Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lost All of My Cool

Recently there have been two home invasions in my neighborhood, but that doesn't really scare me. I've always lived in a city, and I find myself to be the kind of girl who goes to look for what a noise in the night is armed with only a baseball bat and a cell phone.

Well, today we had a home invasion of sorts. The intruder was about one inch tall and two inches long. Yes, that is right, I saw a mouse in the house.

Now, I like to pride myself on staying calm under pressure. In tough situations I usually keep my wit. I have learned about myself that there are two sure fire ways to reduce me to a hysterical woman. That would be big spiders and any sort of rodent.

I can't explain what my process of thinking was when I saw the mouse. I was doing Yoga in the living room when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It. Was. a. Mouse. Running across the floor. Once it saw me looking at it apparently it was scared too and it ran back into the kitchen. At which point I ran halfway up the stairs that lead to my roommate's room. I was saying repeatedly, "Oh my gosh, a mouse. Oh my gosh, a mouse." I wanted to get my cell phone to call someone to come help me but I was scared to go in the kitchen. Finally, I ran to get it, at which point the mouse ran back into the living room. I ran back up the stairs. Then, the mouse ran into the office.

First, I called my roommate and left a message telling her to get her boyfriend over here to kill this mouse. She didn't answer, so I called my brother. "Please, tell me you are not too busy to come over here right now!" I said. Well, he was on his way to a wedding! I felt that saving me from the mouse was more important than the wedding, but he didn't agree.

Anyway, in the end, my roommate's boyfriend, his cat, and a friend of my brother's showed up to go on a mousehunt. We all moved every piece of furniture, inspected every cabinet, and opened every curtain. Guess what? We looked for two hours and never found him or any evidence of him. We put up a mousetrap, and we will see if it catches him.

I know it is irrational, but I am still scared to sleep in this house. Seriously, I feel like my reaction to rodents is biological. I. Cannot. Handle. It. My roommate is the exact same way, yet all of the guys we called over seemed to feel that this is not a big deal.

I feel like this situation is going to continue to make me stupid because I cannot be rational about big spiders or rodents. When I was about fifteen, I was visiting my relatives in Texas, and they took us to the sand dunes. After we finished, my cousin and I were showering in the women's shower facilities. As long as you stayed in your stall you had a certain amount of privacy, but there was a big window in the main facility. Well, I was peacefully showering when my cousin said she could see something on the ceiling and I should look up. Yeah, she could see something, hundreds of spiders! What did I do? I ran out of the stall stark naked, what else? I demanded that she bring me my clothes because I was NOT going back in that stall.

So, what would I do if I saw a rodent when I was showering here. Who knows? I cannot seem to remain rational in the face of rodents or spiders.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

For Better or Worse

Relax, this isn't going to be about marriage. I was just finding myself fantasizing about organizational tools. You know, I was imagining a system with multiple clipboards and checklists hanging on the wall. I was imagining a rolling file. I could go on, but I expect no one would enjoy that. It made me think about how teaching changes you for better or worse. Organization was my weakest trait when I started teaching. I would never have thought about it. Now, I find myself drooling over literature boxes and color coding.

My point is that no matter what you can't go through the experience of teaching and come out the same. For better or worse, you change. The hope is that it is for the better. Are you a teacher? How has teaching changed you for better or worse?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Never Mind

I had to get finger-printed today. Apparently the state department of education is quite worried that I've secretly become a criminal some time in the last three years. So, I get to pay 69$ to the state for them to run my fingerprints through some system. I've made very clear how I feel about the bills I incur FOR DOING MY JOB (here, here, and here), so I won't go down that trail today. However, it should be noted that I AM THINKING IT VERY LOUDLY!

So, the H.R. representative was fingerprinting me today. "With this new system, you'll never have to be fingerprinted again," she told me cheerfully, "of course, you'll still have to pay to have them run it."

"Well, at least when I get arrested I won't have to go through this again! I want to get my money's worth."

Then, she just looks at me with a shocked face.

