April Page 5

Whether it is a cold or my sinuses, my body has been sending very direct messages. You are sick. You need to rest. Why aren’t you resting? Sleep, you need sleep.   Oh and by the way, until you give me what I want food will lose all favor. 

And it did. Well mostly, I just didn’t want to eat the veggies. Freshly steamed veggies. Warm and crispy veggies that I normally devout just lingered there while I went for second and third helpings of mashed potatoes. I was really tempted to go get a milkshake, blowing all the lovely work I have done in the past week with my diet.

My body wants sleep and rest. Not to be up and at work. It wants more than a day off. It wants less stress and more … just more. More of all the things, I like to do but don’t get a change to do because I am working all the time. I am not sure if I really want to spend the next six months working on my math certification when there are other projects and goals.

I wanted it because I thought I would be able to translate my love of math into the change I have been looking for in my life.  I wanted an easy out. No such luck. It would have been nice. Well, not really since it would have caused all sorts of other change and in the end might not have done what I wanted it to do. Secure my income base and work more on my passions, writing and gardening.  Spend more time with family and loved ones, here and in Virginia and New York as well.

I am still going to work towards the math certification. It is something I always wanted.  I gave up on being a math major in college for a couple of reasons.  The first was it got a whole lot harder than it was in high school.  I didn’t make the transition well.  I didn’t really have to study in high school and going to college, my math classes jumped up a level that I wasn’t expecting. There were lots of other pressures going on all at the same time and let myself get distracted from my course work.

I failed to ask for help until it was clear that I was way in over my head. So I got a D that first semester and the one after that. Soon a switch in majors was on the way.

The second thing that killed it for me was my instructor although kind and willing to help was that he lacked passion for subject. A grad student who was assigned to teach Freshman, he did his job, but he didn’t know how to teach. He did practice problems and reviewed with us, but there wasn’t anything engaging about the class.  Mrs. G, the veteran teacher, that I had yesterday engaged with the class.  She took time to explain and answer questions, adjusting her tone and going back and working problems.  It was really amazing to watch.

The last reason that I gave up on it was my own self-doubt. It ate and me and I allowed it to tell me that I wasn’t good enough. This has been something that has plagued me for years. For many years, I thought while I was intelligent I just didn’t have the brains to get it. Cognitively, I could tell you that there is difference between talent and skill. Skills are developed and talent may be intuitive but it takes skill to refine. Emotionally, however, I thought if I wasn’t good at something after a little bit of practice, then it wasn’t for me. I would go on to something that I was good at. Pretty silly since I never developed anything for a long time except for my writing.

I gave up on getting a degree in math many years ago for a lot of reasons. I don’t regret the choice because it led to some many other wonderful things. Still, I feel like getting my certification in math would go along way to complete something that I gave up on thinking that I just wasn’t smart enough to do it.  Turns out, I am smart enough to keep on learning.

Summer Time – Writing Time – Review Time

Reading one of my favorite blogs this morning – Live to Write – Write to Live inspired me. They were discussing what the summer time means to your writing and reading schedule.  Summer as a teacher and a writer means there is actually less time for me to write.  No set schedule which seems like it would be a blessing and some days it is.

Some days, I sleep until my body tells me to wake up, walk Luke and settle down to the writing desk after making breakfast.  So far in the three weeks since school has ended this hasn’t happened once.  Most days, I am up just about the same time and headed off to my second job at a local theme park.  The days I do have off there have been other things that needed to get done. Things that I have neglected during the school year.

What I have been able to do is read more.   So far I have finished three books and am more than half way through a fourth book.   Three more books have made it on to read list by  two wonderful authors – Stant Litore and Erik Hofstatter.   Those delicious treats are next.  Something a little dark to take the bite off of the blistering summer heart.

One of my goals is to read as much as I can and work on writing reviews this summer in what will most likely be a vain attempt to have reviews done in advance of Blood Child’s publication. Beyond reading, writing reviews and completing the publication process, I have three on-line classes to complete and some quality gym time.

What’s on your to-do list this summer?

 

 

The Words That Stuck A Cord…

If only teaching the ABC's were simple.
If only teaching the ABC’s were simple.

