Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Traditions - Established and Growing

Tradition! Tradition.

What is it about Tradition that helps make the holidays so special? Tevye sang of it in his opening sequence from Fiddler on the Roof. Obviously, there are the non-secular traditions many people follow. But what I'm more interested in is the secular ones. The personal ones. The ones you carry from your childhood and will (or are) passing down to your family.

From the time we found out we were pregnant to now, I've heard arguments on both sides regarding Santa. Both Steve and I grew up with Santa, and I remember fondly getting presents not only from Santa, but also from Rudolph, Mrs. Claus, and various elves. We've pondered the arguments against the use of Santa but find ourselves having a lot of fun with the concept. Syd isn't a huge fan of the "sitting on the lap" aspect, so instead, we've begun writing letters and mailing them. This is one concept has started several traditions for us:
  1. The writing of the letter to Santa (this year, Mommy wrote the letter and Syd decorated it with his drawings) and the subsequent mailing of it in the Macy's mailbox, so we can also help the Make a Wish Foundation.
  2. The special plate and mug that we only use one night a year, to set out snacks for Santa and his reindeer.
  3. The use of completely separate wrapping paper to indicate which presents were from Santa and which were from Mommy and Daddy.
  4. Of course, the reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas at bedtime after we put on our
  5. Brand New Christmas Pajamas!! This isn't really Santa related, but it is so much fun! And this year's pajamas had Santa on them, so it fits.
  6. An old German Tradition - Saint Nick. I grew up with Saint Nick. Prior to Syd coming along, Steve and I tried to use Saint Nick, but it was difficult to make it as special. Now, having a little one stumble upon a toy left out the night of December 7th and telling him Santa came to check and make sure he was being a good boy makes it so much more fun. As he gets older, we'll actually incorporate setting his shoes outside his bedroom door, as the tradition dictates (the small gift is left in his shoes, not under the tree, etc.).
The season is riddled with traditions. Some are born with having a child, some are thrust upon us, and some we deliberately begin. Other traditions that we follow this time of year are:
  1. The dinner out and nighttime drive to the Elk's National Home to view their beautiful, extravagant holiday light display. This year, we incorporated doughnut holes after dinner. And we thankfully went during the week (last day of school!) so the crowd was far less than on the weekend. This simply means we got to drive through it twice without putting anyone else out.
  2. Dinner and family time with PawPaw a few days before Christmas. The cousins had a fabulous time playing with each other and visiting was so nice.
  3. Christmas Eve at Meemaw's house. The opposite side of the family is huge, and the Happy Chaos is necessary to make it feel like the holidays. Musical chairs are accidentally played, as anyone who gets up loses his or her seat. Food spills over off of every surface. And the sounds of  laughter are plenty and varied. It is one of those lovely occasions where you have to open the doors, regardless of temperature, to bring in fresh air because the sheer mass of bodies gets rather warm. 
  4. A quiet morning at home with breakfast and opening our gifts, then lunch at Nanny's house and more gifts, more family, more visiting, more laughter, more. And subsequently, after we get home and Syd is in a holiday coma, he snoozes, contentedly. 
  5. The evening is filled with a quiet dinner at home and playing with toys, games, and music. 
Holidays leave us with plenty of room for growth in terms of traditions. Tradition allows us to think the chaos has some sort of order as well as reminds us how special family and friends are, and how important they are to use year round, not just during certain occasions. Steve and I are happy to consider ideas for other traditions we want to instill in our lives, but it ultimately comes down to family. May your holidays, and every day, be rich with family, love, and laughter, and the traditions that help make them all so memorable.

Monday, December 3, 2012


I found the drawing of Poe a former student drew. It wasn't for me; it was for an art assignment. However, Jacob was eager to pass it on to me after he got credit for it in his art class. It is now awaiting lamination and then it will be returned to my room. It is a wonderful rendition, in my opinion, and I am tickled he thought enough of me to give it to me. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Making a Name for Myself

One way celebrities know they've "made it" is when they're finally spoofed on Saturday Night Live. Teachers have a 'tell,' too - You know you've started to make a name for yourself when students you don't even teach bring you items that follow the same theme.

This is my classroom door.
I started this year printing off English-themed jokes and cartoons and taping them onto my department co-workers' doors every Friday. What started as a way to lighten the year grew as students added to my  collection, many times anonymously.

Over the years, students have begun to associate me with Edgar Allan Poe. Once students find something to attach to a teacher, it is amazing what will be given or gifted to her. The Yoda Poe is one I found; however, it was quickly joined by others.

A gift from an anonymous student. Everyone loves Pooh. 

A gift from a current student. Every time I read this, the song gets stuck in my head, but you cannot go wrong with Queen.

More gifts - Harry and Po, from two different students.

This was texted to me.

I have a feeling this is what started it all. A former student who is now in Afghanistan painted this. He didn't want it, so I eagerly snatched it up.  I put it up every year.

Shortly after obtaining the above portrait, I found this in the UVA Bookstore.

Another former student found the soft doll and gave it to me for Christmas several years ago. I found the Raven puppet last summer and purchased that primarily because Syd fell in love with it, but also to use when I teach the poem.

This is just plain funny. 
I am, after all, a self-confessed English nerd.

I have two more drawings from artistic students who have graced my room and subsequently graduated . I took one home to laminate it, so if I remember, I'll snap a picture of it tonight.

My point to this post is that, having spent nearly 8 years in these halls, and finally moving on to the younger siblings of students I've already taught, I am seeing some of the effect I've had on my students' lives. I love my job. I enjoy teaching a great deal, and I cannot express, enough, how much I enjoy their enthusiasm for darkening my room with Poe. The truth is, I enjoy Poe a lot, too, but I'm by no means an expert on his writings. However, it appears that what I say sticks with them, and that is all I could ever ask.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Few Pics - Update

