Friday, April 30, 2010

19 Days Left

I can't believe it, but there are only nineteen days left of the school year. I am still feeling a little stressed looking into the void of next year. I feel my patience being tested, and I don't want to give in. This has been my favorite year of teaching so far, and I want to end well. To that end, I am making it my goal to plan something memorable in learning for every day left.

Here's my schedule for next week:
Monday: Making Fossils Project
Tuesday: Mother's Day Momisms and Poetry Project
Wednesday: Civil War Bisquits
Thursday: Buddies Relay Races
Friday: Sharing Day (I will read a funny story that I wrote for my class this year)

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week. We always get treated really well by PTO, and I am looking forward to that. One of my students already told me that she intends to give me a present on every day of the week.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Secret Life of Teachers: A Day in the Life of the Displaced

6:30 I enter Starbucks looking RIDICULOUS. I have on my school T-Shirt, a bandanna that says "A+ for Teachers; We'll School You," and yoga pants. The barrista seems amused by my outfit. I can't help but think, "I wonder if I'll ever go to this place anymore if I am at a different school by a different Starbucks?"
6:45 I get to school early, as always. It's all about copies first thing in the am. Miss Kindergarten is already at the copy machine. She tells me she couldn't sleep last night because she heard about another district in the city that laid off 250 teachers.
7:40 I go outside to pick up my class. I am greeted by a loud chorus of "tea-chers,tea-chers..." My class wants the teachers to win the Staff vs. Fifth Grade kickball game.
8:00 The fifth graders win the kickball game, and, no, we did not let them win. My class runs out on the field to hug me. They want me to know that I kicked the kickball better than anyone they've ever seen. I wonder, "Is this the last time I play in this kickball game?"
9:00 It is teaching time. The day speeds by, and on Wednesdays the kids go home at 12:45.
12:45 We have a staff training on the specifics of implementing RTI next year. All the talk about next year is prefaced by a big fat "IF" in my mind. My team is actually excited about it and we start making plans, but I end it saying, "I just don't want to play this game because I may not be here." That was the first time I said anything about it, but clearly displacement had been bothering me all day long.
3:30 Commute home. It is 90 degrees plus, and the black war paint under my eyes is starting to run down my face.
3:45 I walk straight in my door and hit the showers, literally. I catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror and I look even more RIDICULOUS than I did in the morning.

I'll get up tomorrow and have a very similar experience. Until May 18, when the election decides my future, I will keep thinking about the possibility of ending my time at my school. I think when I know, even if it is not the answer I want, I will at least have something new to look toward. In the meantime, this is hard.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

There's a Tunnel at the End of the Tunnel

There are five weeks left of school. There should be a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to the displacement, I've found a tunnel at the end of the tunnel.

I guess at some point I'll see the light. Not right now, though...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Think I Can, I Think I Can, I Think I Can

It is bitter sweet. I feel like a kid whose parents sat him down and told him he's moving far away. The fun times he has with his friends are all tinged with sadness. It is like hanging out with makes him miss them.

I went to a roller derby this weekend with BFF team and some other teachers from my school. We had a good time and laughed a lot, but it was like I was watching myself in a memory sometime in the future.

I moved a lot when I was a kid. I went to four different elementary schools in my six years of elementary school. The good always came with the bad.

I do enjoy new adventures, but right now my future is just unknown. I am struggling with this.

I want to enjoy this time. I am in a positive situation right now, and I would hate to spoil it by looking at the glass as half empty.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sudden Opportunities

I've been having a pretty bad week. Besides getting displaced, I am attending my Corrective Action tomorrow ALL DAY LONG. Yes, that damn red light that mailed me a my pretty picture in December mailed me another one in February. I had to pay it because it was the second one, and I thought that was the end, but in this state you have to attend traffic survival school even if you pay a ticket. So, I have a corrective action.

I got really upset on Friday when I recieved the "displaced teacher survey". I got upset because it was two questions long. Do you prefer to be placed on the East or West side of the district? Do you prefer the intermediate or primary grades? Seeing the survey just cemented what I already knew. I will be sent wherever the opening is, and I better be happy to just have a job.

I ended up having a really good talk with the Vice Principal. She is a very positive person, and she helped me start looking at the situation in a more positive light. What a switch from last year when I could never leave that office without seeing everything in a much more negative light!

Then today, I was eating a Serious Slice of pizza from the pizza shop down the street, and for some reason that I do not understand it comes with a fortune cookie. My fortune said, "Expect sudden and unexpected opportunities."

