascinated

Greg posted this link to Pandora last week and I've been listening at work (during those fleeting kid-free moments). You can now check my favorites on the sidebar.

A Popala Entry

My dad has found a new career as a man-nanny (mananny?) for the children of some family friends. Normally, he only has a four year old girl from 10:30 to 3pm every day. For Spring Break, he also had her seven year old sister and began his day at 8am.

It's been charming to watch my dad learn Spanish with Dora, jot down recipes for flubber-ey goo and constantly search for the perfect flash cards, but I love the stories the best.

Thursday, the girls tried to pull Dad in on a game they play called "Popular Girls" (they say it more like "Popala Gulls").

"Ok, we're going to play like you are the President and we are your
daughters and we're sixteen and you just bought us new cell phones and new cars
and told us we get to be the boss."

"No. That's not gonna happen."

"All you gotta do is pretend like."

"We're not even pretending that. How about we make slushies again?"

Now there's a peek into my upbringing, I don't want to be a Popola Gull, but I love slushies.

Tragedy

A terrible tragedy befell a Los Angeles area school today. Around 3pm a car swerved onto the sidewalk, near the school, hospitalizing 7 students and killing a teacher. The news has reported that grief counselors are already at the school working with the administration. It will be an immense challenge for the faculty to deal with this tragedy, while also helping the students cope.

Having recently participated in a California private school conference, I recognized the school. The woman who taught the poetry workshop I raved about is a 4th grade teacher there. My heart goes out to the faculty, students, and parents who are affected by this terrible event. Lean on the ones who love you. This is when they are most important.

What will tomorrow bring?

We were notified today that there will be a fire drill tomorrow. I don’t really mind them. It seems like a good idea to be ready, especially here in California! This year has been different than most though. I have a student that is terrified of the alarm. Not terrified of the prospects of danger, or the chaos a drill brings about, just the volume of the noise. It is really quite amazing.

I noticed that the little guy had the same reaction to the buzzer they use in the gym signaling the end of a quarter. Last time we were all up there for a game as the crowd chanted 10,9,8,7,6, he became more and more tense. 5,4,3,2, he now has his fists clenched, teeth locked and is in a sort of crouch position. 1, BUZZ, it was an abbreviated buzzer! The little guy looks around in bewilderment and then starts laughing like crazy.

It was a total Calvin and Hobbes moment. Phew, no explosion.

Tomorrow’s fire drill brings with it an interesting twist. Rather than walking out with my class, I will be meeting them on the yard. My students will be in Spanish during the designated fire drill time. What will my scared little man do? I’ve warned the teacher about his reaction and I plan on giving the student in question a heads-up.

After our many talks about how best to use one’s energy in an emergency situation, will he behave rationally? My guess is no. I’d say, it would be a 50/50 shot if he were with me during the time of evacuation. That poor, poor Spanish teacher. Maybe I’ll wait outside his classroom, just in case I’m needed.

A Day In the Life

Here's a note from a parent and my response in blue. Probably won't send it. Too mad.

