Monday, November 28, 2011

What Is It?

It is funny that you can walk out of your house one day feeling totally normal, and that by the time you get back nothing is the same. I guess that normal people don't feel this for the first time at 26, but I have never felt this way. Not that I can manage to put a name to this feeling. Yes, for all my craftiness with words, I still can't seem to say what it is. So, what is it? What is it that makes you smile whenever your with him? What is it that makes you suddenly domestic enough to cook a meal? What is it that makes you too distracted from teaching to write your teaching blog, which has up to this point, been the biggest commitment of my life? What is it that makes you suddenly attached to your phone? What is it that makes you cry at the new Twilight movie that you publicly think is stupid, but secretly identify with? What is it that makes you count the minutes to the weekend? What is it that makes you develop a sudden interest in "Say Yes to the Dress"? What is it that makes you look up relationship books on I'm sure I don't know, but whatever it is, I have it and it is bad.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


It's that week, that super long week, when I have to tac 25, 20 minute parent/teacher conferences on to an already full week of teaching. Today was day one of the parent/teacher conference marathon. I still have to put in a good 14 hours again tomorrow, but by 4:00pm I already had a terrible headache. I think it was the exhaustion starting to kick in, but it felt like my eyes were pushing themselves out of their sockets.

My meetings were actually going fine, but they were also non-stop meetings in a row from 5pm-7:30pm. By the time I left, I was actually almost in tears from the pain in my eyes. I was also a little disconcerted by the fact that I have another meeting at 7am, followed by a full day of teaching, followed by more meetings until 6:30pm.

Anyway, at 7:45pm, I finally get home, and there waiting on the front porch is this:


Suddenly, it was a good day after all. So, readers, you see, I'm distracted. I can't really seem to write about education. I can't really seem to focus on education. That's just the truth.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Taking a Deep Breath

Things are going really well. Well enough to scare me.

The funny thing is that he told me on Saturday night that he is afraid of getting hurt. He said he doesn't want to like me like this because he is scared. I told him that I like him, but I don't trust him. "I wish those things went at the same speed," I said.

"I know," he replied, "but they don't."

And so, they don't.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Disney Movies and Other Nonsense

So, last night "Aladdin" was on. It was a childhood movie for me, so I've seen it like fifty gazzilion times. I was watching the scene where Aladdin takes Jasmine on a magic carpet ride, and, this is embarassing: I found myself getting a little teary eyed. I know, I should listen to advice not to get sappy and ridiculous. I am trying.

Anyway, the date was even better than expected. Don't worry I didn't do anything crazy--I have standards. This weekend he is taking me on a surprise date and he won't tell me where. I guess I am not used to someone being so romantic.

Besides, I have a plan. I am going to stay away from all things sappy and play it cool.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Psycho Therapy

I still really like the "Psycho Killer".

"I don't date very often, and I am probably doing it weirdly," I told CPA Guy (Psycho Killer). It's true because I am used to being single. Honestly, I have a very full life single. I have always known I would have to meet someone who would make me want to change. I have this sneaking suspicion that I have met such a person.

I have been keeping it a very big secret, though, because I just can't be sure. It is just so new--in so many ways.

It scares me because I don't date a lot. I have always thought that one day I would fall in love and get married and all of that. Yet, meeting someone who makes me wonder, "Is he that guy?" freaks me out. I feel like I am at the beginning of a path that has potential to sweep through my life and make it never the same again.

It's like being on the edge of a diving board, and if I really jump off, water will rush over me and there will be no going back. It's like if everything did go sour, then it would be hard to go back to being happy in the state I am in. At this point I could still go back, but I feel that time passing me by.

So, let's sum this up. I feel that I might not be completely ready for the kind of change a relationship would bring. I feel afraid that things will end up badly and it will be hard. I know that these are not actually good reasons to end things.

Anyway, I have this big date tomorrow night. I am really excited. I know I need to focus on being in the moment and enjoying things. Freaking out about potential change or potential disaster is not helpful in the least. Okay, thanks blog therapist. What would I do without you?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Help

"Will you come in and help me? I really don't know what to say."

The words felt unnatural coming out of my mouth because I don't really ask for help at work or in life. However, I really wanted to be absolved of all responsibility to discuss the death of this parent with a room full of eight and nine year olds.

In retrospect, I can see how it is best coming from me, but I am afraid to say the wrong thing or say it the wrong way. I feel like I can't handle this issue and I wish someone would do it for me.

They need to see from me that everything is going to be okay, and that they are still in a safe world; they also need to see that I have compassion for the situation and the loss matters to me. They don't need to see that I shake a little bit when I think about going to that funeral on Saturday (the first one I've ever been to for a suicide). They don't need to see that I kind of wish this child was in someone else's classroom because I feel suddenly young and inexperienced to handle this.

All of this makes me think about what I believe about teaching and life and God. I'm only in my fifth year of teaching and this is the second time I have dealt with a really tragic situation impacting my classroom. Two years ago, I had a student who discovered suddenly that she had a life-threatening brain tumor the year she was in my class. We didn't know what would happen and we didn't know if she would be okay. I am happy to report that she is doing well today. The tumor is completely removed and she is in school full time again. She's in fifth grade now and she said to me the other day, "You know, when I was in third grade, it was a really bad year, but I am glad you were there and helped me get through it."

Now, I find myself trying to help this child who had a parent commit suicide and wants nothing more than to be in school as much as possible because that is where she is happiest. I realize that twice I've had kids in my class who are experiencing the worst year of their young lives (who are experiencing a worse year than I've ever experienced in my young life), and I can't believe they are there by coincidence. I think God puts them with me so they'll be closer to him. He loves them and I pray and try to do what He wants. I think he is trying to reach them through me. I find myself saying the same words to him that I was saying to the VP, words I don't say a lot. "Will You come in and help me? I really don't know what to say?"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Words Escape Me

Working with children can be fun because they always have a playful happy spirit. Sweet faces who love their teachers and school and families are definitely one of the biggest rewards of working in elementary school.

Yet, this life isn't always kind to children. Children can lose those whom they love most. Children can get sick. Children can die.

I am getting better about having a life outside of work, but it is these situations that keep me up at night and give me unsettling dreams.

A little girl in my class had a parent commit suicide this weekend. She came to school like nothing happened. We weren't notified. Later, I found out that she wanted to be at school.

I'm struck by such a little one so alone in the world. She comes to school asking me for a new homework sheet because she lost hers. She promises me that she'll have it done on time. I say, "Sometimes things happen and we can't get everything done and it's okay." I know that no one will sit with her. I know that she has the weight of the world on her shoulders. I see her walk her younger siblings to school every morning.

Sometimes I forget to pray for my students. Of course, they're more than a job; but I sometimes leave thoughts of them at school. When life is like this, I remember to pray for them, but I can't find the words.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

When I got home from my date, I closed the door to my house and leaned against it. On the other side of my door, things looked a little bit different. I crossed over to the other side of dating. I crossed over to the side where I am a little bit more vulnerable and I could get hurt. As you might know if you read this, I am kind of used to being unsure of what I want. I am kind of used to saying goodbye. I am not used to realizing that I do like someone--it's been a pretty good while. It feels good and bad.

This was my second date with Mr. CPA. Last weekend, on our first date, he took me out for teppenyaki. We had a good time, but I still felt very much like myself as we said good by. He tried to kiss me good night and I gave him my cheek. I thought I wanted to see him again, but I was still pretty neutral.

We kept talking during the week. Then he called me confusing, and I was a little rattled, but, you know, I shook it off. Today we went to this restaurant with wood burning stoves that cooks pizza, and then he actually agreed to accompany on a dry run of this children's museum I needed to do for a field trip I am planning. When he said good bye I gave him a hug. "Thanks," he said, "You know I want go in for you this time. I've learned my lesson about going slow with you."

So, I closed the door and leaned up against it. I found myself touching my lips like I just had an unexpected kiss. What I really had was an unexpected not-kiss. That's when it hit me: I like this guy, and there is nothing left for me to do about it except see where things go.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dance Card

I don't really know why I know this expression because I too young to know about dance cards, but I believe it would be appropriate to say my dance card is full. On Friday, I met the CPA guy that I really liked; I still do. We have another date this weekend--I think. Last night, we kind of got into a little disagreement. Apparently he thinks that I am confusing. That might not be the first time I've heard that. Anyway, he tried to say this as an aside, and I made him tell me exactly what he meant. He says I am hard to read. We both knew that we didn't want to have an argument about it now, when we just met; so we just kind of dropped it. I'm not really sure where that leaves things, though.

