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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What Literacy Really Means

Some of my students don't think that literacy is important. They may not tell me this to my face, but I know this because of how they do not take reading and writing instruction seriously.

Yet they should realize what literacy looks like in the real world. They should realize that in ONE day, I....
 got a call that I am late in regards to the 250 page deposition that I need to read and send my confirmation about the class action lawsuit I am involved in.
had to file my taxes, which I did on Turbo Tax, which is not hard, but is screen after screen of very careful reading.
file my FAFSA renewal to get more aid for my final year of graduate school, and Marc's FAFSA to start graduate school (yes, we will both be in graduate school next year- we have completely lost our minds).
had to fill out the very complicated Chinese visa application that is due.

If they don't believe that they will need literacy skills, they don't have any idea what the real world is going to be like.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thank God I Didn't Give Up Chocolate ;-)

So, some of you are apparently still reading my blog even though I am not posting on Facebook, because my stats say I still have pageviews. Woo hoo!

I am kind of hating this giving up Facebook thing. It is making me feel very isolated. I don't normally feel alone in life, even when I am actually not spending a lot of time with people, but without Facebook during times like this, I do feel very alone. Thank God Tracy text me yesterday. Our short text exchange was like the only contact I had with a person other than my children. This may not be healthy. I am not sure if I can keep this up until Easter. Eek.

I also don't really know what to do with myself without Facebook, which is almost frightening. I finally got down to working on my homework this afternoon, but last night I pretty much went to bed right after I put Vinny to bed, because I just didn't feel like watching anything on TV and didn't want to do homework.

At least I finally got around to my homework today, and the best benefit of not having the distraction of clicking back and forth between the Facebook window and my school work is that I actually do focus a lot better on my schoolwork. I am almost done with writing my midterm for one class, which I desperately want to finish by the end of the week so I can start working on the midterm for the other class, since they are both due the same day.

Marc is home from Winter camp, and it sounds like they all had a wonderful time. Marc apparently bought a surfboard rack on Craigslist last week. Technically, he didn't buy something new, but we were supposed to not be buying anything we don't need this year. Does Marc need a surfboard rack?  No. Marc doesn't own a surfboard.  Right....  

But, he's a good husband. I've been listening to Maui's Native 92.5, my favorite radio station, to keep my spirits up while working on my homework, and it made me crave Hula Cookies and Ice Cream. So Marc went to the store for Double Chocolate Chunk cookie mix and coffee ice cream. Yea!!!!

Vinny was much better behaved today than yesterday. It was actually a very pleasant day. I am loving this weather. I did my homework outside for like two hours and got a TON done. I forgot how much better I work in the sunlight.  :-)

Sigh.... someone post the link to this on my wall. I feel disconnected. Text me people.
So, I gave up Facebook for Lent. I am allowing myself to read anything that comes in my email, but I am not logging on to check status updates, and I am not posting anything. This was not hard for me on the weekdays, but Marc is out of town at Winter camp this weekend, so this has meant a lot of time to myself, during which I have desperately wanted to log on, but have somehow managed to stop myself. You would think I would be using the extra time to do homework, but I have just not felt like studying this weekend, so I haven't.

Isn't it funny how your kids can be the most adorable thing you have ever seen one minute... and then you want to slap them the next? (Admit it, you have felt this way).

I do not hit my children, but I sure have wanted to this weekend. Yesterday, Vinny was making me crazy. We went running some errands in between the gym and Tiana's nap, and he kept whining (and by "kept," I mean like every second, relentlessly) that he was "a million hungry," which he couldn't have been; he had breakfast. Even though I told him we would drive through and get something when we were done. I only needed to go two quick places too. I mean, the total amount of time spent on errands could not have been more than 20 minutes- max- they were within a 1 block radius. By the time we pulled in to Burger King (I was craving their onion rings), I knew he did not deserve anything at all, especially when he screamed, "I don't want THIS! I wanted a HAMBURGER!" as we pulled in. We don't go there often, so he of course assumed they didn't have hamburgers. It makes me crazy when he talks to me like that. What in the world makes him think that is acceptable, I do not know. I have never accepted behavior like that from him. I totally shouldn't have bought him anything, but did any way, out of laziness basically- I didn't want to make him something else when we got home.

