What would you do? 

I have had a lot of family crisis lately and finally feel up to the task of writing a post,  a short one. 

A few days  ago I had a student ruin another class for everyone else again for a least the 10th time this year.  This happens more and more with each passing week.  I teach many different 45 minute classes throughout my day.  One behavior issue can ruin a whole class.  But, what do you do?  Yes, I can call the office, but they just come back later or next week and disrupt class again.  Yes, I can call home, for them to come back next week and start all over again.  But,  what will stop the behavior?  I am clueless.  I have been teaching for over 10 years and I use to have some answers, but these behaviors, I am clueless.  So, what would you do? ( by the way a version of these situations I am about to share have all happened in my presence in the past 2 months.)

1.  Student hits another student in the eye with a bag.  I asked student to say sorry and student replied, “I shouldn’t have too.”  I asked, “Why?”  Response, they were saying stuff. 

2. Student opening up cabinets and going through another’s teachers things. 

3.  Student rolling on the floor crying because they do not want to color. 

4. Student found a red crayon on the floor and decided to color on the floor. 

5.  Student stood on a table and held down the receiver of my phone so I could not call their mom. 

6. Students physically shoving each other  and yelling over who would get the bigger pencil. 

7. It took me 30 minutes to get 24 kindergarteners to listen to a story.

8. Student was troubled, not bleeding or sick.  I wanted to help, but they would not say anything to me, just moaned and cried.

I could go on, but I want this to be short.  Yes, these situations are taken out of context, but my class is an oddity for young children.  Elementary children spend all day with one adult, in one classroom and then for 45 minutes they go visit someone else.  A teacher they see only once a week.  I am a good teacher and I try to accommodate the 450 or so students I teach each week.  I am consistent.  I have expectations which I review weekly.  I spends hours planning lessons for students to learn and have fun, but each year it gets harder and harder.  

What would you do? 

To Sit With Reality

Being a teacher, I tend to share about education, but I haven’t been to work since the 2nd of November.  My dad recently died of bladder cancer.  Today was my first Thankgiving without him.  He didn’t carve the turkey or have one major role.  He was that voice in the background talking to the kids, reminding someone to do something, complaining about the TV, or opening the pickle jars.  I miss him so much! Those words of wisdom coming from the other room…

 I started the school year like any other year, teaching by day and being a mommy by night at my parents house.  We are building.  Then mom and dad were in and out of the hospital.  Mom usuallly, but not dad.  Dad was sick but would not go to the doctors.  He just watched tv and over time realized too late.  Dad couldn’t take care of the dog, my son did.  Dad couldn’t pay the bills, so I did.  Moms car broke, so my husband fixed it.  Dad needed chemo and the list went on and on.  I started spending my mornings and evenings preparing medication, listening to nurses talk about my dad like an object.  Focusing on quality of life and precious time.  I was up at 6am and down at 1-2am. Soon, I was helping him, a 6’2″ man on and off the potty.  Emptying his urostimy bag and wiping his mouth after meals. Don’t forget I got mom too.  With dialysis, oxygen, and issues with major nose bleeds.   I did this for about 2 months while teaching, and caring for my own family. I couldn’t, who can?

I ended up having a mini mental breakdown due to all the stress, hence the time off. I am 35, have a husband, 2 kids, living with both parents since we are building a house and both my parents are sickly, but dad was dying.   

And did… I did get to spend a lot of time with him at the end which was nice.  I was the only one with him when he passed.  That was the first time I had ever seen a human being die.  I will never forget it.  On one hand I my honored to have had the opportunity to hold his hand and be with him.  He went peacefully, but he died.  I do not want to die alone. What if i opened my eyes and no one was there.  I couldn’t have that happen to my dad so I held his hand and read from the Bible.  He never opened his eyes, but those last moments are etched in my mind forever.

Now, I am helping my mom pick up the pieces and put them together in some order.  No order really feels good.  Nothing really does, but life goes on.   My dad did not prepare well at all.  

