January 30, 2011

Dear Mr. Principal,

Mr. Principal.  Please, for the love of god, give us a break.

No, I'm serious.  Here's the thing.  We're all doing the best we can.  And while I know that you do know this in theory, it certainly doesn't feel like it these days.  Your list of demands and "requests" (aka demands coated in a frosting of "please," "thank you," "would you mind...," and "why don't you try...") needs to stop growing, or we are going to lost it.

Yes, I am preparing for the ISAT tests.  I am sucking the life out of my students and myself with every test prep packet, but I am following your directions.  I'm doing what you ask.  And while it's true that there will be no surprises on test day for my kids, there will also likely be no energy left.  And it still won't go back in time and force my kids' parents to read to them when they were little.  It still won't help my undiagnosed ADD kids with uncooperative parents keep their brains on topic through a 2 hour test.  It still won't help my emotionally distressed students with difficult home lives focus on something so meaningless.  But I promise, I'm doing my best.

Yes, I will have my kids ready for conferences.  It didn't help that you and others in the building decided that conferences day would be a great day to hold a school-wide reading event that involved every teacher preparing published pieces of their students' writing.  It wasn't fun staying late at school to laminate book covers and bind books.  And while the finished products are amazing, it was a lot of stress during a trying time.  Don't worry, I will still make time to rehearse with the students so they are ready to "lead" conferences as you've requested.  Don't worry, I will gather my "data" and be prepared to share it.  Don't worry.  It will all get done.  But know that I will need to take class time to get the students ready for conferences.  And that means less time for test prep.  And literacy.  And writing.  And everything else you'd like me to squeeze in the day.

Yes, I will have my report cards ready to go in a few weeks.  I know it's not you that chooses to make report cards due right before testing and right after conferences.  I understand that sometimes you are as powerless as I am.  But please listen when I say that I already know comments have to be specific and detailed; there is no need to remind us of that these coming weeks.

Yes, I am filling out RTI.  And even though I am wondering why the special services teachers are not helping me more with this, or why I am always the one setting up the meetings on these kids and not the specialists that see them daily for the interventions these meetings evaluate, but I smile and bite my lip and do it anyways because I care about the kids too much to wait for someone else to pick up the ball.  Oh and also, THANK YOU for asking me if I'm planning on meeting to finish the RTI form for my student who MOVED to a different school in district.  Sure.  Why not.  I'll take time to continue meeting about him even though he is no longer my student.  Add it to the list.

Oh, and Mr. Principal, THANK YOU for adding to all of the stress that you've already created by deciding to email the non-tenured teachers today to just let us know that you will be popping in for an unannounced observation in the next few weeks.  Of course, I would be happy to submit detailed lesson plans in every subject to you so you are able to choose a time to observe...Of course, I will be flexible and make sure every subject is stellar so that, since you have decided not to tell us the subject you are observing in advance, I feel confident in every area "just in case."  And after the observation, I will be happy to smile and nod as we discuss the 100 other "suggestions" of things I could be making time for in my day.  When in reality, we barely have time to teach period with all of the other hoops we are all jumping through.

Mr. Principal, I know you support me.  I know you care about me.  But please, please, please give us all a break.  Acknowledge that we are doing our best.  And please don't ask us for anything else right now.  Have mercy.

Miss Teacher

Cloud Nine (miles that is!)

Ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement to make...after finally dragging my lazy butt out of bed and away from Secret Life of the American Teenager this morning, I RAN NINE MILES, a new distance record.  woohoo!!!

I was pretty ecstatic during the last few miles of the run as the numbers clicked by on the treadmill and it began to hit me that I really was going to make it the full nine miles.  I kept a slow and steady pace throughout the run before kicking it up in the last two miles when it was clear that I was totally owning this run.  And when I finished the full nine miles, I felt like a champion.  This time last year nine miles was not even a pipe dream for me.  This time six months ago nine miles was exactly that--a dream, a wish, a silly hope.  Today, it's a reality.  And my half-marathon goal is just that much closer to becoming a reality.

And now, it's time to live on this high for the rest of the day while I tackle the lesson plans and grading that I (for some reason) ALWAYS put off until Sunday...but maybe I'll watch just ONE episode of Secret Life first... :)

[BTW I almost forgot--today was an epic energy gel fail day for me.  Not only did I goo up my computer eating one before leaving for the gym, but in my attempt to be super cautious and not get gel all over me at the gym during my run, I made sure the whole opening was in my mouth for that one...and obviously cut the corner of my mouth on the sharp edge.  Cut to me bleeding all over my gym towel, looking like a fool...]

Running Procrastination

So far this morning I have...

-snoozed my alarm at least 5 times...
-continued to lay in bed convincing myself I didn't NEED to get up quite yet...
-watched half an episode of Secret Life of the American Teenager (finishing volume 2!)...
-choked down a vanilla clif shot gel.  do NOT ever buy this flavor!!!  it was the nastiest thing I have ever experienced in my entire life.  ew.  (I have a crazy sensitive stomach when it comes to running.  I usually run with an empty stomach, or just a gel.)
-dripped clif shot all over my fingers--what the heck was wrong with this gel pouch?
-realized I had also dripped gel on my laptop keyboard! ahhhh!!
-scrubbed down my computer with cleaning wipes...I seemed to have removed most of the gel, but who knows how much seeped between the keys...epic fail.

And obviously, I have not yet gotten my butt to the gym to run.  Yikes!!!  My calf muscles are still a little sore/knotty even though I got another massage last night, but I'm going to do the best I can anyways...we'll see!

January 29, 2011

Good Morning!

So I had grand plans to get up this morning to get my cross-training out of the way before the gym is super crowded.  But...sleeping in won me over instead.  :) Actually, I didn't get very much sleep because I was up WAY too late last night watching my new guilty pleasure show on netflix instant...

I know.  I KNOW.  I should be embarrassed.  And trust me, I am.  Between reading Twilight last month and getting hooked on this show this past week, I'm a little concerned that all my entertainment standards have deteroirated.  If you have never seen this show, IT'S BAD.  BAD.  Bad acting, bad plots, bad bad bad.  But you know me...it doesn't take long for my addictive personality to grab onto some new guilty pleasure!  Anyways, not only did I stay up late watching this, but when I woke up way too early this morning (darn you school for tricking my body into thinking it needs to be up early...), instead of trying to go back to sleep I put on another episode.  Or two... :-/  Permission to judge.

Anyways, I am so glad it's the weekend.  Did anyone else's week just DRAG?  I feel like I have been really cranky at school these days.  I feel really bad about this, but my patience has just been a little short.  I've been feeling enormous amounts of pressure coming from so many directions at school (including from myself) lately, and it's just taking a lot out of me.  My kids have been having trouble listening to and following directions, and to be honest it's pissing me off.  I am DONE repeating myself.  I had a stern talk with them yesterday and told them that they better shape up next week, or we're starting a no-nonsense policy of immediate consequences for not listening to directions the first time.  

I will just be so happy when February/early March is over for the following reasons:
  • Conferences
  • Report Cards
  • State Testing
  • My race (not that I'm not looking forward to it, but it's going to be IMMENSELY stressful to miss 2 days of school for travel right before testing, and I know I'm going to be a stressed out mess that week!)
Plus I'm pretty sure I have an observation coming up that my principal has yet to mention...

