Thursday, December 31, 2009

This Year

This might have been up there for the most tumultuous of years for me. I can't believe it's over. Is this what grown ups mean by the time passing so quickly without you realizing it?

Things that happened this year:
--I was fired. This scared the hell out of me, but it was also a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I learned that being that miserable is never worth it, and that my sanity has to come first.

--I told myself I was out of teaching for good.

--I got to work in photography. This is the most exciting development of the year. I have done a lot of freelance work for the local paper, as well as some wedding-related photography.

--I subbed in charter schools. Some I had a good time, some was not so good. Mostly I was glad to have a little money coming in again.

--My boyfriend was supportive, emotionally and financially.

--I decided to take another teaching job.

--I went upstate twice, once to the west to visit a good friend and once with the boyfriend to the Catskills. I went home to Seattle once. I went home with the boyfriend to visit his family for the holidays. (Which was lovely and quiet. His parents are so nice. Plus they have an adorable kitty!)

--We moved into a fantastic apartment!

--I became an elementary teacher. It has been very stressful and very busy and I am starting to question it. I don't think I'm doing a good enough job, and it bothers me that I'm letting the kids down, while giving myself too much of a burden. I can't keep up with the lesson planning, so my lessons aren't very good. My class can be really disrespectful to one another--stealing things (bigger than pencils), calling names. But they are awesome in assemblies and on field trips--interested and fairly polite. A few of my students like me. I need to get better at being in contact with parents.

I never really know what a year will bring, because I can't plan for the future. But I would never have predicted any of the things that ended up happening. I guess that means it has been an adventure? :) I have been able to spend some quality time with family and friends, though, and I hope that continues well into the next decade! I thank any of you who have been reading what I sporadically post, and the support, and friendship, even if it's only virtual (so far). :)

I have more posts in my head, about goals for next year and even a decade in review like Ms M and Nancy. All the best to you all this new year! Stay safe tonight!

Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Today sucked.

Yesterday was pretty decent. Notice I rarely say a day was "good." I'm too cautious and superstitious and realistic to think an entire day with ten year olds can be accurately described as just "good."

Today was not decent. I used up all of my week's patience yesterday and my two worst boys used up all of their decency. Combined with two extra periods of teaching, this made for an unhappy and decidedly cranky teacher.

Chatty Chad was removed from the class a long time ago. Don't even know when and never really dwelled on it because Loud Leo immediately took the forefront of the class. And continues to occupy it, finding new and different ways to be completely inappropriate every goddamn day. Deliberately malicious, too.

And of course there's another one that I haven't mentioned. He came to the class maybe in October and what a treat it's been. Not. He's beyond just chatty. He never ever stops talking. I'll call him Talkative Ted. He's also angry and disrespectful to just about every single person he encounters. Kids, adults, whoever.

Leo and Ted both had decent days yesterday and horrible days today. I am ready to throw them and myself out the window.

I've been finding excuses for weeks and could easily continue to, but I think it might finally be time for a mental health day. I don't think I've ever taken one before January in the last five years. (Of course, last fall I was a complete and utter mess; maybe I *should* have taken a day or two off.)

Even though Christmas is only three weeks away, December still seems like a long and lonely slog. I want to make it. And I want to make it past a week of January. Last year continues to weigh on me and when I'm frustrated and annoyed at the stupid shit kids do, I'm like, wow, and it was so much worse last year! How did I do it?! How did I survive? The answer is I wasn't really; I was taking pills to stop the daily crying and pills to let me sleep a few hours. I don't want to be that person again. I don't think I am. I certainly don't feel like an awesome teacher, but I don't think I'm the worst teacher in the world. Leo does his worst stuff when I'm not there, and though my class is quite cuckoo pants, they are much better for me than for their electives teachers.

Anyway, it's late and I needed to be in bed an hour ago. Never enough time! That's one thing I really am trying to work on. I'm getting there, slowly, sort of.

Monday, November 30, 2009

last day of november?!

I spent like an hour cleaning up my room at the end of the day. Every afternoon I run around, dashing between my desk and another part of the classroom, telling myself what I'm doing, and then halfway through a task remembering to start another one. It's completely crazy and I've totally lost my mind.

This afternoon my room was a big ol' mess, because I wasn't in it all day. And though it was annoying, it felt kind of cozy tidying up. I was making order out of the disorder. Putting away stray books. Piling homework together. Stacking teacher guides on my desk. Recycling the loose papers floating around. Writing my morning message (I've been lazy about that just recently and doing them in the morning).

I was able to map out most of my general plans for the entire month of December today. That feels fantastic. There is certainly plenty more work to be done to execute those plans, but to have something set relieves me to no end.

I spent a lot of time at the copier tonight too. I've also been lazy about getting things together ahead of time. We have to put in our copies to be done for us (which I think it ridiculous, but no one cares what I think), which means we have to have our shit together in advance. Sometimes this is a lot to ask of me.

But I put in copies for the next two tests I'll be giving. And for the next two weeks of social studies packets that we'll need. I have to figure out my writing stuff, which in theory should be the easiest since I've done that for the last five years, but this year I kind of hate it. It's so vague and I have so many kids who don't do anything at all and writing is the kind of thing where if you don't want to work there's really nothing to do and it's also easy to make dumb excuses to not do it or not do it well.

I want to have my kids put together a holiday thing. They actually had an awesome idea for a Thanksgiving play combining A Christmas Carol and Charlie Brown. But alas it was all practically last minute and there ended up being no time to work it out or perform it. I've kind of glossed over holidays in the past. It's much easier and kind of expected in middle school. Here in elementary land, the holidays are embraced and can take over a classroom. I feel a little resistant, but really it should be fun and easy too. (Especially with an EdHelper subscription, which has tons of holiday activities and subject work.) Since it's only three weeks away, that means we need to start planning what to do this week. I'm sure my kids will come up with a great idea.

Last Wednesday ended with me allowing Goofball to give me a hug, but then literally having to pry him away from me. This morning I was putting something somewhere and arms flew around me from behind. It startled me! But of course it was Goofball, smiling blissfully. I rolled my eyes and said hello. Really, I must start teaching that boy some manners. :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thank you, Thanksgiving.

These four days have been so perfectly, exactly what I wanted and needed.

I got to sleep! Like a normal person! Eight to ten hours a night for four nights in a row! It's amazing. During the week I can never ever get enough sleep (mostly because it's impossible to get to bed early enough to be well-rested by six am)(and I know a lot of teachers get up before that. I don't know how you do it!), and then two days of weekends is just enough to get a taste before the early mornings again.

I promised myself I would not work this weekend. However, I brought my school computer home because technically I have stuff I should do. (Lesson plans? What?) And for less than an hour this evening, I actually did a little and put together a couple activities for the week. But other than that, I've hardly even thought about school. The mental break has been such a blessing!

I spent some time with my friends on Thanksgiving, and I spent some nice time with my boyfriend. Nothing super exciting, but really enjoyable. We went out to eat once or twice, and we played some games at home. It's so relaxing and peaceful to be together or at least in the same room when it's not a school/work night.

November is such a weird month with all the days off, but still crazy stressful. December seems really long, with the beautiful vacation at the end and no little breaks to ease the stress. However, I think I can work it so it will be a little more bearable. The weekends are already filling up, and a family member will be visiting, and I think I get to hang out with an old blogger friend that I've never met! I'm hoping to get a little photography in as well.

I keep thinking about last year and comparing. I do feel stressed and I do work too much, just like last year. Like last year, at times I feel a LOT of frustration and anger about my class (certain misbehaviors and my inability to prevent/fix them), admin issues, and work/life balance. However, I'm not crying. I don't exactly feel successful--there's far too much that I'm supposed to do every single day to ever feel like I'm caught up or where I need to be professionally. But I don't feel despair. I'm not sure that I felt despair last year, but I should have. :) I guess we'll see how December starts off this week.

I haven't been on here much, and I'm grateful if anyone is still reading. I have a lot going on in my head, I promise (including more silly/cute quotes from Goofball), and a lot I should be exploring and reflecting here. It's hard to make the time and make the effort when I only have one or two hours at home before I have to go to bed again. Work/life balance is tricky, you know? :)

I probably shot myself in the foot by not working this weekend, and I probably will need to work too late this week. I will do my best not to make it excessive though. I will make more of an effort to pop on here. I like sharing things and I like having a record to go back and look at.

I hope you all had a wonderfully restful weekend and wish you a happy Monday!

Friday, November 27, 2009


I have some amazing people in my life: a boyfriend who loves me and treats me well, friends to talk and play and take photos with. They know that I'm weird but they love me anyway. :)

I love my apartment. It's spacious and the heating works and the view is lovely. It's convenient to trains and plenty of shopping.

