Monday, December 22, 2008

Literally Bursting With Excitement

My friends are jazzed. It is almost vacation and it is all they can do to hold it together. I am also barely holding it together as I alternate between panicking over how much I have left to do before the holidays and fantasizing about all that extra sleep...

In my classroom, it is time for wrapping everything up so that we can start fresh in '09. Today I asked Curly Girl (no, not Curly, but one of my new super faves....it just so happens she also has curly hair. Maybe I am curl-ist? Pro-curls? ) to work on a special project at the back of the classroom with Smarty Pants (another girl who I am totally digging lately. I know, what's with all the girls as faves since I typically love the bad boys...). They are independent and basically total rock stars so I knew I could trust them.

The rest of my friends were on the carpet when Smarty Pants enthusiastically raises her hand and says, "We need help!"

Thinking that they just need more paint or something, I say, "What is it?"

Smarty Pants answers, "Curly Girl just peed all over herself and the floor and we need help with the puddle."

Ah, yes. Of COURSE that's the problem. Urine is just what I need to make my tenuous hold on the class' brimming excitement to dissolve into nothing.

Oddly though, no one laughed or said anything. I knew they heard Smarty Pants. So what was the deal? Was this empathy? A mature response? Or perhaps, is no listening to a freaking thing this close to vacation?

As soon as I send the rest of the group back to their seats, I make my way to the back of the classroom to check out Curly Girl and her infamous puddle. Expecting to find her sobbing behind the art center, I am surprised when I see her diligently painting away, with her pants rolled up to her knees to stay out of the puddle, acting as if nothing has happened.

Me: Curly Girl, are you OK? What happened?
Curly Girl: I BURST!
Me: (Trying not to laugh) Why didn't you ask to go to the bathroom?
Curly Girl: I was so into the project that I just didn't.
Me: (Shocked that Curly Girl is handling this better than I am.) What can I do to help you?
Curly Girl: You know anyone who can take care of this? (Indicates puddle of pee.)
Me: Um, yea. (still tyring not to laugh). What can I do for YOU? Do you want to go to the bathroom and I'll call mom?
Curly Girl: Sounds good...let me just finish this up.

And she happily goes back to painting. A couple of minutes later, she cleans off her paint brush, nimbly leaps over her own pee and heads to the bathroom.

When mom arrives with a clean pair of pants, I tell her the story. Mom and I have a good laugh while Curly Girl goes to the bathroom yet again, this time to change her pants. It is close to the end of the day, so I tell her it is OK if she wants to go home with mom. She insists on staying in school, stating, "Hey, it was just a little pee."

Words of wisdom from my little friend that I am going to use to get me through the rest of the holidays. When I am freaking out about not having the right bow, or only getting through the Ws on my Christmas card list, I will think, "hey, it's all just a little pee."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Silver Linings, Whiskers On Kittens and All That Crap...

I heart complaining. I think it's something at which many teachers excel. Yes, we chose to work with children. Yes, we love our jobs. Yes, we love to complain about both our children AND our jobs. (So, get over it!) I don't know what it is about complaining that we love so much...maybe it's the act of venting, or maybe it just feels indulgent to be negative after being so damn positive all day. Whatever it is, we thrive on it.

And gossip.

And chocolate. Complaining, gossip and chocolate. Oh, and kids. Yea, them too.

This week, I had a DOOZY of a situation to complain about. It was like the Mecca of Complaining...the stuff of Champion Complainers' dreams.

Late one morning, the Visionary came into my room with a new student. But not just any new student, a VISITING new student. Why is he just visiting you ask? Well, let me tell you. He's just visiting because he's been suspended from his regular public school and is being sent to our school for five days. (Mind you, the five days before the holiday break in which my job can be likened to keeping the lid on a boiling pot of small child enthusiasm...so yea, awesome timing.)

And that's not even the best part! This new little visiting boy has been suspended from his school for "attacking his teacher" (those are his words not mine.) Evidently the poor woman took a pencil or something away from him when he was being disruptive and that's when the kicking and slapping began. Yea, he's adorable. We won't even get into a discussion here about the ridiculousness of this entire situation. But I would like to say to the person who thought it was a good idea to create a policy in which the children who ATTACK the adults who work tirelessly with them are thoughtlessly placed in OTHER adults' classrooms...sir, you are a total d-bag.

So my friends and I accept this little boy into our fold despite our better judgement because we have no choice. The Visionary comforted me by saying that it would probably be a few days before this kid felt comfortable enough to act out. Evidently, I put kids at ease quickly, because boyfriend started throwing things across the room, barking (you read correctly, I said barking) and hitting other children.

And can I tell you the craziest thing? I don't have any desire to complain.

I know! Shut the front door! Me, not complaining! Pigs flying, fat ladies singing...crazy!

Because I think I may have officially bonded with my class. (Yea, I know it's December...I'm a little slow this year!) It was tough for me after the Dream Class that I had last year (love you Curly!), but I think they have finally broken into my shriveled little heart.

Just like the horribly misunderstood Grinch, my heart grew three sizes in one moment. Suspended Boy had just yelled out some sort of unintelligible something and instantly most of my friends turned around in their seats and gave him a brilliant and quite scathing "What-The-F-Is-Wrong-With-You" look.

And in that moment, I knew we would be okay.

So while deep down (deep deep down in a place far far away), I do feel badly for Suspended Boy because I realize that he goes to a really rough school, probably lives in an even rougher house and most likely has a sad, difficult life...I also know that there is nothing I can do in the next five days to change that. (I shed my Hero complex years ago.) Plus, the kid kicked a teacher...not cool, my friend, not cool. But I have taken comfort in the fact that 1) I did not fall victim to the temptation of complaining in the face of insane odds and 2) my friends and I are closer than I ever thought we would become.

I guess it's all Rainbows and Kittens from now on....

Friday, December 5, 2008

It's Getting Hot In Here...

...So Take Off All Your Clothes...or at least strip down to a school- appropriate layer.

Why you ask? Why are we stripping in my classroom? In December?

Because today it was officially 89 degrees in my classroom. Yes, 89. I'm thinking about dressing everyone up in grass skirts and just having a luau. You know, for ha has.

I was snuggled up to a little friend today, chatting about their writing, when I felt beads of sweat rolling down my back. And I thought to myself, "self, WTF, it's December and you're sweating through your SLEEVELESS SHIRT!" I then glanced at the radiator, which was pumping out heat at such an intense level that you could actually see it rising up in front of the windows. Four of which were open. Again, it is December and today it was only 38 degrees outside.

For some reason I will never understand, The Visionary commanded our custodial staff to crank up the heat prior to our parent teacher conferences about two weeks ago. Maybe he wanted to sweat them out, maybe he wanted to show off the radiators, maybe he's trying to lose a few pounds...who knows. All I know is it is freaking hot.

Creeping around my bedroom and picking an outfit at 5:30 in the morning in the dark so Mr. Mimi can sleep is hard enough without throwing in the extra challenge of choosing something that has enough layers to keep me warm on the commute and cool in the classroom. Plus, I have shelf after shelf of fabulous, wooly sweaters (I have a winter birthday...and am on the spoiled side, so seriously, I'm talking about a hideous number of sweaters here) that I have been fantasizing about ever since I decided I was sick of my summer wardrobe.

So now, not only am I mourning my inability to wear my favorite winter wear, but I am also dealing with chronic bloody noses (If you are a student teacher or new to teaching...you need to be real with yourself about the sheer amount and varied types of bodily fluids you are about to encounter..you'll thank me later because no one else will warn you about this stuff.), sleepy children and abandoned sweaters piled up in all corners of the classroom. In the last week alone I have said the phrase, "put your clothes back on" more times than I care to admit as children attempt to strip down to their undershirts.

And every time I picture the germs that must be breeding in our sweltering sweatbox of a classroom, I think I might hurl.

Yesterday I finally thought to ask The Visionary if we could turn down the heat. You know, just a smidge. My request was met with a resounding, "it's either on or off!" which I find very hard to believe since I witnessed a custodian turn it up myself. I mean, if there's an up, there's a down, friend. As I left the office, I heard the secretary mutter under her breath, "those teachers, always complaining."

Nice.

Maybe I'll just turn this negative into a positive and embrace the sweating. You know, I'll sweat off a few holiday pounds and be ready for bikini season by the time June arrives. See? I can be an optimist too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Kingdom For A Parking Space - The Grand Finale

A while back I wrote about the great Parking Wars of 2008 and how our current union representative was as helpful and well, representative of us as a pile of poo. Yea, I said it. If you haven’t yet read those posts, shame on you...but now is you opportunity to go and catch up. We’ll wait...

Long story short, I found it horrifying that not only would I be expected to work in an environment in which 85% of the adults make my job harder, but now I would get to add the joy of searching for parking prior to dealing with said adults. Now I have been one to cruise the block when a good Kanye song comes on, but please, EVERY morning? Uh, no. Just no.

So after much turmoil, bouts of high blood pressure, gossiping and general unprofessional-ness, the parking passes arrived, and in a move of sheer brilliance our principal, The Visionary, laid the smack down on a bunch of douche bags who lied, cheated and stole their way to a new parking pass. Well, they still got passes, but I’m hoping at the very least that they are embarrassed.

Let me back up a bit and explain. When we requested passes at our B.S. meeting with our union representative, we had to submit our names, addresses, and estimated daily mileage. This genius plan resulted in allegedly mature adults lying about possessing a driver’s license, pretending that they own cars and pulling numbers of miles out of their you-know-whats. We even uncovered a plot put in place by our very own union representative so that she would be ensured a parking pass despite the fact that she lives a whopping .5 miles from school. (She had one of the classroom aides request a pass FOR her because this particular woman lives about a billion miles from school, but is dropped off by her husband every day as she does not possess a license herself. Conveniently, we were not require to prove that we hold a valid driver’s license or actually own a car when we requested a parking pass. Perhaps because The Visionary expected everyone to conduct themselves like rational adults...dumbass. I know that sounds harsh, but it had to be said...I mean, he should know better by now. These are the same people who stuff free rolls into their pockets at staff luncheons and excuse their laziness on the job with the Magical Phrase of Losers Everywhere: “that’s not in my contract.” What did he expect them to do??)