As for the doctor, I have a new nick name: Doogie Howser. Seriously, he gave this nickname to himself. He graduated highschool at fifteen and has six secondary degrees. He's already been a practicing software engineer and now he is a career switcher at the age of thirty and a licensed PA. He's also a landlord. He likes outdoor extreme activities. He's just got a crazy life. I feel like if I was nicknaming him 20 years from now he would be Richard Branson or Bill Gates or something. I'm actually a little intimidated by him and I don't get that very often. I am just plain curious about him, though.

Then there's this guy that I met when I went out with my friends on Sunday night. His dad is actually responsible for penning some very famous legislation around here and works in the state government. He wasn't intimidated by the book (Superfreakonomics) that I had in my bag at the bar, and he tracked with me. Apparently when he asked for my number I said "alright" in some kind of insulting way, according to my friends. Maybe I was being confusing??? Well, he still called, so it couldn't have been that bad.

Well, I am leaving in about 20 minutes, so I have to go. I have a classroom update coming later. I'll try to get to it tonight, but maybe I won't until tomorrow or so.

So, why the song? I guess I left my inner thoughts about an event covered in this post. The song, however, covers it.... Can you guess what I meant by it?? Hint: don't take it too literally, go with the chorus.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Training Wheels Come Off

When I was younger, we did this writing activity where you had to draw this road map of your life. You were supposed to put benchmarks that are the important points in your life. I suppose if most of us tried to do that we would put weddings and graduations and moves and births. In a way, all of that is artificial.

Real change, it seems, sneaks up on you. At least, it's snuck up on me. There's this kind of teacher I always wanted to be, but never could be. This year I am pretty close to that. There are these times that I'll catch my own reflection on some surface while I am teaching. The reflection teacher is someone I would have wanted to copy in years past, but I'm always surprised to find that it is me.

There's this kind of person I've always wanted to be, but never could be. I always wanted to have my own little house that felt like a home. I wanted to go out on the town and have adventures. I wanted to say what's on my mind and seize the day instead of being so introverted. For some reason, I can do that now.

Last night, I went on this date with the C.P.A. guy--the one I really like. Normally, I just couldn't be open to that. Yet, it was one of the best dates I've ever had. Soon, I am going to meet the doctor. Last year, I was so confused by trying to date more than one guy. This year, I am just having fun.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Pray for the Day

Friends, teachers, parents lend me your ears. Four score and a bunch of years ago math problems were either right or wrong. Teachers didn't have to grade the "strategy a student chose" on a rubric. It wasn't possible for a student with a WRONG answer to out score a student with a RIGHT answer. You had to memorize your multiplication tables in third grade. I think it was an era when Math instruction was ruled by common sense.

Once upon a time, Reading instruction was just as convoluted as Math instruction is now. The brightest minds in education thought whole language was the only way to teach reading. Basal readers were believed to be from Satan. Things were all about themes and reading levels weren't that important. Then, a huge body of research, told us what was abundantly clear: it wasn't working. This research brought back a concrete, structured approach to teaching reading. I was lucky enough to be teaching AFTER this miraculous transition.

What I have never been lucky enough to experience is common sense in teaching Math. My whole career, I have been asked to use a very murky Math resource. I really want to try a structured, objective approach. I even have such an adopted curriculum in my cabinet, BUT it is not what I am supposed to be using. For years, I've gone along with it. Now, though, as I try to think about goals, I know I need to improve my Math instruction, but this required use of this adopted curriculum is holding me back.

I have always gone along with this, and this year will be no exception, BUT starting next year over 50% of my evaluation will be based on test scores. Why should I be personally responsible for my Math scores, if I can't teach according to what I believe? I pray that common sense comes back to Math soon, because I am afraid I will be punished for the sins of methods I would never choose.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So, I Went on a Date with an Axe Murderer

Well, as they say, it's time to give the people what they want. Yes, my dear readers, I know your dirty little secret. You read my "education blog," but the stats don't lie, everyone wants to read my posts on love. I really don't mind. Obviously I write them, so I mean them to be read. It's just funny. I know what a mess I am when it comes to such things. Anyway, I don't know why I should be surprised that my dating mishaps and insecurities are more interesting than my thoughts on differentiation.

Anyway, I've been kind of putting off this post because I kind of hate the silly school girl me that I can be when I have a crush on someone. For my whole life, I have been trying to prevent myself from being like that, but it seems that I can't fight it right now.

Here's the worst part of it, I haven't even met this guy yet. Apparently, he possesses the ability to capture my affections via e-mail. Are you really that surprised? Of course, I am a sucker for writing.

Don't worry, I already asked him if he is a crazy psycho killer, married or in prison. E-harmony makes you ask each other questions, so I threw that whopper at him. He did confess to being put in prison by his wife precisely because he is a crazy psycho killer. He also said he would have time off for good behavior and would I please let him take me to dinner soon. So, I think in the next week, I am going to have teppanyaki with a psycho killer.

Well, we'll see if he lives up to all this hype. Of course, I'll let you know. You see how I can still play it cool. Don't tell anyone my dirty little secret: that I am really not playing it cool this time. Thanks, reader friends, I knew I could count on you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Self Fulfilling Prophecy? and A Tale of Two Classes

Things are still just rosy. I think I want to adopt all the kids in my class. I think I want to loop with them to twelfth grade--and beyond. Honestly, they are just making my job an absolute joy this year. I can't wait to see them in the morning and I am sad to see them go.

It's not that there aren't any tough kids to handle. I have a girl who speaks no English and has no reading or phonics knowledge. I have one who is a real pouter (at least, an attempted pouter, he does seem to give up when he realizes it's not getting him anywhere). Later, when I write about him, he'll be Eyore. It's just that overall, this group wants to please and is compliant. If I could pick one word to describe my class this year it would be amiable. They just gel with me perfectly.

So, here's the thing, how can you ever tell how much of them being awesome is because I think they're awesome? I find myself wanting to do more fun stuff than I ever did last year, and I am no longer staring at the clock. The hours seem to fly by. Looking back, if I could describe my class last year with one word it would be explosive. They made every minute of the day a challenge for me. Obviously, there are some fundamental differences in the make up of the students, however, the teacher's perception is a huge factor too. If I could be one of those people who put myself in the state of mind that there are no difficult classes and thought they were so much fun, would they have been more fun.

A part of me protests. I think, I tried to think positively. They just kept on throwing punches, having angry tantrums, bullying, etc etc and reminding me why it wasn't that fun to be always in charge of them. The other part of me says, "look at yourself, and understand, how to enjoy a group like that."

This year is going to be an experiment in how far a group of students can go when my time and energy is not monopolized by BIG in-your-face Behavior-with-a-capitol-"B" issues. For me, I think it will be a lot easier and a lot of fun. However, I have to realize, that baring me packing my bags and teaching in a totally different setting, I will have more groups like the one last year. My school just has a lot of challenging circumstances and we deal with kids who face crazy issues at home, and when they, for whatever reason, are unable to handle it, the issues come to school.

Last year, when I had a difficult class to teach, I did learn about how to teach better. When what you can apply to 90% of the population in general is true for only 60% of your class, you learn to do better for the 40%. When you go back to a 90-10 split, you know better how to help the 10%. This year, I find I am easily reaching my low kids and my behaviors because I had to use these strategies for so much of my class last year. This year, with a good class, I am soaking it up, but I am trying to learn a different lesson. I am trying to make a benchmark out of how I feel.

Here's what I mean:
--When I have this group that is fun for me, I feel happy to see them every day.
--When I have this group, I want to do fun things.
--When I have this group, I laugh a lot and see the humor throughout the day.
--When I have this group, I keep telling them how pleased I am.

So, if this is my benchmark, what can I do when they send me another chair thrower or another adhdhdhdhdhd or another group of girl bullies, or, more likely, all of these at once? The answer is I have to reflect back the same thing I naturally reflect back to this group I have now. Hopefully, if I do that, and do it well, then it can more positively impact a difficult group.

Monday, August 22, 2011


It's a billion and one degrees around here. We have something called an extreme excessive heat warning today. The high was 114 degrees farenheit (aka BEYOND miserable). It is so hot that my seat belt buckle burned me through my dress on my hip during my afternoon commute. It is so hot recess had to be shortened to 10 minutes in the shade with no running (loads of fun). It is so hot.

Why, in God's name, does a city THIS hot begin school THIS early (we are now in our third week)? By the end of parent pick-up today, I was in a puddle on the ground.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Desert Storm

The best thing about living in the desert is the summer storms that come at night. There might be places that have far more dramatic rains, but we must contend for the most dramatic lightening. I live in a city, in a valley, in a desert. Driving downhill from the edge of town you would see a festival of lights beneath a dark sky. You'll see dancing headlights coming up and red glowing tail lights floating down. Stop lights, the lights from houses and shops, yet it is still inexplicably dark. The desert has a way of being vast and open even in the midst of so much civilization. Like the way the night sky looks dark in spite of the stars.

