Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sexual Harassment Training

Today, our staff was trained in sexual harassment. Well, we were trained in how not to sexually harass others. I learned a lot.

*Do not lick my lips suggestively in the presence of others.

*Do not rub myself suggestively in the presence of others.

*Do not repeatedly comment on another employee's body.

However, I do have some lingering questions that were not answered. I was just too embarrassed to ask. I really think they should have provided an anonymous question box like we use during sex education.

1.) What exactly differentiates suggestive lip licking or rubbing oneself from nonsuggestive lip licking and rubbing of oneself?
2.)Do all of these rules still apply if you are with other employees but everyone is drunk or is there like a what happens at the party stays at the party rule?

Anyway, I got NO WORK done today due to this extremely productive meeting and I have an RED meeting at 7am and another training at 1pm tomorrow. I feel like I am never going to catch up with all the work I need to do!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Don't Know How to Feel

It feels like it should be raining. It feels like I should be walking down a silvery city street. It feels like I should be walking alone until I just can't walk anymore.

If I were walking away, and someone were standing behind me, they would hear my footsteps fade like heart beats. It would be easier to hear that than to say goodbye.

Tonight I heard my Granny's voice for the first time in probably six years, but probably for the last time. It is strange for me because I never see my Dad's side of the family, but they never forgot about me and my brothers. I am glad I got to talk to her before the end, but I feel very alone in this struggle. I found that I couldn't say goodbye. I just said, "It's been too long."

Friday, September 24, 2010

999 Dead Tiny Sea Turtles

The story in our reader this week is called Turtle Bay. It is actually a very cute story and the kids really like it. It is about a wise old man who befriends two kids in Japan. Together they watch sea turtles come ashore and lay eggs and then watch the baby sea turtles go into the ocean.

I thought I would tie in an informational story about sea turtles returning to the beach where they were born before we read the story. So, this morning, I went to the school library to look through our books on sea turtles. I found a story with beautiful illustrations called One Tiny Sea Turtle. It looked about the right length and seemed like a good tie in, so I didn't bother to read the whole thing in the morning.

Reading time rolled around and I decided to start my lesson by reading the kids One Tiny Sea Turtle. I started reading the story and the kids were really into it. The baby turtle hatched and went into the ocean. She swam around for years. She made her own nest and laid eggs on the beach.

Then, we got to the part where the baby sea turtles hatched. I started to notice something was up before the kids because there were these ominous looking sea gulls overhead in the picture, and then these evil white crabs came. Well, the crabs and the gulls massacred the baby sea turtles until only one tiny sea turtle survived.

The looks on my kids faces went from awe and wonder to horror.

In the end, I still think the lesson was good because it did help the kids understand the story and nature is what nature is, BUT it was not exactly the way I pictured that lesson going...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Nice Story About Us

Just as I vow to focus on the positive in teaching, the local newspaper ran a positive story about my school helping a family whose son went blind and helping that student to enroll in public school part time (he's at a school for the blind most of the week). The parents of the family talked about how wonderful our school was.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

There You Are

I mentioned before that I have a non-reader. He came to my classroom on the first day of school so quiet and unobtrusive. I have a sense that he just wanted to fade. He was as close as a third grader can come to being invisible.

I was in a place on that first day of school where I saw someone who had become so good at hiding.

I remember on the third week of school, we were taking a district writing test. I am not allowed to read the kids the prompt, and he couldn't read, so he just sat there. I got permission to read it to him. Then I said to him, "It's okay, just do your best and that will be enough. That is all that I expect." He wrote one sentence, but his paper might have been blank.

Yesterday, I gave the kids a prompt that said, "teachers have heard every excuse in the book about not turning in homework, except for the one you are about to write, write Ms. Understood a letter with the craziest, zaniest excuse about why you did not do your homework." He came up to me and showed me his journal, with two paragraphs! "Will you read it for us?" I asked. So he read his crazy, zany excuse. I couldn't have read it because he is not literate enough yet for it to be easily read, but when he read it we all heard him.

I was watching him today interacting with other kids and laughing and smiling. I just thought, "there you are."

The Why

The last month of my life has been a little rough. My house is still looking a little bit like a bunker because we are still hiding from my friend's soon-to-be ex-husband. Every noise in the night is still a little bit frightening.

I am working all of the time and barely keeping up. Money is still really tight. I've been trying to finish Career Ladder and my Capstone project for graduate school.

My mind is always whirring. I am thinking about test scores and account balances and locking the door and deadlines. I find myself looking at the calendar all the time to estimate the date when money trouble and friend drama and Career Ladder and Graduate School and lesson plans will be over.

Okay, I am getting all of this off my chest because it is time to turn the corner.

I use this blog always to speak the truth. I've said before and I will say again, "In education, we have to lie all the time." I never want to be politically correct and well-behaved on my blog. Sometimes it really sucks working in education. I always give myself license to say that here because I would go CRAZY if I were to pretend that is not the case.

