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1 June 2014

The end of the year is looming, and much has happened. Probably the biggest “thing” was that I have changed positions at work and I am no longer in a classroom.  I was asked to apply as the Campus Academic Specialist, a position that was granted to my campus for the first time this year and had been given to a teacher at the end of last school year, but she resigned the week before school started.  I applied, interviewed, and won the position.  It was a difficult time of year to change positions, because school had already started and finding a qualified, certified teacher to take my place was a nightmare.  Added to that was the complication that several other teachers on campus also interviewed for the specialist job.  They had interviewed the year before and had not gotten the position then, so I’m not sure what would make them think they would get it this time, either.  But interview, they did, and they did not get it. Again.  Making me enemy #1 in their books, and since they had strong influence over their friends on campus, the transition was not made easy.

A specialist does different things on different campuses and the job varies depending on what the district defines it as being.  In most cases in my district, you are an Instructional Specialist, and you focus your energies and talents on one content area.  So, most junior campuses have Math Specialists and Reading Specialists.  One campus even has a Science Specialist, because their science scores have been in the gutter for many, many years.  In my case, I am the Academic Specialist, and work with all content areas.  Considering we have the largest student body, and therefore the largest faculty, this makes my job particularly challenging.  Half of my job is to be a coach and support for any new teachers we have on campus.  Not just new to teaching, but new to the campus and/or district.  This is new for me, and I have found that I really enjoy this aspect of the position.  I am still learning how to organize this part of my job, so I only expect this part to get better and better as I understand how to do it and find the resources needed to share with new teachers.  The other half of my job would be data.  Every time a content area takes a district or state test, I organize and interpret the data for the school and for individual teachers.  This has been the biggest source of conflict for me this year.  I understand data. I understand it and have been analyzing my own since my first year of teaching.  I have done independent research to make sure my analysis methods are valid, and then I have researched how to allow this analysis to impact my teaching for the betterment of my students.  I did this as a natural extension of learning how to teach and out of a desire to make sense of this new world.  Unfortunately, not everyone understands data the way I do.  They have outdated impressions of what the numbers mean, or they have made assumptions that are incorrect.  Because I have a tendency to shelter myself in my classroom and do the work I need to do, ignoring the world outside my door, I had the false impression that all of these “college educated” individuals understood how to interpret basic percentages.  They did not.  And I paid the price for my assumptions.  Trust me, I will never assume that teachers understand basic math again.

Even though I have accounted for all “halves” of my job, there is yet more.  I have other tasks given to me, as my principal finds the need.  For example, lately, I have been put in charge of creating the master class schedule for next school year.  I have zero experience doing this, but I DO have experience in scheduling.  Thankfully, scheduling employees to work isn’t hugely different than scheduling classes.  I am positive I will have teachers royally pissed off when their schedule is given to them next year, but I honestly did not target anyone for the “shit duty.”  I deleted the teacher’s names from the drafts I created so that I wouldn’t be influenced by what I thought they might want, or what they’ve done in the past.  The class schedule should ultimately benefit students, and the teachers just need to come in, work their schedule, and go home. I know that’s not what is going to happen, and I’ve had a revolving door on my office for the past two weeks because of it.  I’ve listened politely, patiently, and even with a smile on my face.  But the reality is that the principal, not me, makes the final decision on what needs to happen.  She had ideas of how she wanted the schedule to look, and I made it happen that way. Regardless, it will be me who shoulders the flack for any unhappy teachers next year.  I know it and I don’t give a damn.

I have discovered, by being in a position outside of the classroom, that my campus is hugely cliquey.  I know most campuses are, but mine is ridiculous.  We are notorious in the district for it.  There’s no teamwork anywhere, everyone is working to accomplish their own agenda (or their best friend’s agenda), and I am regularly shocked that we make the kind of testing gains that we do because of the internal drama that is constant.  Sure, we had management changes, but the drama-feeders made the changeover so much worse than it needed to be, constantly stirring up negativity and spreading it as quickly as they could.  OH, if my faculty could only SEE what these people are!  They are unhappy individuals – unhappy at home, unhappy with their careers, and hellbent to make sure as many around them share in their misery!  A few of them are well-known in the district for applying for any and every job that will get them out of a classroom.  And, since they don’t do the inside of a classroom particularly well, no one wants them outside of it either!  The reality is that these individuals are the ones who are looking for an ever-higher paycheck, with less work to do.  They actually think that a principal’s job is less work than a teacher’s!  Unfortunately, if they were ever given the job of principal, they WOULD do less than they do as a teacher. They would be a disaster as a principal or assistant principal, and most that interview them can see that.   Getting turned down for job after job after job just makes these people even more miserable, adding to what they have to spread to the campus.  They are like a festering disease, and fortunately many of them dislike the new principal so much, that they have finally found transfers off of my campus.  Not to principal positions, certainly, but at least off MY campus!

One of the things I had to weigh when accepting this job was whether I was willing to give up the daily contact with students that I had as a classroom teacher.  I was worried until I realized that I never even teared up about it.  I worried, but only briefly.  It was a true relief to me to be out for a while.  So, in that aspect, I completely understand those misery-makers for wanting out of a classroom.  I am blessed that this job is one that has helped me to crystallize my future plans, and has not been a burden or detrimental to my school.  Since I don’t have the discipline, lesson planning, assignment grading, parent phone calls, and tutorials that a regular classroom teacher has, my afternoons are freer than they used to be.  My tendency to be a workaholic still keeps me at school working, but I don’t HAVE to.  Oh sure, there are certain times of the year that require more of my time, but it is not daily like before.  It was this that motivated me to take the job, because I really am ready to start graduate school.  So, I applied to Lamar University, was accepted for this coming fall, and have most of the financial aid requirements completed.  I should be getting enough in loans to cover all but about $200 of my tuition for next fall, spring, and summer.  I have applied for the Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.  It is a very long program, requiring two internships, and two residencies, plus more coursework than most of the other education degrees available.  I could have signed on for the School Counselor degree, but chose this route because I have ideas for what I would like to start a doctoral program in.

Yes, doctoral.  I’ve been on the fence for YEARS about whether I wanted to put myself through what it takes for a doctorate, and I’ve finally decided that I do.  First, I am finding more and more that I really don’t have the temperament for public school teaching.  I have a very short fuse for stupid people.  And when my fuse runs out, my mouth works before my brain can stop it.  I’ve been working on better control, and I have gotten better over the years, but I can see myself getting fired, written up, or even sued someday for my mouth.  Plus, I’ve discovered that, as much as I’ve enjoyed teaching kids, I enjoy research and data analysis so much more.  When I was running numbers after a test, and I had several days in a row of being in my office with no interruptions except the ones I allowed, I went home truly buoyant and happy.  Even when I knew that I would have teachers angry, whining, and going to the principal with complaints about the data they were shown, I was a happier person.  I do not require the constant contact of coworkers, and find it to be annoyingly distracting more than anything.  I like them there when I seek them out, but I do not need continual contact.  This is my introverted personality at work, and I’m okay with that.  I will never be allowed to do research at the level I want, as long as I’m working in public schools.  I need to shift careers to do it, and I’m okay with that, too.