So then, at home, while Tiana was napping, he played happily for a while. I was thinking that I honestly wanted to do absolutely nothing with the afternoon, maybe let them play outside, watch some tv, just chill at the house, but I was thinking that it would be a long day of staying at the house and I was wasting this opportunity to spend quality time with my children, so when she woke up, I decided we would head down to Griffith Park to ride the trains and ponies. Vinny decided to wear his cowboy costume, which was so adorable.

But what a mistake it was to go down there at all. I was a little worried that Tiana would be difficult to handle on my own- she is a particularly difficult toddler, nothing at all like Vinny was at her age. She frequently throws "don't put my in the stroller fits" and has huge temper tantrums, even though she isn't even two years old yet. As it turned out, Tiana was an angel. Vinny was the problem.

From the moment we got there, he was just a brat. Had it just been me and him, I would have just left, but I didn't want to punish Tiana, who was being so good, for his poor behavior. First it was a screaming fit because his hat kept blowing off. Then, he was whining about the crowds (it was very crowded). He get so weird about crowds. He becomes hateful towards everyone and gets like, "These people don't want us to go on the ponies!" He says it as if everyone who is there is there for the sole purpose of making him wait longer. I feel like he is old enough to see the complete lack of logic to this, but for some reason, no. He really believes they are all there to piss him off.

Finally, he gets to ride the ponies, which he loved, but then cries and creates a scene and acts like he has been abandoned because I was not waiting right at the ponies to get him when he got off. It was crowded. Parents are not allowed in the pony track. I was waiting right at the exit, but was of course in a crowd of other parents, so he couldn't see me. He acted like he had been abandon, so the poor attendants are looking all freaked out that they don't know what to do with this kid who's mom is gone. I was eventually able to get their attention so that they could send him over to me, but the damage was done. By the time he got to me and calmed down, he returned immediately to complete brat. He threw a huge fit about having to wait for Tiana to take her turn to ride the pony, crying again that he was starving (it was only like 4:00... he had lunch, and he had eaten a snack in the car on the way there. This was a fit for me to buy him junk food from the concession stand).

Once Tiana rode the pony, he continued his, "I'm starving" fit. I got VERY close to leaving without riding the train, but yelled at him about his attitude and got him to shape up for long enough for us to ride the train in peace. I was so angry at him for ruining what was supposed to be a nice afternoon. I was really wishing we hadn't gone at all. It is like lately, if we leave the house, he acts like a monster. He is okay at home.

I just realized that Tiana is coloring on my grocery list. Fantastic.


What is wrong with my kid?  Why can't he just behave himself?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It is really hard to be so UNpresent in my kids' lives, like what happens every Thursday. I am extremely fortunate that I am surrounded by an awesome support system, with a husband who acts as Super Dad every Thursday. Today, he picked Vinny up from school, got the rest of Vinny's homework done, took Vinny to track practice, (all while taking care of very challenging Tiana), then took the kids to a dinner at the church, before taking them home to get ready for bed (and he even gave them both baths and washed their hair). I'm impressed. And he does it all with a smile on his face. That's Marc.

But, in the meantime, I am trying to be...

  • Super Teacher
  • Mentor Teacher
  • Tenth Grade Clan Leader
  • Graduate Student/Teacher Researcher

     Yeah, that last one is kicking my butt. Notice I did NOT put the word "super" in front of that part. I am just plain not a super graduate student. I was a really super college student. The ironic thing is...  I didn't really think so in college. In fact, I sometimes thought I was a pretty lame excuse for an English major, since I BSed my way through quite a few papers, selectively chose not to read texts that did not interest me, and pretty much avoided any text I felt was too difficult. There was a critical theories class I would have totally failed if it wasn't for a rag tag Starbucks study group that taught me just enough to survive.

