Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Snack Recess

Hey Mrs. Awesome, what did the duck bring for snack today?
I dunno, what?
..... Cheese and Quackers!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAH

Today was my turn to help out with our staff monthly snacks. Once a month a few people bring in snacks for the staff room for everyone to enjoy during snack recess. At the beginning of the year, I purposefully signed up for a late month thinking that I wanted to see how things were done before it was my turn to bring snacks.

One week someone made sandwiches, complete with cucumber and avocado. They sliced up the little sandwiches into cute little triangles and we had hundreds of them. They didn't last past the k-2 recess. But then magically a second platter appeared for the 3-6 recess. I learned to hide 1/2 of my food for second recess.

One week a teacher brought lots of fancy drinks like bubbly lemonade and apple cider. People were grateful but no one drank them. I learned that no one comes to snack recess for the juice.

One week a teacher went all out and made a bunch of paper decorations including little paper place mats and wall art. A lot of teachers oohed and ahhed and said "Neat! Thanks for making it festive!". Behind her back teachers said "I mean come on doesn't she have anything better to do?" I learned that decorations are optional.

One week teachers brought a bunch of store bought things and people still ooohed and ahhed and said thanks. I learned that teachers are happy for anything free, especially free food.

So today was my week. In the past, the days have been shared by four or five people. Today it was just me and one other teacher. I decided to just bring a bunch of homemade cookies. Who doesn't like cookies? I was a little worried that people might complain that I didn't make cute little sammy triangles or bring a big crock pot of homemade stew, but I did bring 3 different kinds of cookies and some brownies.

This week is the first week of our state testing. I wish instead of baking cookies I could have been getting pissed off at testing and stressed out with all the other teachers. Pretty much every teacher around had hair sticking out the wrong way, blotchy cheeks, and angry eyebrows permanently drawn in over her eyes. It turns out that this was a good time to show up with A LOT of cookies. By the end of lunch, there was not one single crumb left.

Today I learned that during state testing, bring sugar. Bring lots of sugar.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I read a grown up book!

First off, I must say that I normally only read books meant for kids. Books with pictures. Books about sharing and being nice to the kid with glasses or being unique or being loved. Books like Loser by Jerry Spinelli. If I read a chapter book it is usually meant for a kid under the age of 15. When I read grown up books, I normally like science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or other such books that generally cry out "nerd!". 

But my sister-in-law didn't know this so when she lent me a grown up book I took it and decided to actually try it. And it turns out I liked it!

I read Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell. It wasn't a "can't put it down" book but it was, nonetheless, enjoyable.

Short story for the skimmers: I would definitely recommend it.  

I would recommend this book to the following people:

-Anyone who likes to cook. This would seem like a given, but Julie describes cooking and food in the way that only someone who has experienced both triumphs and disasters in a kitchen could describe. I must admit to skimming through some of her descriptions of the french food but let's face it, I had no idea what it said. I did like that she kept it real though. Sometimes you try something crazy in the kitchen and end up ordering pizza and trying not to think about how much money you wasted on the ingredients for your failed meal.

-Anyone who has ever found themselves in a rut and needed to prove to themselves they could do something. Julie's story is more about making a big change in her life than it is cooking. Two years ago I quit my office job so I could spend lots of money on grad school, and while it wasn't because I turned 30, I did need a big change.

-Anyone who is married or in a life partnership. Julie's view of marriage is so UN-hollywood that I found myself cheering for her all along the way. She refers to Eric (her husband) as her partner and acknowledges his role in her life as a friend. Eric's pretty cool. He's no Mr. Awesome, but I admired Julie's view of marriage and how she and Eric made such a stressful year work. After all, isn't that how every year of teaching is?

-Anyone who just started a blog. Julie started blogging in 2003/2004 so reading her book is sort of like looking back in history. Blogging was so different then (she had dial up. DIAL UP! Can you even imagine?) and she blogged before the rest of us thought it was cool. Or maybe you all did and I am really the last soul on Earth to create my own blog. But either way it was neat to read a book about a blogger right when I am just starting my own.

