This Side of Third

…and second

A Time of New Beginnings

April6

Spring and Easter are occasions for rebirth, new growth, emergence, and reflection. That’s just what I did this weekend.

I started counting calories again, I said a few extra prayers, I took time for myself, and I also did something scary. I took a leap of faith and trusted in the season of renewal.

People get settled, complacent, entrenched in various parts of their lives. Some may not even notice. I noticed.

Many people allow this settling because they don’t like change. Change is scary. Change is uncertain. Once you get past the scary, though, change is exciting!

My leap of faith may not turn out as I hope; however, change has begun. Even if it’s only been in me. ūüėä

Do Titles Matter? I Guess They Do.

March25

I want to begin this post by saying I have nothing against paraprofessionals (teacher assistants, to the layman). ¬†Many of my dearest¬†friends are paras, and some of the best times I’ve had have been with these awesome women. ¬†They do as much work for the students as teachers do, and are paid less than half of what teachers are paid, with no guaranteed job security from year to year.

That said, I have been feeling pretty…crappy for the last 24 hours about something. ¬†It’s almost too embarrassing to admit to the general public. ¬†I guess in the grand scheme of things it’s not all that bad, but for some reason, it’s effected¬†me.

A parent was very nice and sent a letter (email) of thanks to the principal of my school as well as the superintendent stating that her child’s teacher goes above and beyond to help the child and communicate with the parents and generally is just awesome. ¬†I agree. ¬†She does do this and more and¬†does it for every child in her class.

She also mentioned his reading intervention teacher and how lucky her child is to have this person. ¬†It’s true. ¬†Our interventionist is truly great.

She also mentioned me, the teacher assistant, who also shows a lot of care and¬†concern for her child’s education. ¬†Nice, right? ¬†Sigh.

I guess I get it. ¬†Her child is not in special education (but soon will be) and she has no cause to think of me as a SpEd teacher, even though I’ve been introduced as such. ¬†She’s not the first parent to do this and I guess she won’t be the last. ¬†It still stings, though. ¬†Like, a lot.

Both the principal and the superintendent answered back to the original email. ¬†They thanked her for the email, stated they agree with her about the child’s teacher, and that the intervention team works very hard to ensure students are successful. ¬†Notice anything missing? ¬†Yeh. Me, too.

No one addressed the error of my being a special education teacher~not teacher assistant. ¬†Sure, maybe the superintendent doesn’t know. ¬†I’ll give her that. ¬†Maybe the principal didn’t want to make the parent feel badly. ¬†Maybe she included me in with the intervention team. ¬†Maybe she never even thought to correct the error. ¬†Maybe…

After the year I’ve been having, this just tops it off. ¬†I was at work by 7, asked for plans for review before 8 (because paperwork is the most important thing in teaching~not progress), had one of my students refuse to do his work, stayed until after 4 because an IEP meeting I’d been in since 2:45 went a little long (while I watched a co-worker walk out at 3:45 without a word because the duty day was done), only to come across that chain of emails. ¬†I was pissed, but I thought it was just me.

I am lucky to work with a good group of supportive teachers. ¬†The classroom teacher was appalled about it, and the intervention teacher apologized. ¬†I was quick¬†to let her know the apology¬†was unnecessary. ¬†They, and a few others who’d heard about it (not from me~I was too upset to say anything), offered me their love and kind words. ¬†It was nice.

Again, in the grand design, I suppose it’s not all that horrible, but it does hurt. ¬†It’s just that when you go above and beyond for your students, spend HOURS and DAYS (and nights) working on IEPs, progress reports, charts, cues, research, lesson plans, data collection and crunching, assessing, and, oh yeh,¬†teaching, it’s a bit disconcerting to hear you’re only thought of as a para. ¬†Especially by those that know better.

No Pity. No Sympathy.