I'm looking forward to a relaxing day today.  There is school work to be done, but I'm also hoping to swim, read, and maybe even get a massage.  I'm also looking forward to a movie night with a girlfriend tonight, and hopefully an early bed time...I'm attempting 9 miles tomorrow morning!  eeee!  I skipped my long run last week because of my leg pain, and while I'm a little sore still, I'm going to try it.  I felt some twinges of pain during Thursday's run, but they felt worse at the beginning than the end, so I'm not as worried about screwing up the injury.  The doc did say it's normal to feel pain even after a stress fracture has healed, just as long as it's bearable and not getting increasingly worse.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Belonging to a Gym

Last year, I belonged to a very small park district fitness center.  The nice thing was it wasn't typically crowded, parking was never an issue, it had an un-intimidating atmosphere and crowd (I know I shouldn't, but I often feel too intimidated at my gym to try new things like classes or weights... :-/), and best of all, it was super cheap.  Why am I not a member anymore?  Because I never went.  All those perks aside, the size of the gym meant that, even though it wasn't normally crowded, there were times I'd show up and all of the treadmills would be taken (because there were only like 6), or times I was looking for a different kind of workout than offered on their limited selection of equipment.  Also, hours were an issue.  I don't often work out late at night (and DEFINITELY not early in the morning), but if I feel like a run at 9pm on a Sunday night, it's really nice to have the option to do so.  The long and short of it all was that even though the gym was cheap, I was basically throwing my money away because I rarely went.  I think I paid for 3 months in a row without going a single time.  SHAMEFUL.  

I love my new gym.  (Actually I was a member there a few years ago an rejoined this fall.)  There are tons of treadmills and bikes so even at peak hours I haven't had a problem with availability, there are lots of classes (although like I said I'm intimidated by a lot of them and have only checked out yoga a few times), and best of all there's a pool (my favorite cross training option).  Worst of all?  THE CROWDS.  Since January 1st, it has been a hassle every time I head to the gym.  Week days I cannot get my butt outta bed early enough to go workout before school, so I end up going after I leave around 5 or 6.  Along with everyone else in the world. Don't get me wrong--I totally support January Joiners and their enthusiasm about getting in shape.  But it is certainly annoying to have to circle and circle the gigantic parking lot looking for a spot...

While it's certainly not spring here yet (don't I wish...), I was thinking today about whether or not I should continue my gym membership once the weather warms up a bit and my half-marathon is over.  Don't get me wrong--as long as I don't end this race with a new ridiculous injury (or a very angry tibia that decides it's too soon after my stress fracture to pound out 13.1 miles on the road), I know I will have other races in my (hopefully near) future.  But I love running outside.  No matter how good my music is, the treadmill just doesn't compare.  Same with biking.  So, do I keep the membership knowing that it keeps me from using weather or daylight or any number of other made up excuses as a "get out of workout" card?  (because let's be honest, no matter how much we love running, sometimes it's just hard to get out the door!)  Or do I save myself the big chunk of money every month when I want to be running outside in the first place.  
Don't know why I was thinking about this today...but I guess I will just decide what feels right come spring. 

Sigh...spring...Have I mentioned how much I hate winter?

January 27, 2011

Thursday Highs & Lows

Highs of today:

  • Runnings 5 miles with only slight pain in my tibia and calf muscles (hooray!)
  • Binding the books my kiddos have worked so hard to publish for our school's reading event next week, and reading some of the amazing stories they have come up with
  • Making time for read aloud after lunch
Low of today:
  • Laminating more damn sentence strips with objectives and sentence frames on them to post in the room...I feel that about 30% of my time these days is occupied with either writing on the sentence strips, laminating them, cutting them out, posting them, or taking them down to make room for new ones.  THIS is a good use of my time... :-/
Lowest of today:
  • Calling DCFS with the social worker about a student... :( I don't think I'll ever get used to this type of thing...

January 23, 2011

Half Training Update: Please Help!

Okay, my wonderful runner readers...I need your help.

Here's the sitch.  In August I hurt my tibia, a stress fracture to be specific.  It's been a long time healing, and around Thanksgiving finally felt strong enough that I could run without pain as long as I stuck to run/walk intervals.  During my half-training for my upcoming race (Feb 27th), I've had to miss 2 long runs because of tibia pain.  The thing is, the pain is inexplicable.  There is literally no rhyme or reason to why this pain has been coming back.  For example, last Sunday I ran 7 miles (a new distance record) and had some soreness the next day.  Tuesday I ran a solid 4.5 miles with no pain.  Then Thursday night my tibia is killing me again, and it's still bothering me now.  Thus why I missed my planned 8 mile run today.  Bummer.  Oh that, and the awful knots in my other calf, which, thanks to my wonderful massage yesterday and a lengthy tennis ball massage session, feels a million times better.

My race is 5 weeks away.  It's my first half, so it's important to me to get in the mileage beforehand and get my body ready to go.  But...I don't want to hurt my tibia worse.    Should I take a break this week?  Should I switch my weekly runs to extra cross training and just run the long runs?  Should I still put in the mileage, but at a walk (which doesn't hurt)?  I really am at a loss.

To top it off, injury = lack of motivation for me.  When going to the gym leaves me feeling so bummed out, it's just not fun to go.  Any motivation tips?

January 22, 2011

Tennis Balls and Haricots Vert...

...these are a few of my favorite things.  Today at least!

Remember the run I quit Thursday?  My tibia was acting up again, but to add insult to injury (or injury to MORE injury), my good leg was falling apart too!!!  I got some fierce muscle pains in my back left calf that didn't go away with a stretch.  Yesterday, it was worse!  I tried some tennis ball massage and stretching last night, but it actually hurt WORSE!  This morning I bit the bullet and scheduled a massage.
nothing like some good haricots vert to cool down a sore muscle!
Let me tell you, that was the best idea I've had in a long time.  And not just because it hurt SO GOOD on my calf.  I could feel the tension aka the WEIGHT OF THE WORLD that I've been carrying around on my shoulders lately at school melting away.  Wonderful.

The massage therapist recommended continuing tennis ball massage/foam rolling, plus some extra long stretching/ice.  She said that it didn't feel like a tear or anything, just a whole bunch of tightness, so I won't seriously injure myself if I keep running with it.  But definitely to be stretching and come back for another massage.  She didn't have to tell me twice--I signed up for a 3 massage package immediately.  Plus bought a muscle cooling gel on recommendation from the receptionist who also runs marathons.

 Let's home my leg loosens up by tomorrow!  Although I don't know that tomorrow's 8 miles is going to happen...I guess it won't be the end of the world though.  Maybe a swim is in order instead?
And definitely some more tennis ball action...

Sail America

In Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell, super teacher Miss Pointy calls math class "Puzzling" science class "Mad Science" and social studies "Time Travel."  I pretty much love those labels.  Well, my kiddos and I have been engaging in a little bit of Time Travel lately...for our social studies unit on Colonial America, we've been doing the Interact Sail America, a "time travel" research project that had the kids research colonies and create travel brochures to attract new settlers.  After weeks of hard work, most of the kids finished their brochures this week.  The results are priceless:
 Such wisdom.  The printing press and firearms DID indeed change the nature of things.  Although I have a feeling neither were invented in New York...and that gun does not exactly appear time period appropriate...