 October is my favorite month. It is so colorful, and here in Virginia, the humidity is finally gone without too much loss of comfort. The air is crisp and clear, and I get to open up the house on a nearly daily basis. And there are pumpkins everywhere! I adore pumpkins. 
Because of my adoration for the month, as a whole, Steve and I decided that was when we wanted to get married. Here, we're celebrating our 11th anniversary at a park with Snickerdoodle. Steve is truly my best friend and my rock, and I'd be lost without him.
 Another thing that makes October so much fun? Halloween!
We were not big celebrators when I was growing up - for a handful of reasons. But I truly enjoy the innocent Halloween (not the "Do what you can to scare the pants off someone" version...). And that is made even more delightful by the fact that Syd is now old enough to understand certain components. He was terribly ill this year, though, so I contacted our next door neighbors to ensure they would be home (and offered to give them something to give him), but we went directly next door, camera clicking, and then came back home so he wouldn't get chilled. 
Here, Syd and Daddy are "Football Mans!"
 November came in like a personal Lion - October ended with Syd's illnesses, and November came in with me scrambling to catch up - see my previous post. And just as I thought I was catching myself, I got hit by a door at school. Here's the nurse's job at making sure I didn't get blood on anything.
 This is the next day. The stitches are in my eyebrow. The bruise is barely noticeable, especially when my eyes are open. But as with many injuries, the bruise, as it began to dissipate and get absorbed back in, sank. Literally. It began to slide down my eye until I caught some fantastic looks from people in the school and in stores.
It is obviously yellowing - finally starting to go away. This is when I went back in to have stitches removed. The doctor said it will still be noticeable for Thanksgiving, so I'm primarily doing this so Dawn doesn't get a fright when she comes in. :-) I don't feel it at all, though, until I forget it is there.
So, November came in like a lion. I'm hoping that the remainder of 2012 is much more sedate than the past few weeks have been. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and truly take a moment to help out others or reflect on all that you're thankful for. My family will be reuniting in town to visit, laugh, love, and check out my Mother's new home. 
My immediate family will also be "Moving our Feet so Others Can Eat" at the annual Drumstick Dash. There is no better way to be prepared for one or more dinners than to work off some calories before dinner while ensuring the less fortunate are able to get a hot meal, as well. 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's a Good Thing...

...I called off NaNo 2012. 

Syd got better. It took awhile, but my gloriously wild, active, inventive baby boy is back.

Then, I got sick.

And I had a conference to go to.

And we had Parent/Teacher conferences.

And I was finally on the mend and thinking I would catch up from Syd's illness when I got hit by life.


My assistant principal hit me with a metal door. I had to get 3 stitches and have worn a purple shiner for the past week.

So, I'm definitely writing off the novel (bah-dum shhh) this year.

I'll post pictures of Syd, family, and said shiner when I get them transferred from my phone.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Why I'm Bowing Out

Two years ago, I was introduced to NaNoWriMo by a friend of mine. I incorporated the idea into my classes at school, set a goal of 17,000 for my students (and myself, though anyone over the age of 18 is supposed to achieve 50,000 or more), and tried, valiantly, to write while taking care of a 14 month old, teaching and grading, and helping my husband run the house. I failed miserably - I wrote a grand total of 11,000+ words.

Last year, I tried again. I felt good. I left everything pertaining to school at school. My first steps in understanding, fully, that it was ok to do so (after 7 years struggling with that balance). Steve took on most of the household chores and was persistent in pushing me to write. It was a liberating experience, and breath-taking in its allowance of selfishness and loss of inhibition. And I "won." I made my word count goal with a November 30th count of 50,505 words, which allowed me to obtain 5 free bound copies of my manuscript. After the school year ended, I worked diligently for 3 additional days when I still had a full-time babysitter in Steve's grandmother, and finished my book. I published it myself; It still terrifies me to tell people I've done this. Ironic since I blog about it for the world to see, I know. But the fact is, I'm entirely self-conscious about my writing. Regardless, I feel there is some validity to doing things my way.

Still running on the adrenalin of creative juices, I started to plot out this year's NaNo novel, and awaited, anxiously, for November so I could begin.

Then, Life hit. Isn't that why we HAVE NaNo? Because Life hits all the time and we put things off? I recently taught a lesson in school on Langston Hughes' "Dream Deferred," and I use myself and writing as an example. But the truth is, Life can be quite selfish and vindictive at times.

My sister is doing a fantastic job of forcing Life to take a back seat to her dreams. I could not be more proud of her and all she's accomplished. I feel as though, in a way, we're taking these steps together, just on separate, but parallel, paths.

NaNo was my way for forcing Life to pause for a moment so I could do something selfish and for me. I prepared for November by keeping up with assignments at school, updating the grade book more quickly than I think I have my entire teaching career; I made sure to do small things at home to sanitize or straighten to eliminate the need to CLEAN; I multi-tasked - doing laundry and folding while watching tv or pausing in the middle of cooking to sweep, etc., all so I would be more prepared for the month of literary abandon and writing nonstop, and so my guilt at not being absolute Mommy or Teacher or Wife or (fill in the blank) would allow me to write my sequel to my first book.

Enter Hurricane Sandy and Random Nasty Virus. Syd came down with something horrendous right as the entire East Coast tried to prepare for the disaster. We were very lucky. We had the nearly hurricane strength wind (I think we topped off at 68 mph wind gusts - hurricane strength is 74) - we had rain, we had tree limbs down, we flickered with power. We were exceedingly lucky. My preparations were more necessary for the health of my son than for the hurricane, as I would not make it to school the entire week.

I had to leave early Monday to get Syd, who had a fever and just wasn't himself. He would fight that fever, and refrain from eating or drinking, for the next 3 days. Tuesday we were out of school due to the hurricane. Wednesday, Halloween, I called in to stay home with him. Thursday, I had not even made it through one full class before the school called for me to get him. Friday, he managed to make it an entire day. By that point, I was 2 days into NaNo, and hadn't written a word, and was unbelievably behind at school, and was desperate about getting to school to get supplies for a conference I have to go to tomorrow, and was just feeling... deflated.

I wrote Friday night. I am happy I did. But my heart wasn't in it, and I can't know for sure that my heart will return. We're still battling Syd's illness - he's no longer contagious, but the healing process is long. I've done more laundry the past 3 days than I have in one sitting since the entire family came for Thanksgiving and brought the stomach flu with them.

So, as much as I despair to give in, I am bowing out of NaNo 2012. I fully intend to do this again. I loved letting myself go and writing. I will sketch out my ideas for the sequel, and then let the guilt go. I have, instead, a new goal for the month of November - training.

I was doing well training over the summer. At some point in my life, I would love to run some 10Ks, and hopefully, a half marathon. But then I was interrupted by my own illness. By the time I finally determined what path to take for recovery, it was 3 months later, and we were enmeshed in the new school year. So, it is time to refocus. I have a new pair of running shoes that are crying out for a breaking in. And the Drumstick Dash is quickly coming up. If nothing else, I need to be in better shape if I'm going to pull Syd in his new wagon for 3+ miles!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Breath of Fresh Air

Today, Steve and I got to take a break from our hectic, adult lives to spend lunch with our beautiful son and his classmates. It was such a nice interruption to surround ourselves with tiny bubbles of energy and excitement and giggles and chatter. Piping up voices that told story after story. Repeated phrases and pantomime and more giggles. So refreshing.

