Sometimes, I Shouldn’t Ask

1st period this morning, I asked a tardy student a routine question.  “Zane, why are you late?”

“I took 2 Ex-Lax.”

There is no appropriate response to that.

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Discouragement

Discouragement can be a real beast in teaching.  Today was a bad day.  Actually, most of the day was not bad.  We are learning about Africa, we talked about Sudan and South Sudan, Civil War and the Lost Boys.  We talked about famine and the redistribution of wealth.  Students were engaged and interested.  They asked pertinent questions and there were times that I thought I might just be influencing the next generation of voters.  And then…

I hate it when there is an and then…  Too many perfectly good days ruined by and then…  Why couldn’t today just leave it as it was, a perfectly decent day.  It was even a great day, considering that this is a Monday.  But NOOOOO, there is an and then…

In my last class, Rae, whom I adore, who is rough around the edges but so smart, smart, funny, sassy Rae, whose best friend went to alternative campus last week for fighting, asked to go to the restroom.  I told her she would have to wait until our daily news program was on, and that was acceptable.  She went once we started the news, and wasn’t back when the news ended.

That was odd.  There were at least 2 other students waiting to also use the restroom.  I texted Ms. Carter down the hall (she is next to the restrooms).  She looked for Rae in the restrooms near her, no Rae.  She looked in the next set of restrooms, on the next hall, no Rae.  I stepped out into the hall, no Rae.  I tried calling the front office.  Busy signal.  Sigh.  I don’t want to, but I guess I am going to have to write her up.  I write her up in the computer, making sure to mention that she wants to go to alternative campus to be with her R.O.D..  I try calling the office one more time.  Ms. Schlep, the secretary for my grade answers.  I ask if Rae is down there.  Oh, yes, Rae is down there.  Mr. Jones, the principal for my grade has her in his office.  Uh, what?  I’m confused.

At the end of the period, Rae has still not returned to me.  I gather her things and head for Mr. Jones’ office.  She is there.  He is on the phone.  I open the door, and give her things to her.  “Why are you here?” I ask.  “Cause somebody said I had weed.”  She replies, her words sharp.  I nod.  I have to go, I have car rider duty and Judith has art club and I need to remind her.  I track Judith down in the band hall and remind her about art club.  She had forgotten.  I go to car rider duty.

Car rider duty is its normal zoo. Kids everywhere.  No one paying attention to the fact that their ride just pulled up.  Everyone busy talking.  Eventually that is over.

As I am leaving, about to go back to my room, I spy Larry.  He has been in In School Suspension for the last two days, so I call out to him “Are you back with me tomorrow?” .  He doesn’t respond.  I get louder.  I full-name him.  He looks at me, but turns his back and keeps walking.  That’s odd.  He has been doing better.

I go back to my room.  Princess is waiting.  Her day was good.  I sit down to grade papers.  I have an email.  Rae is going to alternative campus for 40 days.  Ugh.  I go down the hall to see if Ms. Carter knows about it yet.  We are angry, sad.  Disappointed that this bright student has sent herself to a sub par education for the rest of the school year.  I go to the office.  I want to debrief with Mr. Jones.  He has people in his office.  I make small talk with Ms. Schlep for a few minutes.  Overhear a snippet of conversation.  Shit.  Larry was fighting.  I guess he is going back to alternative campus now too.  Mr. Jones comes out of his office.  Parents go in.  There is yelling.  I tell Mr. Jones I will try to catch him tomorrow.

Princess has come to try to find me.  She wants to go to the computer lab.  I tell her no.  We are leaving as soon as Judith gets back.  We start walking back to my room.  Through the window I can see the bus rider circle.  Precious Darling is waiting for a bus.  She was my student last year.  I emailed her mommas every.single.day last year.  I go outside to give her a hug and check in with her.  She got in trouble today.  She nearly got into a fight.  She’s been suspended for 3 days.  Ugh.  I talk with her about that being a bad choice.  I talk with her about doing better for the rest of the school year.  I make her promise, and say “yes ma’am” and shake my hand.  I go back to my room.  The discouragement attempts to eat me alive.