So, I discovered the field of psychometrics in my research forays this year, and have become enamored.  I don’t know for sure that I will seek a doctorate in this field, but I know that I am leaning in that direction.  I have the math background, but I have nothing in the way of psychology.  Hence, the master’s degree I am seeking.  The School Counselor degree just didn’t have enough of the clinical psychology that I think will be needed for the doctoral direction I am looking.  With a lot of focus and prayer, I will juggle both this new program, plus the job.  Hopefully, I will be able to remind my principal from time to time that I AM taking classes, and can’t afford to stay at school until 8pm every night anymore!

We’ll see how well that works.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2014 in school, teaching

 

Questionable Practices

If your cake is “Better Than Sex,” you’re doing sex wrong.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2014 in general

 

1 September 2013

What a first week.  I can’t even type that with enthusiasm.  Good Lord.

Changes, changes, changes.  From the superintendent down, and we’re all impacted by it.  We have a new principal, and the staff really isn’t sure how to understand her.  Consequently, many things she does are misinterpreted at best, viewed as hostile at worst.

Even our class schedule has changed, and it’s very, very weird.  Even the kids hate it.  Mostly because we seem to hear another bell ring every 10 minutes.  Each grade level is doing something completely different, and the consequence is that we feel like we have three separate schools in one building, when we should be feeling like we have a cohesive family that is working cooperatively.  I don’t know if the intention was to make each grade level feel isolated, but that was the result.  We have good people working on my campus, but a few weeks of isolation from the rest of the school, and things will start to fall apart.

My body did not help things in the least by starting its cycle on the second day of school.  I’ve felt like I was in a mental fog all week.  I was going through everything I was supposed to.  Even taught all my lessons and kept on my curriculum calendar.  Got homework assigned and taken up.  Got grades for the first week entered in the gradebook.  Introduced and reinforced my kids to the procedures we encountered as the week progressed.

I don’t do well on the procedures.  I overdo it, usually.  I want to tell my students about ALL of my procedures on the first and second days of school, but that is impossible.  Even though I KNOW it’s impossible, my overactive brain still tried to do it in years past.  I did better this year and only taught the ones that we actually encountered as a normal week progressed.  Things like, how to enter and leave class, how to turn in homework, where to get your make-up work if you’re absent, what to do if you don’t turn in homework, and how to behave when the phone rings or when someone comes in the room or if an announcement comes on the PA.  Clearly there are way more procedures that I have going in my classroom, but it would have been wasted to do more last week.  The ones I went through, I was able to introduce and then reinforce multiple times, so that by the time Friday came, the kids only needed very brief reminders.  They’re starting to understand that my classroom has a LOT of structure, and I am very UNflexible on most of it.  But, they’re also starting to see that the structure helps them, helps me help them, and that as long as we’re operating within that structure, they actually have more freedom than they originally thought.

Because I’m bouncing between two grade levels, and two skill levels within each grade, each class is doing something totally different.  I decided to take a clue from another teacher, and I’ve been keeping a spiral notebook for my classes.  Just one.  Each day, I start a new page, put the date at the top, and I list information I need to refer back to by class period.  So, I list kids who were absent or late, what activities we did, what I assigned for homework, and any major discipline issues.  There’s no form to fill out, just a blank piece of notebook paper, so I can write whatever I need to write for every class.  It’s working out really well, and the more I use it, the more I, well, use it.  I’m able to go through today’s page at the end of the day to get make up work posted, which saves the time of going back into the attendance program and looking up each class period.  I was able to get the assignments for each class set up in my gradebook very quickly, and then grade according to what I’d given the individual class that day.  I usually end up having to really think hard about what I’d told THAT class to do, and how I needed to grade the assignment.  Mistakes have been made in the past, and I ended up having to either go back and re-grade an entire class’ worksheet, or delete the grade completely because I just couldn’t remember what I’d said to do.  It was such a simple solution to basic record keeping, that I feel dumb not thinking of it already.

I was so worn out by the first week, that it was all I could do to get off the couch yesterday.  I must have taken 3 naps, and was still back in bed by 10:30 last night.  Usually, if I take a nap, there’s no way I’m sleeping that night.  Just shows how tired I was.  I’m not feeling much more energetic today, but at least I’m not on the couch!  I must’ve slept 10 or 11 hours Friday night and last night!  This just makes me extra glad for the three-day weekend.  I think that, by tomorrow, I’ll be feeling like getting stuff done, and will be able to start a school week in a much better frame of mind.  Especially considering that, by the time Tuesday gets here, my cycle will be over, which means I’ll be sleeping better and I won’t have the cycle eating up all of my brain power and energy.  My kids will think they have a totally different teacher!  Haha!

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2013 in general, teaching

 

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25 August 2013

To say I’m exhausted would be an understatement.  I keep worrying about how tired I am until I realize that I’ve gotten a lot done this weekend, had dinner guests yesterday, and was officially back to work last week.

Students return tomorrow, and when I think about it too much, I start to get butterflies.  I’m excited!  I guess that’s good, since it’s now my fifth time going through the first day jitters as the teacher.  I could be jaded and burned out, but with God by my side, I still love what I do.

I’m also incredibly overwhelmed.  I know what I’m doing tomorrow, because it’s almost the easiest day of the year.  Everyone goes over school and classroom rules and policies, first day of school paperwork that no one ever reads, trying to match the face to the name, etc.  But on Tuesday, my 8th grade classes are supposed to start curriculum, and I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing with them.  I have all the potential work I can have them do, but I need to pick something, copy it, see if there is a key or if I need to work one.  As for that matter, I have the same things to do for my 7th graders, except I get an extra day of procedures with them.  Their first real math work will be on Wednesday.  I don’t expect to be coming home super early tomorrow.  I’m just going to have to bite the bullet and get my copying done after school.

I’ve been using my phone’s calendar to-do list to keep track of the tasks we’ve been given to accomplish right at the beginning of the year.  Acknowledgement forms that have to be signed once you’ve “read” the materials that goes with it.  On-line training modules that have to be completed.  The list is very long, and I usually keep it on paper.  But I use my phone for so much more these days, so that’s where my list currently resides.  I have over 12 items on that list, and I’m sure that I will be adding to it once I get to work in the morning.  Deep breaths.  The beginning of the year is always like this.