The one exception to this darkness is the lightning. White flashes light up the whole sky. Suddenly the purple jagged mountains, the cacti, the buildings become so clear. It is beautiful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Note to My Friends Out There Who Just Met a Tough Class... For Example the Fourth Grade Teachers Now Teaching My Former Students

Yesterday afternoon, I had a moment that was both good and bad. You know, like a laugh/cry--when you don't know how you feel and it comes out somewhere in the middle?

I looked at my new class perfectly performing the procedures I just taught them yesterday. They were doing work and using quiet voices and being independent. It was awesome. That is, it was awesome until the cognitive dissonance kicked in.

Suddenly I thought, "What the Hell did I do wrong last year that those kids never got in a year what these kids got in a day?"

This morning, before I left for school, I decided to search out precisely what I was thinking at this time last year. The first post I cam accross from August of last year was this one. It was about non-reader, from my class last year, and how I discovered that he couldn't read during the first week of school.

This morning as I looked at that post I had an epiphany. If I had been his fourth grade teacher this year, I wouldn't have discovered a child that couldn't read. He is still behind, but he started the year illiterate and he ended it able to read.

My class last year never became the class I dream of. They constantly forgot and/or purposely ignored procedures and rules. Every lesson required extensive planning just to make it marginally effective. They often made me want to pull out my hair or drink a lot. They still learned a lot.

Anyway, it looks like I might win the class lottery this year, but to those of you teaching the taz, the hulk, the mean girls, Angelica, and the lost boys; please remember that the measure of success is not just keeping the kids orderly and focused. Look for progress deep and wide. Sometimes when your kids are "born to be wild" and the class next door is walking down the hall in a perfect line it is easy to be hard on yourself. At the same time, magnificent changes may be happening right under your nose and you're just too close to see them. So, if you've just realized that you're in for a long year, take a deep breath and remember: those kids need a teacher the way the sick need a doctor.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

12 Month Forecast

Can I just start vy saying the actual weather is miserable? For the first two days of school, I have done my make-up, fixed my hair, and put on professional looking clothing. I have also been outside for about half an hour before school both mornings, outside for 20 minutes during the day, and outside for about half an hour after school. This makes about an hour and a half outside. Today's high was 107 degrees with about 19% humidity. Why do I bother trying to look presentable?

To make matters worse I developed a rash in a line across my right calf on the night of meet the teacher. It finally seems to be clearing up, but the heat was making it itch and it looked ridiculous. Yet, it was way too hot to wear anything that covers up my calves. Everyone kept asking me what was wrong with my leg all day.

Although the actual weather is SWELTERING, I decided to check the forecast for the next year of my life.

In my classroom this year, a low pressure system seems to be coming our way. Unbelievably, the kids seem well behaved. At first, I thought this was just wishful thinking or the honeymoon phase with my new class, but then I ran into the hulk out on the playground. He was fighting and up to his usual angry ways--on the second day of school. That reminded that my students this year are not so famous on the playground as my students from last year. Then, a crazy thing happened, I finished all my phonics screeners without having to stop and deal with other students in one sitting. These kids don't get in trouble when I am not attending directly to them. Last year, I had to get help to finish my phonics screeners because I could hardly get through one students test without having to go deal with behaviors.

In the lovely casa where I reside, the fog has lifted! Amanda finally told us exactly what she was upset about. Oddly it was about the ring. She's decided to stay. Lindsay has decided to stay. All is well, and we are planning Amanda's wedding.

As for my dating life, it seems that blue skies are ahead. I can't be sure, weather is fickle, but I foresee sun and a pleasant breeze and lovely weather. I have to say, that this time around, I seem to be meeting some guys that I really like. Particularly one that I haven't met yet, but I think I will soon. He's an accountant. He actually works less than a mile from where I work. He's exactly my age. He seems funny and polite. He's religious, but grounded. There are a couple of others I will talk about later. Everything seems to move much slower on e-harmony and that is much better for me.

All in all I am cautiously optimistic about this year!

Monday, August 8, 2011

I. Am. So. Tired.

It was a very good first day of school, but seriously, I just want to sleep for a very long time. I sat down to write something interesting about the first day of school and to update on the many forms of drama in my personal life. Unfortunately, I have not the energy.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Sorry everyone that I haven't posted in so long. Tomorrow is the first day of school (I can't believe it), and I've been working a lot. At this point in my career, I realize that the first week of school is so important. I am trying hard to plan thoroughly enough that I can focus my energy and attention on the kids while they are there and not the billion tasks I, personally, have to accomplish this week.

My goals for the first week of school this year are as follows:

1.) To make each student feel that I like him or her. (I finally get it that kids really worry about if their teacher likes them. Teachers should not take on the role of friend, because they need to be the authority figure, but kids need to feel that you notice them and like them.)

2.) To teach procedures and routines (this is sort of a given).

3.) To build community. I hate dumb team building activities, but it is not worth it to skip them!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Drama Drama Drama

My two best friends are also my roommates. We've all been best friends since we were twelve, which astoundingly was fourteen years ago now. I don't have any sisters, but these two friends we'll call them Amanda and Lindsay have been sisters in my life. We've known each other through first loves, first marriages (for one of us), through middle school, through high school, through parents splitting up, through college, through starting careers.

Through all of this we've had very little drama. I remember once when I was sixteen and had my first serious boyfriend Amanda was mad at me for about a month because she felt like I was always ditching her. Her dad locked us in a room at church and said, "you two, work this out, because you are friends for life." He was right and we did work it out.

Life changes and people grow up and get married and move on. I have been really happy for Amands who has recently fallen in love (I should remind her how I'm handling this much better than she did my serious boyfriend I had at 16). I know she really wants all of this to happen. So much so, that I think I haven't noticed that something else is going on with her. I just have been assuming that she is really in love and happy, but tonight I got a wakeup call that something else is going on.

Our lease is up on October 1st, so we have almost exactly two months to sign a new lease or to move out. We've been holding off on a decision because Lindsay, who recently got divorced and moved into the office, was looking for a job in town that couldn't start until she graduated nursing school next month. Well, she found a job, so we were all planning to meet to talk about what we want to do with the October lease.

Tonight I asked Amanda as she was on her way out the door to work what time we were going to meet tomorrow. "I don't the time," she said, "but I have no new information."

"Amanda, in two months we either have to move out of here or we have to sign a new lease. I am fine with whatever we want to do, but I don't really want to have 31 days to plan financially, find a place, and time to move. Plus, Lindsay is planning to stay and she needs to know what her options are."

Then, she was obviously upset and said she's not officially engaged and she didn't know when she was starting graduate school. The thing is that she's not planning to get married until May no matter what, and she says she will not consider moving in with her fiance before they're married. She wants to move out on her own to see if she can make it with no roommates and no boy before she is married. All that is fine, but she was saying that she didn't know if she wanted to move out at all now because of school and not being engaged. She was getting so upset as she was telling me this.

"Amanda, I am not trying to tell you what to do. You should do what you want to do, but not as your roommate, but as your friend, I don't see your logic. I understand you are stressed that things are up in the air, but you can stay here until you get married or if you don't you can stay as long as you want. I just don't see why you're putting all this added pressure on yourself. Why don't you just stay here until you get married, and I'll find a new roommate or we'll figure out what to do with the last four months of our lease?"

Well, then she says nothing. Nothing. I have never had a conversation in my life with Amanda like this. Seriously, it was still 20 minutes until she left and neither of us said a word. I got the idea that I better drop this conversation, but not before I realized there was a lot more going on than I thought. I don't really understand why she just wouldn't tell me. Whatever it is I wouldn't judge her and I would help her.

The thing is that with family sometimes you don't want your family to know about whatever mess you're in because you know that they will know that you were raised better than whatever your choices that got you into the mess were. I think that something like that is going on with her. What, I'm not sure, but I am far more concerned with that than the eminent surprise move that may be happening for some or all of us in a couple of months.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

May the Force Be with You

Yeah, just ignore my nerdy Star Wars pun in the title, that's just how I'm going to roll tonight! The thing is that there is just some kind of switch (maybe labelled the Take-Me-Seriously-Switch) that has been flipped inside me. I just feel confident and in control of my life. I've been this way for a while now, but I am just noticing that it is a change.

The other day I was getting a little annoyed as I was dealing with the Health Savings Account people. They had just done a bunch of things that were generally incompetent and were trying to give me a hard time. Before long, I realized that the woman on the other end of the line was going to send me down another rabbit trail. A year ago, I probably would have viewed it as something beyond my control, but instead I started directing her about how to help me. Once I told her what I expected and how she could do it, she was actually very helpful and did exactly as I asked.

I was working with Mr. Bull the other day on our data committee stuff, and suddenly I saw how to make things more efficient. A year ago, I would have focused on the vast amount I don't know about our data system and what we need the data for, but I just naturally saw something to improve and said, "I think we should do X." It turned out to be quite a helpful idea.