NEVERMIND. I guess when you are getting fingerprinted it is no time for jokes!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

20,000 Minutes

Maybe I am just one of those people meant to be lonely. I am not trying to feel sorry for myself, but there is this commercial that keeps coming on tv and I swear that it is mocking me! It says something like the average person spends 20,000 minutes kissing. Really? I think I am way behind.

Ever since I've emerged from my three year coma (that's what I've decided to call the three years I spent totally obsessed with work), I've been having a good old time by myself, but suddenly I want to date someone. Believe it or not, my life is not totally devoid of eligible bachelors. Lately my work friends have been bringing around a lot of really good looking guys. One has been asking me out on facebook and another one sending pictures of himself to me on a cell phone. The door is right there and I could easily start going through that door. I have been hesitant to pursue any of this because I feel like I am meeting these guys through a lifestyle that I am not serious about.

I like to go out sometimes with my friends from work. Occasionally I have fun drinking too much. For me, it is kind of a guilty pleasure, but for them it is more of a lifestyle. I go out and meet a lot of people, but I can't feel completely like a part of that group because I don't belong there.

On the opposite end, my family thinks I should "meet a nice boy at church." Honestly, I've only been attending church sporadically, and when I am there I don't feel like I really fit in. My beliefs haven't changed. I am just having trouble balancing truth and tolerance. Is it wrong that I don't want to go on a date where some guy asks me, "How is your walk with God?" I just don't.

Maybe you think I am being too picky, and maybe I am. The thing is that I know that I am not perfect, and I certainly am not looking for Mr. Perfect, but I need to meet someone who is compatible with my lifestyle. At heart, I am not a party girl, but I am not a submissive wife either. Everyone thinks I should just give these guys a shot, but I don't want to meet someone that I expect to change for me.

So, maybe I'll never make the 20,000 minutes kissing quota, but it is not that easy! Sometimes I wish life was like the Bachelorette. It would be really easy if there were a bunch of guys I wanted to date and really liked and I had to pick the best option. It just hasn't been like that, though.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father's Day

"I don't know how I'm going to tell him," she said to me. Her eyes were red. Her life was in a whirlwind. Suddenly she was single, suddenly she was left with the burden of taking care of a son alone. More than that she was going to have to tell him that his father left him without saying goodbye.

"Oh, he doesn't know," I said involuntarily covering my mouth.

Tears stung my eyes as I watched the mother and son walk off to their new life without a father. I had been in that kids shoes. I had been in the same situation at the same age when my dad up and left.

What must I have looked like the first day we were all on our own? A little blond head and a small child. I can only remember it through my own eyes. I always wanted to be strong and hold my family together. It is sadder if I look back at it through different eyes and see a little girl there in that situation. Back then, I never thought I was a child.

I can't remember much about the days when we were trying to figure out the what now of that situation. How could one broken hearted woman raise three little kids (7, 6, and 3)? How could the three bright eyed children comprehend this situation? Who would keep that family safe if they ended up in the poorer section of town? Would these kids be the same people they would have been if this tragic situation didn't occur?

My Grandad's life must have changed right then too. He thought he was done being a parent to children until that moment. He thought he was done supporting a nuclear family. Yet, at that moment, he must have realized that he had three more kids.

So, would I be the same person I am today if tragedy hadn't been a part of my young life? I don't think so, but it was the act of kindness that left a deeper impression on me than the tragedy. It is that act which taught me what the true love of a father is. Maybe I could have thought that being a father meant taking care of your obligations. In my life, I knew one man who chose not to meet his obligations as my father and I knew another man who chose to meet the obligations as my father when they weren't his obligations. Who was really my father and who did I learn from? I can only hope that I will be like the man who raised me.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why I Liked the Karate Kid

Disclaimer: If you have not seen Karate Kid and are planning to, then my review is bound to contain some spoilers. Also be warned if you are a purest and loved the original movie, I've never seen it. Sorry, it came out the year before I was born=0).