February22

I live in an area that is quite impoverished. ¬†Most of the students in my school are on ‘free and reduced lunch’ and we send food bags home to a few families on the weekends so the kids have something to eat. ¬†Poverty’s not pretty. ¬†Someone once told me that there’s no shame in being poor; it’s just mighty inconvenient. ¬†However, that’s not what has me furious. ¬†It’s what often comes with poverty (at least around here it does) that has me upset. ¬†Addiction.

It took me five attempts just to write that word. ¬†I hate that word. ¬†I just feel like…it’s…an excuse. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been a drug user, or an alcohol abuser. ¬†Maybe it’s because over the years I turned to food for my feelings in stead of crack. ¬†And again, that was an excuse. ¬†I was sad-I ate. ¬†I was happy-I ate. ¬†I was stressed-I ate. ¬†All just excuses to get to the Double Stuff Oreos in the closet. I’ve managed to put a stop to that, for the most part.

The reason addiction¬†bothers me so much, and the reason I have no sympathy for those in addiction, is because I see what it does to the children. ¬†Mostly it’s the youngest children. ¬†They haven’t learned to cover anything up yet. ¬†They come out with whatever is on their minds. ¬†Older kids know what so say, and how to deflect.

The other day was an emotional one. ¬†After a pretty good reading intervention group with my Kindergarten kids, one of the 5 year olds told me his dad was in Florida. ¬†When I asked if Dad was visiting Disney, the child told me in the most matter-of-fact tone that dad gets high and had to go to Florida to get the dope that comes in the little blue baggies. ¬†Holy shit. ¬†He’s talking to me about this like his dad is going to WalMart to get bread. ¬†Holy shit.

Thankfully the three other boys were unaware of the meaning of this conversation, and calmly and cheerfully I escorted them back to their classes.  The other two adults in the room could barely contain their astonishment.  I had to contain mine.

I don’t know why this affected me so much. ¬†I’ve heard similar conversations from kids in the past. ¬†So I found our in-house DSS worker (yeh. In-house.), broke down in tears, and let her know the conversation. ¬†She was very understanding, told me she’d look into it right away (she did), and said, “This is addiction.” ¬†I understand where she’s coming from and why she said that. ¬†I don’t understand that as a reason. ¬†I don’t accept that as a reason.

I don’t care if you want to do that shit on your own. ¬†Go ahead and destroy your life. ¬†Please leave my kids out of it. ¬†Don’t use, deal, discuss, snort, sniff, shoot, beat, hit, punch, scream, bleed, tie-off, or otherwise put my kids in the vicinity of this shit. ¬†That five year old kid, who doesn’t know his letters, letter sounds, or how to spell his name after a year and a half of school deserves so much better than what you’re giving him.

I mention the “beat, hit, punch, scream, bleed” in the previous paragraph because later that same day, I had an IEP screening meeting with a woman who is raising her four great-grandchildren, ages four and under. ¬†Why? Because of addiction and the violence that seems to stem from it. ¬†The little boy we discussed¬†will turn 4 in March. ¬†He throws raging tantrums, hits, throws things, screams obscenities..and has seen his mother and two year old brother beaten to a pulp. ¬†Any wonder why he acts out?

So many stories like this (like the first grade child put in foster care because they found coke in his system, and not the good kind) occur not just at my school, by at many others across the country. ¬†How do we stop this? ¬†It’s not enough to have our yearly Red Ribbon Week when we educate the kids about drugs and alcohol. ¬†Do we make the parents watch that God-awful Intervention show? ¬†Force tough love down people’s throats? ¬†“Sober up, or else” doesn’t deter people. ¬†We need to find something that does. Maybe a harsher “or else.”

Here’s a thought: don’t start using drugs and you won’t become addicted. ¬†Sure, some may have experimented with a few things in college and¬†they haven’t turned it into an addiction. ¬†That’s great. But that’s not everyone. ¬†Why tempt it? ¬†This is why I have no pity or sympathy. ¬†You did it to yourself. No one held a gun to you and said, “Do this or else I’ll kill you.” ¬†OK. ¬†In the rare instance that this actually happened, I’m sorry. ¬†Otherwise, just say, “no”.

