Category Archives: Teaching

The Greatest Summer Ever

You know how all teachers make their first writing assignment something like, “My Summer Vacation”? I never thought too much of these assignments when I was younger and usually don’t like assigning it to my students now either. It’s just that I can’t remember a summer that I had this much fun!

I was dreading this break from work. It’s funny how we long for the things that we know and that are familiar to us. When Andrew was born, I was anxious to go back to work. Being a mother is so hard, and at the time it was so new and difficult that I longed for familiarity. Working would provide comfort and a guaranteed 45 minutes of quiet time a day! By and large, by the time I returned last January, I was happy to return and while I missed Andrew, I still felt that working was easier than being a mom.

So when June rolled around and school got out I braced myself for the tough job ahead. I felt tremendous guilt for not wanting to be a stay at home mom. What was wrong with me? How could I not love my son enough to want to spend every day with him?

The first week was rough. Andrew was irritated that I had taken him from his great grandparents and I was just trying to get myself put together and start a routine. Andrew didn’t nap well and was out of sorts. I kept thinking what a long summer I had ahead of me.

Then something happened. Something unexplainable and wonderful happened. I fell in love with my baby boy all over again. But this time something was different. If before we were held together with scotch tape, now we were welded together– unbreakable.

I tried to understand what made the difference but I think that just might take the magic out of it. I never understood how anyone could love being a stay at home mom and now I do. I am, for the very first time, not looking forward to going back to work. Sure, I’m excited but if I had my way I’d take another few months here with my baby because I’m certain that while I’m gone that first day he’s going to grow up even more and by the end of that first week he’ll be preparing for college.

If I sound all gooshy and mushy I hope you’ll forgive me. And if you’re thinking I’m a nut for not feeling this sooner then I’ll agree but whatever happened it was better late than never and all I can say for it is that I am head over heels in love with my baby.

Next Monday he will turn 1.

Every morning I think of the date and I remember what I was doing this time last year and for whatever I forgot after he was born, I do remember these days leading up to his birth very well. I remember the anticipation and the excitement and fear and nervousness. Most of all I remember the awful pain I was in by that point and the fact that my ankles were so swollen I had to cut the elastic off of A’s socks so I could put something over my feet. I remember the job title I was about to acquire and I remember wondering if I’d be any good at it and if I would love my child the way he deserves to be loved and if I could tell the me of then what the me of now is thinking a year later, I think I would have had a much easier time of those last few days. No it’s not been an easy year but it has been perhaps the greatest year of my entire life. I know this summer has been as much.

So on these last few days of summer, on the last few days before my baby isn’t such a baby anymore, I will be very busy– preparing for work, watching my baby grow, loving being a mom, and enjoying every second of it.

Summer Again

A year ago my life was so different. It’s hard to imagine that I’m still living the same lifetime as I was back then.

Tomorrow, school gets out. I am sad to see these students go. They are a great bunch. It figures that one of the best bunches in years would come along on a year when I was only working for half the time.
Tomorrow.
Funny, the day before the FIRST day of school I gave birth. I’m hopefuly nothing so exciting happens today, the day before the last day of school. This year can be measured in student growth AND Andrew growth. One school year = an increase of 10 inches and an increase of 15 pounds, 8 teeth, rolling, sitting, scootching, creeping, crawling, pulling to standing, singing, playing and talking. It equals 9.5 months of the most intense love I have ever felt for a human being. It also equals the most trying, stressful, exhausting time of my life. So you may be able to see (or are a parent yourself and fully understand) why this year has felt like several lifetimes.

But as I think back over the year I think back to last summer, too. Ah last summer. Such a bizzare eclipse of time, a strange inbetween, a pause button pressed– the old me and the new me. Loneliness, solitude, monotony, growth. That was my last summer. Except for my one bright spot– my student, my tutoree.

Honestly, I owe my sanity to my dear sweet student S, without whom, I may have simply lost my mind last year. As weeks passed I spent my days sitting at my computer doing school work, 8, 10, sometimes 12 hours a day. I had gigantic swollen feet to show for my many hours of sitting. I left my house to tutor and to go to doctor’s appointments, neither of which caused me to actually leave the neighborhood. I grew to welcome the company of this kind and gentle 14 year old, who always made me smile no matter how hot, tired and uncomfortable I felt. I think I will always associate the start of this life changing year with her.

And this coming summer couldn’t be more different. I doubt I’ll be doing much sitting with Andrew around and I plan to leave my neighborhood more than once a week! While this summer may not end with the birth of a child, I hope that it is still the start of new and wonderful things! Here’s to new experiences, excitement, love and family. Here’s to summer!

Questions, Confusions, Dilemmas… Oh My!