I teach high school juniors and seniors. To go from watching my students, kids who are too cool to look like they care about anything, even though they desperately do, to ones who were no more than three feet tall and bouncing with joy at the mere thought of chocolate milk made me walk back in to school and finish the day with a huge grin plastered to my face.

Would I want that all the time? No. There is a reason I teach high school. But spending an hour with them was sheer joy. I can only hope I get to accompany the wonderful teachers who care for my son and his friends on a field trip. I would love it. And it would give me a bank of giggles from which to draw when things get too heavy, too dark, too stressed to see straight. In the meantime, we're going to the pumpkin patch this weekend. It was a welcome reminder of enjoying the simple things in life, and taking in as much living as you can. Like drinking a bottle of chocolate milk.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Family Bed

Many schools of thought exist regarding the use of, or the absolute denial of the Family Bed. Numerous cultures, outside the U.S., make ready use of the Family Bed and see nothing wrong with continuing with life as if the children were not there.

I have been part of varying and heated debates at lunch as my co-workers and I discuss raising our children - we have a young department, and all but two of the English teachers have children - the majority of the children are age 5 and younger. (We told students to stay far away from the water fountains in our hallway during a 2 year stretch there - it was obviously contagious...)

Ultimately, among our group, we have some parents who adamantly refuse to allow children in the bed, parents who allow children in the bed for specific reasons (ill, bad dream, etc.), and... me. 

Sydney is our only child. He will be our only child. What may have been by choice at one point is now no longer up to us. Nature made sure of that. We're fine with that. We've had time to heal, to discuss, to move on. But since our only child is so young, still, we want to capture as much of the joy he brings as possible.

Admittedly, this means he may get away with certain things more than I would allow if we had more than one child. Discipline is set - I will not allow us to slack off on that. But I really do not have a problem with Syd sleeping with us, as long as he goes to bed in his own bed, first.

He is very good about that. We bathe, read stories, cuddle and rock, and he goes to bed in his own bed. He sleeps soundly, most nights, until around 2 when he crawls in beside us and goes right back to sleep. And, thankfully, his sleeping with us has comforted him enough to where he is beginning to sleep until (gasp! Eruptions of angelic praise!) 6 am!! 

Steve gets up at 5 to work out, and I and Syd cuddle until 6 when we finally get up. (Eventually, the plan is to get up at 5:30 and work out, too... ).

My point to this posting is explain that it doesn't have to be black and white. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. I enjoy cuddling with my baby boy, who is no longer such a baby. I enjoy waking during the night to hear his soft snore. I truly love knowing he feels comfortable enough with both of us to slip immediately back into a restful slumber after crawling in with us. And as long as Daddy and I have bedtime to finally get to discuss our days and cuddle, without distraction or talking over the top of a garrulous 3 year old, what is so wrong with our Family Bed? 

Will this continue? Of course not. There will come a point where it will be a little off-putting. And I have a feeling Syd will feel that way before Steve and I do. Honestly, if he doesn't reach that conclusion first, we will enable it. But for now, while he's 3, I will cherish what time my son wants to spend with us, because it is so fleeting, and because I feel as though I'm holding on to a moon beam.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chamber Pots and Such


One thing my students need to work for the SoLs is their knowledge of idioms. It sounds odd that this is necessary for performing in society outside the classroom, but if that is what the state says to focus on in the curriculum, I will do as such - At least, until we know what the test looks like and how it is formatted. Ironically enough, as we're reading a two-act play by August Wilson called "Fences," an idiom pops up.

"I didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of." Roughly paraphrased - I asked my students what that meant, and they stared at me, dumbstruck. After briefly explaining what a chamber pot is and how it was used, the lightbulbs (and some "ew!"s) made themselves known, and happily, my students were able to explain the idiom in context.

I found that really quite amusing because, in essence, any parent of young children has a chamber pot somewhere in his or her house. And while the use of such isn't for quite the same reason, it can still draw 'ew's. I know I am no different than any other parent in my eagerness for potty training, but I beg forgiveness as I share my tale of Stubborn 101.

Syd is ready. In every possible way. His teacher agrees that the only thing holding him back is... him. I had lengthy conversations with my sister this past summer, trying to figure out how to start down the long, eagerly anticipated path of potty training. We started as soon as school was out, but he defied every attempt of mine to sit on the potty, so I didn't see the point in letting him run around naked or with big boy pants on. 

Weeks went by. I would try every other week and he would break into hysterics. Finally, after pleading, bribing, demonstrating, he agreed to sit on it. Sit. Only. It was a start, so I took it. That continued for a few weeks before abruptly stopping.

Finally, exasperated by attempts at school and at home (though, we did have a few more successes at school - he at least traded in his diapers for big boy pants over a pull-up!), I saw a Chuck Truck Fire Station toy at the grocery store that was marked down. I bought it, suspended it from the shower curtain rod, and while he bathed, told him only boys who go potty on the potty get toys like that. He looked me dead in the eye, said ok, sat down on the potty, and went. Then, he stood up and asked for his toy. 

My jaw hit the floor. It really is just him holding him back. Stickers, candy, books we only read while sitting on the potty wouldn't do it. Chuck Truck would. The next morning, I told him it was time to sit on the potty, and he waved me off - "No, thank you!" then ran down the hall.

I'm hoping the dam has broken. I'm hoping this will lead to more attempts and successes at the potty. I'm hoping my "Year of the Taurus" son realizes everyone else goes on the potty and wants to follow suit. And though I enjoy the huge boxes our diapers come in (they're very handy for moving school books and storage), I'm ready for a grocery list that is slightly shorter - sans the diapers and wipes.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Feeling Anticipation

And slightly selfish.

The school year has taken off with a bang. This year, the SoLs have been updated to reflect the changing world and expectations we all hold for today's youth to be successful in it. Unfortunately, the change in the SoLs caused a change in the test, but no one knows what is on the test or how it is formatted, the test is known to be more difficult than in the past (nicknamed "The Silent Killer"), and the cut score for passing has risen, meaning that the students who barely passed in the past would not pass this time. Oh, and it is sooner - early February instead of mid-May.

What does that all add up to? A change in curriculum, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I've been teaching the same class for 8 years. Last year, feeling a drag, I changed my curriculum specifically so I didn't burn out. It was by choice, and I still had some things on which to fall back in case I got into a slump.

