This Side of Third

…and second

Twitter Love?


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.



Symbaloo-My Newest Obsession


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 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


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?


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, 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.




I Just Need to Vent. Sorry.


I’m over it.  I’m over being a teacher.  I’m done.  I just don’t need a new school, or grade, or student body.  It’s more than that.

I’m tired of students not coming prepared.  I’m tired of lazy students.  I’m tired of students that can’t/won’t think for themselves.  I’m sick of parents that do (or don’t do) things that set their children up for failure.

The kids are unable to problem-solve.  They are unable to think outside the box.  If it’s not right in front of their faces, it doesn’t exist.  And if it doesn’t exist, they won’t attempt any other course of action.  They just stop working.

I don’t understand.  How are these kids going to survive “out there?”  I know it’s only third grade, and I know they’re only 8 or 9, but they are in for a rude awakening in the coming years and nothing their teachers are doing seems to be getting through.  Are my expectations too high?  Am I worrying for nothing?

I have two students who can’t pay attention for more than 20 seconds at a time.  I’m not exaggerating.  I timed them both today.  The moms both say they see this same behavior at home and are frustrated by it.  *Spoiler alert: I’m going to yell.  IF YOU’RE FRUSTRATED BY IT, AND THE TEACHERS  REPEATEDLY TELL YOU ABOUT IT, THEN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Go to the pediatrician and talk to him/her about medication for your child.

I’m fine with that not being the first choice, or the first course of action you want to try.  Medication isn’t always the answer.  However, when all other options are exhausted, the child’s attention is getting worse, he’s disorganized, and FAILING, perhaps you need to rethink the medication option.

Maybe it’s because I’m not a mom, but I don’t understand why you wouldn’t at least try that option for the benefit of your child.  How can a parent stand by and let their child struggle in school?  Shouldn’t you want to do everything you can so your child is successful?

And then there’s the general public’s opinion of teachers.  On March 10, I posted about a friend and her trouble with her school district.  While there are many that support her, there are many that spoke out against her (including her own school board), as well as teachers in general.

Every article I read on the Internet (right there’s my first problem) has hundreds of negative comments about teachers and the profession.  I’m not just talking about run-of-the-mill bad-mouthing.  I’m talking vitriolic hatred for teachers.  It’s disheartening and depressing.  I’m questioning why I still teach.  Why am I in a thankless profession?  Teachers are thought of akin to criminals.  Is that what I want to do?

Maybe I’m just old.  Maybe I’m jaded.  Maybe I’m tired, overworked, stressed out in general.  Maybe I should step away from the red Moscato “grape juice.”  But what else can I do?

What else can I do that gives me partial summers off?  And a week at Christmas?  And where else can I have a child turn to me at the end of a half hour battle of wills and say, “I’m ready to make up.”  Where else can I make fun of kids and they give it right back to me?

I have some thinking to do.



21 Days


Forgive me blog, for I have laxed. It’s been about three months since my last post. In that time we’ve had Thanksgiving, Christmas, a cancelled 5k that may have been a scam for money, a cancelled 5k due to bad weather, the New Year, 5 new pounds, and about 27 snow days.

As if that wasn’t enough, the last three weeks in my life have been In(bleeping)sane. I’m not one to bitch and complain about things. I was brought up in a family of “suck it up and move on.” However, we all have our limits and thresholds. Apparently my threshold is three weeks. It’s a bit of a wordy tale, but there’s a point. Trust me. Let’s begin…

It began on the 17th with a feel-good trip to the church to help with the food mission. We packed up tons of food for the needy and organized it all by type. I spent time with my sisters-in-law, and I was able to help bless others in need. I should’ve seen it coming. My principal says that no good deed goes unpunished.

Week one began with MLK, Jr. Day, which was by all accounts a great day. I stayed in bed all day with Stephen King. Sigh. If you like creepy, if you liked The Shining (the remake, not the original. The remake is so much creepier.), you need to read Doctor Sleep. Grab your Kindle and download it. I’ll wait for you.

