Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christmas 2010

With Love Blue Christmas 5x7 folded card
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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Oh, how I have denied my love for too long

I know, I know, it has been nearly a year since I have blogged. It as been one of the roughest years of my life. I lost a beloved parent. I have lost a parent before, when I was just 21 years old. This time I not only had to deal with my grief, but the grief of my children. Those of you that know me, know what a big part of our life G-pa (pronounced geee-pa by all of his grandchildren) played. When I began to teach full time, when Alli was in 1st grade, all three of the kiddos went to G-pa's every morning and afternoon. They got on and off the bus at the same house that I used to get on and off the school bus.

G-pa always had afternoon snacks in the fridge. Not healthy mom approved snacks, but fun snacks, that only grandparents buy. Fun sized candy bars, pop, chocolate chips straight from the bag, full size gatorades, etc....you get the picture. Did he buy these things because he also liked to indulge? quite possibly. Did he make sure that my kids didn't overdo it? Usually. Did they all enjoy eating these forbidden snacks together in the afternoon? Certainly!

This weekend, while cooking with my eldest daughter, I called her by the nickname my dad used for her. She burst into tears and as we stood in the middle of the kitchen hugging each other and crying, I realized that the grieving is long from over.

Grief has lingered in our house this winter, rearing it's head at the most unexpected times. We have all reacted in different ways. I have a talker, Alli. My youngest daughter talks about dad the most. She seems to express what we are all feeling. Corey is quiet. He has always been quiet about his emotions. He tends to seek proximity when he is hurting. Sitting next to me, sleeping on our floor (don't tell his friends), going with me on errands, and doing the thing that brings the memory of g-pa back to him- playing golf. Maggie and Leo get grouchy and moody until it all bubbles over in anger and tears. I try to keep everyone from hurting. My family might say, I also get a tad grouchy.

We have practiced these roles before. Just 5 years ago we lost David in a bike accident. David was my step-son. The counselor assured us that all the ways we dealt with his death were normal and healthy. It sure didn't feel normal and healthy!

The difference for me revolves around my masters. I have been in an accelerated master's program this year. You would think the added stress was the hardest part of this. The hardest part was in fact, the absence of one of my first and greatest loves...books. Of course, I have done plenty of reading for my masters, but that isn't really reading in my book. (I haven't lost my ability to use bad puns). Real reading is authentic. Reading self-selected books, books I am interested in, books that make me a better person and teacher are all real reading. I have not kept up with my course work the way I would normally. My answer to this slacking is to deny my reading habit. I didn't allow myself to read anything other than text books unless all my work was caught up. Considering my lack of concentration since September, there has been very little self selected reading for this chica! Looking back over the past year, this was probably a huge mistake. Reading has always been a sanctuary for me. I would have normally read silly senseless books, books about grief, books about parenting, professional development books, young adult books... to deal with my emotions. This year I forced myself to read books about research and technology. I am not uninterested in these subjects, but these books did not feed my soul. They did not comfort me and take me away from reality for short periods of time.

I have come to the conclusion that reading is a need not a want (1st grade standard) for me. I am afraid I handled this past year horribly. I wasn't a great teacher, student, mom, wife, sister or friend this year. The positive- I did survive. My class will no longer be mine in two more school days. (My class was awesome this year) I will finish my masters degree in three weeks. My family will continue to grieve, but we are all surviving.

What have I learned from this past year?
1.) No matter how old you are, it hurts like hell to lose a parent.
2.) One year masters programs are just a little intense for full time teachers
3.) Self selected reading is super important for everyone, not just my students
4.) My family doesn't fall apart in the face of tragedy
5.) And..reading may be a type of therapy for me

So, as I enter the summer, I have a stack of books waiting for me. They are behind my desk at school, on my bedside table, in my van, and on my shelf in the living room. Remember, I didn't say I refrained from buying books, just reading them. Their call is getting louder. I will answer it soon. I already feel the comfort they will bring.

P.S. I doubt anyone is still reading this blog but I needed to write. How did I forget how therapeutic it was to write on my blog? The cheapest therapy around!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

slice of life challenge

My eyes try to focus on the pages of the magazine in my hands. The unshed tears make it hard. The scene is so foreign and yet a certain familiarity surounds it. Has it really been 21 years since I heard those fateful words, "your mom has terminal cancer"? Am I now doomed to hear the same news about my dad?