Day after day we awaited the arrival of the passes and the culmination of our petty drama. And lo and behold, they arrived (from where, I don’t know... don’t even ask me to get started on that one) and we were all emailed The List of the Lucky 17. In case you are holding your breath, I did get a parking pass. (Go get a cocktail and celebrate...again, we’ll wait. I can always wait for a good champagne coolie or whatever it is you are drinking these days.)

However, in an interesting twist of events, everyone was actually exposed for what an asshat they really are because along with names of the Lucky 17, The Visionary also sent around a chart which included the names of everyone who requested a pass, their REPORTED mileage, their ACTUAL mileage and, my favorite column, the DIFFERENCE between those two numbers.

Shut the front door! (My new favorite expression and way out of cursing...it works best when yelled emphatically. Go on, try it. Feels good, right?)

To give you an example of the glaring d-bag-ness that was revealed, one individual reported that she lives 55 miles away, when in fact her distance from school is a mere 22 miles. Wrong double digits, sweetheart. Another one of my favorites was the group of people who requested a pass, yet live less than one mile from school. LESS THAN ONE MILE. (Go ahead, yell it – SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!)

To wrap it all up, I got a pass. And so did our union representative. (She argued that her seniority was more salient than the fact that some of our newer teachers live 40 or more miles from school.) What can we take away from this little saga? For me, it just shows that small victories are worth celebrating (champagne coolies for everyone...I can still drive to work!) and that there will always be herds of d-bags with whom I will have to deal. But at least sometimes...rare times, EVERYone can see just what d-nuts they really are.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I Think The Pot Just Called Me Black...

Recently, when I have written about issues I have had with some of my students’ parents, things have gotten, um, heated. And that’s cool. It used to make me upset, and now I just kind of think of myself as the Linda Richman of Teacher Talk – like I could prompt a discussion with the words, “Parental Involvement...not really parenting, not really involvement...discuss.” I do like to think I have a better wardrobe than Linda...

Anyhow, I do think it’s good to discuss things and you can disagree with me at times (although I’m always right, so it’s a waste of time...you’ll see it someday too, trust me....). So let’s chew on this latest parental gem, shall we??

I had a parent approach me very early in the school year, requesting that her daughter be evaluated for possible learning disabilities. At the time, I had only worked with her child for six or seven days, so I felt like I couldn’t really contribute much to that conversation. I respected the mother’s wishes however, and talked to her about the process of getting a child evaluated and referred for extra services. All the parent had to do was write a letter requesting an evaluation...which she did. Fine.

Once I got to know her child better, I disagreed with this decision, finding no evidence of real issues with learning, but again, I figured she was the parent, and I needed to respect her wishes.

Great. All very supportive and lovely, the birds are chirping, and the sun is shining, right?

THEN...fast forward two weeks. I’m in my room at 7:30 a.m. (an hour in which I am not exactly charming) getting some things ready for the day. I came in that morning armed with a serious To Do list (Shocker, I know! I do heart my lists...) and was feverishly crossing things off when said mother shows up and demands some of my time. (There was yelling.) How the hell she got past our security guard (Who has a serious attitude and is not afraid to use it no matter what time it is), I’ll never know. Our conversation went something like this:

Her: Mrs. Mimi! I need to talk to you!
Me: Is everything OK? Did I forget about an appointment to meet with you? (I love saying this. I totally know we didn’t have an appointment to speak, but I like to passive aggressively inform people that it is NOT COOL to just SHOW UP...it’s not like I sit with my feet up sipping a latte before the kids come in, sister.)
Her: It’s about Little Girl.
Me: OK....
Her: She gettin’ tested??
Me: You’ll have to check with the Weave. Once the letter is sent out to request an evaluation, it’s kind of out of my hands. She should know more.
Her: (grunts)
Me: Sorry, did you say something?
Her: She need to read more! (Notice all the exclamation points, please, because she was totally yelling....at 7:30 in the morning...for no apparent reason.)
Me: I agree. Right now I meet with Little Girl in a small group two times a week. I also conference with her individually another two times a week. We have a reading specialist who owes me a favor, and so I got her to work with Little Girl and additional two times a week. Each morning, I meet with her privately to discuss what she read at home the night before. She tells me that she isn’t allowed to read at home.
Her: I don’t have time for her to read.
Me: Ok, but it would be wonderful if she could have just 20 minutes of uninterrupted reading time.
Her: That’s your job, not mine. You’re supposed to do whatever my child needs. Do your job. I need to do whatever I can for my child.
Me: (Not pointing out the irony that she feels the need to do whatever she can for her child yet can’t find 20 minutes to allow her child to read at home.) I see. I would really like for us to work together on this....
Her: Look, I need you to meet with Little Girl every day during lunch. Read with her at lunch and teach her more.
Me: Pardon? (I said this not because I couldn’t hear her yelling at me, but because I again, wanted to passively aggressively make my shock at her request clear.)
Her: I said, read with her at lunch!!!! I need to do what I can for my child. And you’re supposed to do everything you can for her.
Me: I try to. But Little Girl needs time to eat, and socialize with her friends. It’s really the only free time the kids get all day. I wouldn’t want her to start to see reading as a punishment.
Her: Just do what I say. She don’t need to talk to her friends. I need to do whatever I can for my child.

Now, I understand this woman’s desire to get more instructional time for her child...BUT (and there’s always a but), dude! Really? I’m sure the kid would love it if I pulled her out of lunch EVERYDAY to read. And by the by...maybe I’d like to, oh I don’t know, eat lunch myself, or...I know it sounds crazy, use the bathroom! Get a drink of water...unheard of! I didn’t point out to this woman that I routinely WORK through my lunch because although I love my To Do Lists, I also hate them because they are endless.

Also, just for the future, showing up unannounced at a teacher’s door, yelling at her and then out of the blue accusing her of not doing her job because she expresses concern for your child’s need to eat may not be the best way to get what you want. Or start a conversation. I’m just saying...

And since she was off doing “whatever she could for her child”, I guess she didn’t have time to return the phone calls from our guidance counselor who called to talk to her about getting her daughter tested. Evidently she was SO busy doing “whatever she could for her child” that she also neglected to respond to the certified letter from the Board of Education requesting additional information to get her daughter tested. While her mother was off “doing whatever she could for her child,” Little Girl’s case was officially closed because of a lack of response from the parent (who initiated the case in the first place.)

And you’re going to tell me I’m not doing MY job? Pot? Kettle? Black? Anyone?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Tonight was the night! Parent-Teacher Conferences. Everyone wants to put their best foot forward. For teachers, that usually means pulling out the "conference clothes", shoving piles of papers into available closets and sprucing up the 'ol bulletin boards. Yes, friends, we put on a good show.

We learn by example, I guess, because the administration lays it on pretty thick. Serious dog and pony show. I mean, if they could flame dancers, I think they just might jump on it. Can you imagine, flame dancers on every stairwell lighting the way to your child's teacher?

Part of the show includes making sure that our building is absolutely spotless. Spotless! Hallways are waxed, and bathrooms are scrubbed. Teachers do their part too...you know, with all the pile shoving? (We do love our piles.) However, there is one aspect of this Grand Clean Sweep that remains a volatile battleground.

The classroom carpet. (Insert "Debbie Downer" music here.)

Now, the custodial staff (many of whom I do love very much...I mean, they clean puke for us) adamently maintains that it is not their responsibility to clean the carpets. To me, this does defy a bit of logic on several levels. 1) Only custodial staff has access to the closets in which the precious vacuums are housed. 2) They sweep our floors, and come within mere inches of the carpet. 3) Do we really want to get into being asked to do things that are not in our job descriptions....cuz, um, I might have one or two things to add to that list.

Usually, this battle ends with children spending weeks sitting on a living science experiment. Eventually, I will break down and beg, borrow and steal a vaccuum from a fellow colleague. Oh, right, and maybe this is where I should mention that my colleague (you know, the one I borrowed the vaccuum from?) BOUGHT the vaccuum with her own money because she couldn't stand her dirty carpet a moment longer. Call me crazy, but I'm fairly certain that purchasing a vaccuum isn't in her contract. She just happens to be a super rock star.

Yesterday, I went to my Super Rock Star colleague and asked to borrow her vacuum. And that's when she told me...

It

is

broken.

Damn! Now the parents are going to see my filthy carpet and, despite all my efforts teaching their child to, oh, you know, read and write, they're going to blame ME for having a dirty rug. Hey, teachers are easy targets.

In a final act of desperation, several teachers went to our principal and asked if it was at all possible for the custodial staff to release the precious vaccuums from their locked closets and make them available to us.

Because God forbid, we come out and actually ask someone else to work as hard as we do!

But, surprise of surprises, our principal says that he will ask the custodial staff to pop around and vaccuum our rugs for us, since we have so much going on. And they did...they did vaccuum...which I do appreciate...I just wish it wasn't during Writer's Workshop.

And so, when that moment of quiet, when I looked around and see all twenty of my little friends were dilligently writing away, filling me with a sense of pride was hideously interrupted with the incessant noise of a vacuum cleaner, I realized....it's just easier to do it my freaking self.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ummmm....

I have parent teacher conferences this week...yea, I know you probably do too. I am simultaneously dreading the late nights (just poke me in the eye now) but secretly enjoy talking to most of the parents. Also, this time of year is usually brilliant fodder for the 'ol blog and I know I have been letting you down as of late.

So, I am waiting for tomorrow night with breath that is bated, and until then...check out this gem:

Mrs. Mimi,
How you be? (That is a direct quote, by the by.) I looked at the conference schedule you sent home. Those times are not good. I would like to schedule a weekend conference.

At this point, please insert the sound of screeching breaks as I pause and re-read this message.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just A Thought...

I just went to the art store in an attempt to relive my childhood. You see, when I was little, there was an art store near my house that I went to so often, I practically bankrupted my parents. (Thanks mom!) But then it went out of business. The other day, I was driving around doing errands when I got lost and...stumbled upon the same art store!

Since there was no school today, I decided to (hold on) do something for myself (ta-dah!). It was dusty and cluttered and fabulous. Pens, pencils, papers, all kinds of paints scattered everywhere. I was chatting with the owner, and revealed that I am a teacher. Just then another woman walked in and the owner told me that she was a teacher and long-time customer as well.