Ok now for my negatives:

I would NOT recommend this book for the following people:

-People who are on a diet. I wanted to eat every time I read the book. Rather than inspire me to cook, this book really inspired me to go to a fancy restaurant. Mmmmm.

-People who like nice strong plots. This book is definitely not like the kinds of books I'm used to reading. There was no archetypical hero, no driving plot, no crisis, no climax, little resolution, and no real cast of very dynamic characters. However it was still quite pleasant to read and the characters were all very real and believable.

-People who want the book to be exactly like the movie. The book is an adaption of the blog, the movie is an adaption of the book... get over it.

In any case, I liked the book, I do recommend it, and I look forward to the next book my sister-in-law lends me! Of course, I have to give her this one back...

Friday, April 23, 2010

My awesome car

This week I have been driving Mr. Awesome's car to work. It is a lot of fun to drive, but it was not made for short people. I miss my car.

My regular car is very practical. It's a mom teacher car. It's a blue station wagon. No, we don't have kids. But we do like buying things at Costco and taking our card table to people's houses for poker night and putting four suitcases and four adults in the car very easily for road trips. We've even had practical sedan-owning people ask to borrow our car. And when I have things like my makeshift flip chart I'm trying to bring home, it fits in easily without having to collapse.

Our other car, Mr. Awesome's car, is the opposite of my car. It's a two-seater, rear engine, t-top, sub-woofer under the driver's seat, why didn't anyone tell me I was marrying a car guy, white old sports car. It's very cool. When I drive to work in it I have trouble not speeding. My flip chart does NOT fit into the tiny trunk.

Today after school one of my little guys saw me across the parking lot and shouted "Hey Mrs. Awesome! I like your car!" (Alright you caught me, he didn't really call me Mrs. Awesome, but this is my story!)

I felt so cool. I was the teacher driving an awesome car! Oh yeah! Screw trunk space! I'm keeping this car! Mr. Awesome can see how it feels to drive the other car!!!!

"I'm glad you like it!" I shouted back, grinning.

"Yep! It's so cool! I like it because it's the same color as my dad's car!!!!" I looked at his dad's car that the little boy was pointing to.

It was a white station wagon.

I want my car back, Mr. Awesome!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

That's a good question.

Remember the Giving Tree? Have you ever asked your students if it was fair to take so much from the tree?

Prof. Thomas E. Wartenberg from Mount Holyoke College has a whole philosophy outreach program. He asks young readers tough questions like "is it fair" and "what do you think?" And he actually disagrees with Piaget. GASP!! Piaget and Vygotsky aren't gods and you can fund research that disagrees with one or both of them? After you get up from falling off your chair, you can read the NYT article here.

All through my student teaching my supervisor pushed us to ask the kids analytical questions. He made us think of the questions we were going to ask the kids, write them into our lesson plans, and he made sure to comment on the kinds of questions he observed us asking. Once he even had me write down my questions on an index card so I had them in my pocket while I was teaching, just to be sure I would ask good questions. If there's one thing I learned how to do last year, it was ask my students really good questions.

If only I had known then that "is it fair" and "what do you think" would have landed me an article in the NYT!! Because some of my questions were awesome. Once I asked a kid "How do you know? Prove it!" and that was on a video tape of myself that I had to send to the state in order to pass a test to get my credential. It must have been a good question because they gave me a credential.

Wait have you read that article yet? I understand if reading the education section of the NYT isn't your idea of a relaxing evening. Sometimes it really ticks me off too. Sometimes I would rather grade papers. But I don't have papers. I just have a spring sing I'm procrastinating work on.

So it's true, a habit I have is reading about the goings on in education. I read about politics and merit pay and test scores and how McGraw Hill is bathing in money when we're laying off teachers and making kids go without colorful construction paper. I read about school violence and gangs and school lunches and obesity. I read about charter schools and national standards and vouchers and unions.

But a lot of the times I read articles like this. Articles about some study some professor is doing in some school. And I imagine if it were me. Only instead of imagining myself in the role of the teacher who opens her room to a local professor to be part of a study, I see myself as THE professor.

I think it might just be because I am realizing that my contract position is up in two weeks, and then job hunting season will be officially open. Ack. Ack like Cathy eats chocolate Ack.