I have a potential big change coming up in my life. I’m excited for the possibilities, if it pans out, but there are no guarantees.  I refuse to really talk about details until I know if things are going to work out, but if they do, my family and I will be truly blessed.  Usually when I see major changes coming, I stress and worry, but this one is more of a relief and excitement.  Because I know how my brain is wired, and I know how God works in my life, I know that when I am peaceful about some future plan or future change, God is working with me and assuring me that this is exactly what I should be doing.  Peaceful to me means not worrying or experiencing anxiety over the decision that was made.  I have neither, just excited anticipation.  So, all is well, and when I know more, I will definitely be updating here.  Pray, though, because my family and I could really use this change that could happen, and we would all tremendously benefit from it.

I had dinner guests last night that don’t like to leave at a decent time.  I’ve informed my husband that, since this is the SECOND time they’ve WAY overstayed their welcome, it will be a long time coming before they come over again.  So annoying!  I don’t mind spending time with people, but you don’t stay at my house until one in the morning!  Especially when both hosts have expressed a desire and need to go to bed.  The last time, they came over on a Sunday and were here until well after 2am.  I repeatedly said that I usually get up around 4am.  I even SAID that it was time for them to go home and that we needed to call it a night, but they did NOT take the hint.  It’s been several months since they were over, so I cautiously said that they could come over again, but only if we were unified in our efforts to physically shepherd them to the door starting at 10pm.  We were unified.  We were firm.  We shepherded.  They finally got out of my house at 11:30 last night.

That’s probably why I feel so exhausted today, now that I think about it.  What in the world do you do with guests that just won’t leave?  Even after being told very directly that the hosts need to go to bed, and that it was time they left?

The good part of last night was the food.  I cooked honey bourbon chicken with rice and potstickers.  I didn’t notice that I had left the Crockpot on high for the chicken, so it turned out a little dry, but it had only been cooking for 5 hours by the time we ate, so it hadn’t gotten really bad yet.  No one noticed or said anything, and almost everyone (well, everyone but me) went back for seconds, so I’m probably the biggest critic.  I also made a butter pecan cake (with extra butter flavoring), poked holes in the top after it had baked and poured caramel ice cream topping into the holes so it could soak into the cake.  Then I frosted the cake with Cool Whip and sprinkled homemade praline pecans over the top.  I’ve never made pralines before, but they turned out pretty good. They taste right, but don’t hold together quite like they should, and the sugar is still a little grainy.  I know that means I probably should have let it cook a little longer, and that the graininess is probably from it not quite reaching the right temperature.  I did a cold water test on it to see if had reached soft ball stage, but that’s not as accurate as a candy thermometer.  So, I need to buy a candy thermometer, because those pralines were SUPER easy, and oh so tasty!  I’d love to make a huge batch, package them, and leave a couple in each employee’s mailbox at work.  I definitely won’t have time this week, but it would be a nice, out-of-the-blue treat later in the year.  Especially once I’ve gotten a candy thermometer so they come out better!

Last week…oh lord, last week.  What a ridiculous week it was!  Our new principal has a tendency to leave us with big question marks floating over our heads, and in a few cases has outright pissed some people off.  I am mentoring two new teachers this year, and one of them was totally freaked out by the fact that all new teachers get the principal as their evaluator. The principal followed that announcement up with, “Brace yourself.”  For what, exactly?!?  Why should I need to “brace myself” because you will be the one to observe me?  That makes me feel like there’s no hope of getting a positive evaluation, and that’s terrifying for someone new to the profession.

I have had quite a long talk with the principal, though, and it’s clear to me – now – why she’s coming off as abrasive.  She is quite aware that our previous principal avoided any kind of conflict like it was the plague.  He was not a “people person” and kept everyone at arm’s length.  He would rather avoid a problem or issue to see if it will resolve itself before he has to step in, then when he was forced to step into the situation, he put the hard decisions off on someone else.  Teachers figured out pretty quickly that he didn’t pay much attention to what they did, so long as their kids passed the state tests.  So, there are certain things that they started getting away with, that are strictly against the district rules for professional conduct.  Principal never said anything, so they just continued, believing that it was okay.

Well, I’m a rule follower, and it annoyed the STUFFINGS out of me that people were allowed to get away with things having to do with dress code, or professional behavior.  This is especially true, since there were certain people who always received a blind eye – mostly because NOT turning a blind eye would result in them creating a confrontation in the principal’s office about it – and others who would NEVER get away with it.  Then there were others, I feel myself included in this third group, who would get away with it sometimes, but other times would be reprimanded.  The treatment all depended on if I had made the principal happy enough with my test scores, or if I’d pissed someone else off who could never do wrong, so now I was on the principal’s bad side.  The good part for me was that I never wanted to be reprimanded, yet I always had the possibility of being reprimanded, so I just didn’t go there and followed all the rules.  If I broke one, it was truly in either ignorance or error.

All that being said, the new principal is a rule FOLLOWER.  If it’s in the employee handbook, it’s gospel to her.  The interpreted abrasiveness was really when she was putting us all on notice that she expected the rules to be followed, and that she knew which rules were commonly broken.  That was the first time we had a faculty meeting.  Apparently, between the first meeting and the second one, certain teachers had gone in to make a case for themselves to be allowed to continue breaking their rule of choice.  She shut them down.  This was followed by her being sterner at the second faculty meeting.  So, once you know a little about what was happening behind the scenes, it became pretty clear that Mrs. Principal was establishing her authority on this campus, then reinforcing her authority.  If it’s not clear to you yet that she is large and in charge, I would suggest looking into moving to another campus, or better yet, another district.  If you annoy her enough, she probably won’t approve a transfer, and will force you to resign your contract with the district instead.

I have to say, I’m kinda digging it.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in teaching

 

18 August 2013

Tomorrow I am officially back on contract for my job.  I’m not in the same place, mentally, that I’ve been in the previous four times I’ve done this.  Sure, I didn’t expect to have the same extreme high from my first or even second years, and it’s not that I’m not excited to be going back.  It’s just…different this year.

Part of the difference is that I don’t really have a time that I wasn’t going up to work or talking to people who were at work, or talking to people who weren’t at work but talking ABOUT work.  Reading that, you might think that I don’t feel like I’ve had a break, but that’s not true, either.  I’m rested.  I’m relaxed.  But the bigger part is that I feel like I’m ready to go.  I’ve spent a few days each week for the past 2-3 weeks, going up to the school, working in my room.  I’ve gotten the physical space set up, systems in place, and even a couple of projects done that have been pending for multiple years.  The projects involved revamping some end-of-year class projects for both 7th and 8th grade.  I didn’t usually remember to even think about these projects until I needed them, so there was never time to “fix” the problems I had with them.  I brought them home with me in June, but they sat in the dining room in the same bag I’d packed them in.  But, once I started going up to the campus to work in my room, I actually remembered to take them with me and got them done.  It’s a good feeling!

