Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Yesterday was one of "those days".  Shuffled through meetings, lengthy discussions about tangential aspects of teaching, time spent in training sessions on skills I am already adept at, more updates and news trickling down from administration that makes little sense to those of us in the classroom, and the latest batch of oh-by-the-way-we-have-this-to-deal-with-this-year challenges.  Sigh.  The kind of day when I want to call up the local university and persuade undecided majors not to choose the teaching profession.

When all was said and done, I returned to my classroom.  While I have been there every week all summer long, I still have a to-do list that isn't to-done.  Thats's just part of teaching; I spent days creating materials and thinking through logistics for my writing station, but that's just one small segment of our day.  There's still math, spelling, reading....the list truly never ends.

I made headway, but still had miles to go when I called it quits and sat at my reading table to reflect and gather myself before heading home hours later than originally planned.  And that's when I started to cry.  Looking around the room, there is endless possibility for 25 second graders.  I already know three that are more than just a little behind.  I know one who had such a terrible year last year that his parents were going to transfer him out of our district.  One of my students from last year is returning to my room specifically because I will probably be able to handle his extreme emotional needs better than a new teacher who hasn't had a year's experience with him might.  I thought about the increase in expectations on teachers, how we might as well write "miracle worker" next to some of the requirements.  I thought about our fledgling curriculum, on the downhill spiral due in part to apathy and part to bad press and passing responsibility, but added pressure in any case to show its merits.

To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement.

But then it hit me.  The kids are coming!  In just 24 hours, my room will be buzzing with excited little second graders.  They will be checking out their desks, and showing their parents around the room.  They will find their cubby and their bug in the hallway.  They will hug me and shy away from me and giggle and be nervous right there beside me.

And I breathed a sigh of relief.

I will do my best.  And my students will too.  Most days.  Somedays I will be tired, and some days they will be tired.  Some days we will learn so much and others our brains will not absorb a single thing.  We will laugh and play and sneak in hours of learning disguised as fun and yet we will also spend time discussing better choices and practicing behaviors and sitting with heads down at our desks.

And no matter how the year ends, no matter what my scores say on my evaluation, or what the state says about the status of our school, or what the politicians say should be happening in my classroom, I will know that I poured my heart and soul into my kids.  I will know that they got every bit of energy and enthusiasm and passion that I have for my profession, often at the cost to my own child.  All of us in Room 18 will know that we had the best second grade year ever.

And that is what counts in my book.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Case You Were Feeling Magnanimous

I recently updated my classroom website and included a wish list generated on Amazon.  I just thought all my faithful readers might like to see it, too.  I have 25 Bright, Unique, Generous second-grade students (B.U.G.S.) this year who would love some of these games and books!

http://amzn.com/w/356EC7H8NGW0E

:)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

1201

I cannot watch American Idol.  Under circumstances of extreme work avoidance, I have watched two episodes of America Has No Talent Whatsoever.  I don't turn on The Voice, or X Factor or any of these supposed talent shows.   For one reason alone.  I get so angry at the loved ones of these poor kids.  Why has no one along the way had the grace and courage to tell these people that THIS is not their talent?!  That God has big plans for their lives but it does not involve singing, or dancing or balancing on cement pipes or whatever it is.  I think we owe it to these people to nudge, or in some of these cases, shove them toward their true talents.

Which is why people, I am upset with you, my dear, faithful readers (all two of you. Ex-boyfriends just stalking to see if I got married yet don't count, and for the record, no, I haven't, but you still weren't Mr. Right).  I just wrote my 1200th post.  TWELVE HUNDREDTH POST.  Seven years of complete drivel and none of you have stopped me.  You should be ashamed of yourselves.

To think, if one of you brave souls had told me seven years ago to stop this ridiculous writing and apply myself to a craft, I might be your next American Idol.  For shame, people, for shame.

Shout Out

I would like to give a shout out to my long-time reader, first-time commenter, real life "second mom".  It made my day to have an actual comment on a post!  This is my huge, Internet hug, full of gratitude!

