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.

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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.

 

Balance

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I wish my life were more balanced.  Some days it feels like I am ONLY a teacher.  Princess’s hair goes unstyled (which she hates), I forget to turn in someone’s permission slip, we have to eat out for supper because I haven’t made any, and I don’t do anything with the kids or the hubs.  But my lessons are ready and I am caught up on the grading and I have sent out helpful emails to my fellow teachers and I even did some research into taking students on a cultural excursion.

Some days I get home and I have something in the crock pot, or I have put something in the freezer that I just need to finish.  The kids have activities and I get them there on time, and they are cute and clean.  I answer the mail, balance the checkbook and have some private time with the hubs.  On those days, I leave a huge stack of papers on my desk to grade, the next day’s assignments aren’t typed or printed or copied.

It seesaws back and forth and I wind up feeling as if I haven’t done anything well.

It has been forever since I did any yardwork, I need to trim the hydrangeas, the neighbor’s wisteria is attempting to take over our backyard again and all of the flowerbeds need weeding.  I need to help the kids clean out their rooms, donate some things and get ready for their birthdays.  I need to make them go through their closets and see what has been outgrown and what just needs to be discarded.  Judith needs to go to the dermatologist, despite her massive distrust of all medical professionals.  I forgot to be Tooth Fairy for the Princess for almost an entire week.  Don’t even talk to me about the housework – hubs has taken up the title of laundryman and if the it weren’t for Carina (the housekeeper who comes every other week) we would be living in squalor.

I have a number of students who I need to give extra attention to.  Orphan Annie and I are doing a book study and he hasn’t read anything.  I need to call his stepmom.  Bambi is new and is struggling to keep up with the work in our class.  I need to call his dad.  I haven’t even started the script for the video newsletter for this week.  The plant in my classroom is dying.  I should probably rearrange the seating arrangement for 1st period, they have gotten too chatty lately.  If I plan to take students on a trip next year, I really need to schedule visiting elementary schools before the end of the year.  I need to look into fundraisers so that my less well-off students may be able to afford the trip.

I’m exhausted just thinking about all of the things that I am NOT getting done.  And yet, my kids are fed and dressed and well loved.  My students are taught and also well-loved.  Poor hubs is probably a bit neglected, but we did just go away for the weekend, so maybe we will survive!

Some Explanations

I’m a teacher.  It occupies more of my brain than a typical profession might.  I call my students “my kids” and I am fiercely protective of them.  I fight with administration and support staff to try to get them what they need.  I call home more often than any teacher you probably know.  I dream about problems that my students are struggling with, both in their lives and in my class.  I send home Remind 101 reminders all the time.  I go out to the bus circle even when I am not on duty, just to connect with my kids.  I produce, record and send home a weekly video newsletter.  So, yeah, I’m a bit obsessed.

And I blog about my life, and my job is a lot of my life.  But “my kids” haven’t given permission to be on my blog, but my concerns for them, their struggles, their humor – it is so much of my day that there is no way that I am going to not include that in my blog.  So, they all have pseudonyms.  Yeah, I make up fake names for them.  And it is not just here, on the blog, I actually use these names for them in life too.  I call them by their fake names in the teacher’s lounge, and even in my home.  My daughters (who have pseudonyms too) are one grade higher than my students and one grade lower.  I don’t want them knowing all of their fellow students’ business, so fake names are my solution.

Sometimes the fake names are based on an aspect of their personality, or an interaction with their parents and sometimes it is based on their physical appearance.  My names for them are usually in jest, never derogatory.  I love my students.

More and more, I am learning that the stories I hear and experience with my students are not necessarily unique.  There may be something I write about that sounds like a situation that you know about.  I may have a fake name for a student that makes you think of a cousin, or sibling, or child that you know.  Chances are, it is not them.

And I frequently have opinions.  BIG opinions.  Opinions that have to do with politics, and families, and parenting, my fellow teachers and my administrators.  Not revealing who I am, where I am, who my students are and who I am criticizing talking about, is in my best interest.

Additionally, I don’t publish anything in real time. I may write something in February of one year, and not publish it until January of the following year.  Again, this is for the protection of my students.  Something that I write about that my students are struggling with today will not reach readers until many, many months later.  I go to great lengths to try to protect their identities, not just because my district strongly suggests that, but also because I believe that it is the right thing to do.

Thursdays are the New Mondays

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I hate Thursday mornings.  I know that most people hate Mondays, but seriously, I DESPISE Thursday mornings.  It is my worst morning of the week.  I consistently have a hard time waking up and think about calling in sick, but

This morning, it is at least partially my own fault.  I drank WAAAAY too much Dr Pepper (aka nectar of the gods) and so I knew I would have a hard time sleeping – so I drank some Sleepytime Extra tea, and it WORKED!  I slept hard!  But I didn’t want to get up this morning.  When I finally dragged my butt out of bed got moving, Judith didn’t want to get up either.  She said –

Wake me up when it’s Friday, maybe I can get up then.

