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?