Sunday, November 23, 2014

10 Times It Has Been Worse

Every year around this time, I get what's known as the "fall panic". I panic that the kids aren't learning, I'm not reaching them, or they think I'm a witch.
Starting at a new school, and being able to leave the place that will be the setting of my future book titled, The Place Where My Soul Went to Die: My Bitter Memoirs, has been nothing short of amazing. Working at a place that is so positive and professional, along with getting a pat on your back instead of stabbed in the back after working so hard, and coupled with the wonderful people I work with; I truly feel blessed. I didn't realize how miserable, or how toxic my old school was until I came here. My teaching partner is not only a phenomenal teacher, but a good person. She shares ideas and is not in constant competition of who's-the-most-popular-teacher-and-can-get-the -PTA-to-give-them-gifts-on-the-side. The strategist is my best cheerleader, and a riot to be around. The staff truly assumes everyone always has good intentions, rather than assuming the worst in everyone. My new school is refreshing. That being said, it is late in the fall, and my students have just recently mastered walking down the hallway like humans. If you are a teacher, you know the secret. If you are not, I'll let you in on it. Teachers, well, I myself, feel a little bi-polar at the beginning of the year. Sure you are hopeful for what the new year might bring. The smell of fresh waxed floors, and shiny new notebooks, and fresh pencils are enough to raise my serotonin so I don't think I need my bitch-be-gone pills. However. The younger the grade, the HARDER it is at the beginning. You are responsible for 21 other people for a full 8 hours. Please note- each class has different extremes, but it's rare to get a class that doesn't follow this pattern. At the beginning of the year, you can't turn your back once. You can't assume they know how to walk down the hallway, you have to schedule bathroom breaks for yourself, and actually eating lunch is a silly idea that really won't happen until around Christmas. You have to teach the kids EVERYTHING about "doing school". You are an entertainer, an actress, a mom, nurse ("you are FINE!"), a counselor, a judge, and a mentor. You teach them morals, how to treat each other, social skills, manners and hopefully reading, writing and math. It's a lot of pressure. I'm proud to say, my students mostly know when to sharpen their pencils (not when I'm talking), ask to use the the bathroom (not when I'm teaching a new concept), hand in classwork, and homework, and finally how to walk down the hallway like a human. It's the beginning of the year when a teacher really has to be on their game. You may tell them 176 times that they write on their paper, not in Mrs. Fairfield's books, but the 177th time, they might get away with  doing it, so they try. This, my friends, is why I can't ever be gone. If I am gone one day, the sub will let them get away with everything. Then I am back to the first day of school; teaching when/where to use the bathroom, hand in papers, walk down the hall, and in the classroom. Because of this, even when I am sick, I go to school. Teaching is exhausting. Teachers know there is no exhaustion like September exhaustion. This year mine went into October and November. It's times like this, when my car is the last one in the lot, when I go home and I think "I know I'm going home a lot more tired than those kids. I wonder if they even learned anything today". These days is when I have to remember there were 10 times it was worse:
1) The time I forgot to wear my shirt to school. I was teaching at an older school and my room was freezing. I was going to wear a cuddle-dud, (basically long a underwear shirt), and a wool sweater. The problem was I didn't put on the sweater. I was on the phone with my friend when I left the house, got to school, walked to my classroom, took off my jacket and said, "Oh Sh!T! I forgot my shirt!"
2) 99% of the 2012-13 school year was way, WAY worse.
3) 79% of the 2011-12 school year was way worse.
4) The time I thought a kindergarten parent was going to reach over the table and punch me in the face when I had to break bad news to him.- Also known as "the reason I can't teach kindergarten is because I don't like breaking parents' hearts".
5) The time I had a newborn, a toddler, and traveled to two schools to teach Kindergarten, and I was so tired that I burst into tears when a parent asked me to use unscented whiteboard markers.
6) The time I used to let a student sleep, just so I can get some peace.
7) The time someone pulled the fire alarm and I was shocked it wasn't one of my students, - Wait, that was a good time.
8) the time I drove to work and saw two students fake hitch-hiking and flipping off the cars on a very busy street.
9) The time I had a man student teacher and he was more work than the third graders.
10) The last day of school each year. The kids leave me after I have spent 9 months declaring them "my kids". They hold a special place in my heart, yet they just leave as if they are all happy for summer break, after I've just spent so much time, energy and worry on all of them. It's like having empty nest every year...

