The Anti-List

Things Not to Do:

  1. Do not wake up at 5:20
  2. Do not drive 104 miles to work and back every day
  3. Do not stand outside in the cold for parking lot duty
  4. Do not wear a watch
  5. Do not rush to and fro
  6. Do not wear make up
  7. Do not prepare a lunch the night before
  8. Do not drink the morning tea on the go
  9. Do not get out of pajamas (unless you leave the house)
  10. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars....

If I Was a Cat, I Would be Hissing

My day started with a 7:00 meeting. Maybe not a big deal for you, but when you have to leave for work before six to get there, well, you see the problem. I met with a classroom teacher and the speech/language pathologist to discuss how we were going teach "Adam" how to regulate his own attention. Because when he focuses for ten seconds at a time, it's a good day. And mom is unwilling to help him out by seeing if maybe medication might help. (But that's a post for another day.) So we are going to try a MotivAider, which is a bit like a timer that goes off (vibrates) every sixty seconds then resets itself to go off at the next sixty second mark. The idea is that every time it vibrates, it will wake Adam up and he will have to mark on a piece of paper if he was doing what he was supposed to be doing.
The principal happens to stop by to listen in on the meeting, and when we start talking about me showing Adam how to use this device (and guiding him through it during a lesson in his classroom for a couple of days), our speech pathologist pipes up to point out that it would be so much easier if Adam had a one-on-one aide to help him attend and stay organized.
At this point, the principal asks me if I could "push in" for an hour every day to help him out with this. [As a resource room teacher, you use the term "push in" when you go into a general ed. classroom to help a student, and "pull out" when you take that student out of the classroom to provide services]. So here's how that conversation went down:
P: "Sarah, can't you just push in for an hour every day?"
Me: What? When did you get the impression that I have hours upon hours at my disposal instead of kids to teach? "No, my schedule is booked solid back to back with kids. I can definitely carve out some time for one or two days temporarily to train him how to use this, but not everyday"
P: "Yeah, but your caseload numbers are low. You and the other resource room teacher only have 12 to 13 students each! The RR teachers before you had over twenty each! Can't you just double up on some kids to find the time?"
Me: Ummm, no. I'm not going to run my classroom like a 3-ring circus, crowding in five to eight kids at a time like the teachers before me. If you want to see growth and progress, you must invest one-on-one or two-on-one. Also? The reason our caseload numbers are down is because students have made so much growth with me that they've moved back into general ed. full time. Also? Stop telling me how to do my job. "If I doubled up on kids, I would be doing a much less effective job. The reason I need to keep my groups small is to maximize growth and progress."
P: ...
Later, the principal sent one of the deans to come talk to me to find out why I couldn't "push in" with Adam for an hour every day. [Can you hear that banging sound? That's my head against the wall...]

So How Was Yours?

Max: "How was your day?"

Me: "Well, we had a thirty minute lockdown at the end of the day because there was a gunman loose in the city. After that, a student with an emotional impairment snuck out of the building and it took four teachers with walkie-talkies twenty-five minutes to find her! So, you know, the usual..."

Beggars Can't be Choosers

I just added thirty (yes, thirty!!) school districts' employment listings to my list of favorites. That way I can check for openings every day without having to play hide-and-seek to find the right link. Although not many schools have job openings listed right now, I can be on the ball about checking. Compulsive? Maybe. Okay, okay, probably.
I received my second letter of recommendation today via fax. I asked our school psychologist from last year to sing my praises so I could have a better chance of landing a job. Unfortunately, I don't know if I can use his letter. He's an older gentleman, so he probably thought that saying that I was "knowledgeable about meeting the educational needs of handicapped children" was perfectly acceptable... but it made me cringe a little. I cringed too when he wrote the exact same sentence at the end of two different paragraphs. I also wondered why he didn't just say "dresses professionally" but instead wrote "She always looks very nice".
Although I'm thankful he took the time to write it, I'm just not convinced that this particular letter will be helpful! I guess that means I'm off to bother another colleague for another letter....

Seven Years Ago

Max proposed on March 22, 2002. Here's what I wrote two days later in my journal:

"I cooked us dinner and then we went to see Ice Age. It was over pretty soon and it was 8:30 P.M when we got back to my car. We were debating what to do... restaurant? my place? your place? We didn't know. Finally after like 20 minutes, he said 'Why don't we go back to campus, change into really warm clothes [it was well below freezing] and then go to our coffee house?' And then I said: 'Why do we need to dress warmly to go get coffee at the coffee house?'. And he said: 'Because then we can walk around on our bridge!' I said that was a great idea so we went and changed. We basically were doing our first date over again, except this time the coffee was to go...