I’ve invested in these 3.  I pray for them.  I think about them when I am not at work.  When I am out walking, I think of them.  Not just them, of course, but they are with me always.  And when they make bad choices, it hurts me.  I hate it for them.  I wish I could help them through their short-sightedness, and their impulsiveness.  Tonight there will be ice cream (Rocky Road and Coconut Fudge) and a long walk and tomorrow I will get back up and attempt to pour knowledge and wisdom and kindness and love into students again tomorrow.  I’ll just keep getting back up, but days like this are tough.

Trying to Get Fit(ter)

As I am now slightly (ahem) over 40, I am finding it harder and harder to fight the battle of the bulge.  Add to that the fact that my major hobbies, reading and playing on the phone and the computer, are not exactly active, and I have wound up with a bit of a weight problem.  Not a huge one, I’m probably not considered obese, but I could use a weight loss of about 10 pounds.

The problem is that I don’t like exercise. Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I just don’t like being hot and/or sweaty.  And I DO like Dr Pepper and chocolate.  And fried pickles.  And ice cream.  And pizza, and sushi, and cheese, and grits, and chicken and waffles.  You get the idea.  I like to eat, and I don’t like to move so much.

But I’m turning that around.  At least, I hope I am.  I set a resolution at the beginning of the year to try to walk in the evenings at least 3 days a week.  Hubs did too.  We lasted 2 whole days. Not a good track record.  So I needed some external motivation.  So I looked around and found the website/app called HealthyWage.  I saw something online that said “it pays you to develop good habits” and I was super excited!  However, that’s not really exactly how it works.

To me, it’s more of a bet.  I’m not a gambler, but betting on myself seems different.  There are different challenges that you pay to enter.  I have entered 2 different “step” challenges, for $60 each.  Each of the challenges lasts 60 days, and the 2 I chose are a challenge to increase my steps by 25%.  The first challenge shouldn’t have even been too hard, I was such a slug prior to the challenge.  My initial step goal was only 6,289 steps per day (on average).  The day prior to the challenge beginning I had 2,745 steps.  I had to be intentional to get to my first step goal, but it was doable.  I was getting there, and I felt better on the days that I walked.  I felt confident that I would meet my goal, since I could see myself climbing the leader board.  So, I added a second “step” challenge, again increasing my step goal by 25%.  This increased my step goal to 8,786.  This is still not the 10,000 steps that people talk about for fitness, but it is a start.

Has it worked?  Well, yes.  My average steps are WAY up, and my nightly walk is slowly becoming a habit.  I’m proud of that.  I get close to or over my step goal nearly every day now.  I’m sleeping like a rock.  I never toss and turn these days and it feels like I have more energy during the day too.  I’m loving the new feeling.  I haven’t really lost any weight yet, but I’m not cutting my calories any yet either.  There are weight loss challenges on HealthyWage too, and I may try one of those once these two are over.

The teacher next door to me at school is a runner.  Mrs. Steward (who I now walk with daily during our conference period) routinely runs 7 to 9 miles in a weekend.  She has been encouraging (or “bossing”) me to start running small amounts during my walks to increase my heart rate and so that I can get more steps in during a shorter time period.  I have always said that I will only run if something is chasing me, but I thought I would try it.  The HealthyWage‘s Support Room had a HUGE thread about ways other people get their steps in, and one suggestion really got my attention.  It is an app called Zombies,Run and it is pretty fun!  So these days, I grab my phone and headphones in the evening and hit the pavement.  I mostly walk, but every now and then a zombie horde approaches, so I run!  (Well, really, I jog, and not very fast, but it does get my heart rate up).  The app plays my music while I walk, breaking in occasionally with story updates or alerts to run.  I collect items for my base and so far, I am enjoying the mission runs.  I can control how long the route will be, and whether or not the zombies will occasionally chase me, so that’s a big plus.

What do you do to get/stay fit?