Of course, if I can't find a job, there's always the option the option of more grad school...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A rather serious post

A bit of a departure from the normal tone today. Read on for some reflections on the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.

Eleven years ago, I saw my math teacher for who she really was.

I was sitting in my math class (yes I was still in high school eleven years ago) and my math teacher was hanging up the phone. She had just been told about the tragedy at Columbine High School.

I never cared much for this particular math class. I usually spent her class studying vocab words for my infamous English class after I did my math homework. This was usually while she lectured or while I was supposed to be doing group work. I know, it's always the worst kids who grow up to be teachers!

But on that particular day eleven years ago, I saw something new in the teacher's eyes. When she sat us down to talk with us and let us ask questions, it wasn't fear or sadness or anger or shock that I saw. I wasn't quite sure what it was until I realized I had seen the same look in my own mother's eyes. It was a look I knew well. One that said "Nothing evil can come between me and these kids. Now leave or I will MAKE you leave."

When my math teacher had heard that some kids had been harmed under the watch of a teacher, she had reacted like a mother bear. The look I saw was the look of a protector. I knew when I saw that look that she wasn't thinking about her own safety or wondering how the other teacher's were handling their classes. I knew she wasn't debating whether or not to turn on the news or wondering what the new school policies on trench coats would be. I knew the only thing on her mind was that right then and there, she was responsible for us kids.

I wish I could say I stopped using math as my own private study hall after that day. Much to my own regret I was still a prat all through high school. But I think somewhere, deep down, my ideas about teaching changed that day.

I know that when a parent drops their child off for school, they trusting some teacher to protect their child for them. Some teacher that they didn't even get to choose! And I know that for a mama bear, that can be tough. Because sometimes bad things happen. They just do. The world can be an awful, awful place. I'm not saying teachers can stop bad things. But I'm saying there's a huge amount of trust that goes into giving someone your kid all day.

In the last two years, since I have quit my desk job, I have already done two fire evacuations and a full gun lock down. None of them were drills. All had happy endings, thank goodness. And each time I got that emergency backpack, checklist, roll call, and silent position, I thought of my math teacher from high school.

And I thought about how in the days and years following the Columbine tragedy, I have been so very fortunate to have people in my life to protect me, and even more fortunate to never need them.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another day in the subbing trenches

The truth is, I do actually value my time as a sub. I often get a lot out of the days I spend in other people's rooms with other people's children teaching other people's lessons. I consider my subbing as paid learning time.

It's not what I wanted. It's not what I planned for or hoped for or paid for a very expensive graduate degree and state credential for. I really hope I can say this is the last month or two I'll ever do it because next year I'll have my own room.

But for now, subbing is what I have. Two days a week I am a substitute teacher. That is that so I may as well get something out of it.

Today I got to sub in a multi-age classroom. I had 4th-6th grade in one class! It was at one of our "alternative" learning style schools in our area. This school has a k-1, a 2-3, and 4-6 classroom. Let me tell you something--this is not something you can learn about in your teacher program and not something you can learn by watching for 30 min with a planned observation and a clipboard! After subbing this year, I really have come to see the value in just stealing a class for a day with an open mind and heart.

Today I saw:

-a classroom that was 1/4 library space
-truly student-ran class jobs
-group work done in... groups!
-classroom completely cleaned and tidied by the students, including vacuuming, in 5 minutes.
-more parents than I've seen all year combined
-test prep
-class meeting

There were negatives too. I wonder how the sixth graders will fare at junior high next year, when they will be thrust into the land of 7th &8th graders having only been exposed to multi-age classes for 7 years? Will they be ok when they have to go the whole day without ever seeing a parent volunteer? And what would I have done if there wasn't a teacher's aid AND a parent volunteer all day? Who paid for that aid in a district that only provides aids for K-1?

I dunno. A part of me thought this kind of job fit my teaching style perfectly. I actually felt like my day went really fabulously. But then another part of me, the cynic, thought... well shoot this isn't real life. Real life is test scores and 55min class periods in junior high and bozo parents and do these kids know algebra yet?