XOXO

EJ


Well Done


During the past three years, I have been remarkably fortunate to be a part of training at school designed to realign how we teach reading and writing skills with what brain research has been discovering.  From the very start, it appealed not only to my analytical mind, giving order to a language that seems at first glance to be full of exceptions and not many rules, but also, it appealed to the teacher in me, truly helping me to empower my students to discover, defend and celebrate their own accomplishments instead of relying on memorization or a teacher to provide the answers.


As seems true with anything new, this new process has been met with resistance, and as the training continued through the months, the negativity rose and the level of commitment to the program by many dropped dramatically.

I have been wishing for someone on our staff to step up and lead this new program, to keep it supported and strong.  To encourage and help others.  To train, to motivate, to provide answers if possible.  I have been hoping for someone to begin a focus on the parents in our community, to teach them parts of the program so it stops being something foreign, and becomes something they advocate for, too.  I have been waiting for someone to make this program a priority.  

To say I have been frustrated would be quite the understatement.  But I am not here to argue my case for the program.

I have been reading a book called, Love Does by Bob Goff, which has really challenged  me to DO more with my life and faith and passions.  Tonight, as I closed the book (figuratively.  Reading on an iPad takes away all my idioms.) I realized how true Mr. Goff's words were and how I would like to discover ways in my life where I can DO more, instead of just THINKING, or in this case, complaining more.  

I shared a chuckle with God tonight when I realize how dense I have been.  (I am so grateful that His patience is endless, because he must really wonder if I will ever listen sometimes.)  

Today, as I left school, my principal asked if I would be interested in being committee chair for language arts in our building.  After a few questions, I readily agreed, and while it isn't an appointment carved in stone just yet, I can see God's hands in the process.

As Chair, I would have the position and power to help influence our decisions on the exact topic I have grown so passionate about.  The curriculum for reading that I am concerned about, would now be a topic of our meetings and considerations.  I am exactly the person I have been hoping for.  

I am certain God's plan for my "To Do" list goes far beyond "support new reading curriculum", but perhaps it is where I start.  I know, at the end, I hope to hear the words, "Well, DONE, my good and faithful servant", so I had better get to doing.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Flash the Professional



A friend of mine recently asked if Flash might be interested in taking pictures of her son to mark his second birthday.  Flash readily agreed, on the condition that the pictures not be posed shots.  These are only a small sampling of what he captured with his lens.  While the pictures are good, the subject of them is beyond adorable.  





Abundance

My garden has had its struggles this year.  My zucchini plant has died, a fate I have wished upon an over-producing plant in years past, but this event occurred long before my freezer was full.  My pumpkins were ready weeks ago, and thus met their fate of being a treat for my friend's cow.  My cucumbers simply decided this was not their year at all and my cantaloupe is still trying to decide what to do.  The one plant that never ceases to amaze me with productiveness, however, is the cherry tomato.  I only ever plant one cherry plant, and yet, by mid-August, I am certain I could feed most of Michigan with just that one plant.  Having eaten more than my year's quota this past month, having given away to all that would take and having bowls upon bowls still sit upon my counter, I decided to try something new.  And so, on this cool, August morning, my house is filled with the amazing aroma of slow-roasting tomatoes.


I followed a recipe (well, vaguely, you all know that I think recipes are just basic outlines not to be heeded too closely) that I found online and in a few hours we will sample our first batch of slow-roasted tomatoes.  If what I read is any indication, my attitude towards my ever-producing plant may very well change.  I hope to stock the freezer with this delectable treat, to enjoy in the depths of Michigan winter, when summer seems like an impossible dream.
At the moment, the only thing that surprises me is that WG, living just four miles away, hasn't smelled these roasting and shown up on my doorstep.  Perhaps when I get the bread baking, with visions of bruschetta later, he will come running.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why It's Best Not to Ask Flash For Help


"Hey Flash, can you help me brainstorm some animals and their sounds for a second grade assignment.  You know, cat, dog, mouse, etc."

"Sure, Mom.  How about a zebra?"

"What sound, exactly, does a zebra make, Flash?"

“Hummmphrumpphadum”

"Sounds like a rather uncertain zebra"

"Zebras are rather uncertain animals, mom."

"How about another idea?"

"How about a waterbuffalo?"

"A waterbuffalo?  What sound, pray tell, does a water buffalo make?"

