The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Concluding the year

Yesterday was the last day of the first semester. My students had finals this week and then grades were due Thursday. Friday we just wrapped up the year, giving grades and whatnot. It was a really, really rough week. I was running around like a madwoman trying to get everything graded and entered, and there were meetings and stuff, and I barely had time to pump. Hectic hectic. I was up late almost every night grading papers and it was just exhausting.

Yesterday was really nice though. I felt very loved. The neatest thing happened. I got a Christmas gift from one of my students. They have given me candy and stuff before, which is always sweet, but a student actually wrapped a gift for me- handpainted candle holders. They have little purple flowers on them. I love purple, and he even wrapped them in purple tissue paper. I was really touched. I almost cried. This may sound really trivial, I mean you probably think kids get their teachers Christmas presents all the time, right? Well, not in a high poverty school, and especially not in high school when they have 5-8 teachers, so it was really sweet of him to do that. He gave some of his other teachers gifts too. It was a small gift, but it made my day, especially since I know that funds are really tight in that community, so it meant all that much more.  I've only gotten a gift from a student one other time, and it was when I was teaching at Taft. I helped one of my juniors revise her research paper like 3 times and she gave me a really sweet card telling me I was one of the best teachers she'd ever had, and it had a $5 starbucks gift card inside. I saved the card she wrote, since it was just so sweet. I hung it on my memo board at home.

My department chair gave me a gift too. I felt kind of bad that I didn't have anything for her, when she has done so much for me over the years, but the gift she gave me was so sweet. She gave me this candle from Bath and Body Works called "Forever Sunshine." When I opened it and smelled how nice it was, she said, "I know, isn't it? I thought it was perfect, because it is bright and fresh and beautiful, just like you!" She said it so genuinely, I almost started crying (I did a lot of almost crying yesterday).

Then I got off early and picked up the kids and prepared for my sister's b-day dinner. As far as sister relationships go, our has been rather rocky this year, but I did my darndest to make sure she felt special, and for her to know that, in spite of it all, she's still my baby sister and I still love her. I'll never forget that day 21 years ago when she came 12 days early, leaving my dad to throw my birthday party by himself- which had been planned intentionally a week before my birthday to ensure my mom could be there for it- haha!

And now, it is quite a relief to be off of school for the next 6 weeks, even if there is a ton of stuff to do during the break. I need to prepare for ESY (equivalent to summer school, but during winter). I'm not teaching it, but I need to get together the stuff for the teacher who is, catch up on paper work, finish planning the second semester- oh, and figure out how I am going to pay for day care next semester. The place we found for Tiana is great and one of the cheapest in town, but we still don't really have that money. We have been just making ends meet lately, with very little or nothing leftover. Plus, not only did I not get paid for maternity leave (so all the money I saved last year is gone), but I guess I misunderstood the performance pay structure this year and how it works with me being on maternity leave, and I busted my butt to prove that I do deserve it, only to find out that I- according to them- only worked 33.7% of the semester, so I will only get 33.7% of my performance pay for the semester. I am not sure how that is accurate, considering I worked 9 weeks of the 20 week semester, and in my book, that's 45%, but whatever. When I did the calculations and looked a the numbers, I was so disappointed... you guessed it, I almost cried.

It is just very unfair considering that I prepared all the lesson plans and major assignments for my sub, kept up with my end of the grading, showed up to all the department meetings while I was gone, had constant communication with my sub and the students and parents via email, and even showed up to supervise Saturday school. I feel like I deserve more than 45%. To a certain extent, had I realized how much I was going to get screwed on all this, I would have just left a list of standards to cover and completely checked out for those 11 weeks. (I say that, but I never could have done it). Another annoying irony... this past week, the school invited in an Aflac representative to talk about disability pay, since we do't get any of it (one of the downsides of being non-unionized) and can't even claim state disability, and I found out for only $40 a month, I could have been paid throughout maternity leave, had I only known about all of this a year ago. Well, this is what happens when you have an unplanned baby, as much of a blessing as it is. Long story short- I though I'd be getting enough performance pay to cover at least 2 or 3 months of day care, but it looks like I'll be getting enough for about 1 month, 1.5 if I am lucky.

So I am trying to figure out how we can come up with an extra, say... thousand dollars a month. I thought about perhaps writing a book and self-publishing it, since really, I am a writer and writing is probably the easiest way for me to make money, but the process actually sounds like it could cost me quite a bit out the door before I actually make any money from it, which defeats the purpose, and most of my book ideas have already been written anyway. So if I want to write for this extra money, looks like I'm going to have to go my traditional route and return to writing associated content articles and start trying to get my stuff in magazines too. Now where to find the time....

Anyhow, I am glad to have the next 6 weeks to be at home with my baby girl, even if there is much to be done while I am here. :-)

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