Meanwhile, in the land of music, Spring Sing is in 2.5 weeks!!! I'm terrified. There, I said it. I think the whole thing might be a total disaster. I found a dress to wear, so that problem is solved... I can't tell if I'm excited or nervous or... eeep. I think nervous.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

when being a teacher takes over your life

They say it starts early. They say it starts with tiny little things that you don't even notice. They say you don't realize it until you have PTSD.

Well today I kinda realized it when I made myself a sticker chart to help with my workout routine. I figured if behavior contracts work for kids, they might work for modifying my lack of motivation to hit the gym. So I opened Excel, wrote up a chart with attainable goals and a self selected reward, printed off a week, and put it on the fridge.

It's official.

Teaching is leaking into my life.

I started to notice it last Christmas. My giant extended family was all together and we couldn't get everyone quiet for grace and a toast. My natural instinct was, of course, to shout "ONE TWO THREE EYES ON ME!" And I was actually a little annoyed when everyone didn't shout back "ONE TWO EYES ON YOU!"

The next time I noticed it was when I was telling my husband something I felt we had to do. "It's not a choice" I chimed. He gave me the don't pull your teacher voodoo on me look.

One time I was talking to a friend who is sorta known for having a short attention span, and I kept asking her to repeat everything back to me to make sure she was retaining everything I said over the phone. Another time I wrote her a list of my key points.

So tonight, as I gave myself a smiley face for doing my pushups and sit ups and skipping dessert, I realized that it has already started. Before I even had the chance to get my own classroom, teaching is leaking into my entire life.

But my smiley face is so fun. I have a whole day of smiley faces. Tomorrow working out will be easier, now that I know I'll get a smiley face on a piece of paper. Really, it will!

After all, when kids consistently make really awful choices, doesn't a smiley face on a piece of paper fix their behavior?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Remedial Recorders

Remember when I mentioned that I was teaching extra recorders to one of my classes?

Well, I've only really had three extra lessons and I am please to announce that they are all caught up! Which is a good thing too because testing is coming up and extra lessons have to stop so our kids can fill in bubbles.

When I studied differentiation in grad school I never in a million years thought I would have to use it for teaching recorders. Here's a little glimpse into how I did it. Well I don't know if I "did" it but I stumbled through it and figured it out as I went and I made learning happen. Well I don't know if I made learning happen but the kids know the song now. I learned something!

I did something that I think the fourth grade teachers hate me for. I told them that their homework was to just play around with their records. I modeled "noodling" with your fingers and just sort of hearing all the different ways you can make notes when you add and subtract fingers. Oooh if there's one thing fourth grade teachers hate it's the sound of recorders, but if there's one thing they really hate it's the sound of a bunch of recorders all playing different notes at the same time. Woops! My goal was for the kids to get a feel for which finger belongs where. If I could go back in time I would have started all the kids out this way, but you know what? No one ever taught me how to teach recorders in teacher school.

So, much to the chagrin of the teachers involved in this particular class, there I am teaching the kids to play nonsense on their recorders a mere 5 weeks before our big spring sing.

But as annoying as those sounds were, it turns out my hunch wasn't completely off. After only one lesson of noodling the kids had their fingers covering the right holes and they seemed to be having a lot more fun. Anyone who says music isn't fun has never danced with a kindergartner in a parade. Or, apparently, noodled around on a recorder.

For my second lesson, we didn't even get out the recorders to start with. We made our hands into quiet coyotes. If you're not familiar with this quiet hand signal, it's basically gold for getting k-1 kids to shhh. You put your middle and ring finger on your thumb, and stick up your pinky and index finger. I had the kids make quiet coyotes and practice a few other finger movements. Then we sang our song while moving our fingers, pretending like we had the recorders out. Then, we got the recorders out and we made our quiet coyotes chomp on the recorders (it's how you play an F#.) Then we just went back and forth from G to F#. This was very tricky. The kids complained they don't know to do it! They said it was really hard! They said they can't do it!

I told them they just don't know it YET. And I promised them then and there that we would all learn it. So they tried harder.

Then on the third day, which was a week after the first two days, they all played G, F#, G, F# like it was nobody's business. So we played the rest of our song. We went slowly. We played in groups. And we played the whole song. The kids applauded and they really did learn it.