Things I Learned About San Francisco

The fam, (the hubs, Princess, Judith, the Sargent, Mombo, Krazy and Ringo) and I just went to San Francisco for Spring Break.  It was fantastic!  We ate great food, saw lots of things, rode street cars and had lots of family time.  Here’s a list of things that I learned during the trip:

  1. There are no fat people in San Francisco.  This is most likely related to #2.
  2. San Franciscans walk everywhere!  Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of other ways to get around, but everywhere we looked, we saw people walking.  A friend had told me that driving and parking in San Francisco was pretty crazy, so we walked a lot too.  That’s when we noticed #3.
  3. It’s HILLY in San Francisco!  We walked from the airport to our hotel (that was not the best plan) and discovered that most of San Francisco is not flat.  In fact, it is nearly vertical on some streets.  Good for the legs, good for getting up the heart rate, but oh my!  We were tired!sfstreetsign
  4. Free stuff rocks! We took a City Guide tour of the Golden Gate Bridge, toured the free Cable Car museum, saw the sea lions at Pier 39, visited the incredible 16th Avenue steps, happened to visit the San Francisco Botanical Garden on a free day, watched fortune cookies being made and walked through Chinatown, all for free.  Some of these were our favorite parts of the trip.  The City Guide tour, organized through the public library, was especially awesome. San Francisco is a fairly expensive city, but the free stuff can be found and is worth doing.
  5. Homelessness and drug use are very visible problems.  If I can find words, there will be a whole post sometime later.  I know this is a problem for our whole country, but it seemed super visible while we were there.
  6. San Francisco is an immigrant city!  Chinatown was amazing.  It was almost like actually being in another country.  Street signs, shop signs and pricing were all in Chinese.  On some streets, a market seemed to be going on and people were picking out fish, lychee, dried shrimp and many other fruits and vegetables that I couldn’t even identify.  Riding public transportation exposed us to many different languages, dialects and attire.
  7. Water is everywhere!  Between the Bay, and the Ocean, the fog, the rivers running through Muir Woods and the waterfalls in Yosemite, we felt like there was always some beautiful aspect of water to be looking at.  It is not the most curly hair friendly city.  It is pretty humid, and there are frequent breezes that can make it downright cold at times, but frizzy happened a lot too.

Overall, we learned that San Francisco is great!  WONDERFUL food (Ghirardelli Square, anyone?), plenty of culture, TONS of art, fun history and kind people.  If you get the chance, you should go.

Grading Makes Me Crazy

From a Writing Wednesday assignment (about love) – “Also, if someone’s eyes expand when they come near you it can mean they like you but not always.”

And this one, from the same quote – “But love is magic when you first see the one you love it’s like you two are in your universe you can’t nobody but you two you can’t believe your eyes after a lot of soul searching you finally see the person who is right for you.”

A different one, this time the quote was about serving others being like serving god – “it’s because God is a person too & everyone is the same, a human being.”

Homelessness, Mental Illness and Teaching

I got a homeless student today.  He is also mentally ill.  I knew none of those things when I met him. 

He had to be brought to my class, as he was not following the schedule that was given to him by our councilor. He had gone to a math class that he is not scheduled for so that he could be with a friend.

He came in late, attempted to start conversations with multiple students, interrupting my class more than once. He was then sent to a desk and he again interrupted the class by shouting out.

I then sent him to the hall. He informed me, loudly, on his way to the hall that I “was trippin”.

I gave him a few minutes, and then, after a discussion, he came back into the room and went to sleep in his desk, despite my attempts to wake him up.

When he woke himself up, he shouted that it was “cold in here”. He was told that he needed to raise his hand to talk, so he raised his hand and then shouted that it was “cold in here”.

When I instructed him to go back to the hall, he told me “no”. I told him he needed to go, or he would be removed, and then he left, spewing obscenities.

I called the office to have someone come get him, and he was not in the hall. When I later checked the hall, he was back, so I sent him to the office.

  I was seriously in shock. Here in my town, that kind of behavior happens, but it is RARE.  And on his first day! 

Later on in the day I got an email from my principal informing me that Larry would have 1 1/2 days of In School Suspension.  I was surprised.  That seemed fairly light, for this level of offense.  But I have given up complaining for Lent, so I decided that I would not gripe, but I would go see the principal and see what the deal was. 

There is a lot of deal.  Larry has been in three different school districts so far this school year.  All have sent him to their alternative campuses.  He is supposed to be on medicine and is not.  He is “technically homeless”.  ‘Technically homeless” in our state refers to a student who is currently being sheltered in a home that is not their own.  An example would be a student and their family staying with a friend.  And despite my principal calling his mother around 2, she still had not come to get him at 4. 

