Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One Month Down

Coffee tasted really good tonight.

I have thought of each evening this week as a retreat. Ken has been out of town, and I have brought home no work. Dinners have been simple and the only sounds in the house have been the ones I make. I have watched three movies, one each night; the only one worth mentioning is Buck, a documentary about Buck Brannaman, the real-life horse whisperer. I needed something uplifting and that movie fit the bill perfectly.

I am making progress with students at school. I have been able to assign classwork and projects that have brought up just about every student's grades [many were failing]. Most days are manageable, though there is at least one day a week that everything goes haywire and I just hang on until 2:15. There is no "down time" with students, not a minute that I can let down my guard or not be on my toes. There is no easy banter, though students seem to have more respect for me now that they know I'm staying and will work with them to be successful.

It is exhausting.

I am tired. I feel tired and I look tired and I act tired. I have been in bed each night by 10:30, which is really really early for me. I have been sleeping through until 5:30, which is really really early for me but it's when I need to wake up to have time to "wake up" before I leave the house at 6:30.

Last weekend I started lobbying, again, for a king-size bed. I've wanted one for many years, but there wasn't space in any room in the old house. So we bought a nice bed. We are on our second mattress and box spring, and I still like the bed, but I sleep so much better when I have personal space. Ken has always taken the suggestion personally, but it's not anything against him ~ it's that I need room to sleep. He conceded last weekend that if it's something I really want, I should start bed shopping. After three full nights' sleep this week, it's time to invest in a bigger bed. I have also noticed that I sleep better when we stay in a hotel with a king-size bed. It's time....

I woke up this morning to an inch of snow on the ground and my car. I considered putting it in the garage last evening, until I remembered that the motorcycle is now parked in my spot. Yes, we had weather warm enough for Ken to go for a ride already. Then temps dropped into the 20's and 30's. There was hail today on my drive home, and we may get more precipitation tonight.

One month down. Ten weeks to go....

It's time for bed.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Double The Fun

I have some thoughts to share about a few things...that can wait until another day.

Today I want to thank two of my blogging friends for giving me a shout out.

Thanks to Teri at Teri H Photography for my "Versatile Blogger Award" ~ I take that as a lovely compliment. Teri's photography and reflections on life inspire me to look for beauty every day.

Thanks to Starr at Life Decanted for tagging me in the "Random Stuff Meme" ~ it was fun to read the bits she chose to share. Starr is an amazing mom and a social worker who makes a real difference in people's lives.

I am going to combine my responses to Teri and Starr by posting random stuff about myself, based on Starr's questions, in this post. Life is too much with me these days to do more than that. I recommend a stop by the blogs in my "sites to visit" list if you are interested in the lives of the talented women I know through blogging.

Now for the random bits about myself:

My favorite childhood memory is of time I spent with Aunt Kate and Uncle Doots, who raised my mom and were the grandparents I knew the best. From a young age I loved spending the night at their house, and as I got older I enjoyed going to work with each of them. My uncle drove a bus in Arlington, Virginia. My aunt, who was a teacher, worked at a correspondence school for hotel/motel management.

If I could go anywhere in the world for a week I would travel to Paris, France. Since I was in fourth grade I have dreamed of sitting in the cafes and seeing the sights of Paris.

Hands down my favorite colors are green and blue, together and apart ~ green the color of new life, and blue the color of the sky and ocean.

The famous person I would choose to spend time with is Rachel Maddow, host of her own show on MSNBC. I watch her show online. She's smart and funny, and I appreciate the way she is able to see all the angles and layers of current events. I share her politics [which may tell you more about me than anything else I could say] and I would like to talk to her about everything.

I started blogging because I was beside myself with loneliness. My daughter knew how to help and set me up with a blog...oh my, exactly four years ago. I wrote my first post on March 23, 2008. I couldn't imagine how I would meet people online, and now I can't imagine life without the friendships I've made through blogging.

