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.

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.

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