Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tooth Drama

My tooth is infected. I need to see a dentist ASAP, but tomorrow is Memorial Day. It is my own fault that I am suffering now. I started getting wisdom teeth for the first time a few months ago. These teeth wouldn't come in all the way and were pushing on my front teeth. Now, one of my teeth hurts so bad I can't eat a thing. I am definately going to need a root canal and the extraction of my wisdom teeth. Thank goodness my grandad volunteered to pay for these procedures!

Friday, May 28, 2010

I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself

It is the first day of summer vacation, and I feel good already. I've never started a summer vacation where I wasn't exhausted and weary. I am not sure how to take it. I don't think graduate school will be enough to exhaust my mental energy this year...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Don't Want to Give Up My Class This Year

I had such a great group of kids this year, and we've been through a lot together. I actually got a little choked up today giving out the end of the year awards I made for the kids.

The first award that got to me was for the little girl who got on my nerves this year. Of all the kids in my class, she was the hardest one, but I gave her an award for making creative and beautiful projects (which is very true). The part that almost got to me was that all of the other students guessed who the award was for. Sometimes this girl was tough for them to get along with too, and I love that they all still saw her strength just like I did. I actually got a really nice e-mail from her mom today thanking me too. She was a tough case, but I would take her again=).

The second award that got to me was for my student who fought for her life this year. I already cried once when I read her essay about how she had a hard year because of her brain tumor, but she was so happy she had all of us to help her get through it. I almost cried reading her award about how she always did her best even when things were hard. I was just so happy that things ended well with her sitting there in my class ready to go to fourth grade.

The last award that got to me was for my student who has been learning English. It got to me because she understood the award. At the beginning of the year she came in so scared not knowing what was going on. She still has a long way to go, but she understood what her award was for.

It was hard for me to do class placement for next year because I want to keep them all. I haven't said that every year I've taught. I haven't wanted to keep an entire class any year, but I would love to have another year with these kids.

This year it was so tough for me to start out because of the difficult class I had the year before. I made a lot of mistakes and I was suffering from a total lack of confidence. Next year, I think it will be hard to get excited because this year was so good.

I needed this year. I was on the verge of not being able to do this job. If I had to deal with the type of administration I dealt with last year, then I think I would have ended up leaving the profession. If I had dealt with the number of difficult kids I dealt with last year, then I think it may have led to the end of my journey as a teacher. If I had dealt with parents as difficult as a couple of the ones I had last year, I am not sure I could have handled it. I am sad to see a good year end, but I am also much stronger than I started out. I have been encouraged enough to deal with the discouragements that come with the territory.

Every year is a gamble. As teachers, we play the hand we're dealt. I am ready though. Bring on whatever the future holds.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Just Wait!

I know it happens everywhere. Too often, it's true. It just makes me nervous when the teachers a gradelevel below you start with the "just waits." It makes me happy too because at least I can think about next year in the same school, teaching the same grade, and with the same teammates.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The End of the Year

I said a few weeks ago that there was a tunnel at the end of my tunnel. I think I finally see the light at the end of my tunnel. There are four days of school left. After working all day today, I finished my career ladder. Tomorrow I will finish report cards. That just leaves a little organizing and the inventory. Well, it also leaves the portfolios, the SIP data, the gradebook, the cleaning, and probably some other stuff I forgot about, but believe me Career Ladder was a big accomplishment.

I am really enjoying then end of the year this time, and I will miss my class. So why did I get so mad that the Ed-Psych scheduled an MET on the last day of school after school. It is inconvenient and I have a lot to do, but it is more than that. I just don't want anything unexpected after the terrible surprise I got last year on the last day of school. Rationally, I know that won't happen again, but I would feel more comfortable if everything went exactly as I want it to.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


This is something I never talk about, but I am talking about it on my blog because it is anonymous, so why not? I think I have mentioned before that I attended elementary school in the same district. When I went to school there, I was identified as verbally gifted. I think this label is not an especially helpful label for any child because to most of us the term is synonymous with smart. The label only reafirms what the gifted kid will figure out anyway, and that is that he doesn't have to work hard in school to do well.

Anyway, I say all this because the gifted program at my district is changing the model for third grade. These kids will no longer have pull out services. They will be clustered in one classroom.

I don't know if it is really true, but I heard a rumor that the gifted teacher just found out that I went through the gifted program and was very interested in that information. I have a feeling that I might be getting the gifted cluster.

At first, I didn't want it because most parents are really annoying when they find out their child is "gifted". Usually, if their child misbehaves then he must be bored or if he didn't do his homework it was too easy. Again, this is why I don't like that label!

