Sunday, September 28, 2014

Getting a Handle on Teaching

The days since school started are flying by. I have been with my new class for almost twenty days. Amazing. I don't write much about my job. When I was trying to get back to work I did write about all interviews I had, and how much I wanted to get back into the full time work force. In October of 2012 I thanked my lucky stars as I was offered a long term position for the remainder of the week.

Fast forward to my third year in the same district teaching the same grade. They kept me and the time has flown. When I accepted the long term position I was dropping my three year old at preschool twice a week and saying goodbye to my kindergartener. Now my three year old is the kindergartener and my sweet girl is in second grade. So grown up and changing fast. My thoughts about both working full time and teaching have been all over the board since I returned to the field. I never talk about teaching, but I think I need to today.

Teaching is hard. This is not a complaint; just a fact folks. It is the type of job that forces you to be "on" all day. It does not matter how much sleep you had or if your mood is good. You are working with kids and they need you to be upbeat, knowledgeable, firm and loving. These things can be done simultaneously or in different combinations. For example: you are redirecting the same child who really struggles to pay attention and make good behavior choices. He or she has missed the directions and possibly half the lesson and needs something reexplained. So you smile (upbeat), redirect the behavior or provide a gently reminder (firm), encourage them or gently put your hand on their shoulder (loving), and finally teach what they missed, while assessing where they are academically (knowledgeable). Whew! That is just one student and one situation. There are probably twenty students in your room who need different combinations of knowledgeable, firm, loving, and upbeat all day. Teaching itself drains you of your energy and that is just the teaching part. There are lesson plans to write, assessments to grade, students to refer, experiments to set up, papers to copy, and entire weekends spent completing report cards to complete. (Join me some weekend when I spend my entire weekend reassessing work and writing thoughtful comments on each and every report card about how children are doing.)These things can not get done in the short prep time that we have each day. Where I work we get a 40 minute prep each day. No matter what I try to do that prep time flies by. Even something like a jammed copier can steal precious time. I try to get to school between 30 and 45 minutes before my student arrive. Arriving earlier is impossible because I need to drop my kids at Before Care. Some days I stay at work for an hour or an hour and a half. It depends on what my own kids have in the afternoons and evenings, but truthfully I could stay every day until 6:00 PM. There is no drama in that statement. It is so true. Unfortunately it would be impossible, so I do the best I can when I am there and bring some things home to do at night and on the weekend. So then after my own kids are in bed I am sitting on my couch at 8:00 at night trying to weed through what I need to do. There are nights I just can't do this.

This is the point where people point out that you have the summer off. Yes, we do have about eight weeks off during the summer, and I very much appreciate it. However, I will go out on a limb and say that teaching is a job where you are expected to do work during your own time because a daily forty minute prep isn't going to cut it.

Teaching is also a job that weighs on your mind all the time. Every weekend I bring things home that need to be done. Whether I tackle them Saturday or Sunday night, they are in my mind ALL WEEKEND. It isn't just work teachers think about either; they think about kids. Kids that they worry about and are unsure of how to reach.

So why don't I just do something else. Well, I think about it a lot. When the pressure's on, and another initiative is added to our plates, when MCAS scores come out. I really do think about it. However, teaching matters. It matters that I am upbeat and reassuring. It matters that students know I care about them and will help them when they have a question. It matters in ten years when kids look back and say a teacher made them feel good and taught them something they never forgot. It matters during Open House when my students from last year pop in to say hi and their parents do too. It reminds me that I can positively affect kids and their families. That they care enough about me to visit and reconnect, that our year was valuable, and our time mattered. I want to keep teaching, no matter how hard it is, because every single day with children matters.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Just a two minute share

Really more of a rant, but share is more inviting. Sitting on the couch dressed with a Dora towel on my head. That should look great at work. My stomach kills because I ate so much junk yesterday. What is wrong with me? Oh right, I sent my oldest to school with a cold and no fever, but she got a fever and I had to leave work and get her. Poor thing. She is fine, but can't go to school today. Thankfully my parents are coming to watch her so neither one of us will miss the day. It is only September-there are only so many sick days we can take until June.

Evidently when you leave work to get your sick kid you should eat a lot of Cheetos while sitting on the couch. Why did I do that? Overall coming home early caused me to indulge in things that have bloated me and made me feel like crap. Now I am ranting sharing (when I should be blow drying my hair) and contemplating whether I should make my own oatmeal or stop at Starbucks on the way. Also, I have yet to wake my five year old friend who needs to come with me so I can drop him at before care. A final note is that my lunch today consists of leftovers (mostly carbs)because I did not want to waste food and I could only handle making two sandwiches this morning while I had a full blown allergy attack. Lovely.

Maybe I left my gratitude at work?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The day got away from me......

