Sunday, January 30, 2011

Summer School?

To teach or not to teach, that is the question. I haven't even had the option of teaching summer school the past two summers because I have been in school myself finishing my Master of Ed. I could really use the money, but I really really don't want to do it.

This year has been an especially tough year teaching because of the added responsibility of having three resource students and because of the many difficult children with BIG personalities in my class. I am bringing home more work than I ever have and unfortunately working on more weekends than I ever have.

I was a little under the weather this weekend, but seriously, I slept through my whole weekend. Honestly, I can't imagine how freeing it will feel the day I am no longer responsible for this group of kids. Every single objective and every single lesson has been a challenge with them. The times during the school day where we mix classes or switch classes feel like breaks.

When I think about the day that I am officially done, I will be so ready for a break. So ready. I just don't know if I should really commit to start something new immediately because I think I will be too burnt out. In all likelihood the summer class would be a smaller group and it seems statistically improbable that I would get this difficult of a group twice in a row. I don't know, though, I think maybe a break is more important to my sanity than the money. I have until Friday to decide...

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I am getting the cold that everyone else already has.

I spent most of the day sleeping on the couch and in my bed. My nose is running. My eyes are dry. I feel generally weak.

I tell you this in so you won't expect anything insightful or coherent out of this post. It's going to be more like stream of consciousness.

First, my mom is psychic or something. Of course, I did not tell her about my excessive drinking last weekend. She tells me today, though, that she dreamt I was a child and still lived at her house and she left wine out that I drank and got sick off of. Why would she dream that precisely a week after I drank more than I've had in a really really long time--like ever? Very coincidental...

Second, I love the movie "Lars and the Real Girl." I was watching movies today and I watched "Lars and the Real Girl." I thought it would be terrible, but it was so good.

Third, I really like the administration at my school. I read a lot of your blogs out there, and I read about other principals and vice principals and how bad it can be. I understand because the former principal at my school and I had a terrible relationship, but I have to put a little love out there for the administrators I have now. I had a great heart to heart with the V.P. this week and I got the nicest e-mail from the principal. I was texting a teacher friend the other day and I said, "We're lucky to have Captain Principal as a boss and friend, before him I didn't know the two could go together." She totally agreed. I don't think there's a lot of schools out there who work together the way our staff does. I have to credit the principal because it hasn't always been that way.

Fourth, in reference to my online dating adventure, I am feeling more confused than ever. I don't mean confused in a good way either. You know how sometimes you're really confused because something is too good to be true? That is not what I am talking about. It's just that all the wrong guys make me feel lonelier than being single. There are so many wrong guys out there. Someone else was texting me today telling me they have another guy for me. My other friends wanted me to go dancing with them and I am sure we would meet people there too--just not who I am looking for.

Well, my ears feel like they are going to explode, so I am going to eat tapioca pudding and watch reruns of "How I Met Your Mother." Thank you for sticking with my post of randomness if you read this far=).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Paint Myself a New Door

You know, in cartoons, when the character gets into a tight spot and he paints himself a door through which to escape? I've always envied that ability. Painting's not my thing though, so this post is my attempt to paint my way out of my dark mood.

I think my last two posts speak for themselves about the mood I've been in. Unfortunately, that mood has been compounded by one of my students. I'm going to refer to this student as the Hulk. He grows angry, turns green, and rips through walls and things. Lately the Hulk seems to be in a permanent Hulk state. To make matters worse, the Hulk appears to be the head of his household, so dealing with the Hulk's parents is like dealing with an extension of the Hulk. One of my favorite co-workers, likes to refer to the phenomenon of difficult children with difficult parents as Apple-Tree-Syndrome. That would be an apt term for this situation.

I could go on about the Hulk for a while, and how I might have to become Wonderwoman and channel my Amazonian power to defeat him, but I digress. My purpose tonight was to paint myself a door--not to go on about the laundry list of things I am not to thrilled with about my job right now.

So, instead of writing about the Hulk, I am writing about Bob tonight.

When I first met Bob, at Meet-the-Teacher, I literally couldn't understand a word he said. I found out that he had just come out of a self-contained classroom and I secretly went home that night and cried because I didn't know how to teach someone with that level of special need.

I didn't know then that Bob would make every day brighter for me. As a teacher, you don't expect your students to do that, but that is just who Bob is. When I first met Bob, all I saw was the academic deficits I have been trained to recognize, but I didn't see Bob's gift. He makes you feel better. He has the biggest heart of anyone I've ever met. I can't explain his gift, but I will try to describe it.

*Whenever anyone, child or adult, says "hello" to Bob or acknowledges him in any way, he acts like that person just gave him a million dollars.