At the end of the day, the Hubs ran out to do me a favor and ended up crashing my mother’s car. He wasn’t hurt, but the car was totaled. Awesome. They already aren’t the best of friends.

That night and the following day I lost it on him. I let words fly that should make me ashamed. I really didn’t think we could come back from that. It was on. To top it off, we were now snowed in for the next two days. No school, no plows (dead end, backwoods, last-on-the-list road).

We’d already had 5 missed school days this marking period. The final day of the MP was moved; however, that extra time was now eaten up by those two snow days. The last two days of the week were two-hour delays. Teachers had no choice but to cram tests down the kids’ throats to get grades done. In addition, I had 3 students that had IEPs due the following week. Before I could write them, I had to test the kids. When?! We never have school! So there I was, furiously testing kids with the Brigance for two days. Huge test. Great fun for all. And one student was absent the only two days we had school that week. Additionally, that Thursday night we told my mother about her car. She’s in CA on a trip. It went better than I anticipated, but I still felt like utter crap.

So that weekend I spent writing two IEPs and visiting my father-in-law in the hospital. He’d been there a week already, in and out of ICU, with no real sign of improvement. We also spent time with my mother-in-law, making sure she had everything she needed. She’s not the most…stable…person, so having her husband in the ICU for a week was quite difficult. For everyone.

Week two began with me finally getting my third student tested and her IEP written, and assessing my students on their goals for report cards. We were all exhausted at the end of the day. We had another two-hour delay that Wednesday, but I didn’t care. I had my grades done. And then my principal came to see me.

Apparently, two brothers went home the prior night and told their parents I had yelled and pulled another child’s hair and they were very upset by this. I’ll cop to the yelling all day long. I did it. But don’t you DARE lie about me touching a student. Are you *&@$$% kidding me?! WTH?! I was floored, and really hurt. My principal, being the pal that she is (see what I did there?), made some calls, talked to other kids, and told me not to worry. It was a misunderstanding, apparently. No apology from the kids, though. Thanks guys. Fortunately, a friend who’s out on maternity leave came for a visit that day, and I was able to hold her three-week old girl. I don’t care how crappy life is; hold a newborn. Your life will instantly improve.

The Hubs and I continued to visit my in-laws in their respective places (MIL had a raging head cold and couldn’t go to the hospital). I also had more conversations with my mother about the car, including the one where she told me the repairs would cost $13,000. Excuse me while I go throw up my guts. A call from her on Friday night let me know that they are totaling the car on Monday, and that I needed to go clean everything out. The body shop is closed on weekends. Great. Call for a sub and write plans. And go to the hospital and my MIL’s.

Guys, I thought for sure this was the end of my FIL. He was grey~sweatshirt grey. It’s one thing to watch a family member at possibly one of his last moments. That’s just a part of life, and I’m OK with it. It’s another thing to watch the other members of the family watch their father. That’s what bothered me the most.

And now we’re on week three (are you still with me?). Monday I went in early to set up my substitute’s plans and activities. The school had called a two-hour delay but I wouldn’t be available to go in later. Just as I set my pile in the center of the desk, the call came in that they cancelled school. I wish I was lying.

Hubs and I cleaned out the car Monday in the pouring rain. I was just happy it hadn’t turned to ice yet. Tuesday, after our trip to the hospital (I’m VERY happy to say he was a different man that night. A complete 180.). We stopped by the MIL. I stayed in the car (headache~can’t imagine why) and let Hubs take care of Mom. Remember my comment from earlier? About her stability? Well, because I didn’t come in to see her, she told Hubs that I never cared about her anyway. So twice in two weeks I had people saying things about me that weren’t true. Deep breath. Suck it up and move on.

Another Wednesday, another snow day. Next! Thursday I was observed by my AP, and my SpEd program facilitator. I don’t know about you, but getting observed is the LEAST favorite thing I do as a teacher. I can’t tell you how much I hate it.

