My vacation is going by too fast! Oh no!

What I love best about vacation is breakfast and the morning hours. Consider: When I go in to work, I get up between 5 and 5:30 AM, scarf down a bowl of cereal in five minutes flat, sip my tea during my one hour commute, then stand in the FREEZING cold for twenty minutes as I do my parking lot duty at school.

BUT! When I'm on vacation, I can ignore my alarm clock, take forty minutes to prepare loose leaf tea and butter and jam on a bread roll, eat leisurely in front of the morning news (or cartoons, as the mood strikes me), and then surf the net in my pajamas.

Let's hope for a lot more snow days up ahead....

Until Now

We've been having lots of fun over here (my luggage did finally arrive on Christmas evening!!). We've been eating fantastic food:

We've been finding tiny doors in tiny villages:

We've been hiking around in the vineyards behind my parents' house:

Making all of the quiet, reserved French people stare at us while we laugh loudly and play with our cameras:

And trying to get Tiger to love us (to no avail... unless he's hungry!):

Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noel!

Even though I am still bag-less, we did manage to carry on most of our gifts. And Max came up with a genius idea for those gifts that are still lost in airport-land: print out pictures of the items, put them in an envelope, then wrap the envelope! So Christmas was saved after all!!

Next up, a yummy turkey dinner, followed by a movie night complete with popcorn...

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

Here is the copy of the email I just sent to the Swissport Baggage Tracing Office (reference number changed for confidentiality purposes):

I'm writing to check on the status of my missing bag. My name is Sarah and my file reference number is ZRHXX-55555. One of my bags has already been delivered. The other suitcase, the one with all of the Christmas presents in it, is still reported as missing according to the IVR system.

As it is Christmas Eve, I am very concerned about the location of the missing bag. Any information you have about its whereabouts, or when I can expect to receive it would be greatly appreciated.

Also, it's been five days since I've been able to change my clothes. At what point in time does the airline compensate me for my missing clothes and toiletries?

Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.

Here is what I really wanted to write:


Delta couldn't possibly transfer our luggage from one plane to the other in the 24 hours they had to do so. Consequently, I've been wearing the same pants for the past five days in a row. You were so kind to deliver the useless bag to us this morning (my husband doesn't care about his clothes) after two and a half days of delay.
HOWEVER, WHERE IS MY SUITCASE WITH ALL THE LOOT IN IT? I'm tired of hearing that it's missing. You may be able to compensate me for my clothes--I have nothing against shopping sprees. BUT! The presents are kind of important, and certainly not replaceable in Europe, or in time for Christmas. And no check could cover my sadness on Christmas morning, knowing that half of my family members won't have anything to open from us. Because you know that Christmas is all about the presents, RIGHT??????

Get your butts in gear.


Finally Here!

It's been 13 months since I've seen my parents.

It's been 16 months since I've seen my kid brother.

My sister and her husband fly in tomorrow.

It's been TWO AND A HALF YEARS since the last time I set foot in my home in France.

Internet, I never want to leave again. I'm off to go eat some quiche and some cheese and bread. Au revoir!

Early Christmas Present

Yesterday was an interesting day. For once, I had no behavior issues to deal with (it's a Christmas MIRACLE!!). Then, everyone was abuzz with the very good possibility of a snow day for the next day. People were beyond hope. The imminent snow day was assumed. Teachers sent home snow pants and snow boots with the kids. Kids brought in their presents for their teachers. Everyone was saying "Merry Christmas and see you next year" at the end of the day. I was pretty sure the local weatherman would be flooded with hate mail if we didn't get our snow day.

Then, after school, we had our Christmas staff party. This year, instead of our district buying us a fancy three course meal and sending us home with 40 bucks each in gift cards, we decided to adopt six needy families that go to our school and make their Christmas merry! Our district gave us gift cards to spend on our families and we went out as grade levels and shopped till we dropped! It definitely felt more fulfilling than our usual self-indulgence. After the shopping, we came back to the gym and wrapped everything and sat down to a dinner of soup and salad. It was very fun!

And of course, as everyone assumed we'd be having a snow day today, people wished each other a Merry Christmas before we all drove home.

And I know that everyone breathed a sigh of relief (like I did), when we got an automated phone message from our principal, who said:

"Well, I don't know if it was the spoons under your pillow, the backwards pajamas, or if the stars aligned just right, but you've got your snow day! Have a great break and see you in January"

But it was a little hard to hear the specifics, because all I could hear was:

Crawl to the Finish

Today wasn't the greatest. In the words of one of my first graders with autism: "But I don't want to talk about this". Let's just say that the next two days will take pure endurance to get through. Pure. Endurance.

This version of "Ode to Joy" did make me feel a little better though, so I'll leave you on this note:

Random Happenings

It has been a busy weekend. It'll be nice to get back to school and have chance to rest and relax and do nothing. Ha! Actually, that very well may be what happens in the latter part of this week because I don't see kids when they're on their field trips and having all of their Christmas fluff activities.

Max spent Saturday emptying all of our closets and even the junk under the bed to clean and de-clutter. I walked into the bedroom and stopped about twelve inches in because there was no more floor space. He told me: "Don't worry, it has to get worse to get better". I was skeptical, but he was right, and now we have a beautiful bedroom, office, and kitchen again.

While he was cleaning, I went to a cookie exchange... and now we have five days to eat sixty cookies. Can it be done? I guess we'll find out!

I'll be Home for Christmas

Well, yesterday was not a snow day for us. We did, however, get a two hour delay--meaning I had to be at school at 9:40 instead of 7:40. Unfortunately, I didn't get the call until 5:38 A.M... and by then I was already showered and dressed. So instead of crawling back into bed, I went out to breakfast (Dunkin Donuts!!!), did the week's grocery shopping, then vacuumed the house.

It's the most productive I've been all week. I can't seem to get motivated to do anything at work. I just count down the hours until the day is done. All of this Christmas anticipation is making time crawl by! Ten more days until I'm on a plane to visit my parents in France!! Until then, can I ignore school and be a couch potato, please?

see more puppies

Seven Random Facts

I'd say there's about a 20 percent chance that the freezing rain they're predicting for tonight is going to last long enough for a school cancellation tomorrow.

So, to take my mind off taming my soaring hopes, (but mostly because Sarah tagged me), here's a list of seven random facts about me:

1. I was TIME's Person of the Year in 2006. Seriously. Oh, and you were too, if you blogged during that year!

2. I once ate regular M&M's in the back of a moving car when I was about five, then I threw up. I haven't been able to eat them since then. Peanut M&M's, yes. Regular? Barf. My husband tells me there's a word in psychology for that (C.R.A.Z.Y)

3. Because I spent a lot of time growing up in France, I've had the opportunity to visit many other countries. Twenty-one, to be exact. Well, technically twenty -four, if you count those wimpy countries like Monaco, Vatican City, and Lichtenstein. I just wish I had paid better attention when I was younger, because I hardly remember half of them!

4. My mom tells me that I taught my younger brother how to read in English. I have absolutely no recollection of this but I'm considering adding it to my resume...

5. My family has a pet bird (an African Grey) who used to love me, but now hates me. I still have no idea what I did to antagonize her!

6. My first kiss was on my wedding day. Some people think this is cool. Some people think this is weird and/or ridiculous. It just depends who I'm talking to :).

7. I used to think that the gas cans you buy at the store already came filled with gas. This wasn't when I was little.... this was when I was nineteen!!

Well, I'll tag the following people, but if you blog and you happened across this fun little meme, feel free to steal it!

Roller coaster teacher
Teaching Bio
Miss Teacher

There's No Shame in Begging

Dear Mother Nature,

In looking at the ten day forecast, it seems unlikely that we will get a snow day this week. There's maybe a chance on Tuesday or Wednesday but it's too early to tell how great of a chance it is.

Here's the thing. I really, really, really need that snow day. Not just to sleep in, but to get stuff done, too! I didn't realize that I only had this weekend and next weekend to get the Christmas shopping and present making done before we hop on a plane to visit my parents for the holidays!