Well, while Native Americans did not actually FOUND Pennsylvania, at least she acknowledged that they were there first!

 This one could only be better if it said "Enjoy our Southern Comfort."  :) 

Henry Hudson is looking pretty good these days!

January 21, 2011

Definitely a full-moon kind of week...

Oh my, another long day.  You know it's going to be a rough one when you get into the car and are greeted with this:

Actually, it continued to drop to -6 by the time I got to school.  Yikes!!!  And yet, some of the kiddos still showed up with unzipped jackets and no hats and gloves...parenting at its finest... For a four day week, this week certainly was insane...but isn't that always the case?  Plus it was a full moon on top of it all.  I will never understand how full moons and kids' behavior are linked, but trust me--they are!!!  (For example, Mrs. Literacy Specialist was told by a student today that she was going to "punch her in the face."  f'real.)

This pretty much sums it up
Today, though, it wasn't so much that my kids weren't behaving.  It was just that they all seemed to develop partial hearing loss.  For example:

Miss Teacher: (passing out the math extended response) You'll see on here that it asks for the mean (average) number of letters in the names of the group of students.   Who remembers where the poster is in the room with the formula for mean?  (kids point)  Very good.  Plus, we just took a quiz on finding the mean so you should all be experts at it.  A good first step here would be to count the number of letters in each kid's name.

[60 seconds pass]

Student: Miss Teacher?  What does it mean by "find the mean"?
A very disgruntled Miss Teacher:  Are you kidding?  I'm not going to be answering that question, I'm sorry.
Another student: Miss Teacher?  What do I do?
An even more disgruntled Miss Teacher:  *sighs in disgust*

Thank goodness it's Friday.  All I have to say is that this day started with copying a million ISAT practice pages and ended with being screamed at on the phone by a lunatic parent.  I still don't actually understand what her problem was, but I did successfully convince her not to come into school to continue the discussion...or just flat out tell her, "No, you can't come to school now.  Absolutely not."  Can we say CRAZY??

I've had a couple of complain-y posts in a row now, so let me share some "little happys" of today and yesterday:

This one almost brought tears to my eyes today--that should be an indicator of how stressed I am!  I have a computer cart in my room with 12 laptops in it.  Students from another class have been in and out all week borrowing them, and they were just plugging them into any random power cord or shoving them in.  They were A MESS!!!!  The disarray was killing me, but I knew that fixing them would take longer time than I had to spare.  So as we were packing up at 2:50 I had the brilliant idea to ask which students walked home and wouldn't mind staying 10 minutes to help me.  I was shocked when at least a third of the class raised their hands!  An untapped resource!  Why hadn't I thought of this before?!?  I picked two girls to call their moms, and then put them to work plugging the power cords into the correct outlets, winding up the cords, and arranging the laptops.  They finished so quickly, and here is the final product:

They must have thought I was a lunatic with my reaction to this--I practically hugged them and wept. :)  Then I proceeded to show off my beautifully organized cart to two other teachers.  God, is it sad that that was one of the highlights of my week???

Another little happy was this spelling error on a quiz.  The question asked which type of figurative language was used in the text, and the answer was simile.  Or, smiley as the case may be. :)

And okay, yesterday wasn't a COMPLETE train wreck.  Actually, it had a very happy part.  One of the wonderful things about my district is a literacy initiative they have to help teachers build their classroom libraries.  Every month they have a "book room" day that the newer teachers can go to and take up to 100 books.  You can do this until you have gathered 1,000 books!  Technically the books belong to the district and if you leave you are expected to donate them to another teacher or the school library.  But I don't think there are exactly book police....Well, the books are usually a collection of gently used cast-offs plus some new titles.  But this month I'd been tipped off by Mr. Principal that TONS of new books had been purchased and would be available!  My loot:

100 brand spanking new books, including new copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the entire Percy Jackson series, several Maximum Ride books, and too many others to count.  Part of why I was at school so late last night was that I was putting my name in all of them and hand-picking a new book for each students' book box.  Yeah, it's tedious, but they LOVE when I tell them, "I picked this book JUST FOR YOU!"  And I love it too :)

So the week wasn't a total wash.  But let's just say it's a good thing it's the weekend, because if I had to endure 1 more day I might have strangled someone...

(Weekend dilemma: Do I attempt my long run this weekend if my tibia is still acting up?  I'm thinking give it a good rest tonight and see how it feels tomorrow...:-/)

January 20, 2011


I am crabby tonight.

Things making me crabby:

1. School stress. I will not even go there again, but think ISATs + conferences + school reading event I have to help the kids all prepare writing pieces for + never ending list of demands and regulations I keep getting from the big wigs in the school office = stressed out miss teacher

2. A no-grey's thursday.  I was all set to watch grey's, but then as I turn it on, I see it's a rerun.  COME ON, UNIVERSE.  This week has had me impossibly stressed out and I was really looking forward to some mindless drama...

3. Tonight's run that wasn't.  After an unending day, I headed to the gym and the run started god awful and did not improve.  My tibia was bugging me again--yes, still from the stress fracture from AUGUST.  Plus the muscles in other leg were super weird and hurting...when the tibia didn't feel any better after the first mile, I knew I was going to have to quit or risk hurting it more big time.  I'm frustrated that it's still hurting at all, even though it's sporadic and much improved from a few months ago... I listened to my body and knew that the run just wasn't meant to be, but that didn't stop me from crying in my car on the drive home.  :(  It's just one of those days I guess...

January 19, 2011

Test Stress and Straight Answers

I'm a little...stressed.  Wednesdays are staff development after school, and always end up a big headache.  Today we had an hour of PLC time, and you'd think that team planning would RELEIVE sterss.  But what inevitably happens, especially lately, is that we get unbelieveably overwhelmed by all that we have to do and the little time in which there is to do it.  Lately it's ISATs (state tests) that are stressing us out big time.  Ironically the start the day after my half-marathon, so I've been telling the students that we are ALL working really hard over the next 5 1/2 weeks to get ready for a big challenge.  

I swore I'd never be a teacher who is consumed by these darn tests.  But there is a lot of pressure.  And I'm an anxious person.  You do the math.

The to-do list/schedule for the next couple days I frantically scrawled after school:
Okay, *breathe*...
In other news, I really enjoyed reading this response when I was grading literacy work this morning:

Question: The variety and quality of life in the desert depends upon how much water is available.  What do you think your life would be like if you had no water for one week?  What would you miss?

Answer: If I didn't have water for one week I would miss myself because I would die by then.

Fair enough!

January 18, 2011

Copying Mess

Does anyone else become a disorganized MESS anytime they set foot in the copy room?

No?  Just me?  Oh well...

I'm usually a very organized person.  I tend to pile a little bit, but I assure you my piles are very organized. :)  But somehow, when I enter the copy room...chaos ensues.  I don't know what happens!  Somehow, every system crumbles and I find myself standing in a big mess of papers, embarrassed that I cannot get my things together fast enough to let the teacher who is inevitably waiting impatiently in line behind me get started with her copies.

I awkwardly gather my huge HEAPS of papers, trying not to mix up the different piles which typically include the sets I've copied for my team teachers, the masters to be filed, the transparencies, and of course my own copies. And I never remember to bring paper clips down...nope, that would just make things too easy.