Me: Hi, how are you? Enjoying the day off?
Her: (grunt)
Me: (Did she just grunt at me? Or did she just have lunch and is suffering from some indigestion?) I hear you're a teacher too.
Her: Yea. Where do you teach?
Me: In the neighboring city. (Ok, I didn't really say that, because that sounds a bit lame, but I'm certainly not going to out myself for this blog post)
Her: Me too. What school? (More grunting.)
Me: The Blah Blah School.
Her: Never heard of it. You new?
Me: No, actually I've been teaching for eight years.
Her: (grunts) You hate it yet?

Um, pardon me? First of all, we're not at work today and that's pretty killer. Second, why do you keep grunting? And third, what is wrong with you? I don't even know this person and am just trying to exchange some pleasantries, but she seems hellbent on grunting and being negative. Even I, Ms. Negative Von Complains A Lot, am not THAT negative, especially on a day off.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Think I Just Saw A Pig Fly By

I know I have been a tad angry recently. Ok, maybe more than a tad...maybe fairly angry is more accurate. Ok, ok, you're right...it's more like ragingly pissed. Yea. That's more like it. I realized just how angry I was the other night as I cried about my job while making dinner (and then quickly feigned that my tears were about the onion I had been chopping- can't let a crack show in my oh-so-fabulous exterior, now can I?)

Intense, right?

I'm guessing that you've been able to pick up on my anger in my more recent posts. After all, I've never been one to feel or do anything subtly...just ask Mr. Mimi. (Love you, honey!)

Just in case you couldn't pick up on my seething irritation, I will give you an example. (I know, you're thinking "lucky me", right?)

Let's look at my week last week, shall we? On Wednesday, I definitely had a "crying over onions" kind of day. That morning, I had a meeting with the infamous Bacon Hunter, in which we discussed the ridiculously useless tests she forces us to give our students yet oddly refuses to allow us to correct, opting instead to uncharacteristically do it herself, yet then totally in character, give us the results two months later when the "data" is even more irrelevant than it was to begin with. So we were enjoying a wonderfully productive chat about that when she brought up this irritating little gem:

BH: (eyes only half open, face a mere inch or so from actually lying on her notebook) So, when can you get me the tests?
Me: I think by next Friday.
BH: Well, it's up to you, but I need to know exactly what day you will get them to me.
Me: Uh, by next Friday.
BH: But what day? I need to know so that I can email all the teachers of children I meet with that day and cancel.
Me: What?
BH: Well, I can't exactly meet with children when I have all that paperwork to do...

Uh, what?? When the Bacon Hunter has actual paperwork to do, she gets to cancel working with children in order to finish said paperwork between the hours of 8 and 3? So she can do what? Resume her hunt for bacon?? But when an actual TEACHER has, I don't know, say twenty math tests, twenty report cards, twenty writing rubrics or twenty reading assessments to do, we have to DO IT ALL while simultaneously managing to teach a full day....

But that my friends, was just the tip of the Iceberg of Bullshit.

Just a few minutes after our meeting, I was (gasp!) working with my students when three big, loud, strange plumbers walked into the classroom (without knocking, making eye contact or asking) and sauntered to the back of my classroom. They proceeded to turn the faucets on and off and use what we refer to as "outside voices". Clearly, twenty sets of eyes were riveted to these intruders (rather than to our shared story) as one of them (seriously) answered his cell phone and began to have what was clearly a personal conversation.

Knowing it is wise to choose my battles, I told the few who were despereately trying to maintain focus to just turn around and watch. Upon noticing all the little eyes staring holes through his back, the most offensive offender turned and said, "Lady, I'm just trying to do my job."

Yes, me too, my man, me too.

After lunch, the same three men returned to my classroom (again, without knocking, making eye contact or asking) to change a light bulb, which necessitated them standing on a desk. While a child was working. At the desk.

It was at this point that I started chanting "I love my job, I love my job, I love my job" in my head.

As we were packing up to go home (finally, the end of this ridiculous day was in sight!), our end-of-the-day routine is rudely interrupted by the flippin' phone. Relinquishing my tenuous hold on their behavior, I reluctantly went to answer the phone. The security guard at the front desk demanded that I send down one of my friends packed up to go home.

"But we're leaving in seven minutes," I said.
"I don't care if you're on the way out the door; her mother doesn't want to wait," replied my not-so-polite co-worker.
"This is ridiculous, we're in the middle of packing up. She isn't ready. We'll be down in five."
"Her mother says she wants her daughter now. She's sick of waiting for YOU to be ready."

Deep breaths. I love my job, I love my job, I love my job?

I bring my friends downstairs, say goodbye and head to office to check my mail, thinking the worst is behind me. As I enter the office, a familiar bark comes my way.

"Mrs. Mimi!" barks our secretary.

"Yes?"

"Are you going to pick up your pay stub or do I have to send you a personal invitation?"

"Excuse me?"

"Your pay stub. Duh! It's been ready since 1:00 and you still haven't picked it up."

(Did she just say "duh" to me?) "Um, well, I've been teaching since 1:00. So, no, I haven't picked it up yet."

"Then why you just standin there? You think I gots all day?"

No, I think you "gots" some major issues with simple grammar and a huge attitude.

So, yea. That was my day on Wednesday. My anger spilled over into Thursday, and Friday as the pointless interruptions and unwarranted attitudes continued to fly.

You can imagine what went through my head when The Weave popped into my room on Friday morning to hang for our morning meeting. (Well, you're going to need to imagine it, because even I wouldn't have the cajones to put that kind of foul language into print.)

At the end of the day, I skanked into the office in an attempt to avoid the bullet-like commentary of our barking secretary and found a note from The Weave in my mailbox.

I read the note on my way back up to my classroom. I was so shocked by what it said, that I almost walked straight into my locked classroom door.

She gave me a compliment.

Wait! Not ONE compliment, MANY compliments. About my lesson, it's tone, my classroom and my interactions with the children. Hold on, let me read this again, that can't be right.

But it is, I have received an actual compliment. I feel strange, and unsure of how to take this new sort of interaction. Should I trust it? Is it a trick? Is her note missing a page filled with other scathing remarks?

Yes, there is more. There's feedback. Actual constructive commentary that might help me improve my work with kids.

Addicted to the odd display of positivity and promise, I quickly read her feedback. It read, "During your morning meeting, you reviewed some strategies for addition problems with your class. Your kids had great ideas. Perhaps you could chart those ideas and post them somewhere in your room. Better yet, maybe you could somehow credit each child with the strategy they shared. Here's an example." And she sketches what this chart might look like, followed by a big smiley face.

Great idea, right?

It would have been, if she hadn't been sitting in front of the EXACT SAME CHART as she was observing our morning routine. Yea, we made one. And displayed it. And she sat right in front of it. Seriously, like two feet away.

(sigh). Her heart was in the right place, I guess. Now as for her keen powers of observation, we'll have to save those for another day. Baby steps, people.

In the name of not crying over onions anymore, I'll take it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

State of the Union Address

To all of you who have been missing me - thanks for the emails and kind words. Sorry it took me so long to get something up, but I had to scrape myself off the bottom of the administration's shoe... you know, after being stepped on and overlooked repeatedly. Yea, it's been an awesome two weeks.

And to all of you who think I "complain too much" , stop reading immediately (although what I really want to say shouldn't ever really be repeated out loud), because it's going to start now. I figure better air out my frustrations anonymously here than in my classroom. It's either blog, or cry myself to sleep.

Some of you may remember that parking has been quite the issue as of late. And really, it's not the fault of anyone I work with that our number of parking spots is being cut back drastically. Truly, the people to blame are 1). the asshats who began giving out too many passes to their buddies rather than school employees, and 2). the d-bags at the top who decided to universally cut down on the number of parking spots AFTER the school year had begun and with no apparent system whatsoever. I get that. There's no one to blame at my school.

Or so I thought. Sadly, this situation has turned many of my former super colleagues (now officially d-bags themselves) who have turned into backstabbing liars. Yes, after banding together to battle against the administration, difficult parents and the lazy sacks of hair who populate our building, we have now turned against one another.

And I blame the union.

Today, we had a union "meeting" (you say "meeting", I say "waste of my time") to discuss the parking situation and voice our concerns. Silly me for thinking that someone (ANYone) would actually listen. You see, ultimately the decision of who gets the precious parking passes belongs to our principal. He might as well start wearing a creepy purple jacket and top hat and call himself Willy Wonka at this point...I wish I could find a parking pass in a chocolate bar.

However, our union rep is supposed to meet with him, share our concerns and our proposed strategy for determining who gets what. It all sounds fine, except that this might require that our union rep DO SOMETHING and/or LISTEN. Normally, she uses her extra free periods (given to her to complete union related business ) to go home early, so you can imagine her surprise when we called upon her to actually represent us. (Um, hi, it's called you JOB?!?)

So we go to this meeting and every single concern is either a) shot down by our union rep, or b) met with defensive comments from our union rep - although oddly enough, no one was attacking her or blaming her for anything. Oh, and did mention that she failed to write anything down??!?! Yet somehow, we are supposed to feel as if she is taking us seriously, and will represent all of our voices when she meets with The Visionary.

Riiiiiight.

Oh, but wait! It gets even better!

There is a sheet for all of us to sign. We have to write our names, our addresses, and our approximate distance for school as well as indicate if we drive on a daily basis.

I write my name, my address, and my mileage (in big bold print) and I am about to fill in "yes, I drive everyday" when my conscience gets the better of me. Because I don't drive EVERY day. I mean, am I going to succumb to the pressure to become a d-jockey and blatantly lie to get a pass? No, the answer is no, I'm not. So I am honest and write that I drive about half the time.

As I walk out of the oh-so-NOT-productive meeting, I glance at the sheet. And it's then that I realized, I WORK WITH LYING SCUM!!