Today we had all three classes together and we played the song with CD background. They sounded... well like recorders, but they did a great job!

I can't believe how quickly they went from seriously not being able to put their fingers on the right holes to being able to play our performance song. All the kids needed was a couple of extra chances. And maybe if I had known what I was doing, we could have started off better instead of not figuring it out until now.

I'm not advocating that they teach us how to differentiate recorders in teacher ed. After all, if I had been able to find a real job this year, I would be stressing out over evals, open house, and testing right now instead of spring sing! But I am just saying, this is not what I ever thought I would be doing and I sometimes just have to make things up as I go. I do know that seeing the looks on the kids' faces today as I told them that we could do choreography with our recorders was amazing.

But seeing kids work their butts off to learn something, seeing them try their darndest to catch up to their peers, and seeing them achieve that goal? That was totally awesome.

Just so you know though, I still hate recorders.

I mean, today was totally awesome. AWESOME. But I do still hate recorders.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

So what's the plan, Sub?

There are some days that I just love subbing. I would rather I had my own classroom, to be sure, but subbing is a lot of fun compared to grad school or staying home and doing laundry or even sometimes compared to teaching music to a new set of kids every half hour. When I sub, I get my own class, even if it is only for the day.

One of the craziest things about subbing though is following someone else's sub plans. The plans I am given almost always dictates the kind of day I'm going to have.

Sometimes teachers leave an entire binder of sub materials. They put in the school's disaster plan, their management plan, a class list, a seating chart (outdated), fire drill plans, emergency numbers, sponge activities, school directories, and a school map.

Sometimes teachers leave you with stacks of papers with sticky notes on them detailing what you're supposed to do with each stack. Then it's up to you to make sure you use all of them in the right order with the right kids.

Sometimes teachers leave you teacher manuals with sticky notes (teachers lover sticky notes) on the pages you need.

Sometimes teachers write a schedule on the whiteboard and hope you get the idea.

Sometimes you get really detailed plans. "Pick up the kids at the line. Let the line leader lead the line. Walk them back to the classroom. The children should sit down at their desks. Take attendance by calling their names. Ask who is having hot lunch and write the total in the hot lunch box in the upper right corner of the attendance sheet". When I get the detailed plans, I think "oh crap, this teacher is really crazy". I do every thing my own way then leave a note telling her I did everything her way. I make sure to use lined paper so my handwriting looks neater than it really is.

Sometimes I get really sparse plans. "8:30 Math pg 170 kids know it" When I get the sparse plans, I think "oh crap, this teacher doesn't give a hoot". I do everything my way and then leave a relatively sparse note. I love sparse plans actually because I always end up making up lessons and never feeling bad about it. Math pg 170 was never so awesome as when I taught it without a sub plan. The teacher doesn't need to know that I taught the kids a silly song to remember their times tables or that we tried to split 3 paper sandwiches between 5 people.

On a recent day of subbing, when I arrived at 7:45am, the office wasn't quite sure which room I should go to, despite the fact that I had a name and grade level given to me by the sub coordinator. In the end they figured it out. I got the key and headed over.

Once I got there, the sub plans were no where to be found. This is not unusual though. Sub plans, though often put somewhere logical to the teacher, can be tricky to find. They could be hidden in a tray on the desk with a tiny label saying "guest teacher". Sometimes they are under several papers that the teacher set down on top of the plans without realizing it on his way out. Occasionally they are taped to the whiteboard in the back of the room. Once I found them inside the attendance folder, which I didn't open until I went to take attendance.

So there I was, in this particular room (that the office sent me to!) riffling through everything trying to find the sub plans. One cannot be shy when looking for such things. The phone rang though and it turns out I was supposed to go to Mrs. Next Door. Well shoot. Good thing no one found me ransacking the room!

Now, the plans for Mrs. Next Door were at least in plain sight. Her plans were of the sparse variety. For social studies, it said "9:30 Greek Myths". I looked around for any obviously piled worksheet packets on Greek Myths, any prepped materials, any text books with pages marked or in progress projects that needed finishing. All I found were tons of paint and art supplies on the back counter. Visions of making pipe cleaner Medusas and glitter lightening bolt Zeuses flew through my brain as I tried to remember what I could about Greek myths. I also was starting to calculate in to see if I had time to run to the school library to check out some books. Think of the possibilities!!!