I have a job. The hours and the stress and the misbehavior get to me often, and I have a couple kids I'd like to throw out the window, but Goofball loves giving me hugs and makes me laugh, and one of my girls included me in her list of things she's thankful for. We did a little "performance" for an assembly this week, and they were nervous but it was really cute. My colleagues are really great and supportive too.

I have money! My salary isn't very high, but since I don't spend a lot, my cushion is back where it used to be and I feel no more of the anxiety of not having a big enough paycheck, or of not getting one at all. In fact I have enough that I have demanded to myself that I take a trip very soon! We had wanted to go to Costa Rica for Christmas, but the prices haven't been low enough. Plus my passport is expiring in a couple months and I have been too lazy to get things together. But once I do, off to see the world I go!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Funny boys

M: How'd you get in here?!
Me: What here?
M: The park. I didn't see you.
Me: Maybe I used magic.
M: You don't have magical powers!
Me: What?!!
M: Well, the only powers I know you have are teaching and charms.


Me, hands on hips, surveying the cafeteria as my students line up.
Goofball: Wonder Woman!
A second later
Goofball: Wonder Woman and Superman to save the day! (puts arms up in superhero pose)


Goofball: You said something about my mother.
Shorty: No I didn't.
Goofball: Yes you did!
Shorty: No I didn't.
Goofball: Liar! Liar liar pants on fire!
Shorty: [glances down at pants]
Me, laughing: Well, are your pants on fire?
Goofball: Your pants are burning!


Me, knitting at my desk during inside recess.
Tall Kid and M rush over.
M: Miss, you know how to knit?
Tall: Of course she knits, she's a mother!
Me and M: What!
Tall: Well, she's a wife.
M: Naww.
Tall: She's got the ring. It's a small diamond, though. (Oh burn! My ring is not on the ring finger; it was a first anniversary present from the boyfriend.)


Student: Miss, you're lucky.
Me: Why, because I'm so awesome?
Student: No, because you don't have to wear a uniform.

Monday, November 02, 2009

hello from the other side of30

Thanks for the birthday wishes, friends, and thanks for the knock of reality. :)

My birthday started off quietly; I couldn't sleep past nine, but then found out that it was actually 8. My morning consisted of some knitting and errand-running, and then in the afternoon a handful of friends came over. We went out to take pictures and be silly in Brooklyn, which was good fun. And the sun was out too, we got the last of the light, and then ended with some tasty pizza.

I kept forgetting it was my birthday, and then just as I was getting the hang of it, it was over. Isn't that just how it goes. :)
I'm still kind of unnerved at the number, but I guess I will get used to it eventually, eh? :)
I feel like I should have some More Deep Thoughts about this, but my brain is completely useless lately. Maybe now I can blame that on age? :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

a week left

I feel like I'm facing an expiration date--a week from today is my thirtieth birthday.

I'm a bit freaked out. It's such a big number, a grown-up number, a mature and sensible number. And in my head I've been fighting against it for awhile now, nonono, I can't possibly be thirty. It's an impossibility; I will never be a real 30 year old!

I know a lot of people in their early thirties. God, even that sounds so painfully adult! But they're perfectly lovely, normal people who I consider to be about my age. And everyone raves about being in their 30s--how relaxed and real and enjoyable they are, unlike the more unstable or capricious twenties.

I've had some amazing adventures in the last ten years--I visited three continents and many states. I worked in AmeriCorps, in offices, and in schools. I moved to New York City on my own and successfully lived independently. I somehow found an amazing boyfriend. I've even made a few friends. In this decade I have grown and matured (I think) and kind of established who I am.

So if all these important things have already happened, what is supposed to happen in this next decade? I mean, I know I won't suddenly turn into someone else, but surely I'm supposed to have some kind of goal? Some kind of five-year plan? Some kind of self-concept combining me and adulthood? It all seems so foreign! I don't even own a pair of galoshes!
Yes, I know this is all so silly and ridiculous. It's just a number and nothing will actually change. But it seems like something *should* change. I wanted to do something symbolic for my significant birthday, but I couldn't think of anything. How appropriate. This date has been looming over my head--I kept wanting to make one of those "things to do before I'm 30" lists, but couldn't be arsed to think of anything. I had wanted to get into a workout routine to get in shape...but that hasn't happened. It's been like two or three weeks since I've made it to the gym.

Here are some things I would like to happen in the next few years: continue traveling to new places; moving somewhere I can imagine living long-term; "settling down" (god, how cliche, but I do have that aforementioned great boyfriend...); getting to work on photography; maybe learning some new skill or something.
I feel like a lot hinges on this year, and I also feel like school is continuing to hamper my personal life. I'm feeling anxious about how this new age will begin and if I do something wrong I will spend the next ten years being lazy and a nobody and I'll live in limbo forever.
Sigh. I'm sorry to ramble so selfishly and inarticulately. It's really been weighing on my mind.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Happy Monday

This morning I was brutally struck down with a vicious bug--the cleaning bug! Instead of promptly getting dressed and such, I tidied up the living room. A lot of mornings I feel the urge to wash and put away dishes too. I wonder if it's a subconscious delay tactic, because really, it's a little strange that I would actually *want* to clean up!

I must say that I would really be in favor of a four-day work week every week. Last week, it was so nice to have a whole extra day to relax and then go back to school on a day later than Monday.

That said, it was a pretty nice day today. For writing, I had them read an article about our social studies topic. In their groups they took turns reading aloud to each other and then they answered the questions together. It went pretty well, nearly everyone was on task and there was a good amount of cooperation and accountable talk. I thought about having each group write up some kind of chart or something too--maybe a sentence about one of the questions or something. But as it was we ran out of time, so there was just a whole-group share out. I was pleased with it though.

I started an extra sciencey thing--planting seeds. I found some flowers and beans and wee little plastic pots at Target, and last week each group chose which seeds they wanted and put them in some soil. I also 'planted' a few batches in clear plastic containers, because I remember doing that in middle school and it was neat because you can see everything the seed does. The kids are already really excited about them--during the day they kept going over to exclaim over the growth, and I had to keep ushering them back to their seats. I was very glad to see their excitement, though. :)

So one of my favorite kids said some funny things today. I'll call him Dimples, because, well, you can probably guess. He smiles a lot and pretty good at focusing and working hard, but can get really hyper, especially in the afternoon. Sometimes I go up to him and say, "Do you need a wiggle?" and he says yes, and I grab his shoulders and wiggle them back and forth. Anyway, today during the end of the craziness, he came up to me and goes, "You know, a piece of bacon looks like Long Island." And then later he was bouncing around at his table (literally), I said severely, "Take a. chill. pill." He goes, "I need one!" I replied, "I know." Another kid piped up, "Take two." Ha!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Difference a Kid Makes!

I had such a nice day today. I'm sure you can guess why--no Loud Leo!

Chatty Chad is no longer an issue (because the issue went over my head, and rightly so) and so now Loud Leo is the primary issue in the class. I cannot control or manage him--he often chooses not to control or manage himself. He's loud, overtly opinionated, and a bully. He seems to like 'starting' things. It's such a constant that a lot of it doesn't even bother me anymore, because really, it could be so much worse. He only rarely throws things, he's not violent, and he isn't usually disrespectful to me.

Anyway, without him we had a lovely day! Our writing period was heavenly, I tell you--hard work and good work from every single student! The classroom was quiet as all the kids busily wrote clear paragraphs using specific details. I was so proud! Kick ass!

I did a bit of science at the end of the day and it was kind of a mess and chaotic. It was annoying for me (I hate chaos!), but the kids were having a good time, even though not much was really happening. Give kids a bit of dirt and some seeds and there you go!

I've been trying to work on my patience and voice level. For the first few weeks I was even-keeled and everything, but for the past few weeks I have definitely regained an edge to my tone at times. Not like that's necessarily a bad thing; I think a good teacher needs to have That Tone sometimes. I was probably relying on it more lately instead of occasionally. So this week I'm trying to find a better balance and remind myself to say encouraging things to students, as a group and as individuals.

They do seem to love me back a little bit. Occasionally they like to do something stupid and notice that I'm smiling or laughing, and they point at me, "Miss, you're smiling!" And I hide behind a hand and deny it and they giggle and say, "Yes you are!"

All this to say that this week has actually been pretty decent so far, and, AND I left school at six o' clock today! I could have left sooner had I not dallied chatting with my teacher neighbor, but also it kind of felt wrong. Surely there's some more I should be working on! Surely I'm just getting started on my to-do list!

But, and I fully realize this gives the Universe license to kick my ass back to last Tuesday, I'm kind of, sort of, actually....getting ahead. That four hours on the weekend was definitely a good idea. I've got this week done, and next week (complete with copies ready!), and have started on the week after that. God forbid, I may really and truly *actually* get to get home at a decent hour for the rest of the week!

