I Love My Job

Yeah, I know.  I’ve heard people say “I love my job” sarcastically.  I’ve probably done so too.  But not right now.  I love the beginning of a school year.  Right now, I am on day 6 with my new students.  It’s a beautiful time.  We are still getting to know each other, everyone is on their best behavior, myself and the parents included.

Additionally, I am doing some new things this year, and trying new techniques and programs is just mentally stimulating for me.  I am trying out sketchnoting as I give notes this year, and it makes me think differently about all of my notes and how I could visually represent them.  Also, I am working on setting up an EPals email exchange for my students.  This will allow them to email (with moderation) students their own age in other countries around the world.  And I am learning about, and possibly implementing Classcraft in my classroom to gamify my classroom.  I love trying out new things to see if it can help my students to become better behaved and better learners!

And, as if that weren’t enough, I am writing two grants!  Yes, two!  The first is a grant for pots and pans for teaching culture through cuisine in my classroom. The second is for the social studies department for 6 class sets of Google Cardboard viewers.  I know that winning just one of these grants would be amazing and helpful to my students, but I have really high hopes that we could win them both.

I love times like this.  My energy is high, I am enthusiastic, and I am much more patient with my students as a result.  I wish all year could be like this.  I know it won’t, that there are inevitable struggles and disappointments and tiredness.  I just hope when I get to those hard days, I can remember this beginning of school feeling.

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Resolutions

**I know this post will publish in March, not August, but try to go with me anyhow!  Thanks**

August is MY personal New Year’s Eve. The beginning of the school year is a time for fresh beginnings, new ideas, new students, new energy and new excitement.

My district’s first in-service day is tomorrow.  I’ve already set up my computer, I’ve made my bulletin boards, I’ve arranged my students tables, chairs and desks.  I’m excited.  My room isn’t done, but I have ideas for new systems and new lessons and I am ready to help my sixth graders learn!

Not everyone shares this enthusiasm.  Teaching is a difficult job.  I know this.  It has taken a lot out of me the last two years.  However, I have noticed that the most unhappy of my coworkers all share something in common.  They are all complainers.  Now, if you have read more than one post on this blog, you know that I will complain.  However, I am talking about the habitual, consistent griping and complaining about everything.

There are a lot of things that teachers can’t control.  We have no control over which students we will teach, what abilities they will or will not have, the students and their parent’s attitudes about education, who our administrators will be, what decisions those administrators will make, what our schedule will be this year, and how, when and by whom we will be evaluated.  I understand that not having control of this many things can make someone cranky.

However, I do believe that I can still control myself.  I think I can control my attitude, and that has a huge influence on not only my inner peace, but also the atmosphere in my classroom.  So, my resolution is to not complain.  If this means that I need to spend some time away from some of my less happy co-workers, I guess I will.  I may have to not be in the workroom everyday for lunch.  I may have to change the topic of conversation during department meetings.  It will likely be uncomfortable, but I hope it will be worth it for my students and myself.

Dys(fun)ctional

So, my families are usually FULL of family time.  Hub’s family is about 45 minutes away and my parents are around an hour and a half away, so it’s convenient to see each other.  There’s usually at least one family trip per summer and Hub’s mom (Nancy) is also a teacher, so she has the summer off as well.  That is really helpful when Hubs is working and I am doing something out of town with part (but not all) of the kids.

Yeah, I should explain why I suddenly have extra children.  Every summer, my nephews, Krazy and Ringo, my sister’s boys, come to stay with us for the summer.  My parents are raising my nephews so I like to try to give them some time off from raising a second family.  I also like giving the boys a bit of a break from my seriously strict parents.  And, of course, we enjoy having them here.  So, it is a win for everyone, but a lot more work for Hubs and I.

It’s a fun time, a super busy time, and also a seriously strange time.  These particular nephews and I have a complicated relationship.  I am stricter with them than their mom (when they see her) and I give them more freedoms and more resposibilities than my parents (their grandparents, who are raising them).  I am not the typical aunt.

In some ways, I am a parent to them.  I dole out consequences when they fight with each other or Judith and Princess.  I “make” them cook dinner once a week so that they won’t starve when they’re grown.  I taught Ringo to drive.  I “make” them go to church.  I go with them on church youth mission trips.

But, in another way, I am their sibling.  I was raised by the same people who are currently raising them.  I “get” what their home life is like.  I lived under the same rules and restrictions that they are living under now.  When I started to teach Krazy to drive this summer, we laughed together about how The Sargent (my dad) yells at other drivers in traffic.  We laughed about his “air brake” that he stomps on while anyone else is driving.

At the end of the day, Hubs and I are extra people who love these kids and you can’t ever go wrong with that.