Say NO to a life of poverty, to a life where you’re scraping for money for your next fix, but ignoring the fact your kids have no food or clothes. ¬†Say NO to living in fear of sickness and death. ¬†Say NO to a life of lies, a life of not knowing who to trust, a life of alienating those that would help you if you’d let them. ¬†Say NO to the violence and the heartbreak and the self-loathing. ¬† Say NO to putting your kids in an intolerable environment.

Get help. ¬†If not for you, then for your family, your children. ¬†Ultimately, it should be for you, but if you aren’t there yet, do it for the most important people in your life. ¬†Parents, talk to your kids. ¬†Not just in a passing way, but in a serious, meaningful way. ¬†Be vigilant. ¬†Get the message through. ¬†I am so blessed with the family I have. ¬†They made it a point to drive this home.

Get help. ¬†I don’t want to have anymore of these conversations with my five year olds. ¬†Thank you.

http://www.na.org/meetingsearch/ (Worldwide)

http://meetings.intherooms.com/meetings/search?latitude=39.611512&longitude=-75.832258&proximity=100 (Local)

 

Crisis of Faith

October31

I think I’m having a crisis of faith. ¬†Not in the Big Guy, the Original G, but in the profession I love. ¬†I don’t want to be a teacher anymore, and it’s breaking my heart.

Prior to this writing, I’ve had frustrating days, weeks, and even a year or two. ¬†They seemed to be never-ending, but in reality, they came and went with large chunks of time in between each rough patch. ¬†There were specific times of the year as well: beginning and end of the school year, around report card time, multiple IEPs due at once, alternative assessments, etc. ¬†Every teacher goes through these feelings. ¬†If you haven’t, call me and tell me were you teach.

Never have I been so unhappy in my job as this school year.  Nor has this unhappiness been so pervasive as it is this year.  It seems everyone is feeling the way I feel.

I am always tired, frustrated, sad, angry. ¬†I feel like I’m walking on eggshells, that everything I do is overly scrutinized, and I can do nothing right. ¬†I’m nauseated on many days, my anxiety is getting worse, I know my blood pressure has gone up (people keep pointing out my red face-I know, very scientific), and I feel as if there is a giant weight on me all the time.

When I’ve felt crappy about teaching in the past, I was able to find something to keep me motivated. ¬†The students, my co-workers, 8 weeks off in the summer. ¬†Those are all good reasons to keep going. ¬†Even those things aren’t working anymore. ¬†I just feel like I’m working for nothing. ¬†And it’s a lot of work.

It’s not a shocking statement to say that teachers are under-appreciated by so many non-educators. ¬†We get it. ¬†No one likes us. ¬†What is disturbing is when it comes from within. ¬†When you’re feeling beat down by your own kind. Shouldn’t we be advocating for each other? ¬†Shouldn’t we be trying to lift each other up when so much about our job gets us down?

I just don’t think I have the patience, emotional fortitude, grit, or whatever new buzzword you’d like to throw in there. ¬†Education is all about the buzzword. ¬†And that’s the problem. ¬†Education is not about education.

Education is about paperwork, planning, and staying in your lane, but yet diversifying just enough. ¬†It’s about being precise and specific in some areas and not so in other areas or you’re teaching to the test. ¬†It’s about doing what is federally mandated so we can get much needed funds that still aren’t enough, and still don’t solve the underlying problems. ¬†Education has become not about teaching at all. ¬†Teachers feel like they’re letting their kids down, and sadly, unless we’re OK with getting called on the carpet, there isn’t much we can do otherwise. ¬†If you ask a teacher what he/she wants, it’s this: Just let us do our jobs.

Teaching is separate rules for different specialties. ¬†Why do general educators follow one set of rules, and special educators required to follow another? ¬†What makes those two professionals so different anymore? ¬†We’re all in the classroom together now. ¬†And why are there different rules and expectations for elementary teachers and middle/high school teachers?