The advice from the fortune cookie and from the Vice Principal was good advice. I have to look for opportunities. I think I can do that with being displaced. Not so much with traffic school, that just sucks. Although, now that I am driving an alternate route to work that does not pass the red light camera I need to set up a pay pal account with, I have a new opportunity to pass Starbucks every day on the way to work. I guess every dark cloud has its silver lining.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Psalm 73

Surely God cares about children and those who help them.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
I envied the arrogant
when I saw how easy life was for those who live for themselves.
They don't worry about paying bills;
they don't feel guilty when they don't work hard.
They don't take on the burdens of others;
they're not conflicted.
They have all the power.
They don't hear God calling them to sacrifice.
They take and take, but don't give.

That is what it is like to live for yourself.
It is easy and carefree.

What a fool I am.
Believing in a calling, and acting on that belief.
All day long it is hard;
I have been punished every morning.

If I say, "I will speak thus,"
I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.


When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by the right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire accept you.
My flesh and my strength may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

Sometimes you walk into a sanctuary, and sometimes you walk into an office, and sometimes a sanctuary is an office. Today I needed to be reminded that God is my portion. I have been doing a pretty good job of feeling monumentally sorry for myself. I teach because God put me there. By going around with the attitude I've had I betray the kids God put in my room.

At the beginning of the year, when I was so unhappy about moving gradelevels, I had to realize that whatever kids God brings into my room, He does it for a reason. Wherever this crazy journey is taking me, I have God holding me by the right hand.

I found my faith again today.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Explanation

Displace {to make without a place}

Literally, that is what it means. In a school district, being displaced means that a school cuts positions (due to funding or enrollment)and teachers are reassigned to open positions elsewhere in the district. I was displaced because I am the least senior teacher if the rif would occur.

I may or may not actually be displaced. The state is voting on a sale's tax increase that would absorb some of the education cuts. If the sale's tax is approved, the seventy-four teachers who were rifed will keep their jobs, and I would not be displaced because positions would not be cut at my school. Positions (in this case) are not being cut because of a drop in enrollment, but because of class size increases. They are literally distributing the students of the rifed teachers into the classrooms of continuing teachers. Oh yeah, we're all getting paycuts too.

It is Earth Day, and my District celebrated the fact that we're "going green".

We are "going green" alright. Green as in money. I am pretty sure we would do anything for money. My district has certainly proven that in the past.

And It Was a Long Night

It is 5:50am. I should just get out of bed, but I would rather not. It seems wrong to get out of bed before you've had a refreshing night's sleep.

I wasn't awake crying either. I was just awake thinking. Not even about being displaced. I was thinking about everything and nothing.

I thought of some more questions for my inventory about learning modalities. Here are the questions I am adding now.

1.) Are you able to recognize the faces of actors in movies (for example would you notice "that is the guy from such and such)? This is an example of visual learning.
2.) Do you recall lines or the writing from a movie? This would be an example of auditory learning.

I thought about what I want to do with my ELL student in the last weeks of school.

We just finished doing sentences about location. I want her to use stickers and crayons to create a story about the location of objects. Next, we'll do descriptive sentences using the five senses.

I thought about financial plans for the future.

When I finally finish paying tuition, I want to keep saving the same amount for a rainy day.

The one thing I didn't think about was probably the thing keeping me awake...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010



It doesn't feel as bad as it sounds. During my journey as a teacher,I've built up an immunity to unpleasant surprises. Besides, I wasn't that surprised.

Miss Kindergarten, my friend who teaches kindergarten, came to tell BFF Team that she was displaced. She knew that one other third year teacher was displaced, and she was worried it was me or the other third year teacher on BFF team. Anyway, everyone was trying to figure out who the other displaced teacher was, and Captain was walking around the school looking for me. Finally, he called my cell phone and asked if I was still in the building and if I could come to his office.

I walked into his office and said, "Are you telling me that I am displaced?" I don't like to beat around the bush.

He put his head on his desk and said, "I didn't think Miss Kindergarten was going to come talk to you. I'm sorry."

The thing that makes me kind of sad is that it doesn't affect me that much. Last year, I could barely handle all the unpleasantness of changing gradelevels. This year, I don't like it, but I am largely unaffected.

I guess becoming like this is the only way to survive in this field, but I know my heart is a little less in the game every time. I can't care that much because I need to protect myself.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Is It Bad??