I did change my mind though, and I kind of want the cluster. I want it because I understand how those kids learn. In my academic career, I have never struggled to learn something. When I haven't done well in a class it was purely a matter of attention. More than that, I tend to retain most of what I am taught. It took me such a long time to really learn that most students struggle to comprehend some subjects and that many students can master something and not retain it.

I feel like I am getting better at teaching the kids who learn differently than I did, but I've almost forgotten about my fast learners. It would be a good goal for me to do more for those kinds of kids next year. I guess that is true whether I get those identified as gifted or not.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Happy "P" Day

Okay, that clearly doesn't have the same ring as "V" Day, but after Proposition 100 passed it was "P" Day for us. It felt like a real Teacher Appreciation Week. A lot of ugliness has come out in this state through this whole process. It has been really hard to feel like the community is behind education, but yesterday an overwhelming majority (66%) voted to increase the state Sale's Tax by 1 cent on the dollar to fund education. For my district, that meant the difference in a 6 million dollar deficit and a 12 million dollar deficit (when compared with last year's already slashed budget). It felt really good to hear that even though my state has a reputation for not supporting education, at the end of the day, 66% of voters are willing to increase taxes when education is in the need we are in right now.

Everyone was all hugs and smiles today. I am not displaced anymore. The other third grade teachers brought me cake and lunch from Pei Wei. Captain came in to give me the thumbs up when I was officially reassigned. All my students cheered. I heard when he dropped by next door to tell my neighbor that "her team would remain in tact," all her students cheered through the door. When I brought my kids out to parent pick-up, I had a couple of my volunteers cheering me on.

Thank you to voters. I know it is not easy to give up any more taxes now. We'll make it count and we will do whatever it takes for your kids. We would do that anyway, but it means a lot that you will do whatever it takes too!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spinning... Almost.

In teaching, you have to do a lot of turning around. Today was a day like that.

I woke up at 5. I could barely sleep because it was election day. I decided to get to the polls when they open by six, so I could still be early to work. I got to my polling site. There was a problem because my driver's license had my new address. It took a while to get that straightened out. I was starting to give in to an irrational fear that I wouldn't be able to vote. There were these two older women who were "helping" me, and making me feel like a complete idiot. Finally, another volunteer helped me actually get it straightened out. Although, I don't know if his motives were altruistic. He followed me out after I voted, and I think he was hitting on me. Finally, though, I got to fill in the arrow for "yes." It was anti-climactic.

The whole ordeal took about an hour, and I had driven in the opposite direction of work. I got in my car, turned it around. Suddenly, I felt overwhelmingly sad. I think it was the realization that filling in an arrow wasn't a very satisfying action with so much hanging over my head. I fought the tears, because I didn't want to ruin my mascara, and the feeling passed.

I got to work, and had planned a surprise for Math. The kids painted fractions using water on the sidewalk outside. I gave them a fraction and they either simplified with division or found an equivalent fraction using multiplication. "This is the greatest activity ever!" said my new friend (the one who supposedly has all the problems). While we were doing fractions that disappeared on the side walk, a steady stream of voters trickled into my school also a polling site, but I turned and faced the kids.

At the end of the day, I walked my class outside and stopped to talk to one of the parents before the after school ice cream social for parent volunteers. She told her son to go get his bike so she could talk to me. "This is kind of embarrassing, but Gabe's father packed up and left when he was at school today." Suddenly I became aware that her big sunglasses hid red eyes. "He doesn't know." We both looked at him playing happily by the bike rack. "I don't even know how to tell him." I don't know what I said, because I didn't know what to say, but behind me was another parent waiting to chat about the vote and the ice cream social. I watched that mother walk off, and I turned around to talk to the other parent.

I started to head towards the ice cream social, but I turned around and headed to the office to talk to Captain about this kid. I walked into the office a bustle with people wanting to make small talk. I talked to them and then dropped into Captain's office. I shut the door, and told him what was going on. We had a heavy discussion, and then, I turned around to make it to the ice cream social.

After the social, I stayed at school to work on Career Ladder. I focused hard on that work, and then I turned my car around and headed back home.

I waited impatiently for 8:00pm when election preliminary results would be released. I stared at the clock as the time turned from 7:59 to 8:00. At precisely 8:00, the results scrolled below the LOST episode I was watching. "Proposition 100 passed by voters."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Blind Side

I decided to stay in tonight. My roommate is out of town with her boyfriend, and my other best friend is busy with post funeral stuff. I hadn't seen The Blind Side yet and I thought I would watch it. I have never cried so hard through a movie. I am glad I watched it in the end, but it was hard for me to get through it at all. I was glad I watched it alone because I would have been thoroughly embarrassed that I cried like that through the entire movie if anyone else had been around.