Yesterday as I was talking to Prelawguy, I was able to clearly communicate my feelings. "I love being your friend," I told him, "I don't want to hurt you. I am glad we're able to be friends, but I would understand if you changed your mind." A year ago, I was just not emotionally mature enough to be that clear in an emotionally charged situation.

I am such a nerd that I work on building credit, not to use but just to keep it in good standing. It seemed like my bank wasn't increasing my credit limit even though the other company I have was and I was getting offers in the mail. A year ago I might have ignored that situation, but something made me pick up the phone about a week ago and tell the bank "Make me a better offer or I will be closing my account right now and going to your competitor." It worked. I got a new credit line with rewards, really low APR, and a significantly higher limit. They offered it to me on the phone, and I got it in the mail today.

Sometimes I think that I struggle to actually grow up and be a functional adult. Lately, though, I'm a force to be reckoned with. I just suddenly seem to be much better at handling every area of my life than I ever have been.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Here We Go Again

So, I went on my first date from eharmony today. He was a nice guy, a computer programmer, and a Texan (born in the same small town I was--randomly). He was decidedly Christian, but open minded. That is exactly what I want. He really liked me, I could just tell, but also he is already trying to nail down another date. I don't know how I feel yet. It wasn't instant attraction, but it doesn't have to be. Something has to grow though. Also, I think he is a bit old for me (10 years my senior). Too much? Maybe. Anyone who reads this blog knows I am kind of a young twenty six.

Then, in early evening, guess who called to tell me that he still has feelings for me? Prelawguy. Then, I had to tell him that I still don't have feelings for him. This time I think I really broke his heart. I do have more feelings for him than I did a year ago, but is he waiting for me? I'm not sure that he should because I am not sure I will ever have enough feelings for him.

I have secret room dreams almost constantly right now. I have a secret world above my house that lives in my subconscious. I am constantly exploring it even though it is haunted and the ghosts will kill you. The internet says that this dream means I am discovering new things about myself, and that is kind of true.

I have been notoriously unopen to dating. Remember when I couldn't handle Trust me, too, I've never been able to handle it. Suddenly, though, I think that I can handle it.

Yet, there's this other thing. My heart is strangely attatched to someone out-of-reach. It's just one of those things that I didn't know I wanted until I did. Yet, I don't really do anything about it. I mean, I respect that Prelawguy has declared his heart to me several times even though I've rejected him multiple times. It is kind of gutsy and I have to admit that I wouldn't be that gutsy.

I feel like on the one hand, I am ready to meet someone and actually know what I am looking for. Then again, maybe I am psychologically sabotaging myself. Maybe I just want what is out of reach precisely because it is out-of-reach. I mean, why didn't I ever feel that way when it was within reach?

Here are these three scenarios playing out in my heart and my head and my life all in one day and it leaves me feeling sad. First, I meet a new guy who is interesting and obviously and interested in me (we seem compatible) and he is right here. Then, Prelaw guy stands there with his heart in his hands. My friendship with him has grown and it hurts me to hurt him, but I know the difference in friendship and love and my feelings for him are friendship. Then, cruelly, my heart seems to be playing tricks on me.

Are none of these guys right, and that is why it is so hard? Or is the problem me? Maybe I don't really want what I think I want.

There are bound to be many ghosts in the secret rooms tonight. Maybe I am taking a big step forward, though, in realizing that I don't get me. I always thought the problem was men, but maybe it is me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

10 Good Reasons Why I Should Cheat (and 1 Very Good Reason that I Won't)

10.) I should cheat because it would be beneficial to my career.
Test scores matter. There's not a lot of ways to climb the ladder as a teacher, but to whatever you look toward in the education world right now, there is no question that test scores are the ticket.
9.) I should cheat so my school district doesn't face penalties.
My school district is a high performing district without cheating (to my knowledge), but the dirty little secret most people don't know about NCLB is that without 100% proficiency every public school district in the country will face penalties in the next few years. Actually, my school district is already facing some (despite the fact that almost every school is rated excelling, the highest possible rating). Somehow we're technically a failing district with only highly performing or excelling schools--yeah, I don't get it either. The trouble we faced is that our test scores were initially high. We had to improve an already stellar record at prescribed incriments pressing on toward the 100% goal. I believe we started with a proficiency rate over 80%. Meaning, we should almost be at 100% by this point. If we had started at 40% our goal might be a more reasonable 70% at this point. In any case, we're facing penalties and barring a miracle (or wide scale cheating) we will face more.
8.) I should cheat so the kids see an A+ over their school every morning.
It's all about the kids, right? Next year, in this state all schools will be given a letter grade instead of a label. That letter grade will be posted in giant letters over the school. I get it that this is aimed to punish staff and not students, but what message do you suppose we are sending to the students walking into the "F" schools every day? My school is not really going to get an "F", but I do see why cheating to avoid that might be smart.
7.) I should cheat to keep my job.
Okay, technically not yet, but in two years 50-80% of my evaluation will be based entirely on test scores. Sometimes third graders don't understand the gravity of the test for them, much less me. So yeah, with lay offs every year, a good evaluation seems like a strong incentive to cheat.
6.) I should cheat to even the playing field.
Our state Math test is all reading. For a third grader with a reading disablity this makes them appear much worse at Math then they are. For a third grader, with limited English ability this makes them appear less than they are. Maybe I should just even it out and help them out.
5.)I should cheat so I don't have to teach to the test.
Let's be honest, in third grade we have to do a lot of test prep. Just the idea of a bubble sheet is foreign to them. My first year teaching third grade, I saw a little boy drawing a picture on his bubble sheet in an area that said, "do not write here." "What are you doing," I said exasperated, "It says, 'Do Not Write Here'!"
"I know," he responded, "but I'm not writing, I'm drawing!"
My point is that these kids don't know how to test so thoroughly and I have to spend a lot of time teaching them how. In some sick way, I might actually be able to teach more if I was going to cheat my way through testing.
4.) I should cheat to get a little more money.
Let's face it, being a teacher does not make you rich. Cheating at being a teacher would not make you rich either, but part of our pay is technically linked to test scores, so especially if they started falling, I would have a small financial incentive to cheat.
3.) I should cheat to be seen as a good teacher.
It seems like a pretty strong definition of "good" teacher is having good test scores. Cheating would lead to good test scores.
2.) I should cheat to take the pressure off.
I am not seriously going to cheat, but this would be the strongest incentive. I, like most teachers I know, was a very strong student. I got top marks on all tests. It's a lot harder to get top marks when you're not the one testing. I've never had testing anxiety and I have it now when I give my students tests. Test anxiety is the number one reason I've seen students cheat, and I believe it is probably why teachers do as well.
1.) I should cheat because I can.
This is kind of a non-reason, but I think it would be easy to cheat. There are not a lot of preventative measures in place around here. We have to turn in tests on time, but as far as I know, scores aren't being monitored or audited for suspicious trends. It would theory be easy to catch cheaters, but there is not much being done to attempt it.

I wouldn't cheat because it is wrong. However fed up I get with education, I will, personally, not cheat because I think allowing me to be a teacher is a sacred trust and I won't break that.

In looking at what is going on in Atlanta, and has gone on in Chicago and other places, I realize that I probably know or have known teachers who cheat. If they do cheat, and it is proven, then they broke the trust described above and should be fired--just like students who cheat should be punished. However, measures should be put in place to outweigh some of the incentives above. I don't think this cheating problem can be solved reactively. We need to be proactive. It also makes me wonder how honest our honest discussions on accountability measures really are. If some of the examples they hold up for us have cheating involved, are the things suggested really working?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A New Cast of Characters

You know, if any of these dates actually do work out, and I decide to tell them about my secret blog perhaps my nicknames could become a problem, but I need some way to describe them all anonymously. Anyways, eharmony, so far is very, very different from I feel like, for me, it is better because I need a little more guidance in my dating life. Last time, I felt like I had dating ADD and I couldn't even figure out who I had real potential with because there were so many of them. I think I am more likely to have success this time. Maybe, too, it is because I have finally figured out what I want.

For a long time, I was so unsure of the path I wanted my own life to take; and that made it really difficult to know who I would want on that path with me. I went to such a restrictive, religious college. I kind of wanted to get away from all the rules and judgments. Yet, my faith has been and always will be real. I wasn't sure how to reconcile what I don't believe with what I do. Finally, I feel comfortable and confident. I know that I want to take life's path with someone who believes, is impacted by that belief, but isn't judgmental or sanctimonious. I want a relationship that is not based on traditional gender roles. I want to laugh a lot and not take life too seriously.