But sadly I found the books and packets meant for the myths laid out neatly on a hidden shelf before I could get too excited about my myth lesson. I also sadly found the packets for math, and the terrible book we were supposed to read in language arts. Ugh. Why did I look so hard.

So my day went as planned, by someone else. We did boring packets that were total time wasters, read a terrible book I would have never chosen, and wasted time doing other mundane sub lessons.

I really wish I had never found those packets. Or that I had been able to stay in the first room I went to. Mrs. Next Door with her sparse plans and lame-o packets was not my idea of how I wanted to spend my degree.

Other days that I sub I get to do wonderful things like read aloud on Dr. Seuss Day. Sometimes you're awesome, and other times you get a really harsh reminder that you are, after all, just a substitute teacher.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How I learned to eat tomatoes

I had the privilege of spending this past weekend with a lot of family. My nephew, who is in sixth grade and gives all other sixth graders a bad name because he is way more awesome and better than any other sixth grader out there, is a very picky eater. So is my first grade niece (she's also more awesome than your first grade kids, sorry, they just can't compare with her, so don't try). As far as my baby niece goes, the 1 year old, well she'll eat anything but she's so stinking cute I almost put her in my purse to take home with me. She is forgiven for not being a picky eater. She still has time to learn from her wise cousins.

I told my nephew that being a picky eater is actually a life skill. Knowing how to eat food you really don't care for is something that will come in handy some day. He clearly thought I was being sarcastic. When I told my niece the same thing, she said "stop teasing!" Well, I probably shouldn't have tried to give out life advice after telling her the brain sucker on her head was starving.

Last academic year, 2008-2009, I was in grad school, earning my elementary school teaching credential and my master's in education. I chose one of those 5 quarter, one academic year programs because I was crazy and I wanted name recognition to go with my degree.  Also because I'm cheap and I didn't want to pay more tuition than I had to. The year ended up being dubbed "Hell Year". You know how football players do a week of training and they call it hell week? Well teachers who go through intense programs like I did get to call it Hell Year. Then for most of us our reward is a lot of debt and no real job.

We have got to find a way to get smarter people to go into teaching. Clearly this system is not producing the brightest of us all, eh?

But I digress. My point is that before Hell Year, I was a very picky eater. It's in our genes. I didn't like tomatoes or mushrooms or this color of sauce or this kind of meat or anything that touched the wrong thing or anything cooked not the way I cook it. I would not eat green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam-I-Am!

But when you've done 8 hours of student teaching, 4 hours of class, and 2-3 hours of homework/lesson planning almost daily for 7 months and someone hands you a sandwich that has... gunk... on it... you say "sure" and eat it.

And then when you've been doing nothing but being observed and told you're doing everything wrong and someone hands you a cookie that has.... weird walnuts...on it.... you say "sure" through your tears and you eat it. And because it also has chocolate in it you like it.

And then when someone hands you pizza with EVERYTHING on it when you haven't eaten in 12 hours because you're trying to turn in your thesis, you eat it.

Then about a month after you graduate, you realize that you've been eating tomatoes all year.

And the scary thing?

You like them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Your pal, the principal

Have you ever had one of those really awkward interactions with your boss? The kind where you're just not sure if your screwed up and you should really apologize, or if you just did something totally awesome?

No? Oh. It must just be me. Well let me tell you a little bit more about what it's like to live in the world of me. In my world, I'm always doing and saying things that get myself into varying degrees of awkward situations.

My first awkward moment with my pal, the principal, happened earlier this year. She had recommended a song to me during our meeting about spring sing and when I tried it out one of the teachers thought it was so weird she ran to give the principal a hard time about recommending it to me. This was the kind of teacher who is young enough to get away with complaining without sounding washed out but tenured enough to give the principal a really hard time about anything. She's the kind of teacher that I act like even though I am still pre-job.