 I have many, many good memories. I guess the feeling of accomplishment doesn't come without a lot of hard work. Like a wise man told me once- nothing worth having is easy.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why I Don't Like Halloween

If you are a "regular reader"- (both of you), you may have been wondering where did she go? What's with the hiatus? Well, the day before school started I was sitting in a "teach kids to write" Proffesional Development and a hater from another school said, "I hate it when people have blogs, but they don't have a theme." I decided then and there that my blog is annoying others because I have no theme, so I must stop. It was much like the time a facebook friend said, "I can't stand when people post cat photos." I posted facbook cat photos each day until Mr. Husband would let me have a cat, so I stopped posting cat photos. Then I unfriended her, and now glare at her with my cat-eyes during church. Now I'm taking the advice of a brilliant friend, Stephanie Schuster, "You are not the jerk whisperer, Don't listen to 'em." So I'M BACK!!

Yesterday was Halloween. I used to like Halloween. From Kindergarten through Second grade, I got to trick-or-treat. When I turned nine, the "Poisoned Laced Tylonal" killed some people and my mom was certain all of our neighbors- living in the middle of no where- were lacing their candy with poison and putting razor blades in the candied apples. Which is weird on three levels. 1)We knew our neighbors well, 50% of them were my dad's brothers, and the rest had "card parties" and celebrated all of their children's milestones together. I don't think they'd try to kill me. They'd get caught. 2) If you were crazy and wanted to put razors in the candy, you would probably be living out in the middle of no where. 3) I really think the REAL reason I couldn't go trick-or-treating past second grade is because none of my siblings lived at home anymore and couldn't take me. Walking a mile and a half- one way- for a candy bar is just not realistic. Therefore, a bit of bitterness toward Halloween started at the ripe old age of the third grade. All of my "town" friends had many years of candy ahead of them, but not me. My mom tried to smooth over my feelings by letting me pick out my "own bag" of candy at the store. It wasn't the same. It wasn't dressing up like a princess, going to the neighbor's/aunts and uncles and being told you are "so cute", and getting a candy bag full of surprises. It might be dumb candy, like a handful of circus peanuts, but it was still a surprise. You can't sit on the living room floor and sort your "own bag of candy". It's all the same. There is nothing to sort. From then on, I've hated Halloween. it could be my intense fear of  clowns, mascots, mimes, and well anything in a mask. I don't like not being able to see the person's expression, Then the year came when Noah was one and a half. We took him to both grandparent's houses, a great aunts, and the next door neighbors. It was a blast. Fast forward to the year Ethan was three. He didn't know what to expect, and he was typically a little shy, but on that night he FLEW from house to house while combining two of his top five favorite things- dressing up like Spider-man and candy. I liked Halloween until about two years ago because I was experiencing it through their eyes. Now I'm back to hiding from the scary people with masks. Couple that with teaching children on Halloween, it makes for a less-than-festive holiday. During the eleven years of liking Halloween, I had the pleasure of teaching Kindergarten and the excitement of Halloween through their innocent eyes. I want it to be as much fun with the third graders, but it just isn't. In third grade, it's more about getting as  much candy as possible and eating as much as possible in one sitting. It doesn't seem magical like it is in Kindergarten,it's just... not. Maybe that's the REAL reason my mom cut off Halloween in third grade.
If you know me well, you know I make it my life mission, and spend 73% of my energy trying to keep my children from growing up too fast. I, unlike my mom, have not cut off Halloween. Noah tried cutting himself off two years ago, but caved and went this year. Secretly I think, "Are you kidding? You are taller than me. You have no business dressing up for Halloween." Well, I had nothing to worry about with him dressing up, because he went as a Basketball Player. So he dressed like it was a random Tuesday. I opened my mouth to tell him that's not appropriate anymore, but as I looked at him to say it, I didn't see my ninth- grader stressing out while writing the perfect essay about the Bubonic Plague and the Political Effect on the World, but I saw my little boy dressed like a lion saying "Tricker-Treat. Smell My Peet", and I just couldn't tell him no. Maybe a bit of him wants to hold onto his childhood as much as I do.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My First Official Day Thoughts