Monday, October 05, 2009

I'm fine

I just went on an iTunes shopping spree! I now own a bunch of cheesy pop songs that I'm ashamed make me happy, just a little. :)

The weekend was nice--busy, but in a pretty good way. I went bowling and to a street fair (not at the same time), and had two little photo jobs. After some school work (I find that I start investigating one topic and get carried away but in a good way, then realize that there's so much more to work on!), I gave myself a few hours to laze about on the couch. Wonderful!

Monday is over now, thank god. Two more boys in my class now! I don't blame myself for being cranky about it, because now there are more bodies and more voices to manage, and the little management I've had continues to slip away. Last week I told myself I need to work on transitions more, and today with more kids, I saw that I definitely need to have better routines for moving out of the room.

My lesson planning, for the record, stinks. At least one lesson per day is made up mostly on the go. Not interesting, interactive, or using multiple intelligences. Not even doing an effective beginning or ending.

I have a sketch for the week now, though. Maybe I can find it in myself to actually plan out the sketches so that I can feel like a better teacher again. I've got a writing thing that's limping along, math kind of bombed today, I have so much social studies to cover it's ridiculous, and there's that other one, science, what's that? Haha. I need to get some graded work so that the kids and the parents know where things stand. I need to start a project, but feel completely clueless about how to or what about. Isn't that stupid? How many projects have I assigned in the last five years--several dozen at least? It's weird how the simple things take on an unknown face in a new school. It's a month in and I still feel at a loss about how everything works and what is expected of me and the kids.

So: transitions; projects; grade stuff. That's my focus for my ideal self this week. Want to take bets on how quickly all that leaves my brain? Hint: Probably the next twelve hour day at school, ie tomorrow. Gah.

Oh, but really, I'm fine. Don't get me wrong, Thursday night was pretty bad. And then I was at school FOREVER on Friday. And I'm pretty sure that I don't have time for the gym during the week for a bit until I get things under control. Things are stressful and annoying, sure. I'm not the only one feeling overworked and underplanned, and oddly that relieves me a little. I'm surviving and I'm not crying (except for that one time)!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

oh, dear.

This afternoon might have broken me just a bit. I was trembly for like three hours after dismissal, and I wonder if I didn't have a teeny little panic attack--weird fluttery feeling, couldn't catch my breath, weak, and of course, some tears. Now, maybe I was just tired and/or hungry; once again I hadn't eaten a real dinner in like three days. But whatever it was, it was my first breakdown of the year. And it's a Thursday, and it's only the first day of October.

They say God/The Universe/The Great Sparkle in the Sky doesn't give you more than you can handle. But why does my administration keep packing my class list with difficult boys? I already can't handle the ones I've got. The entire staff already knows Chatty Chad and Loud Leo. I've become That Teacher a month into the school year!

Thinking on my days, the actual instructional pieces are pretty decent. It's the breaks and transitions and OH GOD the dismissals that have me ready to jump out one of my windows.

So far next week might even be worse! Great.

I'm off to bury my head in the sand for awhile.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Carmen Crankypants has left the building

Turns out I was just hungry and tired. Ha!

Seriously, I've been starving all week. I swear I eat snacks during the day when I can, and some days I eat a real-ish dinner, though it's late. But I often have that gnawing, hollow hunger feeling. Like right now.

Earlier this week, I wore some Ann Taylor trousers that I bought earlier in the summer. Did I mention the summer job I got at the last minute? It took place at a college campus and eating at a dining hall proved to be as way-too-easy as it was ten years ago when I was actually a college student. So I definitely felt my waistlines tighten that month, but when I bought these pants they just perfectly fit. This week, they were a teeny bit loose in the waist. However, on Friday I wore another pair of Ann Taylor pants, and they were a little snug. Harrumph.

Incomprehensibly, I stayed up til midnight last night, and then slept for what felt like half a day, but was in reality eight hours or so (and don't worry, I stayed in bed for another hour just resting). Goodness me, I love weekend lie-ins!

I posted on Wednesday about having not such an awesome day, but on Thursday I looked back and thought about each period that I taught and saw that those parts of the day were actually fine or good. It was the staying for three hours after school that made me so grumpy and angry and irritated. Which I think is completely understandable, right? :)

I have noticed that my endless patience is finding some ends after all. I find myself snapping like the middle school teacher I used to be. The nice thing is that since they hadn't heard that tone from me before, it startled them and made them stop and pay attention. I know it's not what the school wants, but that's not really such a big deal to me (after trying to conform to a school was such a disaster last year). I just want to find the right balance in dealing with the kids and making them stay on track.

I have a second Kid that I need to mention. There have been some positive developments in Chatty Chad, so we don't have to deal with him for a little bit. But there is another boy who I need to discuss who is also chatty but not in that Special Reasons way. I shall call him...Loud Leo. Because he always has something to say. Always. And only has one volume. He just doesn't appear to have an Inside Voice, because then the rest of the class couldn't hear him and he wouldn't have an audience. He's actually a really good kid sometimes; he's always generous, he can be really helpful, and he's a good writer. Naturally, he participates a lot too.

I have to remind him all the time about raising his hand to speak. Usually, after a few reminders he does start raising his hand. But he's one of those that will say loudly during a class discussion, "I'm raising my hand and she's not calling on me!" He can also be really mean, calling people names either to their faces or behind their backs. He is very opinionated and has no hesitation in speaking exactly what is on his mind. This can be really trying when that information is not appropriate.

Also, the last hour of the day, pretty much every day, he loses all control. Does no work, doesn't stop playing and talking and giggling, and ignoring repeated reminders and redirects. It's something I'm planning on talking to him about, during a calmer time, to come up with some kind of system to keep him on track.

Speaking of systems. I mentioned that I started a consequence scale, which is going pretty well. It's not always very useful for Loud Leo, but for the other kids it's okay. I just move their name silently. Or sometimes I'll stalk over there and say, "Unfortunately I have to move some names because I keep having to speak to them." My sticker chart is trickier, because I can't go overboard stickering the good kids, because they have two or three times the stickers that the other kids do.

Under suggestion, I started yet another system for individuals. And someone wants me to start ANOTHER system for the class.

See, here's the thing. I love rewards and positive systems. I love having things for individuals, groups, and the whole class. What I don't love is having even more shit to keep track of, to carry around, to remember to reinforce, to hear questions about from the kids. My mind is just about past capacity already and I often don't have pockets. I lose my clipboard five times a day because I put it down all over the classroom. I have to make myself a list of things to remember to do, and I have to literally talk myself through it. I can't even complete one task at a time; I start doing one thing and then get distracted with another task, and then have to loudly and firmly tell myself to go finish the first thing.

I like getting feedback and suggestions. I need the suggestors to understand that while I might really like their idea, I can't do everything they want. And that needs to be okay with them.

Let's see. What else? Oh. I have a small class right now. And while the kids individually are all pretty sweet, and there is a group of really good, hardworking kids in there, overall my grasp on them feels a bit tenuous. With Chatty Chad and Loud Leo as examples, more kids are trying to play around and not work during class. But since the class is small, you and I and everyone else all know that it won't last, because they'll want to cram any and all kids into the class. The unknown and new, when it comes to groups of kids, is pretty much never a good thing. This happened to me the last year at First Middle School, and it definitely ruined the pleasant intimacy of the class. So I'm girding myself for even more difficulties. The bf rolls his eyes and tells me not to think about it, and to think about what's going well right now, but come on. Who knows what I'll walk into next week!

In general I guess things have been going okay. The actual teaching parts of the day are the best parts. It's the in-between things that give chance for difficulties, as always. Some of our transitions are getting better, though. I started doing the counting thing to move them from one place to another, and like the last five years, it's a great trick. "In five seconds, find your place on the carpet. Go. Five..."

Tomorrow I have to buckle down and try to get some work done. I have some ideas already written down for next week, and I will try to finish plans for the entire week. That would make me feel incredible! I'm getting closer to not feeling like I'm desperately flailing to keep up and on top of things. Unhappily I have a big thing of paperwork to complete. I HATE that. I really hate that the school requires us to do it but gives us ZERO time to do it in school, meaning we have to work on our own (very limited) time. It's supposed to keep us being good teachers, but if I'm spending all this time working on paperwork, then that's a lot less time I'm actually trying to prepare for the children, and a lot less energy I have to work with them.

Can I just say that I'm starting to get really bitter that I'm at school for at least eleven hours a day trying to do the basics, and they want to require all this EXTRA stuff from us, but not give us ANY time during the day to do it? Every time I think about it, I can feel the rage rising along with my blood pressure. Argh.

