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Saturday, September 24, 2016

The weirdness (and goodness) of full circle

I subbed 3 days this week, and one of those times was at the school I taught at 12 years ago.  I actually subbed for the gal who subbed for me when I went on maternity leave with N.  Her current teammates are some of my former teammates.

It felt so nice to see former colleagues and receive hugs and hear, "Oh my god, I thought I recognized you!"

Probably my favorite person to see was Mr. L, one of the security guards whom I just loved.

I was told that my reputation preceded me, which I hoped was of the positive variety.

I realized, walking through the halls, how much I had forgotten.  I completely forgot there is a third floor to the building, where the library is.  The day felt familiar, yet hazy.

There are times when I think back on my short-time in the classroom and wonder what kind of impact I had.  I can see so many mistakes, so many errors in how I taught.  Of course, if effort counts for anything I feel I can give myself an "A."  I worked so hard, and I loved those kids (mostly).

Even as a sub, I work really hard to ensure the students learn something and work hard while I'm with them.  A sub day, if I'm in the room, is still a learning day.  One of my former colleagues told the students, "Ms. V is not your typical sub."

A few weeks ago, I saw a former student, AJ....she was one of my favorites.  Just a sweet, sweet girl.  Her mother had died when she was a kid, so she didn't have an easy life.  I actually saw her about 7 years ago and wrote about the reunion then.  I was able to give her some baby boy items, and she let me know when her son was born.

I happened upon AJ at one of N's field hockey games.  She said having a baby forced her to get her stuff together---she went back to school, became a nurse, is now married, and is getting ready to buy her first house.  And I cannot express the sheer joy seeing her, and seeing her life now, gave me.  Did I have anything to do with it, really?  Probably not in any meaningful way, but on some tiny little scale, I like to think I contributed.  That I was a reminder to her that people care for her.

As glad as I am that I stayed home with my children, I'm sure there will alway be a little part of my heart that is sad that I missed out on helping other kids.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Possible karma is not lost on me

On Thursday, at 9 pm, our sewer backed up.

D and I had the sewer district people out and a plumber out and were up until 1:30 am waiting for the issue to be resolved.  I was back up at 6 am yesterday which, blessedly, did not include 7 hours of substitute teaching.  It was the first day of the cottage school, so it was mostly explaining the things we'll be studying this year, talking about independent studies, and doing a fun Shakespearean insults writing activity.

Prior to all this going down, I asked my neighbor at the 6:30 pm Open House at the boys' elementary school if I was the official "most-hated" person in the PTA because of my comments at the meeting (and my subsequent blog post, which some of them read via Facebook).

I am not without a soul, and it can be difficult for me to balance my need to get things off my chest and write on this blog with also being the type of decent human being I really strive to be.  It is for this reason that I don't write people's names or obviously identify people (the lady in the blue dress who sat 2 places down from me) who may be the focus of my frustration (ok, except for my kids).

I know I have angered people who have read my blog in the past, but I also suspect that their anger at me is, at least sometimes, because I said something they know to be true about the situation.  I find that my greatest fury is when someone says something that I know is true, but I don't like hearing the truth.  It is like the anger you feel when you are really angry at yourself, which can be far worse than your anger at other people.

And I accept the fact that I may get a reputation as being the "annoying bitch of the PTA," but I know that that reputation is done in the name of keeping meetings short and telling people when they are being cliquey and alienating other non-PTA parents.  I value the PTA because I know that without a strong volunteer network of parents, a school and its students suffer tremendously.

But even in accepting and recognizing and sorta feeling bad but also not being willing to apologize for what I said in the meeting and what I wrote on this blog, I look at the sewage backup as being a nice reminder that karma comes in all kinds of ways.  Or maybe it is completely random.  I don't think when a similar sewage backup happened 9.5 years ago when I was suffering morning sickness with G that karma was lambasting me.  I think we've mostly just got some shitty pipes leading out of our house.

I think one of the reasons people like me is because I am honest.  I say what I think, but I also try to be kind as I do it.  I say what other people would like to say but feel awkward doing so.  I say when I fail or when I think I've screwed up.....like now, even though I also can't say I'm sorry for saying what I said or doing what I did.

That isn't an easy place to be.....you feel badly for hurting people's feelings but are also not sorry for saying what needed to be said.