Teaching is about making it look good. ¬†It’s about showing how all our hard work is paying off, when sometimes, it just isn’t. ¬†Kids fail. ¬†Do teachers like that? ¬†Hell no. ¬†But many times, despite our best efforts, kids fail. ¬†People need to learn to be OK with that, both educators and non-educators.

I do still want to teach. ¬†I really do. ¬†I just need to get out of the classroom. ¬†Or maybe just out of the school system. I’m tired of being a babysitter. ¬†Honestly, that’s what I feel like anymore.

I’d ideally like to teach at the college level, as well as other educators. ¬†I love the direction education is going in with the technology available to teachers and students. ¬†A job with SymbalooEDU, Edublogs, Edutopia, or one of the many terrific online education-driven websites would be wonderful. ¬†To have a job in a field I enjoy (writing and computers-yes, I’m that nerdy) that would allow me to help teachers…well, that would be great. ¬†I want to lift teachers up, help them take a load off, and let them know that someone does care about their profession.

Maybe I’ll start my own business. ¬†I’ll scour the Internet. I’ll read all the articles, the journals, the papers, Tweets, and education websites. I’ll compile and report on what I find and share it out to teachers in the hopes of saving them time so that they can just teach. ¬†Now if someone could take my caseload so I can do this, that would be great. ¬†And if you like this idea, DON’T TAKE IT IT’S MINE!

Disclaimer: These thoughts and opinions are solely mine, and do not reflect those of any specific persons or school systems.

 

 

 

Classroom 2.0-PLN Step 9

October19

After looking at Classroom 2.0, I decided against joining.  It seems a bit dated, with many posts being 3 years old. Also, any media reviews a over a year old, and no one I know has heard of Ning.  I am quite happy with the communities I currently participate in for my PLN, and feel that Classroom 2.0 would be just one more thing.

As far as global networking, everything now is global networking. ¬†FB, Twitter, Google+, GPSNetwork, etc. are all accessible to educators worldwide. ¬†.com, .net, .org, and .edu bring the world to your fingertips and screens. ¬†It’s just a matter of preference as to what you use to bring in and/or share.

I’m sticking with my go-tos. ¬†They’ve worked for me so far. ūüôā

 

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Twitter Chats

October12

This is a good video to watch to help get started with TweetDeck.  Ms. Hurley gives great direction and helpful hints to get you going.

I’m looking forward to the chats I’m following this week. ¬†Of course, that’s if I remember to open my laptop. ¬†The last two weeks, I either forgot about them, or Life got in the way and I couldn’t join the chats. ¬†I’m hoping that with TweetDeck as a permanent tab on Chrome, I’ll have a constant reminder. ¬†Thank God for archives! I’ll keep you posted on what I find out this week from my three planned chats (#mdedchat, #symchat, #spedchat).

Edit: I participated in my first Twitter Chats last night, and they were very interesting. ¬†The #spedchat was geared more toward older students in the voc/career path. ¬†As an elementary teacher, I didn’t have too much to add to the discussion. ¬†However, on #mdedchat, we had a great deal to discuss about teaching the whole child. ¬†I walked away with added tools, and the knowledge that I’m not alone in what I see with my students.

 

 

Twitter Love?

October8

The Twittersphere is all abuzz (a-tweet?) with ideas for educators. ¬†But do the majority of teachers realize this? ¬†I didn’t, until last summer. ¬†I’d never even considered it until a coworker suggested it. ¬†I assumed Twitter was for Hollywood-types, and people who followed the Kardashians (for whatever reason). ¬†Twitter for teachers? ¬†Huh.

This same co-worker not only clued me in to Twitter, he told the entire staff. Guess how many teachers signed up….5. ¬†I’m not sure why more people didn’t sign up. ¬†Admittedly, I’m a nerd and love techie stuff, especially Internet related. ¬†Maybe it’s because my fellow educators don’t understand the whole Twitter thing, or the wealth of information out there.

Honestly, I’m not even sure I love Twitter. ¬†I like it. ¬†I use it. ¬†I wish I used it more, but I forget it’s there for long stretches of time. ¬†There are so many social/Web2.0/PLN options out there for us that I can’t always keep up with all of the information available.