“Well, something like, 'Oh, God! Oh God, there’s a lion!' but in water buffalo-speak."

"You are a great help, Flash."

"Fine.  How about an alligator?"

"How about if we just think of objects that make noise."

"Oh, that’s easier.  A machine gun, rocking chair…"

"I’m going to skip the machine gun, since, again, this is a school project.  But I need the sound to be just one word, you know, like cat says meow, dog says woof. .."

"Fine, how about a television?"

"What does a television sound like?"

“SpongeBob SquarePants?”

"Flash."

"Okay, how about a computer?"

"I know I’m going to regret this, but what does a computer sound like, Flash?"

"Boop, beep, boop, beep, bop!"

"Let's hope the second graders are better at this than you are, Flash."
She was always pushing me, kindly, to try online dating.  After years of being single, she had finally met this amazing man who was so smitten with her, that she wanted me to have that same joy.  Even after his dibilitating stroke only a short time later, she stuck by his side, faithful in his struggle.

We all struggled to understand God's purpose in his stroke.  As if the joy those two had found together was too much, and had to be trimmed back.  It was difficult for everyone, but she pushed through.

So when her diagnosis came, lung cancer, in a non-smoker, any attempt to comprehend a purpose became impossible.  In her early 40's, her parents had to move in to help.  She finally had to make the impossibly difficult decision to put her new, far too young, husband in assisted living as she was unable to care for him properly while undergoing rounds of chemo and radiation. It's all too familiar, in so many ways.  We were friends before, but she turned to me with confidence during, because I was an expert on these things in her eyes.  

And the cancer simply continued to spread.  One small victory was only met with yet another discovery of cancer in a new location.  Her back, her bones, and finally, her brain.

She would stop me in the halls at school to talk about the process of dying.  I had been there, when my mother passed and she wanted answers, she wanted comfort.  She wanted peace.  As difficult as it was to think about those days with Mom, I told her anything she wanted to know.  I promised her all the things I had no right to promise.  "It is peaceful, painless...". We talked about God and Heaven, and while she believed, it was easy to understand her struggles to grasp His love in all of this.

It was alsways difficult for me, to see her.  Sitting in a meeting, I would watch her scratch her head under an itchy wig, and I would flashback to Mom doing the exact same movement.  I would visit her at home and with her wig off, her bare, round head just made my heart ache for my mom.  But we sat and talked and I comforted in every way I knew how.

I went last week, with friends, to visit her in the hospital.  One friend asked me if it was hard for me to be in the hospital, to see it all again.  "No," I said, "I know she needs me." But she was surrounded by so many people, so much family, so much pain.  Her need now was for medicated comfort, and her time left was no longer hers, but existed to give all of us time to say goodbye.

And so we did.  We said goodbye to a beautiful woman.  Imperfectly human.  A co-worker who equally drove you crazy with disorganization but still lit up a room with her tender heart for teaching.  She loved the kids.  But now she is gone.

And once more, we begin a school year with the loss of one of our own.  The familiar extends to the whole staff, reliving another such loss just a few short years ago.  We will comfort each other and say trite, unhelpful things like, "She is better now," but we all wish for more than that to hold onto.  We all wish for an explanative glimpse into God's perspective.  We all wish such terrible things didn't happen to such good people.
"Thanks for putting the top down on the Jeep, WG!"

"It's the perfect day for a ride with it off, isn't it, EJ?"

"It sure is.  There's only one problem, WG."

"What's that, EJ?"

"You just got passed by a minivan full of grey-haired folks and now you're getting passed by a Prius."

"Drat.  My Man Card is in my wallet.  You might as well just throw it out the window."

"I will put you on probation, just this once, but if that gravel truck blows past us in the right lane, I am out of here."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Retired

I have spent hours waiting in parking lots.  I have spent days of my life being a taxi driver, shuttling Flash here and there and back again.  Even on my own birthday, I was little more than a source of transportation to get him where he needed or wanted to be, and then, of course, home again when it was all over.

I have sat in the passenger seat teaching, suggesting, nudging, cringing as he learned and practiced the art of driving.  I have sacrificed my plans, my desire to just get there so that he might learn and gain more exoeience each time we went out.  I have spent countless hours coaching him in and out of parking spaces, backing into the garage and demonstrating safe techniques in all kinds of weather.