Well then, in the middle of my class, the principal came and claimed she had never heard of that song in her life. Our conversation, in front of the other teacher and all the kids, went something like this:

Where did you find that song?
Huh? It was the song I wrote down in our meeting, that you recommended. 
Why would I recommend a song I have never heard of? (laughing)
Why would I write down a song I have never heard of? (laughing, but REALLY embarrassed)

We both laughed but I think we both found it really awkward and still blame the other person. Also in case you're curious that weird song got nixed then and there.

So anyways, this week I started giving extra recorder lessons to one of my fourth grade classes. The how and why is another story. But it's true, I am teaching remedial recorders. Remember how much I love recorders? Well then you understand how crazy it is that it was actually my idea to give extra recorder time.

On the first day, the teacher had completely forgotten about our planned extra recorder time and the kids went completely nuts when they saw me. And then you know who else was in the room? You guessed it. Our pal. The principal. I never did figure out why she was there but I think she was going to do an observation. So yes, she saw the kids completely utterly out of control. Yikes. Classroom management, minus two.

My lesson went off ok. The principal did not stay to watch. At lunch though, my pal, the principal, cornered me and asked me whose idea it was to have recorders at that time. She also wanted to know if that was a pre-planned thing or did I just show up out of the blue? Her tone was, in my impression, fairly accusatory. Oh lord, I thought, I am in so much trouble. I was CONVINCED I was in trouble for not running the idea by her first. Also I was convinced I was busted for using my prep time for recorder time and for interrupting her observation AND for using the classroom for recorders instead of the MPR.

I launched into a quick explanation about differentiation, said I should have emailed to confirm the time, etc. but before I could get more than two sentences in, my pal, the principal, interrupted to say, "Great, I love it, love it!" and briskly walk away. Oh crap, she was trying to compliment me and I just made all the excuses for why it was so terrible!

So... that was awkward. She loved it? Yay? Did the other teacher get in trouble? Does the think I'm a complete idiot for not accepting a compliment from her boss? Does she think I'm insane for trying to differentiate something like recorders? Do you think I'm crazy?

I will probably be over analyzing my interactions with my pal for the next several months. When I don't find a job in the fall, I'll blame the dinner party I went to where I didn't drink wine when everyone else was completely sloshed. Or I can blame the day she came in pretending to look for something in the chair closet and I was letting the kids lay on the stage instead of sit up on the steps. Or I can blame the day I tried to do something good with remedial recorders and instead I just stepped on everyone's toes, put my own foot in my mouth, and came home and banged my head on the wall.

Tell me, please, that someone else out there goes through every interaction they ever have with their boss with a fine toothed comb? Especially if their boss is currently writing them a letter of recommendation?




Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The door is not always open

Grocery shopping in our town is interesting. I can always guarantee I'll run into someone I know. If it's not a student of mine or a fellow teacher, it will be someone from Mr. Awesome's world of grad school. If Mr. Awesome is with me, one of his former college students will recognize him and (incorrectly, albeit not for much longer) call him Dr. or Professor.

Also, you know how most grocery stores have two entrances on either side of the store? Depending on the layout of your local store you can either come in by the veggies/produce section or by the bakery/deli. Well when Mr. Awesome and I moved here so he could start grad school eons ago, we discovered that in small town USA, both doors are not always open. Perhaps you are reading this and thinking "of course not!" but to us and our urban tendencies, we found this shocking. This is about how the conversation went hundreds of years ago when we moved here and discovered the sometimes closed door phenomenon.

"How come the other door is closed?" we asked the first time we encountered this. The store clerk looked at us like we were crazy. We looked at him like he was crazy.
"Uhh... it always closes after 7:00pm." We looked at each other in utter disbelief. The store clerk looked at us like we were freaks for asking such an offensive question.
"Is there any particular reason?"
"Dunno. It's always been done that way. Cuts back on shoplifting I suppose."

So there you have the backstory as to why tonight, when, at 7:15, I went to the store to pick up some much needed cheese for tonight's meal, the door was closed. And even after several years of trying to remember to park near the other door, I was highly annoyed.

I personally don't think it has anything to do with shoplifting or tradition. I think it's because when small town folks make a run to the store in the evening after 7:00pm they want to feel like they're doing something exciting. I can imagine their conversations.