*If anyone, including me, is having a rough day, Bob will bring them a picture of them. Sometimes we're super heroes and sometimes we're all just happy, but in Bob's pictures we all look great.

*When Bob reads a word or gets a question right, I think the heavens smile down on him. When he gets something right, my class spontaneously erupts into genuine applause, and this started without my doing anything to start it. When Bob gets something right, you just want to cheer for him.

*Bob smiles all the time. All the time.

A lot of my young scholars this year are about to drive me crazy. They have some of the most difficult personalities of any students I have ever worked with. There are about eight of them, and the crazy eight get under each other's skin too. You know what, though, Bob likes every one of them. There are some kids that are difficult for me to like this year, but they are not difficult for Bob to like.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Am I So Mad?

Yeah, you probably can hear that my tone is a lot more bitter, vitriolic, disgruntled, unhappy, frustrated, annoyed, and acidic than normal. Well, I told you that this is the time of year that I get to wonder if I will be riffed--just like every year for the last 4 years.

This year, my state legislature passed a law about how school districts must rif. I mean, who knows more about how to run the business of a school district than legislators? They're doing such a fantastic job keeping our state running efficiently that they're going to help us out too--what pals. Anyway, they made it illegal for school districts to use seniority for the basis of a rif.

So, in my district which is an excelling school district because we know what we are doing and have good teachers, a new system had to be created to decide who's going to lose their job if the impending budget cuts to education (again) result in a rif (again). We probably won't have enough teachers with a poor performance review to cut the necessary amount, so my district came up with a rif rubric. No, I am not kidding.

We have a point value for all kinds of crap--it is 5 pages long. I have to go pay the state dept of ed to officially incur on my teaching license all of the additional certifications that I have, but am not using, because that is a category. All of the stupid committees in the school are a category. Years of experience inside and outside the district is a category. Unfortunately for me, you get 1 point for each of your first 4 years teaching and 9 points for each additional year. Apparently, being a fourth year teacher on the rubric is worth 4 points but being a fifth year teacher is worth 13 points and being a good teacher is irrelevant.

You know, last year when they were riffing on seniority I knew that I was in danger being a third year teacher. When my principal told me I was on the displacement list, solely on the basis of my seniority; I told him that I understand because they have to do something to make our budget work and that method was fair.

This time the method is not fair at all. It is insane and cumbersome. I guess I should go get started on my rif rubric because by the 15th of February they'll start deducting five points at a time until I turn it in.

I am so mad. If I wouldn't have drank all that wine on Saturday, I would want some right now.

Mr. President, I'd Like to Give a Rebuttal

To be honest, I didn't watch the state of the union address. I was either sleeping or working--I really don't remember which (and, yes, I take a nap on my couch sometimes/a lot after work). Anyway, I heard that Mr. Obama was telling young Americans to become a teacher if they want to do something for their country. The sentiment is nice I guess, but young Americans, I think you should hear what I have to say first.

Contention 1: Many other great careers are out there.

Young Americans, why not consider becoming an extreme logger or a crab fisherman? True, the survival rate is like 50% or something, but you will side step a lot of the land mines in the field of education.

If you feel that is not altruistic enough, why not work for Starbucks? Making coffee is not-so-extremely-stressful and it makes people happy too. Trust me, coffee goes down much easier than a proper education.

Contention 2: You should contribute to the economy by paying your bills.

As a teacher, this will become much more difficult. If you're ever able to pay off your student loans for all the education required, you will find yourself paying recertification fees, and endorsement fees, and continuing education fees just to stay qualified. I am actually wondering if in the end, I will pay education more or it will pay me more.

Contention 3: Even if you have a lot to give as a teacher, your hands will be tied by politics, red tape, and customer satisfaction often.

Yeah, it's been said that what we really need is to recruit bright and talented young teachers. The truth is that being bright and talented does not remove politics, red tape, or often customer satisfaction. Endless mountains of meaningless paperwork will take away from your talent. Rules that make no sense, but absolutely must be followed will trump your ingenuity AND your common sense. Political correctness and the mandate to keep customers happy will overrule the drive to be effective. Expect to be thrown the occasional mandate to use a resource or a method that is insane and will never work, but simultaneously be under the demand to channel your inner teaching genius and raise test scores. Don't complain that it makes no sense or it can't be done because logic and common sense have no place in the world of education.

Yes, if your wondering, there is something that really set me off today. Another post about that will be coming shortly, BUT seriously, young Americans, consider my rebuttal. I am a pretty young American myself and I can tell you first hand that teaching often comes with very low job satisfaction.

Monday, January 24, 2011


I was writing earlier this year about my ongoing struggle with confidence in teaching. You know, I've made a lot of progress. I have an observation tomorrow and I am not nervous.