I am an Aquarius. When I had my birth chart read, he told me that Aquarius is a humanitarian who sees no color. I have been that way since I was a small child.

My best friend in elementary school was a girl named Debbie. Her dad was in the military and she started at my school when he was stationed at Bolling Air Force Base. She told me years later that she didn't like me at first; I knew everyone and she felt like an outsider. We didn't have much in common but we liked and trusted each other. I spent a lot of time at her house during the years she lived in my neighborhood. I was one of the first to know when she got pregnant at 16 and one of the few witnesses at her wedding. When I left home at 19 I moved in with Debbie and her husband for the summer before I went back to college. She was in my wedding. While we don't get together often, we love to hear from each other.

My most transcendent experience has been motherhood. Ken and I decided in the spring of 1979 that we wanted to have children, which was a change from the career tracks we were on when we got married. Being a mother to my daughter and two sons made me who I am today. I thank my children for teaching me about what really matters in life.

The first books I remember reading were the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary. My daughter was just telling me she recommended the books to the daughter of a friend ~ Ramona's adventures are timeless.

I was not popular in high school because I got along with everyone. I didn't belong to one clique or another but chose to find something interesting about people as individuals.

I prefer painted walls over white walls. Paint is an inexpensive way to add warmth to a room.

More about me next time ~ now I need to watch Syracuse win (hopefully) their game with Ohio State.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Home Repair 2.0

Finally. We think we found the source of the leak in the ceiling.

It has been a process of elimination.

Three trips to the attic in all kinds of weather confirmed without a doubt that the water was not coming in through the roof.

Blue cleanser added to the toilet closest to the problem site confirmed that it was not a leaking toilet when the water leaked did not turn blue.

Eliminating use of the upstairs shower and sink closest to the site confirmed that it was not a faulty faucet or plumbing connection from either of those sources.

This weekend we had to face facts: it was time to cut into the wall above the ceiling where the vent pipe headed for the attic. We had tried everything else, so Ken cut away a piece of baseboard from the wall in the master bath. Flashlight and angled mirror in hand, he could see up into the wall where the guilty vent pipe connected to a second vent pipe. Aha! He shook the guilty pipe and water rolled down the PVC. Aha! The connection between the two must be faulty, and water was coming from....

the downstairs shower! which is vented to the second pipe! which explains why the water dripped during the week and not on weekends because Ken only uses that shower during the week!

There was no getting around another cut in the master bathroom wall, four feet up, where Ken estimated the faulty connection to be. He was right on target, or so I'm told. I can't bear to look. Ken sealed the connection between the pipes with silicon, waited twenty-four hours, and took a hot shower in the downstairs bathroom to make lots of steam. So far so good. No drips.

If everything holds, I will call my dry wall guy tomorrow and make a date to have all the holes fixed. If I do the patching, I will never be satisfied. If someone else does it, I might not be satisfied but it won't be my fault. A couple coats of paint and I will be the only one who knows.

This has gone on long enough. It's time to put my house back together.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Sunday Effect

Three days before this year's Academy Awards Ken surprised me with the news that he had reserved a room for us for the Sunday night of the awards show. He was working on the elevators at a hotel and had asked the manager what kind of deal we could get on a room so that I could watch the Oscars [I have missed the big night the last two years because we no longer receive the signal for ABC].

I was surprised and delighted.

For just a moment I considered saying "no" because that Sunday night was the night before my first day of work. I would be up late and it would take me twice as long to get to the school.

Instead I said an enthusiastic "yes!"

I am so glad I did.

Not only did we have a nice dinner at a microbrewery, but we drank coffee and munched on cinnamon rolls while we enjoyed the entire televised presentation. Rarely have I taken the time to watch all the interviews on the red carpet. This year the gowns were beautiful and the commercials were superior quality. The show itself was a lot of fun, and the performance by Cirque du Soleil was a special treat. It was a perfect evening.

