Saturday, February 18, 2012

Grey's Anatomy Wisdom

Watching whole seasons of shows I shouldn't make time for is my diversion of late.

Lately it's been Grey's Anatomy.

Seasons two through five.

And in a few seconds of voice over, Alex Karev described my last two years...

Trauma messes everybody up
maybe that's the point.

All the pain
and the fear
and the crap;
Maybe going through all that
is what keeps us moving forward.

It's what pushes us.

Maybe we have to get a little messed up,
before we can step up.

And in case you're now bummed and need a laugh, head on over to The Bloggess. This post of hers will lighten things up. For sure.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Parents who get in the way of their kids' learning

This is a cheat of a post as I did not write it but received it in my email from a teacher friend who I used to work with, but she moved back to Seattle. It's probably gone viral as I am usually the last to get things.

I did, however, really think this piece was spot on with the issue.

Problem parents are only a small percent of the total parental package. However, the pain in the ass enabling and dysfunctional ones are ruining it for the rest of you. Because things have changed so much since we all were kids and schools are so afraid of getting sued that they cave to the worst of the parents and set horrible precedents. Even when they do not cave, they do next to nothing to let the parents know what is unacceptable behavior.

I once sat with friends having drinks and gave them a few anecdotal stories and they were blown away at how much time I spend dealing with unhelpful parents. Or parents who think I should run my classes to their specifications without regard to the other 29 kids in the class and what those kids' parents expectations were.

Anyways, here it is....

This summer, I met a principal who was recently named as the administrator of the year in her state. She was loved and adored by all, but she told me she was leaving the profession.

I screamed, "You can't leave us," and she quite bluntly replied, "Look, if I get an offer to lead a school system of orphans, I will be all over it, but I just can't deal with parents anymore; they are killing us."

Unfortunately, this sentiment seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. Today, new teachers remain in our profession an average of just 4.5 years, and many of them list "issues with parents" as one of their reasons for throwing in the towel. Word is spreading, and the more negativity teachers receive from parents, the harder it becomes to recruit the best and the brightest out of colleges.

So, what can we do to stem the tide? What do teachers really need parents to understand?

For starters, we are educators, not nannies. We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don't fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer. I have become used to some parents who just don't want to hear anything negative about their child, but sometimes if you're willing to take early warning advice to heart, it can help you head off an issue that could become much greater in the future.

Trust us. At times when I tell parents that their child has been a behavior problem, I can almost see the hairs rise on their backs. They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, "Is that true?" Well, of course it's true. I just told you. And please don't ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.

Please quit with all the excuses

And if you really want to help your children be successful, stop making excuses for them. I was talking with a parent and her son about his summer reading assignments. He told me he hadn't started, and I let him know I was extremely disappointed because school starts in two weeks.

His mother chimed in and told me that it had been a horrible summer for them because of family issues they'd been through in July. I said I was so sorry, but I couldn't help but point out that the assignments were given in May. She quickly added that she was allowing her child some "fun time" during the summer before getting back to work in July and that it wasn't his fault the work wasn't complete.

Can you feel my pain?

Some parents will make excuses regardless of the situation, and they are raising children who will grow into adults who turn toward excuses and do not create a strong work ethic. If you don't want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren't succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.

Parents, be a partner instead of a prosecutor

And parents, you know, it's OK for your child to get in trouble sometimes. It builds character and teaches life lessons. As teachers, we are vexed by those parents who stand in the way of those lessons; we call them helicopter parents because they want to swoop in and save their child every time something goes wrong. If we give a child a 79 on a project, then that is what the child deserves. Don't set up a time to meet with me to negotiate extra credit for an 80. It's a 79, regardless of whether you think it should be a B+.

This one may be hard to accept, but you shouldn't assume that because your child makes straight A's that he/she is getting a good education. The truth is, a lot of times it's the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone. Parents will say, "My child has a great teacher! He made all A's this year!"