When I first started teaching, I had the ability to focus on my job and not be self-deprecating. Then, for a while, I couldn't do it. Every bump in the road was a hit to my self-esteem.

Lately, I feel better. It has been a difficult class for me this year. Sometimes I don't want to do my job because it is so labor-intensive and I feel like it will never let up, but I am not struggling with believing in myself. I am a better teacher because of that--not teacher of the year or something, but better.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reading Intervention

I've written a little before about my work in Reading. When I first entered elementary school, teaching Reading was my weakest area. It's kind of ironic because my certification and interest was in middle school Language Arts, but teaching Reading is a whole different ball game. I know this is bad, but I had never observed someone teaching a Reading lesson in an intermediate elementary classroom, before I taught one.

Since that time, I have come a long way in teaching Reading. I actually only need one more graduate credit to have a Reading Specialist certification on my license because I took so many Reading courses in graduate school.

One of my responsibilities this year is to run the fluency reading intervention for our grade level. We use a store-bought program that intertwines the repeated reading strategy with a comprehension element. What I know about this program is that it works when it is followed correctly.

A new group will start the program tomorrow and this is my third group of students to come through the whole thing. With the past two groups, I felt that we used it, but we did not use it as effectively as we could. My goal this time is to really get it right. I know what I am doing with this program now, and I think I can do it, but there will be challenges.

I have 25 kids doing the program during a half hour block--this is by far the biggest group I've had for one session. During that block, I have to get them through all steps of the repeated reading, time them individually, and check comprehension. The only way it actually is possible is because I have a student teacher from a neighboring classroom helping me.

The kids are super excited, and I know I can do this to help them. I also know, it will not be easy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Why would I think it is a good idea to drink 5 glasses of wine at my work happy hour?

What did I confess about principal Sadie to our new principal? You can bet it was the truth about what I think, but it wasn't good, I'm pretty sure about that...

What was I thinking?

Why did I also eat that entire hamburger? I wish that I did not.

The Intruder

My phone had been going off for over an hour, but I didn't hear it because I had a parent meeting at work. Eventually my battery had worn out and my phone shut down. The winter sun went down too, and I drove home in the dark.

I opened the squeaky door expecting to find Bailey and Sarah, my two best friends. We had big plans for a girls dinner, but the house was silent. I turned on the lights and headed to the bedroom to retrieve my phone charger.

That's when I noticed something strange: my bedroom door was closed. I threw it open and there he was, a monster. He had fangs and a cape and blood dripping down his face. Without a sound, he lunged at me and I ran for the kitchen. I grabbed the salt and started throwing it around. This had some effect on him, but he continued to try to pursue me around the salt. Eventually I was able to salt him into a corner.

"Okay, now what?" I thought. I couldn't remember how to kill a vampire. So, I called Bailey up. She and Sarah were at dinner without me because I had been so late and wasn't answering my phone. "You guys have got to get back here," I said, "I just trapped a vampire in our house and I do not know how to kill it."

"We're on our way," said Bailey.

I sat there staring the vampire in the face until my friends got back, but neither of us said anything. Finally, the door squeaked open again. "Just look at him," I said to my friends.

"Do you have a stake?" asked Sarah.

"What, we're going to drive it through his heart?" I said, stunned.

"It works," she answered.

We did have a stake so I pulled out a stake and a hammer. Bailey and I grabbed the vamps shoulders while Sarah drove the stake right through his heart. Bailey and I were a little freaked out still, so Sarah dug his grave in our back yard.

After that, we went out for strawberry margaritas and chocolate cake. It was a small consolation prize for missing dinner and finding a vampire in my house, but it was still good.

Okay, maybe that is not exactly the way these events conspired, but I felt that you guys couldn't really understand how I felt without a little embellishment. Here is what actually happened:

My phone was dead and my parent meeting kept me at work until late. I drove home in the dark and was surprised to find my house silent. Bailey and Sarah were already out to dinner. I went to get my charger in the bedroom, and the door was closed.

I opened the door and a giant black ghost jumped out at me, okay it wasn't really a ghost. It was a congrats balloon. My principal had given it to me last week when he threw a happy hour for our graduation from the Master's program. It had been losing air and now was somehow closing doors. As I dodged the balloon, I looked down to see a SCORPION. It was sitting there, in the entryway, wagging it's stupid tail at me. I wasn't sure what to do because you usually can't just kill a scorpion by smashing it. I went into the bedroom to find a weapon and I found a vase filled with flowers. I dumped all the flowers out on my dresser and grabbed the vase. I knew that I needed something to help me trap it. The only paper in my bedroom was my beloved National Geographic magazine, so I ripped the back cover off of it, and went to face my enemy. First I threw the wide mouthed vase over him, and he was mad. Then I wedged the paper under him and flipped the vase over trapping him at the bottom. I brought the vase to the kitchen, and put the magazine on top--just in case. I sat there staring at the vase until my friends came back.