According to this sheet, some people have written that they live over 50 miles away when it is quite obvious to everyone with brain (and or access to a map) that that is physically impossible. All of a sudden, everyone lives HOURS from school, and NO ONE admits to living within the city limits, choosing to use a relatives much farther address instead. And my personal fave....there is on person who signed up for a pass, stating that yes, they drive EVERYDAY and live approximately 30 miles from school when they DON'T EVEN OWN A CAR!!! (I wish I was kidding.)

I fumed my way back to my classroom. And although I want to run screaming down the hall perhaps clotheslining my lying colleagues on the way, I don't. Because I blame our union rep for handling this situation so poorly, thereby creating an environment where everyone ceases to give a shit about one another. I blame HER for that. Oh, and for taking a pass when she herself lives approximately 528 FEET from school.

I hope a tree falls on her car.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

The Weave must be bored. Cuz she's on the warpath. She wrote up one of my colleagues for her boy's behavior in the bathroom. Seriously, a TEACHER is in trouble because of how little boys behave in the bathroom at the other end of the hallway. Yea, it's that logical. And everyone knows little boys go down there to pee on the walls..or at least that what it smells like what they're doing in there. The pee smell really rolls down the hall now that the heat is on and it's nice and steamy.

I wonder what she thinks we can do about little boys in the bathroom. Go in there? Uh, NO. The Weave told my colleague to send them in pairs. She did. Then the Weave said send them alone. She did. Then, the Weave said call an upper grade teacher and disrupt their learning so they can come downstairs and escort your child to the bathroom. She did. Then, in a final stroke of genius, The Weave told her to stand in the hallway and wait to flag down another adult who might happen by...she did.

Until today, when The Weave happened to be the adult that happened by. And she flat out refused to take the little boy to the bathroom because it was not in her job description. Even thought my colleague was doing what she was told and the little boy in question was clearly doing the pee-pee dance. (In my experience, if they are already doing The Dance, you only have a few seconds before it's time to call home for a new pair of pants...)

At this point, I'm not sure how my colleague refrained from punching her in the face, because I don't think I possess that type of restraint.

And just like that, my colleague got a disciplinary letter in her file.

RECESS UPDATE:
I refused to send my kids with books. I mean, come on...reading as punishment?? Instead they all wrote one or two poor choices they had been making at recess lately, and then brainstormed ways to avoid those choices in the future. I brought them down to the recess aides in a lovely little pile and said, "consider my kids punished. Let them play." I guess they were so frustrated with trying to get the other kids to sit and read (duh), that they let mine go. Hallelujah, right?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Two Steps Forward...Two Steps Back...

A little Paula Abdul? Anyone?? "Opposites Attract"? No? Oh well...

I love to read. I want my students to love to read, but I know that reading can be hard. It's hard to teach too - we can't always tell what's going on in that little head or determine what is the best way to help. I try to encourage my kids to be independent readers, and don't want to over-help, but then again, you don't want to push to hard and make them feel constantly frustrated. I guess in that way, I feel like we're always taking steps forward and back. (I'm trying to tie the song in here, people, it's not easy always coming up with a clever title.)

I try really hard to make sure that my students have something they find WORTH reading too because there is nothing worse than struggling through something hard that you don't care about either. (Believe me, if I didn't care about my job or my students, it would NOT be worth the struggle.) So, I let them read newspapers, magazines, non-fiction, fiction...whatever...just read something!!! With some friends it's working, with others...they still look at me like I'm crazy when it's private reading time. (sigh)

So you can imagine how PISSED I was the other day when the adults on recess duty informed me that my children were going to lose recess for the next week. (Seriously, a WEEK??!? I mean, like they're going to remember what they did wrong a week after it happened...And really? EVERY child? EVERYONE needs to get punished? Because really...when they don't get recess...you're punishing ME too. How do you expect them to sit and listen ALL DAY without any time to blow off some steam??? I'm not saying that they don't misbehave, but COME ON!!! You squeeze 80 kids in a tiny gym with nothing to do and only two adults? What did you think was going to happen?)

And it gets better. During the WEEK that they/we are all being punished, they have to bring books with them. So they can read. As punishment. Reading as punishment.

There are so many problems here, I don't even know where to start.

1. Again, a WHOLE WEEK (for everyone) without recess...ridiculous.
2. Reading as a punishment. Dude. Duuuuuude. Why are you doing this to me? To them? How do you think my little strugglers are going to take to finding a good book now?
3. Do you have any idea, recess ladies, how many books we are going to LOSE?? They don't grow on trees, you know.
4. What about the idea of "logical consequences?" Anyone? Anyone? No? Or the kids who really weren't doing anything wrong or even know what happened?

A few of my colleagues felt similarly and tried to approach the recess adults with an alternative solution. One that still allowed children to be punished for whatever happened (I still don't really understand what happened...when I asked, I was told that they were "just bad." Not that they made bad choices, they are just bad. Arg). Any sort of attempt at a dialogue was met with "just do what you're told."

I'm not even going to get into that one. It would just be nice, for once, if all the adults in the building were on the same page, because not everything needs to feel like a battle.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Parents Say the Darndest Things

Perhaps we look stupid, but you wouldn't believe the crap parents throw at teachers sometimes. I mean, we spend eight hours a day with your kid...remember us? Hi, we're not morons. While I am all for the school of thought which believes that parents know their children best...I just think that sometimes, parents need to admit what they really know instead of giving us some bullshit Jekyll and Hyde story. If I hear "Oh my, he never does that at hooooome....(insert doe-eyed expression here)" one more time, I may just give up.

Do you think we are out to get your kids? To make up vicious lies that hold them back in life? Because that's not why I got into teaching....however, I also did not choose this profession to deal with the denial of parents and the ridiculous b.s. that they seem to sling at us with increasing regularity.

Some examples....

I approached a parent earlier in the year about her son's reading level. I am very concerned because he is reading almost an entire year below grade level. While he is making progress, and hopefully he will continue to, boyfriend would need to make TWO YEARS worth of progress to truly be ready for the next grade.

Me: So, we need to talk about reading...
Parent: Don't even start that with me again this year.
Me: You've heard this before from another teacher?
Parent: Yea, but AT HOME, he's reading Harry Potter books by himself.
Me: Well, it's great that you have books at home for him to enjoy, but here at school, it appears that he's only ready for books with eight to ten words of text on a page...so I'm not sure Harry Potter is the best choice.
Parent: Well he reads it.
Me: All right, but then maybe you can see why I am confused that here at school, he really struggles with more complicated text...
Parent: That's your problem, not mine.

Ahhhh, well played, my friend, played. I have nothing to say to that, because it is just totally stupid. Stupid. She might as well have a neon sign over her head saying "Closed for the evening" because nothing I'm going to say is going to get through.

Another example....

One child in my class has been biting other children at recess. BITING. I know, ridiculous, right? Even though I am not present at recess (and a big halleluja for that because recess duty might just push me over the edge...), I need to deal because I am a grown up. Unfortunatley, all of us do not share that same philosophy because when I approached the parent to discuss this issue, she responded with, "Well, what did YOU do to provoke him to bite?"

Um, what? It's MY fault that YOUR child is biting OTHER CHILDREN at recess when I'm not even there?!?!? You're not even going to try to blame the other children? You're going to go straight to blaming me....dude. I can only imagine how you value my opinions on other issues. It's all I can do to not look right back at her and say, "Thanks...you're right. It must be me. How silly of me to even waste your time. I apologize. GOOD LUCK WHEN HE'S 15, YOU IDIOT! Have a lovely day."

Unfortunately, sometimes our little friends end up not getting help when they need it the most because of the issues their parents have with asking for help in the first place.

My Super Colleague has a student in her class who never speaks. Never. Not even to say his name. He responds with grunts and nods or whatever, but no talking. And although silence can be golden in the classroom, clearly something is wrong.

We are in my classroom one day after school when the parent of this child walks by. My Super Colleague has been trying to talk to her for WEEKS.

Super Colleague: I'm really worried about our friend. He isn't talking in class. Have you noticed any thing at home?
Parent: What? Really? No...I don't think so.
Super Colleague: Well, he as other children ask for him when he needs to use the bathroom, and hasn't truly spoken to anyone this year that I know of.
Parent: I don't know what you're talking about. At home, he's a chatterbox. Last night we were debating about politics. He likes Obama.

Um, what? You want us to believe that your child, who has never uttered a word in school, is suddenly debating about who has the better foreign policy? Riiiiiight.

As my former social studies teacher used to say, "Denial isn't only river in Egypt." I'm not saying it's easy to admit when your child has a problem, large or small, but when a kid needs help, it's time to be the grownup and deal. One of the biggest lessons I try to teach my students is that it is OK to not be good at something and even downright BRILLIANT to know when to ask for help.

Maybe I should invite the parents to sit in on our little talks too.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Finding My Zen

I spent last weekend with my very best friends, one of whom kept talking about finding Zen places...sounds dirty, I know, but this is not THAT kind of blog.

I thought about my own Zen place, and wondered where it was. Or how I lost it. Or if I ever had one to begin with...all of which made me feel very bad about my new-ageness. I like the idea of being Zen...it conjures images of well groomed, peaceful people, reading books and sipping on refreshing drinks in a garden and butterflies, yes...lots of butterflies. I realized that this image is in direct contrast with my daily work life which usually involves hair dragged into a ponytail because that is all that is possible when one gets up at 5, running around like said hair is on fire all day, desperately trying to have some sort of meaningful interaction with someone and maybe squeeze in one meager sip from my misplaced water bottle or shove down a sandwich in three bites. (Please note, however, that both my Zen image and my actual Real Life Image involve fabulous heels, so I'm not a total failure.)

This last week I focused on finding my Zen, assuming that it had been lost somewhere, like a misplaced pencil or something, and if I just tried hard enough, I would find it again.

I thought my mission was a lost cause when I was told we had a surprise concert (which had been planned months in advance but no one had bothered to tell the teachers, so I guess, really, the surprise was just for me). Surprise! Scrap your plans! Be flexible!

If I become any more flexible, I may run off and join Cirque du Soleil. I bet they're Zen.