There have been many things I have been unsure of in my life. Many. Rarely has anything ever been an easy decision. I like to drag things out, think them over, you know, generally annoy everyone around me for a while while I work things out. I remember the day I found out the position I now have opened at my school. I was in NJ, my mom called me to tell me one of the teachers was leaving. The thoughts started stirring in my mind at that moment. The next morning I woke up with the fully formed decision that I MUST TAKE THAT JOB. No hemming and hawing. I just knew it. It was all but a done deal the next day. I moved home. You know me you know the story.

I’ve never been so certain of anything as I was in knowing that I’m where I’m supposed to be teaching. When Andrew came into the picture I knew still that I would not leave my school. I was anxious in anticipation to return even though it means leaving the light of my life with someone else during the day.

So why, now, am I entertaining ideas of leaving this place I am so sure about?

And it’s not what you think.

It has nothing to do with Andrew. I mean it.

I’m in grad school. You know this, yes? Educational Technology, preparing students for the future of learning, for the 21st century (funny how we’ve been here for 9 years and we’re only now starting the serious conversation). I’m in my 8th class out of 12. I’ll graduate next May. Although I haven’t loved the work, I have loved all the things I’ve been learning in the courses but with each passing course I feel more and more of a sense of complete frustration and helplessness where my own school is concerned.

We’re supposed to be preparing kids for technology that is ever changing. We’re supposed to be teaching kids critical thinking and problem solving and how to be digitally literate but all I can think is that I’m failing at this task. I’m failing miserably. What makes me a good teacher? What makes parents tell me years after I’ve taught their kids that I’m the best teacher their kid has ever had. What made some parents beg me to return sooner than I’d planned after Andrew was born? If they knew what I know; if they knew what their kids needed to be successful would they still think that? Would they still think my school was so great? My school that lives in the technology dark ages?

I have one internet connected computer in my classroom but today it started flaking out and will be dead soon. I have another computer that runs Windows 98 because that’s the most powerful program it can handle. It doesn’t even have a word processor on it. I have one that only turns on when it feels like it. And yet, after successfully getting a company to build brand new computers AT COST with no charge for labor, my school turned them down. Why can’t they see how important this is? Why can’t they see how much we’re hurting our kids, not to teach them using the technology that they will need to be successful in the future?

What more am I supposed to do, besides basically handing my school a truck load of computers on a silver platter? What more am I supposed to do, besides offering my opinion any time it is asked providing research cited materials to back up my answers. What more am I supposed to do, besides passing on all the information I gather that is of true importance right on to my boss and colleagues so they see how important these changes are? Why is it that I’m the most qualified person where technology is concerned, having almost received my Masters degree in the subject and yet others who are far less qualified play a greater role in deciding what things we do and do not receive? Why are we still educating kids the same way we did 50 years ago through rote memorization and drill and practice? I know they have learning disabilities but doesn’t that make it that much more important that we do this the right way?

Times are changing. They’re changing REALLY FAST! If you want to know exactly what I mean, watch the video I’ve posted below. If you haven’t seen it, it will blow your mind. That’s what I’m up against. I have to be able to sleep at night knowing that I’ve done the best I can for my students and as of late, I can’t because I haven’t. I haven’t prepared them for what is to come because I don’t have the resources to do it and I can’t prepare them for what is to come because no one, anywhere, wants to address the needs of special needs children in the 21st century, children who need to be reminded to write their name with a capital letter and oh by the way, need to be using their critical thinking skills to solve real world problems. I’m leading a one woman army into battle against people who don’t even see that we have a problem.

And what happens if I DO leave? Do I give up because it’s gotten hard? That’s not my style. How can I not see this through until the end? I’m invested in this school. It’s not a place anyone walks away from easily. I’ve never pictured myself anywhere else. But how can I in good faith continue begging for change that isn’t coming fast enough if at all? I feel like getting up and screaming, “Please, listen to me! Our kids need to learn this stuff! Our kids need to be prepared! These are the things they need to know!”

I hope by some miracle the right person will read this and tell me what to do because the solution just isn’t coming to me. The answers just aren’t there right now. I’m out of ideas.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpEnFwiqdx8&hl=en&fs=1]

Life’s Simple Pleasures

If you’re looking for my introduction, scroll down to the next post.

I love it when we change the clocks forward an hour. The loss of one hour of sleep is so worth gaining an extra hour of light in the evening. It makes me feel like summer is already here!

I love it when the dishwasher is full enough that I don’t have to wash bottles by hand and I can just stick them in there and run it.

I love it when my cat Rosie jumps in bed with me and remembers not to step ON me but rather walks around me.

I love it when I get to dress Andrew in the morning.

I love it when the weather changes for the first day of a new season, like the first day it goes from being hot to being cold there is usually a rain storm and then you know it’s time to bring out the sweaters. It’s the same in the spring when you wake up in the morning and you don’t need to drag the blanket with you to stay warm.