Wow. Come on now. In all honesty, it's usually the best teachers who are giving the lowest grades, because they are raising expectations. Yet, when your children receive low scores you want to complain and head to the principal's office.

Please, take a step back and get a good look at the landscape. Before you challenge those low grades you feel the teacher has "given" your child, you might need to realize your child "earned" those grades and that the teacher you are complaining about is actually the one that is providing the best education.

And please, be a partner instead of a prosecutor. I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals all across the country are telling me that more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children.

Teachers walking on eggshells

I feel so sorry for administrators and teachers these days whose hands are completely tied. In many ways, we live in fear of what will happen next. We walk on eggshells in a watered-down education system where teachers lack the courage to be honest and speak their minds. If they make a slight mistake, it can become a major disaster.

My mom just told me a child at a local school wrote on his face with a permanent marker. The teacher tried to get it off with a wash cloth, and it left a red mark on the side of his face. The parent called the media, and the teacher lost her job. My mom, my very own mother, said, "Can you believe that woman did that?"

I felt hit in the gut. I honestly would have probably tried to get the mark off as well. To think that we might lose our jobs over something so minor is scary. Why would anyone want to enter our profession? If our teachers continue to feel threatened and scared, you will rob our schools of our best and handcuff our efforts to recruit tomorrow's outstanding educators.

Finally, deal with negative situations in a professional manner.

If your child said something happened in the classroom that concerns you, ask to meet with the teacher and approach the situation by saying, "I wanted to let you know something my child said took place in your class, because I know that children can exaggerate and that there are always two sides to every story. I was hoping you could shed some light for me." If you aren't happy with the result, then take your concerns to the principal, but above all else, never talk negatively about a teacher in front of your child. If he knows you don't respect her, he won't either, and that will lead to a whole host of new problems.

We know you love your children. We love them, too. We just ask -- and beg of you -- to trust us, support us and work with the system, not against it. We need you to have our backs, and we need you to give us the respect we deserve. Lift us up and make us feel appreciated, and we will work even harder to give your child the best education possible.

That's a teacher's promise, from me to you.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Still here, just not blogging for now....

Two things I learned in 2011 and have taken with me into 2012...

It is what it is................


You'll figure it out...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Yea 2012!

There are a lot of ideas I had for a New Year's post.

However. I'm keeping it simple.

I wish for 2012 to be a kinder, gentler year than 2011.

2011 was a bit of a bitch. On crack. 2010 was her whore of a mom.

A friend of mine told me that the whole hype of 2012 being the "end of the world" was a bastardization of the real meaning. The real meaning of which is "get your shit together or the shit will really hit the fan for you in 2012."

One way to try and make sense of so many difficulties and challenges coming in like endless torpedoes for both of us the last two years.

So last night in my email I got a letter from my old me to my future me. I'd forgotten I had written it, and it made me cry with both gratitude (for having made it through some difficult times) and compassion for my old self.

I'm doing it again and recommend it to all.

Wishing you all a great 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Spin Cycle: Happy Holidays to Synchronicity and Sassy

Jen over at Sprite's Keeper, who is our hostess with the mostess of the Spin Cycle, runs a holiday spin each year where we spin up a favorite blogger. I think I might have first joined the Spin Cycle on this very one a few years back (have I been blogging that long...well, not if you count the days, weeks, months... that I go MIA)...

The blogging world has given back so much more to me than I ever imagined. I cannot put into words the camaraderie and connection that is made out here and how it has helped me through some very difficult times.

For this special spin, we pitch to Jen five favorite bloggers and she gives a holiday assignment, usually one of our five, to feature. This year I struck gold and got two! Jen did not know that formerlyonlyamovie at Synchronicity and Distraction and tulpen at Bad Words were sisters. With this information, she said I could weave a spin of them both.

