Posted tagged ‘School’

A Blogger’s Dilemma

October 13, 2011

It has been a while since I have written a blog entry. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. No. Quite the contrary. I think I had too much to say and too many topics to pick from. I could never decide what to focus on. Like, here is my dilemma.

Back in August I had planned to write about how I was living the life of my mother. Our tiny patch of three tomato plants and four cucumber plants had given us an abundance of fruit that we were unable to eat. I decided to can them. And pickle them. I had rediscovered a large blue canning pot that we had used for our camping club’s annual August boiled dinner. I invested in the jars and the pickling salt and the spices and the general paraphernalia needed to complete the job. I spent three very hot days/afternoons slicing and dicing and boiling and capping. And enjoying the unexpected little popping sound the lids made as the jars cooled and sealed.

At the end of August I planned to write about the preparations for my 51st first day of school. Yep. You heard right. I have been celebrating the first day of school as a student, a teacher and a parent for fifty one consecutive years. This year my first school day was spent at a morning rally for my school district’s teaching employees. We enjoyed reconnecting after the summer break with a continental breakfast before our district staff meeting. We listened to the usual rah-rah of the district’s welcome back message, accomplishments and plans for the upcoming school year. It’s a kind of familiar exhilaration to see familiar faces again….everyone was sun drenched and excited about getting back into the classroom. They were looking forward to getting to know this year’s crop of ‘their kids.’ But nothing made me prouder to be a HVS employee than the video presented to the district’s personnel by our new union president, Josh Gignac. I have worked on staff with Josh. I know his humor. And I know his dedication to his craft and the people he serves. He managed to put a lot of heart – and a few giggles – into his little video….and got a standing ovation for it too. PERFECT way to kick off the year. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNyGN5boO6M)

And this thus my 51st school year began.

On September 11th I was planning to write about feeling all moved and melancholy about the 10th year observance of the fall of the Twin Towers in New York. Everyone was all ‘do you remember where you were.’ Yes. I do. I was in a Kindergarten classroom. I had accidently flipped the wrong switch on my CD player and the parents helping in my classroom heard a snippet of the news reports before I switched back to Dr. Jean’s ‘Alpha-size’ song. I spent the day – along with the rest of my colleagues – teaching school to kiddos who didn’t know and didn’t care about anything other than that the weather was beautiful and we were going outside for recess. At every possible free minute we were glued to television sets. I picked my children up at their daycare and went home to the television there to see the repeated news reports about the devastation in New York over and over again. My own children were seven and a half and six years old. They seemed oblivious to what was happening. Until the next morning. Suddenly my son seemed panicked and driven to write a ‘report.’ (His genius of a second grade Teacher had made report writing a privilege in her classroom. When students were finished with their work they were ‘allowed’ to search her collection of fact books for material to write about.) That particular morning he saw pictures in the morning newspaper and we were suddenly on a search for scissors, glue sticks, tape, paper and a stapler. He put together a simplistic recap. His report read simply, ‘Planes crashed. Buildings fell. People ran.’ And it was illustrated with pictures cut from the morning news. I helped him add the last page. I meant it be a calming force in his mind. It read, “The helpers are here.” The pictures he found for that page showed firemen and police officers covered in dust, people serving food and dispensing drinks…..and praying.

It was a master piece.

He took it to school to share and later in the day his teacher approached me in the hall to thank me. She said she had struggled all night and morning about how to talk to her second graders about what had happened. She’d gone through the papers on her desk and found my son’s report. It was perfect. A horrible event perceived through the mind of a child. A perfect catalyst to allow her students to express their thoughts and fears about what they were seeing and hearing all around them in the aftermath of 9/11.

And so now it’s October. Those second graders of ten years ago are now high school seniors. My son’s final high school soccer season is winding to a close. His last homecoming dance has come and gone. We are starting to focus on college applications. My niece is getting married soon in Gatlinburg, TN. For once we contemplate embarking on an out of town trip that does NOT involve soccer. My daughter tripped over another player in a recent game, injured her back and we are now dealing with physical therapy, CAT scans and a possible MRI instead of practice, tournaments and games.