So if you could trouble yourself to dump a bunch of snow, ice, and strong winds right over my school, that would be MUCH appreciated. Or, if it's easier, you could send an electrical storm our way and make sure that the power is down at school... that would be just as acceptable.

I know you have lots of potential weapons of danger and destruction in your power. If you could just use some of that to ensure an extra day off this week (or the next; I'm not picky), I would be happily indebted to you.


PS: PLEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Maybe Next Time

Last night, sensing that there wasn't enough snow falling in order to produce a snow day, my body decided to take matters into its own hands, and made a rash decision to get sick in order to stay home.

First, it hurt to swallow. Then, my body started aching. Next, I only slept for a few hours last night as I lay in a pool of sweat, feeling nauseated. Finally, I started dry heaving after I woke up.

Checking the internet and realizing that my school would definitely be open today, I called my vice principal to tell her I was too sick to come into work today (that's our sick day procedure in our district) At 5:25 A.M, I had clearly woken her up.

VP: "What time is it?"
Me: "It's 5:25; I'm so sorry for waking you up!"
VP: "That's okay. I was really hoping we'd have a snow day today.... "

I'm disappointed too. It turns out that a sick day is MUCH less fun then a snow day!


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

This year, I am very thankful that Thanksgiving has come late!! This means that there are only three more weeks until Christmas break instead of four! Woo hoo!

Also, my hopes are up for possible snow day tomorrow. We're supposed to get between six and eight inches in the next twenty four hours or so. I'll be throwing ice cubes in the toilet and wearing my pajamas inside out for good luck just in case :)

Ewwww.... Writing

I hate teaching writing. Every afternoon, from 1:30 to 2:10, I have three fourth-grade boys who I work with on their writing. I dread 1:30 with all of my heart. I find it to be so overwhelming tackling a student's rough draft... never mind trying to get them motivated to write something down!

You could almost say that the way I feel about teaching writing is the way Michael Scott feels about Toby Flenderson--especially the screaming part:

Today, my sixth grader with Down Syndrome pooped her pants at 1:25. I was giddy with excitement as I called the fourth grade teachers saying that I couldn't pull their kids for writing as I had to deal with an emergency situation.

That's right. I would much rather deal with poopy pants than poopy writing!!


How do you tell your cat that you are VERY SORRY that you accidentally closed her paw in the door (evoking a giant cat scream-yelp)?? I can't stand the reproachful looks anymore....

Yo Mama

Parents can be a strange breed. And I can say that with all confidence because a) I'm not a parent, and b) I've observed the same strangeness in my own parents!

When I was younger I got picked on. I wouldn't say I was bullied, but my diaries were filled with some mean thoughts about the unkindness of others. I remember telling my parents about how cruel some kids had been to me at school and my dad threatening to go over there and talk to them. One time, in second grade, my teacher slapped me across the face for correcting my work in pencil instead of black pen (don't worry, it was in France and they can get away with that kind of stuff over there). The next day, my dad came charging into the school yard, yelling in his newly-learned/broken French at my teacher. I think he managed the words "mean", "old lady" and "fired".

All of this to say that parents' protectiveness seems to come in many forms. Some students' parents do all that they can to get their kids into special education, to get them access to the services they need (or what the parents decide that they need). Some students' parents, as I've discovered today, do all that they can to keep their kids OUT of special education, regardless of whether their kids need the services or not.

I received a particularly angry/frustrated/defensive email this morning from a mother of a kindergartner who may qualify for special education services. There were entire words written in CAPITAL LETTERS, so I knew she was SERIOUS. The details of the letter aren't really important. What's important is that my heart kind of broke (or at least bent) for this mother. Irregardless of what I believe professionally, this woman's motivation was purely to protect her son from what she viewed to be a bad thing.

And I hope that my sympathy and understanding for her will put me in a better position to help her to see reason....

"I've Lost That Floaty Feeling"

As it turns out, waiting years and not months between dental visits is a bad idea. Stupid, really, because then you find out that you need all this work done, and then suddenly you're broke.

I was dreading today's visit to the dentist because they were putting in a crown. I wasn't exactly sure all that it entailed, but I figured if it was anything like my root canal a couple of years ago, then it wasn't going to be a walk in the park.

When I got comfortable in the chair, the dentist told me that she usually gives patients laughing gas in order to "take the edge off of this procedure". After she assured me that this was a freebie and that I wouldn't get billed for the extra "comfort", I told her to go ahead. I had never had laughing gas while awake before (when they took out my wisdom teeth when I was a teenager, they knocked me totally out), so I wasn't sure what to expect.

After about five minutes of breathing in and out of the nose cover, I asked the dentist what I should be feeling because I wasn't feeling any different than before the gas. "Oh", she said, "I guess you're not a lightweight when it comes to this stuff". So she increased the amount.

Then I spent the next hour feeling absolutely floaty, thinking about how much I loved everybody, especially Mrs. Dental Hygienist and Dr. Dentist. I had lots of warm, fuzzy feelings about my students, my family, this chair I was sitting in, and Thursdays in general. At one point I lifted my leg, but I stopped midair because I thought if I kept going I might kick the ceiling. I even thought of the perfect title if I ever write my autobiography. But mostly I felt like a pretty bubble, just floating along in the wind, totally unconcerned about everything and anything.

I totally get why people do drugs now! Not that I'll start doing drugs, but I will be counting down until my next dentist appointment! Ha!

Seated and Sated

Yup, those two words just about sum up my two-day conference. We sat a lot. We ate constantly. It was as if they were trying to distract us from the fact that most of our breakout sessions weren't very worthwhile.... at every chance they got, they shoved food at us (not that I'm complaining about the yummy food!)

The highlight of the conference was listening to the very entertaining and slightly irreverent W. James Popham, who had intelligent and helpful things to say about formative assessment. His dry wit was so hilarious; I was disappointed that they didn't let him talk more than an hour and a half!

Now if only I didn't have three more days of school to get through before I can catch up on some rest!!

Monday and Tuesday


A two-day conference with hundreds of other teachers
A four-hour bus ride
Two nights at a posh, four-star hotel
Several free meals
Twelve hours of meetings

My prediction is that I'll have a great time socializing with colleagues, eating, and hanging out in my luxury hotel room but that the meetings will sour the experience! It's at times like these that I wish I had an iPhone or an iPod Touch so that I could more easily tune out the irrelevant content of the meetings. Although I don't know if I would have the guts to blatantly surf the net during a conference. Would you?

Football Fanatics

As we all know, fall is the season for football. Professional football takes over the T.V, and kids everywhere delight in flag football and touch football. At our school, the boys enjoy playing touch football during every recess that they can. One of my fourth graders really loves to play. He happens to have a prosthetic leg, and recently, he kicked the football so hard that his leg went flying across the field!! He was very matter-of-fact about the whole incident as he loudly announced to his teammates: "That's just another day in the life of a kid with a prosthetic leg!!"

I love that kids can be so resilient. He just put his leg back on and got back into the game!

And I'll be Inspector Gadget

Our school, like many schools around the country I'm sure, held mock elections. It's sweet too, because these young children are just parroting their parents when they talk about the presidential race. Apparently, they say that the person who wins the mock school elections ends up winning the real election, so I was interested to find out who our little students had elected.

As it turns out, our 2nd through 4th graders elected McCain, and our 5th through 8th graders elected Obama! So it's still up in the air I guess!

One of my kindergartners, this little guy, had to write a sentence about what he would do if he was president. When he was finished, he told his aide that in case he didn't become president, he wanted to sell "Krabby Patties" for a living--a la Spongebob Squarepants!

Election Day Should be a National Holiday

I had a fantastic weekend! It was very hard to think about going back to school. I considered calling in sick... but since I'm just coughing every so often, I didn't think it justified staying home.

I had a brief surge of hope around four this morning as I was awakened by a very loud thunderstorm. I thought: "If I have any luck at all, my school will get struck by lightning and the power outage will make us have to stay home". I even turned on my cell phone in case I got a call from the school. But the call never came. I pulled into the parking lot and my hopes were finally dashed as I spotted the lights on inside.