Movie, now known as formerlyonlyamovie, was one of the first bloggers I connected with out here. She was one of the two regular commenters on my blog in its beginnings and gave me something to look forward to each time I posted. She is thoughtful, insightful, kind, and compassionate. Anyone who has Movie for a reader knows what I am talking about. She always gets me and leaves a comment that touches my heart.

Movie and I have many parallels in our lives - we are both teachers, have similar unbloggable distractions, and personal histories that make us wonder how we have not crossed paths in real time.

Movie's blog, Of Synchronicity and Distraction, is a wonderful read. She notices the little things in life and the connectiveness of them all. Her positive approach to life in all its messiness inspires me. Her love for her students and dedication to the teaching profession is beyond limits. Best of all, she has a wicked sense of humor that stays intact through it all.

Tulpen, over at Bad Words, is Movie's sister and oh what fun it must be to hang out with the two of them! Tulpen is one of the best writers I have come across and I look forward to every post she puts out there. She also has a wicked sense of humor and her full force honesty in her writing, combined with her creative use of bad words, makes each post a work of artistry.

Tulpen is a nurse in a hospice and she weaves tales of death and dying that can make one laugh out loud and choke up with a wall of tears, sometimes in the very same post.

She has two adorable kids and writes posts about parenting that are real and raw. I wish I had been blogging back when my kids were young and had written down their stories with half as much talent as Tulpen.

Some of my very favorite posts at Bad Words are when some stupid soul has pissed off Tulpen and she writes them a letter telling them off. She has creatively combined profanity and added to my cursing vocabulary more than anyone on the planet, and for that I am very thankful.

Please go visit these two talented bloggers! You will laugh and cry and be forever grateful. For more Holiday Spins and a chance to meet more wonderful bloggers, visit Jen over at Sprite's Keeper!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

TTT: Ojai California!

Back in October, when I took my break and went home (why is it the place you are from will always be home-even when you have lived more of your life away from it)…

Where was I?

Oh yes. After two days in LA, a day and a half in San Diego, two days in Camarillo/Oxnard/Ventura, I was finally able to spend my last day with my other sister. The one who lives in Ventura, started me blogging back in the day, and now has a cool photo/recipe gig every Saturday and Sunday at WeYuMe.

Sis and I have similar tastes in music, in wine, and, most especially, in enjoying a road trip.

She asked me where I wanted to go and I said Ojai. For one reason or another, I have not been back to Ojai since long before I moved to Hawaii (1982).

My best friend from childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood went to a cool private school in Ojai for high school. I missed her when we went off to separate schools, but had the perk of going up to Ojai with her on weekends. I remember everyone offering organic food (including the fun brownies- “hey man, it’s organic”), we went square dancing (but we were dressed like surfer/hippie/organic girls), and everyone ended up at Matilija Hot Springs. Midnight. Beautiful moon. Cool night air and natural hot springs. Ah, youth.

These days Ojai seemed to me an eclectic blend of organic food gone nouveau, art, and high end shops for LA folks up for a drive. Lots of beautiful California land, avocado and olive groves, and (my favorite), open roads.

Come along…

After a road song of a California morning in Ventura, we headed to a place in Ojai that Sis knew I would love. An organic market and restaurant, The Farmer and the Cook.

Huevos Rancheros was my breakfast. Check out that Ojai avocado! Home made tortillas with scrambled eggs, the awesome avo, pico de gallo, and guajillo sauce on the side. If it had been lunch, I would have gone for the grilled squash blossom quesadilla.

Tummies full, a walk is in order. Here is the place where you will find the trendier shops and the LA crowd up and about with their spending mula.

I did like this shop. Had I spending money myself, I so would have bought something here. African imports with the coolest beaded jewelry.

Next, sis took me off the main road to a place she's been dying to show me for years - Bart's Books - The World's Largest Outdoor Bookstore. I could so live there. It's an old house, with outdoor patios and little rooms and places to sit all over. Mostly hardback books and all used. Amazing. We sat in the sun. Then we sat in the shade. We read some, skimmed some, browsed some. After collecting a stack of ten or more, I narrowed it down to one. I bought a Joan Didion book. A favorite author of both my sister and I.