Why did this movie make me feel that way? Psychology would say that my biggest heroes are people that take care of children when they don't have to. My father left our family when I was really young, but I had a "second chance family" too. My Grandparents really raised a second set of kids in all the help they gave to my mom. They gave us a house. They came to every school event. They bought me my first car. They sent me to college. They did everything for me and my brothers.

It also got to me because I've known so many kids like the one in the movie. It breaks my heart every day knowing some of what kids I work with go through.

Quit reading if you haven't seen the movie, because I am going to give away the end.

At the end of the movie the NCAA accuses the parents of wanting Michael to go to their school against his will. He says he wants to go to the school his family went to. When I decided to go into teaching, my Grandad was a little disappointed. Academically, I had a lot of opportunities and he hoped that I would pursue a career that would bring in money and be considered an accomplishment. He was a Vice-President of Motorola and told me that of all his twelve grandkids I was the most like him. The funny thing is that I wanted to be a teacher to be like him. I could have followed in his career footsteps, but I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my grandad, the man that I knew who was a "second chance" for kids that needed it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

In the End

Picture a petite blonde girl in a somber black dress, shiny high heels, and well done make-up pulling into the 'Circle K' in the Spanish only speaking district. There is never a shortage of guys hanging out at the corner in that area, but they looked surprised that I stopped. "Please tell me you know where 'Queen of Heaven Mortuary' is," I said. The clock was ticking and I had five minutes left to get to the funeral. Of course, I was ten minutes away. My cell phone was ringing with calls from people wanting to know where I was.

I made it just in time to hear my friend speaking about his mom. She really was a good Christian woman. She was so positive and she knew what mattered when she was living. She had a lot of hard things in her short life, but she lived with grace. I had a fleeting moment of perspective as I was watching a slideshow of pictures of her life. I realized that in the end...

*it matters who you loved and who loved you--not who you got in stupid arguments with
*it matters what you did--not what your job was
*it matters how you use what you were given--not what you didn't have

All of these things sunk into my heart as I was standing in the back of the mortuary, but it didn't take me long to sink right back into my little 'education world'.

I got a text-message from a friend that Principal Sadie came by and visited our school. She went in every classroom. I was so happy NOT to have seen her, I was jumping up and down. All that stuff with her was a bump in the road, and things are better now, but I am still really mad at her.

Then, I got into an argument with my brother over that stupid proposition. He told me he was voting "no" and I said, "That is crap, and you are screwing over you're own family!" It is not like his vote decides the election, and I never act like that to my family.

I have gotten so embroiled in the specific parts of teaching and my job that I have lost sight of the "why". I don't just mean the "why" of teaching. I mean the big "why".

I have a lot of mental energy. At the end of highschool, I thought really hard about how to put it to use. I wanted a job that taxed my brain (God knows I got that). More than that, I wanted to know that when I came home mentally exhausted that I did something that matters. I get challenged every single day, and I feel that I do something that matters.

Yet, teaching has also grown in me a new character flaw or at least one I didn't know that I had. I let a lot of the negative input that comes with the territory go straight to my heart. Then that poison comes out in ways I've never seen. I don't know why I am still so mad at Principal Sadie. I don't know why I would be upset (genuinely) with my brother over politics.

I wanted to be a teacher because I want to live a good life that matters. I can't do that if I let the bad stuff become a part of who I am.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Four More Days

It is the weekend for me. Sort of. I had to take tomorrow off for that funeral, so I will not be back at school tomorrow.

The election for funding education is in four days now. It's on May, 18. I am feeling a little stressed. It feels like in education I am always having the rug pulled out from under me. I have had a good feeling (and by that of course I mean the polls I have been following and my own investigations have led me to believe) that this measure will pass. Now that the hour is drawing near, my stress is making me lose that feeling of security.

I will be okay jobwise (by which I mean having a job) for another year even if this measure fails, BUT imediately if it fails it will mean the difference between an easy and fun end of the year and a super stressful end of the year. Ultimately if it fails, it will cost me my job security for next contract year.

I am on the homestretch for finishing all the end of year tasks if I will be in the same position next year. I haven't even scratched the surface if everything is changing AGAIN. I'll vote, but that is about all I can do.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blonde Moments, Moments of Genius, and Moments to Remember

Blonde Moments

I've been doing surprises with my students every day, and one of them was an experiment to make sedimentary layers in glass jars. I had the directions for the experiment up on my computer in the front. I had the kids mix up plaster of paris (dry), sand, and pebbles. The layers were supposed to settle and show how sedimentary layers are formed. Well, at the end of the day all the jars were sitting there looking like I filled them with cake mix. Why didn't it work? I forgot to add water. We added water the next day and it worked beautifully, but it was a definite blonde moment. I am blonde. Maybe I have a few of those I can claim.