Is it too early for a snow day???

My Next Career will be Competitive Eating

So it seems that I may be eating too fast. I've recently had suspicions of this when I started noticing that I finish dinner before Max (sometimes WAY before) and he doesn't take much more food than I do.

I've attributed this to the fact that I have short lunches at school and must finish all of my food within a certain time frame. Because there are copies to run, phone calls to be made, emails to write, and kids to teach! Who has time to chew?

I guess this carries over to dinner time. Tonight, I ate an entire plate of food (spaghetti, green beans, and two pieces of garlic bread) in four minutes flat. I was really hungry, and also, there is Internet that must be searched, and TV that must be watched! I was aware that I was eating too fast because at one point, I flung spaghetti onto the floor and all over my pajamas. I told myself: "Sarah, slow down". But my body wouldn't listen. Just kept shoveling it in.

I guess I'll have to wait until school is out to be civilized...

Feeding my Childhood

My Saturdays are usually full of errands. Every once in a while, I have to do some very unpleasant errands--like today! I had to go to the doctor (after fasting all night and skipping breakfast) and I had to go get the car's oil changed (I HATE getting the oil changed). To cheer myself up, I decided that between my doctor's visit and the oil change, I would go get breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts.

It's been a while since I've been to Dunkin Donuts, even though I love that place. I'd say it's been at least four years. More than anything else, nothing says "America" to me like Dunkin Donuts. I remember that when I was very young, before my family moved to France, my dad would take me and my two siblings out to Dunkin Donuts on Saturday mornings so that my mom could sleep in. That's when my love of donuts began. And I'm picky! No other donut tastes as good... not Krispy Kreme, not Tim Hortons, not grocery-store bought. I craved them even more all the years we lived in France, since you couldn't find them there.

I remember when I was about nine or ten, my parents drove to Spain for a summer vacation. I hardly remember anything about Spain except that we found something very very close to donuts in Barcelona. That was a great day!

And when I was seventeen, my senior class took a class trip to Rome for a week (it's easy to do that when you go to an international high school in Germany). The same evening we visited the Trevi Fountain, some of us discovered that right around the corner was a Dunkin Donuts! In Europe!! What a treat! It generated so much excitement, that many of us ditched this scene:

for this scene:

It was the right choice to make...

Ups and Downs

I was going to have this long, philosophical post about how outrageous it is that the bottom line in special education is the Almighty Dollar, and how somebody should get out there and fix this broken, broken system.

But then making dinner tonight was like a comedy of errors with frozen chunks of food flying everywhere, wasted sauce (and time!), and shrimp that may have been too old.

So now, all I have the energy to say is that I won a radio contest on my commute home today (I was caller number one!). I got two free concert tickets to see Sara Bareilles next Thursday! Yay for me!!!

Productivity vs. Procrastination

Yesterday, I had a serious case of the Sunday Blues as I contemplated this upcoming week. Lots of MEAP testing, with some very uncomfortable parent meetings thrown into the mix (three, to be exact). Usually, I can handle all the meetings that come my way. But this time? This time, I don't know what to do/what to say/how to proceed. And that makes me anxious. Also? I knew I would be coming back to pile of paperwork to take care of. Paperwork that I didn't want to deal with.

And today wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. There are a few reasons for this: 1) I'm repressing all thoughts of my upcoming meetings; and 2) some absent kids and some other circumstances gave me a free two hours in my afternoon. Now a responsible person would have used that time to tackle all of that paperwork. But not me. No, I decided that the more fun thing to do would be to watch some music videos online, to do some house shopping on craigslist, and to generally putz around my office. Maybe if I walked at the office, I would be more productive!

My Thoughts Exactly

It's all about MEAP these days. MEAP is Michigan's standardized test that all third through eighth graders must take. Most of my special education students have accommodations such as taking it in a small/quiet setting, or having the questions read aloud. Let me tell you, it is VERY painful watching them take this test. I so very much want to help them, but I can't! One boy asked: "Why does Michigan want us to do this test? I don't like it at all!" What I wanted to say was "Yeah, I know, right? It sucks!!!", but all I could do was nod sympathetically...

Monday Merriment

Parent-teacher conference day is definitely a day to look forward to if you work at a school and are not a classroom teacher. While all of my friends were holding back-to-back meetings, I attended five conferences (a total of an hour of my time) and had the rest of the day to myself.

Although I got A LOT done, I managed to sleep in for an extra half hour and take a forty-five minute lunch! If only every Monday could be so easy!

Spelling Successes

If you ever wonder why kids struggle so much with spelling, take a look at this poem.

There are five students to whom I give modified spelling lists. Today was the first test for three of my second graders. I've designed this system where, for every perfect spelling test (one error is permitted because I'm too nice), they get to move their little paper person up one rung of a construction paper ladder. The whole set-up is on my bulletin board titled "stepping up". I've told the kids that there will be some sort of surprise or celebration once they reach the top of their ladders (each one has five rungs).

All three kiddos were SO excited to take their tests today. And (FORTUNATELY) they all passed with flying colors. Their excitement was evident as they moved their person up their ladder: they were clapping, jumping up and down, and generally beaming!

If you're wondering why I consider this a big enough deal to share with the internet, it's because, for all three of these kids, school is generally too difficult, too frustrating, and generally overwhelming. Today, they were able to experience a real sense of success and accomplishment; and, because of it, I now feel the same way!! [Insert clapping, jumping up and down, and beaming!!]

With or Without You

Teacher School Supplies I Can't Live Without:

  1. Post-it notes
  2. Electric stapler
  3. Laminator
  4. Sharpies
  5. Secret candy stash

What can't you live without?

Stress Test

Last Friday, our staff had a whole day of in-service. For part of the meeting, all the teachers were asked to log into the computers in the computer lab and take the district math test that the kids are asked to take at the beginning of the year. We take our district tests through NWEA. They're all computerized and they're all a little like the GRE: the more questions you get right, the harder the questions become; the more questions you get wrong, the easier they become.

The reason we were asked to do this is because all of us teachers are getting trained this year in mathematics content knowledge, in order to become better math teachers. So we were asked/told to take the test, then after all of our training, we'll take it again at the end of the year to see how much progress we've made.

Now. We were given the "sixth grade and up" version of the test. This doesn't mean they'll only give you middle school math questions. Remember, the more you get right, the harder they become. I was a little nervous about the test, only because it's been eight years since I've had a real math class. But I generally like taking tests (I know, I'm a nerd) and hoped that by my supreme math skills I would be able to show it who was boss.

In reality, it took me one hour and twenty minutes to answer fifty-two questions (and I had to take a shot in the dark on some of them) and I felt very humbled as I noticed the test items getting easier at one point. I was worried that I was going to start seeing questions like "1 + 1".

As it turns out, a lot of teachers were nervous about taking this test. I hope it will make us all more empathetic to our own students' test anxiety!

Art of Doing Nothing

It's 9:40 AM and I've been lazing around on the couch for about three hours now, alternating between watching Jack Hanna's Animal Adventures, and surfing the internet. I'm working up the strength to vacuum. Also? I think I may need a second breakfast to hold me over till lunch.

On the agenda for today: shower, more lounging around, watch a movie (maybe Sleeping Beauty), go to Costco with the hubby. The only time Max gets excited about shopping is when we go to Costco. Something about buying in bulk (getting the best deal), and lots of electronics, and free food samples must appeal to him somehow. Oh, and they have amazing pizza and frozen yogurt at their restaurant.

I'm planning on printing off some scenic pictures Max has taken over the past few years to frame for our stairwell. Maybe that will be tomorrow's project since I will be so busy relaxing today :)

Telling it like it is

If your principal is going to give the entire special education department the ultimatum that all IEP meetings will be held 4-6 weeks in advance, then gives you the exact dates that they are to be held ("Parents can't make it? Too bad!") so that she can be there, she had better DARN WELL SHOW UP!!