And now, I am at a loss.  I have no idea how to help this student.  The frequent moves from school district to school district mean that no one has gotten to know him well enough to find out what works to reach him.  It also means a disruption in their government services, and most likely, his chances of getting medicine that he legitimately NEEDS to be around people and be productive.  And who know if the “home” he is staying it helps him or not.  Is his mother doing her best?  Is she an addict?  Does she suffer from the same problems that he has? 

Our system, our schools, and our government services can’t help people when they move frequently, or when they can’t be tracked.  And while some might say that their frequent moves “bring it on themselves”, I see the kids that pay the price and it is not OK.  This young man deserves better.  He needs help and consistency and medicine so that he can be productive and whole.  I don’t know what the solution is, but I am seeing all the ways our broken system breaks people.  

 

 

 

Crying (Again)

I have a student who is cutting himself.  And he is a student I absolutely adore.  And that hurts me.  So much.

Another teacher discovered it. And when she inquired about it, other students said that he is talking about suicide on his Snapchat.  She sent him to the councilor.

He came to see me after school.  He does almost every day.

And so I asked about it.

“What am I hearing about you cutting yourself?”

Shrug.

“Did you cut yourself, Hot Mess?”*

Nod.

“Why?”

Shrug.

“No, shrugging isn’t an answer.  Why did you hurt yourself?”

Lost look.

“A lot of times people cut themselves when something is going wrong in their life.  Something that they feel they can’t control.  Is something going wrong in your life?”

Nod.

“Here at school? At home?  Both?”

Home.

“Hot Mess, are your parents fighting?”

Head shake.

“Is someone hitting you?”

Lost look.

“Are you in a situation that you need to leave?  Should you not be in the home you are in?”

Lost look.

“This is important, Hot Mess.  This is a big deal.  Because you matter.  Stop looking at your shoes.  Do you believe me that you matter?”

Shrug.

“Look at me.  I don’t lie to you.  We mess around in my class, but I don’t lie to you.  Not now, not ever.  YOU MATTER.  Someone hurting you is NOT OK.  You hurting you is NOT OK.”

Lost look.

“Did you get to talk to the councilor?”

“No.”

“Here is the plan for tomorrow.  I am going to email your first period teacher, and he will send you to the councilor.  And if he doesn’t, or the councilor isn’t there, your fourth period teacher will send you.  And if she doesn’t, I will send you during my class.  Ok?”

Nod.

“Are you safe tonight?  Will you be ok tonight?”

Nod.

This kills me inside.  I want to just take him home.  I want to fix it for him, but some days I can’t even fix my own life, much less someone else’s.  So I will go home and have a drink and pray a lot. And ask my friends to pray too, and get up tomorrow and do it again.

 

*I don’t call him Hot Mess, but it is my nickname for him, so as not to give away his identity.

Oh NO Canada!

Air Canada, that is.

The Hubs has had to be out of town for business.  I hate it.  I hate being the only parent in the house, I hate trying to get both of the girls to everything that they need to get to, and I hate having no one to unload to at the end of the day.

Right now, I also hate Air Canada.  His flights have been late, rescheduled, delayed and cancelled.  It is beyond frustrating.

I don’t even remember now why is flight from here to Canada was delayed, but he sat in an airport for 3 hours waiting to leave.  Ugh.

His flight back, had a connection, but no big deal, normally.  Unfortunately, his first flight was delayed for 2 hours due to high winds.  So, no, he didn’t make the connection.  Oddly, the winds were too high for the flight to go INTO the airport, but not high enough to hold the flight that was leaving.  Hm.

So, another night in a hotel in Canada.  No big deal.  He’s on standby for the first morning flight.

The next morning, he is confirmed on that flight!  Yay!  Until that flight is also delayed to change a tire.  (Really?  That almost sounds made-up).  Right this second, he is finally back on the ground, back in our country and headed back home.  Finally!

 

Diva Discipline

Oh me, oh my!  The Princess has always been fairly skilled at the throwing of tantrums.  I really am looking forward to the day that she outgrows them, but today, at 10 years, 8 months of age, she threw a whopper!