Be sure to not in the picture the particularly large pile in the front.  Hello ISAT practice pages!  So good to see you again... :-P  Oh standardized testing...how I loathe thee...

January 17, 2011


Oh.  My.  Goodness.

Holy sore legs.

After my seven-mile run yesterday (a new distance record!), I expected to be a little bit sore, so I stretched afterward and took it easy the rest of the day.  This morning when I woke up, I was a little sore.  Now, I am a LOT sore!!!!  I don't know if I've ever felt this sore after a run before, but having just come off of an injury, I know that this kind of achy muscle soreness is the hurts-so-good kind that means I pushed myself to a new level yesterday.  NOT the holy-cow-call-the-orthopedist kind I was experiencing a few months ago...

(Btw, speaking of the orthopedist, thanks tibia for healing and being strong enough to carry me through 7 miles!  I'm sorry I ever said anything negative about you before!!!  I take it all back.)

Anyways, I'm off to do a nice long streeeeetch and hopefully loosen up these muscles!  I also spontaneously ordered a pair of recovery socks this morning.  (This is what happens when I have a day off from school and it's too snowy outside to really do much driving...I online shop.  It's a sickness.)  All joking aside though, I had read a few testimonials about them from some of my favorite bloggers, so I figured they're worth a shot!  I'm hoping they'll come in before next Sunday, because if this is my legs after 7 I can only imagine the state they'll be in after 8!

Any tips/suggestions to speed along muscle recovery?

January 16, 2011

Wad of Cash

My wallet won't shut.

Nope, I didn't win the lottery.  Nope, I didn't receive an inheritance.  And definitely nope, my school did not decide to start paying me for all the hours of work I put in outside the school day.  Actually, the reason my wallet won't shut is not because I have a huge amount of money in it at all.  Don't I wish.

My wallet won't shut because this week at school was a Scholastic Book Order week.  At many schools, books orders are simple.  Send home the forms, parents mostly put in orders online, mail in a few checks and order forms that come in the old fashioned way.  Receive books.  Done.

At my school, it's not so simple.  Being in a low-income community, I'm lucky I have kids ordering books at all.  I totally understand that when times are tough and budgets are tight luxuries get cut.  But it gives me physical pain to think about how often books are cut instead of cable and video games.  This year I have a group that loves their books, and every month I have had a handful of kiddos order books.  But at my school, checks and online orders are a rarity.  Nope, I get orders like this:

Yep, a ziplock bag of ones and change.  I had one kid this week actually turn in her order mostly in dimes.  I guess she cracked open her piggy bank for that one!  Adorable.  It makes me so happy to think about the fact that many of my kiddos are using their hard-saved pennies (literally) to order books.  That means that they are choosing them themselves, and it definitely means they will read them.  And hopefully (fingers crossed) it also means that they are on their way to becoming lifelong readers.

Why am I complaining then about my wallet?  Well, the kiddos don't know that I can't mail a big ol' bag of ones and change to Scholastic.  So I pay the balance on my credit card and keep the cash.  Easy enough, except now I have a wallet full of ones and dimes.  Hmm perhaps a visit to some sort of arcade or vending machine is in order...

Can't wait until the books arrive.  I am as impatient as the kids, because I cashed in a whole bunch of bonus points with this order.  Eee!  :)

What gives you the will to persevere?












A friend sent me the link to this great, inspirational video about a young man in training to be a priest who also runs marathons.  Hope you enjoy as much as I did.

Sensational Seven

Drum roll please...today I ran 7 miles!  I am pretty pumped just thinking about that.  Not only is this the FURTHEST I've ever run, it's over half of the distance of a half-marathon.  So finally, my big goal is starting to actually feel atainable, even if I still have a good ways to go.

My running confidence has been wavering over the past two weeks or so (as evidenced by my lovely race nightmares), and I was determined to go into this long run prepared and with a positive attitude.  I try to run on an empty stomach as much as possible because I tend to get tummy aches when I eat before runs, but I know seven miles is way too far to run without some calories in the tummy.  So yesterday I bought some Gu to try--I've only ever used energy gels once before, when I ran/biked the Muddy Buddy in 2008.  I was determined that a tummy ache would NOT mess with my run today!  Then, I talked the run up in my head all day and night.  When I was driving to go out with friends yesterday evening, I blasted my favorite running pump-up songs in the car and literally broke out dancing at the wheel a few times.  By this point, I was positive that the run was going to be epic.

I had a snack before bed, filled up my water bottle, added some fun new songs to my ipod shuffle, and put on my running clothes.  Yes, put them on.  I'm NOT a morning person, and even though I didn't plan to wake up insanely early for this run (actually the opposite, I slept in until TEN!!!  Glorious), I need all the extra motivation I can get in the morning.  And not even having to change certainly helps!  Then, in the car this morning on the way to the gym, I listened to a few of my favorite songs again.  I was literally itching to get running.

Since I got REALLY exhausted about half way through my long run last Sunday, I decided to not worry about speed this week.  I'm super slow as it is, but when I'm running on the treadmill I usually try to up my speed a tiny bit every mile, and finish with a big push.  Today I knew that my goal was distance, and kept the speed slow.  And between the amazing playlist I had going, the pep talks the previous day, and picturing myself running through the Magic Kingdom anytime I got tired, I powered through seven miles.  BAM.

I said in my last post that I sometimes feel like a half-marathon is no big deal in the grand scheme of things.  People do more ambitious races and run further distances every day, right?  Well, the thing is, those people are not me.  And 13.1 miles IS a big deal for me.  7 miles is a big deal for me.  Running this half-marathon is one of the most ambitious goals I've ever worked towards (well, you know, besides surviving every day teaching in the 5th grade jungle, of course).  And the fact that other people might run faster or further doesn't change the fact that I'm giving this absolutely everything I've got, and doing things I'd never dreamed I could a year or two ago.

I think I'll just take the rest of today to revel in my badassness...And hallelujah it's a 3-day weekend, so there isn't even any pesky grading and lesson planning to interrupt my happiness.  :)

January 15, 2011

Tossin' & Turnin'

Well, it's official.  The half-marathon nightmares have begun.
Let me back up a bit.  See, here's the thing.  I'm a worrier.  Big time.  I practically threw up in my car before each interview when I was looking for my teaching job.  In college during finals week, there were times I'd just sit and stare at the lists of projects and papers and studying that needed to get done, freaking out over them instead of actually just DOING it all.  When I get observed by my principal, I obsessively go over my lesson plans, practically memorizing them like a script (which I NEVER do on regular teaching days), then obsess over the many things that could go wrong during the lesson.  Case in point, my first observation this year.  Now, over the past five years or so I've managed to chill out a little bit.  While I'm still a pretty anxious girl, it definitely doesn't run my life in the way it once did, and I can usually separate reality from crazy-unrealistic-irrational thoughts in my head.

But I do still worry fairly intensely before trying something new.  Enter the race I've been blogging about... With so many people I know running marathons these days, part of me thinks a half-marathon is small potatoes.  But then another part of me remembers walking through the mile run in elementary school and using asthma to get out of PE, and I realize that it's definitely not small potatoes for me.  Actually, it's a pretty big deal for me, and like nothing I've ever attempted before.  Race?  Meet anxiety.