I’ve also had the resources (read: money) to get some other things done that I’d been wanting to do since I started teaching.  Specifically, I’ve been in the process of framing crap all summer.  It’s not that finding frames for documents is difficult (hell, even the dollar stores carry them!), it’s having the money at the same time that I have time to think about dealing with it.  I have quite a bit that needed frames, and not all of it has been done, but I’ve at least gotten started.

Of the non-school stuff: I have artwork, some professional, some done by a local high schooler (but very, VERY good for an amateur), that needed frames.  I’ve gotten the two that my husband purchased at the high school framed (a sketch of a cheetah in various poses, and another of a purple flower), and they turned out beautifully!  I also have some Egyptian papyrus paintings (not ancient, but still very cool) that need frames, but the frames are going to be huge and I need three, and the bigger the frame, the bigger the pricetag.  Those are going to wait a bit longer.  In storage, I have an authentic Indonesian batik that is framed in a bamboo frame that is cracked on one side.  I can’t just buy any old frame for it, because the fabric is going to have to be restretched.  That’s something I have no idea how to do, and don’t even know if I have the tools to handle.  It’s going to take a professional to deal with it.  Added to that, I also have a silk embroidery of a hummingbird in flight and a custom spray painted poster/print of Earth from space that looks like a combination of a good oil painting and a photograph.  They are both odd sizes and will require custom frames.  OH!  And I have a piece from India that is some indigenous yarn work, almost like knitting but not, that will take a deeper frame because it has a thickness that will not allow a standard picture frame to work.  And it’s an odd size.  I have no idea how to frame textiles, so yet another custom job.  Custom framing is expensive, and I’m going to have to take them one at a time, as I can afford it.

For school: I finally framed AND HUNG my teaching credentials.  They’re pitiful looking because the certificate only lists my original certification, and not the two I’ve added since then.  But it’s done, it’s hung, and I don’t have to think about it anymore.  I have two honor society membership certificates that I framed as well, but I’m still debating if they really belong at school.  The other documents I’m debating would be the presidential award for writing (college president, not Obama) that I received at Lee College, and all FIVE of my degrees.  There are four that are Associates (AS General Studies/Transfer, AA Teaching, AS Natural Science, AS Mathematics & Engineering), and one Bachelors (BA Mathematics).  The associate degrees are 8.5 x 11, so the frames, once matted, will be 11 x 14(?), I think.  The BA starts out at an 11 x 14, and once it’s matted, the frame is going to be humongous.  And I don’t want cheap looking frames for them.  I’m willing to spend more on the degree frames, but that also means I have to wait and do them a little at a time.  The debate, though, is do they belong in my classroom?  I’ve been asking Rick and Joseph, and they both agree that all five would be weird, and the bachelor’s degree, once framed, will be hugely overwhelming.  I don’t want my classroom decor dominated by a college degree, even though many of my instructors of teacher education said that we should hang them in our rooms.  After all, don’t doctors and attorneys hang their diplomas on their office walls?!? (It always makes me giggle that teaching was equated to those two professions by these instructors!  Really?  You overblow your own importance and worth, teacher.)  The consensus is leaning towards hanging them in my home office.  I know people that just have them in a filing cabinet or in a photo album, but these people don’t know what it means or what it’s like to have the first college degree in your family.  I am PROUD of those things!  They represent hard work, sacrifice, and the linchpin to my family’s current general stability.  Since we are still debating, it won’t hurt a thing for the framing to wait a little longer.

This past week has been…crazy is a word for it.  Monday, I was up in my room, making messes, tearing down things I decided weren’t going to work, and sorting through what I wanted to pull from my closets for the beginning of the year.  Tuesday, we buried my favorite uncle, which normally would have gotten top billing here, but I don’t feel overly sad about his death.  First of all, he was a vital and virile man in his prime, and he helped teach me to not take myself so seriously.  He also showed me that there are men as commanding as my father out there that aren’t also scary at the same time.  But the last few years, he has been in a nightmare of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s that didn’t befit the dignity he deserved.  His wife has been a constant, always-present companion.  By his side always.  Primary caregiver, even in the last weeks when he was in a nursing home.  She is exhausted, but would never admit it, even to herself.  She is SUCH a sweet woman, and I am so blessed that my uncle married her.  They married when I was a freshman in high school, so I remember being at their wedding.  I hurt for her, but I was relieved for him.  He believes in God, and ten years ago was “saved” by the conventional understanding of what that means in today’s church, and he spent these last ten years in total dedication to his grandchildren, his wife, and service to their church.  I have the reassurance that I WILL see him again, and he will be that healthy, vital, and virile flirt he was when he married my aunt.  Irreverent, hilarious, and painfully honest.

On Wednesday, I went shopping with two ladies from work who, over the years, have actually become friends-ish.  Anyone who knows me in the real world knows that it is incredibly hard to get close to me, and even harder to be counted as an actual friend and not just an acquaintance.  If you are my friend, it will never matter how long it’s been since I’ve seen you, spoken to you, spent time with you.  We will generally pick up where we left off, no hard feelings about being absent, and thrill in the chance to share as much that’s happened since the last time we got together as we can.  These two women are approaching the very small friend circle I keep.  I wonder, though, if I would continue the relationship if we no longer worked together, but I’m not worried about it.  True friends that are “just” work friends are okay, too.  I didn’t buy a ton of stuff, looked mostly, but I think we stopped at 856 different stores.  It was fun, we talked a little shop, had lunch and coffee, and I came home tired and foot-sore, but happy.

Thursday was dedicated to more friends, but not from work.  I had one of my oldest friends and her kiddos over to visit, and I got to cook for them!  I love cooking for people, and I don’t get to do that for her very often.  Even better was that I was finally able to get a mountain of too big clothes out of my closet and sent home with her.  She has people from church that could use them, and I’m happy to make room for stuff that actually fits!

Friday was meetings, training, and finishing my room.  The best part of Friday was leaving campus at 5:30, and, turning to make that final look around,realizing that I LOVE how my room turned out.  If the kids came back tomorrow, I’d be ready for them.  The systems I have in place will work for all four preps I’m teaching, they are simple, and should work for the duration of the school year.  I’m not afraid to change how my classroom runs in the middle of a school year, if necessary, but I’d rather not if I don’t have to.  There’s just not a lot of time to dedicate to 1) getting new systems set up and 2) teaching the kids how to use them once they are used to the originals.  Once I start using some of the stuff I’ve put in place, I may find that they need tweaking, or to be completely done away with or reworked, but for now, I get the strong feeling that they will work.