This year, I and the other junior teachers are finding that the reworking of the curriculum is not only not by choice, but it is difficult to streamline what we're doing. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to what we're teaching. I told the parents at Back to School Night that I was focusing on specific SoLs and skill sets rather than teaching thematically or chronologically through time. We're all over the place. And it feels like we're developing the lessons the morning we teach them. I have not felt this unprepared since my first year.

I did find my moment of zen while working on a study guide that stressed particular skill sets of close-reading in Their Eyes Were Watching God. I felt giddy. I was excited and showing off my lessons to other teachers. I felt that ball of excitement in the pit of my stomach that indicates a lesson I believe would work really well, even with boys reading about a girl's coming of age. I planned out my lessons for the next 6 weeks, and was absolutely ready to start this week.

And then I did a book count in our storage room. I am 14 copies shy of having enough books for all my classes to read this at the same time. Talk about a sharpened pin to my balloon. I had to take a day to myself to regroup. I got a sub, brought home a slew of grading, and after dropping Syd off at preschool, graded for 6 1/2 hours in preparation for midpoint. I am not caught up, I have no further plans than next week, but I have enough in the grade book for parents to be comfortable with where their children stand in my classroom.

As it stands, my lesson is not lost. I merely have to wait until we are able to obtain some borrowed copies of the novel from neighboring schools within our system. I only hope other teachers are willing to share with me this treasure trove of literary beauty.

But this brings me back to my title for this post. That jittery feeling of excitement and anticipation I felt when I finished my lessons for the novel made me realize how long it has been since I felt that way. I've relied far too long on the same curriculum, trying desperately to stay afloat. And then, on my twitter feed, I started seeing posts for NaNoWriMo.

I got excited by that lesson because it was something I put together entirely on my own. It was my creative juices flowing. It was ME put into a lesson. I need to find ME again. I need to feel that quickening, that caffeinated kick, that desire to share. I need my next dose of NaNo. And even more exciting, Steve claims he's joining me for NaNo this year, too. I made strides in NaNo world last year when I managed to scrape together my ideas and publish my first NaNo book, Dragon's Heart. I have plans to continue the story, and hopefully strengthen the characters, for this year's NaNo novel.

So, yeah - I'm feeling anticipation. And excitement. And selfish. Last year, between school, toddler, Thanksgiving, and life in general, I struggled to get much of anything done other than writing. It will more than likely be the same this year. Even worse if both adults in this household join in together for NaNo. But it will be absolutely worth it if I find that quickening that makes me who I am. And even if nothing ever comes of my sequel to my first NaNo, I'll have found that moment of zen for myself.

So, it's time to stock up on coffee. Time to garner wages for Starbucks nights. Time to ensure I have room on my pen drives, and lesson plans are more than one week in advance (and hopefully, more group projects to alleviate grading!). It is time to count down to NaNoWriMo 2012.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I'm Still Here...

Just Swamped.

Syd started school. He loves it, except for one thing - he misses his Mommy and Daddy terribly. However, his teacher adores the fact that he is still a baby in some ways and wants to be rocked before nap time.

Steve is (hopefully) nearly done with his stint helping out by covering a 2nd shift supervisory role. It was guaranteed to be short-lived - in writing at 6 months tops. And it was quite wonderful during the summer. He got to go to the park with us, to the movies, to music class, etc. But once school started, it got hard. Really hard. On the days I drive Syd to school, Daddy doesn't see him at all. The only reason I drive him sometimes is so Steve can sleep, but it is terribly difficult to bear because Syd feels the absence profusely. We're optimistic that Steve will return earlier than expected to 1st shift, and then I'll drive in the morning, and Daddy will pick him up in the afternoon. Then I will get to stay just a few minutes longer in the afternoon and get whatever manages to get done done.

In that sense, I've been quite successful in maintaining my balance. I haven't had much choice. I don't do work at home. I need to. But I don't. And the kicker is, I don't feel guilty about it. Yet. I hope I never do. When I get home, I have to maintain my focus on my maternal hat. I have to leave my teacher hat at school, put on the Mommy hat in the car, and get baby boy, get dinner, make lunches and set up coffee for the next morning. I have to do what millions of parents do just to make sure we get out of the house on time and without forgetting anything. There is nothing special in what I do except for the mere fact that I've struggled with balance and guilt for three years, now, and I somehow managed to just kick it out the door. It is so liberating to not feel that weight. Now, if only I could manage to get a run in at 5:30 in the morning.. then my life would be fully balanced.

It's been a good past few weeks. But I am looking to the future now for several specific things: 1. It is nearly Syd's birthday. I can't believe my baby boy is going to be 3 years old. We've decided to do a very small family event on his birthday and wait a little longer to have his friends over, etc. 2. This unbelievably hot summer is nearly over, and pumpkins are already showing up in the stores. I love the fall. I love it so much and I wish it were the longer of the seasons. But it never fails, at least not here, that it seems we go straight from summer to winter. Nevertheless, I am exceedingly excited that we're at the doorstep of fall because, as sharp as Syd's memory is, we know he will definitely remember what happens starting this year. I can't wait for chasing falling leaves, and carving pumpkins, and hay rides, and cider, and Halloween and football and going for neighborhood walks again when it finally gets cool enough. I love it and I look forward to making those memories with my boys.

What memories are you looking forward to?