As the race gets closer (it's six weeks from tomorrow), I'm starting to get...nervous.  Nervous about the big things, like whether or not I will actually finish (irrational), getting ANOTHER injury before that time (mostly irrational, but given my recent track record, entirely possible), somehow missing my plane to or from Florida (irrational--I've never so much as had to run to catch a flight, thank YOU obsessively organized self), etc.  Nervous about the little things, like forgetting something important (irrational, obviously I will make an obsessive packing list and triple check), being late to the race (irrational), and a million other ridiculous things.

Case in point my dreams the past two nights:
First, it was a dream about running in Disney.  But I seemed to be the only one there, and I'm thinking it was maybe a practice run I somehow snuck in the day before...although being "the only one" ANYWHERE in Disney is completely silly and never happens, so who knows.  Anyways, I seemed to be running through some sort of JUNGLE setting, having gotten lost on the race course...there's a rational fear for ya...

Last night, it wasn't even about the Princess race.  I had decided to register for another half-marathon taking place 2 weeks before Disney Princess, and weirdly sponsored by my school district.  It was taking place at a local high school, and a triathlon was going on as part of the event too.  And it all started at 6pm.  Yes, after dark.  Obviously, everything went wrong.  Showed up late, couldn't find the bathroom to change into my running clothes which I'd brought with instead of worn, took forever to change because I couldn't find anything in my gym bag, especially my socks, something was off with my shoes (actually that's a rational fear given the shoe problems I've had in the past year), was late to the start, it was pitch black out by the time I STARTED the race, forgot my watch and water bottle...you name it.  Don't remember actually RUNNING the race, but I remember it being over and me wishing I had brought more food because I had to go to school and teach immediately after, and was worried I would keel over without a snack.  (Teaching at 9pm?  Huh...)
All totally rational possibilities, right?

This running thing is pretty new for me.  That's why it's so scary I think.  The truth is, it's scary for me to not know what to expect in a situation.  And I have no idea what to expect with the race.  I'm training, and I'm learning a lot about what works for me as a runner--which clothes, which foods, which music, etc.  But on race day, I really have no idea what to expect.  I don't like that.  I am also nervous because my 6 mile run last Sunday was tough tough tough, and I can't even imagine how I will make it through 13.1.  Trust the process, right?

All of that being said, I am ridiculously excited about the race.  Terrified, yes.  And maybe that's okay.  Because it's good to try something once in awhile that's so new and scary the very thought of it leaves you shaking in your nikes.  And even through all of this nervousness, I know in my bones that I will make it through the race and that it will be amazing.  Slow, sloppy, sweaty, yes.  I will probably be one of the last runners to cross the finish line.  But that will be okay. :)

Be afraid.  Be vulnerable.  Go out on a limb, or two, or twelve and you'll fall and it'll hurt, but the harder you fall the higher you'll rise. The louder you fail, the clearer your future becomes. Failure is a gift, welcome it. There are people who spend their whole lives wondering how they became the people they became. How certain chances passed them by. Why they didn't take the road less traveled.  Those people are not you.

You have the front row seats to your own transformation and in transforming yourself you might even transform the world. And it will be electric. I promise you it'll be terrifying, but embrace that. Embrace the new person you're becoming.  
This is your moment.  I promise you it is now. Now, not two minutes from now, not tomorrow, but really now. Own that, know that, deep in your bones knowing and go to sleep every night knowing that and wake up every morning remembering that and then keep going. Keep going. 

-jack & bobby

January 11, 2011

Another cancelled workout...

...due to another cold. :(

I'm skipping my run tonight because of my icky cold which has only gotten ickier.  I'm beginning to thing I've developed an immunity to walgreens cold medicine after taking so many boxes already this year...sad times.  Even though I have a moderate amount of energy, my head is super cloudy and my nose is so raw that any sweat would probably burn like hell!  So, I'm going to take it easy, take a nap, and try tomorrow.  One missed mid-week run's not gonna ruin my training, after all!

I am determined to be at school tomorrow.

January 10, 2011

1/2 Marathon Training: 6 weeks down!

It's hard to believe I have already completed six weeks of training for my half-marathon.  Thankfully my tibia's feeling okay again, but I'm starting to feel the challenge of reaching mileages I've never hit before.  I've never been a distance runner, and always kind of maxed out somewhere between 3 and 4 miles.  Sunday's long run was 6 miles, and the second half was pretty tough.  It's crazy that I will be running more than double that distance!  I'm trying to stay optimistic though instead of reverting back to my habitual thought patterns of "there's no way i can't do that i'll never get there" etc.  Trusting the process, right? :)  Yikes!!

On the other hand, the fact that the weeks are ticking by means my trip to FLORIDA is that much closer!!! So excited.

On the OTHER other hand, that means that state tests are that much closer...yuck.  We actually start the first test the day after my race. Yes, I am flying home from Florida that very night.  Should be an interesting Monday back in school...oh well.  It will all work out great.  :)

Go away, cold!

After a whole bunch of tea today, my throat is feeling a little better...but I still have this lingering suspicion that this is just my body's way of lulling me into a false sense of security and that I will wake up tomorrow feeling like death...therefore, I'm continuing to be proactive.

My evening plans:

Yep, nothing like a magazine, cold meds, and cough drops...oh, and of course cutting out some laminate.  I actually kind of love cutting out laminate...hopefully this all is the magic cure!

New student starting tomorrow...and I'm officially out of book boxes.  I buy cardboard magazine files from IKEA and I had a few extra, but my 2 wonderfully unruly students who recently moved both managed to destroy their, so their's no hope of salvaging for the new kiddo.  Oh well!  We'll have to make due until I can get to IKEA to buy more...  Let's hope he's a keeper!

This is not happening!!!

No. No no no no no no NO!!!!!  I REFUSE to be sick again!  There is no way!  Nuh uh!!!!!!

You might remember that I have already missed a total of 5 days of school this year.  Plus had a cold or two that I did not take off school for.  It has really been out of hand...I thought I was doing good.  I've been trying so hard to stay healthy, even taking my vitamins every single day!  Then I wake up during the night last night with a killer sore throat.  And this morning it's a sore throat and sniffly nose.  Not bad yet...just... disconcerting, based on my track record this year!!

Enter my arsenal of "You ain't welcome here, Cold!!!" weaponry:
I am determined to get rid of whatever this is before I'm home laying in bed with a box of kleenex and cough drops!!!!

January 9, 2011

The Twilight Dilemma (or why I worry about my students reading this series...)

Okay, here it is, my confession.  I've fallen in love with Twilight.  The thing is, it's the epitome of a love-hate relationship.  When I first read the books in December, I devoured them at a rate I had never anticipated.  When my coworker (a Twilight skeptic) asked me what was so great about them, my response was, "I don't know!!!"  As a liberal feminist and relationship-cynic, every fiber of me screams that I should HATE these books/movies with a vengeance.  But no...I'm hooked.

Having just spent the evening watching New Moon and Eclipse with a friend, I started thinking more about the impact these books may be having on their primary audience: teen & tween girls.  Yes, clearly adults are reading them too, but the Twi-hard base is definitely young girls.  While I have always subscribed to the "Don't limit kids' book options, just get them reading!!!" camp, I am a little wary of giving these books to girls...honestly, to any girls under the age of 18.  And maybe not even then...