Princess wasn’t much better, but she is getting an award at school today (that I won’t get to see, because the school schedules everything when parents can’t possibly go the students are already there) and is allowed to dress up, so that got her going.  But then, of course, she wanted fancy hair and put on too much lipstick, so I didn’t have much time for breakfast, but got the Princess dropped off on time.

Judith fussed at me on our way to our campus, worried that we were going to be late.  We weren’t, but as I got out of the car I realized that I had forgotten my lanyard.  Yep, the lanyard that has my classroom key and ID card on it.  No time to go back, so I just had to suck it up.  Two meetings during conference today, so no time to go back to get it today.  Had to get the principal’s secretary to let me into my classroom.  Whoohoo!  Impressing the boss now!

I did manage to get the video newsletters recorded, but my Spanish speakers “no habla” this morning, so I still have to get one more part of that video recorded.

I had a parent conference, and then a phone call that interrupted the beginning of my fourth period class.

The vending machine is stealing dollars.  There are no Twix in it anyhow.

Seventh period claimed not to understand the quotation on the board.  And one of my “good” students has been assigned to the Alternative Campus.  Either for skipping or for fighting.  Ugh.

I’m ready for Friday!

 

 

Things that Make Me Happy

Today, one of my students answered a test question “Gladmir” Putin.  For some reason this has made me think of the Russian President with an extremely large smile.  It makes me laugh.

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A fellow teacher down the hall brought doughnuts for her first period students.  She brought extras!  Is there anything better than an unexpected hot, fresh doughnut?

We’re starting to study the Middle East and students always are intrigued by the name of the country Turkey.  One said that he thought that in Turkey, the Turkeys were cannibals and ate each other.  They make me laugh.

A sweet student (who I secretly call Harry Potter) bought me a chocolate bar!  harry_smilex

Two of my girls came in early to give me a hug and tell me I look pretty!  Awwww!

An answer to a homework question – the Persian Gulp!

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And after that someone told me it was the prison golf.  I think autocorrect “helped” them on that one.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make me smile!

There’s No Crying In Middle School

Oh wait, there is.  Mostly it is students.  Students who are in trouble for making poor choices, or students who are hoping to get out of trouble by crying crocodile tears, or students whose lives are just a good reason to cry.  Or there is crying from just general middle school drama – he doesn’t like me, not one asked me to the dance, that kind of thing.  Today, it was a teacher.  It was me.

Thankfully, it was after my students were already gone for the day, but I put my head down and cried like a spoiled toddler who couldn’t have a candy.  This was not a pretty cry.  This was a red-faced, sniffling, messy cry.  Why?  Well, my students wrote essays.

Sometimes I say that I want to cry over their lack of writing conventions, sometimes I joke that their lack of critical thinking skills are a reason to cry and sometimes I even say that their poor handwriting makes me cry.  But today, there were actual good reasons to cry.

My students write for me almost every week.  It is usually on Wednesdays (Writing Wednesdays – aren’t I clever?).  I usually put a quote on the board and ask them to tell me what they think about the quote, whether they agree or disagree with the quote, what they think the quote means, examples that apply to the quote, those types of things.  It’s usually pretty banal stuff.  Not today.

Today’s quote was from Russian author Maxim Gorky –

Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is.

Nothing I expected would make me cry.  Ha!  Shows what I know!

In my first period class, I had one student write about her depression.  Her parents have been going through a rough time and she said –

…one time I let my happiness go and all I got back was sadness and depression…  I got my happiness I just can’t seem to find it.

I started sniffling then, said a little prayer and scanned her essay and sent it to the school councilor.  And kept grading.  Then her classmate, who is a smart guy, but sometimes a behavior problem writes –

…like me i’m kinda sad that brother ran away and I never got to say good bye to him.  But i’m still happy because I got my mom…

Geez – did I yell at him today?  I had no idea what he was dealing with at home.  Bless his heart, sniffle.  Say a prayer, scan the essay, send it to the councilor.  Wipe nose, rub eyes.  Continue grading. I get all the way to seventh period.  And that is when I lose it.  I have a special student in 7th period.  I’ll call him “Goldilocks” and he has some educational and physical challenges, but he works hard and he’s sweet and silly and I just ADORE him.  And like many of my students, him home life is complicated.  He doesn’t live with mom and dad, he lives with grandma and step-grandpa.  He was removed from his birth parents by CPS.  And yet, everyday Goldilocks has a smile for me.  And he tries his best.  And today his essay made me weep.

I agree I was happy when my mom was survive.  Where my mom died.  I miss mom.  I put flowers on the dirt where my mom is I think about her.  I hurt in my heart all the time.

I have no idea if “mom” in this essay is birth mom or grandma or who, but he is hurting and I can’t fix this for my sweet Goldilocks.  And I can’t change things for my other two sweet friends today.  And that hurts.

Teaching is not for the weak.  I cried.  I ugly cried.  And I sent his essay to the councilor and I went home and had a drink.