So we're at the SURPRISE! concert, which is Brazilian drumming group. And not only am I lamenting how this "oversight in communication" (that's what the office calls it...you say "oversight in communication", I say yet another F*ck up from a bunch of morons...tomato, tomato, right? ), I am also lamenting having had four glasses of wine the previous evening. Now, I never have more than a glass during the week, because I am not a huge drinker (read - I am old and can't handle it anymore). But I made an exception because a very old friend was in town and catching up is just so much better over several (read - seven) glasses of good Cabernet. Long story short, the change in schedule hurt, the drumming hurt even more and I was definitely not feeling Zen.

And then the lady on stage started dancing. She had fabulously untamed curly hair and wasn't wearing any shoes (which is usually a big old check in the minus column, but somehow seemed fitting for her). She danced to the music shaking her shaky thing (which probably had some sort of name that we were supposed to learn during the course of the concert but there was just so much banging, that I had trouble focusing....or caring) and was totally into it. At first I thought she was ridiculous and lame...I mean honestly, most people who perform in elementary schools are one small step from multi-colored turtlenecks, suspenders and that weird sing-songy this-is-how-I-think-you-are-supposed-to-talk-to-kids voice. But then I realized that she was just super into it. And super talented. And probably could give a rat's ass what I thought of her anyway, because she clearly loved what she was doing.

I want to be the dancing lady with the shaky thing. She had found her Zen.

Later we were in the classroom, totally rocking out our math centers. Kids were (finally) making smart choices and starting to internalize all my talk (read-rambling) about taking responsibility for their own learning. At one point, when my small little cologne-spritzed current favorite chose the money game articulating that he chose it because he knows counting money is hard for him and he wants to improve, I almost had to wipe away a tear. (I can be that shmultzy, and I'm proud of it!)

And I realized. I am in my Zen place. With a shaky thing. Ok, not literally a shaky thing, but doing what I want to do. I know I have complained about my new batch of friends, but they are growing on me and have been surprising me a bit with how far they've come. I just get so bogged down by all the crap (let me define crap..."oversights in communication", jacked up copy orders, bat shit crazy parents, the administrative obsession with hard numbers over actual people...need I continue?) that I forget about the kids. Which is so sad, because although I hate it when people tell me to "do it for the kids", I do love my kids. And when they act bat shit crazy, forget to tell me something or screw up an assignment, at least it's because they're CHILDREN and still learning.

I think I have found my Zen. Will keep you posted.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sound Logic??

Alternative Title - Evidently, Our Heads Are Up Our Asses

(You know I'm using the royal "Our", do you not? Because my head, is out and about and very confused right now.)

I got a new student today. Just showed up at my door. Just whatever. No warning. No time to prep a desk, some pencils, anything. Sure, just go ahead and throw the kid on my line and we'll see what happens, right?

So I guess that's problem numero uno...the lack of consideration of new students and the teachers who must receive them unannounced. I feel sorry for both of us in this scenario, but selfishly, mostly myself. It just really throws a wrench in the day to suddenly have an extra (untrained) body.

After lunch, a teacher from the previous grade calls me (on the GD phone in my classroom...because, hey, I can take a call anytime! I'm not busy.) She tells me that this student was in her class last year. And that she was supposed to be held over. She met with mom. Mom signed a paper stating that she understood her daughter should repeat the previous grade. (Not that I'm all about holding kids back, but dude, when you're not ready to go, you're just not ready to go).

Um, quick question. Why the heck is she in MY class??

Girlfriend can't read remotely on our grade level, has trouble writing her NAME independently, and can't count above 50. And I feel sorry for her...total deer in head lights today.

A brief side note - Why the F do teachers spend their year dutifully checking off inane checklists, assessing the living crap out of children and compiling legal sized files on individual students if they (meaning those with all the POWER) end up just passing a kid on anyway?? I mean, sure, I'll collect MOUNTAINS of paperwork to substantiate my professional opinion, and you...you just wave them on. That's cool. I didn't really put that much thought into it anyway.

During my free period, I dashed off a quick email to The Weave and cc'ed our principal and several other key players.

The response?

Evidently Little Girl's mom registered her in another school for the month of September. The new school looked at her birthday and registered her in my grade (a whole grade level ABOVE where she should be...I guess mom didn't feel the need to inform her new school). THEN....(oh, there's more), mom withdraws her from her old school and RE-registers her at our school, conveniently forgetting to tell the secretary about her daughter's situation.

And, wa-lah! She is in my class. Even better... The Weave says there's nothing we can do. There is some mythical (read: dumbass) policy which states that since this child was registered in my grade in another school, she must stay in that grade in OUR school, despite her previous teacher's recommendation, despite mom signing an agreement and despite ALL BETTER JUDGEMENT.

Awesome.

I guess the big, dinosaur that we call The System is totally OK with several things that just rub my common sense the wrong way....things like disregarding a teacher's professional opinion, ignoring what is best for a child and screwing a future teacher (and her other students) by giving her a child who is severely below grade level.

On a funnier note, I have been told that there were two rubber cutlets (read: fake boobs) found in the upstairs teachers' bathroom. On the sink. Just, you know, hanging out. That's right folks, some of my colleagues may not care about our jobs enough to even pretend to look like they're busy, but do care enough about other things...like pretending that they have larger bossoms.

Friday, September 26, 2008

All Right Everybody, Just Relax

So my last post stirred up quite a frenzy. I have a few things to say about that.

1. Anyone who REGULARLY reads my blog will know that I love my students. Even though I miss my friends from last year, I do care about my current ones and want only the best for them. I find it offensive that many anonymous people out there feel as if they can read one post and judge me - hook, line and sinker. If you don't like what I say, please remove me from you favorites bar (because I know I'm there.)

2. I would NEVER harm a child. And, again, if you regularly read my blog, you will know that many other adults in my school almost routinely make decisions that consciously and unconsciously negatively impact students. I, and many of my Super Colleagues, are the ones who care for them, keep them safe and teach them. Many schools are VERY negative places in which children must endure whistles blown in their faces at lunchtime, the scorn of burned out teachers and the ridicule of their peers. I work hard to make school a positive experience (as much as I can within the four walls of my classroom).

3. That being said, I do NOT believe in an environment in which every child wins and no one ever has to address their shortcomings. In my classroom, we constantly celebrate our victories but we are always mindful of areas in which we can improve (both academically and personally). This ONE MOMENT IN TIME was an example of a group of people attempting to learn to work together in very close proximity on a daily basis. There have been MANY OTHER MOMENTS in this new school year where all my children have been rockstars and their rockstar-ness was acknowledged. Publicly. Including Big Boy. (Oh, and I have met with his parents, talked about this issue and talked to them that day after school. They were fine. Because it was fine.)

4. Big Boy had a fabulous day. And another one today. What I didn't include in my post was that we debriefed one on one during a private lunch, sharing strategies that he can use to be more productive and less disruptive. We talked about his previous year in school, during which he was constantly isolated by his teacher and spent 75% of his time alone in the hallway, and how it was much nicer THIS year now that he is part of a group. A group that cares enough to help him be the best self that he can be.

5. Everyone cries sometimes. I cry. They cry. And sometimes I cry because I've done something to hurt others. And sometimes they cry for the same reasons. There was no name calling. No bullying. No pointing. No tattling. Just I statements. About feelings. Followed by a conversation of why we want Big Boy to be a part of our class and all the things he can add to our class. Publicly. With him listening. I didn't post that part, because it wasn't as interesting, not as challenging for me and THIS ISN'T A TRANSCRIPTION OF MY DAY.

6. Go away. Just go away anonymous. Let this be a space where TEACHERS can share with other TEACHERS their struggles, triumphs, angry days and funny moments. We are not perfect but we are on the front lines and are being brutalized. Stop taking yourself, and a BLOG so seriously.

In closing, this is not a hateful site, or at least it wasn't until you came along. It is not intending to personally bash anyone. Rather through humor and good storytelling, it intends to make public some of the issues teachers face across all kinds of schools. At the end of the day, YOU are not my administrator. And before you want to be all Judgey-Judgerstein, walk a mile, sister, walk a mile in my shoes. Because they are fabulous.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Proverbial Straw...You Know, With The Camel?

It has been a rough start to the school year. Just rough. As I've said before...lots of crying (um, TEACHERS crying, not students...ok, well they cry too, but that's hardly shocking), rampant gossip and The Great Parking Crisis. Oh yeah, and I'm still mourning my class from last year and trying to find things to love about my current friends.

So, yes, you might say that I have a lot on my plate for September. (Is it only September??? I am so tiiiirrred!) And you might also say that I have a bit of a short fuse. Maybe.

As many of you who are teachers already know, September is the time of year for setting up routines. (This process has also been referred to as "breaking little spirits"...)

In all fairness, I am finding that some of my new friends are super cute. We have moved from vacant blank stares into actually starting to think for ourselves which is something. And they've finally stopped constantly begging for water and the bathroom. Progress, right? (Be careful, I'm on a bit of an edge here....)

Then there's this one boy. Who's huge. Huge as in height, huge as in weight and huge as in annoying. (Was that out loud? Bad teacher!) Seriously, for someone so huge, he is the biggest baby I have ever had in my classroom. In the last few days he has (among other things) made a habit of shouting out, has hit several children, refused to do any work despite the fact that he is completely capable, cried, kicked furniture, thrown pencils, glued his hands together and hummed so loudly that children around him fled to quiet corners of the room on their own.

If I ask everyone to sit on the carpet once, I have to ask him four times. Everyone puts their backpack away and sits down in the first five minutes, he takes twenty minutes and constant supervision. When everyone else listens, he hums or bangs on his desk. When everyone else is working, he does his damndest to F it all up.

Long story short...he is on my last nerve. (I'm imagining frantically circling the block to find parking for this?? I'm supposed to do it "for THIS kid" too?) And the last nerve of all of my new friends too.

Today, he yelled at another kid to "shut up." (The child at whom he was yelling was not making any noise, by the by.)
The other child looked up and said, " you're telling ME to shut up??!? You NEVER shut up!"

And I knew it was time. We had an emergency class meeting, with Big Boy, in which we talked about how his behavior made everyone else feel. There was no pointing, no tattling, and no name calling allowed. My friends were only allowed to say how Big Boy's behavior made them feel.

They were brilliant.