Dear Teacher,
Johnny has been diagnosed with both ADD (inattentive type not ADHD) and he has been diagnosed as having specific learning disabilities that make writing, or processing things from his brain to the paper, a real chore. If Johnny were able to consistantly [sic] come to you at the end of each class to have his planner signed, then he wouldn't need to have it signed. Right. And if I could see without glasses, I wouldn't need to wear them. Nor would he need the other 504 accommodations for that matter. I realize that most teachers are not willing to go the extra mile and take the initiative to sign a child's NB on there [sic] own, is it too much to ask that you do so, on days that you realize Johnny hasn't taken the initiative himself?
First of all, by the time I realize Johnny hasn't brought me his planner, hours or even days have passed since I last saw him. Usually it's a note from a parent or a counselor that reminds me I haven't seen Johnny's planner in a few days. So going the extra mile is indeed too much to ask. The purpose of all accommodations is to teach Johnny to manage his disability. He must deal with the extra chore of processing information from his brain to his paper. He must go the extra mile for himself. Incidentally, I keep all of the homework on my website, so students can go the extra mile and double check the homework assignments when there are questions. This is something I expect Johnny to do when he realizes he hasn't had me sign his planner.
I am aware that Johnny is sometimes off task like the other day when he chose to read a magazine during class time. This is a good example of why his 504 accommodations recommend teachers orally "cue"or "prompt" Johnny often. I'm not sure why he was allowed to ignore your authority and not made to put the magazine away to complete his work at that time, but I will discuss this behavior with him. The wording here makes it sound like I didn't do enough to get Johnny back on task. - "allowed to ignore". Just exactly how much oral cueing and prompting is necessary when "You should put that away and do your homework" doesn't redirect a student's behavior? It might help you to understand that Johnny was "cut" from the baseball team last week and as a result his self esteem is suffering. He probably had an "I don't care attitude" on that particular day. this is a great example of when a little prompting to write in his agenda pad would have been very helpful. Again, how much more prompting is necessary when my saying to Johnny "You should put that away and do your homework" doesn't work?
I know that Johnny is very intelligent and that it appears as though he should be able to do his work at the same level as the other students. I'm not really sure what you mean by this. He seems like he should be smart enough to do this kind of work, but he's not so let's just pass him anyway and keep it our little secret? Or does he need to be in a class that matches his ability? Johnny works hard to do well on tests and projects but the daily work is a real problem and often leads to poor results on tests. Wait. You just contradicted yourself. He works hard to do well on tests but doesn't do the daily work that prepares him for the tests so that leads to poor results on the tests. I better sit down - I'm dizzy. I too would love to see Johnny able to better monitor his own work habits, but after many years of arguing, prompting, punishing and even rewarding Johnny in an effort to do his assignments on time, it has finally occurred to me that if Johnny were able to do better on a consistent basis he truly would. He is not a disciplinary problem and he does aspire to go to college, it is just going to require some help getting him there. What kind of help, exactly? And who is doing the helping? I've never met a college professor who would accommodate any student who forgot to use a planner. How are we helping Johnny learn to manage his disability if we don't teach him to do the work necessary to succeed? I'm sorry it's a real chore for Johnny to write down assignments and to stay organized. But he's not going to make it through college (even after we all help him get there) unless he learns the habits which will keep him organized.
On a side note, why is college the goal here? I went to college and look where it got me? I'm sitting here responding to this idiotic email from you... My husband went to college and we still can't afford to buy a house. Meanwhile, my brother in law and his wife couldn't diagram a sentence or solve a quadratic equation between the two of them to save their lives. He has a job with Microsoft, and she stays home with their three very expensive babies (invitro fertilization). He makes more money than either my college educated self or husband earn. Why exactly is college necessary?
As for his grades, it is very helpful for parents who are not in the class on a daily basis, to monitor there child's progress through his graded assignments. If a child is given the opportunity to monitor all of his assignment scores regularly it may prompt him to keep up with his own assignments accordingly. a good understanding of current grades can also help a student to realize when he or she needs to really buckle down and focus on doing his best. not seeing the full picture will often leave a child in a state of "grade delusion" until the end of the nine weeks, at which point it is most often too late to salvage a poor grade point average. Johnny worked hard and feels confident that he has succeeded in doing well on many of his assignments that have not yet been returned to him. I hope that at this late date we will not be disappointed.
If Johnny has ever found himself in a state of grade delusion, I'm truly sorry. His interim grades and his quarter grades have all been pretty consistent and reflect and overall consistent pattern with Johnny 's work habits. Johnny may actually suffer from perpetual optimism wherein he believes he is doing his best work (read: A work), when in fact his best work is NOT A work.
As a mother yourself, I hope you can understand my frustrations and realize my intentions are purely in the best interest of my child, I only want to see him succeed in accomplishing his personal best. Of course I understand your frustrations, and of course I realize that your intentions reflect the best interests for your child. Please understand that it is because I am a mother that I am not able to get papers back more quickly to students, and please understand that many nights I put my students before my own children, telling them I can't play because I've got too much work to do planning lessons (and grading what few papers I can). Please understand that I am at the breaking point and I can't take on the responsibility of keeping your son any more organized than I already do (remember: website, chalk-board homework list, and hard copy of syllabus).
Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Mother Dearest