  In a recommendation letter a professor once wrote for me, she stated that I had "superb writing skills and knowledge of composition, rhetoric theory, and pedagogy. She is an adept reader of literature, as well as able to communicate her knowledge to others." I remember wondering if I had somehow tricked her into actually believing these things or if she just had enough pity on my state of unemployment to flatter me with such a beautiful letter. I am now starting to believe that these things were, perhaps, true. As I see that not everyone has the in depth understanding of literature and rhetoric that I do, I am starting to see that the difference between a character trait and an emotion are maybe not quite so obvious as I initially thought them to be....

     So... within the next couple of weeks, I do need to design a research proposal for my Masters program. This feels like such a monumental milestone. I feel like once I am able to commit solidly to a research project, and have a plan for actually carrying it out, I will be able to move confidently forward, but as of right now, I am feeling timid and insecure. Given that these are traits I would typically never use to describe myself, I do not feel comfortable embodying them for long. I am going to need to do whatever processing it takes to get past this state, and quickly.

   I am thinking of basing my master's research around Shawn Achor's theories presented in The Happiness Advantage. He proposes that people in general are more successful if they...
- List things they are grateful for regularly
- Write in a journal
- Exercise
- Meditate
- Practice acts of kindness

I am thinking about playing these out in my English classes and seeing if students become more successful overall.  I think they will.. it is just figuring out how to track it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Busy Calm Busy

This weekend has been rich with much-needed down time. Last week overall was really rough on me. We got back from Louisiana late Monday night, and I had to be at work bright and early Tuesday morning. I got the stomach flu Tuesday and actually threw up twice at work but somehow miraculously made it through the day. I came home at 4:00, and it got worse from there. I flopped on the couch about 10 seconds after walking in the door and pretty much didn't budge from the couch the rest of that night. I had a terrible fever and chills and couldn't keep anything down but Gatorade. Talk about a romantic way to spend Valentine's day.  (I couldn't care less about Valentine's day, actually).

But... I woke up feeling hungry on Wednesday, which I took as a good sign and went to work. I actually felt fine all day, so it must have just been a 24 hour bug. Thankfully, it didn't cost me any more time off work, since I had just had a sub for 3 days, but it cost me a night of doing homework, which was rough... especially since we had an appointment with Vinny's therapist Wednesday night in Valencia. Normally, we see her in Woodland Hills, but since I was out of town, I had to move the appointment to Wednesday in Valencia. By the time we got home Wednesday night and I got Vinny to bed, it was like 9:00.  I was up until like 1am doing homework, which meant I was a zombie on Thursday.

In addition to my own homework, I have been trying really hard to keep up on lesson plans and papers and stuff. So far, so good. Having a student teacher actually makes it significantly easier. I don't know that I would want one every semester, but I think I actually kind of like it overall.

It is also musical season in the theatre department, which is a wonderful thing for my soul, but exhausting at the same time. Nothing makes me happier than musical theatre, really. The feeling of seeing it come together is like nothing else. I really can't describe it. Sadly, still no dance teacher, so I am choreographing it right now. This is not as laughable as it seems. Although I have very little formal dance experience, I am not a terrible dance instructor. I am trying to teach like Kris did at our Broadway workshop in New York, plus the MTI show kits come with a choreography dvd. Some of what is on the dvd is useable- some is not, but it definitely is a great jumping off point. Overall, I am really excited about the musical.  Some kinks and stuff to work out, but I am having a positive attitude about it and glad we started early. The show isn't until June.

Anyhow... with teaching, grading, homework, rehearsals, etc., last week, I was ready for a calm weekend. I slept in late Saturday and then spent hours on the couch in my pajamas paying bills and then doing my taxes. The taxes were not as much of a bummer as I thought they were going to be (but still a bummer, we definitely owe). In the afternoon we ran some errands and then went out to dinner (which was pretty much a disaster), but made it home early.