"I feel upset because you are wasting our learning time and I want to learn." (who knew?)
"I am angry because I don't like hearing Mrs. Mimi raise her voice." (Mrs. Mimi doesn't like the yelling either...)
"I am annoyed because she doesn't ask us to do anything we don't know how to do, so why can't you do it?" (I love you!!)
"I am sad because you make it hard for me to do my work." (Maybe you guys are kind of cute...)

Long story longer, it made me start to see how cute these new friends can be. And Big Boy ended up having the best day he's ever had.



It was kind of amazing (although I'm not sure how appropriate).

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Kingdom For A Parking Space

Sometimes it feels as if the forces in the universe are alligning to make this job as difficult as possible, just to see if I have the balls to stick with it. Other times, it feels as if teachers (as people) are the absolute last priority on everyone's list...that we will just suck it up and deal with ridiculous situations "for the kids."

If one more person tells me to do it "for the kids", I might throw a kid at them. Seriously. Stop playing on our good intentions and altruistic dedication to the future and treat us like the professionals you so desperately claim you want us to be. It just seems at times as if this job teeters on the brink of being inhumane.

I thought it was bad enough that I occassionally have to stomp my feet while peeing (to scare the mice away...really). ( I rationalize that it's good for my thighs.)

Then I thought we had hit rock bottom when the administration took no sort of stance after teachers routinely had their personal property stolen out of their locked classrooms.

When I found a dead mouse in the middle of my rug (with several other LIVE mice feasting on the corpse) at 7:30 a.m., I thought, "This is it...this is as low as we can go. What else can be expected of me?"

And then...they took our parking spaces away.

All of a sudden, after many many many years of being issued parking passes, it has been decided that teachers may no longer park near their school building. They must now a) pay an additional astromonical fee to park in a parking garage in a shady shady neighborhood, b) get to school hella early and pray for a space, c) find another way to get to work or d) just give up

But somehow, I am supposed to still make it to work "for the kids." I guess with my love "for the kids", I will be granted the power to make parking spots appear...or maybe if I imagine the kids as I circle the school for 45 minutes each morning I will be less angry? Does that make any sense to you?

WTF? Now you're going to make a CHALLENGE for me to get to this place in which I have to stomp and pee, obsessively check on my wallet and deal with live demonstrations of Darwinism at work? "For the kids"?

But wait, it gets better. There ARE a very limited number of passes being distributed. Our administrators (some of whom live a ten minute walk from school) snatched those up and left the teachers (some of whom live a 45 minute drive away) with nothing.

So, in sum, because some d-bags with a photocopier made a bunch of fake passes, those of us who actually need and legally use our parking passes will be denied. In the middle of the fall. After we have made decisions about our employment based on our proximity to work and subsequent commute.

I ask you, all-important-decision-making-body, do you want me to just tap a vein? Then you can suck the life out of me directly instead of chipping away slowly at my sanity.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why I'd Like To Be Kosher...

....Or....How One Person Has Totally Turned Me Off Bacon (which takes a huge display of idiocy as bacon is the food of my people...really, it's our way.)

Of whom do I speak? Take one guess....you got it! The Bacon Hunter!!

Now, I realize that it has been quite a while since I have regaled you with tales of her uselessness, because I thought to myself, "self, how many times can those lovely people in the blogosphere listen to such ridiculous tales of slovenly behavior?"

Friends, I can not NOT talk about this one.

Where to begin? Where to begin?

OK. The Bacon Hunter is SUPPOSED to help us improve our abilities to teach math. In previous years, she "developed" our abilities by forcing us to meet with her once a week so that she could rattle off a list of things we were to do. The tasks on said list ranged from absolutely demoralizing (cleaning out closets because she didn't feel like it) to totally mind numbing (transferring the data from one assessment onto three different types of graphs). Needless to say, we revolted. And by revolted, I mean went to the principal and bitched like a group of whiney six year olds.

Whatever, it got the point across and she got a "talking to." (Sucka!) As a result, the proverbial pendulum has swung and she now takes on a near lifeless form in our still mandatory weekly meetings. Seriously, there are times when she can barely open her eyes, respond to a question or lift her stupid face off her stupid binder. (Yes, I am getting more mature by the second, I know....)

This past week, she managed to bark at us that we are to complete a ridiculous series of checklists once a month on each student. Perhaps our principal coerced her into tearing herself away from the newspaper and actually finishing a sentence with promises of thick and meaty egg and cheese sandwiches. I can't imagine how else he got her to lift her head off the table....

Last year, we dutifully filled out these same checklists (despite our better judgement) to see if they really did improve our instruction. And, um, yea, no they did nothing. Except give me headaches. And take up my time. And cause me to burst into spontaneous rages over the wasting of my time...so, yea, they did all THOSE things, but improve my teaching? No.

So this year, we spoke up...and gave articulate and well-thought our responses to her query. We talked about which checklists help us craft our lessons and which feel like a waste of time. We talked about how our team is growing and becoming smarter about math instruction and therefore, our assessment tools need to evolve as well. All in all, we were brilliant. (I mean, duh...did you think for a second that we wouldn't be?)

And in response?

Blank stares.

"Um, did you hear us?"

Blank stares.

"Bacon Hunter? Can we at least think about it and come to a decision in our next meeting?"

Blank stares.

"Ok...um, yea. So I guess we'll just sleep on that one. Maybe we can think it over, talk about it in our next meeting and come to a decision."

Blank stares.

"Will you tell the principal what we talked about? I think he needs to hear our concerns."

Blank stares.

"Hello?"

Blank stares.

"Do you want some bacon?"

Fast foward to the end of the day. I go to the office to check my mail box. What do I find?

A WHOLE PACKAGE OF CHECKLISTS FROM THE FREAKING BACON HUNTER!!

Um, hi...DID YOU HEAR ME???? Were you not LISTENING??? Evidently she went straight from our meeting, disregarded everything we said and made the damn copies. And I"m just supposed to roll over and fill them out without so much as the promise of a measly bacon, egg and cheese sandwich? Oh sister friend, you better get ready, because Mrs. Mimi doesn't roll over for anybody!

I now have a better understanding of the phrase "talking to the wall."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Channeling Gossip Girl

(Only with a much smaller wardrobe budget.)

Setting: my classroom

Person #1: She sucks.
Person #2: That is so dumb! What did she say?
Person #1: She said...
Person #2: Oh no she di-n't.
Person #1: I know! She did!
Person #2: (beginning to cry) I don't know why she would say that about me...

Did I mention that both Person #1 and Person #2 are adults? In my school? Adults in my school that I work with. Crying. In my room. Before school, during school and after school.

And Friday was the ninth day of school. So, long story short, the year is off to a stellar start (please go back and insert sarcastic tone if you have not already....but really, you should know me better than that by now.)

There has been crying, cursing, plotting and scheming. The shit is hitting the fan fast and furious...we can't shovel it up fast enough evidently.

After a meeting of the minds (the minds being my other teacher friends), we realized that there is one individual responsible for all the high drama. And no, it's not the Weave. It's someone who we shall refer to as The Instigator.

The Instigator is an out-of-the-classroom person (imagine that). As is typical in my school (and I apologize to those of you out there who are out of the classroom AND hard workers...because where I come from, those two ideas are at some severe odds), this out-of-the-classroom individual has FAR too much free time. Now, this person has always had quite a bit of free time on her hands. In past years, she has used her flexible schedules to enjoy long breakfasts, read the newspaper, smoke cigarettes on the corner and spend time on eBay. As if her days weren't jam-packed enough, she has evidently now added "f*cking with teachers who are barely keeping their heads above water as it is."

I mean, talk about dedicated to your cause, right? If your cause is wreaking havoc, and not making any significant contribution to your place of employment that is.

Unfortunately, out-of-the-classroom teachers have an odd power at our school - and this woman is no exception. She is like the Godfather. You don't want to piss her off, because she will make your life a living hell. It is like the educational equivalent of putting out a hit, which in our case that translates to screwed up copy orders, no prep periods and constant phone calls interrupting your teaching. In the teaching world, that can be a fate worse than death too...

I've started wondering what her motivation is...and then my mind wandered back to the children.

Oh yeaaaaaa, the kids!

Anyhow, I'm exhausted from all the drama. I think my only option is to run out and get a pedicure (Mr. Mimi, if you're reading this, you may want to avert your eyes from the credit card statement....honey, I did it for the kids.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Curly Reigns Supreme

And we're back. The arts-and-farts portion (a.k.a. hardcore decoration of classroom) of the program are over and I have a crowd of potential new friends. I say "potential" because I have a (nasty?) habit of not totally vibing with my new class until November-ish. I have never been the teacher who runs home after the first day exclaiming, "They are SO cute!" I mean, they might be cute, but whatever. I am still totally in love with my friends from last year and need to mourn the loss a bit. Plus, re-explaining my routines, the rules, etc gets to be a tad much.

Speaking of my friends from last year, I have a story that will warm your little hearts. Rarely do I promote non-complaining, so enjoy it. Today, as I was yet again explaining our morning routines (somebody just poke me in the eye...), Curly bursts in my classroom door. My heart is literally singing with joy at the sight of all his curls.

Now let's back up a moment. At the end of the year last year, Curly's mom told me that he would be leaving early to go spend the summer with his grandparents in a warm tropical location. I was sad (this kid was/is amazing), but jotted down the date so I could say good bye. He ended up leaving two days ahead of schedule and no one got to say goodbye. Needless to say, I was more sad than I care to admit. Plus, he never returned his book baggie....or the ten books inside it.

OK, back to the present:

Me: "HIIIIII!!"

Him: (running to hug me) "Hi Mrs. Mimi! I missed you!!"

Me: "I miss you too! How are you?" (Clearly I don't care that I am in the middle of teaching....nor do I notice all my current students sitting with their mouths agape, most likely marveling that I can be this nice...I mean, it is the start of a new year and I am doing my fair share of whip cracking.)

Him: "I left early last year and never got to give this back to you." (He holds out his old book baggie...with all ten books still inside.)

Me : (restraining myself from crying) "Oh, Curly...You are such a good boy! Thank you!"

Him: "It's nothing. I've read those books, like a hundred times now!"

And with that, he hugged me and ran out of the room.