Teachers Inspiring Teachers

Today, I was fortunate enough to attend a day of workshops offered by our local private schools. We are able to choose from a large variety of presentations for three separate time slots. I had a great time. There is nothing better than learning from other teachers.

I attended a session on incorporating poetry into your curriculum. I am a huge fan of poetry and try to do at least 4 or 5 lessons a year. This was unreal though! The teacher had her kids write poems inspired by various poets. To see 4th graders writing poems beginning “how do I love thee” was amazing. Love poems, funny poems, poems in the style of William Carlos Williams :
This is jus to say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
They were all fantastic. At the end of the 7-week unit the teacher has each student’s complete works bound into a little book and the parents come in for a poetry reading. The best part of the book is the About The Author section each student has to write. I’m definitely adding that little gem to my students’ next writing assignment.

I remember growing up hating poetry because I could never get it right. Today I learned that there is no right or wrong in poetry. It is all about how you feel. Each person interprets it through his/her own filters. Isn’t that wonderful? A subject you can’t help but do well in. As long as you participate you are right. That seems like fun to me.

My second workshop focused on group work. Love that group work!! I learned all about the Jigsaw technique. It is like a puzzle. You only get the whole picture when everyone does his/her part. It was pretty cool. The teacher had us do a run through of a project on water pollution. We met in expert groups where we became experts in one area. Mine was about the problems pollution causes. After everyone in our group read the provided information, and completed a worksheet we had to agree on how to present the information to others. Next we were put into new groups composed of one person from each of the expert groups. We each took turns teaching the others what we learned. So you see, all of the pieces came together. It was a successful Jigsaw.

All told, it was another great year for the workshops. What is that you say? I mentioned there were three session? Right, well. . .
I Must Confess

I did not make it
to the
third session

Two had been
great
a third maybe
better

But
arriving home early
was oh
so sweet
By Ms. Teacher
Inspired by William Carlos Williams
( I also learned that you always credit the inspiration)

To skip or not to skip

This is the time of year when teachers have to make decisions regarding student placement for next year. This is a particularly sticky process in schools that have combined grade levels. For example some schools have kindergarten and first grade in the same room. Others have a primary level in which students can stay anywhere from 1 to 3 years.
In these classrooms teachers often need to decide if a student should spend one or more years in the room. Parents frequently assume that if their child is kept in a mixed level for a second year it is because he/she is not smart enough to move on. The truth is, it takes an exceptional child to spend only one year in a mixed level classroom. This child would have to not only be able to perform a full year above his/her age. He/she would also be expected to socialize at a level above his/her age. That is a lot to ask of a child.
Early on in my career, I worked at a private school that tended to bend easily to the will of the parents. During my time there, a parent insisted that her child be moved to a higher grade for math. The student was able to perform basic calculations, but had no idea when or why to apply them. In the end, the parents won out and the child moved up.
As a teacher, that kind of thing breaks my heart. Rather than seeing it as giving the child a head start, as I’m sure the parent must see it, I see it as putting them at an unfair disadvantage. Most of their peers were allowed to move sequentially from stage to stage in each subject area. In math, they would have learned and practiced several concepts over the previous year. A student not given the opportunity to move through the yearlong process is expected to perform at the same level as the other students without the benefit of practice or even much exposure in some cases.
I have yet to meet the student that is both academically and socially prepared to skip a year. I’ve taught a few students that have skipped and each time there were very frustrating friendship issues to deal with. That seemed to be the trade off for the kids. Students are offered rigorous academics, but as a result experience many challenging social issues.
I’m a big fan of slow and steady wins the race.