We had to share our table with the handsome guy with the green eyes. Tough day.

We left Ojai and went up through upper Ojai where Sis took me out to the olive groves.

Looking back down on upper Ojai as we head to Santa Paula.

A rare glimpse of yours truly.....

Got a favorite place you went to sometime this year? Link on up!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Too Many Hats on Too Thin of Ice...

Hey. It's my blog. I can mix metaphors if I want to.

  • The stuff people think of when you say teacher. Up in front of a group of teenagers, trying my best to keep them on task, learning, engaged, paying attention, not sleeping, not bored, not poking at each other, off their cell phones...
  • Preparing to teach. Reading, researching, making lesson plans, making work sheets and handouts, deconstructing a book or an article, creating review games, creating assessments...
  • Assessing student work. Grading quizzes and tests, checking homework for completion and understanding, writing notes on their writing, writing notes on their classwork, inputting grades into a grade book (required by state law to have a hard copy), inputting grades into electronic grade book...
  • Calling parents/ guardians. Informing parents that their child is failing/not doing homework/not keeping up with the school reading program/has done something inappropriate in class, getting stuck on the phone with parents who ask silly questions instead of working with me to get their kid back in the game, getting cussed out by other parents.... and, sadly not often enough letting still other parents know that their child is doing wonderfully and it is such a pleasure to have them in class (these calls are usually at Christmas when I make myself make time).
  • Keeping track of an entire grade level for school wide reading program. Printing weekly reports, inputting grades, staying in at lunch to create a reading study hall.
  • Committee Attendee. Teachers serve on all the committees a school has in place to run said school. It is endless. If you are actually reading the small print and still here I am amazed and will spare you the details of the 3X a week meetings and paper trail of these meetings and implementing all the shit decided on by these committees.
  • Recorder of all things in triplicate. In addition to just doing what I do, I need to prove it. I need to have a binder with all my lesson plans, aligned to state standards and school wide initiatives, a binder with notes and data from all those meetings, a data binder of student test scores and other indicators of learning, as well as post in my classroom student work with exemplars and rubrics once a month...
  • My own personal assistant. A couple we hang with once asked me why I did not have an assistant to make copies, file, make parent phone calls....this same couple also would complain more than a bit about the costs of public education. The irony eluded them. So I pointed it out.
Wife/Mom/One who does the most in the running of the household =
No bulleted list needed here. You all know what this means, then just add a dash of unbloggable goodness and a sprinkle of people who pretend they cannot feed themselves and you have the pretty picture.

Woman Who Tries to Exercise

Woman Who is Attempting to Stay Centered Even if it means getting up at 3-fucking o'clock in the morning, I WILL have my zen time - those one to two hours of meditation, prayer, journaling, yoga, reading, and centering myself have become the standard of my day. And yes, it may not be coming through on this post, which is coming off a bit more bitchy and a lot less tongue in cheek than I had in mind. But if I leave the draft for revising it will probably not make the publish button any time soon.

Business Woman Yes, this is about the home business I started a few months ago and is turning into the THING I LIKE TO DO THE MOST AND YET SOMEHOW IT ALWAYS GETS PUSHED TO THE SIDE WHEN THE SHIT HITS THE FAN AND EVERYONE IS NEEDY.

Blogger Sporadic at best lately...

I am blessed beyond measure to have so many activities in my life, and yet... and yet.

The work from the business I began has captured my heart and attention. Meeting new people, learning new skills, a chance to create an income I will never see as an educator...

So while the juggling continues (third metaphor for those of you counting), the ball most often dropped is blogging. I have thought about stopping completely, but have decided I would rather be a bad blogger than no blogger at all.

And there you go.