Please excuse my frustration. This decision that she has made has had monumental consequences. Since we have no flexibility to space out our IEP's, I have to schedule them back to back (up to five a day). That means the hours of testing the kids and writing up the paperwork is taking precedence over actually seeing the kids we were meant to help on a daily basis. Which is hurting my working relationships with general education teachers. Also? It's hurting the kids. OH YEAH. THE KIDS. So we basically dropped everything because of this decision she made so that she could be at our meetings... and this week, she has missed four out of five!

All of us special ed. staff are walking around in such a state of stress. One of my colleagues is talking about quitting mid-year. I hope our principal isn't shocked next fall when she finds that she has to replace an entire department.....

Maybe I'll post something more uplifting when I get some rest this weekend!

A Race I Can't Win

Every late afternoon/evening, I play a game called "Beat the clock". It basically involves leaving work as soon as is humanly possible. But there's a catch! I have a one hour commute and if I don't leave before 4, I'll hit traffic. If I leave between 4:05 and 4:25, I hit big time traffic. If I leave between 4:25 and 4:40, I hit some mild traffic. After 4:40, I hit no traffic, but then I just get home late because I left late.

And all I'm trying to do is win this game by maximizing the amount of time I can spend relaxing at home before I have to go to sleep and start all over again!

So the best case scenario is I wrap up the day's work and leave before four. But the game isn't over yet; it has just begun. If I leave at four, I get home at five. That leaves four hours until bedtime. (Bedtime is non-negotiable.) So I race around the house doing some light chores, cooking dinner, eating dinner, cleaning up after dinner, and walking on the treadmill. If I'm lucky, I can squeeze 2.5 hours of fun time before bed. Realistically, it's more like two hours. And that time always seems to fly right by!

If someone could just give me a "pause" button for this thing called Life, I would be much obliged!

Taking Over the World

Instead of posting about my annoyingly long day, I thought I would share another recipe with you. I make these Make-Ahead Lunch Wraps in big batches on the weekend. I wrap them in plastic wrap and they are good for up to three months in the freezer. Short on time? Can't think of what to pack for lunch? Simple! Grab a wrap! All it needs is two or three minutes in the microwave! It has totally revolutionized my school lunches. And my school lunches needed revolutionizing because I don't do sandwiches. It used to be leftovers from the night before or crackers and cheese. But now with my wraps, I can eat something quick, healthy, and filling!

In fact, other teachers in the lounge have noticed my lunch wraps and have requested the recipe. Since they have started bringing wraps to school, others are noticing so it continues to spread. Soon, my plan for lunchroom domination will be complete! Moohahaha (evil laugh)!

What do you pack for lunch?

Leaving My Mark

This morning, Mrs. Hufflepuff (one of our three cats) left her mark on the kitchen counter by way of a gigantic hairball--complete with splatter against the wall.

This afternoon, our dean of curriculum and instruction told me that I had already left quite a mark on our school after not even a full year of being there. He wanted to thank me for starting up and implementing two school-wide curriculum (Rocket Math and Read Naturally). That was a nice bit of encouragement!

Messy mark = bad
Resourceful mark = good

Can't Make This Stuff Up

Do you remember this kiddo, a six-year old first grader with high-functioning autism? He is making great gains in being able to stay in the mainstream. We are lucky to have an aide whose specialty is working herself out of a job as she teaches her student to function independently in the classroom.

Even though he's been doing so much better, there are still times when he becomes overwhelmed by certain activities. And even though he is very verbal, he has a funny way of communicating his frustration (we're working on it). Like yesterday, when he had had enough of doing his writing assignment and his aide continued to keep him on task....

Kiddo says to aide: "I wish you had NEVER given birth to me!!!!!"

Aide: "Oh, hon, I didn't give birth to you; your mommy did!"

Kiddo (said matter-of-factly): "You are getting on my last nerve. I'm going home"
[He then proceeded to make a beeline for the door]

Needless to say, our aides wear tennis shoes to work!

Hooray for Today!

So today was my first good day of the school year. And it's no coincidence that my first good day was also my first normal day where I was able to stick to my regular routine.

I am a creature of habit by nature. I have a routine for going to bed, for getting up, for eating breakfast, and for doing chores. I have a vacation routine and a work routine. I like my routines. They help me to be a happy, healthy person. It doesn't matter that Max makes fun of me for always ordering the chicken quesadilla when we go to Applebees. I don't care if people think I'm weird for having the exact same breakfast in the morning. I have to do what works for me!

And today, pulling kids at their regular time to work on the regular stuff... well, that just made my whole universe fall into place. I finally felt grounded; I knew what to expect and when. All my perfect little ducks lined up in a row. Happy, happy, happy!

I know my universe will start to spin too fast again and my ducks will step out of line later on this week. (Tomorrow, I can't even see any kids because I have IEP meetings all day.) But for now, I'm going to savor the normalcy. Yummm--it tastes like chocolate....

Everyone Learns

Thank you all for your encouraging comments in my previous post! That boost was just what I needed! In looking at my school calendar, it looks like the light at the end of my tunnel will be Oct. 31st. Then things will slow down to just normal stress, not scary-stress (get it? scary? Halloween? Ha!) Today, I thought I would share an anecdote with you.

I was standing in line with "Mason" (not his real name) and the rest of his first grade class for hot lunch. Mason is new to us this year and he has Aspergers. His one-on-one aide was not there on Friday and the substitute we had contacted decided not to show at the last minute. So I had to e-mail all the teachers of the kids I work with and inform them of the emergency situation and apologize for not being able to pull their kids for services that day (so I could sub for Mason's aide).

The most interesting part of Friday was in the lunch line. A little boy right in front of Mason and me (I'll call him Herb), turned and looked at Mason and said very sweetly: "Hi, Mason, my name is Herb. Can you say 'Herb'?" Mason just ignored him. I hung back and decided to let this play out as a spectator.

Herb tried again. "Hey, Mason, our teacher is "Ms. Fox"; can you say 'Ms. Fox'?" Mason can actually say quite a lot of things but was getting tired of this conversation, so he said in a rather bored way "Ms. Fox".

Well Herb was very excited about his progress. He looked me directly in the eyes, pumped both of his little fists up in victory and shouted: "HE LEARNS!"

And I Mean This Reflectively, not Negatively...

About one year ago, I was praying that the Lord would give me a teaching position where I could "do the most good". I didn't ask to be in a school where everyone collaborated and got along swimmingly. I didn't ask to be in a school led by an amazing administration. I didn't ask for a supportive staff or principal. I was pretty specific in wanting a situation where my gifts and talents could fill a need.

That's why I shouldn't be so surprised when I look around me and realize that my school is a pretty toxic environment in which to work. My only question is.... what, what, WHAT can I possibly do to change it?

Because--bottom line--it would make me feel a lot better about being there if I knew that there was a specific, eternally significant reason to be there. And... maybe if I thought about it long and hard, I might be able to think of some reasons; but right now, I'd just like this year to be over so I can move on to a different school.

Chomping at the Bit

It's simple, really. All I want is to give my kids the services they need, to collaborate with their teachers, and to keep their parents involved. It's really not that complicated.

So why isn't this happening? I'll give you the short list:

  1. Two weeks of district testing cause me to spend all of my time accommodating for special needs students (translation, I read tests out loud all day instead of servicing my students)
  2. Principal decides that paperwork should be our priority, not the kids. This means keeping services to the absolute minimum to allow time for paperwork... if it says that kid X needs four to six hours in the resource room, I pull him four, not six.
  3. Principal schedules special education meetings once a week during the school day that last for TWO HOURS.

We've begun the third week of school and I have yet to start servicing my kids. Teachers are bugging me about it; parents are bugging me about it; my kiddos catch me in the hallway and ask when they get to come see me!

I would me a much more effective and well-adjusted teacher if I could just go and do my job in peace...