I think Karate Kid is really a movie teachers can relate to. After all, what is teaching if it is not kicking ass and teaching students to do the same? Every day, I know I will face fights of up to six on one and will prevail. I am pretty intimidating.

Seriously, we, as teachers, can relate to this movie because the theme is about teaching. Jackie Chan says early in the movie, "there are no bad students, only bad teachers." The movie features a clash between Jackie Chan who teaches kung fu one way and another teacher whose motto is "No Pain! No Weakness! No Mercy!"

Jackie Chan teaches Jaden Smith (Will Smith's spitting image and an adorable kid) to use kung fu as an instrument of peace. I loved the way that he taught him kung fu.

The movie also really explores the teacher/student dynamic. There was one really powerful scene where Jaden Smith encounters his teacher at a low moment and helps him move on. I think, as a teacher, it is easy to relate to all the times you learn from your students.

This is my favorite movie of the summer, so far. If you are a teacher, I think you will enjoy it, but go to AMC, not Harkins, and save yourself four dollars!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Race to the Top

My state ranked 40th of 41 applicants in the competition for the Race to the Top money. It turned out that only two states received money (Delaware and Tennessee) and the Obama administration is saying only 15 more states will eventually get the grant. So, my state is now scrambling to meet the criteria and rank better. They are scrambling by passing legislation. It's not all bad, but as usual it is being passed more quickly than it can be put into practice. I got a chance to look at the bill that was passed and what follows are a couple of the things that will go into effect next year.

Third graders who fail state testing will be retained.
Teacher evaluation will be at least 51% based on achievement.
State core standards will be adopted.

Philosophically, I agree with each of these ideas. My problem is the timeline, the lack of funding, and the impracticality of these measures as they are. This state right now widely practices social promotion. Retention has been extremely rare here, even fifteen years ago when I went to school here. How can we decide in one year's time to completely reverse this? In my opinion, smart change would be gradual and well planned. Furthermore, I have yet to see a copy of these state standards that I am responsible for next year. How will our adopted curriculum be made to match the new standards? Lastly, how will achievement be measured for Art teachers and PE teachers, what accountability will there be for primary grade teachers? It seems to me that accountability in this way is more limited in scope than the traditional evaluation.

I get it. We need money and to get it we have to align philosophically with Race to the Top, but I don't think the politicians who profess to make "common sense" decisions for education understand the scope of what they are doing. I doubt whether the people who pass this could even talk intelligently with me about how these new laws will work with the twenty-four or twenty-five students I am directly responsible for next year.

The relationship between education and politics is like the blind leading those with excellent vision.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Step Outside

For once, I am at a loss for words. If you read this blog or if you know me, then you know that is so not normal for me. I had so much pressure on me and have put so much pressure on myself in my teaching responsibilities for the last three years (at twenty-five that is a significant portion of my life, over ten percent) that even I didn't realize how much it affected me. Suddenly, when I finished a whole year successfully, all the pressure is gone.

Suddenly, I have rose-colored glasses, and I feel so strange. For some reason, I love peanutbutter now. How did I never realize it is so good?! I go to the grocery store and notice two guys checking me out, and instead of being indignant I am flattered. I watched two movies this weekend and LOVED them both. I can't remember being able to stay focused on an entire movie for a very long time. I was reading my book in Starbucks and laughing out loud.

I just want to go out with my friends and party. It used to stress me out to stay out late because I thought about being tired later.

If a man were released from prison, I imagine that the grass would seem greener and the roses would smell sweeter. So it is, to be out from under pressure for the first time in three years. How sad would it be, though, if the liberated man didn't do something with his life and freedom? It is time for me to do something--anything really. I did what I had to do and worked hard to become proficient in my profession.

I'll always keep trying to learn, but now I have to learn to live without the nagging concern that I'll fail professionally. Now I have to learn to relax. So far, I am startingly adept to that. I know that the aspects of my personality that are more driven and perfectionistic probably won't lay dormant forever, but right now those are the last things that could describe me.

