I am so tired tonight, I’m not sure I will make it three more days. Two more hours of benchmark testing this morning and then a long day of teaching kids who are already on spring break tend to make me crabby. So tonight, I’m going to make a list of all the reasons to stay at school a little later and come home with an empty book bag:
-time to go to T-Ball practice with my husband and my grandsons
– time to soak in the tub
– time to read the paper on the deck
– time to watch TV with my husband and the cats
-time to read the new professional books I found on my book shelf(!)
-time to do a load of laundry
-time to read the new book I loaded onto my Kindle
-time to get to bed early
All very good reasons to leave school at school. Come on, Friday!
Four more days until Spring break. Just four more- but right now it feels like forty! The kids are off the chain and are testing (Why not, it’s been three days since the last testing session!) this week for the first hour and a half of every day. That means the schedule runs about thirty minutes longer into the afternoon, and we have about an hour with each class. I am done, they are done, we are done- how’s that for a holiday declension?
Besides struggling to find things to keep the kids busy but not actually starting anything new that can’t be finished by Friday or will need to be graded over the break, I am also struggling with not thinking about all the things I anticipate doing over the break: sleeping late, staying up late, visiting the tanning bed, watching the stars with my grandsons, going to the beach, reading and writing, cooking, visiting the new exhibit at the zoo with the boys, maybe cleaning… You know what, I’m off the chain, too. My next-door colleague came into my classroom this morning with a look of pure frustration on her face. ” I need a break. I can’t do this much longer. I just asked ____ what the hell was wrong with him!” Absolutely nothing a week off won’t cure!
As I was getting my materials and resources together to do some planning for next week, I realized I have a serious problem, one that Amazon has only made worse. I order professional books, write my name across the pages, file them on my bookshelves, and forget I’ve ordered them. Today I found three brand new book stuck on my shelf that I had no idea I’d purchased. One was Jeff Anderson’s Ten Things Every Writer Needs to Know. A second title was Kelly Gallagher’s Write Like This. Brand new, spines unbroken, one still wrapped in the shrink wrap (That must have been the day I was coming in just ahead of my husband and didn’t want to explain ANOTHER Amazon box on the porch!) I love new books, so instead of feeling embarrassed or appalled at finding these books, I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to look at them again. I ran a hot bath, popped in my ear buds and settled in for a long soak and a good read.
Last summer, Amazon “invited” me to have one of their Visa accounts. I was all over that like white on rice. “I’ll only use it sparingly,” I told myself, as I clicked ‘buy’ on the Amazon website. I get “free” books with all the points I accrue, I argue with myself. And so another addict was born. I am running out of shelf space, so I am hoping that nothing I really need to read comes out anytime soon. That is, unless Amazon sells bookcases, too.
Reading several of yesterday’s SOL posts gave me the idea for today’s post. I have to admit that it’s getting harder and harder to come up with a post each night! So, today’s list is of the things I like best about teaching middle school language arts:
1. The kids make me laugh 2. I learn something new every day. 3. They keep my young. 4. It allows me to make a difference, even if it’s just to comfort hurt feelings. 5. I get to do what I am passionate about, every day. 6. I get to share parts of my life. 7. I get to talk about great books, every day. 8. Being a classroom teacher allows me to grow and change and evolve, and then start all over again if I need to.
That’s all I can come up with for now. Maybe I’ll be more imspired tomorrow. I’m still feeling a little hung-over from the migraine that’s lasted most of the day.
The weather is unseasonably warm here and that means the classrooms are like ovens by lunch time. Hopefully, maintenance will get the air turned on before we leave for spring break the first of April. Today was almost intolerable. Every teacher who had one ( or two or three) had fans running full tilt. The office and the library were the only islands of cool in an otherwise miserably humid building. I’m not sure who I felt sorrier for, my poor sweating kids or me.