This time, I am looking for people who fit where I want to go. The first guy "communicating" with me (I am still trying to figure out when you actually go on a date with this site) is a pastor. For now, I am just going to call him PastorGuy. He is good looking and seems to have a good sense of humor. Obviously he has a lot of faith, but I don't if I want to date a pastor. Finally, I feel like I live in the normal world and pastors are always at church in a way. So, I am not sure about him. He's 28--I think, so close to my age.

The next guy is a doctor in emergency medicine. He likes to go adventuring. He's fairly religious. He is 30 years old and good looking (he does look a lot younger than 30, but I look a lot younger than 26). He seems cool and I think it is cool that he is so successful. Anyway, for now his nickname is M.D.

There's more, but actually I am mixing them up in my mind right now. It's hard when you haven't met them yet. Anyway, I will update soon.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Things Might Get More Interesting on This Blog Again

As you know, if you've read my blog for a while, this blog is primarily about my work and all the craziness that goes along with it; but occasionally it also becomes about my dating life. Last year, I tried Match.Com, but I couldn't handle it. I was totally freaked out at the magnitude of it, and quit after a month or something. Since then, I haven't really been dating.

Last night, I was at my cousin's house; and his wife is the sister of one of my friends from high school; so my high school friend was there. Now, he actually brought a girlfriend, which surprised me because my friend, we'll call him backwardshatguy, never has girlfriends. The thing was that we all really liked his girl friend. He met her on eharmony. So, my cousins wife was telling me all of this, and it seems like maybe I would like eharmony much better than Match.Com. I mean, it actually checks for compatibility.

So, I signed up for a few months anyway. So far, I actually like it because the guys on there seem like much more of who I am looking for. We'll see how it pans out, but of course I'll write all about it (the good, the bad, and the ugly)--you know how I am.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Expertology, Reformenzies, and Other Words I am Going to Make Up as I Go

Prologuette (because it's short and girly--just like me):
As the calendar creeps onward, and another school year approaches, I find that THE TASK AHEAD is still monumental. THE TASK is different than it was when I first started this job FIVE YEARS AGO (certainly I can't believe it's been that long now), but it is still challenging and at times overwhelming. This is post is going to explore what's made me better than I was five years ago and the things that still hold me back in a lighthearted tone (yes, you should read that as it will be a silly rant that packs a punch with an air of truth).

This blog has been about my journey as a young teacher (some would argue that I am now on the brink of not being young)(to those who would argue that I say, "please don't talk about that. I know and I am not taking that exceptionally well at the moment.") and my journey as a new teacher (statistically speaking about the general level of experience in the field I'm no longer new). This blog is just one case study and my experience is one perspective, but I know what I think now about some things that I was not-so-long-ago too inexperienced or maybe young to offer any valuable insight into.

The Narrative of My Glossary of Made Up Terms (yeah, I think that's an oxymoron):
To start with, I am going to offer some definitions for words I recently made up. Expertology is the study of how expertise is developed in a given field (let's say education in this case) (did you see that coming?). Reformenzies is my name for all the clouds of educational reform movements in American education brought to you by politicians at every level and your occasional philanthropist with the strange phenomenon of time on his hands.

Next, I want to just get out in the open what I sometimes dance around. I dance around this opinion particularly in the company of non-edheads (that's a word I just made up for people who do not live in education world) because, frankly, it's polite practice to pretend like dealing with your kids is always my pleasure. So, I refrain from mentioning my true opinions on the amount of blame teachers get for problems in education. Those two things aren't directly related, but the line is somewhat implied. Tonight, though, I will go no holds barred. Edhead or not, I will tell you what I really think, and it's not even Happy Hour!

My Comments on the Prevailing Views on Education (at least, based on my experience which is admittedly a lot of watching fox news and hanging out with friends/family in a uniquely conservative state):

A lot of people are really worried about hunting down the "bad teachers" and ousting them--quite possibly with pitchforks and everything. It's what I call the Sheep Go to Heaven; Goats Go to Hell philosophy of education. If we can just find all the goats and send them straight to Hell, then of course we would enter into the Golden Age of Education. Unfortunately, many Teacher prep programs are nothing but Goat factories, and if that wasn't enough, there are all these unions that care about goat's rights far more than education or children. Let me be clear, I think this argument is all about finding a scape goat. There are problems with public education (we all know that), but they reflect greater problems in our culture. Of course, there are some goats working in public education; but I predict that even if Judgement Day came tomorrow and we successfully rooted out any goats and replaced them with sheep (an excellent metaphor for good teachers in the eyes of reformenziers) we would not make a significant dent in the problems faced in American Public Schools. I loved Freakonomics (one of the books on my summer books) which courageously noted the strongest correlation (not necessarily causation) in school success was home environment.

Beyond my feelings on the home's strong impact on learning, I don't think that goat teachers are as permanently fixed as we say. I am just going to come out of the bad teacher closet and admit that I was probably a bad teacher my first couple of years. Not because I was Cameron Diaz and looking for a man to get me out of the classroom or something. It was because the amount of data coming into your head as a new teacher in this day and age is unfathomable unless you've been there. Standing in front of a classroom looks simple enough, but to own that class and successfully teach it I can't even begin to describe how that works. I'll talk about that more when I talk about expertology, but suffice it to say, that it takes time and experience to learn how to teach well.

The problem with the reformenzies that either try to save education by rooting out goats or by offering so much professional development to all teachers is that you can't teach expertise. When I was a new teacher, I got so many tips of classroom management but it was only marginally helpful. Now, even as a teacher, who makes a living of of explaining and training, I don't think I can explain how to manage a classroom. I can do it, and if you put an inexperienced person in front of the same group then you will think it is a different group, but I can't explain it. That is the nature of expertise. Recently I've been reading Moonwalking with Einstein which thoroughly discusses the expertise of chicken sexers who cannot explain how they know, but just know. The expertise of teachers is currently harmed in two ways: 1, teachers aren't retained long enough to develop this in many cases;
2, it's hard to find enough consistency in teaching to develop well rounded expertise. In my four years, I've taught two grade levels, the Math curriculum has been changed three times, the reading curriculum has changed twice, and I have no idea how many different programs I've been asked to use to teach the same things.

My Reformenzy Manifesto or What I Would Do If I Had Majored in Philanthropy Instead of Education which Would, in Defiance of Logic, Still Be More Profitable:

My Reformenzy would focus on teacher retention and the nourishment of expertise. Attrition for teachers is at its worst in the first three years. I would have teacher apprenticeship as opposed to student teaching and it would be a paid three year position. Those teachers would be on a low pay grade with no increase for three years. Master teachers would be paid more and would be the ones accountable. (Too expensive, you say. Hey! I'm a philanthropist now and can pay for what I want).

To nourish expertise, I think you've got to make the job manageable enough that you can focus on the important stuff. Now coming into my fifth year, it is all the junk that eats my time that I dread. If I was going to lead a reformenzy, it would unburden teachers so they could use their expertise for the majority of the hours they work at the school. I would bring back teacher's aids.

The second thing I would do, is push for consistency. Our slogan would be, "Nothing new for at least two!" I would push to keep curriculums the same, to minimize grade and subject switching, and to keep programs consistently in place.

The third thing I would do is keep strenuous measurements and reports of success in place. Yes, of course, I would keep standardized tests in place, but I would let experts deal with them. I think administrators should use that data to help teachers who need help and even to weed out goats. BUT I think it can't be done with a blanket rule. Data is our friend, and as a teacher I love it, but data isn't our God. We might as well make computers principals and even superintendents if we're going to be told exactly how to use and interpret data. I'm sure that corruption could happen and not all administrators would be good, but let's see corruption is already happening (how many cheating scandals are currently going on?).

My Comments on My Comments (Is Anyone Really Still Reading This?):

Wow, this is what happens when I take a little break from writing/ranting about education. I get a little, teensy bit long-winded. My family and friends and likely colleagues should thank me for writing this, so they don't have to be subjected to the oral version.


Five years ago, I began my professional journey as an educator. I worked so hard, and people told me it gets easier. They were right, it does, and it did; but I should have paid better attention to the fact that they didn't say it would get easy.

As I sit here, I realize that I have all these thoughts, now, on what might be done, but I'm not sure I want to be the one to do it. I'll leave the details out of this, but I've been looking at a lot of alternative career paths recently. Maybe I'll jump ship and maybe not, but a part of me feels that I owe my time as a sheep after making it through my goat years, and that maybe I should one day be a shepherd and put my money where my mouth is.

For now, I have another year here to do my best with what I have, which is a lot more than I had five years ago.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Day

Okay, now if you're not a teacher you'll probably hate me for this, but in the summer I typically roll out of bed at about nine o'clock, head to the coffee shop across the street with whatever I am currently reading, drink coffee and read for a couple of hours-ish. Currently I am reading Moonwalking with Einstein (it is so good, but I am going to do a complete post on all my summer reading another time).