What's next for me? I don't know. I just feel like it is something.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Summer State of Mind

My face feels warm, and I open my eyes. One strip of light escaped into my room, bypassing the garden doors, and sheer white curtains in my bedroom. I can see strange shadows made by the dancing leaves outside my window.

No need to turn on any lights, the skylight in my bathroom illuminates the room. I splah cold water on my face, and grab my bathing suit. It is still damp from yesterday.

I stroll accross the street to the pool and think, "this is not too bad."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Guess Who's Back

Principal Sadie...

She is coming back to the district, BUT not my school.

Thank Goodness.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I Didn't Suck... For Two Hours Anyway

I got crowned today. It wasn't nearly as much fun as getting crowned in checkers, but it wasn't painful at least.

I had to rush to the dentist straight away from graduate school because my class ended at 12:30pm and my appointment at the dentist was at 1:00pm. It actually didn't hurt when they drilled my tooth or put on a temporary crown, but then again, my mouth was totally numb.

After the procedure, I had pretty sore gums and some pain. I didn't feel like chewing, but I needed to eat because I skipped lunch due to my tight schedule. I still had two gift certificates to Jamba Juice left over that I got as gifts on the last day of school (on a side note, those would be gone already if they were to Starbucks). I decided a cold smoothie sounded like a good idea.

I got my smoothie and as eagerly as gingerly put the straw in my mouth. Nothing happened! All that stuff they shot me up with left me with no function on the left side of my lips. Apparently those muscles are necessary for using a straw. I had to laugh at my pathetic self in Jamba Juice, but I also had to rush home. In this part of the country, a five minute car ride could definately spell a completely melted smoothie. I made it though!

Now, I've got to get on that homework!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rip Van Winkle

Straight out of college, at twenty-two, I was very fortunate and at the same time a little unfortunate to dive head first into full time teaching. There is no easing into the responsibilities and I found little grace was afforded me as I struggled through the process of learning how to be a teacher. For three years, it really took all of my time and energy. Even in the summer I always was consumed by thinking about teaching and what I could do better and what I needed to improve.

Suddenly, this summer, for the first time, I feel like I found my way to the shore. My job has hardly entered my mind at all. Teaching hasn't once invaded my dreams.

For three years, I couldn't seem to find a way to be more than a teacher--even though I tried. After a whole year of successful teaching, some kind of switch has flipped. I feel a lot like the person I was before I started teaching.

It is strange, though, because three years have passed, and it feels like minutes. It's like I went to work and came home three years later. Am I saying that I wasted three years? Not at all. These three years of hard work were so meaningful in how they developed better character in me, and the work that I've been doing is meaningful as well. It's just strange. It's like a Rip-Van-Winkle teaching experience.

I say all this because I think my blog is going to look a little different this summer. I am FINALLY ready to take a mental vacation from teaching, and I think my blog will look decidedly more personal this summer. So, thank you to everyone who has been reading about my educational adventures. I am sure I will have many more of those to share come fall. This summer, though, I think I will write more about the adventures of being a single twenty-five year old.

I am excited to focus on my life for a change, and I am a little scared. It really has been a while and it feels strange the way things are changing for me even in the past week. I just have to decide what direction I want my personal life to take, and right now, I am not sure at all. I'll share more about all this as summer progresses.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Okay, Maybe I Was Being a Tad Dramatic

It was dentist day. I had to go at eleven even though my graduate class didn't end until 12:30. I was really getting myself worked up over this. I was rinsing my mouth with salt water and peroxide all the time and refusing to eat anything with sugar or copious amounts of acid.

By the time I got there this morning, I was pretty sure the only option would be to yank out my teeth, one at a time. I figured I could take it, and it wouldn't be so bad.

Well, I need a porcelain crown and eventually my wisdom teeth have to come out. Not nearly as bad as I thought.

My class, on the other hand, was much worse than I thought. It is Science Education in the Modern Classroom. Ironically, the professor has taken a decidedly postmodern view. It is kind of like stream-of-consciousness lecture and he vowed not to let us out early at all. 7:30am-12:30pm every day... Plus, we have nightly homework. Speaking of, I better get to it!