  •       6:00 alarm, you are my EVEREST.
  •       Snooze.
  •       Snooze.
  •       FINE. But only for the children.
  •       At least I can finally take this mountain of school stuff that’s been sitting in my bedroom all summer.
  •       Okay, what to wear... Betting my summer uniform would be frowned upon, as it does not involve pants.
  •       Should I even try to look somewhat decent, or stick with comfy-casual?

Arguments for looking decent
Arguments for comfy-casual
-There might be new people whom you don’t want to think you’re a slovenly old bag
-Comfortable. So, so comfortable.
-Takes almost zero time.
-You can dress up one day, take a picture of yourself, make copies of it, and distribute to the new people that serve both as gifts and proof that sometimes you don’t look like a slovenly old bag.
  • Comfy-casual it is!
  • Should I wear my ID? 
  • District policy says yes, but is that even for in-service? 
  • What if I’m the only one wearing one? 
  • Will people think I’m a suck-up if I’m wearing it? 
  • Or what if I’m the only one NOT wearing it? 
  • I’ll bring it.
  • Oh well, can’t find it anyway, so that idea’s out.
  • I wonder if anyone got plastic surgery over the summer.
  • What? Why is there traffic?
  • Oh, because it’s in-service and I’m going to work at a normal human time instead of negative fifty o’clock.
  • I wonder what they will have for breakfast.
  • I hope banana bread.
  • I hope Dt. Mt. Dew.
  • I hope a gourmet omelet station.
  • I hope a crown royal and keg of beer.
  • Hahaha.
  • But seriously, I hope there’s banana bread.
  • Please, God, if you love me at all, make this a classroom workday.
  • YES. KATY PERRY. This is my JAM.
  • Aaaand I’m behind that one math teacher I don’t know at a red light. 
  • Did he see me singing ultra-seriously by myself in my car as I was pulling up?
  • Awkward. Don’t make eye contact. Play it cool. Drink your pop.
  • Where are we even supposed to be meeting?
  • I’m just going to follow the herd.
  • And they’re all wearing their IDs. Perfect.
  • Would it be weird to feign illness and hide in my car?
  • I bet I could do a reasonably believable impression of fainting.
  • Okay, it’s fun to see people again. Good job, self. You’re being normal.
  • Uh-oh. All this interaction with people is making me sweaty.
  • Hello, nice to meet you, my name is Ms Clammyhands.
  • Banana Bread!!!!!
  • Just realized that all my conversations with people sound like this: “HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!” “It’s so good to see you!” “How was your summer?!” “Do you know if we get to work in our rooms today or not?”
  • Oh, dear. The Back-to-School speeches/PowerPoints have begun.
  • Time for me to pretend like I’m taking notes on this legal pad.
  • What should I get at the grocery store?
  • What do I need to buy at Home Depot to be able to fix that broken metal bookshelf in my classroom that is waiting to give me tetanus?
  • What do I want to name my children if I were to have one more boy, or a girl?
  • What will I name my future pets?
  • Where will we eat lunch today?
  • I seriously can not name a single one of my own children's teachers. 
  • Oh well, middle school and high school don't count that much. 
  • Let’s doodle a crossbow-wielding panda.
  • Geez, who is talking behind me? That’s so rude to talk when someone’s presenting.
  • It’s also probably rude to be doodling crossbow-wielding pandas.
  • Oh, an inspirational video!
  • I think I’m easily inspired.
  • I think that means I would make a good cult member.
  • Drink the kool-aid.
  • I better make sure my principal sees me here so I get credit for being here.
  • I don't want to make a scene, but how do I get her attention?
  • YES! Classroom workday! Thank you, teaching gods!
  • I’m taking another banana bread on my way out
There you have it. My first day...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