This evening, I came home from work and discovered that my laptop was a still a school. No comfy writing chair for me this evening just a straight back dining room chair and a cranky not old, but definitely not new desktop. Even my beloved Kindle, carrier of more books than any purse can handle is at school. It was a long day. A very long day for me to forget those things.

A typical day for me begins at 5:45 when I stumble out of bed to walk Luke. We like our morning time routine and if I wake up early then we are out the door for a longer walk. By seven, I am on my way to school and by 7:15 I am walking in the door of my classroom. The longest part of my commute is the walk from the parking lot to to the classroom. Monday’s and Wednesday’s, I teach at night so I usually stay at school and a neighbor takes Luke for his evening constitutional.  The time between jobs is spent at my desk either prepping for the next day or lesson planning. Sometimes I read. Most of the time I am working at least an hour after my official “work day” has ended.  Then I am off for three hours of teaching English to new immigrants which I love, but to be honest, I won’t be doing if I didn’t need the money. And I do need the money.

I really do.

The landlord expects money each month and won’t house me for free just because I teach. The phone and electric companies have similar non-altruistic attitudes as well, although I am sure all of them would thank me for doing what I do. A few might even add that they couldn’t do what I do.

So I work at night and on weekends. And whenever I can to make ends meat and get far enough ahead on bills so I can spend more money and go back to school so I will be even more qualified to teach than the five certifications I now possess make me.

For the past two weeks, I have been working with another teacher on our common lesson plans. Common lesson plans are suppose to be a collaborative effort among teachers to raise the rigor of lessons and improve student achievement. They are also pretty awesome at cutting down the amount of time that teachers have to spend “volunteering.” (One of my first administrators told me that any time I worked before or after my official hours was strictly volunteer. ) I am all for it in theory. Reality is a different story, because in reality they are rarely created or implemented correctly.  A few people namely myself and my colleague will be writing the majority of plans that are supposed to be so detail that any substitute can follow.  In turn for our work we will received plans from other teachers.  Plans which we felt compelled to correct and revise because we are now responsible for implementing them.  Plans for which we have had no say in.  Plans made by teachers who have never met our students and don’t understand our needs.

When I questioned this I was told to just be quiet and go along with the flow. Excuse me? Am I a professional or not? Apparently not, since I no longer have the power to make the decisions to improve my own performance or motivate students. I can’t pick a book to motivate students to read just for the enjoyment of it and sneak in some learning along the way.  No, I must teach X, Y and Z on day 27 or I am not teaching to my student’s potential.  I am not even worth a cost of living raise despite my county having received nearly 17  million dollars to give teachers raises. The school board instead gave themselves a raise. They gave the principals a raise and the classified employees a raise, but teacher we want too much when our union asked for a 4% raise.  None of the people who received raises were made to prove their worth by raising test scores. It didn’t matter if their school was considered to be failing or not they got a raise. (The classified employees deserved their raises and I won’t see that money taken away from them for the world, but can’t I get a little love as well. )

My to-do list will always exceed my can do list.
My to-do list will always exceed my can do list.

After forgetting my laptop and kindle, I was ready just to check mail and be done with it then this article entitled “Why Teachers Are Fed Up and Burned Out” by Walt Gardner found its way on to my screen. Gardner, a retired teacher, gave the myriad of thoughts that have been swirling around in my brain a voice. A voice that says I am that teacher on the edge of being burned out. I love my students and my job, but I no longer feel valued. I am being told what to teach, how to teach it and get those tests up with out anyone looking at my kids beyond what the score report saying. My kids do need rigor. I want to give them that rigor, but bad poetry about war and ditching Shakespeare because the teachers writing those plans doesn’t like the Bard of Avalon isn’t want teaching should or needs to be in this country.

Innovation can not come by making us all the same, by making everything common.

And it will not come by punishing teachers.

I wish I knew the answer, but frankly I am beat.

 

 

The End is Nigh…

Or so I hope.

The weekend was not as productive as I had hoped. Sleep over took most of it. There was some editing and housework in between naps.

Bring my novella to a conclusion has proven far harder than I imagined and that is without the cold or the impending state testing.  My students have FCAT Writes on Tuesday. It is a nerve racking day for all involved.  All the work we have done all year will be judged in one hour. Scary isn’t it, given the number of factors involved that one day determines so much.