Now that we've finished the state testing (grant you we still have some disrict testing left), it is summer in my mind. We have six weeks of school left, but I just feel like the pressure is off and we should be on break. Seeing as we don't get the results of state testing until July, why don't we do it on the last week of school? That would give us an additional six weeks of prep time and keep us from getting this feeling like we're done when we're not.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Epistemology 101

Someone told me once that I am not normal because while normal people think about what others are feeling a lot I think about what other people are thinking. To be fair, this was said to me on a date, so maybe he had a point. I am very interested in how people think. My work requires me to operate as if I understood how other people think, but this is really unknowable. We can barely scratch the surface of the minds of others. Honestly, it is very difficult to understand how I think, and that is the one mind that I can see inside. I am extremely interested in how people think. I find myself trying to find patterns and categories for ways of thinking.

Last night, I was at dinner with some friends that I have known forever. I have been thinking a lot about the learning modalities that we are generally taught (auditory, kinesthetic, and visual). I used to think that we all learned in all these ways, but recentely I have noticed in myself that I really only learn through the modality of auditory. I have noticed that if I am shown a graphic or a map I convert it to words before I master the information. I have a really hard time learning exercises or dance moves because they are always taught by doing. I have to verbally translate it in my head. Anyway, after I realized that I convert maps into words, I developed a question to compare my way of thinking to my friends. So, I asked everyone at the table the following question: "If you were going to get driving directions from Google Maps would you usually print the words and rely on those the first few times you drove it or would you print out a map. When you were driving back would you would reverse the directions using the words or look at the map or remember how to get back based on your drive to the place?"

There was quite a divide among my friends and I. If I were going to categorize people's ways of thinking based on this question, I would do it as follows.

An Auditory learner will use the word directions several times before mastering the directions.

A Visual learner will use the map a couple of times to learn the directions.

A kinesthetic learner may start with the map or the words, but will master the directions by driving it. He or she may strongly prefer to follow someone.

Next time that I tutor an adult in something or advise them on mastering material I will ask them this question first. I would them give them strategies based on the way that particular person learns and thinks.

Friday, April 16, 2010

We Laughed, We Cried: It's All in a Days Work

The time had come to release the butterflies. I had five caterpillars. I ended up with three healthy butterflies, one diseased and broken butterfly, and one dead butterfly.

"Okay, guys," I told them, "I have to talk to you about your butterflies before we release them today."

"Because their dead?" someone asked me. I guess the word had spread.

"Well, you should know that butterflies are kind of like insects, they don't really think. It's not like a person, but, yes, two of them are dead." That's when the butterfly accusations began. It was really my fault because I told them if they bothered the cage it would kill them. Unfortunately, one of them knocked over the cage when she was sharpening a pencil.

"Kisha did it," they declared.

"That is not what happened," I told them. "They were sick before they were born. Sometimes nature is like that. Now, it is time to release the rest of them, so we'll get them out of the pod and take them outside to release them."

"How will you know which one is ours?"

"Well, because ours are dead."

So, we took the cage out. All the kids lined up, and I removed the net over the cage. Three butterflies flew away dramatically. One sickly butterfly flapped its diseased half wing. It rolled out onto the concrete.

"It's stuck!" they declared. After about five minutes of staring at it, someone suggested poking it. I don't know why I agreed to this, but I did.

"Okay," I said, "Dale, only, poke it carefully." Well, Dale poked it, but it didn't go anywhere. By now, I was kind of laughing, but two kids were crying.

"Let's put it in a tree," someone suggested.

"Why not?" I thought. "Okay, Kevin, pick it up carefully and put it in the tree." So we all moved the butterfly to the tree. Guess what, the butterfly was so gone it wouldn't stick to the tree. It kept falling back on the ground. Every time this happened the kids, in unison, said, "awwwwww."

"I think we better leave it by the tree," I said. "It is shy when we're all here." So we left the butterfly there, like an offering in front of the tree, and we went out to recess.

I figured that none of the kids would remember the release of the butterflies as much as the death and disease of the butterflies, but there was nothing I could do about it.

That afternoon one of my students who lost her three year old cousin over Easter weekend asked to share the program from the funeral. All the kids gathered on the carpet and she held up the program with a picture of her cousin.

"This is Janelle," she said proudly. "She loved butterflies and princesses and she was my cousin. She fell into a pool and drowned for three minutes. Her brother came outside and saw her in the pool. They tried to save her, but she died in the hospital."

"How old is she?" one of the kids asked.