Monday, August 13, 2012

New Year Resolutions

In the past, I've written about how my co-workers and I tend to make our New Year's Resolutions in August - when our new year begins, rather than in January, when the calendar new year begins. This year, my goals are different than they've been in the past. I have a more clear idea of what is needed of me at home, though that may still be skewed by the fact that Syd begins preschool this year, and I know what I need of myself, or, rather, for myself. Thus, for all to see, this is what I've decided my New Year's Resolutions must be for the school year of 2012-2013...
  1. Seriously - and honestly - do not bring the work home. All it does is make me feel guilty for not touching it. It took me 7 years to get to the point where I could tell my students I would get to it when I got to it. I did what I needed as far as getting it done, whether that was taking a day off just to sit and grade or eliminating assignments that could feasibly be seen as busy work. I streamlined my grading process so I am/was more efficient. I need to reach that point sooner this year than I did last year, and I need to not feel guilty, as my home life is more important, what with family needs, Syd and school, etc.
  2. Stay on top of my students' blogs - this is the ONLY thing I allow myself to grade at home. It takes a few hours one night a week - usually while I'm watching Grimm or reruns of Monk. But I have one fewer class in this age group than I did last year, so I'm hoping I'll be more successful at staying on top of them and keeping this grade, at least, updated in my grade book.
  3. More group projects/activities that utilize more learning styles to reach all learner types. I have more students than ever before, with less time, energy, and resources with which to successfully plan, teach, grade, etc. So, instead of working harder than necessary (let's be honest, harder is necessary...) I should work smarter. This means jumping into the technology pool more than in the past and allowing collaborative efforts more than in the past. Just because they're working in pairs does not mean they're not gleaning from the assignments. I will need to alter the assignments, or how the pairs work, but I should achieve the same results if I am careful and diligent.
  4. Stay on top of the phone calls home. I let that slide last year. I am not proud of it in the least, but circumstances were against me in two cases - my planning was in the morning, which I love because it allows me to get settled for the day. But it is also too early to call parents, at times. Afternoon planning periods are usually more successful for reaching a guardian. I also had my study hall, but the collaborative teacher and I initially planned to be in the room at the same time and just leave when we needed to make copies, calls, etc. That was highly unsuccessful because I felt I had to explain every absence. I will not make that mistake again, and I chalk it up to a learning curve that will help me be more successful as a teacher.
  5. Put myself out there, technologically and instructionally speaking. I have lessons I've wanted to try - activities that have fallen to the wayside because I didn't have time to think them through, test them out, etc. Well, the students tend to respond better when I treat them as adults, so as young adults, I will explain that they are my guinea pigs and we will learn about these together. Also, I need to stretch myself technologically. I do not feel I've been stagnant. I do feel I get stressed and fall back on what I know. So, now, instead, I need to embrace it and allow the technology to work or fail in class as it will, and see for myself what can be used in the future.
I feel I'm more prepared emotionally this year (aside from the thoughts in the back of my mind about Syd starting school) and I look forward to embracing my new batch of students and my new expectations of myself as we begin the next 9 months. Here's to all who are opening a new chapter in their lives, whether it be something as minor as new students or a new life step like leaving for college. May we all learn about ourselves as much as we learn about our world.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

First Surgery

We were swimming this evening and I found what I thought was a new freckle on Syd.

Nope. It was a deer tick, right at the nape of his neck. Considering the health concerns we've had this year, already, the last thing I want is Lyme Disease (Emergency room visit for split head; walking pneumonia; seasonal allergies; peanut allergy reappearance...). And that is just HIS list!

So, I performed the first tick-ectomy of Syd's life. He's very active, so I presume there will be many more in the future. The good news is that brief research on tick removal and Lyme says that the disease is transmitted after 36-48 hours of attachment, so I'm hoping I caught this in time. Regardless, we now have a souvenir sitting on an alcohol-soaked cotton pad in a snack baggie, just in case we need to take it in to the doctor.

From what I could see without a magnifying glass, it was a nymph. Not full grown. Here's hoping!!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Touch-A-Truck; a.k.a. Make a Toddler Ecstatically Happy

 a.k.a. Recipe for a Long Summer Nap.

The Nichols family had a wonderful day today.
This is what memories are made of - We went to the annual Touch-A-Truck event at a local park, and it was by far so much more than I expected. We spent nearly 2 hours at the park looking at construction vehicles, emergency rescue vehicles, school buses, cranes, and yes, even a helicopter. The local businesses and community resources had everything you could think of here, free, for everyone to come touch, honk, experience. It was so much fun, and I know this will be an annual event for us from here until Syd tells us he's too old.
 Here, Syd is in absolute shock. This is just as we get here. Kids are honking horns, laughing, screaming in delight. It was a lot of stimuli to which to acclimate. See the tractor in the background? That's a hay ride! Syd kept asking for the orange tractor, so we finished our day with a ride around the entire park.
 This is a beautiful, restored 1960-something car. I was rather shocked the owner allowed the kids to play in it. I also had a bit of difficulty convincing Syd he had to share. :-)
 Mommy and Syd waiting in line to sit in a jet. Yes, you heard me. They had the dual-globed cockpit of a jet for anyone who wished to crawl in to. He was unbelievably patient. We sang the theme song to Disney's Little Einstein as we waited.
 One of the highlights. He got to sit in the driver's seat of the digger, but was more interested in looking at the scoop!
 Syd was so excited to "drive" a fire truck! It was wide open and the kids could climb all over the inside, as well.
 After visiting the truck, he had no choice but to indulge in the pint-sized free helmets they had for little ones.
 You can tell the day was wearing on him by now - this is a blue tractor they had - brand spanking new.
 I didn't get a picture of him in the swing, because he wanted me with him, but you can see how they have huge burlap strips the crowd got to sit in and swing back and forth! It was a lot of fun, and the breeze was quite refreshing.
 On the hayride - family photo op! Syd remembered hayrides from the trip to the pumpkin patch last year and he was bouncing in his seat he was so excited. This makes me look forward to our trip to get pumpkins even more this year.
 I took pictures of the helicopter flying in, too. Here, it is on display for everyone to see.
Mommy and Syd on the way home! I don't think he ever went after his grahams so quickly!
Toddler self-portrait. He truly took this entirely on his own, after I showed him how to hold the camera backwards. My little photographer is getting quite skilled!

This was so much fun. I look forward to years more of playing with trucks, and eventually, to him being big enough to dive in to the fire men's soap bubble bath! Oh, and after we ate lunch at home, he took a 3 hour nap. What a wonderful end-of-July tradition for us to start this year, and a wonderful beginning to my birthday weekend!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baring Myself

So, here goes - I'm quite nervous about this, but also feel rather liberated in a sense...

Book is found on
Yup! That's me!

Nervous - I wrote this in 32 days. Really. I should NOT be publishing it now, but I swore I would give G.W. a copy of my book, and I told Steve that, obviously, he would receive a copy. And I promised my sister. And I really didn't put much thought in to the whole "binding for myself vs binding for sale" side of the book.

Are there things I want to correct? Well, duh - isn't that what writing is?
Are there things I really like? Yes. And that usually means those are the parts that should go.
Are there things I would do differently? Yes. But I have an idea for this year's NaNo book, so it's worth it, right? If nothing else, I have this to show for my hard work.

Liberated - I wrote this in 32 days!! REALLY! The month of November, and two days after the school year ended to tie up loose ends. There is something truly freeing in the idea that I just went with it and did not allow myself time to worry. Sure, it's creeping up now, but the bound book is already here. So, c'est la vie!