It started innocently enough.  The Hubs is out of town, so I single-mom-ing it for a few days (it’s hard – big shout out to those of you who do this all the time, you have my utmost respect).  We dropped Judith off for a Youth Group event at the church and were headed home.  I had waited until dropping Judith off before bringing up dinner plans since 1) she would be eating at the church, and 2) she is so picky that she doesn’t like anything.  So after she left, as soon as I turned on to the road, I started outlining for the Princess our dinner choices.  After I had explained the options, I was met with silence.  Crickets.  Nothing at all.

“Princess?”  “Hello?”

“What?  Were you talking to me?”  (We were the only two in the car).

“Oh nevermind!”

“What?” “I was reading my book!  What did you want?”

“I was asking what you wanted for dinner, but since you weren’t listening, I have decided.”

“Wait, no!  I’m sorry, tell me, tell me”.

“No, it’s no big deal, just listen from now on”

“Please tell me, please, please, please, pleeeeaasse!”

“Asked and answered.” “Don’t ask again.”

“Really, mom, please!”

“If you ask again, you are getting a spanking”

“Mom, I’m sorry, I was just reading my book.”

“That’s a spanking.  If you keep it up, you are writing sentences.” (Writing sentences, you notice are a step UP from a spanking.  The Princess hates writing sentences).  Immediate quiet sobbing, snuffling and flopping from the back seat.

At the next light, I notice, out of the corner of my eye, that she is laying down in the seat.  I turn around, “Princess, sit up.  AND PUT ON YOUR F*CKING SEATBELT”.  I apologize to those of you who never swear, but for me, some things deserve extra verbal oomph.  This was one of those times.  She put it on.  Immediately.  “That IS sentences”.

We get home.  She gets the mail from the mailbox.  She gets her spanking.  I assign her three pages front and back of “I will never take off my seatbelt”.  I begin my after-school routine.  I let in the dogs, I look at the mail, I take off my pinchy high-heeled shoes, I close the garage door, and then I notice Princess is NOT at the table writing her sentences.  I go through the house, calling for her.  No answer.  I look in the garage, and in the car.  No Princess.  I finally spot her in the front yard.  I call her in.  I send her to the table.  I begin fixing dinner.

She huffs and puffs but she has a pencil in her hand, so I go about what I am doing.  She glares at me, so I deliberately am happy while I brown meat.  She taps her pencil on the table, I ignore it.  Finally, she begins writing.  But, even from the kitchen, I can tell she is writing large, huge, enormous letters.  She is writing one sentence per page, rather than the “typical” one sentence per line.  She finishes all three pages, front and back and sits sullenly in her chair, arms folded.

“Bring them here.”

She brings them to me, and it’s just so ridiculous, so outlandish, so very HER that I cannot help it, I burst out laughing.  She laughs too, and we have a talk about the importance of seatbelts.  She bargains away two pages of sentences for chores, and everyone is happy.

Lord help me, she’s going to be on my campus next year!

I Should Not Be Here

I’m not running a fever.  I guess that’s good.  But I am snotty, and my head hurts and my throat hurts.  I’m coughing and I sound like a frog, which makes teaching difficult, but I can’t go home.

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There are just too many consequences for missing a day.  My class is supposed to use technology today.  I somehow won the rights to a class set of IPAD two days in a row.  It’s a difficult thing to do, and if there is a sub here, the IPADS go back in the front office, in the locked closet.  I may not be able to get back on the schedule for months.

My female students have scoliosis screenings today and expecting a sub to handle that would not be kind.  Especially since today is the day after a dance.  The students will be hyper, with stories to tell, and I don’t want to miss that, and I know how to calm them down and get them back to working on their educations.  Not everyone can do that.

I don’t have sub plans ready.  I have a packet ready, but it can only be used for 1st and 4th periods.  I had to miss a half day earlier in the school year because Judith was throwing up and I haven’t made new sub packets.  Well, I have, but they aren’t copied yet.  Before the copier count fiasco ended, I didn’t have enough copies and lately I am too tired to think of it at the end of the day.

I hate this.  I don’t want to get my fellow teachers, or worse still, my students sick.  If I was in a typical job, I would’ve called in today.  As things stand, the hubs is going out of town for work, so I may have to drag the girls with me to a clinic tonight after school to see if I can get something to help with this.  Either that, or make the copies that I need so that I can have a sub tomorrow.