Today, Vinny got baptized at church. :-)  He has been asking for a while. I was a little bit nervous to bring it up at church, since Lutherans baptize infants, but we have not been in Lutheran churches, so our kids were dedicated as infants, not baptized. I completely understand why they baptize infants, and I really don't think it is a huge difference, but when we joined this church, we weren't going to rush into baptizing our kids or anything- at this point, I want it to just be up to them, but Vinny had been hearing about it and had been asking, so we finally set it up. I was afraid people were going to ask about Tiana, but of course no one did. I should have realized Lutherans just aren't like that.

Vinny was very excited. He said, "I'm gonna get baptized because I believe in Jesus and I'm gonna party with Jesus in heaven forever." Hahahaha.

He has kind of nervous and shy, since he was up there in front of the whole church, but he was so cute when he got home. He wanted to know if you could still see the oil in the sign of the cross on his forehead. When I said, "No, but it's still there," he said, "I know... now it's in my heart, because Jesus is in my heart forever." They gave him a baptism medallion, and the cloth, and his candle, and the first thing he did when he got home was went and put them all in special places in his room so he could see them every day.

The rest of today, I pretty much sat around and did a lot of nothing. I did homework until I couldn't stand to do homework any more. I can't believe tomorrow is not a school day. It totally doesn't feel like it. I am glad to be getting some down time though. Perhaps I can get the rest of my homework done tomorrow and have a relaxing week the rest of the time. Tuesday is Mardi Gras and Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, so things are going to be a bit busier this week. Hoping I can see some friends tomorrow and have some "me" time.    :-)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 4&5 New Roads & The Road Home

Sunday, the conference ended. We went to one last workshop and one last general session before departing. We got to hear the Bishop of the ELCA speak. I found it half funny and half irritating that he ironically kept asking what were phrased as rhetorical questions and then acting surprised and/or annoyed when the crowd didn’t shout back a chorus of “Right!” or “Yes!” to his questions. I mean… it is a group of Lutherans. Aren’t they kind of known for their somewhat passive responses to worship?  I have not yet heard one Lutheran shout an “Amen” or “Hallelujah” in church without it being scripted into the liturgy for the service. But… in spite of the rhetorical question asking, he had a great message about serving whole-heartedly wherever you are called, even if that is right where you are. This message was not new to me- I do feel called to where I am- but I do remember a time in my life when all I wanted was to be far away from home doing exotically great things for the Kingdom of God, only to be terribly frustrated upon realizing that the good things God had for me to do right at home were also valuable and likely my calling.
     After the conference ended, we rented a car and made the trek out to New Roads, Louisiana, where Marc’s family lives. Marc’s family is very, very Cajun, and they live in real Cajun country. New Orleans is beautiful. It is an artistic, eclectic, place of ornate beauty… but it isn’t really Cajun country. To get to New Roads, you drive through several hours of swampland. This requires driving over many bridges and highways surrounded by trees that have grey, mossy looking branches dangling in bunches off of skinny trunks growing tall out of the brownish, greenish, mucky water.
     The “highways” are not always high. They are, in fact, mostly just roads. They are seldom labeled with the direction they go. As we headed out into the country, we gave up on the directions Marc had printed from the internet and relied solely on the GPS, since pretty much nothing is labeled. On the way back, Marc’s aunt gave us directions that involved steps like “turn right at the levee and follow that for a few miles” and “turn left at the fire station.” This is the country alright.
     I love spending time with Marc’s family. First of all, I could listen to those women talk to each other for hours. Their deep Southern drawls just make everything sound like a song. They just do everything so Southern. Most of his family showed up, and we sat around all afternoon, eating snacks and drinking while the gumbo simmered on the stove for hours. Marc’s uncle Lester, whose Cajun accent is so strong he is hard to understand at times and reminds me unmistakably of the firefly in The Princess and the Frog (actually, I should say the firefly reminds me of Lester, since that was my first thought when I saw the movie), fried up some fish in the evening, and then we eventually had the gumbo. Oh man… best gumbo ever. They all made fun of me because I filled my bowl with rice, spooned on about a ladle full of gumbo, and began scooping up the rice and meat with a fork. They laughed and told me I needed to “float” my rice. As I ladled in more gumbo, I reminded them all that I am a Californian and don’t know these things unless someone tells me, which had them all doubled over in laughter while Katherine took my fork and handed me a spoon. They were, of course, right on about needing to float the rice, and I enjoyed slurping up every last drop.
     Marc and I slept in this morning, which is wonderfully nice. I haven’t slept that many hours in a row in a very long time. I think we both would have been fine with just coffee and toast, but Southern hospitality is no joke, and we were of course treated to a full Southern breakfast. Afterwards, Katherine took us in the car to go see the new bridge to St. Francisville- the longest suspension bridge in North America- of which they are all quite proud, and then around town to just, well, see the town I guess. Marc grew up coming out here every other year or so, so it was mostly reminiscing and catching up for him. I had seen it all before on our honeymoon in 2003, but I didn’t really remember too much.
     It was sort of sad to see how country living has changed. There were lots of closed shops, including a whole abandoned shopping center where the “Piggly Wiggly” market used to be. She says there are a couple of markets in town, but mostly they do their shopping at big stores like Walmart in Baton Rouge (which is probably about 20 or 30 miles away). Nonetheless, it is a quaint little country town, which looks not too terribly much different than it must of looked 40 years ago. It sort of has that 1960s feel to it.
       Right now, we are on our way home. I am trying my best to deal with my terrible anxiety about flying by distracting myself with as much as I can. I finished both the book I brought to read for fun and the book I had to read for homework. I already wrote the paper about the book I had to read for homework. We’ve got about an hour left of this flight, and it feels like an hour too long.
     I miss my kids. I want to go home.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 2 & 3: Mardi Gras and Such