However, in general, I'm still in a calmer place mentally than I was last year. When I took this job, it was with the mindset that it's a job, and I will do my best, and see what happens. I'm trying not to get overinvolved mentally. But...that has wavered lately as the stress sets in. :)

Boy, this has turned into a ramble, hasn't it? I'm going to try to be better about recording actual things that I do or want to work on. We'll see how the time works out in the evenings.

For now, thank GOODNESS it's the weekend, and thank extra goodness that we have an extra day! Hallelujah!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Seriously Guh

Today was not so great. Not in the throw-people-out-the-window way, but in a I'm-tired-of-this-is-it-Friday way.

I'm tired in my brain, overwhelmed. The novelty has worn off, and the rest of the everlasting year seems like this giant, steep, and unfriendly mountain looming over me.

It wasn't the worst day ever. Or even the worst day this week. There were some decent points, I admit. We did have another great writing workshop today. They kept going and I had to make them stop after half an hour because we were late for something else. Also I had a yummy cupcake.

This week I have gotten some positive feedback about a lesson (which was a huge relief)(but not necessarily , and also some feedback that would make me take on even more things in the classroom for those kids who need it. And I'll tell you right now, I do not have the time or brainpower for it. I'm just about at the point where I can't keep track of everything and I feel like I'm losing my mind. I was at school for twelve hours again and it took an hour to get home. I can not keep doing that. Like I keep saying, sanity must come first.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You Know What's Awesome?

--New cute shoes that don't hurt

--Leaving before 6.30!!!

--Eating dinner (man, I'm hungry again...)

--My class today

--Dealing with my class without Chatty Chad

Today was a great day! We worked hard, but also had a good time. (Except for some name-calling...but they're elementary kids. I'm working on it, but I doubt that I can eliminate that completely, sadly)

Since there direction/map knowledge seemed to be nil, I did a neat lesson about that today. A few days ago, I put up direction signs on the classroom walls. We talked about what is a compass, and then I asked them to find the one I'd put in the room. I asked them to stand up, and one by one told them to face each direction. (I joked, "This is fun! Maybe I'll just keep spinning you all in circles!") Then they had to face one direction and take a step in a different direction. They totally got it and I was pleased.

Then they had to work with the map of the US, answering direction questions I had written. Things like, What states border Nebraska on the west? Things like that. My questions were a bit too ambitious (they don't know what a coast is!), but part of my reasoning was to force them to look at the state names (which a lot of them had trouble pronouncing, of a lot of states. so we'll practice, and they'll learn!) and start getting to understand directions. As always, a few kids finished all the questions quickly, a few barely started, and the rest fell somewhere in the middle. I think I saw pretty much everyone get the hang of it in general, though. I found a big map that I have posted near the carpet now too, and make use of that to get them used to looking at and understanding maps. (I love maps! I have so many I can show them (love that National Geographic subscription)! but one thing at a time. :D)

Writing workshop was pretty amazing today too. I've been sort of hemming and hawing and not really using my time well, "accidentally." So today I just dove in and figured we'd see how it went. I pretty much bs-ed my way through it. (I say that with five years' experience of doing them, though, so I know my way around it in my head to bs with.) And dude, they ROCKED. At the beginning I said we'll try for ten or fifteen minutes, and they wrote for like half an hour! I just hope we can keep that kind of stamina and interest up.

Also, math continues to go pretty well. I'm not at all making creative lessons, I'm just using the book. But can I say, HALLELUJAH I love having a textbook! What a wonderful treat to have things spelled out in front of you, to pick and choose and use or lose! The kids are keeping up well too, but of course it's all pretty easy review stuff, so a nice way to ease into the year.

Did I mention I left before 6.30? I practically skipped out of there feeling great! I've got stuff ready for tomorrow, and vague things for the next couple days, but I think leaving at that decent hour is so worth it. I made it to the gym later on too, which also felt great. The only problem is getting home and only having an hour or so before it's supposed to be bedtime. Stupid early wake-up.

Anyway, so it was a good day all around. Keep in mind that yesterday, I wanted to throw all of them out the window and I was fed up with myself too. It's funny how it seems to be all or nothing, huh?

Cross your fingers that I haven't angered the gods and someone does something completely crazy tomorrow. :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Second Week

I really mean to keep up here, as a way to vent and record. Oh well. Maybe next week will be better.

First, timing. I am, and therefore my class is, late for EVERYTHING. Sigh. There is so much to get through and so many issues and I swear I really do try. At least I don't need to worry about adhering to bell schedules. And since we're still waiting on some important materials, if math workshop runs a little long into reading workshop, whoops! Oh dear, that's so terrible! Not. We are behind in pretty much everything, and oh well.

I have a modicum of a sparkle of a hope about the workday timing. After more 12 hour days, I left by 6 on Thursday and Friday! It was so exciting to be outside in the sunshine, during daylight, going home! Yay me. I'm also feeling hopeful about planning and starting to sort-of get ahead.

Our classroom dynamic has been...interesting. Tuesday was my first Bad Day. I felt like any bit of control of my students flew right out the window. I was frazzled and impatient and a bit desperate. So I think it must have been Wednesday that I introduced some discipline and chart systems. And that day was much better.

However. I have a kid. You know. We've all had this kid, but this particular one takes the cake in my five years of experience. I'll call him Chatty Chad, as that is nowehre near his name. He is the one who will single-handedly ruin the entire class. He has some Actual Issues, but that doesn't help the anger and frustration and irritation of the other children. It's been hard for me to deal with him because I feel impotent. There's really only so much I can do in the classroom.

I'm continuing to be patient. I know, I'm surprised too! I do admit that near the end of our eight and a half hours together it wears thin, but overall, I am a much calmer teacher. I'm trying to keep the mindset that I'm doing what I can and I don't need to freak myself out about it. There has still been no crying or mood changes, which is a welcome discovery after the trainwreck of last year.

This will be the first real five-day week, so I'm trying to gear up and be ready. It's been a wonderful, quiet weekend. I got some good sleep, we worked on our apartment, I did laundry, I walked around Brooklyn in the sun with a camera and a book, I didn't do any schoolwork and I didn't think like a teacher. It was fantastic, I tell you!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I really wanted to post last week, but we conveniently didn't have internet. Probably good to have no distractions, but also sad to have no distractions. I did actually write some entries offline but figured I didn't need to put all that up. I am excited to get caught up on all the teacher blogs and see how you're all doing!

So. First week down! Woohoo!

First of all, I think it went pretty well. Second, I am TIRED.

I am proud of myself for having a good level of patience. I wasn't the hard-ass that I normally am. Sort of worried about it, but also thinking that I need to conserve energy for these long days. A day in middle school is full of power surges, but elementary is a slow burn with occasional hotspots.

Of course, it's only the first week, so the problems are the lowest they'll be all year. Friday afternoon was the worst part of the week in terms of kid behavior--a couple kids kept bothering another couple kids. I did notice that my Teacher Look so far is pretty effective. And I haven't even had to do The Stare yet!

In terms of routines and procedures, I think I slacked a bit on that one. Partly because there's still more stuff that I need for my class, so I had to kind of BS my way through a couple things. What's nice is that I don't need to worry about keeping strictly to the schedule; it's fine if one lesson bleeds into the next. And so this week it may have happened a lot... :)

What I did get going was the lining up and walking. On Friday I assigned spots for the carpet area (which doesn't have an actual carpet yet...) and kept an eagle eye for the kids trying to sprawl and lie down. Do you guys have that problem? Kids just lounging about like they're in their living room? I will definitely watch the amount of time I have them there. It's nice to be able to go back and forth from their seats to the carpet, to keep things a little more lively instead of just sitting at desks all day.

The beginning and end of the day have been a little crazy. I will work on that. End of the day I think presents the most chaos potential. This week I will begin class job time at the end of the day along with packing up time.

We didn't start out the first day with rules yet. The second day I asked them to think about how we can make our class a good learning community, and we made a list together. On Friday, the last thing we did was create a list of jobs they'd like in the class. They really got into that. One student suggested the job of Joke-Teller, for when someone needs a pick-me-up. Isn't that adorable?

I plan to do some class rules activities early this week. We will get started on real lessons too, for some of the subjects. Others won't be quite ready yet.

I am definitely way behind with planning. We're supposed to have a week's worth at a time, and clearly I don't. For one, there is no freaking time! For two, I don't have everything I need to plan or even do lessons, so I maintain that it's not all my fault. :) But I hope to start getting a little more caught up this week.

I was at school for at least eleven hours each day last week. Remember that I wanted to go home by 5.30? Hahahahahhaaaaaaaaaaa yeah right. This week I will *try* to leave by 6.30 or 7 at the latest. I haven't been able to catch up on sleep, which is really tough. However, the pace of the day isn't too crazy, so I was making through pretty well.