However, my life as a teacher is also rewarding and filled with beautiful moments that pass by like perfect white clouds in a blue sky. I have only so much time to record my thoughts and experiences in writing, and I have to wonder which thoughts really merit recording. I witness hundreds of stories daily. I could cry a river about the tiny tragedies I witness daily, but sometimes I should take time to remember the rainbows. So, for a while, I am going to use my blogging time to reflect on the amazing things I get to see and sometimes have a part in--the things that make all the other stuff worth it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


When I was a little girl, I used to have recurring dreams about running away from bad dark things that were chasing me. Sometimes it was a pack of dogs chasing me. Sometimes it was a bad man. Always, I would run to escape. I had that dream for the last time when I was about twenty. I'll never forget that dream because I was being chased by a masked criminal, but I refused to run. The criminal took off his mask and it was my dad. Had he been chasing me in my dreams all those years waiting for me to confront him. I don't know, but the dreams quit coming.

I am having another running dream, but this time I am running to get some place. The problem is that it is like I am running on a treadmill and I can't get anywhere. I think I am dreaming about running because that is the pace of my life right now. I get up early and my day is filled from morning to night with work only. I feel like I work and work and work, but it is still not enough and I am failing to meet the needs of my class.

I do want to be a more balanced person than I have been in the past while I am teaching. It is not happening, though.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Teacher Support Group

About two years ago, I went through a really traumatic experience as a teacher. It just made me want to give up. It made me want to quit. All the stars had to align and things had to happen just the way they did or I am sure that I would have quit. I didn't ever think my heart would be completely in teaching again, and although I have healed more than I thought I would, I never did fully regain the heart for teaching that I had prior to that experience. I am more cynical, jaded, and skeptical because of what I went through.

At the time, and for a while after, I really believed it was a pretty unique experience. I am starting to realize that it is more unique in teaching to NOT ever have an experience like that.

I was talking to the other teacher at the training with me this afternoon and she was telling me about her experience like that and then the other teacher at the table chimed in about her experience like that. In this age of accountability we all get held accountable for things we don't deserve at some point. Most of us have anxiety that we will be held responsible for things well beyond our control. AND it is a reasonable anxiety.

It just made me wonder why we are all so quiet about these things. I started this blog because I needed to talk about that experience. It has grown into something more now, but I wish I hadn't thought I was the only one who experiences this kind of thing in teaching.

I Don't Know Whether to Be Flattered or Annoyed...

Ladies and Gentlemen, A Really Long Tangent:
I had a training all day Tuesday and will have one all day today on data. I don't know if I mentioned that I am the new "Co-Data Coordinator" at my school. Yes, I know, my title is so impressive. I didn't really volunteer job so much as I made a comment that the Data Coordinator should train one person from each grade level in the data system. Somehow, because of that I found out the first week of school that I was Co-Data Coordinator when I saw my name typed into the committee page; usually we all have to write our names in, and I try to sign up for the easiest committee (so I was never quite sure how that happened). What am I supposed to be doing? I don't know. I think I am supposed to be helping manage the system, but I don't know how to use it. So far, I've actually been the friendly face of data coordination (read as the one everyone is complaining to). People don't exactly love* the giant data system that we have to enter more scores into than ever before. People don't exactly love* my Co-Data Coordinator (read as he has many frienemies). Could it be that my job is to sit there and look pretty? To smile and shut up? I suspect this is the really reason I was drafted as "Co-Data Coordinator." I really think I am the Evita of co-data coordination. All this, though, is just a preface to point out that I went to two day long trainings this week (I actually liked the trainings, but this is not the point either).

The Actual Post
I had a super-hard time writing sub plans for my class this year because of inclusion and because the whole group is low, low, low. I really didn't want them to lose ground. I made three levels of plans (gen ed, resource, and really really resource). I was specific. I staggered instruction, so I could do most of the direct instruction. Yet, when I graded my weekly reading test yesterday, scores took a huge hit from me being out one day. My class average on the weekly reading test (with accommodations for my resource students) is usually 85-90%, but this week it was 75-80%. As co-data coordinator, I am afraid I must pronounce this a complete disaster.

I am sure that the difference is me being there. It is almost impossible for me to communicate how to get the SPED kids learning reading. I don't whether to be flattered that my instruction makes an impact or to be annoyed that being out one day has these kind of repercussions. I am leaning toward annoyed because I am out again today and I am afraid my kids will suffer in their learning for this next story too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Yeah, this is an education buzz word, but it is also a reality for teachers in my district this year. I have included in my class two students with labeled disabilities and soon to be a third. One of the students is profoundly disabled. He has never been in a general classroom before. THE. STRESS. IS. STARTING. TO. GET. TO. ME.

The profoundly disabled student is really a full time job by himself. He can't read. He scored a "0" on DIBELS. He can't add or subtract--he can barely count. Because of the new inclusion policy, he is in my classroom for the Reading and Math blocks. I haven't found one Math activity that he is capable of doing independently. I have trouble having a coherent conversation with him. He has no aid time and no one is coming in my room to help me. He is currently not being seen for all of his hours on his IEP and they are telling me the plan is to rewrite his IEP to be compatible with inclusion, BUT not to give any more classroom support. Basically, we're just taking away his hours. The answer I got when I complained about it was that our school will be having a training for classroom teachers on inclusion. Awesome.