Part of me is excited to have one more source of (geeky Internet) information.  On the flip side, I have one more thing that I need to take care of and handle.  Teachers always seem to have that One More Thing.

So is it Twitter Love? ¬†Not yet. ¬†I’ll call it a Twitter Crush.

PLN-How do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.

October6

6. ¬†It’s 6 ways.

1. Twitter I started 2 Twitter accounts last year, one for personal and the other for education. I am never on my personal account anymore; however, my educational account is always logged in. ¬†The fact that Tweets are so brief, but contain so much information, is truly appealing to busy lives. ¬†I can scroll through, see what’s up and click only what I need, or wish to share.

2. Symbaloo¬†I can’t get enough of this bookmarking tool. ¬†I love it! ¬†You may not think this is a networking tool; however, it’s a connection with benefits. ¬†When you are perusing the gallery of webmixes, you discover so many different topics, ideas, lessons, apps, games, videos, thoughts, seminars, PDs…..whew. ¬†It’s a gateway to opening conversations with the people that created these webmixes to find out more about what they’ve done. ¬†You add their WM, they add yours, you become Twitter followers of each other, link to their blogs, and the PLNs grow. ¬†

3. ¬†Google+¬†I’m quite new to G+ so I’m still learning all the perks. ¬†The only people in my circles are co-workers and SymbalooEDU. ¬†I don’t even think they’re in the same circle! ¬†The majority of my co-workers are not Google fans (we recently switched email, Drive, etc. to Google and I seem to be one of the few embracing the change) so it’s difficult to plan and share that way with them. ¬†I’ in the process of becoming a Google Educator, so maybe I can make a few more converts when I’m done. ¬†¬†

4.  Facebook As lame and juvenile as FB can be, I still use it as a resource to connect with other educators.  I follow blogs, teacher-friend posts, and news sites, as well as post links to my blog posts.

5. Blogs¬†Just such a wealth of information here! ¬†To be able to share so much with so many is remarkable. ¬†When you get a glimpse into other peoples’ worlds, you can learn so much; however, they sometimes make me feel inadequate. ¬†Bloggers I follow always seem to have nicer things and better ideas than I do. ¬†Time to start ramping up my skilz. ūüėČ ¬†¬†

6. ¬†Email¬†Nothing connects my team better that “old-fashioned” email. ¬†They are always sending, sharing, asking, and planning via email. ¬†I prefer a quick text or Hang Out, but they’re a wordy bunch. ¬†As I write this, there are 4 emails about plans for this week sitting in my Primary box. ¬†Oh! ¬†And two new Twitter followers! ¬†

 

 

Symbaloo-My Newest Obsession

September6

We began using Chromebooks in my school this year and had two days of training in which we received TONS of nerdy, awesome information. First off, I LOVE Google and Chrome. ¬†So much to do; so much to be done. Our instructor was Rich Kiker¬†who never batted an eye when we had difficulty, shared amazing ideas, and most importantly, was from North East Philly. ¬†He grew up about 20 minutes from me in St. Martin’s parish (If you are lucky to be from the Great North East, you’ll understand that reference.).

The most exciting thing Rich showed us was Symbaloo.com¬†for education. OMG the possibilities are endless! ¬†Symbaloo YouTube¬†<—Watch this!¬†

You can set up an entire webmix with all your websites that you want available for your students, group them by type, and never need to post or bookmark numerous websites. This is a screenshot of my Symbaloo webmix:

Symbaloo   Your Bookmarks and favorites in the cloud

I have Social Studies in blue, ELA in orange, math in green, and spelling/typing in grey.  The white tiles are for me to use, unless there is something specific I want the kids to use.  If so, I can taylor the tile to go directly to the part of the website they need.  I am on my webmix every day playing with it and adding tiles.  

You can add other webmixes to your profile. ¬†Take a look through the gallery and you will find pages and pages of webmixes for countless education uses. The two webmixes I’ve added (so far) are¬†by GallagherTech¬†and Rich Kiker.