What makes me happy?
  • I really do feel I tied up loose ends. I can't stand books and movies where you're wondering about ______... I went in trying to ensure that didn't happen, and that nothing was resolved with any sort of deus ex machina.
  • One of the days where I was finishing the storyline, I was also playing along with OED on Twitter's forgotten adjective game. I kept a running list of words that I liked, and deliberately inserted every one of these in the book.
  • The best part about the above bullet point? A few who have already read the book haven't been able to necessarily see where I inserted these words. That makes me very happy. I hope it was smooth enough not to really cause a halt in the reading process.
  • I really love my cover, except I wish I could change the size of the font for my name. But the picture is mine, as well. I took that picture in a local park. A fascinating specimen. It is a small vein of a living creature eeking out an existence in a shell of bark, but all the branches still bloom. Amazing. G.W. calls it "The Organ Tree" because you can see "all its guts."
So, here goes - baring myself for all to see, and sharing it here. I took steps to allow myself to really let go and write. I still fell into the trap of "what ifs," but it is a learning process, and I refuse to let the doubters, the judgers, the pessimists, etc. get the best of me. This year's NaNo book will hopefully help me reach even further into the abyss that is me, and we'll see what we shall see.

If you're up for a challenge, join me on NaNo - I'll take any writing buddies I can, as it really helps when you're competing with more than just yourself to complete the novel. And you never know what you may be able to accomplish.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Justified Selfishness?

There are times when selfishness is justified, right?

I have a huge list of things I want to get done before the next school year starts. And this year may be just as frenzied as last year, especially with the addition of Syd attending school rather than staying in the home with Steve's grandmother.

My list has barely been touched. Truly. Instead, I've done what I need to for the conference I had to attend; I've ensured Syd has activities to do each day; and I've focused on my health - not just the "I need to eat more consistently and consistently better" health, but detoxifying my system and hoping upon hope that systems balance out and doing what I can to ensure that happens. I've worked on handling stress so that my coping mechanisms are firmly entrenched before the next onslaught occurs.  The minor surgery I had in April was a bit of an eye opener as to how stress is playing a role in what's happening internally, and I am no longer young enough to just bounce back. I need to make my health a priority in order to function the way my family needs.

That justifies letting the dishes go a day, right? Letting the dust build up on the ceiling fans a little longer? Delaying the laying out of my senior English class? Instead of working diligently while Syd is napping, like I do the first week after school lets out, I am working out before laying down for a quick nap. I am making a cup of tea in the afternoon to drink while Syd has his post-nap "tookies." I am using water as my snack before dinner, and I try to make sure I drink a full 8 oz before I drown myself in coffee (he still is up, consistently, by 5:30. He's just an early riser, and we've made peace with that). Yes, I drink coffee. And I now fully enjoy it. And studies have shown that having between 2-4 cups a day can help prevent certain diseases with which our family is currently coping, so I feel justified in that, as well.

It is ok to be selfish when it comes to your own well-being. By being a healthier Mommy, I am a happier Mommy, and a more patient Mommy. And I am more able to care for my family, especially with Daddy temporarily working 2nd shift.

Syd is, undoubtedly, a morning person. I am not. Let me repeat that. I, Dionne, am not a morning person. I never have been. Steve used to make fun of me endlessly about my attitude when I first woke up, or if nothing else, the expressions on my face. I used to say "I'm going to get up early and _____" and he would snicker, then say ok and look away. And then I had a baby and all realization of priorities shifted. Now, though there are times I literally drag myself out of bed so Steve can keep sleeping, I am more capable of helping Syd get his day started.

And I am very proud to say that I successfully stayed on schedule while gone for a week at my conference. My alarm was set for 5:50 and I was up every day. And several times that week, I went to the gym in the hotel and worked out before getting ready for class. Never did I fail, though, to get my Starbucks. Either in the hotel room or via the actual store. Another area where selfishness is ok - I was sitting in class all day discussing the symbolism and isolation present in Ethan Frome, which I really don't like. I think splurging on soy lattes was justified.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Heat Wave Esss-Cah-Pay

The title is from Dory in "Finding Nemo" - they're trying to find the escape hatch when Bruce the Shark is snapping at them, and she pronounces the word in a French accent. That's what we're doing. Escaping the heat.
We've had horrendous weather here. No real news, since a lot of areas in the U.S. are suffering from one thing or another - forest fires in Colorado; tropical storms in Florida; freak windstorms that bring hurricane strength gales along the eastern seaboard - Basically, we're not special in our concern over the weather. However, the eastern states have also dealt with a tremendous heat wave, reaching triple digits before June was even over. Now THAT is unheard of. Steve mowed the lawn, which was necessary to do twice a week, until the heat wave hit. Now, we may not have to mow until September. He's hoping so, but I'd rather not crunch when I walk outside unless it's on dead leaves in October and November.

We did, however, have a quick typical July thunderstorm last night, and the result was this beauty. I believe it is a species of hibiscus. They are common in this area, but I find them lovely and this particular plant was actually one draw for me to this house, as it blooms nearly all summer long. I love watching the lazy bumblebees float around them, drunk on nectar.
This is to commemorate Syd's independence. This is the first time he put on his shoes. And there was no purpose. I came in to the living room and immediately wondered if we were going anywhere. As you can see, he was so proud of his achievement, he didn't want to correct the placement. I say, have at it and have fun. Good for you, big boy!
 My precious baby boy. I just wish I could sleep this deeply still. 'Nuff said.
We met Pop Pop in the morning on Independence Day for tennis. Here's my little Patriot.
After Daddy left for work, I broke out the finger paints for the first time. Syd got in to it, then took great pleasure in telling me he was "All dirty" and needed to wash his hands. But, we have some fantastic hand prints that will get saved and put in his baby book.
All in all, we're having fun, learning as much as we can while staying cool and hydrated, and Daddy and I are trying to soak up as much of this fun age as possible. Allow me to wax philosophical - in times when the majority of the country is struggling (a week later, 2 million are still without power) and politics are taking over, take a time out to be in the moment with the ones you love.
May your summer be a memory like ours.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pick's Disease

How many of you have heard of this disease?  A member of my family is suffering from this, which closely resembles Altzheimer's. Pick's Disease, however, is usually first recognized by behavioral changes as opposed to the memory lapses associated with Altzheimer's Disease. Because the two seem so closely related, especially to anyone who may not have had direct encounters with either, Pick's is studied far less than Altzheimer's.

