Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teaching...maybe I WILL run for president.

Yes, it is wonderful to have summers off. But honestly, do people pick their career because of that? Ok, they may start off thinking how easy it is, how great it is to have a teacher's schedule, but I think that is why new teachers burn out after just 5 years.

Correction, that is why some teachers burn out after 5 years. Some people choose teaching and others are chosen. Maybe. What do I know? It's 12:30AM and I can't sleep. I have woken up two times already and each time I was thinking about my teaching and my students/classes today.

It is like parenting some days, you wake up and say, "Wait! What did I say/not say to that kid today?" "Was that student spoken to by anyone today?" "Did I make an effort to make sure...?" "Did I get to that point I was trying to make when so-and so threw that paper and I had to stop...?"

In other words you lay in bed and wonder and pray that you can be the teacher each student needs. And with class sizes increasing and with teaching an extra class this year (did I mention there is no longer extra pay for teaching extra classes? Instead I feel grateful not to have to be the one to bring about vigilante justice in hallways and study halls as a supervisory?) that's an awful lot of students to worry about.

I went through the astronaut phase, the police officer phase, and even the soldier phase (people who know me will be surprised by that one!) as I grew up, but the one I always returned to was TEACHER. My favorite people were teachers.

Even the ones who taught classes I was not good at ((coughmathcough)) were always somehow able to teach me something and make school a good safe place for a kid who felt out of step with her peers in almost every way. I could do school.

I was a joiner. I was in everything from French club, to Students for Social Responsibility, to track and field hockey. I was in honors, but not the super smart honors kid, the one who loved to learn but never seemed to truly get the good test scores. Ever.

As I've mentioned before I've been having memory issues (waking up at 12:30AM to write might be part of the cause), but I remember sitting in certain classes. I remember Mr Merrow teaching The Scarlet Letter , I remember feeling like an unveiling was happening as he showed us what symbolism was. I remember memorizing lines from Shakespeare for another class. I remember my 12th grade science trip, a week at the beach doing biology that was shortened by the deaths of two teachers and one student, all unrelated. I remember art classes, music, history....

School for me was a haven. A place where although I may not have fitted with my peers (now I know--who does in high school??), I knew the teachers were there for me. There was a cushion from the outside world where I got to put on my training wheels and explore before I stepped out. I somehow felt connected to something bigger than me.

So becoming a teacher was never about summers off. It was never about the pay (haha, I will be paying off my loans, for ever). It has always been about the kids. The ones who keep me up at night. The ones who make me smile, laugh, cry, get angry.

Teaching a lesson, connecting it to the outside world and hearing students say, "Wait! What's going on in Egypt? Oh! I heard something about that...." Then having them start conversations and make connections with new, self-researched info that they've learned and have connected to the classics we are reading in class weeks afterward...THAT. IS. POWERFUL.

I was lecturing about how important it is for them to not be the ones who 'get info' from a classmate because of laziness, rather they need to be the ones who stick with a problem until they understand it for themselves. That is what is going to change this world, I tell them. Afterward realizing I silenced the class, I wondering how far off topic they thought I was, I hoped they would take the time to see the relevancy, when one student raised his hand and said, "If you ran for president I would vote for you!"

That is why I teach. I teach to make a difference. I teach to make presidents. I teach to give that kid who feels unconnected from his peers, a place, a safe place where he can explore his thoughts and find books that will make him feel he has a place. I teach so that girl who has been ashamed to show she is smart can square her shoulders and say, "I am smart and it's okay." I teach to encourage the best, whatever path is chosen: president, politician, mechanic, doctor, pilot, teacher. I teach to show them they do have options. I teach to show them they are connected to this world, they have a place.

"I teach because I can" seems cliche, but the reason some people burn out in 5 years isn't the paperwork bombardment, it's because teaching is. hard. work. It keeps you awake. You worry about your kids every day. They are your kids. And then they move on and you get a new batch, guess what? The ones who left? They are still your kids and you still worry. And the new ones? Yep, they become yours and it all begins again. So, you wake up at 12:30AM and you worry about them just like your 'own kids' and you hope that somehow, with some one you made a difference. But you don't always know. And they might not come back to tell you until after 5 years, so you don't get to see your 'product' or the imprint you left on their brain. If you ever do.