When my friends got back, Sarah said we needed to kill him with fire, so we got the long lighter and Sarah burned him. It took a long time! The stupid scorpion can live through fire, for a while. Finally, it was dead and Sarah flushed him down the toilet, because Bailey and I were still really freaked out.

After that, we went out for strawberry margaritas and chocolate cake. It was a small consolation prize for missing dinner and finding a scorpion in my house, but it was still good.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Things That Make Me Wish I Was a Crab Fisherman, Extreme Logger, or Gold Prospector

I am sore all over. My foot is actually bleeding. I feel like I could sleep for three days straight. Also, I ate half of a whole pizza for dinner. Don't judge me; it's been a rough day. Did I play QB for a major league football team? No, it wasn't that. Am I returning from a battlefield? Not so much... Did I get in a fight? No, technically I did not. I administered yet another district writing test to third graders.

Administering the brutal three-hour-plus writing test to third graders is like being locked in an insane asylum all day long with twenty-three raving patients. Only, you have to get all of the patients to compose coherent essays. There is always that one kid who wants to make weird noises--you have to stop him. There's that other kid who wants to rock back and forth on his seat. Then there are the kids who just sit and stare. They don't start writing for an hour. All the other kids finish and we all have to wait and wait... for them... forever.

My foot is actually bleeding because I wore heels and I was walking around all day keeping the kids focused and quiet. I am sore because I was feeling so tense trying to finish the day strong. I'm tired because, well, this was tiring.

I will say, there was one essay that I thought was quite good. This kid drew on his personal experience to write a story. I think he'll be a blogger someday=).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What If My Life/Job Were More Like...

Mad Men
Ummmm, I don't think that this would be entirely bad. Keeping a fully stocked liquor cabinet in the pod would often come in handy. I really believe that there are some tasks I would perform better at my job a little buzzed. Wearing some awesome sixties powersuits, I can get on board with that too especially paired with some awesome heels. The sexual harassment, eh, I can live with it.

I actually think that my job is a lot like Survivor. Not only because we're all being slowly voted off the island via the rif, but also because it causes me to lose weight every year. Also, I start to look more and more disheveled as time at my work goes on. But, my job could be more like survivor if I got to come in a bikini and participate alliances to vote others off the island. That part would be really cool.

The Bachelor
My life actually was kind of like the Bachelor when I tried Internet dating, but I wasn't that good at it. Anyway, if my job was more like the Bachelor, I would come to work in cocktail dresses which sounds pretty fun. There are already a lot of women at my work and I guess we could compete for roses from the principal, but I think the stakes would be different--for a lot of reasons. Anyway, there are definitely some women to supply the role of crazy girl!

That is my food for thought. Anyone out there want to take a stab at my game? Finish the statement "What if my life/job were more like..." by discussing what your job would be like if it were more like something from pop culture.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Maybe We're All A Little Disgruntled

Recently, the Gallup poll came to my district to give us a rating on employee engagement. Apparently my district came out well above national education stats on employee engagement and my school came out well above the district. Neither of these facts surprise me. My district respects us as professionals and my principal is awesome. The thing that is interesting is that we are still below the national average for all workplaces on employee engagement. The moral of the story is that people in other professions are happier than us. Why? I can't even do that question justice, but tonight I discovered someone who can. Mr. Teachbad's blog is soooo funny. I've been laughing out loud all night. Anyway, I am linking some of my favorite stuff.

Fake News Posts from Teachbad

Teacher Fakes Bomb Threat to End Faculty Meeting

Principal Seeks to Replace Student Body, Improve Scores

Monday, January 17, 2011

Inception: A Blog within a Blog

It is Martin Luther King day, so I have the day off and I have been playing in the blogging realm for three hours. You might be thinking, "Miss Understood, can't you think of a more productive way to spend your free time?" At least, I was thinking that. Which got me to thinking about why I like blogging and reading blogs.

This blog is usually about teaching. I usually let my readers into my thoughts about teaching. It's kind of like level one of Inception. Today, we go into a blog within a blog. Level two, baby! Maybe I could go for really confusing and blog about my blog within my blog. No, that is way too dangerous. As an aside, Inception did come out when I was dating all of those guys and I may or may not have seen it three different times with three different guys. What? I really liked it and I didn't have the heart to tell any of them that I already saw it with another guy.