Does this make me a hypocrite?  Absolutely.  But please let me explain before you judge.  I love Twilight because, while poorly written, the plots are captivating.  They are an adventure.  While the characters fall flat throughout the series (which gets worse, in my opinion, with every book), I fell in love with the idea of Edward & Bella in book 1, and I wasn't about to let them go and leave the series unfinished.  I'm hardly a romantic, but as a Team Edward member, I swoon with every cheesy lovey-dovey line he throws her way.

Then there are the reasons I hate Twilight...
First of all, there's the bad writing.  I'm not even going to go there...it's really that bad.  But bad writing is really the least of my worries.  That's not why I'm reluctant to share these books with my students.  No, I'm worried about some different things.

*caution, some spoilers!*

1. Unrealistic Expectations:   Edward is perfect.  No really, perfect...well, aside from that whole wanting-to-suck-Bella's-blood thing...but other than that, he really is flawless.  I mean, the two sit in fields of wildflowers while he repeatedly professes his love.  And when, in Eclipse, she goes and kisses Jacob and tells him she loves him too, Edward is totally cool with this.  "Whatever you want, Bella.  You're my life, Bella.  I love you, Bella."  Really?  Um, really?  While I am all for girls holding out for the real deal, I'm not so sure this is the standard we should be setting for girls...
2. Unhealthy Relationship Examples:  That brings me to the HORRIBLE relationship examples Twilight sets.  Yes I love Edward...but their relationship is totally creepy at times.  I've said a million times that the whole series reads like a handbook for an abusive boyfriend.  In book 1, Edward sneaks into Bella's bedroom to watch her sleep...BEFORE THEY HAD EVER SPOKEN!  He is ridiculously protective, and not in the sweet way...more in the scary way.  He even removes the spark plugs from her car at one point to prevent her from going to see Jacob.  In his defense, her life is constantly being threatened so I guess some concern is a bit understandable, but come on people.  That ain't normal.

Jacob is no better.  I'm not a big Jacob fan...well, I liked him in New Moon, but in Eclipse he morphs into a rapist-in-training in my opinion.  For example, he forces Bella to kiss him and doesn't back off even when she tries (unsuccessfully) to push him away.  Then, Bella punches him, breaking her fist on his jaw.  He is unapolegetic.  The cherry on top, though, is that when he takes her home and her father hears about this, he congratulates Jacob for finally going for it and kissing her!  WHAT THE HECK.  What kind of standard are we setting for young girls there, that this behavior is okay??  That it's normal??  Dear god.  (To be fair, Jacob does apologize later.  Bella forgives him.  I do not.)


3. Ultra-Wimpy Female Lead:  Oh Bella.  Bella, Bella, Bella.  Excuse my language, but will you PLEASE grow a pair?  Maybe it's because I read Twilight when I was still coming off my Hunger Games high, a series which has a dynamite, strong female lead, but I pretty much hate Bella.  Here's why:  Bella has basically no life B.E. (before Edward).  She likes reading the classics...but that's about it.  No hobbies.  Few friends (who she essentially abandons once she and Edward are together).  No ambition.  Annd, no personality.  Enter Edward.  Suddenly, her life is full of purpose and meaning.  He is her reason for living.  Her whole life.  Umm, girl, what happened to YOU?  I get it, you're in love.  But...are you still Bella?

Fast forward...Edward leaves Bella.  In a veiled attempt to protect her, he tells her he "doesn't want" her anymore, and that she's "not good" for him.  She translates this to mean she's not good enough for him.  She accepts this instantly, having always KNOWN she was not good enough for Edward.  No "let's talk this over," no "we can work on this."  Nada.  Just a doormat, "Okay."  Then, she self-destructs.  After a week of lying in a catatonic state, she eventually starts going through the motions, but barely eats, sleeps, or speaks for about 6 months.  SIX MONTHS.  What starts pulling her out of this insane coma of self-woe?  Guess.
Another boy.  Because of course, your life is not full without a boy.   But we've already discussed Jacob, so I won't go there again.
Finally, throughout all 4 books, Bella wallows in self-deprecation.  She never believes she is good enough for Edward, and constantly questions his devotion, which he articulates for her pretty much every millisecond.  It is painful.

*end spoilers*

I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Then why the heck are you reading them???"  I ASK MYSELF THE SAME QUESTION!  I have no clue.  But like I said, I love them and cannot stop!  The thing is, though, that I can read them and know that the fantasy isn't just the vampire/werewolf thing.  There is so much more disbelief to be suspended.  And I can read them as a confident woman knowing that the relationships are unhealthy and that Bella is not someone I should be looking up to.

But can my 11 year old female students?  Many of whom have no stable adult relationships in their lives as examples?  While I appreciate the positive, albeit conservative values portrayed in Twilight (one of which is that Edward insists on being married to Bella before sleeping with her, him being from the 1900s and all...) and think that's a great example for young girls, I'm not sure that's the message they'll be taking from the books and movies.

I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts on the topic!

January 7, 2011

1/2 Marathon Training Update: The Power of Positive Thinking

The past week of running has not exactly gone according to the training plan.  Between re-aggravating my lingering tibial stress fracture doing yoga last week and getting HIT IN THE SKULL with the projection screen yesterday at school, after which the school nurse told me I wasn't allowed to go to the gym, my schedule has been a little off!  Today when I left school, still on a high from the great compliment I received from the literacy team, I couldn't wait to run.  I had a big smile on my face anticipating it, and I just KNEW it was going to be great.

A little background on me:  I am a newish runner, and I did NOT grow up an athlete.  No, I was the girl who walked half of the mile in elementary school and who used every little excuse to get out of PE.  I DEFINITELY did not play sports.  While I am not that girl anymore, after a few days off of running, she sometimes peeks back into my head and I get a bit...pessimistic.  This has happened a lot lately as my tibia pain has popped up again...to say I've been a bit frustrated is to put it QUITE mildly.  I'll drive to the gym, or get dressed for an outside run, thinking, "This is going to suck.  It's been too long, I'm not feeling up to it, ughhh..."

from my training log
And guess what?  I tend to fulfill that prophecy.  So it's unusual for me to, after time off and recent injury pain, have POSITIVE expectations for a run.  Well, I was not disappointed.  In fact, my 4-mile run was fabulous.  I loved it.  The songs that came up on my shuffle were just perfect, my tibia nagged a little bit but stayed under control with walk breaks, and mercifully my poor head didn't mind the pounding on the treadmill.  This run was just what I needed to remind me I can definitely reach my half-marathon goal, and also to remind me of the power of positive thinking!!!  Yes, post-injury I am still ridiculously slow.  But yes, I can do this. :)

After that run and the thoughts surrounding it, it seems almost too perfect that this quote was printed on a poster in the gym bathroom:
Sorry about the god-awful photo-quality...it was glaring like whoa!
Since you likely can't read that, it says,

I am not a born athlete.  I am a believer.
I will not listen to the voices in my head.
I will continue to run.  Far and fast.
I live to feel my heart in my chest.  The rush of blood.
The pounding of the pavement.
I will not give up.
I will taste the salt of my own victory.

In my post about mantras (for running and for life), I talked about my favorite mantra: Trust the Process.
To me, that in part means that everything happens for a reason.  There are no accidents.  It's no accident that I happened to read this today, on a day when I realized that a positive attitude is a pretty powerful thing.  