I'm Living With a Stranger

I'm living with a stranger. I'm fairly certain it happened overnight. My little boy has turned into a full fledged teenager. I still know a lot about Noah. I know his favorite color is blue, he's a handsome boy, and a kind big brother. I know his passion is basketball, and he's smart and wants to go to a "good college"- in his mind means "out of state". I know all of his friends, and their parents. I know he eats and sleeps A LOT, and wants to have bigger biceps. I'm finding out he believes I know very little about everything- because I am always wrong, and he is always right. It's so hard to believe that only five years ago he told me everything that popped into his mind, and now... nothing, except his need for new basketball/football/running shoes and random sports equipment.
Just a few years ago he used to argue with his brother about who got to sit closer to me on the couch. In fact, I bought a bigger couch so they wouldn't have to share me. Now he uses that same couch to sit as far away from me as possible. I miss him, and he is sitting in the same room as me. When he walks up the steps in the morning I don't see the tired 14-year-old that he is. I see the 4-year-old that he was stomping up the steps demanding to know where Kitty is, and why he pooped in his room. As we are sitting at the supper table and he informs us that we need to pay for basketball, and he's going to start driver's training, all I see is a kindergartner telling us he has to stay away from the licker (Abby) at supper. I know growing up and detaching from mom is totally normal, and if I was his best friend (like he promised me I ALWAYS would be when he was 5) I'd be worried. I never went through this "my life is my own and my parents are only in it because they have more money", mostly because I always felt like my parents' love for me was a flip of the coin. I do one thing wrong, and it was gone. Therefore I have to admit what Noah and I are going through means I did a mostly good job raising him and it's perfectly healthy. I also know it's normal that teenage boys will eventually come back and need their mom, but what if he doesn't? I told him I'd move to wherever he goes to college, then he told me he wasn't going to tell me where he is going. What if he moves far away to college, meets a girl and marries her, and she doesn't want him to have anything to do with his family? He's a people pleaser. It will probably happen.
Last night I as I laid in bed tears started streaming down my face because he grew up too fast. What was I doing when it all happened? I know I didn't pay enough attention to him when Ethan was a baby. I have the video tapes to prove it. How could I have missed it? I'm a teacher, I get home early and I have summers off. Was I blind to his getting older? Did I spend too much time working on my masters, reading, laying in the pool, or away from home? How can someone who lived in me for 9 months be a stranger? Everyone says "It goes so fast" when it comes to raising kids. That is an understatement. I spend so much of my life wishing away time; I wish it was Christmas break, I wish it was summer, I wish it was 5:00 so I can drink a beer. Is that how I missed Noah growing up? I think for the rest of the summer I'm going to spend hours staring at both Noah and Ethan. I don't care how creepy it seems, I know they will thank me later.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Keep The Riff-Raff Out!