In writing this, I thought to myself, "Am I honest like Donald Trump is honest?" although I use the "honesty" term with the lightest of hands when it comes to him.

For all that people may say they like Donald Trump for his honesty, they wouldn't like his honesty if it was directed AT THEM.  They only like his honesty when it is directed at OTHERS.  And Donald Trump doesn't appear to be naturally self-reflective about what he has said.  If he apologizes, it is because one of his handlers has told him he must be.

Honesty, with oneself and others, can be a very complex, messy thing.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Let's see how I've been inconvenienced

I think there is an urban myth about stay-at-home moms.  

The myth is that if you are a stay-at-home mom you not only welcome inconvenience, you actually LOVE IT,  because it is "your job." 

Like doctor visits.

Taking your kids to every single solitary....

well doctor visit 
AND
sick doctor visit 
AND
dental cleaning 
AND
orthodontist consults 
AND
tooth pulling visits
AND
 physical therapy visits (every week for 10 months) 
AND
occupational therapy visits (every week for going on 3 years) 
AND
counseling/psychiatrist visits
AND
 allergy testing visit and checkups
AND 
allergy injection visits (at minimum every other week)
AND
ENT appointments
AND
ear plug-making / hearing test visits to the audiologist

are NOT AT ALL FREAKING INCONVENIENT, especially when you have 3 children and have been doing it for 12 years.    

And this is if you have overall healthy kids.  I think about the moms I know who have really and truly sick kids or kids with special needs of some kind.  

Add in your own mom health- and dental-care and you feel like you are a hamster on the health care wheel of life. 

Another part of this myth is that, as a woman who chose stay-at-home motherhood, you aren't inconvenienced by the fact that you....

No longer have the same job you had 12 years ago
AND
no longer have the same friend network you had 12 years ago
AND
no longer have the same schedule you had 12 years ago (or 8 years ago or 6 years ago or even 1 year ago because as a stay-at-home mom, every second of your life is changed by the changes in your kids' lives.)
AND
no longer have the same skillset you had 12 years ago.

What is maddening to me is that all of this is just considered part of "the job" with little acknowledgment of how much of a royal inconvenient pain in the butt it is to have to do it or live it.

It's your job, baby, so you figure it out.  

Good to the core or a b**** in the name of efficiency and work well-done

Someone recently sent me a sweet message and told me I am good to the core.  I can think of few better compliments.

Occasionally, I actually live up to her assessment.

Not yesterday.

I wasn't bad or rotten or intentionally mean-spirited, but I was on a mission to both attend a PTA board meeting and avoid staying at said meeting for 2 hours.

I purposely stay in a periphery position in the PTA to avoid having to have meaningful and frustratingly long conversations about things I consider insignificant.  A friend mentioned that she once sat in a PTA board meeting during which there was a lively discussion over which two shades of colors should be the selected for a certain school activity.  I envision her sitting there suffering through the saga of "What color is that dress on the Internet?" except among PTA moms.


Yesterday morning, I posted on Facebook my intention to greet everyone and say, "Let's keep this under 90 minutes, or I'm outta here," and that is basically what I did when I walked in.

I didn't intend this as a threat or because I hate the people on the PTA.  I happen to like many of them very much.  But I also very much like my time.

There is a smidgen of me that worries that I came across as a jerkface, even though the two biggest things I did that may have ticked people off, if they weren't already ticked off by my Facebook post, were the following:

1. I said "I'M HAVING SENSORY OVERLOAD" when women at different tables were talking very loudly at women at other tables while a discussion was going on.  I wasn't trying to be rude, but I couldn't keep tabs on what anyone was saying because everyone was talking.  I felt like the lone Asperger kid in the classroom.  It was too much.

2. At the 1 hour mark, I said, "OK, everyone.  I'm notifying you that it has been ONE HOUR."

I think I may also have said "Thursday" every time an event was listed as being on a Thursday, since they always are (and I asked why is this, and no one knows).

None of this was with the goal of being an asshole, but it most certainly was with the goal of attempting to ensure my time as a volunteer wasn't wasted.  I really feel like most meetings, especially among people WHO AREN'T BEING PAID FOR THEIR TIME TO SIT THROUGH THE MEETING should be managed as efficiently as possible.