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Hello world. It's 7:30 AM right now and I've been up and out of bed for nearly an hour this Saturday morning as a part of my sleep experiment. It's been seven whole days that I've been doing this and, I have to admit, I'm sold on the concept! Granted, it is extremely unpleasant to hear the alarm go off that early on the weekend, but I've noticed some definite changes during the work week:

  1. It's so much easier and quicker to fall asleep.
  2. I still get a little tired during the day, but nowhere near the exhaustion I used to feel when I was afraid to prolong a blink in fear of falling asleep on my desk!
  3. My Friday evening commute home is no longer a dangerous flirtation with death. I used to have to fight to keep my eyes open and to stay on the road. Not so anymore! Even when I stay at school until 6:30 at the end of a long and stressful week, I'm very much awake as I drive home!!
  4. My weekends feel L-O-N-G.

Now, the sleep research also says that you shouldn't eat food or watch T.V in the two hours prior to going to bed. But.... you have to draw the line somewhere, people!

B is for Busy

This morning, I got an email from my new Resource Room colleague... she wrote in passing: "You're the busiest person I know." After I wrote her back and told her to interrupt me at any time should she need help or advice with anything, I got to thinking.

If there was an award for "the busiest person ever" and it came with say, one million dollars, this is what I would do:
First, I would hire a secretary to handle all of my paperwork, keep track of my meetings (or better yet, just go to my meetings!), and schedule kids. This would allow me to actually focus on teaching my students.
Then, I would hire a chef, a housekeeper, and a personal shopper to cater to my every whim. This would allow me to come home and crash on the couch!

Or... maybe I would just retire and live off the cash.... Hm.

"Chew Food Not People"

This, of course, is good advice for everyone, but it is especially good advice for a certain six-year-old boy with autism who I happen to work with.

The advice (well, it was more like a direction) was given to him by our assistant principal after he had bitten his aide on the arm twice. When we brought him to her office, he was screaming at the top of his lungs that we "don't call dad!!" Screaming and sobbing. When we were finally able to calm him down, our AP told him in plain and simple terms that teeth were for chewing food, not people, and that if he made that choice again, we would be calling dad. When we were sure that he understood the rules and the consequences, we sent him back to class with his long-suffering aide.

About an hour later, I'm walking out of the lounge towards my classroom when I notice our social worker RUNNING down the hall to my room. Never a good sign. It means a kid is having some sort of fit or meltdown, or timeout. It was my little guy again. He had bit his aide again! This time the regular ed teacher and the aide brought him to the office. We called his dad while he was half screaming, half crying, and curled up in a ball against his teachers' chest.

When the aide hung up the phone, she started to discuss with the kiddo what his dad had said. He didn't want to hear any of it, so he flattened himself out like a board (laying across his teacher's lap), closed his eyes, crossed his arms in the shape of an X across his chest, and stuck out his tongue. He was literally playing dead. The sheer unexpectedness of this action (in all of its six-year-old wisdom and logic) was enough to make each of us turn away from him and laugh into our sleeves.

Must... keep... a straight face... for discipline....

Sleep Experiment

After feeling continuously tired and having so many problems falling asleep and staying asleep, my husband has convinced me to try to sleep the way the research says we should sleep: go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (or within an hour of the same time every day). For me, that means going to bed around 10 and getting up before 7 ON THE WEEKENDS! A little part of me died just typing that.

So we've been trying it out this weekend and we're going to stick with our plan for the next couple of weeks and see if we become more rested and less cranky individuals. Wish us luck!

Think Happy Thoughts

I worked a thirteen hour day (okay, eleven hours with two hours total of commute) and brought work home with me. But the good news is that I get to do my work on our brand new laptop! Yay for new toys!

Stretch Marks

Imagine a rubber band. Imagine seventeen different people pulling at different points on the rubber band. That's how I feel this week. Pretty soon, if someone's not careful, this rubber band is going to snap and poke someone in the eye....

My body knew I was way stressed out before my mind caught up with it. It's been giving me clues like sleeplessness and tummy aches and head aches after lunch. This morning right after our first IEP team meeting with the principal (which lasted 2 hours and forty-five minutes!!), two of my colleagues told me I looked like a volcano trying not to erupt--and this after much prayer on my commute for peace and calmness!!

So my task is this: to LET GO of the things that are out of my control; and to stay late after school to accomplish all that I can. This means training my brain to somehow stop worrying about what I can't change. This means sacrificing more personal time on weekdays at least until mid-October. Also, this means sleep..... If only I could push a "standby" button and sleep....

A Matter of Perspective

I knew today would be a little rough, because over the weekend, one of our one-on-one aides resigned. She was assigned to a mainstreamed sixth grader who has Down Syndrome. Until we can find someone new, I'm in charge of making sure she participates, follows directions, and does her work. She can be difficult to work with.

I had a busy day, bouncing between my sixth grader and two first graders who need a lot of support. Add to the mix a few teachers who need me to get down to their classrooms because they are seeing major red flags in some new students, and I felt a bit stretched.

I think it was overall a good day, aside from my sixth grader pooping her pants in the afternoon.

But at least a kindergartner didn't pee on my bare arm from the top of the playground slide. My general ed. colleague can't say as much. So I guess it can always be worse!!!

Last Craft of the Summer

There is no better way to start the school year than with chocolate. That's why, when I saw these instructions for Hershey's Nugget boxes, I just had to make them for the members of my special education team! Half of them are pictured here (without the chocolate).

5:30 AM is going to come sooooooo quickly....

Looking Ready, Not Feeling Ready

I finally got my room in good shape for Back-to-School night this past Thursday. I saw a couple of parents and found out about some new kiddos we'll have on the caseload. Here are some pictures:

"Stepping to Success" is the theme of my room. I was hoping it would appeal to both kindergartners and eighth graders.

This is my "good work" bulletin board. I'm very proud of it :)

This is my desk. That's about as clean as it's going to get (and it's not even that clean!). Soon, the entire frame around my computer monitor will be buried in post-it reminders!!

This year, I am sharing my room with our Occupational Therapist who's in two days a week (that's her desk, behind mine). She'll be a fun "roommate"!

This is a small, almost closed in corner (see the green bean bag peeking out from behind the shelf?) that I use for a variety of things. It's namely for one of our students that often throws kicking/screaming/biting tantrums. It's also for one of our students to have some privacy as he readjusts his prosthetic leg. If nothing dramatic is happening over there, students can have a cozy place to read.

That's it from me. Have a happy long weekend everyone!

Road Rage

I have a long commute to school each way. It's about 53 miles one way and it takes me about an hour. It's been a blissful summer not having to spend that much time in the car each day! But with in-services in full swing, I've had to get back into the commuter routine.

Yesterday, as I was entering the ramp to merge onto the freeway, I had a tailgater following me. It's difficult not to get irritated with tailgaters. I can handle drivers who cut me off (I doubt they sit there and wait for me to get as close as I can before veering in front of me). I can handle those annoying drivers who are going too fast and who are weaving in and out of traffic (I can give them the benefit of the doubt: maybe his wife is in labor, maybe he's trying to catch his flight on time, maybe his hair is on fire). But tailgating is deliberate, purposeful, and just plain rude. Especially when I'm going the speed limit.

It occurred to me yesterday that what my little Corolla really needs is a backwards honk. Every car's horn faces forward. I've never heard of car where you can easily honk at the person behind you. It would be fairly easy to do a makeshift one. I could strap a backwards-facing bullhorn to the top of my car. I could find a way to program it with a super loud honk, or a really loud voice saying "GET OFF MY TAIL"

But the most effective way to get rid of a tailgater is to ease off the gas pedal and start going one or two miles slower. Boy that makes them mad. They get into the other lane pretty quickly after that. I guess it's not a very nice thing to do on my part, but it does get rid of them!

When "Sorry" Isn't Enough

Well, it's the first upset parent of the school year, and the school hasn't officially started! I've dealt with upset parents in the past, but it's never been my fault. It's been more like "We're devastated our child is deaf and we're taking out our grief on you". I can handle that.

But this time I can't help wondering if I am somehow to blame.

We have an incoming student who has recently been diagnosed with Aspergers. I went to his IEP at the end of last year, and the decision was to place him in Ms. A's room with a full time aide because another student (who has Autism) will be in that class too with his own full time aide. It was originally hoped that the incoming student could be weaned off of his aide so that the other aide already in there could handle both of them. This was our principal's idea, and I knew it was a bad idea at the time, but it's difficult to argue with someone who's main concern is budget issues.