So you can see my dilemma. We are still here. I am still writing. It’s the focus that’s the problem. Welcome to my life.

Sigh.

Final Exams

January 27, 2011

Princess started studying last Friday night.  She spent the entire weekend in her room…with her books….and her notes….and her ipod…..studying.  There was a break for his soccer game on Saturday night and for her soccer game on Sunday morning.

On Sunday night she posted a message on Facebook saying that she was ‘ready’ for finals to begin and to ‘bring them on!’  She was  informed by her friends that finals wouldn’t START until Wednesday.  She had NO idea.

Her first round of high school semester finals and she ‘wasted her weekend’….she said.

Prince is an old hand at final exams.  He IS a high school Junior after all.  HE can’t study much before hand….he says.  HE needs to go over the material the night before so that it’s still FRESH in his head. 

He had a friend over on Tuesday – the night before finals started – to study together….to have dinner…..and go to the evening cross town rival basketball game which was being played ‘right around the corner.’  And I heard some laughing coming from the basement in there some where.  A wii racing game  study break, he said.

Final exams mean half days and no transportation for my kids.  HRH took Wednesday afternoon off in order to pick them up at school and deliver them home to study for the next day’s finals.  I change schools at the half day point on Fridays so I would be able to pick them up and deliver them home – or not – on Friday.  They might be taking me to my second school and then driving themselves home.  Princess has a basketball game and needs to be there early, you see.

But today is Thursday and I am sitting at my school desk writing this two and a half hours earlier than I need to be here.  Prince dropped me off and drove them to school in order to be able to drive them home after three hours of final exams. 

Did I mention that I gave them twenty bucks to go out to lunch on their way home?

Motherhood.

Sigh

The Woodwork

March 1, 2009

     I graduated from college in 1977 with a degree in Elementary Education.  There was an overflow of teachers at the time and I spent my first two years in the field as a substitute.  Actually it should have only been one.  After a year of a frustrating experiences as a substitute I had applied for a job with a new automobile plant that was opening.  I had decided that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a Teacher after all.  Maybe it wasn’t in God’s plan for me to be there.  So I decided to go to work for GM, make some money to pay off my school loans and look for something else….some other direction for my life. 

      An unbelievable amount of praying went into that decision.  And then came a crossroads.  Very literally. 

      I walked out to get the mail one day that summer and found a postcard requesting that I report for a physical and a formal interview for the position in the automotive plant.  When I walked into the house my mother was holding the telephone with a call from a teacher at one of the schools I subbed in the previous year.  She was looking for someone to take a long term position subbing for her team mate in a multi-teacher classroom.   She had heard from someone else in the building that I was an excellent substitute.

      A crossroad.  Literally.

     I took the long term subbing position and discovered that there is so much that determines a sucessful day in a classroom.  I had a chance to build a relationship with students and other Teachers….to establish myself in a building.  It was the best six weeks of my career. 

     From there I finished the year as a substitute, was hired the following year for a classroom only to be established as a ‘reserve teacher’ along with along with a number of other first year hires when the district discovered tht they had OVER hired for the year.  As a ‘reserved teacher’ we were guaranteed or full salary and a classroom every day.  We were eventually slipped into long term positions and I finished half the year in a sixth grade classroom.  Laid off again, and another year of subbing, I decided to expand my job search to California and Oklahoma (where I had attended college).  I drove home from Oklahoma mulling over a series of interviews and job offers there, only tohave my Mother meet me at the door at 2 am with a telephone message from my old school district NOT to take the job out of state because they had a position for me. 

    Second grade.  Which I loved.  And it was the first group of students that I had taught from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.  Bright.  Beautiful.  And so much fun.  We discovered the dictionary together.  We would have races to see who could find a particular word the fastest….or find a word that belonged to a specific definition.  We raced through the required Math text book so we could do the ‘fun’ math stuff like…geometry.  We explored writing genres and learning centers WAY before they became vogue.  In fact, my principal asked me if I didn’t think second graders were too young to deal with ‘learning centers.’  Poor guy must be rolling over in his grave to see what is happening in KINDERGARTENS today! 