I brought some things home this weekend but didn't really work on them. Surprise surprise. I worked on a few lessons for the beginning of the week but graded no assessments. I will start using my (limited) prep time to work on that kind of thing.

We didn't get much done with the apartment, unfortunately. Maybe next week there will be more time and more sanity. :)

Overall, I feel good. Sane and patient. Don't get me wrong, I'm still plenty worried about lessons, nervous about managing behavior stuff, and frustrated about some school things, but it's not like last fall. I haven't cried and I don't feel like I will be needing to or wanting to. I don't feel frazzled or like I'm becoming somebody else. I'm too busy and tired, but I have hopes for that abating in the next few weeks. I really like my colleagues, and soon maybe I will actually start to get out of my room and see them. We want to do a housewarming soon. It's a good start to the year.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

first eleven hour day

...and I need at least another full day before I'd feel ready.

And would you like to guess when I finally made it to the bathroom at school today? 6.30pm. Welcome to the glamourous life of a teacher!

Today was the first time I could do a little of substance in my classroom, but there just wasn't enough time. Things are not ready. But I stayed long enough to get as much done as possible, for the bare minimum so I will have what I need to get through the day.

I am really nervous for tomorrow. I'm always nervous before the first day of school, but this anxiety is the worst yet, because I've been dealing with so much more than just the regular teaching stuff. (I wish I had private posting available to share more!)

But, on the home front, we moved last weekend. I don't know if I mentioned that. The move itself went incredibly well. Our new apartment is FANTASTIC. I love it! It's bigger, brighter, airier, and more grown-up. No More Wire Shelving! Ever!

Did I mention last year that we moved? That we moved the day before school started? Here's a tip from me to you: NEVER DO THAT.

It was a shitty year, but that was possibly the shittiest way to start out a shitty year. I was exhausted and stressed out from school stuff already, and then exhausted and stressed out from moving, and then anxious because all my stuff was in boxes and I had to go be a professional in front a bunch of pre-teens. Not a great time.

But this time worked out a million times better. We've had a full week plus a long weekend to work on unpacking, organizing, and cleaning. We're down to a handful of boxes--all mine, full of random crap. We now have three bookshelves nearly full of books and teachery things!

So this weekend there wasn't much school-related things I could do (except make copies), but I did get to sleep a bit, grocery shop, watch some tv (finally got the new hookup) and relax. Just in time for the CRAZY about to begin!

I made it through today pretty well on adrenaline, but am not sure how I will hold up for tomorrow. I am happy to say that my colleagues and AP so far have been amazing and have been supportive, and that is making a big difference in how I feel! Even though I don't feel exactly confident or hopeful, I feel...steady, or steadfast. Like we will get it done and get through it and move along to making our situation better.

Good luck everyone on the first day back!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Back to School Fun (but serious too)

Who can do the math?
(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Aug. 17, 2003.)

We have come to the time of year when we remove the video-game controls-by surgery, if necessary-from the hands of our children, and send them back to school. And if they complain that school is a boring waste of time, we smack them firmly yet lovingly with a roofing timber and remind them of the words of our first president, Benjamin Franklin, who said: ``There is nothing more valuable in life than an education, except, of course, money or a nice car.''

Knowledge is our nation's most precious resource, after agriculture and Ray Charles. Yet study after study shows that American children are not learning as well as children from foreign countries such as Sweden and Hawaii. On standardized tests, most American 12th-graders are unable to correctly answer such basic academic questions as:

1. When you wear a baseball-style cap, which part is supposed to go in the front?

2. What is the difference between ``hip-hop'' and ``music''?

3. Who is Dick Cheney?

(ANSWERS: 1. The front part. 2. Plenty. 3. None of your business.)

Why do our children perform so poorly on standardized tests? Does the fault lie with our teachers? With our school administrators? With our political leaders? Can we, as concerned parents, sue somebody about this and obtain millions of dollars?

Or maybe it's time that we parents stopped ``passing the buck'' on education. Maybe instead of ``pointing the finger'' at everybody else, we should take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror, and place the blame for our children's lousy test scores where it clearly belongs: on our children. They have a terrible attitude. I have here a letter, which I am not making up, from a teacher named Robin Walden of Kilgore, Texas, who states:

``I teach math to eighth-grade students. This is an unnecessary task because they are all going to be professional basketball players, professional NASCAR racecar drivers, professional bass fisher people or marine biologists who will never need to actually use math.''

This is a sad commentary on the unrealistic expectations of today's students. Because the harsh statistical truth is that, in any given group of 10 young people, only a third of them, or 22 percent, will actually succeed as professional bass fishers. The rest will wind up in the ``real world,'' where, like it or not, they will need a practical knowledge of math.

For example, I recently found myself in a situation at a bank where suddenly, without warning, I had to add up four three-digit numbers by hand. Fortunately, I went to elementary school in the 1950s, when we were in the Cold War, and American children were forced to learn addition, because the Russians were making THEIR children learn addition. Thanks to that training, I knew that, to get the correct answer, I had to ``carry'' some numbers. Unfortunately, I could not remember how to do this.

For some reason I COULD remember that ``pi'' is the ratio of circumference to diameter, but that did not help me in this case. (To be honest, it has never helped me.) But addition had leaked out of my brain, along with subtraction, multiplication, long division, the ``cosine,'' the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, and most of the other things I learned in school, although, of course, my brain has carefully preserved the jingle for Brylcreem hair ointment:

``Brylcreem, a little dab'll do ya/Brylcreem, you'll look so debonair/ But watch out, the gals'll all pursue ya/ They'll love to get their fingers in your hair!'' Which is a total lie: Touching Brylcreemed hair is like sticking your hand into the nostril of a sick pig.

But I digress. My point is that I finally gave up on adding my numbers and asked the bank teller, who added them with a calculator, which uses computer chips, which were invented during the Cold War, which we won. I'm not saying this was TOTALLY because of my mathematics training; I'm just saying it was a factor. And that is why we must stress to our children how important education is. We must tell them: Study hard! Learn as much as you can! Because we, your parents, are getting stupider by the day. We're experiencing massive brain leakage. Soon even the commercial jingles will be gone, and our heads will actually implode.

Before that happens, we need to get out of the driver's seat, and turn the wheel over to you, the younger generation.

Don't ask us what we did with the car keys.

(c) 2009, Dave Barry

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Tenets of Good Professional Development

Unbelievably, I'm going into my sixth year of teaching. That means I have been to a LOT of professional development. Most of it has been a useless waste of time. However! I remain hopeful that it can be done well, and that it can be of use to teachers like it's meant to. Here is my Official Guide to PD. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Workshops should last no more than 1 1/2 hours. Furthermore, teachers should not be sitting in the same room all day long. Parse the PD into different rooms. Once the bum goes numb, so does the brain.

2. When planning PD (as a supervisor or as a presenter), ask yourself the Golden Question: Is this DIRECTLY relevant to classroom teaching? This cannot be emphasized enough. Teachers should be able to think about bringing your content into their practices. Now, whether or not they decide to is another issue, but it should be easy to connect PD workshops to everyday teaching.

3. Encourage participation. It breaks up monotony and keeps people awake. It keeps them accountable for the information, it helps teachers get to know one another, and best of all, that's good teaching. Remember, professional development is supposed to help teachers get even better at their jobs. Modeling is an important skill not just for classroom teachers!

3b. That said, limit role play; adults will feel silly and roll their eyes and/or refuse to participate.

4. Give time for discussion and planning--teachers want that time to figure out how to use the information in their teaching, because remember, it needs to be RELEVANT.

5. Think about the timing of the PD--what do teachers need most? The week before school starts is *not* the time to discuss child psychology or fancypants theories--teachers are anxious to get working on specifics for the students that will be arriving all too soon.

6. When possible, use faculty members to lead PD. Good teachers want to learn from each other. Do panel discussions, brainstorms, small groups, etc. (Hm, doesn't this also sound like something teachers are expected to do in the classroom? Just because you're working with grown-ups doesn't mean you abandon good teaching strategies!)

6b. Make sure that presenters is not only qualified to lead a workshop, but that he/she is also a good speaker, and (here's that word again) RELEVANT.

6c. Please ensure that PowerPoints are spell-checked!

7. Ask teachers for their input and feedback--what are they most interested in? what do they think would be most useful? what new things do they want to learn about or explore? Then, if possible, have options to choose from.

8. Make sure the workshop is something new, or new enough, to be worthy of the time. For example, using technology in the classroom could be really useful, but if the school doesn't have technological resources, or if it's about things like overhead projectors, that's a waste of time. An old idea like, I don't know, group work, that's a no. (I hope this makes sense.)

9. Evaluations must ask about the RELEVANCE of the workshop and how effective the presenter was. Again, good PD should be good teaching!