I then spent six hours that night writing a submission for a part-time position I’d LOVE to get. It’s a great opportunity to facilitate an online community in special education. So excited! I sent that out first thing Friday morning. Whoop whoop!

Friday morning I was asked to stop in and see the AP after school. That’s usually not a good thing. It wasn’t. Apparently my observation didn’t go well and I now have homework over the weekend. I need to critique my lesson against a rubric, and then we’ll have our evaluation meeting after school on Monday. I now have three days to obsess over the state of my observation. I did my homework, and she’s right. I suck. Sigh.

That was the last straw. I couldn’t be strong and suck it up anymore. Three weeks of this was enough. I was trying to keep it together for the Hubs, but I was just so mentally and emotionally tired. I cried as soon as he said, “Are you ok?” I’d kept the house in order, and dealt with the car wreck, visited my in-laws, and dealt with job stress (I haven’t even mentioned the fact that even though we’ve had 8 snow days, the MD Powers-That-Be aren’t moving the deadline for AltMSA submission.). I couldn’t keep it together anymore.

Remember when I said there was a point? Here it is:

This is us. This is teaching. This is what we do. This is everything that doesn’t get mentioned, as we focus on our job of nurturing our students. We hide ourselves, our home lives, when we’re in front of the kids. We don’t want them to worry. We don’t want them to know anything is wrong. So many of our kids come from homes where things are CONSTANTLY wrong. It’s our responsibility to be there for them, and to give them a safe, stable environment. We don’t want our babies to be concerned about anything else.

These are the things in our lives that the parents don’t see. They send their kids to us assuming that we’ve got our act together, and because we care about the parents, as well as the kids, we act like the only concern in our lives are their kids. The parents trust us with their little one’s lives. We can’t show them we’re vulnerable.

These are the lives of teachers. For the benefit of our students, we suck it up and move on. We often put ourselves last, whether we like it or not. I wish more people understood this, and that’s why I put all this out there. I wanted to let other teachers know that at least one person understands. One person knows all the other stuff that goes on behind the scenes. This one person is behind you all the way, and wishing you a peaceful second half of the school year.






Another Day, Another Injury


Wow.  What a morning.  Yes, I know it’s only 10:30, but it’s already been that kind of morning.

The classroom teacher, my GenEd co-teacher, is out today so I spent part of the morning getting her stuff set up.  No biggie.  I got her day together, I got my day together, I got my one particular student set up, I watered the hermit crabs.  All’s well.

The kids came in so I wanted to be sure they knew what was going on so I called out directions, reminded some students that they had work to catch up on, answered questions, and generally had a good opening.  One student had his hair buzzed down over the weekend and also arrived wearing a small tank top.  It was 34 degrees this morning.  I had him take off his Michelin Man coat, and went to the nurse to get him a better shirt.

While there, I was reminded that I was supposed to cover a classroom for Extended Team Planning.  Totally forgot.  I only needed to cover from 8:45-9:00.  It was now 8:59.  Ran there to cover for all of one minute, apologizing profusely to the girl that covered for me, then I went back and got the boy a shirt.  He was very happy.  🙂  His smile made my day.

My student, “Steve”, has not been feeling well for almost a week now.  He’s snotty, stuffy, coughing, etc.  He maxed out today and had had enough of this cold.  He was able to articulate, “My head, my nose.”  Then we really let me know how he felt.

His cereal went flying and Steve refused to clean it up.  And by refused, I mean hitting, scratching, attempted bites, scratching (repetition intended), and yelling.  Alrighty then.  Like any other SpEd teacher I spelled out what was going to happen next in kind, quiet words and visuals.  One finger up (no, not that finger) “First you’re going to help me clean up, ” second finger up, “then we’re going to go to the nurse.”  Nope.  It became necessary to call for backup who helped me help Steve clean up the mess, took him for a time-out, then to the nurse.  Love my back-up!