I have always believed that to be a balanced person you need inputs and outputs. You've got to put creative and brilliant things into your head and you have to have a release for creative thoughts. Some people are creative with paint and some people are creative with notes--all that I've ever had is words. The primary reason I like blogging is the word play.

I imagine it is a lot the way that an arist feels satisfied when he sees the paint recreate the world before his eyes. The things that I write about are true and they exist whether I write about them or not, but there is something satisfying about seeing the words form a picture.


Yesterday was my sister-in-law's birthday--yeah, the one who doesn't like me. We all went to a Chinese food restaurant. It's a good restaurant that I've been going to for my entire life. We had a big party because I have a big family, but somehow I ended up at the very end of the table with my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece. This was fine except that I was trapped in the zone of baby talk. Don't get me wrong an interesting anecdote about something cute my niece did is great, but I get really bored with an endless list of everyday things she does. This time my brother and his wife started listing everything she likes. You wouldn't think that she could like that many things being under two, but apparently she can. The part of the conversation I was tuned in for went as follows.

"She likes Sesame street."
"What she really likes is Cookie Monster."
"Because she really likes cookies."
"She likes bananas."
"What's weird is she likes tomatoes."
"She likes avocados."
"She really likes Monster's Ink."
"She likes monsters."
This list kept going and going but I wasn't really tuned in past this point.

Somewhere in the middle of the list, which went on for over ten minutes, my eyes glazed over as I stared into the aquarium of fancy goldfish behind them. I started to think about the power of words. I thought about how if you are master of your words and choose them carefully then words inspire attention, but if you spill out careless and meaningless words, it might as well just be dribble.

About a week ago, I realized that my refrain from the use of expletives--except in extreme cases makes them more effective. Two of my teacher friends from BFF Team brought up the fact that they will never forget something I said a couple of weeks ago because I dropped the f-bomb and they had never heard me swear. I hadn't really noticed it because in that context I found the word aptly placed.

In general conversation, I try to use less words and more powerful words. In teaching, it is a lot harder. The volume of words which come out of my mouth during one day of teaching is too much. I remember when I first started, I just felt exhausted at the end of the day because I basically play narrator for my students all day long even if I use no direct instruction during the day.

Then, there's the issue of repetition in daily instruction. I've battled with this issue for a long time. When I was in school, I did not understand why my teachers constantly repeated themselves. The number one reason I would tune out in a classroom is because I was hearing the same thing over and over. As a teacher, I have realized that repetition is necessary for at least 70% of students.

So, how do you repeat yourself, without becoming the adults from Charlie Brown? The best answer I've found is to make your repetition interactive and memorable. In teaching third grade writing, I repeat the idea of a three pronged paragraph every single day. We use a hand model and the kids say with me and count on their hands, "topic, detail, detail, detail, conclusion." In math, one example is rounding. I am always having to repeat the rule of five. So, we say together, "one through four stay on the floor, five through nine climb the vine."

I try to use this with the rules to. I have a difficult class this year. No one wants to hear me and I don't want to hear myself saying, "I need it quiet," "It's too loud," "Focus on work" a billion time a day. We say the rules together. I say, "What is rule number one?" They answer, "Rule number 1, follow directions quickly."

Now, it is harder for me to follow this rule with directions and redirections than it is with instruction, but it is something I am continuing to work on.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


The pastor said today, "Following Jesus is intensely personal, but it is never private."

My work is teaching and one lesson I've learned is that even when you're not doing it right, you've got to let other educators see you do it. You've got to share your struggles. You've got to watch them. You can't go this work alone.

Readers, the Christian walk makes teaching look easy. I say this knowing that many of you have read about my worst moments. All the sleepless nights and the emotional roller coaster I seem to live all the time in this profession, they don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. This year I want to write more about things that matter, indeed, I want to live more for things that matter.

I've spoken before about how my mind is so logical that sometimes I literally can't process my own emotions until I write through a situation. Ever since I was very young, I had a habit of sitting and staring. I wasn't daydreaming, I was thinking. When I got older, I used to write lengthy philosophical papers in brief periods of time, but I always spent time just thinking first. Now, I miss a lot of time to think due to my schedule, but I think before I blog.

Because I am such an intensely intellectual person, I always expected that my experience with faith would be largely thinking. Maybe God laughs in the face of that because my faith has always been personal. Now, I find that my doubts are intensely personal.

It's funny because I would be exactly the sort of person to doubt intellectually. I love reading philosophy. I love science. Intellectually I don't have a problem with doubting because I see the limitations. In any line of thought there's a beginning. I have always believed and continue to believe God is the starting point. He's the anchor.

I love God. I always have and I always will. Now, in my early twenties (I guess we're coming up on the late twenties now), I have a doubt problem. I have a doubt problem doubting what God wants me to do. God led me here. I know that.