And that is a hard thing for a lot of people. I think my kids get more than good test taking skills from me. I think they get that stuff that can't be measured. I try to encourage the curiosity to learn, to make connections. Even as parents we can't measure our own parenting skills by the career paths our children choose. We just hope we gave them the skills to find or create their path/spot in the world, and make that world better. At least that's what I hope I'm doing at 12:30 AM.

And in the summers, I sleep. And then I figure out how to do it better before I start with a new batch of fresh faces, different minds....

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day One of My New Challenege

To my family who receive this as an email update you will notice a slight change in my blog focus. Maybe more than slight.

We have so many wonderful, great happenings going on in our lives right now, but we also have a lot of crazy distracting things too. We have our lion's share of illnesses ( Kath's path while learning and growing as a stroke survivor, Nick's journey to recovery with Post Concussive Syndrome, Alex's asthma/respiratory issues, my newly diagnosed neck issues), but we also have so many wonderful, positive events and daily moments. If you check my facebook, I often write them there as short blurbs of good times. However, when I get to writing here, I feel I have to catch everyone up and I seem to start with the obvious BIG and then get tired by the time I get to the good stuff.

I started to write for an online magazine, but they shifted their focus to being less-family and more single-people oriented. NOT my interest AT ALL! :D I am not writing for them anymore. But I am looking into writing for another site geared towards positive thinking/living. That is where I want my focus to be.

Our days are chock full of trying to juggle a family with four kids with very different needs. We both work fulltime, and any one who knows us and the field of teaching knows that it is really a labor of love that is much much more than a full time job. The child care juggle has been stressful as we deal with all the health issues. It has made us truly refocus our energies as a family. And we are grateful that we now have three people to help us take care of the girls when we are helping to take care of other people's children.

Roger and I are both interested in writing. His focus is on writing professionally, although he does have several story ideas. My writing ideas are split. I have a Young Adult story begging to be released, a children's picture book, and a non fiction about moms/dads who deal with children with issues.

My goal is not only keep everyone informed but show you the humor of our lives, the fun stuff. Our lives are joy filled, mostly. Our lives are incredibly messy but there isn't anywhere else we'd rather be than side by side getting enjoying the journey as we live each day. And learning each day more and more of what it is to be a human connected to other humans on this rotating orb.

Have a good day filled with lots of good moments.

"We do not remember days, we remember moments." Cesare Pavese

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day (Warning: very long)

Ok...so the rascal didn't see his shadow and we are getting an early spring. I am not sure about where you live but we are encased in snow. It is quite beautiful but it will be a long time before we defrost...and we are due for 4-7 more inches today. Oh well. Hopefully that will mean some good snuggle time. I know I just sent out the update from December and it pretty much left you hanging with our January letters but I'll begin again with the issues.

While rereading the update I realize I had forgotten that Alex had an ear infection in December. Part of my whole recent bout with memory loss, I suppose. Anyway, Alex has been home sick from school this whole week. She began by running fevers Sunday that ended Tuesday/Wednesday. On Tuesday we were sent home early due to snow. Wednesday we had a snow day, so thankfully she didn't miss a full 5 days of school. But she has been making up her own work and homeschooling herself with 'schoolbooks' we bought her, reading, and making crafts. :)

Well, when the fevers stopped her coughing increased. Thursday night she couldn't even catch her breath. Friday afternoon I took her to the doctor and she is being treated for atypical pneumonia, exasperated by her asthma, and an ear infection. I was pretty lucky since Nick stayed home with her Monday and Tuesday, snowday Wednesday, Roger stayed home Thursday and Robin stayed with her Friday. I have missed so much school this year, I keep expecting to get called in and reprimanded. Yet, when I go to the office to request early release for doctor appointments, or I take off because of illnesses, they are all about taking care of my family. I do believe they understand how much I love my job, and how much it pains me to lose time with my students, but that I need to take care of my own children too. So very glad.