     Laid off again I spent the next year running a day care center for school aged children at a nonprofit facility.  The program added four new schools, bus pick up and drop off  and over 100 new students in the first few months of my arrival there.  It’s still my favorite job.  I didn’t have to teach anything.  Didn’t have to make sure the kids had the skills to pass any standardized testing.  I just had to keep the kids safe and happy.   I had to make sure the program would pay for itself.  I did my own billing.  I did the payroll.  I did my own hiring.  I trained the people I hired.  I started a networking group with other Latch Key programs in other districts.  We got together once a month to share ideas for activities, snack ideas and billing issues.  My aides had ‘family groups’ that they were to keep track of, to make sure they knew when spelling tests were taken, to help with homework and to serve as a bridge between school, daycare and home to remind kids what to tell their parents about school that day.  We did plays, played softball, created art works to rival the Masters and had a campout sleepover.  They had snow ice cream for snack…and purple cows….and mountains of carrot sticks.  I scrounged grocery stores for slightly brown bananas on sale, peeled them, cut them in half, stuck popsicle sticks in them, drizzled chocolate syrup over them and froze them.  We ran 6 to 9 am and 3 to 6 pm.  We were open on snow days and during school vacations.   Being nonprofit and in a nonschool facility we were able to do that.   The summer was devoted to a full day program for children between the ages of 3 and 12.  And there were two hundred of them at various times during the week.  It was glorious and turned me into a freaking work-a-holic.  Seriously.  And the next year I added a ‘Kinder Key’ program for twelve  students.  They were dropped off at lunch time and we spent the afternoon playing.  And reading.  And exploring.  My parents for this group were awesome.  They never knew what muddied, dirty, painted state their children would be in when they picked them up and they never cared.  They loved what we did.  And I took pictures to show them.  One day, after a ridiculously  heavy and short spring rain, I noticed some marvelous puddles in the parking lot.  So I blocked off the lot and set them to work creating canals, dams and waterfalls.  We made paper boats to float in them.  And after a multitude of warnings not to get their clothes wet, I turned around to find five of them sitting in a puddle as if it were a canoe, splashing their hearts out.  What a mess!  What a wonderful time.  And fortunately we had just finished a play so I was able to send them home dressed in ‘Tom Sawyer’ costumes with their soggy, muddy outfits in a plastic bag.  Too cute for a parent to be angry.   Trust me.

      After that year I was recalled to a teaching position.  I taught Kindergarten for five years, first grade for six years and then back to Kindergarten for the duration.  Last year I became the Technology  Teacher in my building.  I see 733 students a week.

 Substitute

Sixth Grade

Substitute

Second Grade.

Latch Key

Kindergarten

First Grade

Kindergarten

Technology

     After 30 +  years in ‘the  business’  this  Teacher has seen a lot of kids pass through her life.  Some kids I will remember forever.  And living on the outskirts of the community where I teach, I seem to run into them all over the place.  In the drive through windows.  In the grocery store aisles.  At church.   In the same community theater/music production audiences.  At sports functions.  Serving me at the Chinese restaurant.  Bringing their own children to Kindergarten round up.   Yeah.  That one in particular freaked me out the first time.  And it freaks THEM out when I can still pull up a correct name.  It amazes me  at times too. 

     And there are current reminders of my longetivty in the teaching field.  One of my favorite Kindergarteners is preparing to marry the son of my current school’s secretary.  Her very best Kindergarten friend is doing her student teaching in my building…in Kindergarten.   And the teacher I did that very first long term subbing position for is now the administrator in the building where I teach.  The baby that was born during that break, her son, turned thirty last fall.  I remember his name too.

 They come creeping out of the woodwork.

 And I forget that…..which is why this always makes me cry.  Always.[