So there I was this morning, at the nurse again.  Thankfully it wasn’t a bite this time, only a few scratches.  Our nurse wiped me down with 2(HO) and I was good to go.  Until I decided to take another precaution and wipe it all down again with Germ-X.  For the love of God, don’t ever do that to yourself.  Holy crap that stung!

So my guy is gone for the day and probably tomorrow.  I miss him already but glad he’s home resting.  :\   On the plus side, the Hubs bought me a sports bra yesterday as a running gift without me being there.  It’s not sturdy enough for running, but kept the girls firmly locked down through the morning’s activities.  Awesome!


Another Lesson in Perseverence…or Stupidity


It’s probably stupidity.  Honestly, it’s me.  Maybe I shouldn’t say stupid.  Let’s call it strong-willed, hard-headed, or even prideful.  Stubborn?  Whatever.  It’s me doing what I know I shouldn’t do, and not doing what I should do.  Le’ me ‘splain.

I am a runner in the loosest sense of the word.  My best 5k time is 37:00.  That’s roughly a 12-minute mile.  Certainly not a Boston qualifying time.  I typically don’t enjoy running; I force myself out the door.  I do it because it’s healthy, I give myself goals to work toward (races), and it’s helping me to lose weight.  I’d much rather be at home reading, knitting, cross-stitching, or writing.  Sadly, none of those will help me tighten up that which jiggles.

I went for my run last night, slogging through the first intervals on my 10k app (apparently, I’m not happy enough running only 3.1 miles).  I got through the first two 8-minute sections and headed down the last hill for my last 8 minutes.  I realized I was actually enjoying myself…for the first time, ever.  I was loving this!  I’d broken through that proverbial wall and was in the zone!

CRASH!  My left ankle rolled, sending my left foot inward, landing me on my right calf, hip, and hand.  OH MY GOD!  I rolled over on my back, threw my arms to the side, and lie there in the middle of the road.  My iPod took a hit on the way down, and that stupid stick I run with (my husband thinks I’m going to be attacked by bears when I run) was the only sound in nature as it continued to roll down the rest of the hill.

The first thing I did was to see if I ripped my capris-they’re my favorite.  Then I limped to the bottom of the hill, caught my breath and ran back up, cursing at myself the whole way. If Kerri Strug and Joy Johnson can carry on, so could I.  I will triumph!

I have a race next Saturday, a race that I think I have a chance to finish strong.  It’s a very small field, and I think it may have more walkers than runners.  I may have a chance to place better than 13th in my age group!  I’m so irritated!!!  I was finally enjoying myself!  I broke that wall and left it in the dust!  I have a race in 9 days!  WTH?!

The first thing I did when I got home I iced the ankle with a bag of pierogi for a few minutes and tried to stay off of it.  The Hubs gave me a bag of frozen bananas later to use, but that just annoyed me.  I was fine.  It’s all good!

So today I’m wearing a skirt and slippers.  Mr. Blackwell is rolling over in his grave.  The skirt is not to show off my battle wound.  I’d rather hide that.  The skirt is because I can’t wear pants.  The slippers are because I can’t wear a shoe on my left foot (my ankle is the size of a tennis ball).  I look lovely.

So here I am…swollen, in (some) pain, scratched up, and irritated.  I threatened the students with showing them my ugly leg if they don’t behave.  I hope my silent lesson in appearances and perseverance get through to the kids.  I may need to teach a specific lesson though.  I don’t have the most, um, aware students.












Writing is Fundamental


This Side of Third is sitting at a table with her peers, waiting to begin a training titled “Fundamentals in the Sentence Writing Strategy-Part 1 Sentence Composing” Zzzzzzzz. I can’t imagine how this is going to go. My degree is a B.S. in English-Writing. I think I may be a bit bored. Do I want to say bored when I know countless hours went into this training? I think I do. At least I’m with friends. Everything is good when you’re with friends who can appreciate your sarcastic humor. 🙂 I’ll let you know how this goes….. OK, here’s how it goes: I’ve already missed the first five minutes of the introduction because I tuned out.