So, yesterday was our second full day in New Orleans. The conference has been really enjoyable. We went out to lunch yesterday with a bunch of other newbies, so we actually got to know some people. It is kind of hard that everyone here seems to know a bunch of people and we don't really know anyone. Marc recognized some people, but we don't really know anyone. We are trying though. Anyhow, lunch yesterday was at a place much pricier than we would have normally picked, but the food was excellent. Best dirty rice and Cajun green beans I've had maybe ever.

This was probably my favorite float.
Last night, we went to our first Mardi Gras parade. Exciting!! This stuff is a big deal here. The floats were really elaborate. We caught lots and lots of beads. They were throwing some other stuff too, but we didn't really get anything else. Marc almost got this cute purple snake to give Vinny, but this crazy woman next to us (like seriously, I think she was a few screws loose) wanted to fight him for it, which totally wasn't worth it. No one else here has been like that though. Everyone is very gracious and kind and considerate. Even though the parades are very crowded, there isn't any real pushing or shoving or anything. Just lots of happy people. :-)

At the Cajun Cabin
After the parade finished, we were able to cross Canal street to wander around the French Quarter to find some dinner. We found the perfect little place- the Cajun Cabin. Seriously, this place was adorable. It has wooden paneled walls so that it really looks like a cabin, but it kind of looks like you are outside the cabin on like the deck (but I mean inside the restaurant it looks like this) because it has swampy looking trees everywhere, covered with little white lights. The food was excellent too. They had both Cajun jambalaya (brown) and Creole jambalaya (red). I much prefer Creole food to Cajun food, so I was super excited that they had the option.