-OOOH I bought milk at 8:00 on a school night!
-Oh Sarah you'll never believe what happened, it was so annoying I had to buy milk last night because I forgot it at the store on Saturday. Can you believe it?
-Ugh, honey, we're out of eggs, can you run to the store? No way! It's too late. 

Can you imagine what they must say about Mr. Awesome and I when we decide we need to buy discounted Easter candy, a bottle of wine, a six pack of beer, and toilet paper at 7:45 on a Monday?

I think it's time to move.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I didn't order a wake up call

My phone rang at 6:30am this morning. It was, of course, the sub coordinator but I didn't answer. Last week I emailed her letting her know I would not be available to sub today, and she emailed back saying "ok, great, I'll take you off the list!"

I'm not sure which list I got taken off of, but it wasn't the "call at ass-early o'clock" list. Needless to say, I did not answer my phone because I was sleeping and I'm still in Favorite City, USA.

Ms. Sub Coordinator has made this mistake every single time I've gone on vacation this year. I email or call her, she is overly impressed that I take the time to let her know I'm not available (saving her the time of calling someone who isn't available) and then she calls me anyway. I am finally to the point of not answering. She figures it out. I probably am breaking some unspoken rule in the world of trying to get a job. Next fall when I'm still an underutilized credentialed and mastered educator, I can probably look back to this exact moment as the reason why: I didn't answer the sub call.

I don't hate her for it though. I remember what it was like to work in an office and do office tasks. I remember having my excel sheets for budgets and my make-shift databases and my cardboard alpha sorter and my friendly but moderately useless cube-mate. So I definitely understand that sometimes names just get lost in the shuffle. I also understand that it is not that difficult to keep a daily availability list.

One time I offered to turn a word document into a modifiable PDF. They thought I was cut out for management. I thought I was cut out for grad school. That's a whole other story.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring Break, 2010!

It's spring break, do you know where your teacher is?

Today I went to the aquarium! I saw all kinds of crazy fish and adorable otters, talked with a volunteer about lesson plans involving a sponge (like the animal, not the dish cleaner), and read as many kids books in the gift shop that I could before we had to go. I also talked field trip strategies with the store clerk. Sometimes teaching is something you breathe and people figure out that you're a teacher whether you mean for them to or not.

Perhaps not everyone spends their vacation trolling through the aquarium looking for lesson ideas for a classroom they have yet to be hired to teach in.

What are other teachers doing over spring break? I'm so glad you asked.

Well, I do actually know some teachers who are stumbling around drunk on some sandy beach with an umbrella drink and a one night stand. Sorry, but some teachers are sluts AND drunks. Are you really shocked?

I also know some teachers who took off to spend the week skiing or boarding. Some teachers are really into sports too. I know a few other teachers who are using the time off to get some last few training runs in before their upcoming marathon. So some teachers are into sports AND uber buff.

On Friday before spring break in the teacher's lounge we all shared about where we were going.

Mrs. Sixth Grade is going to Ecuador. Or was it Chile? She travels so much that she has a map up in her room with push pins. It is titled, "Where in the world is Mrs. Sixth Grade?" Very cool idea for bragging about your travels and getting the kids into geography. But someone might want to clue her into the fact that Carmen San Diego is a computer game to some, a cartoon to others, and "isn't that a city in California?" to kids today.

A few other teachers at my school are spending spring break doing wedding related activities. They have bridal showers or bachelorette parties in Las Vegas or even actual weddings to go to. Considering that I had pizza and beer for my bachelorette party, I don't really get the whole Vegas thing. Sounds fun though.

Many teachers were simply going to visit family. I guess technically I fall into this category, as my in-laws live in this city and our friends here are just as close as family.

A lot of my coworkers didn't say what they were doing over spring break. I have wild conspiracy theories about what they're up to. My first theory is that they are all going on some booze cruise without me.  My second theory is that they've all got temp jobs for break to make ends meet because their husbands all got laid off. My third theory is that they are all staying home with the shades down and eating bon bons in bed and watching crappy TV while their husbands still have to work like normal people.

And your local friendly wanna be teacher is here, in her favorite city, with her favorite people. Not quite as good as bon bons or a booze cruise, but still awesome.