Advice: buy burial plots, prepay for your funeral.  Have as much life insurance as you can afford. Have a will and be specific if you want certain people to get certain things.  Or better, if you know your time is near, give things away before hand.  Create a great lasting memory for that person. 

You would think all would go to mom. And we wrote a last minute will to do that, but he has two business. He has renters in his front yard.  He has a trust and there are antiques and equipment and guns and the list goes on and on.

I am a teacher, not a businesswoman or a landlord, however I am finding myself doing it because I have too.  I love my parents too much not too.

And yes, I have siblings, a brother and sister, 53 and 49.   Yes, I am 35.  They have helped here and there, but they are like oil and water…..   things never go well.  And they didn’t hang out and talk with mom and dad.  I did.  I was at the hospital til 2am.  I sat in the emergency rooms all day, Glady.  I could talk to them all day.  My parents and I were like peas and butter.  Mom and I still are.

Change is hard all in itself, but when you are thrown in the deep end with sharks all around, that don’t go away.  It seems damn near impossible to get out of bed.  But I do, I must.  I have two beautiful children.  I wonderful, supportive husband. And my mom.  I can’t even imagine how she feels.  My parents were married for 53 years.  53 years!  I just made it to 5 and it took me three weddings to get there ( a very long story). 

My brother is the hot head, quiet, individual type.  He is so angry about everything right now, but mainly my sister.  My sister likes to control and manipulate situations from afar, like a puppet master.  Usually sister wins, cuz bro can’t cool his jets.  Mom and I are on the side lines watching and keeping the peace or in the middle trying to do what is best.  And there are times when she loses it and needs her space or I loose it and need to clean something.   Greed, selfishness, and confusion have erupted like a virus in my family affecting us all.  Dad is gone.  The boss, the lord of the land, the listener, the dreamer, the knight in shining armor.

Life is really like a box of chocolates.  Some days I feel like progress is being made.  Others days it seems we are all going to hell in a hand basket.

I ask myself.  What do I do?  I need a plan.  I need a plan.  A plan gives me structure, focus, purpose.  A place to go. A goal to achieve. A reason to live. The ability to keep moving forward on my journey through life until my number is up.  

But, it’s a plan.  It changes, things get added, you move forward, things get deleted, you move back, sometimes you just stop and other times you are racing against time. 

Time…. maybe it’s time.  We never have enough of it.  We tend to waste half of what we do have.  Should I focus on time, probably not because then your not using it, your watching it go by. 

I am a teacher.  I want an answer.  The right answer. The perfect answer.  A problem with my past compulsory schooling, because there is no one answer to my situation in life.  There a millions and most are at least okay answers.  

I think I need to sit with it. Sit with my life.  Sit with my reality. I like this concept until I have to do it myself. I need not do anything but go about my current daily activities and sit with my reality.  My lot in life.  Where I am today.  My dad is dead. My family is in turmoil. Finances questionable. Some activities; funeral, burial, large family gatherings of crying and sharing have past, but the will, businesses, packing, moving, Christmas, assets, trusts, lawyers, arguing, fighting, hurt, and more pain are still to come and will last for the foreseeable future.  I need to breathe reality in and out all day.  My new reality. My new lot in life no matter how much it hurts and I hate it!  A plan will come to shape.  An answer will be found.  A small achievement met.  Money will shake out.  The sun will come up.  My son will laugh.  My daughter will smile.  I will kiss my husband, huge my mommy and cherish the memories of my daddy.

I believe that life is not meant to be easy; If it is your living it wrong.  My mom believes,”life’s a bitch and then you die.”  That works too.  I also believe I am in control of my own destiny, but I have to pay attention because I can only control my choices and reactions in the trials and tribulations of my life.

So, tomorrow I will try to sit with my grief, be mindful of my environment, and control my choices and reactions to be made in benefit of myself and my family.

Education today

I just took 4 surveys for DDOE about Delaware education.  It was fun!  I love surveys!!!!