Anyways, let's hope Sunday's long run is as successful.  I mean...it WILL be successful. :)

Small Joys

In my 2010 Recap post, I said that I fell in love with teaching again this year.  I meant it--I really did.  Last year (my first year) kind of sucked the life out of me.  I talked recently with a teacher friend about what a rude awakening it was.  See, during student teaching, things went really great...like really really great...for me.  My cooperating teacher and I got along great, my class was well-behaved, the low-readers went to the special ed teacher for reading (releasing me of any responsibility for their progress), and I didn't have the pressure of ISATs  and AYP.  It was bliss.  I received a steady stream of positive feedback from my cooperating teacher, supervisor, and principal throughout the semester.  Truly, they would tell me that I was "born to be a teacher," that I was "in the right profession," etc.  I felt confident and prepared when I got hired for my job last fall.

Anyone who's been reading my blog since 2009 knows that the first year was gruesome to say the least.  And I have to say that one of the worst things was the nagging sense that I was just lost.  See, I'd been told I was born to teach--and I believed it!  And here I was, TANKING.  Literally going down in flames.

This year was, among other things, a fresh start, and a much needed one at that.  And this afternoon as I cleaned up my room, I had this overwhelming realization--I feel like myself again.  I expected coming back from winter break to be rough, but it's actually been wonderful.  The kind email from my principal Wednesday definitely contributed to this feeling of purpose.  And today I got another kind little affirmation:

Mrs. Literacy Specialist aka soul sister teacher called me after school to tell me a happy story from her meeting with the other grade level literacy support teachers.  She said that a few that are new in the building this year asked her how many years I have been teaching, and they, "almost fell out of their chairs" when she said I am in my second year.  Turns out they are very impressed by my literacy teaching, well-organized classroom, and the fact that my students "always know exactly what to do."  I almost fell out of MY chair when I heard that!!!!!  All the things that were a train wreck last year and that I have been working SO HARD to improve this year...turns out they are not only paying off, but that others have noticed.  Again, it's so rare to get validation in teaching...it literally brought tears to my eyes to hear this.

After that phone call, I left school in a completely blissful mood.  I got my papers organized for next week, copies & transparencies made, this week's papers filed, board cleaned, even schedule for Monday on the board.
I wasn't even upset that it had started snowing!  (Even though I hate winter and hate driving in snow)  In fact, I basically giggled when I opened the door and saw the white parking lot and my flurry-covered car.

And don't judge me, but the ONLY thing I wanted to do tonight (besides laying under a blanket, but that goes without saying) was go to Trader Joe's.  My big Friday night, and I couldn't have been happier. :)  Yum!

Happy Friday!

January 6, 2011

All in a Day's Work

I always thought that if I got hurt at school it would either because I was bitten by one of my special ed kiddos from the side jobs, or because one of my tough kids decided to take revenge...I'm only half joking.  ;)

Well, who knew that the real dangers were the actual walls, floor, and ceiling of my classroom?  This morning as I attempted to pull down the projection screen to use with my overhead, it got stuck part way down.  So, I jerked it the littlest bit and it FELL DOWN, taking a piece of the drop ceiling brackets with it, and completely clocking me in the side of the head.


Actually, that was my actual reaction: a stunned, "Owwwww," and not the strand of expletives that were flying through my head.  How my brain made the right choice to verbalize the school-appropriate response, I will never know!   Reeling and choking back tears (seriously, it hurt THAT BAD), I booked it to the phone, stepped into the hall, and called the office:

(In a tearful voice) "Hi, this is Miss Teacher in room 202.  My projection screen just fell off the ceiling and hit me in the head.  I need someone to bring me ice and to take care of that, thanks!"

"Kids, I need to sit down, please read quietly, thank you."

I'll tell you, there is nothing like getting injured in class to shut the kiddos up!  Luckily, I ended up being fine.  I convinced the nurse not to make me go to urgent care or home, insisting that I would tell her if I thought I was going to throw up/pass out.  After about an hour of throbbing pain, I felt a WHOLE LOT better.  Phew.  What a day!!

As I was sitting icing my head and staring at the disaster zone that was my room, my first thought was actually, "I should take a picture for my blog!"  But before I could summon the energy to get my phone out, the custodians whisked away the evidence.  Here is my screen-less ceiling, minus 1 bracket:

I'm beginning to think I don't get paid enough at this job.... :)

January 5, 2011

Today's little Sad and today's little Happy

Sad: Monday, I wrote about my student who moved, much to my disappointment, regardless of the fact that in doing so he left my room quieter, more controlled, and me with more time to actually teach. Well, this morning, an hour before school started, another teacher found him outside wandering around with a light jacket, no hat, and no gloves. Obviously she brought him in. After a few minutes we deduced he'd been put in a cab by his mom and had been driven from the new house (2 towns away) to school! What??? Mom was informed that he was no longer a student at the school because they do not live in the district anymore. Our itinerant police officer was going to drive him home, but mom said no one was there so he had to stay. I was so glad to have a chance to see him and say goodbye, but nothing is as unmotivating for a kid as having to sit in a classroom with no supplies, having missed the past few days, knowing your work no longer counts! I'll be honest--at one point I handed him a Time for Kids and told him to go sit in the bean bag...
I hope we don't find him wandering tomorrow or getting out of a cab... :( poor kid. I had a few tears after giving him a hug goodbye and making him promise to try his best at school and to be nice to his new teacher...

Happy: Other than THAT craziness, I started my morning with a big smile when I read this email from Mister Principal:

"Hey Miss Teacher, I was just thinking today how much I appreciate what you do!  You have done such a terrific job over the past two years and have gained A LOT of experience.  Thanks for doing more than hanging in, and really doing some great stuff.  I’m really proud of all your hard work.  You are turning into a world-class teacher and we are lucky to have you at School!"

In a job when you are constantly giving everything and frequently feel undervalued and under appreciated, notes like this really mean so much. Definitely made my morning, and was such a wonderful surprise.

January 4, 2011

5th grade Role Models

During writing workshop today I spotted one of my darlings with her hand up in the air. She had a blank notebook in front of her, and was clearly contemplating a new piece.
Our conversation:

Miss Teacher: "What can I do for you?"
Student: "I need help starting a new piece. I was wondering, can it be like...a biography? About Justin Bieber?"
Miss Teacher: "Hmm...were you planning on doing research? Because you'd need some facts for a biography."
Student: "Well, I have 1 book about him at home. I was thinking I'd wrote the first half about his life, then the second half about how his music inspires me."
Miss Teacher: *attempting not to laugh* "That sounds like a wonderful idea. I can't wait to see how it turns out!"

Love love love fifth graders!

January 3, 2011

Why I cried driving home from school:

I have been meaning to write about this for the past two weeks, but have had a difficult time putting everything I'm thinking and feeling into words...While I'm still not sure I'll be able to find the right words, I figure I better at least give it a try.  This post is a little long, but please indulge me--I have a lot to say...

There are many MANY challenging students in every grade at my school.  As Mrs. Mentor Teacher says, "it's no picnic" in any of our rooms.  This year I have a wonderful class, but since August I have been writing about one student who is particularly challenging, my student who is both prone to emotional outbursts (like calling me racist with no context whatsoever), who occasionally storms out of the room/runs away, and also cannot read (at all).  He has been my biggest challenge since August, and taken up SO much of my time, working with him 1 on 1 in the classroom, at lunch, and after school, not to mention the lengthy RTI meetings...