It is impossibly cold outside. This winter has been horrible. We've had a range of 20 degrees to -60  since the day after Thanksgiving. On the rare days we have 20 degree weather, we have a 80 mile per hour wind with a -700 wind chill, so why bother having 20 degrees ABOVE? The big saying around here, mostly made by people who don't need to leave their houses on a daily basis is, "It's good. It keeps the riff-raff out." What is riff-raff you ask? Well, it's "ghetto folk", hobos, meth heads, and such. But the thing is, it doesn't get rid of the riff-raf. It just drives them indoors where everyone else is. I know this because I experienced it first hand during my last trip to Walmart. It all began on Sunday morning. I woke up with a pain in my stomach on the right, and it seemed right under my ribs. So, I did what every red-blooded American who understands technology does. I looked my malfunction on-line, where you should go for all medical advice. I self-diagnosed myself with gall stones. The remedy for gall stones is drink six ounces of apple juice for five days, because the apple juice makes the stones soft. On the sixth day, drink the apple juice, and don't eat after 6:00 pm. At 8:00 drink four ounces of water mixed with 2 tablespoons of Epson Salt, and repeat at 10:00. At 10:30 drink 4 ounces of olive oil mixed with two ounces of lemon juice. The Epson salt acts as a laxative and the olive oil makes it more slippery I guess. I think the Epson salt must give the concotion the explosive effect to help rid your body of the gall stones. I had everything except the Epson salt, which I didn't need until the following Saturday anyway. Yesterday it was only -16 degrees with a -25 wind chill and it was supposed to be the warmest day of the week, so I declared it my "Walmart/Target/Grocery" day. I typically don't go to Walmart, but the one by my school is a little classier Walmart. Even that sentence makes me giggle. Classy Walmart is an oxymoron, like non-dairy cream. Anyway, I needed more "Walmart" specific stuff than Target or Grocery store, so when it is this cold I only pick one store, and Walmart won. I parked my car at Walmart, making certain to look at which lane I parked in, because when the wind chill is -25, you don't have time to gallivant around the parking lot looking for your car. I walked into Walmart and immediately felt like I was in the ghetto. Yes. The ghetto of Fargo. I saw a 24-year-old mom with at least five kids I think. It was hard to count because they were all running so fast, but I know the two IN the cart were trying to get OUT, and at least three others were fighting to get in, and there were a few more climbing the shelves as she looked at Monistat. I wanted to grab a package of condoms off the shelf and throw them in her cart while she wasn't looking, but I knew one of the kids would tell on me and cause a bigger scene. I also wanted to assist the kids trying to get out of the cart before they fell, but then I thought 'oh well. Everyone needs a childhood scar story to tell. It would be unfair to rob these children of that.' I knew this woman was ghetto before she opened her mouth. Just because it's the frozen tundra of the north and she was wearing her WARM pajama bottoms and slippers doesn't make it any less of the fact that she is shopping while wearing pajamas. It could have been that, or her many screaming children, or the fact that she had dread locks, and the children looked like they haven't bathed in 2014, but it was probably the tank top that was too small and rode up, so it showed both her tramp stamp on the back, and her rolls on top of her rolls in the front. I wondered, 'where is her coat? It's fricken -25 out!' then I found it. Her five-year-old was wearing the hood of the mom's coat over her face and spinning around with her arms straight out. Hey- at least she was smart enough to try to keep her balance while knocking things out of the way with her arms instead of her head. Maybe she got the smarts in the family. After my entertainment went around the corner to terrorize an elderly couple in the next aisle, I went to work looking for Epson salt. I found it. It's also called bath salts. I read the package and in big letters it says DO NOT INJEST. How am I suppose to mix it with water so I can drink it up? I asked the pharmasist if they had Epson salt that can be injested. She looked at me funny and said, "No. They are BATH salts. Not salt, salt". Now I felt like the ghetto mom who had kids running around with my coat covering their face. I instantly remembered the situation in New York when the guy who injested bath salts ate off the hobo's face in the subway. Great. Now she thinks I'm that person. So I left Walmart thinking sure, leave it to Walmart to have the non-edible Epson salts. Target would have the right kind. Not regular Target, but Super Target would because if you want to injest bath salts and eat off someone's face, you wouldn't be shopping at Target. You'd go to Walmart. I paid for my extreamly cheep cleaning products and left to wander the parking lot looking for my car.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I Love My Class