I already am having an issue with him because he didn't understand my classroom bathroom policy and had an accident. Mom feels that he is not allowed to use the bathroom and told me to review his file. I don't even know what to do because he has never been in a large group class and he doesn't understand the policy.

I know that I am completely liable for any situation like the above, but no one asked me if I felt comfortable taking on this project. I am bringing home mountains of work because I have to triple plan everything. One third grade lesson for 20 students, one third grade lesson with no reading for 2 students, and one first grade lesson... It took me four and a half hours to write sub plans because everything has to be triple planned and I have two pages on how the sub needs to handle the sped kids.

I am seriously sinking in work. I honestly am tired of hearing from the special education teachers and administrators and superintendent how well our new total inclusion policy is going. No one has asked me what problems I am seeing and no one has asked me how they can help. Shouldn't the people who have to do all the work for inclusion have some say on how it is going?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Almost 10 Years

I was a high school sophomore on September 11, 2001. I remember my tv alarm clock going off at 7am that morning. There is a big time difference between NY and where I live. My tv came on just after the first plane had hit the World Trade Center. The newscasters were saying that it doesn't seem that this could be an accident. I went and woke up my mother and together we watched the chain of events that unfolded.

I went to school that day and in every course we watched the news. The streets were quiet and the skies were quiet even out here in the desert--so far away from the World Trade Center. We all prayed and waited to see how we could help. We all--even those of us that were sixteen--stayed awake at night wondering what would happen next.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Write Like a Champion

Today we all (all the teachers) had to grade the baseline writing samples using a six trait rubric. The prompt for third grade was: "Write a letter to your teacher about a field trip you would like to go on." This prompted some of the most terrible third grade writing I've had to read. Here is a list of some on the gems I scored.

*I would like to go to the zoo to see the monkeys, lions, zebras, cheetahs, elephants, parrots... (this list went on long enough to fill the whole page).
*A magical story about a spaceship (what does this have to do with the prompt, you tell me).
*D Mt. _____, I go dragon ball Z. Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball Z.

I could go on, but why should I put my readers through the same pain I was subjected to? I was given a ridiculously long rubric with scores of 1-6 for six traits, but I made my own simple rubric that applies to all six traits as we went. See below.

6 - Never going to happen. Forget the possibility of scoring this writing as a six and spend your time reading about the other scores.
5- The writing was still a boring third grade paper, but it was long and grammatically correct without causing physical pain or suicidal thoughts in the reader. You wish the paper was shorter, so you wouldn't have to keep reading, but at least you can decipher the words.
4- This is the score to use when the brain of the evaluator has shut down. It is a cop out score to be used for writing that is not that good, but not as bad as some other third grade writing.
3- A 3 should be used for a paper that makes you want to quit teaching or maybe reading, but you would rather continue scoring than be fired.
2- A 2 is a good score for "compositions" that are three lines long, but take quite a while to read because they are sloppy and do not make sense. A good rule of thumb is to give a paper a 2 if the paper seems like it is written in another language when you first start scoring it. After a while, you agree that it is English, but you still don't know what it says.
1- This is my favorite score because it can be used for papers that are three words long except none of the words are actually words. 1 papers are easy to spot.

Please feel free to score my post using the rubric above. I would probably give myself a 4, but my brain shut off a long time ago.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Little Tanner, A Little Older--Whoops I Mean Wiser

When I look at myself in the mirror, ultimately, there is only one thing I want to see. I want to see a girl or a woman who does the right thing. In my career and in my personal life and in my family I try to follow my moral compass.

Months ago one of my best friends came to me and asked for help. She was in a bad marriage and was literally afraid to leave her husband. She was also afraid of what she would do to herself if she remained in this relationship. I didn't hesitate and I didn't question her. I just said, "I will help you." My roommate who is also best friends with this girl responded exactly the same.

I have never wavered in my decision to help her. I understand that I am taking on personal risk because the man she is leaving is quite unstable. I understand that I am taking on gossip because my friend isn't going to air her dirty laundry and people who don't know the whole story see things differently.

I have had to cover all the windows in my house. I had to warn my work not to allow any personal visitors to my classroom. I had to stay out of my house so that he couldn't come find me this weekend.

I am completely satisfied with my choice. I am anxious about danger I might have taken on, but I accept risk. The thing that is shocking me most as my friend has made this decision is the reaction of my Christian brothers and sisters.

My friend has had people sending her scripture saying she would be damned to Hell for seeking divorce. There are so many rumors flying around about my friend and also me and my roommate.

I knew that the man who my friend was leaving would have an over the top and irrational reaction. I had no idea that so many others who have only surface knowledge of this situation would judge her and me apparently.

I pray that I can continue to handle all of this with grace. I know why I did what I did to help my friend and I do not question that. Let people talk and do what they will.