Yesterday, I went school clothes shopping for me for a change, came home and washed my car, then hemmed the pants that I’d bought.  It’s a sad day in the universe when I have to hem even petite slacks.  I washed all of my and Rick’s laundry and totally screwed up a piece that I’d JUST BOUGHT.  I purchased a very pretty outfit that consisted of a tan pair of slacks, a tank top patterned in gold, rust, chocolate, and cream, plus a rust-colored sweater to wear over the tank.  I can’t wear the tank alone to work because I currently sport bat wings for upper arms and I shouldn’t scare the children that way.  I’m also not sure that they are acceptable to the dress code at work, but even if they are, I don’t find tank tops, no matter how pretty and shiny, to be professional dress.  Anyway, I washed all my new stuff, because that’s what normal people do when they get new clothes.  No WAY am I gonna wear that stuff after who knows whom has tried it on at the store!  Well, I didn’t read the care labels.  Washing everything was hunky dory, but the sweater was not supposed to be tumbled dry.  It’s supposed to dry flat, and now I know why.  It came out of my dryer 2 sizes smaller, and it wasn’t even completely dry and had only spent 30 minutes in there!  I pulled it out early because it’s a little more delicate – and it’s new – but even early was too late.  I tried stretching it out, but now it just looks weird.  I can’t take it back, because it’s definitely not a manufacturer defect, but now I can’t wear the tank top, either!  I knew that I had gotten the last sweater of my size in the store, so I took a chance and checked the website, and lucky me (sorta), they had it in stock.  So, I bought a new one.  Because I am a dumb-ass, I had to purchase that damned sweater TWICE.  I will read my care labels more carefully the next time I buy new clothes!

Today, I sit in front of my computer, sipping the excellent coffee I made earlier this morning, listening to my quiet house all around me, content with my world.  I have Facebooked at both of my profiles (I have one just for my students that has very limited personal info on it, and another for everyone else in my life.  It keeps my ex-students from being nosy.), and when I am done here, I will begin working on my first day of school letters, and pray that I will be able to get to the copier tomorrow before the hoards descend.  I could get used to this.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2013 in daily life, teaching

 

8 August 2013

I had to take a break, I guess.  I didn’t know it, but I guess I needed one.  For the past couple of months, I’ve had things happen and thoughts pop into my head that made me think, “I should write a blog about that.”  I spent eleven months not even thinking about WordPress, blogs, or writing, so clearly I needed a break.

It would be impossible to put into an entry exactly what has happened over the past year.  The school year was like a dream.  I had the sweetest students last year!  They worked hard for me, but they were extremely low performing.  I had one student who only got 3 problems right on her state test.  3 out of 64.  It took her three tries this year, but she did finally pass.  It was a miracle, and one that I was happy to be a part of.

At home, we just kept on keeping on.  Not a lot of furniture was purchased because we put every spare dime (of which there were few) into savings to buy Richard another car.  That car was purchased a couple of weeks ago, so we’re done with everything but making the payments.

With the extended family that moved out last year, we figured out what was wrong with Dad and why he was having such horrific mood swings.  He was diagnosed with COPD and congestive heart failure.  Both are a death sentence, but both were discovered VERY early, and so he is receiving therapy and treatments that are helping.  In the process of moving last year, he overdid it, and gave himself a hernia that required surgery to fix.  He also had to have a defibrillator implanted to help with his heart.  That was surgery number 2.  In May, he went back into the hospital to have a valve replaced in his heart.  In preparing to do this last surgery, the doctors discovered that he had an aneurysm in his abdomen, so once he was out of critical condition from the valve replacement and before he went home, they did another surgery to fix it.  He spent nearly a month in the hospital this time, and it was very hard on him.  His doctor, though, got to see Dad’s mood swings first hand, and was able to prescribe him something to help.  Turns out that Dad was a little depressed, and for him, depression means anger.  Dad is home now, but he has a physical therapist and a home nurse visiting him multiple times a week.  He is still struggling, but now it’s because he is tired of not being able to do what he wants.  The cardiologist said that all the memory issues and brain function that have been impaired will return to normal or better in the next three years.  Considering he’s been on a mental-function downswing for the past 10 years, three years to recover isn’t bad at all.  The news of his mental recovery came right before the news of his brother about to die from alzheimers.  His YOUNGER brother.  This will be the second younger brother to die before him, and it is hitting him pretty hard.  I’m grateful that he has meds to help with depression now, and that he has the chance to deal with his brother’s situation and grieve in the privacy of his own home.

Next to my Dad, Joseph is probably the next biggest situation around here.  I did teach summer school, which was the entire month of June.  Once that was over, I had to hit the ground running with the things that boy needed to get done.  We’re still running, but we’re definitely where we need to be.  First, he took his driving test and passed it.  He got his learner’s permit right (and I’m wracking (racking???  Hmmm…seems that either is correct in the new English) my brain to remember when he got it) and practiced driving – I think pretty much all school year.  He would drive us to his school where we would switch drivers and I would continue to my school.  It worked well because he experienced neighborhood driving, as well as major road in major traffic driving.  But he now has his very own driver’s license, and since we finally were able to purchase Richard a new(er) car, the old one has become the Kiddo’s.  He doesn’t know it, but we will soon be getting him a newer car, as well.  Again, stuffing every spare dime into savings…we should have what we need in a couple of months, we hope, which is just in time for Joseph’s birthday.

Anyway, once the driving test was done, we turned our attention to college.  That’s right – Joseph is a high school graduate now!  He is going to attend a local junior college and then transfer to a local university.  We had to get him signed up at the junior college, find money to pay for it, and then go through the whole process of the first time student in college thing.  We had counselors to see and finanacial aid people to talk to and more paperwork for HIM to fill out than we anticipated.  I’ve spent at least a day every week up at the college with him.  I’m being very conscious of not doing this process for him, but being there with him while he does it for himself.  The only thing I’ve really taken over was the financial end of it.  We applied for grants, which we did not get (we’re too white and we make too much money), and so had to apply for loans.  We told Joseph that this would be a possibility, and that we would be applying for the student loans in HIS name, not ours.  The deal is that as long as he passes and gets his degree, we will pay the bills on the loans.  But if he flunks out or drops out, the bill is his.  He got approved for his loans, and they are sufficient to pay for all of his tuition/fees, plus his books, and he might have a little left to take a class over the summer.