Slightly less challenging, but also difficult at times was another student with whom I got off to a rough start, but later decided he could trust me, after which our relationship significantly improved.  I'm talking about the student who decided immediately that he didn't like me because he happened to be the only African American student at his table, who liked to lay pouting on the floor from time to time, and, oh yeah, who brought a bb gun to school.  We have had our fair share of moments as well...

All that being said, I grew to LOVE these two students over the past few months.  When I realized how much baggage they were carrying and how challenging they had the potential to be, I made it my absolute priority to earn their trust and build a strong relationship with them right off the bat.  As the principal with whom I student taught said, above all, teachers need to get their students to like them, because if a student likes you, he'll do ANYTHING for you.  I quickly realized how true that was.  And as I could see I was beginning to capture their hearts, they were absolutely capturing mine.

Coming back from winter break was like entering a completely different classroom.  You see, both of these boys moved over break.  In my building, students move constantly.  When you think about low-performing schools, not everyone realizes how difficult it is to separate income and ability.  Low-income schools by nature tend to have transient populations--families move suddenly as jobs appear and disappear, leases run out, families are forced to move in with other familiy members...the list goes on.  This means kids are pulled out of school and plopped somewhere new.  Often they miss weeks of school in between.  What does this mean?  They fall further and further behind, not to mention the added difficulty of starting an intervention program.

I'm used to kids moving.  But when I found out that slightly-less-difficult student was moving, it was like a punch in the stomach.  What?  You're kidding, I told Mr. Principal when he passed on the news.  After all our hard work building a relationship, after all the progress we'd made, he was MOVING???

Just as I began to make my peace with that, not three days later when most-challenging-student didn't show up for school on the last day before winter break, the second bomb dropped.  After a little detective work and a few calls to Mom, we found out that the family had already moved out of their house, and moved in with family in a neighboring suburb.  They are currently not enrolled in any school, and administration is still trying to get in touch with them to figure out whcih school they should be enrolling at.

I literally cried Friday (before break) when I left school, digesting this news.  This student has brought me to tears before, and not in the "I hate him so much I could quit" way.  More in the, "Your life is so sad and your heart is so good and there is so little I can do to help you" type of way.  I came to love this student this year, and grew infinitely as a professional because of him.  He is so needy, and has been through so much.  Dad's not around, mom has a questionable job that involves working nights, and he's been at school after school after school.  He had finally begun making a little growth, and we finally had an RTI program in place with plans to evaluate for an IEP after just a few more weeks of data were collected.  We had truly bonded.

And then he moved.  What's going to happen to him? I keep wondering.  Actually, I'm almost certain I know what's going to happen to him...and that's the scary part.  No matter how hard the teachers at his new school will work, he will likely move again, and again.  He will fall even further behind, and eventually become so frustrated that he can neither read nor add that he will drop out of school.  He will likely join a gang, and then...who knows.  It is literally tearing me to pieces.  I love this child.  I did everything I could for him while he was in my room, and it was nowhere near enough, and nowhere near what he needed.  And now he's gone, and I can't do anymore.

And while my classroom was more orderly and quiet today, while no one talked back or needed my constant undivided attention, it felt...empty.  The rational part of me says that this will mean I can spend so much more time with my other low learners who got lost in the shuffle before.  And that's true.  But...somehow that just doesn't make me feel better.

Back at It!

The sun is not yet up.  It's 6:01 and I'm up, showered, dressed, and fed.  Lunch is made, bags are packed.  It's a freakin miracle.  I woke up about 10 times last night, most likely resulting from a combination of extreme thirst (that's what salty food and beer will do to you I guess!) and a stream of unsettling nightmares about school, which I will not even begin to relive here.  So far this morning I pinched my knuckle in my excruciatingly hot flat iron, resulting in a pink, puffy burn.  The morning is not off to the best start, but at least I am getting out of the house early enough to both hit up Starbucks and make it to the copier before the masses return!

January 2, 2011

Are you SURE I have to go to school tomorrow???

This day did NOT start well.  I dragged myself out of bed this morning (after I literally pried New Moon out of my hands...yes, I just finished reading the Twilight series for the first time mere weeks ago, and I already felt the need to dive into them again...), got dressed in my running clothes, and headed to the gym for my Sunday long run.  Today's run was SUPPOSED to be 6 miles.  But, WONDERFULLY, my tibia injury has decided to resurface this week...I think it's something to do with the yoga class I went to Monday.  Too much balancing my weight on one leg I guess!  oops.  :(  As I have said many times over the past few months, I am SO over this stress-fracture nonsense.  But this morning, on my way to the gym, I promised myself that if it hurt me today, I was NOT going to push it.  The last thing I want going into the new year is to completely negate the past 5 months of healing time!  So the 6 mile run became a 1 mile slow walk, thanks to my screaming tibia.  I'm a little (a lot) bummed that this has come up yet again, but here's hoping that a couple more days of rest will solve the problem...

After all that, I still went with
an old favorite with dinner :)
While the day started with me in a crabby-pants mood, it did not end that way!  Some friends and I decided to take a trip to the Goose Island Brewery for a tour & tasting, home of my absolute favorite brew, 312!  While it's a teeny-tiny brewing location, it was still cool to see where the magic happens!  We also got to sample six different beers, three of which I liked, and three of which I did NOT like--I swear, one of them had a MEAT flavor, though my fellow tasters insisted it was just a smokiness and my vegetarian palate just doesn't remember what meat tastes like.  We ended our night with a yummy dinner of pub food at the brewery before heading home.  What a wonderful end to a wonderful winter beak.

I literally am in denial that I have school tomorrow.  Seriously.  Do I really have to get up before dawn?  Can't I just take another week off?  I am excited to see my kiddos again and get back into a routine, but the looming ISAT tests do dampen the mood somewhat.  I have a new student coming tomorrow, so let's hope she's a keeper! ;)  Good luck back to school this week!

January 1, 2011

A little middle-school of me, maybe...

I've written before about how frustrated I am when someone tells me how young I look.  I KNOW.  Got it.  Thanks.  Before conferences, I agonized in this post about my attempt to pick out an outfit that makes me look my age at the very least.  So, as you can see I am very self-aware of how I appear to my students and their parents, and do my best to at least look my age at school MOST of the time.  Anyways, the other night I came straight from the gym to meet my dad at costco for some shopping.  (There's something about buying wholesale in bulk that just gets me excited!!)  In true post-workout fashion, I had a scrubbed, make-up free face, a ponytail of sweaty hair, and sweats on.  No problem for a grocery store run!  (Sorry, Stacey and Clinton, but we don't ALL feel the need to get dolled up for grocery shopping!)

Well...then I spotted one of my former students and her mother walking towards me and my dad!  The mature, adult, professional thing of me to do would have been to go up to them with a big smile and say, "What a surprise!  How have you been, Mrs. Student's Mother?" I'd like to say I did that...but suddenly I was all too self-aware of the fact that I was dressed like a slob, appeared about 12 years old, and was shopping with my daddy.  Ummm...maybe NOT the best moment to be schmoozing parents!

So obviously, I took the MATURE, middle-schoolish approach...avoided eye contact and walked away QUICKLY before either of them could realize that this young girl had been the daughter's TEACHER last year!  Oh my...
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