The quick and nasty run-down of the disease:
  • Neither the cause, nor a cure, is known.
  • Pick's affects primarily the frontal lobes of the brain.
  • It affects people between the ages of 40 and 60, and is quite rare after the age of 60.
  • It starts with behavioral changes which can best be described as uninhibited - side-stepping social decorum, not caring, or not noticing, if people's feelings are hurt, possibly hypersexuality.
  • Mutism and aphasia are frequently associated, and grow worse as the disease progresses.
  • Basic research I've conducted show the disease can run its course in as quickly as 5 years, leading eventually to complete apathy and living in a vegetative state before death. However, documented cases have shown the patient living up to 15 years in this state.
  • I've seen conflicting information, which I believe explains all that there is to know, regarding whether this is genetic or not. Some sources say yes while others state there is no genetic proof. Basically, they don't know.
Unfortunately, what we're encountering is, because this is such a rare disease (counting for 1% - 5% of dementia cases []), very little support is "out there" for Pick's Disease family members and caregivers, specifically. There is, obviously, Altzheimer's Association support groups, which are wonderful.

Also, because the age group is so young for sufferers of this disease, support through health care and insurance is spotty, at best.

Looking at this information is daunting. But add "life" to it, and I have tremendous respect for anyone who works in a nursing home or is a private caregiver. Essentially, word of this disease needs to spread so that those who need help may receive it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

You've Got Mail!

How many of you actually remember that lovely metallic robotic voice telling you someone was thinking about you? I find myself caught off guard by references I make in class - analogies, etc. - that have completely aged out. When I hear crickets, I know I've gone too far back. And with as quickly as technology is advancing, I know most of my kids will not have the infrastructure to understand that reference. Of course, the Tom Hanks / Meg Ryan movie still plays on TBS, so perhaps...

 Anyway, the reason I started on that tangent is that I am quite proud of my most recent art project. This is absolutely nothing compared to what my extremely talented sister is doing, but it is something of which to be proud, nonetheless. Syd has been struggling with the idea of not playing with every mailbox we come across as we take nightly walks around the neighborhood. He got upset the other day when I licked an envelope closed without his help. He wants to put the letters in. He wants to put the flag up. He is fascinated with watching the truck come by daily. (Really - garbage trucks [and "cycables"], mail, school buses - he loves his consistent vehicles...)

So, to ease his mind, I undertook the most fun I've had in a while - I made him a mail box!

  1. I took a shoe box, taped it shut (though leaving one side untaped) and then cut the remaining side ends to the one untaped side.
  2. Then, I covered everything with white paper (so toddler could add his own decorations).
  3. I added the house numbers, just like ours, and bought those brad pin thingys (what are those called?) They were only sold in boxes of 50 or 100, but I figured we'll use them plenty over the next 5 years or so...
  4. And added the flag. Heaven forbid a mailbox not have a flag!
  5. For the door handle, I took a piece of the side I cut out and folded it in half. Then, I cut a slit in the door.
  6. I poked the end of the cardboard through, cut about a 1/4 inch along the crease, and folded the two pieces away from each other.
  7. I then taped this down with packing tape with the ends spread so he wouldn't be able to pull the handle out. I repeated this on the other side to make a 3D handle for his mailbox.
  8. Last, I took a regular sheet of printer paper and folded the bottom right corner up until it was evenly lined with the left edge. This marked where the square became a rectangle. I cut away the excess paper to make a square.
  9. Fold any two opposing corners in to each other and crease.
  10. Fold up either of the remaining corners. Tape the three corners down. You have an envelope! Fold over the top corner to make the closing flap.
  11. I wrote his name and address in the recipient spot, added one of my own address labels in the sender position, and cut another address label to remove my name and address. The remaining picture from my label I put in the stamp space.
  12. Syd has mail!
He love it so much more than I ever expected! He carries it around by the handle. He puts the mail in (the envelope I created as well as a few pieces of junk mail from OUR mail), shuts the door, and waits a few seconds. Then he declares it's "done." He opens, takes it out, and sorts through it. I presume he is copying Daddy and me.

Syd even asks to sleep with it. We have to put it in the corner of the bed, and it must have all his mail in it. He will sit there and play with it after I put him to bed until he falls asleep. It is the cutest thing I've ever seen, and I am really honored he adores it so much. And it cost me - $5? for the glue, brads, and maybe the cost in paper? I know it's not the most durable thing, but what does it matter when the next time, we can do it together?

Here's to summer and art projects! I'll post pictures of what it is we've been doing during the day, soon!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Swimming Lessons

Syd is taking swim lessons again. I think this is going to be our schedule as he grows - first class after school is out, and then we'll repeat as necessary. One thing I love about swim lessons, though, is the nap that takes place after.
The funny thing is, he wasn't even asleep, yet. I brought him inside after getting home just in time to watch the garbage truck pick up our trash (that, I can tell you, is a wondrous weekly occurrence in itself...). I put him down on the stairs, thinking he'd climb up by himself. Then, I turned to get my keys out of the door. I heard a sigh, and when I turned back around, this is what I saw.

The poor lil guy usually naps by 1. On swim days, he's barely able to make it til 11:30, and even then, I have to fight to keep him up a little longer. My friend, Kathleen, says they call this the "Odin Nap" at her house, and it is the most appropriate label I could apply to any youngster after a big morning of blowing bubbles, kick kick kicking, and scoopy scoopy scoopy-ing. Here's to summer days, swim lessons, and long naps.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I did it; So can you!

I finished my book!

No, really!

I am thrilled at the moment, and I don't know what to do. I knew I would have to wait until after school was over to focus on it. But, Steve's grandmother was able to stay with Syd for the past three days so I could focus, uninterrupted.

Day 1: The majority of the day was spent reading what I had and making plot line notes on paper. I hadn't read it since I wrote it in November.

Day 2: Finish the main story. I had to tie up loose ends, bring about a way for it to end, etc.

Day 3: Write the closing chapter, double check loose ends (I really despise loose ends - I loathe watching a movie or reading a book and asking "What about ___? What happened to him? Why was this introduced with no follow up?" Drives me crazy and can truly ruin a solid story for me. I hope I don't have any I missed...) Is it decent? Yeah - I'd go with decent. It is awe-inspiring? No. Not a chance. But it is complete.

I am also utilizing to get it bound. I won 5 free copies for completing this past November. Steve has claimed one copy. I promised G.W. a copy (the wonderful, brilliant, dark child of my heart who gave me a copy of her Nano book). And one must stay on my own bookshelves. The last two - well, we'll see...

The problem? It is taking for-ev-er for the 95 pages to load on to Createspace. Really. I've been sitting here, doubting myself, twiddling my thumbs, and writing the blog entry for nearly 30 minutes waiting for it to load. I hope it completes soon. But I am proud of my accomplishment, and I love the fact that I was able to use a photo I took for the cover art. I am anxious to see the finished copy...