I suspect I am the mouthpiece for some moms who no longer attend these meetings because they have, at times, gone on entirely too long.  Or moms who just want to know what is going on in the PTA but don't want to socialize.  I didn't join PTA to socialize; I joined to get stuff done for my kids' school.

I have no intention of attending every one of these board meetings every month, but when I do, I suspect I will feel I've surrendered my "good to the core" commendation because I'll be playing timekeeper or commenting about sensory overload when everyone is talking at once.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Practicing for the AP test

Over the past month or so, I've been working with G in preparation for the AP test, which all third graders in the district take.

When N was in 3rd, I didn't do anything to prepare her, but I learned that her teacher was helping the class.  Ms. H explained the different sections of the test so students would know how to answer them.
I'd be lying if I said subbing in middle schools hasn't made me a little panicky about G and the AP test.

I fervently try to talk myself down.  Having taught honors and comprehensive classes, I know my kids learned something.  I know it was an environment in which learning was expected and promoted and achieved.

However, I also know that when I've subbed, there is a HUGE WORLD OF DIFFERENCE between what happens in an AP class versus what happens in an honors/comprehensive class.  I don't actually need to be in the room when an AP class is there.  They sit, do their work, do not talk.  I could fall asleep in the back of the room and no one would be the wiser (for the record, I do not do this).

When I sub with honors/comprehensive students, I have to be on, be aware and be forceful.  I have to ensure they understand that I am in charge.  There is no pussy-footing.  There is no giving them an inch.  And there is a lot of chatter and disruption and someone always gets thrown out for security to deal with because they are so disruptive.  I do not have qualms about calling security because they know that students act a fool when there is a sub, and I know that getting these 1-2 students out allows me to do something productive with the other students.

I think I've already determined that G will not attend the middle school that N attends.  It is entirely too big, and I think he would be overwhelmed.  Our resides middle school is smaller than his current elementary school.  N is able to let stuff roll off her back.  G is most certainly not that type of person.
G is, in general, an anxious rule-follower, so I suspect being in a potentially loud class, with some of the middle school rule-breakers, would make him miserable.

After going through the practice tests with him, I can't get a handle on how I think he will do.

G is very good at thinking he knows exactly what to do, at least when I'm trying to show him something.  Then he gets confused and acts pissy.  He does this on every "practice" question before the regular ones begin.  He also just wants to get done quickly, which means he rushes and says "2" (which is incorrect) and then immediately says "3" (which IS correct).  I've been stressing to him that if he puts the wrong answer without thinking it through, he may not have time to change his answers.
But then he'll have moments when he gets something on the practice test so easily, I am a little amazed.

If I had to make a guess, I would say he'll probably eek out of a low AP-qualifying score.
But I also wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Let's talk about how much I hate dentists

I used to be the type of person who didn't mind going to the dentist.  I'd get them cleaned, it didn't cause discomfort, and so it was no big deal.

For 36 years, I had no issues with dentistry at all.  No cavities at all.

I am this close to my 43rd birthday, which means the last 7 years have been a sheer dental nightmare.  That might be a little hyperbolic, but not much, especially for a person who for nearly 4 decades had NO DENTAL PROBLEMS.

I can't tell you how many cavities I've had filled in the last 7 years.

I had to have a mouthguard made because of teeth-clenching, which I blame completely on having 2 sons.

Last year, my dentist fixed messed with a cavity that wasn't bothering me, wasn't causing me any pain, which caused me to develop an abscess and led to Root Canal #1 and a crown.

Root Canal #1 and a crown led to us getting the "much better dental insurance" this year.

And thank goodness!

This year, the day before my 43rd birthday, in fact, I will be having Root Canal #2 at the endodontist's office.

My dentist, like she did last year, fixed messed with a cavity that wasn't bothering me, wasn't causing me any pain.  And now it is causing me considerable pain. I am taking an antibiotic and tossing back ibuprofen and acetaminophen like candy.

This led to me inform her on Thursday that from now on she is not to fix mess with any cavities of mine until or unless they are causing me pain.  I'd rather just have it get bad and go straight to root canal.  These little dinky fillings are leading to full-blown root canal and crown, which in my untrained, non-dentist mind, is complete bullshit.