But, that is life. You work for months if not years on a project and then in a blink of an eye your work is judged by others who have no idea about the process or the struggle involved. All that matters is the end product.

When I finish Blood Child all that will matter is whether the story is a good one. The results of my work won’t be known for months after I am finished and Blood Child is published.  My students will get their results by May.  Good luck, kids. I know you will do your best. Just like your teacher.

Preview from Another Pen

A wonderful excerpt from a book sure to become a classic.

Just Sayin'... 😉

early_morning_rowboat

Warren Bronck had had enough so he took a rowboat out to sea. He had grown tired of all the jibber jabber, folderol, and twaddle of the populous at large. All he wanted was a place to fish that was all his own. All he wanted was some peace and quiet.

Everyone knows that pelicans are natural fishers of the seas. Everyone knows that they are jovial, even-tempered, celebratory creatures. Warren Bronck was a pelican, but he was none of those other things. If you encountered him in the morning he was usually grumpy. By evening he was normally using a great deal of salty language.

Other than his temperament Warren was a striking figure of a pelican. He was tall, big chested, and had a deep rich voice. To most, he seemed distinguished and charming. In truth he was such a master of the obvious and ironic that no…

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Arming Ms. Apple

Of all the things that could be done to education, the worst would be the arming of American school teachers.

Seriously, it would be disastrous…Countless teachers would quit or retire in order to avoid having to carry gun in a school or work around them.  Many more would never entered the profession.  Teachers are under-fire in this country both literally and figuratively. We are praised by individuals for our work and demonized by the media and politicians. At the same time, we have to worry about the safety of our students. Today at my school, I had to twice remind our technology coordinator not to prop open one of the outside doors. Even after recent events, he still did not understand the issue with his actions. He acted as if he would be a deterrent to someone coming into the school which is connected to a dorm for teenage mothers who have no place to go. My words were lost on him.  He laughed them away.

If we want the attacks on teacher and students to stop on both fronts then we have to fully fund education, cease to make unrealistic demands and allow teachers to be the leaders in education.  No,these steps won’t stop all school violence, but there is a better chance of school personnel being aware of potential issues when they aren’t worrying about the next round of testing or how they are going to pay for little Luke’s braces.  Teaching used to be a profession that helped lift families into the middle class. Now it is the profession that middle class families look down upon.

As a teacher, I love what I do, but I am exhausted by the ever increasing responsibility that is being placed before me and the growing pile of bills at home. I am an example of how teachers are underpaid, overwhelmed and burning out.  Most still don’t make it pass their first five years in the profession.

On top of being responsible for how our students perform on standardized tests when they enter classrooms years behind where they are “supposed” to be, most of us regularly take work home, spend money out of our own pockets for classroom supplies and are told that we must take more and more classes in order to be “highly qualified” without increases in our take home pay; people are suggesting that teachers be allowed or even required to carry firearms in the classroom.  Really? That would like arming members of the postal service in the 1980’s. The answer is not more guns or less guns. The answers to school/gun violence are deeper than the current media debate will allow.

Teachers want their schools to be safe, but adding another weight for us to bear will only cause more problems.   If our nation put their money where their mouth is and funded all of education’s needs, we would be able to combat the achievement gap as well violence.  How often when you are overworked are you able to see a problem clearly. Schools need so much, yet legislatures continue to cut funding while demanding that students show improvement regardless of the other factors affecting them.  It is really hard to concentrate in class when you have just becomes a mother or your father was sentenced to life.  Their reality is so far removed from that of their teachers that they might as well live in another galaxy. Yet, teachers don’t give up.

Beyond that I think about Ms. Apple down the hall with a gun and I am incredible afraid.  She is a sweet woman, but the pressures she is currently under are nearly breaking her. She lives for her puppy dog, church and helping others. A simple and blessed life.  Peace would not be served by putting a gun in her hand. She would be more likely to make a mistake and shoot herself or worse a student.

I am not anti-gun.  They have been a part of my entire life, but they have no part in my classroom life. Nor should they. Instead of telling teachers what to do, how about listening to us. Please.