Fast forward to August, and everyone is highly anxious about this situation. Poor Ms. A who was feeling overwhelmed at the thought of having two other adults in the room and two children who had very high needs. Both of the aides were nervous and thought it would be too much for everyone to handle. I'm a nervous wreck because it's my job to oversee the "weaning" process and make sure that by a certain date, our principal will only have to fund one aide for two kids.

So we convinced our principal that it would be in everyone's best interest to move the incoming student to a different classroom. Everyone is breathing a sigh of relief...

...except for the student's parents. And they have a right to be upset. Their son had already met Ms. A, and the parents had been talking up Ms. A. He had seen his name and birthday on the classroom wall. And now we're throwing a wrench into all of this, introducing unwelcome change.

I tried explaining that his new classroom teacher is fantastic (which she is), but it was hard to reassure his mother. I can't help thinking that if only we had made the more sensible decision at the end of last year, all of this unpleasantness could have been avoided. If only I had veto power over the principal--if ever I could choose a superpower, that would be it!!

Never Enough Time

Today marked the first day of Round Two of in-services. It was difficult being in school and not being able to work in my classroom. I thought I had been proactive about it by going in for a couple of days over the summer to set things up, but it turns out that a teacher's work is never done. I've been well aware of this fact for quite a while so I'm not sure why I thought I could get everything done before in-services started.

I've decided on a theme for my room. I found some fun border with cartoon-looking sneakers around it, so I'm going to expand on that with shoe and foot cutouts to make a "Steps to Success" room. I thought it would be appealing to my kindergartners as well as to my eighth graders. Anyway, I hope to post pictures of my room sometime this weekend after Back-to-School night.

Wow... I can't believe it's this time of year already!

Back to School Numbers Meme

I was recently tagged by Gina at Where's the sun to complete this Meme! The perfect post as I spend some time in New York with my sister and brother-in-law...

Back To School Meme
Completed in Reference to (Self or Child): Self

1. Number of years teaching or your eldest child has been in school (k through college) ? 3

2. Amount approximately spent on Back to School Items so far including clothes? $100.00

3. Number of Days until school starts in your area (+ or - if it’s started)? 6 weekdays till kids are in the building!

4. Approximate distance school is from your house? 53 miles

5. Amount of time it will take you or your child to get to school from your house by car or bus? 60 minutes

6. The actual or approximate number of students in the class you teach or your oldest child’s class? 16 on my caseload

7. The number of classes in your grade or your oldest child’s grade level? 2 Resource Rooms

8. The price to buy a full student lunch at school? No idea!!

9. Number of schools in your district? 57

10. Early dismissal days already built into the calendar? 6

11. Price paid for the most expensive back to school item so far? $30 for a visual timer

12. Time school day ends? 3:30
According to the rules, I now need to tag as many sites as my lowest number. So I'd like to tag these three teachers:

I Heart Ice Cream

I've just completed day two of our three day training: Capturing Kids Hearts. I wasn't really sure what to expect. They say that by the end of it, we'll have a more safe and caring school atmosphere among staff and among students.

Day one was best summed up as: Dr. Phil meets Joel Osteen; or, in other words: preachy pop psychology. There were also some team-building exercises which, though corny, did make me appreciate my colleagues as people and not just teachers.

Day two was about teaching our students to treat each other with respect and kindness. It was about empowering them to self-manage instead of playing the policeman. A lot more people were more comfortable with today's agenda because it took the focus off of ourselves and onto our students.

Not sure what Day three will bring...

Even if this training had turned out to be completely horrible, we still would have had the excellent food. We've had breakfast, lunch, and two snacks catered to us daily. Yesterday, they put out a make-your-own-sundae bar that caused me to chuck my dinner plate into the trash and knock people down as I ran to get in line for ice cream! Well, not literally, but I did think about it...

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry....

...for tomorrow, school starts!

Gymnastics in the Classroom

As I was watching the U.S gymnastics finals on floor in the Olympics the other night, I couldn't help but think about education.

As the girls did their floor routines, the announcers were dead silent until a mistake was made. Then they pounced all over it. They made comments like:

"And she steps out. Out of bounds. Another tenth of a point"

"And that, that is a disaster of epic proportions" [said after a fall]

"This is shocking"

"That's out of bounds"

"Because of that, a major deduction"

"Well, besides the misstep, she did a good job"

Now, I fully understand that this is the nature of competitive gymnastics, and I also know that the girls don't hear those comments as they are doing their routines. Nevertheless, it got me to thinking about how we talk to our students. As a special education teacher, I can tell that some of my students (usually those who qualified later in elementary school) have internalized negative comments to the point where they don't believe that they are capable of doing anything right in the classroom. Some don't know the feeling of accomplishment and success. No wonder they have such low self-confidence and self-esteem.

I think that my role as a special educator is to provide opportunities for my students to have success (and thus build up a CAN-do attitude) without lowering expectations. Success is cheapened if the task is too easy.

Tall Glass of Lemonade

In the beginning, we interviewed two applicants for the other Resource Room position. We thought both would do a pretty good job, but I was definitely leaning towards teacher number one. Our principal hired teacher number two, and I was a little disappointed, but got to work at establishing a good relationship with her. Then teacher number two accepted a different position.

Competition for teaching jobs in Michigan is really, really tough, so I didn't think we would have too much trouble hiring someone else. I wasn't looking forward to spending my time re-interviewing people, but oh well, right? But it turns out all my worry was for nothing, because teacher number one was still available to work, so we hired her!!!! Yay! I got my way after all!

I just love it when things work out!

My Acceptance Speech

When I started this blog in 2006, it was just a fun way to keep in touch with my family. My other purpose was to chronicle my adventures as a young teacher so that when I am old and gray I can remember what it was to be a twenty-something educator. And whaddayaknow? I discovered a whole cyber-world of other teachers out there who needed a place to vent, ramble, and reflect. Thank you, roller coaster teacher, for passing along this award to me!

I will spread the love by sharing the award with the following bloggers that I have come to admire and who I enjoy reading:

Miss Teacha at Confessions from the couch

The teacher and mother at Where's the sun?

The very positive high school teacher at Cal Teacher Blog

Mark Pullen (who makes me think) at The Elementary Educator

Trying to Make Lemonade

Two days, two phone calls, two opportunities to practice self-control in the panic department.

On the first day, my new colleague (the newly hired other Resource Room teacher) called me to say that she had accepted another position "closer to home" and "with better pay". I appreciate her honesty, and I surely can't blame her for choosing the higher salary, but the "closer to home" part is highly ironic: I have a 55 minute commute; she had a 10 minute commute. Hmmm....

On the second day, our dearly beloved school psychologist called to say that he was retiring. Although he was part time, he was the oil that kept our special education machine running. He will be hard to replace, not only because he was so fantastic, but because school psychologists are a RARE species in Michigan. We may very well be out of compliance soon after school starts if we don't find someone pronto.

Relational is Foundational

I go back to school on the 19th. The kids don't come back until after Labor Day, but we teachers have two weeks (seven days) of professional development beforehand. The first week, our district is shelling out 40 grand for us to attend Capturing Kids Hearts. At first, I (along with several others) balked at the idea. I mean, if you don't know how to care about kids, how did you get hired as a teacher in the first place? Isn't relating to children kind of foundational in your job as an elementary educator?

But then I thought about our staff and our decidedly negative school atmosphere, and I've come to the conclusion that the in-service may not be such a bad idea. If it helps just one teacher recognize that first graders do not understand biting sarcasm, then it might be worth the money.

I have already decided that this next year, my room (which is visited frequently by special education aides and other special ed. team members) will be a "no principal-bashing or others-bashing" zone. I mean, I realize that people need to vent when things are unfair or just plain ridiculous (myself included), but instead of focusing on what we cannot change, we need to focus on what we CAN do to make our school a less toxic environment, and to help each of our students succeed.