Being the professional that I am, I turned to the new child sitting in Curly's old seat and told him he had big shoes to fill. We'll see how the new batch turns out....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This Just In...

Rumor has it that we are going to be getting new seat sacks emblazoned with the school's name and mascot. However, we will NOT be receiving any paper what-so-ever.

(For those of you fabulous readers who are not teachers, it has been brought to my attention that maybe you don't know what a seat sack is....well, if I knew how to add a picture, I would add it. But I don't. In lieu of a picture, a seat sack is a contraption made of canvas that slips over the back of a student's chair like a slipcover. Think Pottery Barn for Teachers in primary colors. On the back of the chair, it has one large pocket big enough for folders, workbooks, notebooks, etc. and may also have smaller pockets good for pencils, markers, etc. They are pure genius. However, after a year of use, they become caked with pencil marks, and collect all sorts of small-child-related-crud. This is the non-genius part. And when they are washed, they smell like a wet dog who has been wet for two solid weeks and is starting to grow mold...and I know, 'cuz I tried.)

Let us break this down, shall we?

1. Seat sacks are the bomb. Seriously, I heart them intensely not only for their increased storage capacity, but because they generally brighten up the room. Getting new seat sacks is pretty rad because it was only a few years ago that we were expected to take our stank, old, used and all-around-nasty seat sacks to the laundromat DOWN THE STREET and at our own expense...(wait for it)... wash them. Take a moment, and let that sink in, because it is truly awe-inspiring bullshit. So, new seat sacks? Score. We'll put a point in the pro column.

2. Last year, the seat sacks that were ordered did not fit the actual chairs in most of our classrooms. We had to sweat, curse and throw all our body weight into wrangling them onto the chairs. It's not a pretty picture, is it? I mean, I guess it's too much to ask that perhaps someone MEASURE our chairs or put some THOUGHT into a rather expensive purchase order. Moral of the story here is My School Enjoys Blowing It's Relatively Tight Load In Irrational And Avoidable Ways Rather Than Think Things Through For A Second. In other words, we now need to add a point to the minus column.

3. Some douche decided that it was a better idea to have the school name and mascot stitched onto each and every child's seat sack rather than have paper. I think this one stands alone as complete idiocy. Essentially, the larger concern here was how each classroom APPEARS rather than what children are actually able to DO in said classroom. This type of concern is mandatory if you are a believer in the Dog and Pony Show, which evidently, we are. Perhaps this year I can teach my students fire dancing and we can really wow the crowds that come through. After all, we don't have any of that flammable paper laying around. Yet another point in the minus column. (Back to the basement I go!!)

4. I am not going to be given any paper this year. In and of itself, this is ridiculous. However, there is more to it than that...oh yes. No paper means I do not get to make my own copies. (Although, when I'm honest about it, making my own copies kind of sucked because I had to do it on the crappy copier reserved for teachers located approximately three miles from my classroom in some dark dingy wing that no one goes to and may not even appear on a map of the school.) An inability to make my own copies equals total dependence on the asshats in the office who are in charge of the almighty photocopier that I am not allowed to touch or know the pass code to. This realization has caused me much pain in anticipation of receiving 13 copies instead of the requested 25. And then having to put in another request for an additional 12 copies. Each. And. Every. Time. I have been down this road before and am not looking forward to my return trip. And...another tally in the old minus column.

5. I just blew $120 at the teacher store. Now, I recognize that places like that are designed to suck vulnerable teachers in, forcing them to buy things they never knew they needed...but I thought I was above that. (sigh) What I should be admitting is, "Hi, my name is Mrs. Mimi and I'm addicted to school supplies, most things "wipe off", and organizational tools." I don't know what column to chalk that one up to.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kickin' It Old School...Because I'm Old

In an effort to try to cushion the blow of going back to work (and going in early), today I went in about 10:00. I am absolutely NOT setting my alarm clock until I absolutely need to...and watching the Today Show while sipping on coffee is just so darn lovely.

Now when I went in last week NO ONE was there...and therefore I got a LOT done. As I sauntered in today, I realized that EVERYONE is back and it took me a full hour to just get to my classroom. There was lot of screaming, hugging and talk of summer. And although there was a pounding in my head (in which each beat belted out yet another to do off the old Proverbial To Do List), it was nice.

That's right, I said it was nice to be back. Enjoy it now, because I predict complaining in the near future.

I saw The Weave. We hugged. It was fuzzy and warm. I don't expect it to last.

Once I arrived at my classroom, it took me yet another hour to actually get started. Dude, teachers like to talk...and deny how much work they have. But then I looked around and realized that there were just a few of us talking. Those of us who had been around the block a few times if you know what I mean (and I think you do). Personally, I think it is sick that I have been teaching less than ten years, yet am somehow considered to be one of the "older" staff members.

The other day I said I "took the plunge" by going back early. Let's roll with the swimming metaphor, shall we? So I guess now one could say I am confidently breast-stroking my way to the first day (I heart you Michael Phelps...and your oddly low-riding bathing suit). I changed bulletin board paper, started to make name tags, organized student supplies all while rocking out to Snoop (have I not mentioned that I am a fairly closeted fan of the Dogg?)...I mean, honestly, I was in my organizational element. Sharpies poised and ready to label.

And then I paused and looked at the "new girls". They are all wide eyed and panicky....or (to extend the metaphor) thrashing around naked trying desperately not to drown. A few of them even stood in my room and took notes. Seriously. They were in that awful place where they stand around, nervously giggling with one another, yet accomplishing absolutely nothing.

It was then that I realized being old wasn't so bad...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Taking The Plunge (sigh)

I did it. I really did it. I went back to school.

ugh.

Now, many of you may think of me as a particularly dedicated, rock-star of a teacher. (Which is, of course, correct.) However, it may come as a surprise to you when I admit that I have NEVER gone in to my classroom one second before I was officially required to. That's right, no summer time room set up for me. Really.

Perhaps it is because I spent most of my childhood summers in my mother's classroom and have been hanging her bulletin boards from the time I could safely wield a stapler (which was exactly one year after I stapled my hand to the wall...yea, mom tried pimping me out a bit early). Once my talent had been discovered, I was shuttled all over her school and commissioned to hang boards in all her friends' rooms too. I say "commissioned" because my bulletin board skills were (and still are, although I care about them considerably less) amazing.

Needless to say, these early experiences have scarred me deeply and I now avoid school in the summer like the plague. And in every other year, we have been officially required to report back 10 days early. 10 days...sounds like a lot, but it gets you off to a great start! Then it was 7 full days. Then 5. Last year we had 4. And this year....2. 2 days.

Any teacher worth anything knows that 2 days is not enough to arrange a room, make plans and get yourself physically and mentally ready for the start of the school year. (And personally, if you DO think two days is enough, I think you are worthless...c'mon, this job is HARD!)

So I went back. And spent five hours of my precious summer cleaning up old mouse pee and poo (thank you Master's degree!), moving furniture and pulling all sorts of crap that I can't remember why I saved out of my closets. Seriously, just let the old markers go....don't cram them into a bucket and stick them randomly into a closet like I did at the end of the year. Hoard much?

In addition, I have spent HOURS at home working on curriculum, etc. (Nerdily, I LOVE that stuff and there never seems to be enough time to think deeply about it once the year starts.) Granted, planning social studies and science is MUCH easier from my beach chair while clad only in my fabulous new two piece and some sun tan lotion....

I guess that all this really just means that...it's on.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And Visions of Dollar Signs Danced In My Head

No, I am not getting a raise. Or a bonus check. Or any sort of monetary congratulations/sign of appreciation for my kick a*s year last year, so don't get excited. The dollar signs belong to me. Or at least they used to. Now they belong to Staples.

I have just returned from my annual pilgrimage to that mecca of office supply-dom. And I have to say that it was quite the roller coaster...full of dramatic twists and turns (which comes as no surprise to Mr. Mimi who thinks I am constantly working to win some sort of trophy for dramatic performance...untrue....flattering that he appreciates my flair for the theatre, but untrue).

Let me begin at the beginning. As I enter Staples, I am a flurry of energy, attempting to recall everything that I had previously listed on my To Buy List. (Alas, the beloved To Buy List was left in another purse...you can lead the organizational horse to water...). I grab a cart and am off! My first priority...plastic tool boxes on sale for 99 cents each. (Which yes, sounds like a good deal, but I do think it is slightly bullshit, because they USED to go on sale for 25 cents each just a few years ago. Geez. I sound old. I also complain about the prices of eggs...)

I emerge from behind a giant display of notebooks and....there they are. But wait! There are stacks upon stacks, but there are only two colors - pink and purple. Now, I am all about "you get what you get and you don't get upset" but I am also all about avoiding unnecessary complaining. I mean, I can't stick a little boy with a pink tool box. And don't get all gender-y on me either! Boys can absolutely choose pink shirts, backpacks, tool boxes, etc (Mr. Mimi happens to look very sexy in a new pink power tie), but I do NOT believe in forcing the pink upon them. Not because I worry about their disappointment. Because I think I might explode if they even THINK about complaining about something I have provided them at my own expense. Selfless, I know.

I immediately abandon my cart, crestfallen. I am about to leave, when I run into a friendly salesperson (a rare, rare finding at Staples in my experience). There is a glimmer of hope.

Me: "Um, do you happen to have any more of those plastic tool boxes?"
Him: "There's quite a few right there, miss."
Me: (He called me "miss"! Maybe I'm not so old after all....) (Insert dazzling smile) "Yes, but I teach *** grade and I can't imagine giving my boys a pink tool box..." (maintaining dazzling smile)
Him: "Well, of course. Let's see..."

And he leads me back to another display filled with blue, green and clear tool boxes!! Hooray!! I thank the kind man and practically skip back to my abandoned cart. I eagerly count out 22 tool boxes in a variety of colors.

I then move onto those wonderful cardboard displays which I have convinced myself are full of fabulous deals. I understand that they are probably not huge deals, but just having them be separate from the other merchandise and stored in a jaunty cardboard bin makes them feel more special.

I begin to toss all kinds of goodies into my cart...

Crayola Crayons and markers, bottle after bottle of Elmer's glue, fun erasers, a pencil sharpener, glue sticks, pencils, and dozens and dozens of two pocket folders.