Check out my Symbaloo webmix and create several of your own. ¬†It’s addicting. ¬†Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

No One Ever Asks The Teachers

August5

A teacher’s Summer Vacation is the envy of all non-teachers. ¬†Honestly! We are so lucky to get three months off to do whatever we want. ¬†No work, no worries.¬†

There should be a commercial for teacher recruitment at all colleges showing blessedly bliss teachers frolicking on the beach in long gauzy dresses, you know, like feminine product commercials. ¬†Imagine, the commercial opens on a shot of waves along the shore, and a gentle voice-over extolls the benefits of Summer’s Vacation… Hail to the V. ¬†¬†

Let me point out that vacations are not three months.  They used to be, somewhere back in the 70s, 80s, and maybe 90s.  Now, summer vacation is 9 weeks at most.  Is it still more than other professions?

Absolutely.

For this I am grateful, as it allows time to relax and unwind, and frolic on the beach with my teacher friends… Which I have never actually done.

We’re all too busy to get together. ¬†And we’re even a little sick of each other come June. ¬†I spend more awake hours with my work wife then I do with my actual husband. ¬†I go in early, work all day, bring work home. Repeat. ¬†This leaves little time for doctor appointments, trips, renovations, conversations, dishes…

Sure teachers get sick days and personal days, but we don’t take them unless extremely warranted. ¬†Sub plans are a giant PITA. ¬†I will go to work unless I’m on Death’s door, and even then, I’ll still try to go. ¬†I’ve actually been sent home by the principal because I was too sick to be at work. Dedication? ¬†Nope. ¬†Lesson plans.

What Did You Do on Summer Vacation? ¬†That’s a common question asked of students at the beginning of every school year. ¬†This is done for many reasons: 1) To get to know the students, 2) To get a writing sample and determine areas of need, 3) To help the kids get to know each other, and admittedly, 4) To fill time while stretching out those incredibly long first few days.

No one ever asks the teachers this question. ¬†I suppose it’s because of jealously, and fear of an 809 piece picture show of our vacations to Tibet, Tunisia, and Thailand. Perhaps non-educators don’t want to hear about our hours spent at the spa, or our inner journey toward existentialism through emersion in Sartre¬†and Camus. ¬†Know why? ¬†Because that doesn’t happen!¬†

The following is a compilation of what teachers, when they have time to think, breathe, and pee when they want, not when they have 37 seconds, do when they have 9 weeks “off”:

  • Attend three IEP meetings, one workshop, two days of training for new computers, and a half-day professional development that has nothing to do with what was promoted in the information
  • Go car shopping, fix two flat tires, and one dead battery
  • Provide our public service via jury duty that we asked to have postponed until the summer so we wouldn’t miss any school (necessitating lesson plans)
  • Doctor appointments: Blood work, dentist, eye doctor, mammograms, trip to urgent care center for self-injurious behavior
  • Four half-day planning sessions and one full day planning session
  • Work on updating and upgrading a blog, as well as a more efficient, effective and comprehensive way of compiling lesson plans (BTW, commoncurriculum.com is awesome)
  • Take a class for credits toward teacher certification
  • Troll Pinterest for hours looking for anything that will help your students succeed
  • Read 11+ books, some of which are for work
  • Have a mini mid-life crisis
  • Clean the kitchen inside and out, top to bottom, and side to side since that hasn’t been done since last summer
  • Organize the yarn stash that kept piling up in the corner until “Someday”
  • Run 3 5k races and train for a half marathon
  • Take an actual vacation with family and catch some fireworks

So that’s that. ¬†Teachers are busy as hell in the summer. ¬†Summer Vacation is not all it’s cracked up to be; however, it’s better than working every day. ¬†I hope you all, teachers and non-teachers, had a wonderful summer, and that you’re rested and ready for the next crop of kids. ¬†Only 10 more months until our next Summer’s Vacation.

 

 

 

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