Educators: What do you think? What did I miss? What would you add/change/delete?

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I clicked on a link from Mental Floss to the hilarious Safety Graphics blog and saw this very funny graphic from yet another new favorite site, GraphJam!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


That's the eternal debate, isn't it? I didn't get it when I worked in a public school. Maybe I didn't work hard enough or something. Although I remember the despair my first year, when there was just so much to do and no time to do it. I faithfully brought home piles of paper every night for grading or organizing...and I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Each day was so intense that I was just too fried.

Charter schools are a whole other monster, though. There's somehow more to do and even less time to do it. Plus extra things--duties, meetings, extra activities--take up the little "prep" time during the day. (Forget about lunch; that was scarfed with one hand while frantically typing, grading, or copying.)

And this year I'll have all four subjects! I'm not shy about admitting how terrified I am about that. Fortunately, there are packaged curricula for each. We haven't had time to work with it yet, so I'm not sure exactly how they work and how easy or hard it will be to implement them each and every single day. I'm hoping it will be a good way to ease into the work and then as I get used to it, I'll be able to work some creativity into the lessons and units. Because somehow it sounds like we are also expected to create interdisciplinary, multiple-intelligence units. Not sure how those two things happen at the same time...but I suppose it's good that the school trusts us and wants us not to just be parrots of the chosen textbook.

It's really something I can't get my mind around. For five years I had to create everything I did. So naturally that's the way that teaching happens in my head. And holy crap! Four subjects! Every day! Yikes!

But shhh, no, there will be brand new materials! Books, teacher guides (GASP!!! those were like GOLD at Original Middle School, because having one was so rare), workbooks, all kinds of stuff. I have to say, I love that charter schools take away the worry and tension and excuse of broken, old, or non-existent materials.

Oh! Another thing that I have to keep reminding myself is that even grading and homework and stuff won't be such a huge chore--twenty-five things to deal with is infinitely easier than a hundred. Right? And elementary schools seem to not assign homework every day in every subject (even charter schools fall prey to the Magical Packet Assignment), so at most I figure I'd have one set per day. Psh, that's cake!

The last, biggest part of this is work/life balance. It was a huge struggle last fall. I got up before dawn, worked my ass off for ten to twelve hours, and trudged home, spaced out in front of the tv and/or computer, and had to go to bed. The weekends were an all-too-short respite from the grind; just as I felt a bit of myself recovering, it was Sunday night and time to worry about the week again.

I really need to not do that again. It took a huge toll on me--I lost weight, I couldn't sleep, I barely saw my boyfriend, I never saw my friends, not to mention all the crying. I had no time to read or do anything for fun, there was no room in my mind or my life for anything other than school.

The sad thing is, there were so many people working harder and longer than I was!

Anyway, so this year I plan to be strict with myself about going home by a certain time. I figure one hour after school per day will be enough. I joined a gym last week, and went twice last week. Yesterday I dragged myself out the door in the humidity, but I was really glad. It felt good to sweat and let my mind be blank for an hour. So I plan to go at least one time during the week and once on the weekend. The BF and I are hoping to set aside one night a week to spend some time together, either at home or maybe going out for dinner. I'd like to have some friend time at least every few weeks too. I'm crossing my fingers that my so-far friendly colleagues will become friends or at least invite me out to happy hour every once in a while. :)

Because god knows I'll be needing a drink!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back Into the Fire

I am a teacher once again.

I accepted an elementary position at a charter school in June. It was a difficult decision. My mindset this summer is a polar opposite from last summer. I'm nervous about teaching a different grade level, about having one group of kids, about surviving in another charter school, about maintaining patience and a personal life.

I think that being a little anxious will help me a bit. Don't they say that pride goeth before a fall? Last summer when I got that other job I was thrilled and thought it would be fantastic. Ha ha. Well, I fell damn near every week, some weeks every stupid day.

You'd think I would learn, eh?

At Original Middle School, I learned how to be a teacher. I learned that pre-teens can easily run a teacher's pride and/or dignity into the ground in about five minutes. I learned that pre-teens still love stickers and silly songs. I learned how to speak firmly and loudly without being mean. I learned how to entertain myself and my students with my lame dry jokes. I learned that I can't stand disruptions in my classroom--which includes mistakes by inept administrators. I learned that I could mold my classroom and make it a pretty great place to be. I learned that I like to learn and try new things and come up with new ideas. I also learned that I have a tendency to take on more than I can chew and have trouble following through with all my awesome ideas. I learned that kids sometimes actually like me. I learned that I will always have an insane parent. I learned that I can be successful and have fun in the classroom.

At First Charter School, I learned how to be humble again. I learned that it's really fucking hard to teach a brand-new subject. I learned how very important it is to have a place to send disobedient students (because I didn't have one). I learned that my awesome management was no good at a new school. I learned that I flounder easily without enough knowledge or support. I learned again that administration makes or breaks a school. I learned that I can't always be successful in the classroom. Part of me felt like I would never be and had never been successful in the classroom.

At Subbing Charter School, I learned that environment matters. I learned again that if there are no consequences, the students will run wild. I learned that I don't like hearing yelling at a school--from students, from teachers, from my own self. I learned that it's not worth it and I don't have to take that kind of crap.

Today was my first day working with New Charter School. I met a few people and took some notes about what I want to do. I didn't learn anything new about teaching or learning or being a charter school. But it was a good reminder of the important things--finding ways to reach the kids and teach them stuff.

I've learned that nothing is a sure thing. I think I can do this.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

FAQ: Obama's health care reform plan

I know that the new health care reform is controversial. I am all for attempting to fix a very broken system. This article gave me some specific details about what it is and what it isn't.

Taken from the Baltimore Sun, Aug. 12

This summer the top conversational piece on the tip of everyone's tongue revolves around health care reform. The debate rages on through a series of Town Hall-style meetings taking place around the country with President Obama.

When cutting to the heart of all the hoopla, specific questions emerge. Here's a quick glance at Obama's answers to the most common inquiries voiced by folks just like you:
•What if I already have health insurance and am satisfied with my coverage?
Simply put, things won't change much for those content with their existing, employer-provided health insurance coverage. Obama guarantees that you will be able to keep your doctor and your plan. Read the full transcript of Obama's town hall meeting in Washington.

•What if I don't have health insurance?
For the staggering 46 million Americans lacking healthcare coverage, the uninsured will have the opportunity to select a plan from a menu of private and public options --similar to the way members of Congress choose their coverage. Obama's team is working on the creation of the Health Insurance Exchange, which will give people a one-stop shop for a health care plan where they can compare benefits and prices and choose the plan best suited for them. Every plan would include an affordable, benefits package. Obama also promises to provide assistance to those unable to afford one of the plans. Read the full transcript of Obama's town hall meeting in Wisconsin.

•Can I still obtain health insurance with a preexisting medical condition?
Yes! Obama often recounts his mother fighting with insurance companies over medical bills after her cancer diagnosis when they suggested it was a preexisting medical condition. Obama vows to put an end to this practice in addition to stopping insurance companies from dropping people if they "get too sick." Read the full transcript of Obama's town hall meeting in Washington.

•How will my Medicare benefits be affected?
Obama denies any reduction in Medicare benefits. What will change is the wasteful spending associated with Medicare such as the $100 billion in subsidies that go to insurance companies without improving care for seniors. In addition, Obama says the pharmaceutical industry agreed to $80 billion in spending reductions to help close the "doughnut hole" for seniors falling under Medicaid's prescription drug plan. The "doughnut hole" refers to the gap in drug reimbursement seniors face that can accrue into thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket expenses. Read the full transcript from Obama's town hall meeting in Ohio.

•How will we pay for this sweeping health care reform?
Obama says his plan will cost $950 billion over a ten-year period. Two-thirds of the cost of reform will come from reallocating money, paid for by taxpayers, already in the system that isn't being spent wisely. One-third of that price-tag will be covered by increased revenues, such as capping itemized deductions the wealthiest Americans use on their income tax returns. Read the full transcript of Obama's town hall meeting in Virginia.
9AM You Know the Economy's Bad When History Professors Work at Rite Aid

Woman in line: I want to go somewhere foreign this summer. How about Guam?
Cashier: Actually, Guam is part of the United States.
Woman in line: Ugh, these things change so often. We must have gotten it, like, a year ago, right?
Cashier: Actually, we've owned Guam since the 1800s. It sends a non-voting member to Congress, but they have no elector, so they don't matter for presidential elections.
Woman in line: Oh, thank god.

Rite Aid
Doylestown, Pennsylvania

via Overheard in the Office, Jul 20, 2009

Sunday, August 09, 2009

more link and list love

Mrs Bees at Full of Bees has a great post up about a ticket reward system that I really like. She also posted a list of the top YA books according to the ALA. Now, I love me some YA, because, err, it's my job, right? Yeah, that's it. :) Anyway, so here is The Ultimate Young Adult Bookshelf.