I just have a hard time knowing how to live a godly life here. My best friends these days don't know God like I do. They don't live for him like I do. It hurts to believe around them.

My christian friends fall into two categories. Some of them are moderate. They believe in God, but they don't worry too much about living a godly life. The second group works to live a godly life, but their immediate circles are filled with others like them. The people who believe differently are more of an idea to them. They don't have the conflict I do because they don't spend every day with good people who believe differently.

Abstractly, sin and atonement and justification, it all makes sense. Personally, it is breaking my heart. I get mad at God because I wonder if good people will go to hell.

I've been having this struggle for a while, but church seemed the last place to talk about it. Today, though, the pastor basically gave us all permission to be accountable together and talk about the things we're doing wrong. Goodness knows, admitting my short comings in teaching has always helped me. It is time for me to think about the bigger issues.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I really want to go somewhere. I haven't really traveled at all in the last two years because while I was in grad school I had neither the time nor the money. Now I could go, but the logistics are kind of hard. My taste runs to more adventurous and ecclectic in travel, but I do have to be smart about how I travel. In the end, I am a petite twenty-five year old woman. I am not particularly strong or athletic. I could travel with a friend or even visit a friend, but you have to find someone who wants to do something similar and can do it at the same time. I'll give myself some time to think about this...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out

Is it wrong that I just graded an essay about a rifle a student got for Christmas by writing, "You'll shoot your eye out"? He won't get it. He's way too young for A Christmas Story, but I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I'm just getting back from the board meeting it went late, but I just have to vent because I can only be a silent participant in so much insanity for so long. Watching the board meeting gets to me.

It is just frustrating to watch the people with no educational background making the decisions that determine the educational direction of an excelling school district. It's not that I think I should have all the power. I gladly defer to the principal and the superintendent and most of the time teachers with more experience than me.

BUT I am watching the district law advisers and other experts give a presentation on the funding of All Day Kinder. This presentation was based on educational recommendations and budgetary recommendations. Not only did it make perfect sense to me, I anticipated 90% of what was presented before they said it because the implications and arguments seem obvious to anyone with educational background and experience. The information was so solid.

Once the board members started asking questions, it became very apparent that at least two board members misunderstood the charts and arguments. I don't mean to say that I disagree with their interpretation, I mean to say that they couldn't grasp the meaning of the information at all.

I understand that if you don't have school experience and education it is hard to understand what makes a study significant, it's hard to understand why we focus on various aspects of literacy or where numbers come from. My problem is that we've got trained experts giving the best advice possible but the people with the power lack the background to even understand the advice. The vote passed tonight 3-2, but we came dangerously close to making a huge mistake. I'm sorry, but having kids go to schools is not an honorary degree in education--we need people elected to the school board to have a greater depth of experience than having kids.

Okay, I am going to take a deep breath and try to forget my troubles. I'm bound to grind my teeth terribly if I don't forget about this.

Same 'Ol Same 'Ol

It's that time of year: the time of year when I start realizing that my job is in jeopardy. Last year, I struggled with the prospect of losing my job (if you haven't read that and you're interested you can read this).

Well, I am another year older and have another year more experience and I am back in the same place: waiting to find out if I lose my job. I am going to the board meeting tonight to hear if we will continue all day K. If not, once again, the implications are clear. There will be major job loss. Possibly mine...

You know, this year, the prospect of losing my job doesn't upset me too much. Maybe it is because I don't have a false sense of job security anymore or maybe it is because I am already getting burnt out, but I just think I will be okay with it if there is a reduction in force that costs me my job.

So, we'll see what happens, but I honestly don't have anxiety like I did before and I don't feel any more secure in my job than I did last year.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Three Letter Word

Oh, here we go! I've wanted to blog about this topic for a while, but the topic never came up. If you want, you can pretend that I am saying this to you coyly over a candlelit dinner, because I am talking about SEX.

I was watching OWN (yeah, I like it okay--I'm corny like that), and I saw this story the Oprah show was thinking of running about the 30 year-old virgin. They couldn't agree about whether being a thirty year old virgin meant there was something wrong with you. Finally, they concluded that in America it is very odd.

Okay, I'm not going to say that it is the norm--yes, I know that it is not. I just think that having traditional views about sex doesn't mean there is something wrong with you. Aside from my religious beliefs, I look at it like this: choices about romance and sex say a lot about what you really want out of a relationship.

I was raised with really traditional views on sex. I remember my mom telling me that if I had sex outside of marriage then someday I would meet my husband and have to tell him about my past and it would be hard. Based on my experience, it is going to be a lot harder explaining to him that he's it.