About 1:30, there was a loud pop and the lights dimmed, went out, then came back dimly. Promethean boards went black, printers stopped printing, fans died and what little tepid air that was flowing from the convectors stopped altogether. Apparently, we’d blown a transformer. Finally the hall lights came back up, but dim, with some flashing randomly. I am a migraine sufferer and I had a bad feeling about this.
Sure enough, by the time we dismissed at 4:00, I had the beginnings of a pounding migraine and couldn’t wait to get home. The weather is beautiful and the sun is shining, but I came home, pulled the blinds, cranked up the air and slept away the early evening. After cooling down and getting away from the lights and the flashing, I am feeling a bit better, but I’ve lost Friday night. And I love Friday night. Friday night is a lot like the hours immediately after a migraine has passed. It feels really good because it felt so bad right before! This is the best I have for tonight.
The bad news for education in Virginia just keeps coming. The state legislature voted yesterday to compel all teachers to contribute 5% of their annual salary to the state retirement program. Until now, this was a contribution the state made as a benefit in lieu of lower salaries. Well, the lower salaries are still here, but now the benefit is gone. It makes me wonder where we are heading as a nation and what we really value.
I never minded that we didn’t make what other professionals with comparable education made. I didn’t become a teacher for the money- obviously. I didn’t hesitate to spend my own money to stock my classroom supplies or add books to my class library. Most of the time, it didn’t bother me that I worked evenings and on the weekends. I always found planning challenging and actually enjoyed working on curricula and reading professionally. I don’t mean to sound pious or self-righteous, but it just didn’t seem to be that big a deal.
But now, it all feels different. I think before this year, I thought everyone cared as much as I did, and the lack of funding was just an unfortunate reality. But now if feels more personal and much less about the best we can do. I worry about our kids. What will happen to them if we are becoming a nation that doesn’t value education? I worry that public education has become a throw-away item for most legislators. I worry that teachers have become easy targets because our knee-jerk reaction is to do the best we can with what we have, and that we have always been willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. I worry because I find myself thinking that it’s time to draw the line and just say no, to refuse to deliver the same level of professionalism just because they assume I will, regardless of funding or benefits or no more duty-free lunches. I am worried because I am afraid that I have just about reached the end of what I am willing to do. And I worry about what that says about my professionalism.
I had the opportunity to talk to an amazing woman at a party over the weekend. She emigrated from South America forty years ago to settle on a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. She , her husband and their daughter run the local general store on the island. I asked her how they had fared during Hurricane Irene in September and I have been thinking about our conversation ever since.
She explained that the wind had blown the Pamlico Sound completely dry and she knew that they were in for some serious high water when the water returned on the back side of the hurricane. I commented that I couldn’t imagine trying to prepare for something like that. How did she know where to begin? She just laughed and shook her head at my horror. She explained that she was used to the boarding up. That was the easy part. Harder, for her, was learning to let go of “things.” She explained that she’d learned a long time ago that there were no “things” that couldn’t be replaced if her family and the dogs were safe. So she focused her time and effort on what mattered and let the rest go.
As luck-or bad luck depending upon where you were located- had it, the storm shifted up the coast before turning and their home and the store were spared. The small towns further up the island suffered terrible damage from wind and water, as deep as 54″ in some places. Several houses were swept into the ocean, as well as major portions of the only road on or off the island. All the communities up and down the coast found themselves cut off from the mainland for more than six weeks, until a temporary bridge could be built across the worst breaks. There was no loss of life, but the property damage is mind-boggling.
Then I began to think how freeing it must be, to be able to let the things go, to be able to really prioritize. When I was moved from one school to a new center two years ago, I almost drove myself crazy packing and making lists and labeling, so afraid I might lose some of my stuff. A lot of that stuff is still packed in the book room! I can’t help but extend the idea of “stuff” to my teaching as well. How much “Stuff” is just that- routines that I hang on to because it’s “what I do.”? I’ve been thinking about this all week. This weekend, I am going to begin getting rid of a lot of stuff!