I love it when Andrew lets me sleep past 7:30 on a Saturday.

I love it when the stores start selling school supplies in August.

I love it when I take a really good picture, the kind that you just want to keep looking at again and again. I especially love it when it’s the last picture I’ve taken, it’s like somehow I knew I just needed that one last shot.

I love it when my house is clean, the laundry is done and folded, and everything is where it’s supposed to be.

I love it when it’s football season.

I love the sound waves make when they hit the shore.

I love the sound of pure silence, something I haven’t heard since I went to the Grand Canyon last March and something I don’t expect to hear again until I go back.

I love Andrew’s smile.

I love going to bed knowing I accomplished something really important. It’s not happening tonight but I know it will soon. I love knowing that the best is yet to come.

A Departure from the Norm: Introduction for Graduate Class

To my regular readers (or reader as the case may be) I am using my webspace to Introduce myself to my classmates for my graduate class. Please see the slideshow I made of Andrew pictures below.

To my EME5207 Classmates, I hope you enjoy the video and slideshow!
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLNj9Qd3QTw&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6&border=1]

And now Andrew’s Slideshow created with Animoto

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7BnxfVgXkw&hl=en&fs=1]

And now back to your regularly (or not so regularly) schedule programing.

It’s The Little Things

It isn’t every day that getting through the day is an accomplishment but when you are suddenly a mom, a working mom and a single mom all at once you start to feel like superwoman as well.
Yes A. is out of town and I went back to work last week which means that instead of just getting myself out the door and to work I now have to wake, dress, and feed Andrew then drop him off with my Grandparents and get to work all before 7:30.

It took me a good week of mental preparation and then about an hour of physical prep Sunday night to get things ready but Monday went off without a hitch and Tuesday went okay except that I forgot his reflux medication this morning (oops).

Not only that but my kitchen is clean, the laundry is done, the living room is clean and organized, I’m ready for work, clothes are laid out for tomorrow and lunch is packed. Seriously, maybe I AM superwoman!

I can do all this? Bring on the economy, peace in the Middle East, global warming. I CAN DO IT!

Nah, even after all that, I’m not doing anything that millions of woman haven’t done before me and will continue to do for all eternity. I’m not a superwoman. Don’t call it anything but what it really is.

I am a Mom 🙂

Stuck in Limbo

It’s strange being at a place where you know you belong but not really “being” there. I know that doesn’t make any sense. I haven’t taught since the last day of the 07-08 school year so, last June. I’m going back in January. The last few weeks however, I’ve spent time at work every day because I co-direct the Christmas play (which was tonight– and went wonderfully!). It’s been a great experience and has helped me really get excited about going back. I’ve gotten to know the new kids too which is a tremendous plus. It’s just that it’s strange being there without a “home” (classroom) or at least not one that isn’t currently occupied by my sub. I’ve found that when I go back to this place that feels like home to be around people that feel like family, it seems like I’m in limbo, often without a specific place to be or people to be in charge of. It’s an odd sensation. I also suspect that the honeymoon phase will end quickly once the kids realize that I do intend to teach them when I return. They are so excited to have me back now and it feels wonderful to have people excited about my return, only, I feel like it may be a case of “the grass is always greener” when they find that I have kept my expectations high.

And I realized all this today.

So I’ve had a bad case of nerves suddenly and it’s stressing me out. Everyone thinks that it’s because I’m afraid of leaving my baby but I’m not. He’ll be staying with family and I know he will not only have terrific care but also love the time he spends there. No, I’m worried about where I will fit in once I return to school. Will everything go right back to normal or will everything have changed? I’ve counted on a sense of normalcy that has been so severely lacking the last 4 months…. no the last year but is that really what I can expect? Really all I can do is wait and see what happens and hope that I can find my place again as teacher after finally adjusting to the role of mom.

Where I Have Been

You’ve missed me? Aw how sweet. Through an unusual set of circumstances I have taken a leave of absence from the site. Actually the circumstances are not all that unusual, it’s mostly just the timing. Aside from becoming pregnant (not a surprise) and being exhausted beyond all measure, I have also been working on a graduate degree (more $$ in the pay check for the baby!). And in all the time I’ve spent away from THIS blog, you’ll never believe what this current class has me doing 3 times a week. Aw well I knew you were a smart bunch, you guessed it! Blogging. And well, to tell you the truth I thought I wouldn’t like it knowing how well I keep up with this one but so far it has been really interesting and I’m not just saying that because my professor has a link to this site. Nah I’ve come across all sorts of random interesting things. Sure I can’t use half it of for school but I can certainly come use it here…. should I find the time in the next 18 years and 5 months. I had to come over here because something I came across today excited me. I found this website that evaluates the readability of one’s blog. (Essentially, *some* blogs offer a much more challenging reading level than your average newspaper which peaks at around the 8th grade level.) I was pleased to note that this blog received the following rating.
blog readability test
So, if you think I’m off my rocker when you read my blog, maybe it’s just because you’re not a genius! Don’t blame me, I’m just doing my part to keep the standards of America higher than your average newspaper.