In addition to college, we went to the bank and transferred his old, youth savings account into a real, adult checking and savings account.  He is also applying for part-time jobs.  We agreed to provide a car and pay for the insurance on it, as well as making sure he has gas to get to class and work, but we will not pay for additional gas so that he can go running around with his friends.  He’s had his own car for a couple of weeks and does most of his driving locally and in the neighborhood.  When he came home one day and mentioned that he was getting pretty low on gas, I just looked at him and reminded him that he has a check card to his very own checking account.  All gas stations will accept his check card.  If he needed gas, I guess he needed to find a gas station and pay for it.  My response caught him by surprise, and then paying for the gas nearly broke his brain.  He discovered that gas is expensive!  Ya think?!?  So, he needs a job, but only a part-time one, that will give him a little cash flow so that he can still have a bit of a life outside of school.  We’ve also told him that he will soon be responsible for his own cell phone bill, but I’m not going to push that on him until he has a steady job and has gotten one paycheck from it.  The goal is to slowly make him responsible for his own bills, but just a little at a time, as his job and school situation will allow it.  School is still the priority, and he is taking a full load of classes, so, Richard and I agreed that if we see that he is struggling to balance school and work, it’s the work that needs to go.

So, that’s the long and short of what’s been going on.  I’ve been spending time in my classroom for the past week or so, getting the physical space set up.  I can’t even begin to think about the curriculum, or letters to parents, or any other classroom system, until I know what my physical space is going to be like.  It took me four years of doing this to figure it out, but that’s just how I roll.  So, I have my desks and furniture arranged, and most of the stuff on the walls is where I want it.  I’ve been struggling with how to set my board up, though.  The district requires that we write a daily language objective and content objective on our boards, and they have also suggested (a polite word for “you better do this or it will reflect poorly on your evaluation”) putting vocabulary, an agenda, and the date up there.  Not only did they require and suggest these things, but they also printed and laminated LABELS for these categories.  That’s actually a lot of information and it usually takes up the majority of one of the two boards in my room.  Add to this that I have students who have volunteered to be a “Helper” listed on the board for each class, as well as the homework for the week, and I have essentially lost one entire board to stuff the kids rarely look at, but that I am required to have.  This year, though, I have no CLUE how to organize this board because of what I’m teaching.

Follow me on this: I teach regular, 8th grade math, plus a remediation class called STAAR math.  The STAAR class only has 10-12 students in it who have never passed the state math test.  I have 2 regular 8th grade classes, and one STAAR 8th grade.  Now, technically, these are the same prep, same teaching objectives, same homework.  But they’re not.  The STAAR class, by definition of it being remediation, is allowed to slow down when I feel they need to.  I don’t give them the same homework, and I don’t give them the same tests.  For the first 5-6 weeks of school, I will be teaching them the same topic, but after that, even the topics will differ.  After doing this last year, I discovered (and the other teachers teaching this class discovered this too) that these really are two different preps.

But wait; there’s more!  I have five classes that I teach, and if you’re counting, I’ve only told you about three of them.  Next year, I will also be teaching 7th grade math again!  Yay!  One class will be STAAR for 7th grade, the other will be a pre-AP class.  The STAAR 7th is going to be fine.  They’re regular 7th, which is what I taught my first two years.  I’m just going to have to let them move really slow, and I’m adjusting HOW I teach some of the skills.  The pre-AP class, though…  That’s one little animal that doesn’t exist anywhere else on campus.  What is supposed to happen in 7th pre-AP, is that we teach the last half of the 7th grade curriculum, and ALL of the 8th grade curriculum so that these students are prepared to go into Algebra in 8th grade.  The belief is that the students were all in 6th grade pre-AP, where they were taught all of the 6th grade curriculum and the first half of the 7th grade.  We call it compacting the curriculum, and it makes sense.  You can’t just skip a year of curriculum to place a kid in Algebra in 8th grade, so at some point, you have to cram it all in there.

HOWEVER!  At the end of every school year, teachers are allowed to make recommendations of students they believe should be placed into a pre-AP class the next year.  So, let’s say I teach regular 6th grade math.  I have little Betty in my class all year and she has been a straight-A student, turns all of her work in, studies hard, and excells in math.  She is the kid who always has an answer to my questions, always gets the answer right, and clearly does not belong in a regular class.  At the end of the year, I’m going to give her name to the counselor, and she will be put into a pre-AP class in 7th grade.  Awesome!  We are meeting this child’s academic and intellectual needs, right?!?  Hmmm…well, maybe.  Except most of the kids in her 7th grade math class will have spent 6th grade in pre-AP, and while Betty was being taught only 6th grade math, her new classmates were learning 6th AND 7th grade math.  When Betty walks into my 7th pre-AP class, I assume that she has already been taught half of the 7th grade curriculum, but she wasn’t.  Out of the 30 kids in her 7th grade class, 25 will have been in pre-AP the previous year. What do I do with the five that have half a year of curriculum missing?  The only real solution is to teach all of 7th grade math AND all of 8th grade math.  And honestly, the kids that are getting curriculum repeated really need it repeated because it went by so fast the previous year.  But that means I’m teaching two years of math in one year – something that happes absolutely NOWHERE else in junior high.  I can’t do what I’m doing with 8th grade, and I can’t do what I’m doing with 7th grade.  I will have to use elements of both, but the timing will be different.

So, back to my problem with my “information overload” board.  Since I have four different preps, that means I have four different sets of objectives, four different agendas, four different sets of homework, plus vocabulary, helpers and whatnot. And it all has to fit on one board.  I have NO IDEA how to make this work.  I have a system currently set up, but the space for the homework is tiny and the board is overwhelming to look at.  I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it, but I’ll take a picture of it when I’ve got it figured out.  Regardless of what I do, it’s going to be ridiculous.

I’m not promising to update frequently.  I do need to write again.  It’s so much part of who I am, that I just can’t get around it.  We’ll see how overwhelmed I am with the school year.  Maybe I need to just commit to a monthly overview.  (Boring, but effective.)

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2013 in daily life, general, school, teaching

 

10 July 2012

I just made the most awesome dinner.  And it was stuff that I just threw together!

First, a whole, roasted chicken.  I cleaned the inside of the chicken and rinsed the outside.  Ran my hands between the skin and meat on the breasts, thighs, and legs.  I rubbed directly onto the meat a combination of seasoned salt, garlic powder, and onion powder.  I also rubbed some on the inside of the cavity.  I repeated this process with one packet of Lipton onion soup mix.  The repeated the process again with minced garlic.  I had bits of each seasoning left (about 1/2 a teaspoon), so I mixed them all – and with the minced garlic, it all turned into a paste – and then massaged the mix onto the skin.  Placed the chicken breast down in a roasting pan, then added a little water to the bottom of the pan, just to add moisture.  There was less than an inch of water in the pan because I didn’t want to wash the seasonings off the chicken.  Placed the lid on the roasting pan, and put it in a 325 degree oven for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.  It was falling off the bone when it came out, and so tender and juicy!  YUM!