Today, I was carrying this book which is thick (only because it has not yet come out in paperback) and I decided, for some reason, to get hot coffee (even though the temps have already climbed to 115 or more). So, I got my cup of coffee, but there was no seats inside the shop and outside is hotter than hell, so I decided to bring everything home. Well, I opened my car door and tried to scramble in with all my stuff. Well, in the scramble, I dropped the coffee cup, spilling hot coffee all over my chest--which hurt (the burn is fortunately not any worse than a sunburn). Anyway, being who I am, I was more worried about getting coffee on the interior of my car than burning myself (which is ironic since my front bumper is shot right now anyway). Of course, I didn't get any napkins, so I'm like "what now." I don't particularly want to go back in the coffee shop with coffee all over me. I look around and I don't really see anyone directly around me (which is when I had a brilliant idea). I decided I would take off my shirt, use it to clean the coffee overflow up, and drive home to get a new one. Good idea, right...?

Wrong, but I proceeded with my plan anyway. Well, as soon as I started mopping up the coffee, I see some gross delivery guy is sitting at the outside tables staring directly into my car. Awesome. I guess my day was bad with the spilling coffee on myself and embarrassing myself, but his was good witnessing some random girl stripping in the parking lot.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Song for Me

A few nights ago I was watching the interview of Jaycee Dugard (apparently along with most of America). Her attitude is a lesson for us all. Every moment in life there is something to be grateful for.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Patience Is a Virtue... I Am Fast Giving Up...

Maybe God is really testing my resolve to be a better Christian. Maybe the fates are playing tricks on me. Whatever the problem is, I am having a bit of trouble being patient and kind and all that.

Yesterday my little brother backed my mom's car into my car. The damage was pretty minimal--just my front bumper. I wasn't happy, but I took a deep breath and consoled myself with the fact that insurance would cover it.

Well, today I find out that my mom forgot to pay her insurance bill a couple of months back and her insurance wouldn't cover it. So, that leaves me with two choices: insist that my family pay money they don't have or take the hit to my insurance rates and pay my 250$ deductible.

Its not like they did anything malicious, but this insurance thing is a constant battle between the way my mom runs her life and the way I run mine. I am all about checklists and planning and thinking ahead. Every 6 months my insurance bill comes to her house and during the month period I ask her for it every time I see her because once she forgot to give it to me and I got a late fee. I am so careful about things, and it didn't work out at all!

I was always the only one in my immediate family who pays attention to bills and deadlines and preemptive measures. Most of the time we can all be at peace with our different lifestyles, but then every once in a while our philosophies of life smash into each other. This time literally.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Non-Negotiables Revisited

First, I saw "Bad Teacher" today. So funny. Also, I did get up and go to church. So far I am following my resolution!

Moving on to my revolution about being a better Christian than I have been recently, I figured out something about love.

Interestingly enough love is the most popular topic on this blog. This ironic because I am really not good at love. I am actually completely mystified about those girls who always seem to find a relationship. That's just not been my experience, but I digress.

Remember when I was talking about (read as scoffing at) the non-negotiables. I changed my mind. I am feeling suddenly secure in who I am and who I want to be, and it makes me more clear on what I want. I am open to who I meet, but there are some things that are non-negotiables. I need a man who can take sarcastic humor and keep up with my wit, I need someone who loves God, I need someone who is a thinker, and someone who can tolerate my workaholic tendencies. That's not such a long list is it? It's just that now when I think about finding someone, I think about marraige which I haven't always and I want someone to walk through life with who has those things. I realized that maybe I do want to meet a nice boy at church! Hmmmm, I can't believe I am being so forthcoming about that.

It's just that for a long time I've been sitting in the middle of who my family thinks I should find and who my friends think I should find. I think my family is right.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Maybe your twenties are supposed to be about figuring things out. I did figure out something about myself this week. I've been writing on here about something I've been calling my struggle with faith.

I found faith young. I defined my faith with theology in college. Since college, I've had to learn to live it. Life is a redemptive process, and for me the "live it" phase has been hardest.

The thing that I am figuring out is that I am having more of a hard step than a struggle. Being with my family this week was cool because everyone has loosened up without losing their faith.

Most of us =), were able to sit and have a drink together. It was normal and natural. We also just enjoyed sarcastic humor and company. Lately I've been worried that these things are vices, but somewhere deep down I know that they're not.

I got home today and I realized that for the first time in a long time I want to get up and go to church tomorrow and I want to pray. It also got me to thinking about some of my behavior recently.

I've kind of been floating around without much of an anchor. I don't feel bad about going out and drinking with my friends a lot, but I haven't been temperate at all. I think that drinking is okay, but a partying lifestyle isn't. I realized that I do need to be more temperate. I have been thinking that it doesn't really matter if I drink too much with some friends as long as I am responsible and don't drive. I still don't think that accidentally drinking too much is a sin--it's just that if you do it all the time it does leave you open to poor choices. Life isn't about partying and I do believe in sin. Honestly, earlier this summer I was drinking and I was about to do something that no matter how liberal you are you would realize it's a sin. The only reason that I didn't do it was circumstantial. I didn't even think about it being very wrong until now because I didn't actually go through with it.

As I was saying, in my twenties, I am thinking a lot about who I want to be because I could still be a lot of different ways. I hear God talking to me about who I should be and it is the most clarity I've had in a good while.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Random Thoughts and Apologies

I leave tomorrow, for a week. Don't expect to hear from me for a week. Not that you would, I guess I have been quiet lately. I get like that.

I dreamed last night that I was sitting on a patio cafe. I saw on the road two eighteen wheel trucks fast approaching each other. They met and with great speed both metal monsters veered directly toward cafe. I realized that it was too late to run away, so I hid under the table and thought, "What good will this table do? Either metal will crush me or I will escape under it." I thought that maybe this was it, and then I thought, "Well, I will see what happens next." I wasn't afraid, but I wasn't sure either. Would God be waiting for me? Perhaps Hell or maybe nothing? I just didn't know.

When I was younger everything just seemed so black and white. Faith was an anchor and everything made sense. Then, I woke up one day and my world looked grey. Still, my heart longs to be good, to know God, and to live in light. It's just that what is good doesn't seem such a cut and dry question.

My faith is like an insurance policy and my prayers feel like I am talking to a therapist. It's like I don't expect an answer.

I believe in God, as I always have. It's just that lately I wonder if He is very different than I thought.

A whole week with my family will be interesting because they remain black and white and sure of God.

Monday, June 20, 2011


1.) Runway Fashion
2.) Critter Care
3.) Babysitting
4.) Mystery

What do the things on the list above have in common? I can't teach any of them; I am teaching classes on them tomorrow. My friend texted me because she threw her back out and asked if I could fill in for her summer school classes. I checked my schedule and I was doing nothing like almost every day this summer. i thought I would be teaching reading or math. Ha. I guess not.

I'm not going to lie. I am actually excited about teaching runway fashion. I am just so girlie and the class is all girls who love girlie things. My friend sent me some sort of lesson plan about sewing on a button, but I threw it out. How annoying of a sub am I? Anyway, I took my roommate's InStyle magazine and flagged pics of all the cute outfits. I am going to use the smartboard to show the structure and flow of almost all fashionable outfits (they usually contain both). Then I rounded up all the fabric, ribbon, and tulle in this house. There actually is a lot, I don't know why. I am going to put the girls in groups. Each group will choose fabric, ribbon, and tulle and use it to make no sew outfits that show flow and structure. Then, we're going to have a fashion show!

I had to use my old cds for music because my ipod is broken. That is when I realized that I am officially old now. It was my high school cd collection, and it was dated! Who knew that would happen so soon?!!! The song I chose is below. Oh well, I like my dated music!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The First Grader

I don't know how much I talk about this on here, but I really love "National Geographic." I can't wait until my magazine comes in the mail, and I watch that channel, and I go on their website all the time (although I really wish it didn't have so many pop ups). Anyway, you can imagine my excitement when I found out "National Geographic" was the producer of The First Grader. I knew that no one would want to go to this movie with me because everyone starts groaning when I go on too long about my geography nerdiness. Plus, they didn't run this movie in every theater, so I had to drive about twenty minutes to get to a theater that was showing it. For that reason, I went to this movie by myself this afternoon. I really loved it. It was totally worth the drive.

The story is set in Kenya and it is about an eighty-four year old man who wanted to take advantage of the first time Kenya offered free public education. He attends primary school with all the children because he wanted to learn to read. It's actually based on a true story. I think if you are a teacher you will enjoy this movie. You know, I cried when a third grader came to my classroom who couldn't read. I can't imagine what it would mean to go your whole life without that.