The beginning

Well, here we go. No longer the novice teacher, I feel like it might be time to branch out. The days of worrying about tomorrow’s math lesson are a thing of the past. Now my big concerns regard improving my existing curriculum. It is a great feeling.
I’m hoping this Blog will serve several functions. It would be great to have somewhere to let off steam. After a full day at school, I often come home with stories I think are very interesting/ thought-provoking/ funny or maddening. My extremely patient husband, who has nothing at all to do with teaching, doesn’t appear to feel the same way. He is a good sport, but this Blog may get the stories out to folks who are actually interested. Imagine that!
This could also be a great place to flesh out teaching ideas. I’m big into group projects and cooperative units, so collaboration is always helpful. Teachers can learn so much from each other. This may be a nice way to create some kind of dialog. Don’t feel like you need to be an educator to participate though. I’ve gotten some great ideas, for the classroom, from friends in all sorts of fields.
Welcome to the beginning. I sure hope all goes well.

Testing My Instincts

You don't have to have watched Trading Spouses last night, here's the episode recap if you didn't.

Now get over the fact that I did watch it, I shan't have you questioning my television habits.

If it was you, would you have eaten Clyde? I really need to know.

Extending The Metaphor

I almost didn't post my Lent story because of the inherent risk in posting such details of my life. In the end, I did it because I was excited to finally articulate my feelings. The risk, though, is in the transparency. I will admit to feeling a bit like the Elephant Man at some of the comments. You know how once they stuck the Elephant Man in the suit, everyone said, "See Elephant Man, don't you like the suit better? Aren't you glad we saved you from the circus?". I mean, sure, I might get to like the suit better, but the suit takes some getting used to.

Of course, the Elephant Man didn't blog about his suit and how he was shopping for one. And if he did have a blog, it might not have comments, but mine does. So you get what you ask for, don't you?

I would like to use this space, though, to talk about the suit.

Mark made the observation that church is like sex. To simplify, when used right, it's good. When society gets hold of it, it can be used improperly and hurt people.

I'd like to kindly extend the metaphor, if I may.

Let's say someone is hurt by sex. She was abused or something like it. Let's say lots of well meaning people who love her tell her that the solution to her fear of sex is to find the right partner and enter a physical relationship. Those people counsel her. They talk and talk to her about her problem and try to get her to date lots of people so that she will find that healthy relationship and experience something that will strengthen the relationship as an expression of love that will also serve as a means of procreation.

I have had some bad church. I don't know if abuse is fair, but for whatever reason, I've got issues. Lots and lots and lots of well meaning people have told me that the solution to not liking church is to go to church. They've told me over and over how good church is and to "get back in there".

It hasn't worked yet. Here's what's worked (to the extent that anything has).

I've watched people in good relationships with the church. I've watched people who I know have been hurt go back and risk more hurt. Sometimes, though, they find the right match and form great relationships with the church that strengthens their relationship with God and serves as an encouragement to others. They don't talk it too much, but they've done more for my will to come back than any Monday night visitation ever has.

It wouldn't work to overtalk our sexual abuse victim. She probably needs to just watch relationships until she finds someone she trusts and to enter a relationship when the time is right.

The moral of the story is, let's not overtalk this. I have heard over and over that the "good church" is out there, but I don't need to hear about it. I need to see it. So give me time, I'm watching.

This Is Only Funny Because It Isn't Me

My favorite Asst Principal accidentally locked himself in his office today.

With a SpEd kid he just suspended.

And his SpEd teacher.

They had to remove the hinges from the door.

Where I'm Starting

Thanks to all for the comments on the last post. I had a lovely part two written last night. When I noticed today it wasn't on the blog, I thought perhaps I had saved a draft. No such luck. Was it eaten? Who knows.