I have the best class this year! They are so good. None of my students have any behavior problems. On the first day of school I kept pausing while I was talking. I was getting more and more frustrated with myself. I was wondering, "Did I lose the teaching touch? What is with the pausing? Did I forget how to talk to a group of people?" Nope. It was because no one was interrupting me by shouting obscenities or swear words, no one was throwing any furniture or books, no one was threatening to kill me, no one was throwing a tantrum because I was giving someone else individual attention, and no one was spitting on their neighbor. I didn't know what to do. The past two years I wasn't able to finish a complete thought, let alone a sentence without a swear word, book, spit, punch or death threat being thrown my way. This year is a dream! I tell the kids all of the time they are the best class I've ever had. I actually get a little sad saying goodbye to them on Fridays because I know I won't see them until Monday. This class really couldn't get any better. They try hard, they pay attention, they do what I tell them to do, they don't even get crazy before a storm or during a full moon, and best of all they are excited about any new material I have to teach them. I swear, I could say tomorrow morning, "We are going to learn about watching grass grow," and they'd cheer. Their behavior is the best. I rarely have to tell them individually or collectively to "settle down", "listen" or "get to work".  Reverse psychology and positive reinforcement works wonders with them. I'll say, "I LOVE how Johnny is working so hard", then they all work hard. Or "you can do this, you are smart", then they go try their hardest. In the past if I said, "I LOVE how hard Johnny is working", kids would think, and often say, "Well, Johnny is a big nerd." In the past if I told them, "You can do this, you're smart", they'd tell me "No I can't and you are dumb if you think I can do it." Or they'd throw something and storm out of the room and run away.
Today marked the half way point of the school year. Last night I went to bed thinking "I have the best class. They are so excited to learn about everything. I am so lucky." Then it turned to "I am halfway done with this class. I will never have a class this good again. It took 14 years to get kids this good, I'll never strike gold twice." And worse, "Even if I do have a good class, I'll compare them to this class and they will never measure up. This class has blessed, and ruined me at the same time." Then I got a little teary and fell asleep. This morning I was still all nostalgic thinking, "I am so lucky. I love getting out of bed and going to work."  However, once I got to school it was a different story. The day started out with a girl announcing, "This is my last day. We are moving to (a southern state) tomorrow because my mom is sick of winter." I should tell you that the temperature (considering wind chill) has only been ABOVE -15 at noon for exactly 7 days since November 3. I hate winter too, but I've decided long ago that I'm stuck here because this is where I live. Considering up and moving because of the weather isn't something most people do, I didn't believe her. Sure enough, I got an e-mail at 9:00 from her mom telling me the movers came during Christmas break, took their stuff, and they are all hopping on a plane tomorrow morning and saying "Adios" to Fargo forever. This girl gave me a picture she drew(of the Eiffel tower) on the back of her homework that said, "Pairs. The Citee of Love. to mrs, farFled". All I thought was, "Well, now the pressure of teaching you how to spell is no longer mine." I only have seven girls in my class, so they are all pretty close friends. The girls who is moving is definitely a leader. The rest are very sweet, but not the "take charge" type. We went through her tearful passing out of her "good-bye cookies" then they pretty much pulled themselves together. I was sad and worried about how the remaining six girls will cope and wondered who will end up taking the leadership role.
My sad attitude continued well into the afternoon. I got an e-mail from our school secretary saying "This is an invite for you to join us in The Biggest Loser here at school" Right away I chuckled thinking "Ha ha! She's calling me a big loser, ha ha." Then I found out it was about losing weight. I was no longer thinking "ha ha" but, "What?! How many other people think I'm fat? Why would she send this to me? Does this shirt make me look fat, or is the pants? Is it the whole outfit? I am so embarrassed..." Then I looked at the "to" list and realized she sent it to everyone.  Even the teachers who weigh less than 100 pounds. Why am I so paraniod? It's not PMS. It could be lack of sleep, since during Christmas break and on weekends I sleep 12 hours a day, and this whole 9 hours a night just doesn't cut it. However, I have my happy light box now so I shouldn't need to sleep. Maybe I am sick of winter and should be hopping on a plane to live down south. Or maybe I need to move to Pairs, the citee of love.