I had a whole different post going this morning, but stopped it mid writing. Whew! What a day. A sick child kept us from visiting my parents. We did make it to church. The day seemed like never ending straightening, laundry folding, and cooking with extra snuggling thrown in for sick and tired kids. The cooking included chicken soup with tortellini, calzone, and a potato, ham and egg casserole. We ended up eating the calzone tonight. I think that is my new favorite meal. One pizza dough made more than enough for the four of us. If I had made a pizza with it we would have eaten it and looked for more. Calzone seemed to stretch it out somehow. Tomorrow we have soccer, so I hope to get home in time to bake it in the oven. After making the calzone it was too hot to put the egg casserole in tonight. Time to go to bed.

Friday, September 19, 2014

6:01 AM on Friday

Last night's Open House went well. However, knowing I would be at work for twelve hours I was filled with the energy to do so. However, when I got home the energy did not leave. I even stopped at the store for some much needed groceries. I read for a bit and then drifted off. When I removed myself from the couch and went to bed I could not get myself to sleep. The middle of the night had some interruption because my son was restless and dreaming. Finally, 5:00 AM came and I got up. Maybe it is that slow progression to midlife change. Maybe I am still filled with yesterday's energy needed to make it through a twelve hour day. I fear I will be sleeping on the soccer field.

I decided I would take some time for me and surf the web. So here I am hitting my favorite sites and shopping. Oops. Not really shopping, but discovering something really This is a site you can join and do yoga from your house. I have wanted to get into a yoga practice for a couple of months now. I bought a great Groupon for a local studio. I have attended two classes, but getting there is so challenging. Three out of four of our evenings include activities. Our weekends are full too. With some effort I could make a class a week, but with yoga at my finger tips I can get up and do it before work. There is not time in the morning for me to go to a gym before my husband leaves for work. Enough excuses because let's face it; I can be lazy. Well, not anymore. I signed up for the online yoga and tried five minute morning pose. It gave me a boost that I can take through my day. They are starting work here at 7:00, so I need anything I can get.

Tonight is soccer. Tomorrow we have soccer and swimming. Sunday we have church. Peppered throughout the weekend will be house cleaning, food shopping and menu planning. I also need to visit those people who are responsible for for my existence. I did not make it there last weekend and I would like to see them. We always stay for a long time because I like to talk to them and love for them to see the kids. No one tells you exactly how busy life can be.

We had dinner for a week straight. I roasted two chickens Sunday. We had Sunday dinner and left overs Monday. Tuesday we had soup from one of the chickens. Wednesday we had chicken fried rice with left over chicken and a pasta bake from the freezer Thursday (I was at work eating pizza). Tonight we are having homemade pizza with store bought crust. It is a soccer night, and store bought dough is cheaper than two pizzas.

I want to begin today and my weekend with a positive attitude and gratitude. I hope to try some yoga and report how it goes. Enjoy the journey.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gratitude with a cold

Happy Tuesday! It is 6:00 am as I drink my first cup of coffee. I just spent 16 minutes making four lunches and yes I have a cold. There was no energy left last night to put four lunches together, so I trudged out of bed at 5:52 to get them done. Today I have meeting at 8:00, so I need to head to the shower and wake the kids early.

It is not a terrible cold. Just a scratchy sore throat with congestion annoying cold. Open House is in a couple of nights, so I need this cold to go away. Sunday's roasted chicken turned into chicken soup. Truly I am the only one who really enjoys chicken soup in this house, but with my husband having a cold too, I think I can safely serve that soup tonight.

In gearing up for the day I think about yesterday. I made it through with a smile and got through soccer without too much stress. My job calls for a lot of patience and psychology, but I still had some energy left for my own kids at the end of the day.

Today I am starting with a required meeting which makes me late for the classroom. Everything is in place, so things should run smoothly until I get there. My plans are in order. Our routines are picking up. I have an appointment at the end of the day, but we have no activities for the kids. Even with a cold I hope to keep a smile on my face, a grateful and positive attitude, and appreciation for the new day.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday, coffee, and the best you can do

So it is Monday morning. The kids are sleeping and my husband left for work. It is 6:30, and we should all be leaving in an hour. I have jumped into the shower and quite excitedly skipped my hair because I just had it done yesterday and it still looks great. I never skip washing my hair, so this is huge. I just have to fix the ends that got damp and hope it actually holds throughout the day. Enough about vanity.

The second cup of coffee is brewing. The first cup is long gone. Trying to decide on the best outfit for work since it is 38 degrees right now, but it will be 70 later, is tricky. I have been thinking since yesterday's post about prospective, and enjoying each moment. A lot. It is so important. It slows us down and helps us notice the little things that matter. For the rest of the month I want to share the best parts of each day. Maybe it will just be my positive attitude about it.

Today I have a full day at work, followed by getting the kids, feeding them dinner, and soccer practice. I know tonight I will be prepared and wear my sneakers so I can walk the track with my five year old while my seven year old practices. I am grateful and look forward to that chance to exercise. Even this very moment that the kids are still sleeping and I can organize my thoughts and decide how to approach my day is a moment to enjoy. Saying good morning to the kids and helping them get ready to go to school. Listening to their stories when I pick them up is really fun. It can be hard, but nothing is more than important than my own kids. Finally, my own job is a job where attitude makes all the difference. As a teacher my enthusiasm and encouragement can make or break a child's year. I want to start this third week of school full of energy continuing to build a classroom where ideas are expressed and opinions are valued. If I am having fun, they will have fun too.