I will bold the ones I have read. A lot I haven't heard of before, so I plan to keep an eye out for them!

Acceleration by Graham McNamee
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Beauty by Robin McKinley (I found it when I was 12 or 13, reread it recently and still loved it about the same)
Black and White by Paul Volponi
Blizzard! The Storm that Changed America by Jim Murphy
Bone series by Jeff Smith
The Book Thief by Mark Zusak
Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Chosen by Chaim Potok (a-maz-ing, moving book.)
The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Anne Frank
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Fruits Basket series by Natsuki Takaya
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (been meaning to read this series)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Guinness Book of World Records
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan (Does seeing the movie count? :D)
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
The Killer’s Cousin by Nancy Werlin
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen (I've read a bunch of her other stuff and really liked it.)
Looking for Alaska by John Green (I just finished this today. Really good. Very emotional.)
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (classic, obviously)
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar
Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (nope nope nope, not gonna read it!)
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

Game Pro
Rolling Stone
Shonen Jump (I always used to have kids order that from the book order!)
Mad (do they really still make that magazine??)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Recorded Books) (I just read this last week and LOVED it.)
Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer (Listen and Live)
The Killer’s Cousin by Nancy Werlin (Brilliance)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Caedmon)
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett (HarperAudio)

Bonus lists! "The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18." Check out each year's list! They all sound really interesting.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Bookmark this

Mister Teacher at Learn Me Good posted a great guest post, filled with useful resource websites for teachers. Go there and bookmark for later use, like I did!

And, in the spirit of oh-my-god-i-can't-believe-school-is-sneaking-up-so-quickly-help, take a few moments to forget about that and laugh at this kitty traveler!

Friday, July 10, 2009

[insert here]

[whine, whine]
[moan, moan]
[boo, hoo]
[quiet desperation]
[suspended animation]
[blah, blah]

Monday, July 06, 2009

daily dose of something

Wow, I'm way behind and have much to share. Not at the moment, though. So take a few minutes and take a look at Seattlest's Mount Rainier scenic road trip photo essay. Gorgeous pics and witty captions--what's not to love?

I've been actually LOL-ing at Cake Wrecks.

You Suck at Craigslist is also quite entertaining.

Hope everyone's Monday is off to a great start!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Positively Peppy

I finally made some companions to the Mildly Melancholy playlist. I'll save Downright Depressing until the depths of December, shall I? :)

Most recently I made this playlist, and I am quite proud of it. I think it will most certainly make you happy too, so enjoy. :)

Build Me Up Buttercup--Temptations
Kodachrome--Paul Simon
Footloose--Kenny Loggins
Material Girl--Madonna
Black Cat--Janet Jackson
Pop! Goes My Heart--Hugh Grant
Fidelity--Regina Spektor
Ievan Polka--Loituma
Objection (Tango)--Shakira
Ain't No Other Man--Christina Aguilera
Dosvedanya Mio Bombino--Pink Martini
Livin' on the Edge--Aerosmith
Dirty Pop--Nsync
Miss Independent--Kelly Clarkson
My Name is Not Susan--Whitney Houston
Tymps (the Sick in the Head song)--Fiona Apple
Sexyback--Justin Timberlake

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The End Anew

Tomorrow is finally the last day of school here in New York City! My last day of working in a school was on Tuesday, so I've had a few days of summer already (and they have been fanfreakingtastic).

Congratulations and way to go to all the teachers out there--the ones that already finished up everywhere else, but especially to my NYC colleagues. I'm sure that you all feel the endless dragging on of June every year, but at last the end is nigh!

It will be nice to really put this year behind me. It's been a crazy one, to say the least. :)

We made it!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I've mentioned before that I'm terrible at decisions, right?
Don't worry; I won't subject you to more of my endless whining and introspection. Instead, you can look at some pretty pictures from Soho last weekend. You're welcome. :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Ended up with a school gig for the week, so this morning I got up early again to go to work! I can't complain about having a bit more income.

In some quiet moments today, I found myself making an actual pro/con list, for perhaps the first time in my life. Thinking is hard, yo.
In other news, today marks five years since I arrived in this crazy town. I landed in JFK after a overnight flight from Seattle, bleary, wearing the wrong clothes and toting a Giant Fucking Suitcase. It took two hours to get myself and that stupid bag from the airport to my sublet flat in the not-hipster section of Williamsburg. This is the bedroom (belonging to a friend of a friend who was working at a camp for the summer) where I stayed. However, it didn't look like this upon my arrival, because in my great intelligence I hadn't packed any bedding. That and my computer came a week later, in three boxes expensively shipped cross-country and just barely picked up via a car service in which my boxes barely fit and whose fare I couldn't actually pay in full (if only they'd had those card-swipers back then)! Oy, it was not an easy transition.
What a journey it's been, folks.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy Monday!

I feel like a whole new person! I had a fairly early appointment in the city, so I couldn't sleep in, but I certainly didn't have to get up anywhere in the 6am hour, which was a treat. I had lunch with the boyfriend and spent the afternoon reading and visiting my local library (yay!). Now that I'm home, it started pouring rain, so that's good timing.

This week will be so nice. I will go to a yoga class tomorrow with a friend, maybe join a field trip, do a photo assignment, try to apply for jobs, research a 4th of July excursion (quickly!), and work on photos from a recent engagement shoot and wedding!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Out with a Bang, At Least

Hi friends! Thanks for your support.

Friday was interesting, going in knowing it was my last day. I did my best to be lalala and not care, but I did want it to still be a regular day and still try like all the other days.

Oy. It sure was a regular day, alright--pretty nasty. In the afternoon class, I tried to have them do some activities about that great story, All Summer in a Day (I think Nancy first told me about that story a few years ago). It was in an anthology that was in the room, so the questions just had them responding to or interacting with the book. Easy peasy, right?

Some of the kids started right away. The kids in the back half of the room decided it would be better to throw balls of paper back and forth at each other. Several kids were out of their seats. Other kids were just talking loudly.

A few minutes went by and I tried to review it out loud with them. A couple kids were with me. Most of the kids, however, kept talking and throwing things.

I started reading the story aloud to them. This had worked in the past to quiet them down. You know, kind of like hypnosis. Oh, silly me. The noise continued and in fact possibly got louder. So I got louder too, hoping to drown it out.

So there I am, SCREAMING this story out to a bunch of preteens who really couldn't give a shit, and I think to myself, Oh for fuck's sake! Give it up, self!

So I told them to finish the story and questions in the next hour. (Oh yes, there was still an entire hour left in this double class period.) I went and sat at the teacher desk, shaking my head to myself in disbelief.

Raucous disorder continues for the next long while. I watched them. But really, they never listen to anything I say and the admin doesn't do anything anyway, so what do I care? (I know. I'm a child too.)

Eventually, the whole thing just really started to piss me off. Well, not started to, obviously. I just got completely fed up. So I charged back to the front of the room and bellowed at them. "Don't you get it? You are WASTING your TIME. Do you even understand WHY schools like this exist? Do you know who scores the lowest on test scores? Who earns the lowest salaries? African Americans. [A girl yelled out, You're a racist!] Don't you understand? Every single adult in this building wants you to be on TOP of all those scales! {At this point I'm audibly choked up and I'm actually trembling, and every single kid in that room is gaping at me silently}" I went on and on about school, and time, and decisions, and college, and the future, and blahblahblah.

The bell rang and I vamoosed. During my rant, other teachers even peeked in to gawk at me. I ignored them and plugged on.

The kids are gonna go NUTS with happiness tomorrow when they find out I'm not here. Like, throw a parade of crazy. I feel sorry for whoever has to tell them and deal with them, because it won't be pretty.

But maybe they'll remember me a little.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I don't know much.

I've been feeling weird this week. Up, down, down, up. Sure, unsure. Decisive, indecisive.

Today, after a ridiculous day, which isn't even abnormal, I finally decided I'd had enough. I called my agency and told them that tomorrow will be my last day subbing at this school.

I made some test calls to my bf and my mom beforehand, and I cried a bit. I was unnerved by a bad day, a weird week, and trying to shore up my strength and hoping that this was the right thing to do.

I've been trying to tell myself to learn from my past, my mistakes, my ignorance. At the other school, it was bad. Every once in a while it would be slightly less bad and I'd be fooled as the next day the awfulness returned. I didn't like it. I cried. I stayed and pretended to be strong and insisted I could make it, even as I lost my temper, hours of sleep, and buckets of tears.

I didn't want to quit. I should have quit. Possibly never even started.