Fit (Body Acceptance Edition)

I am currently at the heaviest I have ever been.  Somewhat shockingly, I am not overly horrified by this fact.  I’m curvy.  I have some rolls.  But I’m happy.

Happy is kind of a big deal for me.  I struggle with depression/anxiety, so I have spent a lot of my life being unhappy/afraid.  Currently I am neither.

I am exercising.  I walk nearly every night with the Zombies Rub app. I am participating in a StepBet.  I feel like these things are keeping my heart healthy.  I am drinking more water than I ever have before in my life.

Yet, I am fat.  There are many who would criticize my food choices, my love affair with Dr. Pepper and my lack of a more serious exercise program.  And they may not be wrong.  But I am happy.  I can’t throw that out the window.  I could decide to eat better, and I might just do that as soon as school starts.  But maybe I won’t either.  Maybe I will just have grace with myself.

It may just be that I have compassion on a 43 year old body that had had an exceptionally busy summer.  I body that rode countless hours with one nephew who needed to learn to parallel park for a driver’s test, and two other teens who are just ready to know how to drive.  A body that greeted children for Vacation Bible School, went on two “local” (in-state, anyhow) mission trips with my church’s youth group over the summer, hosted supper club, went to the river with Hub’s family, taught four kids various lessons, from cooking to hygiene and am amping up for another school year with 6th graders.

I don’t want the children to see me hating my own body.  I want to respect my body, even if it is larger and heavier than I would prefer.  I will continue to keep my body active, but I am determined to like the body that I am living in.

My New Nickname

“The Undertaker”

Yeah, that’s my new nickname.  But, it’s not what it sounds like.  I didn’t kill a student, and I haven’t taken up wrestling.  Much more benign, and gruesome, connotations to this particular nickname.

One of my co-workers, Mrs. Stinson, has classroom pets.  Specifically, she has rats.  And she LOVES them.  I’m not a huge fan, but she is.  She worried for weeks last semester when one of her “babies” was sick, and it stayed at the vet for weeks, but eventually perished.  As a hall, and as good co-workers, we grieved with Mrs. Stinson when the rat died, and went back to our lives.

This morning, I was preparing for my first class when I heard Mrs. Stinson say “I’m not good with this.” and heard footsteps headed my way.  She popped her head into my room.  “We have a dead rat.”  “Oh, no!”, I responded, “Which one?”  She identified the deceased, and then said, again.  “I’m not good with this.” and went back to her room.  I don’t want to lie.  I thought about sitting right there in my chair and doing nothing.  I mean, not my rat, not my problem, right?

I went in and with the help of an old rag removed the dearly departed one from her cage and put her in her pencil box casket.  Mrs. Stinson did a good job of keeping herself together, as there were students in the room.  I went back to my room and applied a copious amount of germ-ex.

There are so many things that I have done as a teacher that I never anticipated.  This one is pretty near the top of the list.

So Much Silliness

So, we (my advanced class and I) were having a serious conversation today after viewing the news.  We were discussing a celebrity who was publicly acknowledging her struggles with anxiety and depression.  So we were talking about brain chemistry and ADD/ADHD and the like.

This caused a student to confess that this year has changed him and that he has been more emotional than ever and that he doesn’t even know what is going on with him right now.

I said that she was changing this year and mentioned hormones and said that he was likely to continue to go through changes for the next couple of years.

“Pooperty”

(like puberty) said a student across the room.  Sigh.  I love these people, but sometimes teaching will drive you flat crazy.

Fit (Not Fat)

Yeah, back to this topic.  I see-saw back and forth between eating really well, and walking daily to eating everything in sight and doing practically nothing.

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It appears that I am an emotional eater, or perhaps more accurately, a stress eater.  The end of the school year is approaching.  This also means that our state test is approaching, both Judith and Princess are having birthdays and there are a TON of extra curricular activities (handchimes, honor choir, Judith’s confirmation, youth fair, Junior Honor Society induction, Superintendent’s honor roll breakfast, etc., etc.) going on this time of year.  The stress of getting everything done, relatively close to on-time is driving me crazy.  And so I am eating, and napping.  Not a good combination.

An example of my life lately would be this past weekend.  We hosted Judith’s birthday party, a sleepover, Princess went to Little Bear’s birthday party and on Sunday, our church was hosting a fundraising event to raise funds for the children’s ministry.  Hubs, Princess and Judith had all commited to bake for this event, so it was super busy at our house.