The Dread

Disclaimer: I absolutely love teaching and I am very thankful to have a job :)

The Dread is something that I have been fighting every year since I've been a real teacher. You'd think, going into year 4, that I would have a better handle on it this time, but I really don't.

For all of you non-teachers out there, The Dread is the feeling you get when back-to-school is imminent. It is not unlike the sword of Damocles hanging over your head. Or maybe it's an evil shadow blocking out the sun. It's whatever approaching doom looks like.

After my first year of teaching, The Dread came upon me about five weeks before back-to-school, about halfway through. It has been an exercise in willpower to keep The Dread at bay for as long as I can. This year, it seems to have hit about 2 or 3 weeks before back-to-school.

The thing about The Dread is that if you're not careful it can absolutely ruin what vacation you have left. It's all too easy to pout and sigh, and think of the complete loss of freedom right around the corner.

I'm trying to be pro-active about it this year. I'm going to cram in so much fun in the next two weeks that I will literally rupture the time-space continuum. I have so many novels to read, TV and movies to watch, crafts to make, sleeping in to do, and yummy things to bake that I just might implode from all the fun.

Meanwhile, here are moms in August everywhere...

Some Statistics For You

Probability of getting struck by lightning: 1 in 600,000

Probability of winning the lottery: 1 in 18,000,000

Probability of a student you taught 3000 miles away in California moving to Michigan and ending up at your school on your caseload: I have no idea. But it just happened to me today!!!

Can't Stop Smiling

I am an unashamed thrift store shopper. In the past, I've found some incredible deals on brand name clothing that looked new! Lately, I've been meaning to get over to Salvation Army and look for white shoes to wear with my bridesmaid dress for my sister-in-law's wedding.

While I was there, I decided to browse the dress pants section (thinking about school dress code already). I had my eye out for gray pants, but I happened to lift a pair of green corduroys off the rack. I noticed right away that there were American Eagle tags dangling on the side. Obviously brand new and never worn! Salvation Army's tag said $5.99, but since it was a pink tag, it was half off.... They weren't exactly my size, but I tried them on anyway. It wasn't until I was in the dressing room and about to step into the pant legs that I realized that American Eagle's price tag was $34.99.

Hmmm. I was forming a plan: Pay three dollars for the green pants (which didn't fit me) at Salvation Army; return them to American Eagle at the mall for whatever I can get for them without a receipt. The thrift store gets their money; AE gets to resell their merchandise; and I would get store credit. Brilliant! It was a risk considering that AE might not take it back without a receipt, but usually they'll give you the sale price when that happens--gotta be more than three bucks, right?

I took the risk.

When I got to AE at the mall and walked up to the counter, I said: "I'd like to return these, but I don't have a receipt". She narrowed her eyes and looked over the pants. "Which AE store did you get these from?". I told her the truth: "I don't really know". She said, "Well, I can only give you the sale price". (Called it!)

She rang up the pants and looked at her computer screen. There was a long pause where I was hopefully thinking to myself... "Ten bucks? Fifteen? How much?" She finally said: "That'll be $37.05 in store credit"

It was all I could do to stop myself from screaming and clapping right there in the middle of the store!

Crisis Averted

I wasn't planning on going to school this morning, but I did after I received a message from my new colleague saying that she was free today. We'd been meaning to get together and to get to know each other better before the school year started. So I figured I would get more for my gas money and at least continue to set up my classroom while I was in town. (I say "continue" because I spent about six hours on it last week.)

While we were chatting, my new colleague mentioned in passing that the principal wanted to talk to us about our classrooms. Our classrooms?? My room that I've beet setting up exactly the way I want it? The five gigantic bookcases and two heavy file cabinets that I moved all around by myself? The twelve boxes I've already unpacked? IS SHE MOVING ME?? I tried not to erupt into a volcano of panic (after all, she'll have plenty of time to see me stress out during the school year; no need to scare her just yet). I focused instead on asking just what did the principal mean when she said she needed to talk about classrooms?

Apparently, she wants to move our Occupational Therapist out of the music room so that she won't have to work with the choir and band practicing in the background (a decision I applaud). But she wanted to move her into the second Resource Room/Office/My-room-last-year, and move both of us special ed teachers into the same miniature classroom (one third the size of a regular classroom). This decision I did not applaud. The special education teachers that have gone before me in that building had tried that arrangement, and in their words it was "a nightmare".

Fortunately, I was able to talk to our principal today and sort some things out. She asked me if I had a better idea and I did (contrary to all those times when I gripe but have no alternate solution). Why not move the OT into my classroom (the slightly bigger Resource room)? She only works two days a week and I think I have some space to accommodate her. It might be tight, but it will work. Our principal was thrilled; our OT is much happier; and a major nightmare was averted. The End.

Does This Make Me a Nerd?

My very first Masters class is officially over today and I am bitterly disappointed about it. I had really, really enjoyed it. In fact, I am starting to wonder if maybe I like to be educated more than I like to educate. Hm.

There are three more weeks until the onslaught of "professional development" begins, and until then, here is my to-do list. I wish you all a happy to-do list as well!

What if?

Some food for thought:

Is it easier to be an adult with a visible disability (missing limb, cerebral palsy, etc) or with an invisible disability (deafness, high functioning autism, aspergers, ADHD, etc)?

Is it easier to raise a child with a visible or invisible disability?

One mother shares her frustration:
We have twins with autism and we find ourselves always explaining (apologizing) for them because they will shout out the most obvious yet hurtful things to others... such as "what's wrong with your face", "your teeth are dirty", "You're old" They have no filter on them whatsoever. It is a huge struggle because I don't want anybody hurt like I know my sons are hurting. At one point I made shirts that said "We're not rude, we are not ignoring you, we just have autism" but I had a mother come up to me and said that it was inappropriate to make public my sons' medical condition.

It has gotten to a point that as soon as I walk into a public establishment with them I want to take out a blow horn and say "Look everybody, my boys are acting the way that they are acting because they are Autistic."

I took them to Disneyland last year and to all you parents with these very special children you know that the majority of them adore rides because of the tight feeling of the pressure of the ride restraints. But you also know that the majority of them push, pull and flail around why waiting to get on the ride. I had taken papers from our doctor into guest services and they gave us front of the line passes due to their condition. I have to say that I have never been treated so rudely by parents in my life. Every time we used the pass we had people yelling out the rudest, vilest things. Just because my sons were not in wheelchairs people just assumed that we were cutting. We were even pushed a few times. I don't think there is any easy remedy for people’s perception of this handicap.
If only we could all be more accepting of those who are different!

Reality Check

I just stumbled upon a site featuring Britain's Missing Top Model. It's very similar to America's Next Top Model, only in Britain's Missing version, all of the contestants have a physical disability. I watched a very interesting clip on YouTube (warning: girl poses in underwear) which was a thought-provoking nine minutes, worth your time if you have it. The clip brought to mind several questions.

First, can adult women with disabilities be just as catty, jealous, and deceitful as their non-disabled peers? Apparently, yes.

Is deafness any less of a disability just because it's invisible? In the clip, the woman in the wheelchair was very resentful towards the two beautiful deaf women... you'd never know they had a disability just by looking at them. Is that fair? Personally, I think that any type of disability is a true disability if it impairs your ability to function in society. If you can't communicate with 99% of the population unless you have an interpreter constantly at your side, then that should qualify as a disability. I think it's just as much of a disability as someone who can't access a building unless there's a wheelchair ramp available. That's my opinion anyway.

Was it fair to take the interpreter away from the deaf girls for an evening? I don't think so. It's one thing if the girls had decided for themselves that they wanted to try and do this on their own. But the truth is that they were probably never taught how to speak intelligibly, read lips, or hold their own in a large group, thus making them entirely dependent on the interpreter. So to take that away from them would be like taking the prosthetic leg away from the one girl, or taking away the wheelchair from the other girl. Some of you may disagree, but I believe that communicating is just as important as walking.