I was there, at the Secretary of State's office, waiting with an anxious boy when he got his driving permit.  I was there, each and every day, waiting in the parking lot a good distance from home while he took the necessary classes.  I was there beside him as he hit the telephone pole, as he pulled out too quickly, as he cut someone off or as he took a turn too fast.

I was also there when he drove me without a word of correction. I was there when he started feeling comfortable enough to drive with one hand on the wheel.  I was there, playing with the radio, demonstrating distractions to a boy who was no longer flustered, no longer easily distracted.  I was there when he drove home from school at night, in the rain and the door handle went unclenched.  I was there when he drove on the highway, passing cars and trucks and my heart didn't race.  I was there when he calmly practiced parking over and over until he felt successful.

And I was there, in the backseat as required, when he took his road test.  I was there, absolutley silent as he performed every maneuver asked of him.  I was there, biting my lip, holding my breath, feeling nervous for a biy who didn't show it himself.  And I was there when the instructor handed him his certificate with compliments.

So forgive me, if today, I linger in bed with a book.  Forgive me if my to-do list sits untouched for a while longer.  Understand that for just today, the first day of my retirement from chauffeur services, if I don't relax just a little, self-indulge just a bit, while he drives himself too and from band camp.  Oh sure, I still utter more advice upon his departure- about the fog, about his headlights, about his return-than he deems necessary, and I still wait with phone in hand for him to text to say he has arrived safely,but the rest of my day will be spent ignoring the clock.  No where to be, no reason to stop in the middle of anything to go pick him up or take him back.  My day is, for once, my own.

Bittersweet.  Bittersweet indeed.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ominous sign?


Here's to hoping that the dark cloud that stood watch over us in the parking lot while Flash practiced parallel parking isn't a bad omen for his road test today!  We thought using a church parking lot might keep God as involved as possible!  Let's pray He is always along for the ride with my soon-to-be teenage driver!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

The Misadventures of Faux Flash

Flash left for Burma in June.  There may have been a two- or three- day stupor where I cried and worried and felt the bottomless pit of loneliness.  But then, the doorbell rang.


When I opened the door, I was stunned.  Flash was standing outside my door!



How could this be?  Wasn't Flash on a plane to Burma?
I cautiously opened the door and welcomed  Flash home.

"Flash" made himself at home, relaxing in the recliner...
...and shooting me with his Nerf gun whenever he got the chance.
It was rather nice, having Flash home for the summer!

 His girlfriend was quite surprised to see him at her graduation party!


 She had been so sad that Flash would be away for her celebration, and was creeped out tickled to see him!

 Flash had mad air hockey skills we were unaware of and beat M single-handedly!

 Some friends weren't so happy to see Flash.  They had looked forward to his absence...

...but after he told his favorite party jokes, everyone warmed right up to him!
 Flash helped make pizzas for our traditional movie night dinner. I became a bit suspicious when he tried to add Tobasco to the sauce, but when he piled his pizza high with an odd assortment of ingredients, I knew it was my boy.

Flash picked out the movie - a sci-fi thriller.  He thought it was amazing.

 Papa thought Flash seemed a little "flat" and not his usual self but he appreciated his help fixing the step on the deck.

...And so the summer progressed, with "Flash" eating me out of house and home, and always complaining there wasn't enough food in the house.  Until....


 ...the REAL Flash arrived home today and said, "DIE IMPOSTER, DIE!!"


And Faux Flash died.

But the real Flash is home!!  YIPPEE!!!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Think There is a Connection Here?


1.  I brushed all this fur off of ONE of the cats.

2.  I was up at 2am with a severe allergy attack.  

Related?  You be the judge.

P.S.  anyone want a cat?  No, seriously, anyone want a cat?  I'll make a two-fer deal!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Wrong Kind of Hungry

WG and I were standing in the kitchen putting dinner together.  Sidling up to him, I leaned in for a kiss.  Not receiving much passion reciprocated, I pulled back.  Ever the romantic (cough cough), WG said almost the appropriate words, "...look so delicious, I just want to eat..." almost perfect.  if only he had been talking about me and not the biscuits fresh out of the oven.