Steve is excited - he said he'd like to participate in this year's Nanowrimo. I say go for it. But then again, if we both participate, there won't be any clean clothes for the month, and we'll probably subsist completely on chicken nuggets and french fries. Maybe, on second thought, I'll let him have this one by himself...

Friday, June 8, 2012

What Stirs the Teenage Soul to Read

When I first started teaching high school, Harry Potter was at its height. I was a self-confessed Potterhead. I had all the books that were released up to that point. I had seen all the movies produced up to that point. It was seamless for me to start teaching high schoolers and make allusions to and jokes about the happenings at Hogwarts.

But then the expected happened - more quickly than I anticipated - the student Potterheads started to dwindle - graduating out. The book series was coming to an end in 2005, with only one book left to publish and four movies (of course, the final book was made in to a two-part film) to produce and release. My point is, the Potter Hysteria was dying down. Slowly, something started popping up in my classroom that I didn't recognize.

Twilight sprouted, like a black dandelion. It gave no warning. It was nowhere one day and sporadically sprinkled across the lawn of my classroom the next. And it procreated madly. Before long, witches and wizards were the stuff of the past and vampires and werewolves were everywhere. But I noticed a trend with this particular series I didn't see with Harry. The general audience for the Twilight series was void of male readers. The Y chromosome didn't find the same draw to the fantasy that the double-X did. With Harry, I could crack a joke, make an analogy, and nods of agreement, laughter, rolling the eyes would be evenly distributed across the room. I hadn't read any Twilight, but the audience was solely female.

That being said, I managed to go quite a few years without reading the series. I got busy. I had a baby. I took on advanced classes. I had no time to read - for myself or for school. And Twilight stayed in the classroom, though the numbers began to dwindle. And then the next wave of excitement started.

I had heard of The Hunger Games from a coworker of mine. But the name dropped in my ear and flushed right out - I had too much going on to retain it. Then, I started seeing the book, and it's sequels, in class. Like the dandelion that is vampire, the combination that is 1984, Ancient Roman coliseum, and futuristic Civil War spread like the wildfire present the first time Katniss enters the games.

I read these. I read the first, and after finishing it, I took a break. SoLs were coming. The semester needed to be tidied up. I had no time to get hooked. And then I got sick. While cocooned in bed, I read Catching Fire. And while a reader could feasibly take a break between Book I and Book II, there is no way to take a break between II & III. So, I put all school aside while I finished the entire series. I was a fan.

Again, THG kept coming up in class - kids blogged about it; books were laying on the tables, waiting for classwork to end so they could read; the movie came out this past March.  The difference was, again, I was able to make references to the series that both genders enjoyed and understood.

I needed to see for myself what the big difference was between the different series. I needed to keep my finger on the pulse that is teenage interest.  I was donated the Twilight series by seniors who were no longer enraptured by the argument between Team Edward and Team Jacob. And I read the entire series. After I finished the series, I borrowed the released movies.

I will refrain from expounding on my thoughts on the books themselves, as this was initially a lesson for me in gender interest. My key reason for reading all of this, when I have so much more I need to do, was to understand why my students were in love with one thing over another. Twilight is, in essence, a love story. But then again, so is, in one aspect, THG. Why did boys find interest in Katniss and Peeta and not Bella and Edward?

Perhaps it was the peripheral plot lines that caught their attention. Or rather, the fact that the peripheral plot line in Twilight was everything else while the meat of the sandwich was the love story. And the meat of the sandwich in The Hunger Games was, in fact, everything else while the peripheral story is the love interests.

Having read all there is to read on Harry, Katniss, and Bella, and seen all that has been released to see (Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt II is scheduled to be released in November of this year), I will say that the most rounded of the series is The Hunger Games - it feels the most realistic - the most applicable. Witches and wizards may exist. There may be dragons and quidditch. Vampires - who knows? Crime sprees abound and could be explained through newborns. But most of us tend to revert to a logical sense of thought that see what happens in Panem and can project that in to our own future, unless things change. And most of today's kids are not given credit for understanding that. It may be more visceral than forefront, but it is there.

Ultimately, I can only say I appreciate all three series for finding something that stirs the teenager to read. Regardless of gender, as an English teacher, I am thankful that the kids I've had the privilege of knowing in my 7 years of public high school teaching have found something to which to relate. It really doesn't matter which they read, as long as they read. But it leaves me asking - what is the next trend? Where do I need to start reading, again?

On a side note, not as a series, but it is of interest that the movie adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower comes out this fall. Another book that has stirred the teenage soul. I'm reading it starting tomorrow.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Comes in like a Lion and goes out like a...Lion?

I should have known by the end of the first week of school that, regardless of the caliber of student I would be teaching, leading, coercing, it was going to be a trying year.

And I would have been correct on all accounts, had I known.

Our first week of school, which is recaptured here, I discussed how exciting it was to encounter an unexpected earthquake, hurricane, and tropical storm. That particular entry was written before the (ahem...) repercussions of both - a huge sink hole opened up in our school's driveway, causing our particular school to close for the day. A heck of a way to begin the year.

Summarize briefly - testing, illness, surgery, testing, illness, emergency room, testing, AP test. A rough year, though these are some of the best kids I've had the pleasure of teaching, leading, coercing.

Today was the first day of exams. My four classes of juniors have all passed their two state standardized tests (except one poor girl who doesn't test well - she passed one but not the other). My seniors are all graduating, all have plans, and we're waiting for their scores. I finished their final grades to be handed in today so we know, ahead of time, who still is a valedictorian, etc. My pile of semester-long reading projects have all been graded. My room is peaceful for the first true time since the work week in August.

And buses are delayed for those who were not exempt from their exams for today.

And a "I'm-trying-to-play-off-my-frantic-feelings" assistant principal comes on the loudspeaker asking everyone to stay in class.

And the "I'm-also-trying-to-play-off-my-frantic-feelings-but-failing" other assistant principal comes on remind us all to stay in classes.

A minute later, he comes back on and says we're in lock down.

Apparently, a group of youngsters were dressed in camo on the hiking trail behind our middle and high schools, playing "war" with air rifles. Imagine their surprise when they looked up to find themselves surrounded by police, guns pulled, ensuring the safety of our students and staff. I liken this to the scene in Jaws where the two tween boys are pretending to be the shark - complete with fake fin strapped to their backs. "He - he made me do it!" one shakily points out to the Coast Guard, harpoons drawn.

Lock down drills on the first day of exams. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tropical storms, and sink holes. I wonder what the remainder of this school year will bring?