I've been at this school since mid-March. Three months of near-daily abuse, of varying degrees, BY CHILDREN. I took over a class of students who showed glimmers of tenderness and glimpses of souls, but who mainly showed hatefulness--toward each other, toward me, toward any work whatsoever.

I called parents. I wrote up the referrals. The children continued to fight, to curse, to show blatant disrespect, with ZERO consequences and almost no change. TWO fights broke out this afternoon, for stupid shit. It's all stupid shit. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

*I* am stupid for staying this long. I told myself I shouldn't come back after spring break. I came back. I thought, maybe it's not so bad. Maybe things can get better. Maybe they're starting to see that I'm not really so evil.

But, stupid, of course I am! How dare I quiz the students on the grammar 'we' were 'practicing' for the last two days! How dare I insist that students stay in their goddamned SEAT while class is going on! How DARE I expect the administration to actually DO SOMETHING about the awful behavior of the children who have been acting up all fucking year!

So yes, I cried this afternoon. Is it cowardly to quit this 'job' with two weeks left in the year? Am I abandoning the children? Surely I was starting to reach some of them? Surely they *all* didn't despise me?

Surely it can't be that bad for only ten more days? But god, when each day starts feeling like torture? When the kids resist anything and everything I say?

I am forfeiting a thousand dollars, which is a month's rent or lots of bills paid or a trip somewhere. Now I face two and a half months of no sure income, which is really scary.

But I think I finally realized that these terrible, draining days are NOT worth it--not worth the money or the time or the abuse. I really don't like feeling like a quitter, but I *will* like getting up in the morning again.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


sleep in: check!
library: check!
gorillapod: check!
eyebrows: check!
haircut: check!! cute and feeling good!

dropped off some paperwork
worked on wedding photos
making cookies
made a kick-ass playlist called Positively Peppy

I should have worked out today too. But meh. That would ruin the FUN of a day off.

Tomorrow I am buying a new tv--mine is toast. We've decided on a 37-inch HDTV flat thing, one that's not too expensive, and I am excited!

After that, road trip to see flickr friends upstate! Yay!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Breathe In. Breathe Out.

I could have used some Zen today. The kids were *worse.*

Big fight broke out in my room yesterday. The other kids immediately tried to separate them and at least five teachers saw/heard it from the hallway and stormed in.

Today? Both the kids back in class.

I think that is DISGUSTING.

I had to call a parent in class at the end of the day, because a child was flipping off another child. While I was watching and telling him to stop. He just kept waving them around, chanting, it's just a finger! it's just a finger! I talked to the dad, put the kid on the phone, and then I got the phone again. He tried to tell me about some bullshit tale the kid spun and I cut him off politely but also tiredly. "Sir," I said, trying to keep the edge out of my voice, because REALLY, "that is nonsense. He is making stuff up."

Today I really did contemplate throwing in the towel, because this shit is NOT worth the hundred dollars a day that I clear. They're starting to get to me and I don't need that crap. From eleven year olds.

We don't have school tomorrow! Oh thank God, Zeus, and all the other deities!

Here is my tentative to-do list:
Sleep in.
Lay about like a bum.
Perhaps nap if I feel like it.
Go the library!
Go into the city.
Get a haircut finally.
Get my crazy eyebrows waxed (it's been two months!).
Buy a new gorillapod (mine has lost most of its structural integrity).
Go home.
Laze about some more.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


I quite hated my job today. Full of nasty, nasty attitude from preteens. Not my cup of tea. I can never tell if these occasions are the kids being worse, or me being less tolerant.

Mind you, things that would get a kid suspended at a more affluent school happen eighty times a day with zero consequence.

I hate it all.

Days like this are when I really battle with myself: It's just a sub job, it's not permanent! versus: Exactly, it's just subbing--nothing is tying you here--LEAVE! versus: God, it's June already, only a few more weeks. versus: Holy crap, WEEKS?!

Ugh, indeed.

Here, take a pretty flower for your troubles.

Monday, June 01, 2009

What's that I see?

Oh yes! It's the end of the tunnel! It's in sight!
Yes, folks, today it is finally, actually JUNE.

Which means, ridiculously, that we have a mere four weeks left. Well, four weeks minus one day, after today, of course.

Last week, That Kid made me lose my teacherly composure. He started waving out the window (we're on the top floor). I gave him a "wtf" look. "I'm saying hi to the trees! They're my friends!" Then he gestured toward me, and he shook his head witheringly at the windows and then proceeded to mime an animated conversation. Really, I had to smile. Later he started licking his arm. Another 'wtf' look from me. He said impatiently, "I'm giving myself a bath!" That Kid, indeed.

The week before, when it was really sunny and gorgeous, I put forth an extra ninety seconds of effort and wore my contacts. Halfway through the day, a girl suddenly asked me, "Miss, where are your glasses?" Right on cue, another goes chimes in, "What glasses?"

I wear glasses every day.

BUT! Maybe now that it's JUNE! WOO! I will need those contacts a bit more!

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I am very excited about having a three-day weekend. The class and I had a very rough week. Two students in particular are just ridiculously disruptive and unrepentant. Happily, two other difficult students are showing steps toward progress. They both did very well on quizzes late in the week, and when they saw their grades, they crowed with pride. I love that. Those are the ones that I think I'm getting to. They are a pain in my ass, and I'm a pain in their ass (because I don't let up), but they have started to like and respect me (and I, begrudgingly, might be loving them a little).

This has been my modus operandi for the past five years, actually. It's kind of hard to explain (I don't even know if I tried to articulate it during interviews last spring). You know, I just chip away and chip away at a kid, and just about always they start turning around. Sometimes it's only a little, and it's not like the kid suddenly gets an A in the class, but their attitude and their work start improving, bit by bit. By the end of the year, they totally love me, even if they would never admit it, and I totally love them back. (And it's taken me nearly five years to understand that about myself.) I don't think it's a great method and I think it's probably played a part in the gray hairs and insomnia that pop up here and there.

Dammit, this is why I want to leave teaching, but then say, wait, maybe it's not so bad. Gah! The day-to-day kills me. I have so little patience and I often tease instead of show kindness. (But I tease out of a good place, I promise; it's not malicious.) (The kids mostly get this. I think.) The never-ending overwhelming pressure to plan plan plan plan PLAN plan keepplanning PLAN wears me the hell out. I dread making parent phone calls--will someone answer? will the parent yell at you? will the parent threaten the child at you? will the parent be completely impotent? will a voice mail reach the intended parent or guardian? will a child care at all that a call was made?

Bonding with a kid is pretty cool. Seeing a kid who cares about the work, without prompting or begging or bribing, is pretty neat. Seeing a kid laugh at your stupid jokes is definitely cool. Watching a kid get a little better in school is fantastic. Getting a hug out of the blue is amazing.

Seeing how many kids do no homework sucks. Hearing kids cuss each other and you out, day in and day out, sucks. Looking at the quality of work done makes me want to die. Watching kids refuse to change and improve makes me want to throw them out the window. Hell, it makes me want to throw myself out the damn window. Especially when it's eleventybillion degrees in the classroom and we're all feeling smothered by humid, adolescent-tinged air.

There's always something wrong--not enough materials. Too many kids in the room. Things go broken or missing. Never enough books. Never enough parent involvement. Never a completely competent administration--you're lucky if there's one good one out of the bunch. Too many tests. Too many stupid inconsequential things like bulletin boards. Never enough hard-core discipline support that actually works. Never enough useful meetings--the development either isn't professional or doesn't develop anything. For god's sake, why is there no recycling program in NYC schools??

I've never been able to shut these out. I can't help the righteous indignation--goddammit, we shouldn't have to deal with this! Why can't something be done? Why can't we do this instead? Why don't we get more notice for events? Why can't the systems be logical, for crying out loud?

I've now worked in a handful of schools. None of them have the answers. All of them have problems, and though the schools themselves are sort of different, the problems are all essentially the same. The job is always essentially the same.

I really don't know if I'm cut out for it, and I really don't know if I *want* to be cut out for it.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Miraculously, last Friday afternoon was actually really nice with the kids.

Which means, of course, that today, they were Monsters.

This weekend, I roamed the city with a group of fun friends. We did long exposures at the Brooklyn Bridge landing, walked across the Williamsburg Bridge, molested the Wall Street Bull (I actually climbed up on its neck), flopped in the Central Park grass, brunched in Brooklyn, and of course, took bunches of photographs. All these people are great photographers too and I learned a lot from them--notably how to use my flash remotely (it's really freaking cool!) and the viewfinder exposure meter, and the awesomeness of black and white.

This afternoon I had to walk a couple places and I kept my camera in manual mode. On the way home I put it in black and white and fell in love.

I must say a manual photo-walk is a good way to take my mind of this ridiculous job. :)