"She was only three years old," she said, with her voice breaking. "On the day of the funeral, we saw a butterfly on a flower that flew away into the sky."


Myself and the nine-year-olds were all crying. Suddenly, we all remembered the release of the butterflies a little differently.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Butterfly Bloodbath

We got butterflies. It's not even a third grade objective, but some parent who works at a "Montessori" school feels that we don't do enough hands on learning. So, she donated butterflies to all four third grade classrooms.

I am person who has romantic notions of butterflies. I remember watching them as a child. I saw the beauty in the image and the metaphor even then. Do you want to know what will crush romantic, poetic notions about butterflies? Watching the stages of butterfly development...

My butterflies emerged last night. Right in the middle of state testing. I found them this morning. One was flying around. Two had their wings literally in pieces and were dead at the bottom of the cage in pools of their own blood. IT WAS DISGUSTING!

I didn't want my kids traumatized by the bloody scene, especially right before state testing, but I didn't want to touch them, so I hid the butterfly cage in the POD. First thing they asked me, "Where are the butterflies?"

"Umm, they can't be out during state testing, like all the signs on the wall." All the kids had a look on their faces like they were imagining how butterflies could give them answers, but they accepted this answer FOR NOW.

The only problem is that one of the kids from the other third grade classes saw the cage and asked me about the bloody mess. I think the truth might come out soon!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Matter of National Security

One thing you would never guess about working at an elementary school is that once a year it is more like working at the pentagon. I said you wouldn't guess it, but if you work at one you'll know exactly what I am talking about. I am talking about testing week.

People, this is not a test. It is the real thing. We are dealing with highly classified documents.

About a week prior we all have to start securing the facility. Lots of things on your wall can invalidate tests. We even have to take down calendars because the kids could look at the calendar and use it as a number line or something.

We have to move all the desks around so that no kid could possibly see another kid's test. Parent volunteers are not allowed in the building. Even student teachers cannot be present during testing. Younger grades can't use certain doors or playgrounds.

Every morning we have to sign out the tests. We are not allowed to read the test booklets at all, ever, even though we are administering the tests. We have to lock up the tests until we sign them back in.

We also have to actively proctor. This means walking up and down the aisles all day. We literally not allowed to sit down. Last year one of my friends sat down to blow her nose and when she looked up the principal was looking in her window and mime shouting for her to "GET UP NOW" with accompanying angry hand gestures.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I stayed up too late last night talking to my two best friends. We were talking about life and love and careers. The three of us have been friends since we were thirteen and I can hardly remember my life before we were friends. We've been there for eachother through all the mile markers of growing up, and here we are as adults.

None of the three of us have been very lucky in love. Two of us are solidly single and the third one is unhappily married. We've all have jobs that make you tired and take a lot out of you. We have all had great blessings and tragedies in our families. I think we forget, though, how lucky we are to have friends like eachother.

These are friends that tell me the truth even if it is hard for me to hear. I don't have any sisters, but these two have always been like sisters to me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Three More Days Until T-Day!!!

Okay, I am having WAY too much fun adding music to my blog. In honor of testing week, I have to share this song. I am one hundred percent sure that this song is exactly what some of the students are thinking when they take the BIG DEAL TEST. Note, that most of it is in foreign language. To me, this represents how many students read the test in English.

blah blah blah blah bubble
blah blah blah
1234 bubble
happy clouds and pretty day

I, of course, have a panic attack when I notice that they are bubbling in this manner. BUT I can't really do anything about it. As a teacher, during this test, you just have to watch.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


It looks like I do have a job next year. I will also give credit to my district for being transparent at this meeting. This is the first time we have been given all the information, but it was very clear.

The board meeting had a higher turn out than usual but most of those affected by the rif were not there. I just don't understand that. I knew I was probably not affected by the rif at this point, but you better believe I wanted all the facts and details because I was even close to it. I guess for a lot of people it really is enough to just know the "what" of the rif. I don't understand that. I always want the detailed explanation of the "why". Some people think this trait is cynicism, but I think that is a fallacy. Cynicism is a reluctance to accept any facts, but wanting to ask why is a search for a deeper understanding. I'm not saying that I'm never cynical. I'm just saying that wanting to understand the facts isn't cynicism.

I know this is a really technical entry for this blog, but my allegiance to empirical thinking really affects my life as a teacher. A lot of my conflict between what I see as politics verses practice in education is generated by the way that I think. I am going to give an example.