It also set the precedent for taking time to enjoy life on Sundays, even when life is busy.

The next Sunday Ken suggested we go the ocean. We walked and walked up and down our favorite beach.

This past Sunday I met a friend for a walk and talk along a scenic walking trail.

An unexpected by-product of keeping life real on the weekends has been the spill-over into the rest of the week. If it feels so good to have my time as my time on Sundays, how would it feel the other days?

It turns out it feels pretty good.

I am fortunate in that the school where I am currently working allows for planning time in each teacher's schedule. I have had a few false starts in using the time wisely, but I have been determined to make the schedule work to my advantage.

It has been worth the effort. After a day that included a field trip and a staff meeting, this evening I made a simple dinner, enjoyed catching up with blogs, took a leisurely bath, and had time to write this post.

There is life after going back to work. Thank goodness....

Friday, March 9, 2012

This Is Why

I started teaching eighteen years ago. Since then schools have not changed, administrators have not changed...

and students have not changed. Kids still respond well when they are treated with respect. They still need to know that they are not in charge and that there are consequences for their behavior. Kids want to know that there are adults who care about them and who are looking out for their best interests.

By Wednesday I had all three classes on an even keel and headed in the right direction. The two major disruptive behaviors in the afternoon class were removed from the classroom, which gave me the opportunity to set the tone and get to know the rest of the students.

That was the same day that the vice principal told me that I was who I portrayed myself to be during the interview. He sounded surprised.

After three good days, I was told today that the disruptive students will return to my classroom next week. I advised against this move because the students in the afternoon class are focused on a project and working well together. I asked for another week for students to work on their projects, which would also give me time to cement expectations and the good feelings that come with success.

It's not up to me. I am just the classroom teacher.

This is why I did not want to return to teaching.

I have been spending nine to ten hours at the school each day, not because I am being paid to do that but because that is what I needed to do to get a handle on the job, the classroom, and the curriculum.

And, like so many years ago, it makes no difference. I can wear myself out, but it doesn't matter. I wanted things to be different but they are not.

So I will go into school later, come home earlier, and take better care of myself. This is just a job.

I want it to be more, but it's not.

This is why I didn't want to go back to teaching.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The First Week

It was quite a week.

Monday evening I thought I might write a post about my first day: tour of the school, brief hello to teachers and students, conversations with the principal, time to plan lessons for the first week, and my optimism about what was ahead. Then I thought I would wait until I had a day of classes.

That was a good idea because halfway through my first class on Tuesday I had scrapped my lesson plans due to classroom dynamics; at the end of class two students confessed to me that they had been going by each other's name for the entire class and started to tell me there were two other students... which is when I reminded them that we are each responsible for our own behavior. [The other two students pretended the next day that nothing had happened, which didn't really work when they sat in each other's seat according to the seating chart now in place. Those two are unaware that they will be having lunch with me on Monday.]

Things really fell to pieces third period. I did something I have never had to do ~ I called the vice principal to remove from my class two students whose behavior was out of control. I knew then that I had work to do.

Wednesday was a new day. One of my colleagues told me she talked to the students of mine she had in her classes about their behavior. Word had gotten out about Tuesday's incidents, and I started each class by asking students how they want to be known in school and in the community. It is up to them.

Mid-morning I had a meeting with the vice principal about strategies for the most challenging behaviors. In the afternoon I let two students know that I would be calling home at the end of the day, and I hoped that I would be able to share that we'd had a good class. We did, thankfully.

I got a call early Thursday morning that there would be no school due to inclement weather. It snowed all day.

Friday was a day of computer presentations and workshops for students and teachers.

It was a typical week of school. I slipped right back into teacher mode.

Everything felt familiar. Schools have not changed in the last nine years.

What has changed is me. I have learned that I cannot change the world. I can only improve my little corner of it.

Monday will be a new day and another chance to do it all again.