Bourbon Street has a really fun vibe at Mardi Gras. Lots of cops on horseback keeping the drunk people in line, but honestly, it is not quite as chaotic as it seems on television. Of course, the actual day of Mardi Gras it is technically two weeks away, but this is still Mardi Gras season, and there were a ton of people, but everyone is just so celebratory. Eat, drink, and be merry!  They sure are good at that here. It is kind of funny to think that all of this is actually related to Lent and started for the purpose of partying it up before giving stuff up for Lent. Speaking of Lent... apparently Lutherans actually do Lent. I mean, like, they have Ash Wednesday service and stuff and a lot of people give stuff up for Lent. I have never given anything up for Lent before. I wonder what I could give up for Lent. What do I love that I could technically live without?  Suggestions?

Today we went to another parade. Last night was the Krewe of Oshun. As we were watching it, I was sort of wondering... where are all the white people? I know they kind of segregate things here, but I was surprised that there really like no white people in the whole parade. I thought to myself, "Hmm.... I wonder if there is a white parade?"

Yup. There is a white parade. We went to it today. Now to be fair, the white parade did have some all black schools marching in it too (unlike the black parade that had NO white people), and some of the all white schools did have a couple of black students, but the lines are pretty clear here. I was thinking about how complicated that must be. Like... there were lots of dance studios with groups marching in both parades. But the black parade had all black dance groups and the white parade had all white dance groups. As a parents, how do you know which one to sign up for?  I mean, clearly they aren't labeled. That must put people who are new in town in a lot of awkward situations.

There are actually two more parades this evening, so we are going to try to get some rest and then hopefully catch a bit of those parades before we go to tonight's celebration at the conference.  :-)

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Big Easy: Day 1 (plus some)

What would a vacation be without vacation updates?  I am surprised I feel like writing at all, given the fact that I have never done as much writing in my life as I am doing this semester (I have like 4 papers due next week alone... and that's a pretty average week now), but the writer in me cannot not tell my stories. So here goes...

We arrived in New Orleans late Wednesday night. The flights were honestly not that bad, in fact the one from Dallas to New Orleans was downright nice, but my newfound fear for flying has turned me into a complete and total basket case throughout the entire airport-plane experience. Such a basket case, in fact, that I somehow lost my ID. Beautiful...   I am guessing that it fell out of my pocket on the plane. I would normally check my seat for anything I had dropped before getting off the plane, but lately, just being on a plane triggers my body's "fight or flight" (no pun intended) response, so upon landing I was single-mindedly focused on just getting off the darn plane. Fortunately, my mother agreed to overnight me my passport so that I will be able to get home. It could be worse. It could be my whole purse, like I lost in Miami.

How one develops a fear of flying she did not previously have is beyond me... but I certainly have developed it. The worst part is, I sit there on the plane, my whole body going tense, with my brain saying, "What the heck is wrong with you? There is absolutely nothing wrong right now. Calm the heck down! You fly all the fricking time!" But my body does not pay any attention to my mind and it is very frustrating.  I used every yoga technique and calming technique I know to keep myself from having a complete anxiety attack during the 15 minutes of slight turbulence on the first flight. I focused on one spot on the seat in front of me, took slow deep breaths in through my nose, and told myself over and over again in my head, "Turbulence is not dangerous, turbulence is not dangerous." This method helped me to not cry or scream or hyperventilate, but 2.5 hours after that felt like a very long time. The flight to China is most certainly going to require anti-anxiety meds. Sigh.

But, anyway, we arrived just fine and made it to the hotel and finally out to find something to eat. Nothing fancy. It was late, so we pretty much just had some bar food and headed back to the hotel. That's the "plus some" of this blog.

Yesterday was our first full day. We slept in beautifully late and got a late checkout (we stayed in a cheaper hotel the first night) so that I could do my homework before we headed out for the day. I discovered the beauty of my "Tmobile Hot Spot" allowing me free internet access and I could not be more pleased. Finally, we walked over to the Sheraton, where the conference is being held, and checked in. The hotel has magic "Wonkavators."  Remember that scene in Willy Wonka where you press the button for the room you want to go to and it just magically goes there?  Yeah, totally the elevators at the Sheraton. I tried to take a picture that would show it, but there is just no way to really capture it. It is kind of an experience. I am pretty sure there is no "up and out" button, but I will let you know if I find one.