The other thing that I got from the movie is that it must be pretty incredible to teach somewhere where people have gratitude for education. I love my country. A lot of people out there hate on the U.S., but as much as I love learning about other countries and customs this is the only place I want to live. However, as much as I love my country, I think that when it comes to education Americans (particularly my generation and the one just behind us) are exceedingly spoiled. There is this attitude that every American citizen is owed a proper education and that as long as we sit our butts in the chairs at the schools it should happen. The truth is that you have to want to learn and you have to try to learn. As a teacher here, I spend a lot of my time trying to get students to buy into that idea. In this movie, I don't honestly know if this is the way it actually happened, the Kenyan children were running to the school lining up to get the spots in the schools. I can't help but wonder how it would be to teach where the majority of students see education as such a valuable opportunity. Of course, I do get some students who are like that. When I can get a class that has quite a few it makes teaching an absolute pleasure because peer pressure can help me work with the few who don't seem to care. I find that generally, however, I get a lot of students who don't care about school and spend a lot of my time and energy trying to cajole them into caring.

That's one wish that I have for my country: that we would realize what a gift education for all is.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I Saw You Last Night

Where I live it is really sunny. You have to squint and the sun kisses your skin reminding you that it is summer. Last night, I was transported to my Grandparents pool. I could feel the summer sun and the cool water. I was swimming with my two brothers and my two cousins. We were goofing around and it was a happy dream until...

Suddenly, I became aware that I was in the past and I knew what was going to happen to my cousin. He was still having such a good time in the sun, in the water; he had no idea. I wanted to warn him what was going to happen, but I knew I wasn't allowed. It's like the words and the thoughts were stuck inside of me and all I could do was exist in the happiness of that moment. At the same time, I was sad and I wanted to leave because I couldn't do anything to help and all I could think about was what was going to happen. Still the sun was shining and everyone was having a wonderful time.

I woke up and I was a little disconcerted, but I went on with my day. I decided to continue with my project reorganizing my desk and closet. I went to Walmart to get some things to help me. Once I arrived about a mile away, the sun shined down on me, and I remembered that, that very Walmart was where my last memory of my cousin was. It was the night of my mom's fiftieth birthday last year and he and my grandad and I had gone there to get more tupperware to store the leftovers from the party because there had been a lot and Walmart is the only place that sells tupperware still open that late at night. Suddenly with the sun and the memory I felt that same feeling from my dream, I felt guilty that I couldn't warn him.

Later when I got back from Walmart I found the program from his funeral on my desk. I knew it was time, so I moved it to a box with the other things I've saved from childhood.

I don't know if a time is going to come when I have access to those happy memories again without a dark shadow, but for right now I just feel like all those years and all those times that we all thought were just about growing up were everything for him. It just seems unfair, like someone should have told him that this was it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

School Dreams

This year I am plagued into summer by school dreams. Their all about the last week of school with the class I've had this year. I wake up and I think that I am late for work and not prepared.

I've had back to school dreams a lot, but this is the first year I've had so many dreams about the outgoing class.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Shell Shock??

It's summer break now and my living room looks like Barbie's workshop. Okay, that sounds dirty, but that is not how I meant it! I am making a bunch of tutus for a party we're having on Saturday.

For me, summer vacation feels like stepping out of a spaceship and back onto planet Earth after many months in a galaxy far far away. Everyone in the civilian world is just so used to living life and being human and stuff. I kind of remember what it was like to be a card carrying citizen of the human race, but then again I know in the back of my mind I am only here on a visiting visa from Planet Teacher. Soon, I will be back in a world of disaggregated data, AYPs, IEPs, differential instruction, value added measures, and the like; and this strange vacation called summer will be like a distant dream.

Seriously, it is like all of this stuff is on my back doorstep because I haven't had time to deal with it. Suddenly time is staring me in the face like a threat and I don't know what to do about it. I woke up this morning and I didn't feel like getting dressed or doing anything--so I didn't.

The thing is that when I could be obsessed with test scores and inclusion and work in general, I didn't have to grapple with some major personal questions I am grappling with. What exactly do I believe and what exactly do I not believe? Why did I quit dating and what should I be doing differently if I actually want to meet someone? What am I going to do next year if both of my roommates move by October?

Then there are the deaths. My cousin and my grandmother died this year. I am not sure I've properly dealt with any of that.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


It was the last day of school for students today. There are some that I will miss, but it has been a long year in some ways. Let me just preface this with the fact that I got a lot of lovely notes, cards, and heart felt thank-yous on the last day of school, but I got my first ever "unthankyou." There is really no other way to describe what transpired.

I walked the kids out and waved the buses off--a school tradition. I walked through the office and a parent I have stationed in Afghanistan actually priority mailed a thank-you card.

Then, I returned to my class to work on packing things up. I noticed the message light blinking on my phone. The message was from a parent I have who is a little unbalanced (apparently she thought she was being anonymous, but she has a very distinct and abrasive tone). She said something along the lines of the following:

I just called to say that basically this school year sucked! You need to get better at being a teacher and building relationships with parents. I don't want to say I don't like you, but... You never called me to tell me about school events. So yeah, basically I just wanted to say this school year sucked. Click.

At first, I was taken aback because I couldn't imagine that someone would do that. Honestly, if this individual had an issue she should have come to me long ago. Then, I reflected. I have received soooo many reports of bullying from parents and students about her daughter. She was trying to bully me. She is calling (she believes) anonymously just to say hurtful things on the last day of school after school.

I try really hard to focus on the positive, but this really was a slap in the face after a long year of hard work.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

One More Day with Kids

I guess I haven't written that much because I'm, um, tired.

I have had absolute tunnel vision to finish my end-of-year checklist. Ever since the year when She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named dropped the bomb on me after the last day of school that I needed to pack my stuff and move grade levels, I just have anxiety about having any tasks left on the teacher work day. That year I hadn't finished Career Ladder and I had five or six things on my checklist. I almost failed Career Ladder that year. I know that nothing like that is going to happen on Friday, but I just want everything done by tomorrow afternoon. I'll help everyone else get their stuff done after that.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The End--of Another Year.

It's night now. For the first time in a while I don't feel so exhausted that I might just fall asleep. The sun is setting on another school year. There are four days left. For once I feel really satisfied with the job I did. The Taz said to me the other day that he doesn't need to be in resource anymore because he got the hang of this reading thing. He really did go from reading only 13 words per minute with 60% accuracy to reading 70 words per minute with 92% accuracy, but that's not my point. Like the Taz, I kind of got the hang of this teaching thing. Finally, after four years, I can do a really good job, no matter what the fates of education throw at me. The peace has settled, too, with the moving of grade levels. I am staying in third grade and I think the move that was made was the best one possible in this situation.

Would You Believe It

Third grade math improved my life today. I had to reenter my wireless network, but I couldn't find the key anywhere. My brother set the key and I knew it was some version of "bestboyever." I knew it had some capitals and some lower case letters. I knew it had a 3 for one of the "e"s but not the other. I set up a probability tree to find every possible combination, and I found the right answer.

I always think of probability trees as something we don't use very much...

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Well, nine days left...

It's a comfort that things are coming to an end, but things are not exactly settled yet. There is just a lot of stuff going on. It seems like everyone has a secret and everyone knows about everyone else's secrets, but we're all pretending not to know. I'd rather that everything was out in the open, but it's not, so I've had to keep my mouth shut about what I may or may not know. Ha ha.

I can tell it here, though. The short of the story is that someone on my team of teachers has to move to another grade. The class size increases eliminated a position. No one really wants to move. Someone was assigned to move (not me), but she is uncomfortable working on the team with an opening. So, everyone else has been secretly volunteering so we don't lose this great teacher. There's more to it than just that, but that's all I really want to say. Here's the surprising news, though: I volunteered to move again! If I was Captain Principal, I would take me up on it, too. We'll see what happens, but yes there is a possibility I am moving again...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Something Funny

The teacher next door to me had a student turn this in for homework.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Tale of Two Principals

If you have read this blog for a long time, then you would know that I struggled in my second year of teaching. Right at the center of my struggle was my relationship with the former principal, Principal Sadie. It was really hard for me, and I almost quit; but Principal Sadie left just after doing her worst to me.

Captain Principal then came to our school and it was much better for me. I can't say that I never would have patched things up with Principal Sadie if she had stayed, but I know that I never would have enjoyed working for her the way I enjoy working for Captain Principal.

Last night, I went out with Captain Principal and a couple of teachers. We ran into Principal Sadie. It was awkward.

Not to brag, but I will say that I am a better person than I thought. I always thought that if I was drinking and Principal Sadie was there then I would say something ugly or confront her. I was still nice, though.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Honestly, I haven't written much because I haven't had much nice to say recently. My mama taught me well; if you don't have anything nice to say, it is better to say nothing at all. You know I'm the praying type, and I've been praying for momentum. I am so tired. I am tired of budget issues. I am tired of behavior issues. I am tired of piles of work. It is easy to lose sight of the goal. Then May comes and there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. That doesn't fully describe May though...