My cart starts to look like my classroom threw up in it...it is a rainbow colored vessel brimming with brand new, shiny school supplies.

My heart is practically bursting. (Seriously, I think I may have giggled as I piled twelve new colors of dry erase markers into my cart...)

And I'm done. I wheel myself over to checkout, where another pleasant (wow...there are two!!) salesperson rings me up. I load pile after pile after pile of stuff onto the counter, watching the register tape spew out of the cash register and begin to touch the floor (really, it did reach the floor).

It was almost like a switch had been flipped.

I was angry.

Why the hell am I spending my money (not to mention my time on this gloriously sunny day) buying school supplies which should be bought be either THEIR PARENTS or THE SCHOOL??!?!

Have I ever told you that I have NEVER (NOT ONCE) been supplied with a pencil? That's right...seven years of teaching and not one damn pencil. The city for which I work spends all kinds of money catering lunches and employing all sorts of d-bags who have never set foot in a classroom yet get to tell me what to do and NO ONE has even THOUGHT that MAYBE they should give the teachers freaking pencils???

Perhaps the kids can imagine the pencils. Or like a magician, they will come falling out of my a*s. But no, those things don't happen, because I buy them. Every year. I buy them.

Don't even get me started telling you that I have also never been supplied with paper...we don't have time for that one ...and it's already been done!

$233.58 later and I still have to hit up Costco.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ready, Set, Panic (Or In My Case...Frantically Make Lists And Make A Hard-Core Staples Run)

So, I'm back from my fabulous trip. I am tanned, well-rested and happy. Minus my camera getting stolen in what will remain an un-named city, we had the most amazing time and a wonderful anniversary. (Fortunately, I had uploaded some pictures onto my computer, but I did lose a few. Let's have a moment of silence for my camera. And now, please send hateful vibes to the man who stole the camera of a nice little American girl. I hope Karma really is a b*tch.)

But now I am oh-so-aware of the calendar. Gone are the days where I pick my head up from my book, sip my iced coffee and ask, "Hey babe, what day is it anyway?" Oh no. I KNOW what day it is. It is 16 days and counting. And that is the countdown until the OFFICIAL day that I have to report back. I may/will/don't want to go back for an extra day or two beforehand. Boo.

How am I spending these last precious moments you ask?

Panicking.

List making.

Scouring the Staples web site.

Trying to readjust my sleeping to "teacher time" (insert a shudder here).

(Oh, and watching TiVo'd episodes of Project Runway.)

Strangely though, I have moments of being excited. Sometimes, I think about my planner (the new one still remains un-purchased) and feel giddy. Nerdy, nerdy, nerdy. Shamefully nerdy. I have mentally planned read alouds, re-designed the lay out of my classroom furniture and wondered what my new little friends will be like. I miss having a good story to tell.

I guess that means I really do love my job?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm Off!

All righty friends, I'm off!! Off where you say? I'll never tell...but just know it is fabulous and I'll be back in the middle of August. So, enjoy the bon bons, Oprah and magazines - you deserve it!! Pee when you want, eat lunch after 11:00 and sleep late. We have to soak it all up, so when we're tired and burned out (after the first week??!?), we can regale one another with tales of relaxation and "time off task."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

All Eyes On Me

So...it has been brought to my attention that I haven't posted in a bit. And while I'm flattered that you are hanging on my every word (I like to kid myself.), it is hard to think of school related posts when one is not working. Or thinking about working. In fact, denying the fact that one has to work ever again.

Although I haven't been totally useless all summer. I have had this ongoing project that has drawn many an odd look. Seriously, I have had more people staring at me, whispering about me and giving me really strange looks this summer.

So what am I doing? Walking around topless? No...... Public drunkenness? No....... Picking my nose at restaurants? No.....

I've been reading.

(GASP!)

I've been reading chapter books from popular children's series - like Horrible Harry, Jigsaw Jones, Cam Jansen, etc. All the types of books that a second grader might read at school.

I know, shame on me. Working in the summer. I mean, it's not like I'm getting paid, am I?

Wait, am I?

Anyway, after switching grades last year, I quickly realized that you can't "skim" an 80-page children's book and get the gist. After listening to a few students spin fanciful tales that couldn't possibly be accurate, I knew that I was in trouble. So I furiously started reading the books I assigned my students each week. And considering I had six different guided reading groups, each of whom received their own book each week, that was no small task. Soon, all of the stories started running together and I needed to create my own little cheat sheets on index cards to keep all my characters straight.

To save myself hours of cramming, I decided to leisurely read many of these books over the summer and create more thoughtful cheat sheets. You would think that I was exposing myself in public from the looks I've been getting.

There are those people that glance at me quickly and then look back to what they are doing. About five seconds later, it apparently registers that I was reading something with cartoon characters on the front, and they brazenly begin to stare, eyebrow raised, desperately squinting to read the title. These people kind of make me wish I was reading some raunchy porn that would really shock the pants off them. But, alas, I neither have the balls, nor the interest, to carry one of those around.

Then there are those people who look at the book, look at me, look back at the book and then look at me in disgust. I don't get those people.

And finally, there are the people that look at me, look at the book and then look back at me, eyes filled with pity. The look says,"Oh, you poor dumb thing...good for you! Good for learning how to read at 30! You sound it out, girl! Go ahead...beat the odds!" And then maybe, if I catch their eye, they give me that "Go get 'em" smile. Those people make me laugh.

So, in sum, I am trying to use my summer productively, but sometimes it seems as if everyone is just encouraging me to get back to the couch, pick up a magazine and let it all wait to fall.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hold On, Let Me Just Bang My Head Against The Wall

Yes, it is summer. Yes, I sometimes find myself reclining with a magazine. Yes, I sleep later. Yes, I have watched a Project Runway Marathon...and I don't feel a bit guilty! I welcome these weeks when I get to shake off the struggles of last year, dream about the amazing things I'm going to do next year and RELAX. For some reason though, there is one problem/irritating situation/load of crap that just won't die.

You may remember (and if you don't, please click here and re-read...c'mon, we'll wait) that last year I had a friend in my class who was extremely lazy. I can take many things...naughty, sneaky, chatty, struggling...but I can't take lazy. Lazy blows. I worked my behind off just trying to get this kid to engage and like school, to get him to dig in and give things a shot. Seriously, I was like a one-woman show and his personal cheerleader all in one. It took a LOT of energy (and some cursing in my off-time) but, dammit, he started to feel successful and try new things. I know, I am a rockstar.

If that wasn't draining enough...his mom literally sapped me of all my energy. She was nice, polite and blah blah blah, but she drove me insane with her CONSTANT emails, her rants against administrative decisions about indoor recess (dude, if it's raining, they're going to stay inside, end of story), and her unrelenting denial about her son's academic struggles. Now, I know that it is hard to admit when your child isn't doing well in school, but you are not helping anyone by making up EXCUSES!!!!

For example, his handwriting was crap. Total crap. Light, shaky, poor letter formation..you name it. He also couldn't cut on a line to save his life. At times, it looked like he just gnawed at the paper with his teeth (still not totally convinced that that didn't happen). I told her I suspected that he had weak hand muscles and perhaps she could talk to someone about some excericses to strengthen those muscles. She said it was something to think about and then sent me a three-screen email that night explaining that he would "grow into his hands." WTF? What does that mean?

And his homework! This mom took "the dog ate it" to new levels. She told me he took several hours to complete homework..homework that should only take 30 minutes. When I implied that perhaps it was because the work was too challenging (Hello! Wake up and smell the struggles!) and suggested that we look at his (lack of) progress, she was quick to say that no, it's not his fault that his homework takes so long. It was actually her fault...She didn't undersand it's purpose and thought it was better for him to have life experiences. I think homework and responsibility is a life experience, but whatever.

Anyhow, I think you get the point. And this post is getting VERY long...but hey, it's summer, what else do you have to do? (Kidding!!)

So I guess it's too late to say, "long story short" but this friend was on my radar for the entire year. Mom respectfully disagreed with me the entire year. Which is fine. She is entitled to her opinion (even though it was wrong). At the end of the year, I met with her and laid out the pros and cons about promoting her son. I was very honest with her and tried my best to deflect all of her excuses (which was NOT easy...girlfriend is gifted in the excuse department...it's almost amazing if it wasn't so freaking annoying).

The sad part is, in our school system, a parent can dispute a teacher's decision to hold over a child (I will pause now for you to calm down, because I know you are outraged. It's OK, I understand.)...only failing "The Test" (and I do not teach a testing grade) can override a parent's choice. Yes, you heard me right...my voice means relatively little. It feels good, really, to be ignored and discarded like that. And it also makes me feel good about my YEARS of education. I mean, c'mon, ANYONE can teach, so why listen to me? (Um, so you should be picking up on my sarcasm by now...) While I think parents should have a say and be involved, I think it is RIDICULOUS that my PROFESSIONAL opinion means next to nothing. Uniformed parents (and yes, some are very informed, but let's be real...some are so not) matter more and, clearly, some dark bubbles on a scantron sheet are the gospel. Sweet.

Rant aside, my friend gets promoted. And the year is over. I feel badly about the decision...I worry that I did not do everything I could, that maybe if I had pushed harder...but, it's done now.

Or so I thought.

Evidently, mom hires The Tutor. Because having someone working with my friend once a week in the summer is going to make up for what I couldn't do in ten months. Sounds reasonable, right? (Again, you're sensing the sarcasm here, yes? If not, please...try to keep up.)

The Tutor CALLS ME. IN THE SUMMER. And talks to me for AN HOUR about my friend. She basically reiterates everything I had said all year. She questions my decision to promote said friend.

My initial reaction was, "Um, and who are you?? You are questioning my decision after working with him for two weeks? And you don't even know the story...oh, no you di-n't!"

My more rational response was to explain to her the entire situation, making it clear that I don't think my friend's mom is ready to accept her sons struggles. The Tutor (a.k.a She With Inflated Sense Of Self) declares that she is going to talk the mom into holding him over. She is going to arrange for him to be held back, even though she doesn't teach at our school. She knows how to solve the problem and help this little boy.

Good luck, sister. Let me know what happens.

Who's Peeking?