I DID successfully get through the first of my HealthyWage challenges.  I am not doing well on the second of the two challenges, so I really need to get back up and start walking again.  I have also discovered that the ZombieRun app only gives you a new mission every 6 days unless you pay for the app.  This was disappointing.  There has been lots of Dr Pepper and Twix happening in my life.  I know that these are not healthy ways to deal with my stress, and so tonight I am going for a walk.  Wish me luck.

 

A Bad Day

I have had a bad day.  The kind of bad day that makes it hard to remember all the reasons why you love your job and want to keep doing it for the rest of your life.  That kind of bad day.

It started out well enough, we were in the computer lab, using Google classroom to review for an upcoming test.  I had reserved the computer lab on Friday with Mrs. Suave, my department’s Instructional Coach, plus Testing Principal.  I had to reserve it with her, because our school librarian, Mrs. Futile, was apparently out and had not bothered to set up an out-of-office email.  So anyhow, there is a spreadsheet that shows the schedules of the three grade levels and the available computer labs, and at a quick glance, it appeared that the computer lab I wanted was available all day, except for Study Hall time!  Score!  So I made my lesson plans accordingly, letting students know that is where we would meet for class that day.

About halfway through 1st period, Mrs. Futile emails me “You did understand that the Computer Lab is booked for half of your 7th period, right?”  Uh, no.  I did not.  But I’m a teacher, and I can adapt, so we will do half of class in the classroom and half in the computer lab, not ideal, but I can make it work.  Ugh.

Next, I have another email from Ms. Stout.  She is worried about Lax.  He is dyslexic and and is worried that he can’t pass the test tomorrow.  I explain to Ms. Stout that Lax and I have had numerous conversations about his need to come in and make up his notes, and that he has recently been insolent, disruptive and refusing to work.  She insists that I need to give him copies of my notes.  I start ignoring her emails.

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I get another email, this time from Mr. Pudge, my head principal.  It says “Please decorate your door next week.”  It is college week this week.  I was out two days last week, but I had stuff ready for my sub, and when I returned I took care of all the extra grading and discipline that is inevitable when a teacher isn’t there.  So, I had not decorated my door.  I am reprimanded.  I don’t think that my door will convince my students to go to college, so I don’t see this a super important.  Annoying.

Next, I am trying to make copies of the test, you know, for tomorrow.  And the copier on our hall decides that it doesn’t want to work.  We try replacing the toner.  It still doesn’t work.  Super annoying.

And in the big middle of this, Ms. Vapid shows up also wanting to talk with me about Lax.  Now, as you may have guessed from her pseudonym, I don’t have a high opinion of this teacher.  This is partially because she has kicked Lax out of her State Test Review Time during Study Hall.  And now she is attempting to TELL me what I HAVE to do in my classroom.  Uh, no.  Step back before I knock you down.  She actually follows me from one workroom to the next, haranguing me about what SHE thinks needs to happen for this student.

I should probably mention (before you decide I am a monster) that Lax has fill-in-the-blank notes, so he only has to write about 4 words to every other student’s 2 sentences.  This is above and beyond the required accommodations for this particular student.  But recently, he has refused to take even those notes in my class, so I am being unwilling to do the work for him, as he is making poor choices unrelated to his disability. PLUS, our activity in the computer lab is a review of the test material, and he can listen to it, further accommodating his disability.

I wasn’t too upset with Ms. Stout, she’s that grandmotherly type and she LOVES her students like crazy.  Ms. Vapid, on the other hand, throws him out of her class and then has the nerve to try to lecture me?  Uh, fraid not.

I get another email.  (I really should have just stopped checking my email).  This one is from a foundation that I had applied for a grant from.  I am denied.  Ugh.

I talk with Lax in class.  He can’t come in early, he can’t stay late.  We make arrangements for him to come in and review with me during one of his elective classes the next day.  He seems happy.

After school, I run to the library to get paper for the all-important decorating of the door, and run into Mrs. Fierce, our Special Education Councilor.  “What’s going on with Lax?” She asks.  I tell her.  I also tell her all about Ms. Vapid trying to tell me what to do in my classroom.  Mrs. Fierce is fine with the accommodations I have made and plan on making for Lax, and agrees that Ms. Vapid is over-the-line.  Turns out Ms. Vapid had emailed Mrs. Fierce claiming that I wasn’t meeting the student’s accommodations.  UGH UGH UGH.

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On the way home, I am nearly in a wreck due to someone coming to a COMPLETE and UTTER STOP and the end of the on-ramp instead of merging with traffic.  That’s it, I’m done!

Hubs had to take us out to dinner.  I was too mentally fatigued to even cook supper.

 

Paper Cranes and Peace

Today I learned how to hold an origami crane.  I read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes to my students, and then gave them instructions on how to fold the origami cranes, just like the main character did in the book.  I had a hard time helping the students, as I had never made one before.  Several of my students were successful at making them, so during study hall I sat down and did my best.  And I made one!  It has an overly long face, so I’m not too sure that it looks like a crane, but I tried.