I'll give you the short version of my experience on Sunday.

The sermon was "Why Go To Church?" and no, I didn't know that before I went. I'll be honest, what I got from the service came from my head turning flips over itself as he spoke. He used this illustration of the church as a ship giving direction to people who would otherwise be floundering about alone on the stormy sea; I pictured the ship knocking the floaters around, hitting them in the head.

What threw me into the spiritual was something very human, though. Someone sitting near me smelled. I thought about how many people came to church that morning without everything together, how it is (or should be? whatever) OK to come to come to church with your imperfections and how giving up those worries of perfection or expectations of others allows us to experience the spiritual. I thought about how that must have worked with Jesus and pondered that idea of being God and yet human and then without realizing what was coming next, there it was.

It's communion, and I hadn't even looked ahead in the bulletin to see it coming. Somehow in my head "This is my body broken for you" became something like "This is my human-ness. It's all I have that you can understand and I open myself so you can have all of it.".

So that's a start. I'm not telling you it means that everything is changed and I'm going back every time they open the doors, but it's where I'm starting.

Something I Should Say Even Though I Have No Title

Today I thought quite a bit about being broken.

I decided very quietly a few days ago not to give up something for Lent. I decided instead to do something. I decided to go to church. Like I said, I decided quietly. I didn’t tell very many people. Probably because I wanted to leave myself space to back out but also because I didn’t want a rush of invitations. Those invitations are always awkward for me because although I love them and make a mental note of them, I don’t know when I can make good on them.

For reasons I can’t entirely explain, I am terrified of attending church again. It started years back and the years in between have seemed to always solidified that fear. Maybe that’s because (as the Rock Man said on the Harry Nillson album, The Point) “You see what you want to see and you hear what you want to hear, you dig?”. Here’s the list as best I can articulate it.

  • I have watched my home church slowly implode. They are working and scrambling to find the perfect program that will bring in the “right kind of people” and have in the process managed to decrease attendance and look really stupid. And, oh yeah, they fired my dad and then lied about it.
  • My Mother is a compulsive church-goer. She has given some of the best parts of her life to a congregation who doesn’t appear to appreciate the gift. As a result, we miss those best parts and the people who get them don’t seem to care.
  • I don’t fit the church demographic as I have known it. I’m single and I have yet to vote Republican. Sometimes it has felt that there isn't a place for me.
  • When they have places, they are singles groups.
  • And singles groups are by nature creepy.
  • Because I am not trolling the churches for a husband.
  • But plenty of guys are trolling the churches for a wife.
  • The bit of depression I deal with has done a number on my self esteem and sometimes it’s terrifying to put myself “out there” to new people. I do far better getting to know people when we work together at something I am good at
  • And I am not good at church
  • Because (and this is the most definitive answer I can find) church has always been a place where you have to be perfect
  • Or at least really, really, good.
  • And lots of times, I am just not.

I can give an answer for every single item on that list (so don't try to give me any, please.), but at Sunday morning wake up time, none of them hold water.

So I stopped going. I have stopped a couple of times. Once it was when some dear friendships came crashing down on me and a Sunday School class sort of dissolved simultaneously. Another time, there was a church split and change in pastors. There’s never been a great reason to leave, just somehow I would loose interest and spend a year or so out of the habit. This time, except for a two month stint visiting a church, it’s been about four years since I have regularly been to church. What’s funny is that I have managed to grow outside of the church. I have at times even felt so fulfilled that I tell myself I may never go back. Most of the time, however, I tell myself (and others) that I am “between churches”. Somehow, even though I have no concrete plan to return, I believe that.

So for Lent this year, it just didn’t seem right to give up some form of junk food. Sure, I need to go on a diet, but I don’t want to spiritualize my weight issues. I liked the idea of doing something positive for the season, so I decided to go back to church.

