Monday, September 29, 2014

Things In Threes

The saying goes that things happen in threes.  I don't think I'm superstitious, but I counted this weekend and I'm at three.  Fingers crossed that that will do for me for awhile.

First thing:  Almost a month ago I started the process of transferring to my cell phone the phone number that was attached to the house in Augusta for 36 years.  I was told the "import" [what they call this kind of phone number transfer] would take seven to ten days.  We are on day 23 and it's supposed to be in the hands of the most qualified technicians at the cell phone company.  I have spent a minimum of six hours on hold and in numerous conversations trying to get this straightened out.  So far no go.  Worst case scenario is that it doesn't work and that number is lost.  It's true I want to salvage it for old time sake; it's also true that friends who have moved away still call that number when they come back to the east coast. 

Second thing:  Two weeks ago Saturday a woman driving a 2002 mini-van backed into my parked car.  It wasn't a tap.  It was a crunch.  She took responsibility and her insurance will cover all the costs.  It's inconvenient only for me, the one who had the damage appraised and has to take the car in for repairs and will drive a rental for three days.  There was not a scratch on her car.  Isn't that always the way?
Poor Annabelle
Third thing:  The saga of the deck railings continues.  We knew the railings were rotting.  They were made from green rough cut lumber that wasn't properly dried before it was installed and painted.  That the builder used rough cut lumber is why we couldn't find lumber the right size to replace the deck boards, the railings, or the trim boards.  We knew that everything we could see needed to be replaced.  We planned to cover the thirteen short posts with composite post covers... until Ken discovered a week ago that all the posts are made of over-sized lumber, too.  So he is replacing all those posts with pressure treated wood the right size for the covers, which is a good thing in the long run but making the job that much more involved in the short run.  There is a steep learning curve in the first-time installation of a rail system that will last for decades.  Once you know how to do it, when will you need to do it again?
Old posts coming out
New posts going in to support Azek rail system
We are lucky that Ken is willing to figure this out and do the work himself.  I can't imagine what it would cost to hire a contractor to deal with all these problems.  I am not much of an assistant, but I offer moral support and help where I can.  We are due for one big celebration when this project is over!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Back To Work

The volume control has disappeared from the task bar on my laptop.  Vanished.  I know it still exists somewhere, but I've looked everywhere and I can't find it.  It will turn up eventually.  In the meantime I have found ways to work around the missing icon by adjusting the volume on each individual show I watch.  This is how I get news and television shows and Netflix, often while I am doing a variety of chores and activities all over the house.  I would be lost without it, so I found a way to make it work.

I had trouble finding the words to write about my new job...

Until I realized it's a lot like my laptop with the missing volume control.

I need this job for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, I want to be working.  I am an active, intelligent woman with abilities and a lot to offer.  We want to pay down our mortgage, and I need money toward my retirement.  I didn't plan to return to teaching but this is the job I was offered.  The job is not set up the way I would do it, but that is not for me to say.  I need to start somewhere to get back in the classroom, and this is where I find myself right now.  I want and need this job, so I am finding ways to make it work.

Nothing about how the job is set up is intuitive for me ~ not the room arrangement or how materials are organized, not the schedule or the structure of lessons, not the forms we use or all the ways to keep track of the same information.  I have had to find ways for the myriad of things I am expected to do to make sense for me.

A breakthrough came this week when I learned I could set up my planbook any way that works for me.

This is essential.  Teachers are particular about how we set up our classrooms, our resources, our files, our desk, and our planbook, the place where many of us keep track of absolutely everything.  The planning notebook system in place was not working for me but I wasn't sure I had a choice.  It turns out I do and I knew exactly what I wanted: two open pages of orderly boxes with the dates across the top and the times down the left side, with room to write lesson plans and make notes.  The entire week is available at a glance and the amount of space limits what I write to the essence of what I need to know and remember.  I breathed a sigh of relief and put my system in place immediately.  It has made all the difference in the way I keep track of my week.

Slowly I am finding other ways to inject my experience and expertise into my day.  I organize tasks in ways that make sense to me and complete them in a timely manner, which reassures people that I know what I'm doing and can be trusted to do the job.

My duties include 45 minutes on the playground for recess every single day.  For a classroom teacher that would be an unacceptable amount of duty time, but it is the expectation for the position I currently hold.  I immediately fell into my pattern of continually moving throughout the area to always have eyes open to what is happening and to make connections with kids.  I am learning names, which is a challenge without a seating chart or a regular daily context to place kids with their names.  But we are getting to know each other.

My other duty is oversight of dismissal of students who are picked up by someone in a car.  I ask students if they see "their people" as we stand at the cafeteria door and wait for cars to come through the driveway.   After a few days I made a suggestion to the principal about dismissing all students for "pick up" at once instead of one grade at a time.  The next day we tried it and cut the waiting time in half, which is a win for everyone involved.  The students dismissed this way varies each day, but we are getting to know each other.

I am finding small ways to connect with other staff.  Those of us on duty together agree on expectations and rules, and we are learning tidbits about each other.  I asked the librarian if I could eat lunch in a quiet, out of the way corner of the library, explaining my desire for time away from the fray.  She totally got it and said yes.  I have emailed and made plans to meet with the person on staff who knows the most about re-certification, which I need to do in two years.  I expressed an interest in and have received the information about what I need to do to join the union.

The best part about the job is the students ~ third, fourth, and fifth graders.  I haven't taught third grade since I was a student teacher in 1992 and I forgot how little they are.  Without exception, I have always found that kids are receptive if you take them where they are.  It turns out that is still true.  I am having a good time getting to know the students.  If I am willing to listen, I can find out what I need to know to best help them learn.  Kids will tell you everything if you pay attention.

I knew I was going back to teaching a different person than I was when I left the classroom 11 years ago.  There was no way to know if I would be able to bring with me to a situation so familiar all those years ago how I have learned to be now.

Since the first moment in the school I have made a conscious effort to stay present.  I let go the things I have no control over.  My comments are positive.  I focus on what is in front of me and take a walk if I need a break.  Someone else may feel frazzled, but I don't take that on.  I know what I need to do and can do it with intention.  Throughout the first two weeks I have felt calm and capable.

I am tired.  There aren't enough hours in the day to do all the things I have been doing for the past seven years when I am gone from home nine hours a day.  That will have to figure itself out.

This is where I am right now.  It is not the ideal situation but I am finding ways to make it work for me.

The journey continues....                  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Good-Bye Longwood

Yesterday my husband loaded up his van one last time to move the last large bits from my daughter's old house to the new.  Today my daughter and I made our last trip to Longwood to pack up what was left and to say good-bye.  Again and again I walked from room to room, amazed that the house looked empty but wasn't....

Memories of how the yard has changed but the neighbors out back never did~

How much I still like the oak cabinets and kitchen floor we picked out in 1985~

The ivy in the 15-year old bathroom tile reflected in the original medicine cabinet~

The hardwood floors I stripped myself and hand-rubbed with linseed oil~

The bookcases Ken built with a friend that perfectly fit the den~

The oak door we refinished and returned to the front of the house~

The crimson king maple that was Ken's first Father's Day present~

I know every inch of the house, every ceiling and floor, every wall and door, every shingle and piece of trim.  I am grateful for the years spent there and the memories I take with me.  Thank you Longwood, for everything....