I had another blonde moment today when I was trying to enter SIP data into the shared drive. "The file is deleted," I complained to my next door neighbor. "I can't find the one to this year anywhere!"
"Here it is," she showed me.
"No, that's 2009-2010," I corrected her.
"It is 2010."
"Oh. Can we pretend this conversation never happened?"

Moment of Genius

Teaching my ELL student to play Guess Who was one of the best ideas I've had. It was soo much fun and she was learning vocabulary rapidly.

Moments to Remember

We pranked Captain today. He teaches one of our small groups for third grade intervention Wednesdays. We usually send him 8-10 kids, but the groups vary among all of us and there is no set number. Today we sent him 120 kids, a few at a time. Soooo funny.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Why I Wish I Could Get Rid of School E-mail

I am going to address people older than me for a little bit. I'm not a Luddite, but I sometimes envy people who grew up before we had so much technology. Yes, I know, I'm writing this on my blog. I'm also texting, watching the game on digital TV, and writing my graduate paper in another window. As much as I use all the gadgets and technology available to me, I am saturated in information and communication. We all are, but I don't really remember much before the Internet and cell phones.

I especially envy people who taught before e-mail. Does e-mail give more communication with parents and colleagues? Yes. Is it useful? Yes. BUT, it is too much. I literally get about 100 e-mails to my work account on an average work day. About 10 of them are a good use of e-mail and a good use of my time.

I had a parent e-mail me this year that she is deeply disappointed that I don't do more courtesy e-mails to remind parents of due dates. Due dates are all already on my website and sent home on paper copies.

I had another parent forward me a school e-mail and ask me about a date contained in the e-mail. They basically wanted me to send them the cliff notes of the e-mail.

I have parents e-mailing me to send them another copy of the homework, and actually excusing their child for not returning the next days homework because I didn't answer them within two hours.

I am guilty of a lazy technology addiction too. I have had a smartboard for just over a full year now, and I honestly don't know how to teach without it now.

I wish it could be as simple as pulling the plug for two months, so we could all refocus on what is important.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

I was out to a movie tonight with my friend, and her Mother-in-Law died during the movie. I was going to write a happy Mother's Day post, but now I am just sad for my friend and her husband.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thoughts on Coaching

It has been a good run in this city for sports lately. I am hoping this is a trend that continues in the basketball game tonight!!!! I've been watching this basketball team most of my life, and I have seen a lot of different players and a lot of different coaches.

What I think is sad is that coaches rarely ever leave on good terms. They are always expected to make their team win, no matter what the talent is. I know how they feel. Except for the part where they get paid enough to soften the blow.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

All the Things That Didn't Get a Full Post Because of My Virus

I think it is really important that kids be able to give something to their mothers for Mother's Day. I don't do too many crafts in school, but we did make Mother's Day magnets. I learned how to use a glue gun! It's not as exciting as it sounds, I always hoped it would be used from a long distance. Anyway, I thought it was sooo sweet that my ELL student translated her Mother's Day Cinquain to Chinese. It just seems like a neat picture of what her education is doing for her family.

In Other News:

We had to parents ready to come to blows today in Parent Pick-Up. They didn't fight yet, but one of them promised to come back and "shame" the other in front of everyone tomorrow. There was also a lot of screeching tires when one parent tried to park her car in the parent pick-up line. I told her that she couldn't park there, so she got back in, slammed the car door in my face, and laid on the accelerator in our school parking lot. Never a dull moment there!

Our staff went bowling on the PTO to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week. I always thought that if I heard everyone on my staff yelling "strike" it would be over something different...

Finally, why haven't I posted in so long?? I got a virus on my computer!! It was my work computer too, but it seems to have been cured by the magical box we are supposed to plug these machines into once a week.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Drowning My Sorrows = Not a Good Idea

Decided to go out with friends last night.

Vodka and Red Bull Number One was just to enjoy a drink with friends. Then politics came up.

My friend was telling me how he is voting "no" on the stupid proposition that means I would be displaced and in serious jeopardy of not having a job in another year. That discussion led to Vodka and Red Bull number two.

Then, everyone wanted me to tell them what being displaced means. Someone asked me, "So, you could be teaching thirty kindergartners next year?" That question was the origin of Vodka and Red Bull Number three.

I don't really remember what led to Vodka and Red Bull number four or the Gummy Bear shots. I do remember seeing double and everything being hilarious. Not so, this morning.

You know, I never drink that much, and in the last two years both times I drank way too much were due to work stress. Yes, I know, my own choices are my responsibility, but still, my work stress inspires me to do stupid things.