Somehow on the first Sunday of Lent, I didn’t wake up vomiting at the thought of going back. I wasn’t excited and I thought about staying in, but there was none of the vomity fear. So I got dressed (despite the wee sabotage I set by not planning my wardrobe) and headed out. I didn’t want to cash in on the several invitations that were extended. No one would mark “visitor brought” on their offering envelope on my account. No one would get points to their heavenly toaster oven (the one I am convinced you must win if you get me to your church). Today it would be private. I thought about visiting a new place, but the denomination would be new to me and this didn’t need to be the Sunday to think about when to sit or stand or say “debt” in the Lord’s Prayer when everyone else said “trespass”. I visited the last place I visited on my own because I had already broken the discomfort barrier there. They sing the songs we sang when I was a kid (and liked church) and it’s easy to slip in the back and smile back when people smile at me. They’re friendly, but they won’t come knocking on my door tomorrow night to have me join the women’s ministry. You might have something to say about whether that’s the type of church to join, but it’s a good one to visit when you just need to sit quietly with Jesus for a while.

So I did. I sat with Jesus for a while today. We’re talking about some stuff and I’ll tell you about it soon.

Not Sure What I Want

Parent-Teacher Conferences were held this evening. I didn't get home until 8:00 pm and I am exhausted as you can well imagine. The thought of going back in the morning has sent me searching through my mental files of which movies I could show tomorrow during class so that I don't have to think. Or plan. Or teach.

In a year, DH will be finished with his fellowship and we will know where he's going next. Where ever the geographical location turns out to be, DH will finally be a board certified pathologist and will be making 4x what either of us presently earns. The reason I'm even bringing this up is because he frequently comments that once he's making more money, I can stay home.
I don't know if I want that.
It's true that the load I'm carrying right now has just about done me in. I'm about *this* far from having a nervous breakdown - and no, I'm not just being dramatic. I feel like Sysiphus.

On a side note, one of my perfectly delightful students asked me the other day what I hated about teaching. I hate a lot of little piddly things, but ultimately, I hate having to grade a student's work and then be graded for my grading. I hate grading. I hate not getting their papers back to them sooner. I hate feeling like I'm not doing my job as a teacher by turning assignments and tests around in two weeks.

When I get home at night, I hate feeling like I'm short changing my children. I hate telling my 4 year old I can't snuggle with him because I have papers to grade. And then I think "He's only going to be 4 once", so I climb into bed and read him a story. Guess who falls asleep first? I'll give you a hint: it's not the 4 year old, and the papers don't get graded.

While I agonize over how my absence affects my children, I wonder if I would really be a good SAHM because I get cabin fever by Sunday afternoon. I like being in the work place. I like having other things to talk about besides my children's lives. I love being a teacher because like students and I love literature. I'm just really really really really really really really really really tired.

When They Pull Me Off The Bell Tower, And Wonder Why I Was Yelling, You Can Tell Them This

Today in 3rd hour---

  • One student was absent for the first half of class because he wenthome after 2nd hour (he refuses to umm...poop...at school). He tried to sneak back in as we went to the library. I saw him and noticed it aloud to a principal standing nearby. His coach was called and given the amount he will have to run, I figure him to be vomiting about 1 hour after I caught him.
  • Mean Girl #2 came back late from lunch smelling like a campfire because her brother called her (!?) to tell her that the nearbyhousefire was their grandma's house. Mean 2 was worried because her Grandma is old (53!!!) and recently had a stroke (she is fine, by the way).
  • Perhaps my moment of greatest clarity occurred when I refused to engage withan argument with Mean Girl #1 over whether or not her loud pronouncement that "My elbows need lotion!" was actually talking and if she really should get a zero on her quiz for talking. I merely left it at "If you had to use the word 'said', you were probably talking."

My planning period followed this debacle. I shut my door, turned ononly my desk light, and hoped no one would find me.