Alright, time to close with a personal story for your amusement. One time I was out drinking with friends and this guy was coming on to me. "You really resistant to alcohol," he told me. "No, I'm really resistant to sex I don't want to have," I told him. I like to get to the point.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I've been having some family issues that feel surreal because I haven't really had contact with my dad's side of the family in a long time. In October, my Grandmother on that side passed away.

I haven't heard much news about my dad in a long time. Unfortunately, I did hear recently about how he treated his mother in her final days. I guess I shouldn't be surprised because he obviously treated his own family terribly, but I was surprised. She requested him to come see her when she knew she was going to die. He refused because he didn't want to see her like that. He broke her heart once when he abandoned his own family and then again in the end.

Well,his father will probably never forgive him for that. I can't say I blame my Grandfather. I choose to forgive my dad for what he did to us, but he hasn't been here continually hurting me. Anyway, apparently my Grandfather is disinheriting my dad and leaving his share to my brothers and I. I don't care about the money and it won't be much anyway, but there is some justice in this. I am a fan of forgiveness and I wish everyone would make peace because you can't be at peace until you make peace with others, but I am still a fan of justice.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

It's a Sad Day

It is a sad day here today. I guess it is a sad day for our country, but particularly for this state (

My state has passed a concealed weapon law recently that allows people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. There's always been a lot of guns in my state, but lately it's been excessive. People are packing in the supermarket. I always see multiple people with guns in the back of their pants at church!

Earlier this week actually, someone started taking hostages at the Baja Fresh by the mall about a half mile away from my house. A school in my district (actually the school I live closest to) was put on lockdown. All the students and teachers had to remain locked in the building two hours after school was let out because a gunman was running around.

Now with this incident in a city not too far south of here, I am really wishing we had better laws to regulate guns. I started thinking about some of my experiences with guns and I wondered if I've been oblivious to how negatively the abundance of guns has affected my life. I just haven't lived outside of this state since I was 4 (other than college). Here's some of the ways I've been effected. Tell me if you've had a similar experience. I'd like to hear how it is elsewhere.

1.)Road Rage
The road rage in this city is bad. When I was 17 years old, we were on the freeway driving to the location where our prom was being held, and the car in front of us thought we had cut them off. They pulled out a gun and pointed it at us. We got off immediately (thankfully there wasn't too much traffic), and nothing happened but I don't know if anything would have.

2.) In My Personal Life
This year, when my friend left her unstable husband, one of the reasons that I felt so unsafe is that he owned a gun store and had a personal collection of over twenty guns. One night, right after it all happened, my phone rang from a blocked number at about 2:30am. I was worried that he was outside my house trying to find out if I was at home. I had no idea what to do. Again, nothing happened, but if guns hadn't been involved in that whole situation, I don't think I would have been scared at all.

3.) At School
When I taught fifth grade, we had a very hostile and disturbed young man in the class next door to me. One day, the mom called the school to say that she couldn't find her gun and she was worried that her son had it in his backpack. Now, I'm going to be forthcoming with the fact that I think the principal handled this poorly and should have called the police, but this is what happened. She ordered this young man's teacher to search his backpack because the parents had given permission. The teacher asked me to be present while she searched the backpack because she was afraid if he had just thrown it in his backpack with the safety off or there was anything else in there (with this kid anything could have been in his backpack. So, this teacher and I looked through his backpack and didn't find anything. His mom actually called later in the day to say she found the gun.

Well, this posts has been about guns, but I recognize that the tragedy is not. If your reading this I hope your thoughts and prayers will be with the victims and families--mine are.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm Falling Off the Wagon Already

Today's Word of Wisdom: When your house starts looking like an office and your office starts looking like a house, you've gone too far.

My New Year's resolution, as usual, was to be more balanced and less ruled by work. It's not going very well.

Tonight I brought home all of this work and organized my stations of work into piles all over the living room floor. My mom called to see if I would come over for dinner, so I left all that stuff out. I got back and it was so depressing because I really turned my home into an office.

Then I realized that lately I want to buy things that should be for home for work and things that should be for work for home. I think to myself, "You know what I need? A better chair for work! I am always there and it would be more comfortable. I need a Fabreeze plug in for my classroom." Then, I start thinking about how I need a file box for home, so I can file away all the work I do at home. Pretty soon I'll be voluntarily moving my bed into the pod of our third grade classrooms and wall papering my living room with data charts.

It is not right.

P.S. Sorry for the gratuitous profanity at the beginning of this video, but seriously, this song suits my situation. Plus, this concert looks fun...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Name Game

My brother and his wife are expecting their second child, a son. (That sounded very Biblical, no? I didn't do it on purpose; I told you I have a theological background.) Anyway, they have been going through the process of selecting a name. All this name drama has made me realize that being a teacher makes it nearly impossible to name a child.