We scoured the French Quarter for a lunch place that would be...
a) cheap
b) not seafood
c) good Cajun food.
    I don't like seafood, but I do like Cajun food a lot (sort of an oxymoron I know, Cajun food pretty much IS seafood, but if you remove the fish, I really love it). We eventually found somewhere and had a wonderful lunch. Loved my Roast Beef PoBoy. Vinny totally would have loved it. I am thinking that next time I make a roast, I will buy a big one so there is leftovers to make poboys with. Yum, yum yum.

In the afternoon, we took the St. Charles Street Car line through the Garden District, where the streets are lined with temporary grand stands for the parades this weekend and the trees are FULL of beads from parades past. We have seen the Garden District before. Marc has seen it many times, but I saw it when we came on our honeymoon; however, we have never seen it during Mardi Gras. These people go all out. The decorations are fantastically fun. I can't wait until we go to the parade on Saturday.

The session of the conference last night was enjoyable. Very different from other youth worker conferences we have been at (and we have been at quite a few). Lutherans are just different. They are not over the top people. They don't throw their hands in the air and wave 'em like they just don't care. They DO do liturgy. And they do peace. And love. And communion. So pretty much, it was peace, love, and communion, and a very down-to-earth speaker. :-)

Afterwards, I didn't feel like venturing out ID-less on Bourbon Street (although I seriously don't think they card anyone here), so we went to Cafe Du Monde and had beignets and cafe au lait, and it was a perfect way to end the evening.

There were no pictures to this post because I forgot to bring my camera cable and took all of my photos with my regular camera, not my phone, but I promise I will post some tomorrow. :-)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

One step at a time

I cannot believe I am even blogging right now. It is sort of miraculous that I have time. Actually, I take that back. I do NOT have time, but I make it.... because writing is my soul.

Fallingwater has totally captured my imagination
It has been a while since I have actually blogged. Where have I been?  Drowning in Masters coursework and teaching. So, many interesting things in my teaching world. My Masters program is both completely draining and completely enlightening at the same time, if one thing can be both. The readings are somewhat interesting. I can't say I love the scholarly articles, but I am actually loving the books. Even the inquiry book about how teachers do research is enjoyable. They used the metaphor of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater to talk about research (not even gonna try to explain it), and I loved it. It sent me on a beautiful 20 minute tangent looking at photos of this amazing building, but it was enjoyable. I am also reading a writing book by Kelly Gallagher, Write Like This, and almost every page I read has nuggets of goodness in it and stuff I had never thought about before. I don't mean this to sound arrogant, but a lot of the stuff up to this point has been very, "Well... yeah... that makes sense," but now I am actually starting to be like, "Whoa.... what a mind trip," about some of the stuff I am reading.

This presents an interesting dilemma. A teacher who is having her mind completely blown with new ideas and theories and possibilities must still continue on with her carefully planned unit plans, but, as any good teacher would, can continue to fine tune and change the little things that are possible to change right away. It is like that serenity prayer. My serenity prayer right now would say, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the lessons plans I cannot change, the energy to change the teaching strategies I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

It does not help that I feel like I am drowning in so many responsibilities other than just teaching too. I have benchmark exams that need to be seriously revised (and since there is no electronic copy, that means practically rewritten) by Friday and curriculum maps and unit plans that are due Friday (actually, they are past due, but I asked for an extension until Friday), tenth grade field trips to plan, and overall 10th grade clan stuff to handle since I am the grade level chairperson. In addition, there is the musical to produce and direct... and now, probably to choreograph.