Aaaaaannnnnd we’re back. Wow. What a training. I was both bored and interested. How does that happen? I appreciate the message the training team was sending, and I can tell they really like what was being presented. It’s just that I felt like I was back in grade school learning the basics of writing. I realize that not everyone is the same and we haven’t all had similar education; however, I do believe it was a bit (wait for it) fundamental.

A light bulb just glowed over my head. I think (duhn, duhn, duhn) I’m a writing snob. I’m not saying I’m a genius, or even Nobel prize worthy, but I am able to throw together the written word pretty successfully. What kept me so engaged was the opportunity to point out (politely and under my breath) the errors in the presentation. In case you don’t know me, or haven’t noticed, I can be a bit…snarky.

I know the training was not geared toward older students/adults, and that it was a FUNDAMENTAL thing, but the Grammar Nazi (Grammar Bitch?) in me reared its ugly head so many times. Passive voice, infinitives, misinformation about sentence structure… I have a friend who is a GN as well. I picked up my phone to text her at least 6 or 7 times to tell her what was going on. I refrained. She’ll find out for herself when she has her training. Why give up the spoilers?

I don’t know this annoyed me so much. Maybe because writing is something I care about. I love to write–I have since I was young. I don’t share myself, or my thoughts and feelings well. I’m not a talker. I’m not one to open up. Give me a pen though and I can write it down and get it all out. Even turn it into a book.

No matter what happened at the training today, I have something new to use with my kids. Hopefully it’s a tool that will make them better writers, or think about what they write instead of just getting words on the page. Time to bust out my Writer’s Workshop binder and add today’s training into the mix.

No matter what your next training, may it be fruitful and give you the tools you need for your kids. 🙂





Wow.  Watching the NYC marathon today was very inspiring.  I am a fledgeling runner who has never run further than 3.15 miles.  My best time is 37:00 minutes.  My love for running is almost non-existent.  I do it because it’s healthy, helps me lose weight, and is something I can personally do to reach a goal (no matter how small or goofy; like getting to the next stop sign, or not throwing up at the end of a 5k.).

Today I watched Tatyana McFadden complete the first-ever marathon grand slam.  A grand slam means that she won the London, Boston, Chicago, and NYC marathons this year.  A-MA-ZING.

Tatyana is a MD girl who was born in Russia and left in an orphanage by her birth family.  Her American parents adopted her, brought her to the U.S. and immersed Tatyana in a world of sports.  I can only imagine the training that went into her daily schedule for her to accomplish this feat.  Not to mention the tenacity and self-confidence that’s required to pull this off.  I’m now training for a 10k and I can barely get myself out the door, let alone feel good about it.

This is the kind of perseverance we try to instill in our students on a daily basis.  We are always encouraging our kids to stick to it, keep going; applauding their efforts, no matter how small they may be.  We also push them to be better than they think they can be.  Even as a special educator, I am very hard on my kids and have high expectations.  I had one administrator say that I almost come across as being mean to the kids.  I’m not, and I’m lucky the students know me better.  They know I want their best, I’ll do what I can to get them there, whether it’s tough love, or show tunes.

Handicapping conditions are no reason to expect any less from people than their best.  Physical handicaps, intellectual handicaps, or both, never underestimate someone’s ability.  We don’t know what any of us are capable of until we try.  Be an encourager to all, regardless.  Case in point…

Tatyana was left in that orphanage most likely due to her Spina Bifida.  She is now a Paralympian athlete, completing marathons in a wheelchair.  She’s won 4 marathons in a wheelchair.  That’s 26.2 miles x 4.  I teared up when I watched her cross the line to capture the grand slam title. Then I got off the couch, got dressed, and went for a run.  I am nowhere near marathon level, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give my little run the best.

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