A lot of questions about ratings, profiency, requirements… Sad really. To quantify the human race…

We are all different.  We look different.  We act different.  We live different. We create differently. And it’s all good.  Who wants everyone to be the same?  We are all a part of the fabric of mankind.  We all play a part, have a place, each with equal value.  

Some would say that value must have a weight that is able to be measured.  I say why?  It is what can not be measured in numbers that is the most important so why reduce the human race to numbers, rankings, proficiency levels.  

Success comes in so many forms and success is more about meeting needs than achieving a certain rank.  If there is a need and you meet that need, that is success.  That need may be a heart transplant, or a nice lawn, or help getting off the floor you just fell on.  All needs are all success once met.  

Education needs to focus on improvement.  I know, improvement to who’s standard.  How about movement forward?  

Focus on movement forward to be better than you were yesterday.  Not perfect, not satisufactory, just better.  That is enough, that is success.

Let’s Fill The Gaps! 

Why doesn’t government focus on filling the gaps in society, specifically education? Elected officials need to focus on the gaps, not the whole system. 

For example, education starts at the local district level.  Each district has their mission, and vision.  They know their weaknesses and strengths.  They set their yearly goals to do x, y, and z.  X focuses on math.  Y focuses on reading.  Z focuses on writing.  Typical of Delaware districts based on testing and curriculum. 

But then, the state sets their mission and vision.  Tries to find their weakness and strengths. And set their goals for x, y, and z.  And x, y , and z are also about math, reading and writing. 

So we are spending double time and double money on the same things… WHY?

Most of the time the state uses resources on something and districts don’t like it and then create their own.  This has happened with DPASII many times.  We are wasting time and money. 

Wouldn’t it make more sense for the state to fill in the gaps the district doesn’t fill.  Delaware has done a great job doing that for foreign language.  There is money for immersion programs, something districts could not have done before and districts like the idea and want to do it.

The state may think the districts are not doing a good job.  Well, create programs that schools could apply for to get help in those areas.  But don’t recreate the wheel.  We waste so much money redoing things that don’t need it.  

This is where choice is helpful.  A school doesn’t have special Ed you like, go somewhere else.  

Public schools are trying to be everything for everyone and they can’t.  

Maybe the state should  focus on gaps and not overhauling the whole system every few years.  The idea at the state level rarely makes it to the school, so stop doing it.  Focus on the arts, languages, technical careers, physical fitness and health and special needs.  These are the areas districts would welcome funding and training.  Not in ELA and Math, because they do that already.  Maybe not to the liking of the state, but the state doesn’t have to like it.  The people do.  The people have to live with their schools everyday.  And if people don’t like it.  People will choice out and the school will close.  

An idea…

Why do the most neediest student get the less effective, qualified teachers? 

Have you ever noticed this phenomenon? 

I am an art teacher, a damn good one.  However, I have my limits like all people.  I can’t do everything perfect and some things I am not qualified to do, or paid to do, or hired to do, but I do them in that, “other duties as assigned” part of the teacher contract.  

Would parents want to know what teachers do in the “other duties as assigned” part of a teacher’s job?  Would the General Assembly be okay with the ” other duties as assigned” part of my job? Or any teachers job?  Or the decision process related to what teacher get what student for how long and at what time of the day? 

Take me for example.  In my tenure in Delaware education I have taught art, music, STEAM, and math.  I have taught classes of 10 to 38.  Disabilities, you name it and I have seen it in my classroom.  Ranging from the inability to talk, walk, or hold a pencil all the way to a fourth grader with a house arrest ankle bracelet; and don’t forget the child with an 8th grade reading level in third grade.  Sometimes I have had the help of a para, but most times I am on my own.  I teach whoever comes in my room.  It’s amazing we have all these regulations in Delaware.  Who is highly qualified.  Who is certified? Qualifications for emolument.  But once your hired… It truly doesn’t mean a damn thing! 

Below are a few situation that happen all the time.  Some of these are personal experiences and others have been observed. 