I have collected student’s origami cranes over the last two years of teaching to send to Hiroshima.  See, Sadako was a real little girl, and she really died from leukemia from the radiation of the atom bomb dropped on her city when she was one year old.  The children of Japan raised money for a statue of her in Peace Park after she died.  On Peace Day, paper cranes are strung all over her statue, to honor her and all the other children who died from the bomb.  These days, people all over the world fold cranes and send them to Hiroshima’s “Peace Promotion Division” to be put on that statue.  When I collect enough, my crane, and the cranes of my students will be included in those.  This makes me happy.

 

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What I WISH I Could Say to Parents

Now, I know the title sounds like I want to b*tch at parents.  And sometimes that is true.  When I have one that seems underfed, underclothed, or under loved, yeah, I want to yell at someone, but that’s not what today is about.

Today, I just want you to hear who I am, as it relates to my students.

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I LOVE your kids.  Seriously.  I love little Peter with his freckles, braces and ADD.  I love him when he just can’t quite be quiet in my class because he is just bursting with things he wants to say.  I love sweet Dahlia, who wants to be by my side every single second.  I recognize her neediness and work to help her find healthy boundaries.  I love darling Adam, with his emotional and behavioral issues.  I see the charm he has, despite his defiance.  When his misbehaves, I know that it is his need for attention – positive healthy attention, that is present in this moment.  I love Orphan Annie and it grieves me that he has seen so much in his short life span.  I adore Carl, who never quits, despite his learning difficulties.  He can’t read yet, so I read him every assignment, every day.  I help him write when we write on Wednesdays.  I love Rae, despite her bad choices and her attitude.  In fact, I may love her MORE due to that attitude, I remember being that way at her age.

I pray for your children.  When they are underperforming in my class, or are in trouble for misbehaving, or are struggling with their life, I worry about them.  I search on Pinterest for new ideas on discipline, for new methods of presenting materials, or for new ways to connect to students.  I cry over these children.  When they hurt themselves by making bad choices, I grieve. I want them to do well, I want them to be successful and happy.

I push them.  I make them work hard.  I have high expectations for my students.  If they struggle with learning, I push them to make progress.  If they are academically gifted, I push them to learn more, reach higher, become better.  Students don’t always like that.  Some students are more interested in the social aspect of school than they are about their academics.  I still push them.  Some students aren’t interested in school at all.  Some because they don’t like to work, and some because they don’t want to admit that it is hard for them.  I push them too.  I push my students because I know when they are no longer in school, the world will push them.  The world has very few places that accept mediocracy.  The world wants people who are passionate, prepared and intelligent, so I push my students.

I don’t take their crap.  Now, to be fair, there is a lot of teasing in my classroom.  I tease my students and they pick right back at me.  It’s healthy.  But disrespect is not.  Refusing to work is not.  And I don’t tolerate that from your children.  And I know a lot of my students come from homes where disrespect is the norm.  They are not treated with respect, so they have a hard time respecting anyone.  So I respect them first.  I say please and thank you.  Even my assignments say “Please write 5 sentences”, etc.  I address them as Ms. Smith and Mr. Jones on occasion, to show respect.  If I ask them to put away their journals, or be quiet, I say please.  So I do not tolerate disrespect.  If your child uses rude words, a rude tone, or an eye roll to address me, there will be a consequence.  I mostly try to handle that in my own classroom, with a verbal reprimand, or a Behavior Essay or a removal of a privilege.  But, if is severe enough, or has gone on long enough, it will get worse.  I may call you, or I may send your student to the office.  Their future bosses aren’t going to take that crap, so I don’t either.

The particular grade that I teach is a transition year in my district.  My students are in their first year out of elementary school.  This gives them a lot more freedom, and not everyone handles that appropriately.  So if your student is getting in more trouble than they ever did in elementary school, that may be why.  It could also be biological.  My students are going through a number of physical and hormonal changes.  These changes can mean that they are suddenly more interested in talking with the opposite gender than they ever were before, which can get them in trouble if they are supposed to be doing something else.  Additionally, at their age, my students are beginning to grow up, and this causes them to look for more independence from the adults in their lives.  Sometimes this means that they start pushing boundaries, just to see exactly what they can and cannot get away with.  It’s all completely normal, but it can be concerning to parents who may feel as if they no longer know their children.

We can get through this together, parents!  Let’s communicate, let’s assume the best about each other and let’s have high expectations for these children that we love so much.  If we can do that, our future is indeed very bright.