When I am sitting in a staff meeting and someone says, "You need to do x in your classroom. It is best practice," I look at whatever they are suggesting and I try to comprehend it. As I think it through, I note the gaps in my own understanding. I always try to clarify. I might say, "So, doing x in my classroom fosters y." Of course, as I get a deeper understanding of what is being suggested the holes in the logic become more apparent. I might then note, "It seems like x doesn't account for c, e, and b." To me, it's an empirical discussion, but it is sometimes viewed as cynicism.

A lot of my colleagues in education are more heart people than head people. I learn a lot from them because this is a field about people and the heart matters. My obsession with facts and logic isn't always helpful in a classroom, but I think it is a good thing to have heart and head people in schools together.

I just got so frustrated tonight when the board kept dwelling on how to tell people and how to deal with the human element. I just think, "Well, it doesn't change the facts. They present a budget scenario to these teachers." I would prefer that if I were in their shoes, but then again, I would be at the board meeting taking notes...

The Man Behind the Screen

I am going to the bored meeting tonight--excuse me, I meant board meeting of course! How could I make that mistake?? I'd rather be watching LOST, and I will later. I just want some information from the source to set my mind at ease.

I wish they would just hand me a contract. I would sign it. Really. --Even if it was a bad deal for me.

This waiting game and hints of things to come makes me feel like a mouse being bated by a cat. The district keeps congratulating themselves on being transparent, but I can't see through whatever they are saying. For example, what does a rif involving "primarily" first and second year teachers mean? For example, what does significantly larger class sizes mean? I've had thirty one students in a class before. Does it actually mean significantly higher than that? Maybe I am really dense, but some of this does not seem transparent to me.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I am a strong swimmer. I can't even remember before I could swim. I like surfing and I am not afraid of waves. Once, though, I did get caught in a riptide. It was a pretty scary experience. I was able to swim my way out, but it was not easy.

We finally got rif news, and it does look good for me. The district says it will "primarily" effect first and second year teachers. I have to wonder why "primarily" is thrown in there as a third year teacher with a late hire date. The thing that is difficult for these second year teachers is that this is the second rif they've been through. They will probably go through it again next year if they are rehired. They are caught in a rif tide.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Baja California, Mexico just had an earthquake of 6.9 magnitude. We felt it all the way up here! I was sitting on my bed doing my work when it started swaying. "Something is wrong with my bed," I thought, but when I looked up all the clothes in my closet were swaying back and forth, my venetian blinds were swaying back and forth, I actually felt a little light headed. I realized that it was probably an earthquake and I wondered what I should do if it were to intensify or continue. Things calmed down pretty quickly. It did make me realize how scary it must be to be caught in a serious earthquake. Where are you going to go, when the whole world is shaking?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Oh the Punishment

Well, it is starting to get hot around here and soon it will be so hot that going outside will be chore. My grandmother, the other day was singing her own variation of Going to See the King.

Soon and Very Soon
It Is Going to Get Real Hot
Soon and Very Soon
It Is Going to Get Real Hot

I informed her that her song was really the opposite of a hymn. She is right, though, the nasty desert weather is coming soon and very soon. For that reason I decided to go on a hike with friends today. The view was beautiful, but it was yet another blunt reminder that skinny does not mean in shape.

Clearly, I haven't transferred my new healthy goal to diet. I need to go make a Peeps cake. No that is not something that you serve at a bachelor party or something someone jumps out of. Neither is it a cake for my peeps. It is a creative arrangement of Peeps candy. My family insists that I bring a dish for Easter. All the stay at home wives girls in my family are bringing homemade dishes, and I am bringing my Peeps cake. Does that say something bad about me???

Friday, April 2, 2010

Field Day All Star

I am getting a rude wake-up call today, my day off (not for Good Friday of course, it is a "district holiday"), that I need to start working out again. We had Field Day on Thursday. I felt the need to participate in every event and give my full effort-- I am not one of those people who wants to let kids win to protect their self esteem. As a result, I jumped hurdles, crabwalked across a field, was dragged across the field hanging on to a tug of war rope, and sprinted in the relay race. Yesterday I felt quite victorious--grant you I was competing with nine year olds, but hey, those of us who are not so athletically talented have to take our victories where we can get them. Today I do not feel so victorious. I feel tug-of-war in my ankles, the hurdles in my thighs, bean bag toss in my shoulders, and the sprinting everywhere else.

I really have not felt a big pull to go back to working out because I am skinny, but suffering like this from a kiddy field day is a blunt reminder that skinny does not mean in shape. It is more like being a bag of bones.