Scenario 1: a school board member really wants more gifted options in their district.  So an idea comes up that teachers are to share their interests and talents with students outside of their teaching area.  So, it’s implemented.  But, we can’t mess up math and ELA time,  so the specials teachers can do it.  So for 12 class periods out of the year, non standard, non district approved classes were created for students based on what teachers like Taking away from art, music, pe, and more…

Scenario 2: enrollment in down, so related arts teachers have less classes.  We need help with test scores in math and ELA.  So related arts teacher start helping the tier 1 and 2 kids to improve their scores.  ( didn’t I say most neediest student with lease equalified teachers… I am certified, but not in math; definitely not common core math) 

Scenario 3: there are so many students and teachers that we have floaters; teachers with no permanent classroom.  You guessed it, most of them are first year teachers… My first year sucked… And I had a classroom. I wonder how these first years go…

Scenario 4: someone messed up on scheduling a school event, so let’s switch everything about our day.  So a teacher will teach classes on the last full day of school that they have never, ever taught before.  Student they have never meant…

Scenario 5:  abc student has a hard time in the morning because their medicine doesn’t work until later.  This student really needs a routine to start the day off right, so let’s give them special first thing in the morning.  Everyday they will have a different first class up until their medicines starts working. 

Scenario 6:  we have a lot of students geting ones on SBAC.  We need help.  Let’s hire more paras.  They are qualified and know what to do to gets test scores up.  Our teachers have failed, paras will close the gap! 

Scenario 7:  Let’s teach something new!  There is no curriculum, no training, and no real money, but it will be cool and fun!  There is no time in the schedule so let’s cut art and music down and we can fit it in.  

I feel I am getting more and more sarcastic with each scenario and I could go on and on.  It’s crazy isn’t it? 

What are we doing? 

I do think that everyone I work with today and in the past have and will continue to do the best they can, but it’s not working.  We are all in the system and the system only lets you move so far and do so much from where you are.  And speak out… Teachers are people pleaser, we don’t like to get yelled at.  

Our system is designed for needy students to fail.  New teachers to fail.  Challenging populations to fail.  Anyone who really needs it to fail. 

I do not know the answers but I think most of it is mindset.  If you have a talent, you should use it.  Life is not supposed to be easy.  The good teachers should get the neediest students.  The experienced teachers should get the students that are hard to crack.  The fragile students due to medication or trauma should get the teacher they see day in and day out during challenging times because they have a relationship like no other.  The students who can’t read should have a reading specialist. The student who struggle in math should have a math specialist, not an art teacher. 

It’s not all about money. It’s about value. I am good at what I do.  I was hired to teach art.  Let me do it.  Reading specialists specialized to teach kids how to read.  Let them do it.  Many specialists do “other duties as assigned” like scheduling, event planning, and data analysis.  I don’t think that was part of their degree. 

Our system has to change so the neediest get the best, not the other way around. 

‘Twas the night before school…

OMG!  It is way into the wee hours of the morning and I cannot sleep.  Tomorrow is my first official day of school, not kids, just teachers. 

I am excited to get the year started. I get to lead the Pledge on Tuesday morning in front of the whole district staff. I can’t wait for the hustle and bustle of the first weeks of school.  And I am dreading it too.  Getting up at 5am, monitoring breakfast, writing endless lesson plans, and working on the weekends because I have too.  I will miss spending time on the beach or at the pool watching my babies play.  

School… So wonderful for some, and so god-awful for others.  It gets harder and harder every year.  Maybe because I have been teaching over half my life… Wow!  

I still love it! The smell of new wax on the floors.  Opening up boxes of new crayons.  Deciding what new fun things I will do in my classrooms!  It is nice, a new start every year.  A chance to change, be better, do more, or less. 

Teaching, the most important job there has ever been.  And I get to start it again, for the 14th year in a row.  To touch a child, to touch the future, in a way that most could only dream of…  Hopefully I will get some sleep too!