I just realize that I have so much history with so many names that it would be hard to find one that works. For example, it only takes one bad "Jackson" or "McKenzie" to ruin a name. After spending a year of my life saying, "Kyler, don't touch him. Kyler, I said get back to your seat. Kyler, we're waiting for you. Kyler, we don't talk in the hallway. Kyler. Kyler!" I just wouldn't have the heart to name my own child Kyler. Even though I know that a whole new set of memories that are more important would redefine the name in my heart, I couldn't do it because of something else. There would come a day, in the future with my own child, when I became frustrated with that child. I would say to him, "Kyler, we are running late; let's go right now," and suddenly it would happen. The frustration and the name and the tone would transport me back to 2007. I would half expect "bad Kyler" to come running down my stairway. Actually if I ever have my own children, I am just going to get a baby book and cross out all the "no"s first. It will be best to get that out of the way.

As my brother and his wife brainstormed names for their child, I had my own conversation in my head that went something like the following.

"We should name him Ben."
Ben--Exposed himself on the school bus to an entire bus full of children.
"We should name him Mason."
Yeah, if you want him to throw himself on the floor and throw temper tantrums.
"How about Michael?"
Why don't you just gage his ears for him during infancy? He'll clearly end up goth anyways.

I don't say any of this out loud. My brother and his wife are still kind of mad at me because when they wanted to name their daughter Uvi, I told them it was too anatomical. Seriously, think about it: Uvi. They should thank me for helping them dodge the bullet on that one.

--I promise not to tell them about Kyler, though.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Portraits of Teaching: Idealism Meets Reality

Meyers Brigg's personality profile describes the personality known as teacher as an idealist. I don't know if all of us in teaching fit into that box. My personality profile for one, was not the teacher, but in the dialogue that I opened up on this blog about how we, as teachers, view our craft I saw a theme of idealism and hope colored by difficult realities. You can read the full interviews with edubloggers below. I decided to sum it up with some quotes illustrating the hope that propels and the reality that startles.

Idealism and Hope:

"I CARE about how well my students do." --Mrs. Chilli

"That lightbulb moment - that moment when the student GETS IT - whether it is a concept in math or his/her worthiness as a human being." --Ricochet

"Almost everyone I know who is attracted to this profession did it because they care about others--specifically children." --Miss Understood

"I know I have something to give them that will help them get along in the world, something that will ease their way and make their lives richer and more productive."--Mrs. Chilli

"Exploring ideas. I love it, particularly when they're ideas I'm familiar with but I'm re-exploring them with people for whom they're new. My students help me see the material with fresh eyes." --Clix

"I went into teaching to help kids." --Ms. Teacher

"It matters to me that my kids are safe and well cared for." --Mrs. Chilli

"Those kids have personalities that defy description, and they are the ones who keep coming back to say hi... That's a bonus to the job." --Cupcake

"My students are the best thing about teaching... Its why I wanted to be a teacher and the reason why I continue to do it."--SmWonder00

"It matters to me that they be given the space they need to grow and change and to sometimes fall flat on their faces." --Mrs. Chilli

Hard Realities:

"No amount of skills, hard work, and caring spirit have a 100% success rate."--Ms. Understood

"Right now, it's all about passing tests, as opposed to showing growth." --Cupcake

"We are being othered. I hear ALL THE TIME that "everyone knows who the bad teachers are."... What people mean by this is that somewhere else, in some OTHER area, there are bad teachers who need to be fired." --Clix

"So, I've had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes I am not enough." --Ms. Understood

"I hold book fairs and bake sales and I beg my friends and family and the members of my community to give our school the things we need because we don’t have the money to buy them." --Mrs. Chilli

"When you can't be Superman, you are a disappointment."--Ms. Understood

"The emotional toll it takes on the teacher, trying to do the right thing by everybody: the student, the administration, the colleagues, the parents, the state, the teacher." --Ricochet

"I guess I expected that most everybody respected and liked teachers, so it's been a shock to find out how many people in the general public do not hold this same point of view." --Ms. Teacher

"I had no idea that I would have to deal with anything like that before I started teaching." --Ms. Understood

I don't usually explain the music I choose to accompany a post. Did you know I do that? I chose Juliana Theory's "Into the Darkness" to represent this post because in reading all the interviews I see the heroism in teaching. A good teacher is someone who acts on hope in the face of great challenges to that hope. Reality will come. Whatever age or subject you teach, it is the belief in possibilities that makes it worth it. Thanks to all who participated in my interview. May you find and bring hope in 2011!