So Alex is on a steroid, antibiotic and we have a nebulizer for when it gets really bad. It scares her to go on a coughing jag so deep. All we can do is hold her, give her water and tell her it's okay. She gets very tired too.

A few weeks ago we had a very huge scare with Kath.

Monday I walked past Kath and rubbed her head. She said, "OUCH." I walked back to check on her, it was a huge bump. When I looked through her hair to see it I realized that not only was it a good half inch raised off her head, but it was purple, about a silver dollar size.

Have you ever had a time when you are so scared or upset that you feel like your brain is shattering, you can't think? Sadly I have, more than once. This was one of those times. When I called the closed doctor's office I couldn't understand the phone prompts, what I should do. Roger had to take care of it talking to the oncall doctor. We went to the ER. On the way there she began to complain that her head hurt, but we realized it was only when her head bounced with a bump into her car seat. After waiting a bit, we garnered a bed in the hallway with other children. One girl burned her hands on sauce (horrible blisters!). Another was so dehydrated from being sick she had an IV. Kath seemed peppy and healthy, but whenever anyone parted her hair they all said the same thing, "Oh MY!" It was finally decided that although we didn't know of any fall, it was a bump from a fall and not a growth, as my dark thoughts were afraid of.

We had to watch for lack-of-balance. We reminded them she has cerebral palsy.

We had to watch for slurred speech. She is a stroke survivor with speech delays.

Vision problems? Again...the stroke left her with vision issues.

Projectile vomiting. Ok, that would be different from normal and we'd know if things were worse if she did that.

I took off from work the next day, Tuesday, and brought her to her regular doctor. They did a thorough exam. The day after, Wednesday, I got a phone call from her physical therapist at school. She had fallen. She forgot to put a note in Kath's book because it didn't seem to be a huge bump and things got distracting at school. As a teacher, I completely understood (and she was very apologetic). Kath had been working on the low balance beam. She fell off, bumped her butt. But when trying to push up to standing, lost her balance and fell backwards, hitting her head on a chair. (Kath kept telling me she hit her head, but without a note, I didn't completely believe her.) After this, she cried for a few minutes, Pam held her, then she went on to finish the beam, and did an obstacle course! Didn't seem bad. Everyone felt really bad when Kath went back to school and they saw how bad her head looked.

That Thursday night, while eating dinner, Roger asked me what was wrong with my hands. I looked at them and my fingers were blue. Just the fingers. They had been hurting a little, but they were a very weird blue, I couldn't move my neck without pain and I couldn't get a full lungful of air. I went onto webmd.com and ...well, you know how it usually scares you by telling you about 5 things you could have? This time it just said, "Call your physician immediately."

Freaked out? Yes. But I got the girls to bed, and went to work the next day. I had also been feeling like an elephant was sitting on my chest. And I was/am having memory issues. At school, I spoke to our nurse and she told me I needed to go to the doctor. So I made an appointment and left early. I was sent for tests. Xray of my neck and head, CT, bone density, and a series of tests for nerves in my arms. Came back with some damage to my neck, I need to go to an orthopedic surgeon. Joy.

Anyway. Despite all the craziness, I think some of my stuff was aggravated by stress so I am trying to chill out some, get back into my writing.

Robin is back! Robin is back into our child care mix! Unfortunately for her time with us started taking care of Kath who was sick and then she got sick herself last week. But we are hoping that now things will ease up! Especially since we have Robin, Darlene and Nick! I need an army of help! :D

I have restarted my writing. Roger and I had a 'retreat' a couple of Saturdays ago for the Writing Project. It helped to energize us both with our teaching of writing to be around teachers just as passionate about teaching as we are. Thanks to Karen who not only took on taking care of the girls for the day BUT also braved dance class for Alex!!

We always feel like we are going from putting out one fire to another fire. So we are trying to regroup. It will help that this week while my neck is sore it doesn't hurt like in past weeks so I should be able to clean. Yea(yuck).

Sorry this is so long. Felt like I had to try to catch up. :) Happy early spring!