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.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Maybe I Take This Teacher Thing A Bit Too Far...

This last weekend, it was brought to my attention that sometimes I speak to adults as if they were 8-year olds. (My immediate response, in case you were wondering was, "Well, stop acting like an 8-year old." Self-reflective, I know.)

I guess my brother-in-law felt the need to inform me of this behavior after I wagged my finger in his face (seriously, I can shake my Teacher Finger faster than a metronome) and asked him, "Is that really where you want to leave the suntan lotion?" Just for some background, we were on a boat, and he decided to leave the sunblock resting on the edge, where it was in danger of falling into the water, and I, for one, take my sun protection quite seriously.

All of a sudden, everyone (meaning my husband and sister) decided to chime in with similar examples. Evidently, I have been overheard saying the following, all of which offend my family by assuming that they are children.

To my husband as I notice his sneakers and assorted workout gear lying all around the house: "Honey, do we really want this to be a house where there is clutter laying around everywhere?"

To my sister as she complains about our brother not pitching in for drinks at the bar: "Why don't you start by saying two nice things about (our brother) before you start tattling on him? Then maybe you'll forget what you are so angry about."

I guess when it's all out there, it does make me sound fairly obnoxious. However, I choose to think about it as being the voice of reason. Granted I am "better" (I put that in quotes because I don't see it as a sickness but clearly, everyone around me does) in the summer when I am not forced to constantly monitor and redirect the behavior of 20 8-year olds, but I evidently am still fairly annoying.

Can you blame me?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Listy Lister-stein

I have officially been on vacation for fourteen business days! Whoo-hoo, right? But I'm beginning to think that I am incapable of totally relaxing and enjoying the time. I don't think it's guilt, because I don't feel guilty. Anyone who thinks teachers don't deserve the summers off can go stick it you know where. I mean, it is one of the most obvious and basic perks to the job...the non-teacher gets to pee on their own schedule, possibly handle some personal business during the work day and have the occassional 60 minute lunch. I do not. I get summers. And no, please don't suggest that I went into this profession for the sole purpose of having the summers off, because then I would have to hit you. And that would spoil my fresh manicure. (Ok, so maybe I can relax a little bit at the nail salon).

So we've ruled out guilt. I'm starting to think that because I'm a teacher, I am unable to survive without the proverbial To Do list. (tah dah!) I know teachers aren't the only ones that fall victim to The To Do List, but as a group, we do love us some listing.

If you watch us during a staff meeting, you'll see everyone begin by focusing intently on our principal. But, as he starts to ramble on (and he does love his perch upon that soap box at times), you might slowly begin to notice all of the small notepads, post its and sheets of paper come out to play. That's right, we're listing.

I like to think that with the additional responsibility of a home, a husband and an on-going dissertation, that my abilities to list have transcended to a new level. I have posted about my listing before. They make me feel organized...like I can breathe again. (Am I painting a horribly sad picture of myself or what?? Ask my friends, I am fun...when I'm not listing. And no, I don't have a list of reasons that I'm fun, but thank you for asking.) Seriously though, my lists are beautiful.

This year however, I began my Awesome Summer To Do List Extreme! a little early and worked at it a bit overzealously. As a result, it is endless. Pages and pages on my fancy-happy-30th iTouch. You can scroll and scroll for days. And some of those things have been there forever.

I think I may be paralyzed by my own list.

My solution? To take the larger list and create a daily, more manageable list (which, yes, includes fun things too).

So no...no bon bons...no morning talk shows....no re-runs of Project Runway (heart it!) for me.

For I will be listing.

Who's Peeking?