We got to the lit-up bridge downtown and it didn't feel quite as cold because I was wearing four pairs of pants. We walked around the water's edge and finally found a place to sit down and sip our coffee. We were talking about us and our relationship and he said: 'You know I would never ask you without the ring, right?' I said 'Yeah...' He said: 'So, wanna marry me?' And then I hit him and said 'don't joke about that kind of stuff!'

And suddenly, he moved his hands back towards his pocket then stopped. My heart lept into my throat, I gasped and then I started to laugh. I told him: 'You'll never guess what I just thought you were doing--I thought you were reaching towards your pocket for the ring! Haha!' And then he said: 'Was that a good feeling or a bad feeling?' And I said: 'A good feeling, of course!'

Then he faked it two more times.

All of a sudden, he really DID reach into his pocket, got down on one knee--in the snow!!--and proposed! I was so overwhelmed at what was happening that I kept my eyes on his face and couldn't bring myself to look down at the ring he was holding out. In fact, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I barely remembered what he said. I think it was along the lines of: 'I love you so much and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?'

Of course I said yes, then gave him a long, long hug. We finally pulled away when he asked me if I wanted to see the ring. I hadn't even given it a glance. I put it on and the diamond was sparkling even in the darkness!!"

So we're going to Outback Steakhouse tonight to celebrate. Also? We have a gift card that's burning a hole in my pocket. So it seemed like a good excuse to use it...

Seven More School Days to Go!!

Signs of a Teacher in desperate need of Spring Break:

  1. You're wearing open-toed shoes in forty degree weather.
  2. You heave a great big sigh when the morning bell rings and your students come in (interrupting that internet game you were just playing).
  3. You invent clever excuses under the guise of academics to take the students outside in the nice weather.
  4. You spend your planning time fantasizing about all the fun projects you'll be able to do with your upcoming free time.
  5. Your motivation and energy level sink to dangerous depths.
  6. The kids are extra jittery.
  7. You are extra jittery.
  8. You develop violent feelings toward your alarm clock.
  9. You reassure your cats before you leave the house that very soon you will have a lot more time to rub their bellies.
  10. Time seems to tick backwards, or at the very least, stay in one place. This is especially true after lunch.

Perspective Matters

Since we found out we will be moving to a different part of the state this summer, I've been checking that county's website for every single school district's job openings. It's been a little discouraging so far (but then again, it is only March!). Then, I wander over to Craigslist or to Remax and look at all the cheap houses we could be buying in that area. Houses with a place to put a dining room table, and with a washer and dryer hookup. And maybe a backyard for a dog.
Basically, I spend a lot of time thinking about the next job I want, and the next house I want.
But I hope I never lose sight of what I already have: according to this, I am the 120,869,566 richest person in the world! That means I'm in the top 2.01%!! [I bet you're rich too... try it.]
Whew! That's a lot of blessings to count....


7:49 AM
I come very close to being run over by a car in the school parking lot. Despite my orange vest, my giant stop sign, and my hand extended in the universal sign for stop, the man in the green mini-van looks right at me and keeps driving. If I hadn't stopped, I would have been hit... not to mention the two kids I was crossing.

7:51 AM
I chase down the man in the green mini-van and give him a vigorous tongue-lashing about the safety of students and staff during drop off times in the school parking lot. Also? I kick in his door to make a point. Also? This whole paragraph is made up, but part of me really wish it happened.

8:00 -- 11:06 AM
I sit through one loooooong special education meeting. I have a break in the middle where I get to see kids for a whopping twenty minutes!

Sometime in the ten o'clock hour
I am embarrassed in front of the district lady because my paperwork isn't in order (you wouldn't think it was a big deal, but it actually has legal implications). It isn't actually all of my fault, but I can't explain that to the district lady without sounding whiny.

2:55 PM
It's my planning time. Instead of planning, I am filling out a mandatory online survey about my job and my district. The first question is: "How satisfied are you with your job?" I freeze because I'm at a loss for words. I proceed to fill out the survey with very thoughtful answers. I even censor myself when there's a place for comments titled: "What can we do to improve?" [And by censoring, I mean that I wrote quite a biting paragraph but then erased it all when I reread it and it sounded like I was throwing a tantrum.]

3:40 PM
My computer betrays me and I lose the entire survey. I'll now have to retake it tomorrow.

4:27 PM
I'm in the middle of my 54 mile commute home and I suddenly realize that I feel very cranky. I can't figure out why.

6:12 PM
In my rush to get dinner, I open a low cabinet so fast and so hard, I fail to notice that Mrs. Hufflepuff (one of the cats) was right in front of it. When the door hit her face, she did a back flip and an angry meow. She is no longer speaking to me.

As I tell the kids who get in trouble.... "Don't worry. Tomorrow is a brand new day"

Caught ya!!