Second, sweet potatoes.  Now, I’m not a huge fan of sweet potatoes, and can usually only tolerate a bite or two before I’ve had enough. When these were done, I could have eaten a whole bowl of them!  I didn’t, but I wanted to. 🙂  Okay, two regular-sized cans of sweet potatoes in water, not syrup. Dump into a 2-3 quart pot (non-stick would be better) WITH THE JUICE.  Add 1/2 stick of non-salted butter (not margarine), a heaping tablespoon of salt, and 1/4 cup or slightly less of honey.  Bring to a boil and continue boiling until the liquid has cooked down to the point that you can’t see standing liquid, only  sweet potato goodness.  It will look like very lumpy mashed sweet potatoes.  Do not stir too frequently, or you will break all of the potato pieces up.  They will break up some anyway, but you don’t want total mashed sweet potatoes. (Unless you do want total mashed sweet potatoes, and if so, then stir away!) The result is a sweet, buttery, salty, sweet potato CRACK that is not too sweet and not too salty.  And SO easy!  I’ve done things like this before, but I used brown sugar and even white, granulated sugar.  Not nearly as good, not by a long shot!

And, we also had salad, but it came out of a bag, so I can’t take credit for anything other than rinsing the greens and providing pre-bottled salad dressing.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in general

 

7 July 2012

Cleaning.  That’s what I’ve been doing for the past year.  At least, it feels like a year, anyway.  When you have two families living in one house, you have a tendency to be wall-to-wall furniture, which we were.  It’s hard to clean when there’s that much stuff in one house.  Have you ever seen hoarders?  Well, we weren’t that bad, not by a long shot, but it’s the same problem. Too much stuff, can’t get around it to clean, nowhere else to put it to clean, so stuff doesn’t get cleaned.

In the past two days, I’ve scrubbed the master bathroom; taken down half the curtains in the house to wash, dry, iron, and rehang them; cleaned odd bits of furniture and knick-knacks that have come into the house from storage; vacuumed, swept, and mopped all the floors; cleaned the oven and microwave; dusted off built-in closet shelving; wiped down the kitchen counters more times that I care to count; and put away everything that can possibly be put away, the re-boxing and stacking the things that have no place to be stored yet.  The light fixtures in the hallway had to be taken down, washed in the kitchen, the fixtures vacuumed off, then rehung.  There was so much dust and cat hair accumulated in them, they were a fire waiting to happen.  I’ve had to vacuum off the walls and ceilings, the curtain rods, the baseboards, the plug outlets that were hiding behind furniture that hadn’t moved in five years.  My vacuum and I are BFFs right now, and I never want to sweep again.

All this makes it sound like we’ve been living in a filthy hovel for the past five years, but it’s really not true.  This is just the accumulation of five years of five people living in one house.  Now that the majority of the furniture is gone, we have a unique opportunity to get “caught up” on some things that just couldn’t be done easily, or even with difficulty, in some cases.

We have a real lack of furniture right now, but I’m not really complaining (not a huge amount, anyway).  We have three rooms that need furniture: living room, dining room, master bedroom.  The master is the last room on my list to deal with since we have a new bed, Rick has a dresser, and we can make do for everything else.  We have nightstands, lamps, and I have a dresser, but all that belongs to my parents for their guest bedroom.  Once they have had time to unpack, get settled in and clear the boxes out of their third bedroom, they’ll want their guest bedroom furniture back.  Joseph has the headboard for the guest bed in his bedroom, so we’ll need to give that back, as well.  We ought to replace his headboard, but if we can’t immediately, it’s not like he can’t still use the bed.

I’ve been doing a lot of on-line window shopping, just to start generating some ideas of how I want these rooms to look, and what kind of money we’re going to need to accomplish those looks.  Dude, furniture is expensive!  I’m sure we could get really cheap furniture, in fact we could have purchased a loveseat last Sunday, but what we would have gotten for the money would have been cheaply made, cheaply upholstered, uncomfortable, and in need of replacing in a very short amount of time.  And, I’m fairly sure that our cats and their accumulated hair would have brought about the destruction of the furniture that much quicker, too.  Rick and I decided that we’re just not willing to settle this time.  The last few times we’ve been in need of furniture, we got impatient, and we settled for hand-me-downs or cheap Wal-Mart furniture.  As much as I appreciate that someone was willing to give me their couches, I am done with that phase of my life.  Unless we run across some really well-made, solid wood furniture that is either already an antique, or made well enough to become one someday, we’re just not doing it this time.  Rick found someone selling a used computer desk, hutch, and matching bookshelf, and he bought them all for me.  They’re not antiques, but they are solid wood, VERY well made, and will become family heirlooms for my grandchildren.  That’s what I’m looking for.  Upholstered furniture pretty much needs to come straight from the store we buy it at.

So, I’ve found a local business, Gallery Furniture, that I know I’m willing to do business with.  “Mattress” Mac, as the owner is known, has been in the furniture business for my whole life, is a native Houstonian, and is as honest as the day is long.  He makes a point of buying products that are made in America, has a good guarantee and warranty on what he sells, and is customer-focused.  His website makes it clear what products he carries, what is in stock, and what the prices are.  There’s no guessing or wondering.  He began the business by selling cheap furniture that looked good, even if it wasn’t going to last very long, but it was furniture available to regular folks on a regular folk salary.  He carries better quality furniture these days, naturally making his prices higher, but he still focuses on the regular folks.  He’s not after the upper echelon of of society.  Most of the furniture I want for the living and dining rooms can come from Gallery.

I’ve also found a few on-line retailers that carried items I am very interested in.  Lamps Plus has several lamps and a pendant light for the dining room that I’ve got on a wish list.  Hayneedle is another place that I’ve spotted odds and ends of furniture pieces that I couldn’t quite get right at Gallery Furniture.  One glass artisan, Dale Tiffany, has a lot of his product on Amazon (it’s cheaper there!), specifically lamps that don’t have cloth lampshades.  Cat hair does horrors to cloth lampshades, so I’m looking for glass shades.  Also, I have been introduced to the wonder that is Kirkland’s, and have found some things both in their store and on their website that I would love to get.  I need a couple of chairs and/or recliners, but want to make sure I won’t ever have to worry about heavier-set people sitting in them.  So, I found Brylane Home’s Plus Size Living line of furniture and home products, and we’ll probably be ordering at least two chairs from them.

Our catch phrase right now is, “One thing at a time.”  Next weekend, it’s stock the pantry and freezer time, and we’ll be getting paint for the master bedroom and bath and begin the chain reaction.  Once we’ve painted, I can steam clean the carpets and then start moving my bedroom to its new location.  When my current bedroom is cleared and empty, we can paint and steam clean, then move my office furniture and Joseph’s office furniture there, leaving Rick in the current office.  He will eventually need to move out of this room, temporarily, so that we can clean the carpets and paint, but not immediately.  Once we have the offices split into two rooms, we’ll be clearing everything out of the dining room (honestly, there are framed art prints leaning against the wall, and that’s it), so we can paint, then we’ll more our makeshift living room into the dining room to finish the painting process for the inside of the house.  By that point, the only room we won’t have gotten to will be Joseph’s room.  I’m leaving him to the end because his room is completely his (except for the headboard), and we’re not moving him.