So as I drink the second cup of coffee and gather my thoughts together I hear birds outside, see the beginnings of fall peaking through and want to be part of this beautiful and new gift of a day. Each day we have is really a gift. We can choose to open it and say thank you or make a face. I have sure made my share of faces, but for today I want to open it and say thank you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Enjoying the Journey and Getting Prospective

The weekend goes by so fast. We ate dinner Friday night after a busy week and before you know it I am asleep on the couch.

Saturday started with two soccer games. My sports memories as a child are pretty blah, but I am trying to enjoy watching my children learn different games. If they are having fun, I am happy for them.

When we returned home our goal was to get down to our town's yearly celebration. It has kiddie rides, and food. There are vendors and local businesses set up and a wonderful community feel. We were anxious to get here, but something had happened in our house. It may have started with me. No one under forty could find anything clean to wear. Probably my fault, but life is busy. It caused lots of problems and tears, but solutions were found. My mini friends needed to pick up their room, and that was not working out well. Overall the cranky monster had infected Mom and was slowly making its way into the kids. Thankfully I married someone who is usually immune to moodiness. After tears, frustration, some raised voices, and apologizing. (I apologized to my seven year old, because I was grouchy with her) we were able to head out to the town celebration.

While waiting in line for an inflatable slide I heard some people complaining about the event. "Too much line waiting." "Not enough room". Standing there with my seven year old, I couldn't disagree exactly, however, aren't we missing the big picture. Sure, waiting for twenty five minutes to get on an inflatable slide may seem annoying but spending twenty plus minutes with my seven year old presents its own opportunity. While there, we were chatting, she was holding my hand, I could randomly hug her, she could randomly hug me. The anticipation of the inflatable slide, pony ride, anything else we were waiting for were exciting for her. My husband and five year old were standing in other lines having their own time. Is it that bad to be in line with your child while they enjoy your company? The weather was cool and comfortable. The rain held out. Many people in town were there. The kids are running into friends and excited to see people they knew. I am sure the complaints I heard were innocent. We are all guilty of that sort of thinking. More and more though I am trying to enjoy each moment. Moments that we can't get back. Time that is gone forever. My seven year old is almost eight and there will be a time her eyes may roll when talking with me, and those random hugs may go away. As the event ended the four of us headed home.

Now it is later in the afternoon and time for food shopping. Though I do like food shopping it takes some time from the weekend to plan and get it done. Thankfully I could do it alone. Instead of being annoyed that I had to food shop, I tried to be grateful that we can afford food. I shopped carefully and fairly quickly. I was impressed with what I got for what I spent. I was hoping to squeeze in family dinner and was able to do so. The work week is so busy for us and the kids that we can't guarantee family dinner seven nights a week. My goal is three to four. Our Saturday night family dinner was at 7:00. The kids were tired. There was lots of reminders for my five year old not to eat with his hands and reminders to my seven year old to eat her dinner. We we were together, laughing, and having fun. Building a large book of memories that I hope both kids can reread when things in their lives are not going the way they want. When they need an example for the own future family, when they want to learn how to enjoy the journey.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It's Prozac or walking

Seriously. I do mean it. When time permitted at 7:00 p.m. I got out there and hustled myself around the neighborhood for thirty minutes. Just me, some music and walking as fast as I could. It relieved so much of my anxiety. I have skipped any exercise for the past week and half, but that ends today. THAT ENDS TODAY. It is not about losing thirty pounds. Sure, I could lose plenty of pounds, but it is the mental part of it that forces me to make exercise a priority. That anxiety that was running through sort of left itself on the street during that walk. I have finally realized that it is not a choice. It must be a priority. Saturday and Sunday are not a problem and I can make it happen three other nights a week. I want family dinner, I want family time, but family time is not good if I am not myself. My health is a priority. I must walk.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Worry, worry, worry

What is it that is so wrong with me? I can't be the only person who feels like a train wreck inside half the time. Maybe not half. It depends. We are back to work and it is busy. I am fine with that. I like to be busy. All day I felt great, and then there I was sitting at my desk when the dread sort of crept up on me. During the summer I have too much time, and during the school year not enough. I should shut up already.

I was doing so well walking, but since school started back up I have slacked big time. There is really not time to do it during the week, but I chose not to walk over the weekend. THAT WAS MY FAULT. Walking is a great stress reliever. I can't believe that I was so lazy.

Renovations are so stressful. Why did I think I would be the only person with perfect contractors. Is my head that high up in the clouds? There are no perfect contractors (repeat and breathe deeply). We need to head to soccer in just a few minutes. I needed to take a minute and throw my thoughts down to relieve some of the anxiety. Maybe I could get to yoga this week? Maybe I could work out later? Maybe I should stop being lazy :)

I am proud to say that we have attended church six weeks in a row. It is nice to feel committed to going and my five year old pal is hanging in there.