As part of our National Reading month, all of the teachers have been "asked" to call a certain number of kids during a certain time in the evening (once a week for three weeks). If we catch them reading, they are entered into a drawing for a bike or some such prize.

I just got off the phone with "Johnny" and his mom.

Me: "Hi, I'm calling to catch Johnny reading"

Mom: "Okay, here's Johnny"

Me: "Johnny, were you just reading?

At this point in the conversation, I can hear one of them say yes and one of them say no at the same time. I can't tell whose voice belongs to whom.

Me: "Hello?? So did I catch you reading?"

... [scuffle, scuffle]

Mom: "Sorry about that. No, he wasn't reading. He was just about to go play, and when you asked him your question over the phone, he grabbed the nearest DVD box and started reading from the back. Ha ha!"

Well, I guess I caught him doing something!

Forced to Resort to Raw Sugar and Espresso Beans

There are a lot of things that teachers do to keep their sanity within their classrooms. For some, it's making sure they get out of their rooms at some point throughout the day--escaping to the lounge, visiting a colleague, or lingering in the hallway for a brief conversation with another grown-up. For other teachers, it's just grabbing a few minutes of peace and quiet whenever possible. For me, it's surfing the internet for a few minutes before I get down to the business of my planning time.

For a lot of teachers, it's caffeine.

Many teachers purchase their own mini-refrigerators and coffee pots for their classrooms so they can have access to a fresh supply of caffeine at all times. Sure there's usually a fridge and a coffee pot in the lounge, but it's simply not feasible to leave the room every time you need a kick (or a refill!). So I'm sure some teachers are annoyed in Glendale, California when the local school district decided to ban personal coffee pots and refrigerators in an effort to save money.


On the other hand, is saving 60,000 dollars worth sacrificing teachers' personal comfort? I think that it's debatable. A lot of schools could use an extra sixty grand. But also, it's like I always say: A happy and healthy teacher is a more effective teacher.

How do you stay happy and healthy in your job?

Boundary Issues

When is enough enough?
As teachers, we are expected to help each of our students succeed. Many teachers are willing to go above and beyond the school day to tutor students after school, to help with homework, to head up a club, to provide extra curricular activities, to meet before and after school with parents, to participate in professional committees, to pay for supplies out of pocket, and the list goes on....
But then there are other expectations that maybe shouldn't be expectations at all. Call 14 students every week for the next three weeks from 6:30 to 7:00 P.M to "catch them reading" (in honor of reading month)? Attend the soup dinner in the school gym with your family (for no discernible purpose)? Host and attend "Reading night" from 6 to 7:30 PM? Attend fundraisers on a Saturday? Where do you draw the line?
My line is very clear: if it doesn't have a direct impact on my students' achievement, then I don't want to do it. Sometimes, I am pressured to do things anyway. But should I be?
Other professions seem to set their limits and live by them. You wouldn't expect a grocery store manager to ask all of his employees to stay for two hours after closing to help with inventory just because they should be committed to this establishment and to the customers that shop here. And you wouldn't expect a restaurant manager to require all of his employees to eat dinner there twice a week just because they should be committed to this establishment.
Some days I just think teachers are awesome because they are willing to do anything for their students. Other times, I think we are the biggest suckers out there for letting other people take advantage of our helpful nature. Three days ago, at a parent-teacher conference, the parents of my sixth grader with Down Syndrome asked her classroom teacher if she could babysit her this weekend! "Oh, you have plans with your daughters? That's okay, she can just go along with whatever you're doing!"
But maybe that's a post for another day....

Favorite Story Character Day

To kick off March as our Reading Month, students and staff were told to dress up as their favorite book character. This year, I forgot (again), so if anyone asked me who I was, I just stood on my tiptoes and said that I was "Sarah, Plain and Tall" (again). I saw lots of princesses and superheroes, Dr. Seuss characters, Junie B. Jones, Bob the Builder, Charlotte's web characters, and Wizard of Oz characters.
I've never really thought about who my favorite book character would be... It would be a difficult decision if I had to pick. I'd say it would be a toss up between Ramona and Molly Lou Mellon (from the recent classic "Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon").
Who is your favorite book character from a children's book?

Can I Get a Clone?

I was slated to have a really easy day today because of Parent-Teacher Conferences. Usually I pop in on four or five throughout the day... one of the perks of being a resource room teacher, I guess.

I had two high priority items to check off my list (boss' orders!). But as soon as I stepped in the door, I had two teachers stop me with things they needed on a deadline. So there went my day. I was super busy running around all day, finding, printing, making materials, grading papers, popping in on conferences, and generally feeling bad about not getting to my "high priority" items.

But what's a girl to do? The answer may have included chocolate...
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