I promise to try to write again before this child turns 2.

Teachers Knew This Already

In my first post of the new year, I thought I’d discuss an article I found today Teacher Burnout Blame The Parents
This article will probably not come as any surprise to teachers but may come as a shock to some parents. It is unfortunate that the parents to whom this article is referring will either a) scoff at the idea or b) be totally oblivious that it’s talking about them.
Before I go off on parents I have to say that I have encountered some truly amazing parents who are devoted to their children, supportive of the teachers and are helpful, encouraging and pleasant. I have met some parents who I liked so much they became friends (after I was done teaching their kids of course). The problem is, every year I’ve taught so far, I’ve had at least one parent who makes me want to run and hide every time I see them coming. This is completely unnecessary. You are doing your child no favors when you insult, belittle, criticize and otherwise abuse your child’s teacher. You put us in the difficult position of doing what you ask to shut you up or not doing what you ask so you don’t think you got your way. I’ve outlined a few tips for my readers (or reader as the case may be) on ways in which you can be one of the “good” parents and not the object of teachers’ voodoo dolls.

1) While we probably like your kid a lot, we have no qualms about hating you parents if you fit in the “nasty” category. No matter how much you whine and complain to our boss about us they are not going to fire us and we will in fact talk about you when you are gone.

2) Realize that your own actions are probably far more influential than ours. Don’t come into a conference on your high horse preaching the value of your child’s education and then send them to school without their homework, without their projects, without pencils or paper and without their lunch money. If you really valued their education the way we do you’d never let them out of the house in the morning unprepared.

3) We are glad your child takes part in extra curricular activities. We still don’t think they are a good excuse for not doing homework. Thanks for telling me why the homework wasn’t done but be prepared to pick your kid up from detention anyway. “Johnny had a soccer game” is not a good reason why your kid couldn’t do a one sided 10 question worksheet on nouns.

4) Don’t do your kid’s work for them. If you think we can’t tell you’re out of your mind. We see your kids do work every single day in class. It’s amazing how they go from being confused to brilliant and then back to confused again the next day in class. Help your kid. Don’t do it for them.

5) Realize there are two sides to every story. As basic and logical as it sounds to the rest of the world, it’s amazing how sudden parents forget this when it comes to their angelic child. Your kid loves you and doesn’t want to disappoint you which is why they aren’t going to admit that they called Johnny an asshole right before Johnny slapped him in the face. Yes, your child does know what the word asshole means even if you never used it in their prescence. Yes the other kid deserves to be punished. Realize that your kid does, too.

6) That whole thing about teachers having eyes in the back of their head is false, okay? We only tell them that to make them behave (and it usually doesn’t work). We do the best we can with one of us and lots of them. We deal with what we see but we don’t see everything and that doesn’t make us a bad teacher that makes us human. If something is going on at school that seems to go unnoticed tell us about it or tell your kid to tell us about it. Don’t come to me 3 months later ranting about how Johnny has been teasing your kid mercilessly for the last 3 months and now your kid doesn’t want to come to school. Little Johnny is a sneaky booger and I don’t see everything he does. If I did, he wouldn’t be doing it.

7) I can’t beat, hang, publically flog, fail, or expel little Johnny for picking on your kid. The best you should hope for is a seat change and a stern talking to. I am not going to hate little Johnny now and make the other kids be mean to him just because you want me to. Get over it.

8) If you tell your kid to fight back and they do they will probably get suspended if not worse. This is honestly the stupidest, most ignorant advice any parent can give a child unless they are hoping that having their kid in Juvie will save on the grocery bills.

9) If you and you kid are disappointed by a bad test grade it is probably NOTHING compared to how disappointed the teacher is. We pour our blood, sweat, and tears into helping kids learn this stuff and seeing a child fail is a miserable experience for us, too. I will do whatever it takes to help your child learn if they are willing. If they failed because they weren’t paying attention or because they talked or slept through every lesson then forget it. I presented the material once and I’m not doing it again.

10) We’re not out to get your kid. We may not love and adore your kid the way you do but they can be obnoxious and and realistically you know that because you live with them. No matter how we teachers feel about a student we give them the best we’ve got. A little appreciation now and then goes a long way.

I think I’m done 🙂

Watch This

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted but… watch this.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ervaMPt4Ha0]

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