I am directing and producing Willy Wonka this semester. (I know, I have lost my mind). I am not doing it by myself (Thank God for the music teachers!), but I thought I would have a dance teacher. I am not a good dancer. I can figure stuff out, but it is never great. I tried to pay extra close attention to the small details of the shows we saw in New York and to how Kris Koop taught us at the workshop, just in case this happened. Well "IT" hasn't really happened yet, but that is sort of the problem. We were going to have a dance teacher, and we very well may still have a dance teacher. They are even willing to PAY a dance teacher for me. We just can't FIND a dance teacher. Sigh...  The afterschool coordinator reassures me that resumes will keep coming in and that she will make phone calls and keep trying. I believe her, but she admitted that she is hoping for the beginning of March at this point, which means that, in order for me to stick to my rehearsal schedule, I need to handle the Wednesday dance rehearsals. Haha. Dance rehearsals. The thought of me leading dance rehearsals is almost funny.

Almost. I'm not laughing yet.

I also took on a student teacher. I am excited about this. It is going to be some work helping her to be the best teacher that she can be, but I am trying to just be completely transparent. She is there during my prep period every day and has been planning with Leslee and I and really sees what my life is like. She has seen the busy "ins and outs" of my door at breaks and lunch, the frequent conferences, the broken printer, the mound of paperwork, and the stream of phone calls. I am not hiding anything, although I am trying to shelter her a little bit. I really thought I had a complete understanding of what teaching was when I was student teaching, since my mentor teachers were both very willing to hand over everything and let me do all the teaching, but all I got was the planning and the teaching and the grading. So much of teaching is not actually teaching. So much of it is paperwork, meetings, photocopies, phone calls, emails, and logistics. I want her to SEE that while not yet having to do all of that yet, but I want to do what Barb did for me. She talked me through her thought process as she responded to difficult parents and as she filled out referrals for student discipline issues. I had a shadow of an idea of what I was in for.

 But, having a student teacher is also going to take some of the work off of me. I will not lie that it will be nice that she gets to plan drama, since I think it will bring a fresh voice to what is going to be an interesting semester of theatre history and script writing, and since she is teaching 4th and 5th exclusively (but will need to plan w/Leslee and I for sake of consistency in English 10), she will get to grade all of their papers. This is a good thing. It cuts my paper grading work load by about 40%, which is a BEAUTIFUL thing. And, while I still plan to walk around the room while the students are working to see where they are at and help where necessary, a lot of the time I am just observing her teach. I am trying to be an active observer, so I can't do too much real work, but my desk is looking a whole heck of a lot cleaner and more organized these days.

It is hard to believe that in the midst of all of this I am going to be gone for six days. I can hardly believe it!  Marc and I are heading to New Orleans for a Lutheran youth workers conference. I am really excited about it. From everything I can tell, Lutheran Christianity is just so completely us. Once I started to get to know more about the Lutheran Church, I felt like, "Where have you been my whole life?"  Apparently... right in front of me- it is one of the biggest denominations in the country. But I am glad we have found it. Or rather it has found us. The way it happened, it is really hard to say. God certainly put us here.

When we got married :-)  2003.
But other than just being excited about the conference, I am really excited about New Orleans. One of the items on my buried list was to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I am going to call this close enough, since New Orleans defines Mardi Gras as extending for January 6th to the beginning of lent. It is actually only like 2 weeks away, and lots of big Mardi Gras stuff and parades will be going on while we are there. Plus, Marc and I have not been to New Orleans since our honeymoon. It was the perfect choice for us. Marc is Cajun, and part of what charmed me so much about Marc was his laid back Southern vibe. He certainly has that "Big Easy" mentality written all over his soul. And since I am an eccentric artist in love with good food, it was a great choice. I was only 19 on our honeymoon though, which sort of took a little of the fun out of hanging out on Bourbon Street (we still hung out on Bourbon street, but just literally ON the street since we couldn't go in anywhere). Now, I am 28. Our hotel is in/near the French Quarter. I plan on having a very fun time.

I am hoping that the conference, sightseeing, and doing all of the homework I need to do while we are there keeps me really mentally involved though, because 6 days is a really long time to go without seeing my kids. The longest I have ever been. I guess it is building up to China.  Sigh....

One step at a time.