Apparently, I have high pulp and with my chronic teeth clenching I'm wearing down the enamel on my teeth, making it likely that I'll have problems with getting fillings.  I saw on an x-ray that I've nearly worn a filling down flat from clenching during the night when I sleep.

So while I don't think my dentist is "making shit up," I also think her insistence on getting these fillings "fixed" early is simply making me having to deal with pain and discomfort a whole hell of a lot sooner and more frequently than I might otherwise have to.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

When I try REALLY hard to be a parent who supports teachers but.....

I really strive to be the parent who supports her children's teachers because 1. I recognize that teaching is a hard effing job and 2. I know my children can be completely ridiculous so I don't pretend that they are just so spectacular as to warrant special treatment from anyone.

I mean, they are good kids, but they aren't perfect.  N is a superb time-waster/procrastinator, and G is a know-it-all.  M is currently getting "off-the-chart" marks in first grade, but he is only just beginning his schooling journey, so he has plenty of time to show his true colors.  

However, I am already struggling a bit with some of the teachery things I'm having to participate in because I'm the parent.

The first is the insane amount of Social Studies homework for N, most of which I consider busy work.  It is basically questions that require her to look in the book and find the answer, and there is A LOT of it.  I'm not opposed to comprehension questions at all, but I don't know if every single question has to be answered in the back section of every chapter to ensure that a student has learned something.  Is 7th grade a social studies testing year?  If it is, that would explain it.  Not excuse it, in my opinion, but explain it.

Plus, N had virtually no homework in 6th grade and is getting slammed this year.  So maybe the problem isn't 7th grade but the fact that the workload wasn't gradually ramped up in 6th to prepare her for 7th.

The second part of the Social Studies work is that it ran over into the holiday weekend.  It should have been due on Friday so that it wouldn't interfere with a kid just being a kid on a long weekend.  Let my daughter become a mom before she realizes that her days of having a day off are COMPLETELY OVER.

Bear in mind, I'm not taking N out of the responsibility loop on this.  She is now at the lake with her cousin WITH HER SOCIAL STUDIES homework.  She worked on it Thursday from the time she got home until bed and Friday from the time she got home until bed and yesterday morning until we left for the lake.  And she is under instructions to work on it at the lake.  And if she doesn't get it done, there will be hell to pay when she gets home.  I took her iPod away the other day to ensure she knows I am serious, and I am making her do her homework in the kitchen so I can watch her.  I know she is a time-waster, and I want her to feel pain because this homework is making me feel pain.

(I recognize that I sometimes give my middle- and high school students work over our long break from Nov-Jan, but that work can be done in one week's time, not something they have to work on their entire.break.  They can wait until the week before our classes resume to do it so that we have something to discuss on our first day back).

The third complaint is the fact that N had a math test/quiz without having gotten back any of her math homework, so she couldn't study from it nor have any idea where she was screwing up so that D and I could work with her at home.  I just this second checked the online grading system and there is nothing for math.  No grades.  I don't check the portal often, but when my kid is having a crying fit over a math quiz, I can attribute it to the fact that she is in 7th grade and therefore, temporarily insane, but also that she hasn't gotten back any work to let her know whether she is screwed or not by this pending quiz/test.

The final complaint is Class Dojo, an app that allows me a "window" into G's day at school, which parents have been encouraged to get.  I think I hate it.  I don't really want to know when G is goofing off in the halls or every other stupid little thing he does.   I asked G if he knew about the app and what his number was, and he didn't have a clue. So I showed him, and the next day he got a 100.  Which makes me wonder if he is really clueless or if there is any discussion with the students of their Dojo points?  G is a rule-follower and wants to do well, so if he knows he will get points deducted for stuff, he will behave even better.  But if he isn't told he lost points, then what is the point of the points?

Of course, I have never been the type of teacher who was any good at disciplining in this manner.  It has always felt very random to me and, honestly, like more work than I could effectively keep up with.  I wouldn't be able to remember who had clipped down and for what, and who had clipped up and why and be able to report it with any accuracy to the parent.  Sometimes I think back to when I had my public school class, which I think was pretty productive, but I rarely gave detentions or wrote referrals.  I think I was pretty good at encouraging kids to do their work, and if they did that, I let a lot of other stuff go.