Basketball can have their March Madness, but in schools we all know we have May Madness. Career Ladder. Class Placement Meetings. End of Year Checklists. Final Field Trips. DIBELS. Printshop orders. Portfolios. Report Cards. Crazy Kids. Hyper Kids.

Today my class went on a fieldtrip to the grocery store. They actually gave a really neat tour and taught the kids all about nutrition. They said that my class was one of the best ones to come through, which is interesting because this group of kids is one of the worst ones to come through my room. I guess it is all about perspective.

Speaking of my waning patience for the crazy eight, I have to say that they did something really sweet for Teacher Appreciation week. One of them, I don't even know which one, brought a big thank you card and at their lunch recess brought it around and had every kid in the class sign and write notes. I have had classes try something like this before, but this was the first class to really surprise me. I can't believe they actually kept it a secret all day! Well, these kids do kind of excel at being sneaky=).

I can't say that I am NOT extremely aware of the fact that my tour of duty with this class ends in precisely 15 school days including tomorrow, BUT I will say that I am starting to realize there are some things I will miss about this group. Let's be honest, though, it will take quite a few cocktails and days at the pool before that kicks in this year.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Historical Day

I was sixteen years old on 09/11/01. It was a scary day and scary times. The face of Bin Ladin appeared as the mastermind. Across the world, there were videos of children dancing in the street and celebrating "death to America". We learned one thing that day; there are people in this world who not only want us dead just for being American, but there are also people willing to take action to kill us.

I watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center on television. I walked down the hallway to my mom's room, "Wake up Mom; we're at war," I said echoing the words spoken by the news anchors. We were at war, and I think here, it was something you felt long before President Bush officially declared it.

It's hard to know what it means to be at war until you do, but today I see the poison it leaves in the hearts of all who are truly invested in war. What did I feel when I heard Bin Ladin was dead? Joy, like most Americans... I wanted him dead, not captured, and I think he got what he deserves. It is a good day for America because our enemy is dead.

Yet, as I was driving to work this morning, I realized that I had to decide how to help children see this. I knew that the kids would come to school talking about it, and that many celebrated it last night. It was a victory for us, but it is still something black in your heart that rejoices in death.

So, I handled it by saying, "We're glad to be safer. We're glad our soldiers we're successful, but we are still saddened that all of this happened." I think that is the truth about what I feel.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I Miss You

19 more school days... Not that I am counting...

This weekend I am suffering from separation anxiety. I am separated from my phone!

I left it at school and someone was supposed to bring it by my house, but it never came. So, I have no alarm clock and I am pretty sure I am missing very important phone calls--from, I don't know, the president or something!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Circus--I Mean Board Meeting

There was a lot of people at the board meeting last night, which went until 11:30pm! It was a mess. Three of us who went were sitting in the lounge today during lunch, someone asked how the meeting was, in unison we all replied,"bad!"

How can I describe to you, dear reader, what this meeting was like. I can only describe with a teaching analogy, so enjoy =).

Once I was teaching some third graders basic algebra and balancing equations. We were drawing scales. We were practicing saying = signs as "the same as". It seemed to be going pretty well. The kids were doing it correctly and nodding along. Finally, I asked, "Does anyone have any questions?"

One little boy raised his hand and said, "Miss Understood, you made a mistake."

"Okay, what is the mistake?" I asked.

"You have letters in the middle of your Math problems!" I looked around and the other heads were nodding in agreement.

I knew at once: they didn't get it. AT ALL... We had to start from the beginning.

So, what is it like at a board meeting? It is like the district superintendent and leadership council are me, and the board members are my students. The district leadership council explains the situation and recommendations and the board members seem to nod along. THEN the board members begin to ask questions and it becomes abundantly clear at once: they didn't get it. AT ALL...

What is it like to be a teacher in the audience at a board meeting? Well, I am a spectator, so it is like being a spectator at a tee-ball game for six year olds. Only you're a spectator whose bet thousands of dollars on the game. When the six year old first basemen suddenly sits down for all of the third inning, you find yourself wanting to yell, "what the Hell!" The outcome of the game is in no way dictated by logic or reason, but you know you will pay dearly if things don't go as expected. In a word, it is FRUSTRATING!

As of 11:30pm last night, the rif was approved, but apparently we can't have contracts because they want to change wording and possibly rif more teachers. So, no job security for now... Why would they want to let a team of accountants, lawyers, and educators make a sensible budget when we can have elected officials with no qualifications make their own plan??

Monday, April 25, 2011

Safe for Now

Well, another rif has come and gone without sweeping me away.

We got a series of emails from the teacher's association and district office warning that there will be another rif, pending board approval tomorrow, and that those effected would be notified today. Which is right on my predicted time block, as today was the first day outside of the official state testing window. Anyway, everyone was a bit jumpy to say the least!

I almost jumped out of my skin when I saw the V.P. walking around the corner.

In the end, though, I hung on again.

Tomorrow is the big board meeting where we can hear about other special surprises in store for us. The talk is that they're reducing the sub budget and at a certain point we'll have to take in kids of absent teachers. They're also, of course, increasing class size. We don't have supply budgets anymore, so there's nothing to cut there. We've already lost all classroom assistants (excepting those required for certain IEPs). I heard also there will be program reductions for Art, Music, and PE.

Tomorrow will announce some but not all of the new budgetary surprises.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


When I was a little girl I loved to swing. Going up your eyes would be drawn from earth to sky. Coming down the sky would meld into the ground. Then, all that mattered was that there was a sky and there was the ground. I knew that they were somehow one, but knowing that was enough.

It's Easter today. I like Easter, of course, because I believe in the salvation celebrated. In some ways, however, I think that I am not such an Easter girl. It's kind of like the pep rally of Christian holidays. I've never really fit into a pep rally.

On Easter, you're supposed to wear bright colors and sing peppy songs. I usually go to church ready to reflect and learn. I feel more comfortable on Good Friday or Christmas Eve.

Today, though, I was having some trouble getting into the "Easter Spirit" at all. Recently, I haven't been attending church. I keep on tithing by automatic withdrawal. I keep on trying to follow my moral compass. I even keep praying.

I don't want to throw away my beliefs, but I've felt recently that I do not belong in a church. I've felt unsure if I believe everything the church stands for. I am like the man who prayed, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."

Today, though, it was interesting. Our pastor preached the typical Easter sermon on Matthew 28, but he focused on the fact that the disciples all worshipped Jesus when they saw him, but some doubted. He pointed out that you can worship and not feel secure in all things related to your beliefs.

In some ways, I am still like a little girl on the swing. I see the terrestrial and the celestial, but where they meet just looks blurry right now.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

So Much for Plan B

When I was a little girl, I didn't want to be a teacher. I had much bigger thoughts. I know some teachers recall playing school with younger siblings or toys. Not me, I wanted to be a princess. I ordered my toys and younger brothers around.

I always assumed that if teaching didn't work out, you know, if I got riffed or something, then I would go marry the prince of England.

The royal wedding is really ruining my fall back plan!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More on Gender Roles

When I was very young, maybe even as young as four, I was sitting in church. The pastor must have been preaching on the crucifixion--I don't remember that part--but he said, "I was there; I carried that cross!"

Everyone was listening intently, but I was sitting there thinking, "Why do all of these adults believe this? This happened a long time ago, and this man couldn't have been born..."

Obviously, I wasn't developmentally ready for the abstract concept he was addressing. As Piaget would say it, I was concrete operations sitting in an abstract situation.

The thing is that it was confusing because my family told me, "Everything at church is true you should believe it." For a long time, I couldn't distinguish what I thought was true from what I was told was true. That's where I am at with gender roles.

My developing mind accepted what I was told about a wife submitting to her husband. My whole life that has been a concept I have begrudgingly lived with. My whole family believes that is part of marriage. Yes, my church believed that too. It wasn't a belief that was abusive to women. It wasn't a belief that I would call repressive because women have a choice. There are no submission police. It wasn't a belief that women are less than men. That's not my issue. It's just that I woke up one day and thought, "What if I don't believe that?" What if I think that marriage and family decisions are a completely equal partnership and not about authority on either side? What if I don't even want to try to submit? What if I think that if my hypothetical husband absolutely thinks I am wrong and I think he is wrong that we should use rock-paper-scissors and not his authority to see what we should do (yes, I am being facetious, but I do think consensus, not authority could work)?

In theological circles, we call this debate egalitarianism versus complementarianism. Once I wrote a paper defending complementarianism, but that was before I really lived out in the real world. Now, I just can't believe that anymore.

I don't think that women who choose to practice complementarianism are cheating themselves. My Grandmother lived that way and was happy every day of her life. I just woke up one day, and I realized that I don't have to do it. That thought was freeing.