Reality shows are such a great indicator of what our society thinks is important. Who's the prettiest? Who's the most successful business person? Who's the best singer? Who's the strongest? Who's the bravest? Who's the best cook? I suppose that shows that focused on: who's the meekest? who's the kindest? who's the most humble? really wouldn't get that many ratings at all...

If you don't have a novel to read, then write one!

I have a huge assignment due Tuesday for my "Curriculum Foundations" class. I have to write my cultural autobiography and reflect on how my background and experiences shape how I interact with students, as well as how my background and experiences relate to my role as an educator. It's turning out to be quite in-depth: twelve categories with anywhere from five to thirteen sub-questions per category... and then the reflection.

I don't mind the assignment. Who doesn't like talking about themselves? Especially when you're as fascinating as me? (kidding there, of course... or was I?)

Anyways, some of the questions required information that I'm a little sketchy on, so I had to make a few phone calls to the grandparents. I learned some interesting things that I didn't know before.

First, my maternal grandmother has her masters degree!! That's quite an accomplishment for a woman back in the day... Way to go for sticking it to society, grandma!

Second, my paternal grandmother (who is 100 percent Chinese) has two names. The first was given to her by her grandfather. This is her formal Chinese name. Her second name, the one everyone knows her by here in the U.S, was given to her by the nurse who delivered her. Grandma jokes that the nurse happened to like old-fashioned names--she named the first three girls Bessie, Annie, and Minnie.

I will let all of my non-family readers (all 3 of you) guess which of the three names belongs to my grandma by studying the picture below of a two-year-old version of me sitting on grandpa's lap:

Summer Reading

It's been awhile since I've been truly hooked on a book series. I believe the last time was the summer of 2004 when I read the "Mark of the Lion Series" by Francine Rivers. I have read lots of books since that time, but no series has gripped my attention to the exclusion of all other activities.

.... until the "Twilight" Series by Stephenie Meyer. Those of you "in the know" about children's literature may wonder if a story about a teenage girl falling in love with a vampire is beneath me, but I can assure you it is NOT! And apparently there are a lot of adults out there who would agree with me. I'm not typically into science fiction novels, but this series is the exception. The themes throughout the story (like love, acceptance, and addiction) are timeless!

It seems that there are a lot of other people out there (teenage girls? romance enthusiasts? undercover vampires?) who want to read the series at this point in time. It's probably because the fourth and last book is coming out on August 2nd. At any rate, it means that a cheap-o like me who's not going to run out and buy the books has to wait an excruciatingly long time to reserve a copy from the library. I'm currently next in line to get a hold of the second book, and the past week and a half have been ABSOLUTE TORTURE. A frustrating lesson in patience.

For those of you who aren't sure if you want to invest the time to read the book, there's always The Twilight Movie (hopefully it will do the book justice!). Click to view the trailer.

But His Puppets Are Still Scary

Things I hated as a child and now love as an adult:
  • Naps
  • Spinach
  • Baths
  • Wiping my nose on a tissue
  • Mr. Rogers
I was thinking of Mr. Rogers today as I hashed out my "philosophy of education" assignment for class. Something he once said seems to encompass what I believe about education:

"It's easy to convince people that children need to learn the alphabet and numbers. How do we help people to realize that what matters is how a person's inner life finally puts together the alphabet and numbers of his outer life? What really matters is whether he uses the alphabet for the declaration of war or the description of a sunrise, and his numbers for the final count in Buchenwald or for the specifics of a new bridge" (Fred Rogers)


Something New

Well, I may not know what I'm going to do when I grow up, but I do know that I wanted to change a few things on my blog. Obviously the layout is different; I've also added some labels and links to the side. Now if only I would use my hours of free time to clean the house, you might be able to see the floor and the counters around here!

Life Choices and Cereal Choices

Today was my first day of school... first day of my "Masters of Curriculum and Instruction" program, that is.

The decision to enter into this particular program of study was pressured. I felt pressured to start taking some credits to renew my teaching license. And why not apply those credits towards a Masters? When I started looking into available masters programs out there, I was disappointed. Very few masters programs are related to special education (the Masters of Special Education is for teachers who have no background in special ed; i.e: not me). After much conversation with colleagues and with the hubby, I decided that the Masters of C & I would be the best option for me, out of all the pitiful options there were. I also chose to apply my courses towards a degree knowing that we probably won't stay where we are for more than one year (meaning I'd have to drop out of the program and hope I could transfer my credits).

So it was with mixed enthusiasm that I went to class today. Early on in the two hour class, our professor said: "This is the most important thing: Begin with the end in mind". This was the point at which, if I was being honest with myself, I would have run out of the room, crawled into a hole somewhere, and rocked myself while humming as loudly as possible to block out the one question that has been on my mind lately: WHAT DO I WANT TO DO WHEN I GROW UP???

The problem is that I have always been goal-driven. In high school, I knew I wanted to teach children who were deaf/hard-of-hearing, go to a Christian college, and be finished in five years. So I found the only college in the U.S that met all of my criteria, and then I showed up. No matter that I had never set foot in the state of Michigan before. No matter that nobody I knew from high school chose the same college. No matter that they closed the program when I was halfway through it. No matter that it cost a small fortune to go there. None of this stopped me. Two other important goals in the past three years were to find a teaching job.... and I did. And I don't mean to say that I did this all on my own, because the Lord himself knows I didn't. The point being, I've always worked toward a goal.

So what is a goal-less girl to do? Without any strong sense of direction, I'm just like a sailboat drifting aimlessly in the ocean. A flight with no destination. An architect with no vision. A poet at a fork in the road. It's an uncomfortable place to be; and I'm only just beginning to empathize with what Max went through (and is still going through!).

Begin with the end in mind. What is my end? Do I want to be a classroom teacher forever? If so, do I want to stay a resource room teacher? A deaf/hard-of-hearing teacher? A regular teacher? Do I want to become a teacher consultant? A reading remediation specialist? An administrator? A special education administrator? Do I want to teach at the college level? If so, in which area of concentration?

I seem to be looking down an impossibly long cereal aisle. If someone could just put what I need in my cart, that would be great. Thanks.

The Waiting Game

I'm still playing the waiting game. Never mind that I'm not looking for a job, not looking for someone to call me about an interview, not waiting to hear if I've gotten the job. I'm waiting on the other side of things.

We need to hire a new Resource Room teacher for the fall. Last week, I sat in on the second round of interviews (My principal said she would sift through the 100+ applications before she called me in. Apparently her criteria was "local" and "just out of college"). Both of the candidates seemed to be very nice girls. By the end of both interviews, I felt like they would both do a good job. Then I started thinking that one would do better than the other... and the assistant principal agreed with me. She was going to check in with the principal at the end of last week and call our top choice this week. As far as I can tell, that has not happened yet.

And I'm starting to get antsy about it; after all, I'll be working very closely with whoever they hire, so I have a particular interest in seeing the right person get hired. I've snooped around and found the MySpace profile of our top choice. She had the good sense to make her profile private, but I do notice from her updates that she's been interviewing at quite a few other schools.

I wish the powers that be would get hopping on this one!!

O Canada

Well, we're back from a whirlwind trip to Montreal! We spent one evening and one full day there. Max and I decided that the most cost-efficient way to see the city was by foot... So we walked for ten and a half hours on Friday. We maybe could have gotten away with just seven hours of walking, but we got lost twice. Here are some of the highlights of our trip:

Eating crepes. This one is made with ham, cheese, and egg. Yum!

Here we are at the top of Mount Royal, overlooking the city.
Gorgeous views! It was worth the hike and the 250 stairs!

We walked through many streets like this one. Sometimes I had to remind myself that I was still in North America!

Here I am enjoying a giant plate of "Moules frites" which is French for "mussels and fries". Kudos to Montreal for serving my fries with mayonnaise instead of ketchup (they're more French than I gave them credit for!). This picture was taken after eight hours of walking. We were sunburned and sore and oh so hungry. We walked another two hours after dinner, trying to find Old Town to buy a magnet. Both of my legs broke from all the walking, but at least we got our magnet! Proof that we were there!
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