Again, the idea of all of this is exhausting.  However, this is also where I am really grateful that we DON’T have a lot of furniture.  Imagine how much easier it will be to do the painting and floors without the need to move furniture constantly!

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2012 in general

 

4 July 2012

Happy Independence Day, America!  Celebrate your right to cook things over an open flame and to blow shit up!

I’ve been perusing Pinterest just now, and a fellow pinner pinned a post (alliteration, anyone) about a cool classroom pencil sharpener I think I’d like to get.

Classroom Friendly Supplies is the source, and it’s a sharpener that was created by a teacher.

Groovy Green

credit: classroomfriendlysupplies.com

It’s pretty cool looking, too!

I love finding new things for my room that are actually useful!

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2012 in school

 

2 July 2012

Shock and awe!  I’m posting two days in a row after nearly two months of silence!

I was looking over my blog last night after posting the epic story of epicness, and realized it had been mid-May since I’d updated.  The end of the school year was a killer, y’all.  Eighth grade has so much more going on – much like seniors in high school, but not quite as bad.  End of year dances, conduct celebrations, play days, plus curriculum still to teach and assess, final projects to cope with.  I volunteered on the curriculum planning committee, and that sucked up a couple of weeks of my time.  It was crazy, man.

Add to all that the fact that I was saying goodbye to kids I’d taught for two years straight.  I was rather attached to some of the little animals, so there was a bit of bittersweetness to the end of the year, as well.

Once school was done, I had a three-day weekend off, then dove right into summer school.  This whole summer  school thing, as I was saying yesterday, has been quite the experience.  I’m growing more and more confident in my ability to connect with my students, though, and working under summer school conditions has reinforced that belief.  I’m still not confident of my ability to deliver my content.  I am really good at working problems and explaining what I’m doing, but eighth grade math really needs more than that.  The last year of junior high math is all about connecting everything you’ve been doing for the past three years.  Every question on the state test is a multi-step problem involving 3 or more steps to find a solution.  Those steps will involve skills from multiple competency areas of our curriculum.  A kid might need to be able to work a proportion in order to find a price, then use their knowledge of tax and discounts to refigure the final price. Although proportions and percents are virtually the same thing, the students needs to understand basic ideas of proportionality, how fractions work, the concept of a tax as a percent or a proportion, as well as a discount.  Proportionality is big in eighth grade, and it’s connected to nearly every part of what we teach.  This is what I’m worried about doing well next year.  I’m working on it.

Speaking of next year, I know for sure what I’m doing.  Well, I know what the current plans are, but they are definitely subject to change, even after I’ve begun teaching.  I’m being moved out of the Special Education department and back into math.  I’ll be teaching a full load of eighth grade math, with one class being a test-prep group.  We call that test-prep class STAAR Math, because we take the kids who failed the state math test (the STAAR) from last year and plunk them down into this class for remediation purposes.  It’s supposed to take the place of one of their electives so that they essentially have two math classes – one core, one remedial. Next year, my principal has decided to turn the STAAR classes into the core math class, which is great if you ask me.  The max number of students in this class is capped at 12, so I’ll have the opportunity to do really intensive small-group and one-on-one instruction with kids who really need more of my attention.  And, it eliminates a separate prep because they are still getting the regular curriculum.  These are the lowest performing math students on campus, and making the STAAR class their regular math class means that they are not in the other regular classes, holding them back.  I really believe this will be a win-win for everyone: teachers, good-at-math kids, and bad-at-math kids.

This past school year, I took on a few extra duties.  I assisted with after school and pull-out tutorials for the math department.  I was the after school detention teacher.  I was a UIL coach.  Plus I taught a math class and did the inclusion support for four other math classes and four language arts classes.  I had a SpEd case load and had to prep for ARD meetings.  The SpEd part, at least, will not be part of my duties next year.  I will still be very involved in math tutorials, since I’ll have about half of the kids who need them instead of just one or two.  I will still coach UIL.  I will NOT do detention again.  Instead, I’ve been asked to be a National Junior Honor Society sponsor, and I’ve accepted.  I’m really looking forward to being involved with this organization!

Joseph is starting his senior year in August, and he has decided to drop band.  I don’t blame him.  There are two children running the district band program.  Hired right out of college two years ago, not much older than their students, and given the responsibility of the entire district’s program.  Lunacy.  Both directors have potential, but only under good leadership, which is nonexistent.  The lunatics are running the asylum, and Joe has had enough.  He was a little sad about making the decision (not one I influenced, other than telling him that if he was going to stay in band, he had to COMMIT, and not pull dumb, wishy-washy, passive-aggressive bullshit moves) until he realized that he just got back a month of his summer break, and all his evenings and weekends.  And he’s replacing band with a computer maintenance class, which is not only a personally practical class to take, it will be of more use to him in college.

We are really enjoying our house.  Even with scarce furniture, we’re loving it.  I’ve had dinner done for us, the way we like to eat (the way I NEED to eat), cooked in our pots, eaten on our dishes, and cleaned up our way. The kitchen is becoming my favorite room, but mostly because it’s the most complete room.  I keep tweaking where things are stored and the routines I’m using to do things, and I’m liking the results.  I feel so much more organized and together when I’m working in there now.  I had a TON of kitchen stuff in storage, some of which has been thrown away, a lot of which has been kept.  I really thought there would be no way I’d ever fill all the cabinets in the kitchen, but it’s happening.  I can’t think of a drawer or cabinet that is totally empty.  There are places that I can consolidate things for when we re-acquire some of the things we’ve thrown out, but that’s okay.  For now, everything fits comfortably, and the cabinets and drawers aren’t overflowing and hard to keep organized.  The only exception to that is the plastic bowl and lid storage.  Mom left most of her bowls (mostly so that she would have a reason to purchase new ones that worked for her new reduced space) and I had several boxes of them stored.  I also had an entire large box of nothing but coffee mugs.  I kept four or five and had Rick get rid of the rest.  I don’t know what he did with them and I don’t care.  Tomorrow, one of the jobs I’m assigning myself is to match bowls to lids.  The criteria for being allowed to stay in my kitchen is that one MUST have the other, no damaged parts, and the lids must fit properly and not be warped by the dishwasher or storage.  I’ll see how that goes.

We are all exhausted today.  I think the adrenaline high is finally starting to wear off a bit.  I haven’t been able to sleep past 4:45am for about five days straight, and I’ve had trouble falling asleep.  Rick just said he was going to bed, and I’d be well advised to follow his example.  So, good night!

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in teaching