The doctor enters in a cheerful mood. Smiling as I am introduced as the "family gossip" by my dad. (Dad wasn't happy that I had informed my two brothers about this appointment) He must be about to tell us that the test results were a mistake. How could someone that smiles and jokes with you deliver the news that someone has cancer?

He leans back onto the counter and tells us that he is not the kind to sugar coat news. He tells us that they will need to do more tests, but that he is sure that my dad has cancer that has spread to his lungs. On the inside, my world crashes in. On the outside I ask a few intelligent questions, weakly smile at my dad, and thank the doctor. My dad's weak smile back at me seems to say, "we've been through this before haven't we kiddo?"

My father, who has always been so strong, the man that bought bras for me that first Christmas after my mom died because that is what my mom would have done and he felt the need to perform all her jobs as well as his own, is now facing the same disease she did.

We still do not know where the cancer originated or the treatment recommended. We will know more on Monday. I will tell my kids after we know more information. They know that Grandpa is sick and we are trying to find the cause. Dad is the only grandparent they have ever known. They see him everyday. Helping him through this will be hard on them.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The one and only Debbie Miller!

Well, my head is certainly full! I spent the day with a large group of teachers listening to Debbie Miller yesterday. If you don't already know, Debbie is my professional guru. I am always so inspired when I read her words or hear her speak. Yesterday was no exception.

I had heard her speak last year and yesterday was very similar, but like a good book, I learn something new each time, even if the context is repeated. Listening to her speak was a grounding experience. I have been caught up in this whole "failing school" stuff so much lately, that I have strayed from my core beliefs. Admin. told us we had to meet with our below level groups every day. That sounds reasonable, until you realize that that pretty much takes away the opportunity to conference one-to-one with the readers in my class. I used to meet with groups 3 days a week and conference with readers 2 days a week. I saw great growth in my readers. I feel like that one-to-one time was invaluable.

I feel so confused about things this year. I was told last year I did a good job bringing kids where they need to be in reading. This year my whole grade level was told that if we had students below grade level in January then we were doing something wrong.

I somehow need to clarify the goal for the kids in my classroom in my own mind. I need to return to the Reading Recovery philosophy of building on strengths rather that focusing on weaknesses. This has been a dark winter, but I think I see Spring breaking through!

On a really happy note, I get to see Debbie Miller in action today. I will be part of a small group that watches her teach a group of kids! I had actually begged for her to come to my classroom, but a teacher in Warsaw and one in Fort Wayne (yes, Sarah that's you) were chosen instead. I will contain my jealousy and enjoy this opportunity.

I will keep you updated on how today went!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"May I ask you a really personal question?"

That is what one of my little friends asked me today. I was a bit scared but, I told her to ask away. "What are you giving up for lent?" was her question. Whew! It could have been so much worse.

Ash Wednesday kind of snuck up on me. I hadn't put much thought into this. I haven't really ever made the great connection between deeper spiritual growth and not eating chocolate kisses. Don't get me wrong. I was raised Catholic. I have done my fair share of springs without candy, pop, desserts, gossip (OK I wasn't as successful with that one), romance novels (I was seriously addicted to these during my teen years), etc. You name it and I have probably given it up!

So anyway, I was facing a 7 year old that wanted to know what her teacher was giving up. I avoided the question (like any good teacher would) but couldn't quite get it out of my mind. A lunch room discussion helped me decide to "do something" instead of giving something up. I have decided to blog at least once each week during lent. I miss the reflection time. I know it makes me a better teacher. I need to get off my butt and and blog once more!

I have also decided to read to my 11 year old each night during lent. Alli (my little ADD angel) gave up the read aloud several years ago. And quite frankly, it was never very satisfying to read to a child that asked random strange questions in the middle of every story. (Just so you don't think I am a total failure as a parent, my older two children liked being read to until they hit middle school...truth be told, my high schooler will still listen to me read if given the chance) Just recently I read a Sharon Creech book out loud to Alli. She actually seemed to listen to the story, there were no random questions, and I enjoyed the bonding time. (I fully expect my other two to listen in, all the while pretending not to.)

These are my two Lenten goals. I have committed to them in writing. Your job is to keep me honest!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Champion Puke Catcher

Twice this week I have had friends throw up in my classroom. Not a drop hit the floor either time. I can wield a trash can like no body's business. I can hide my own gagging while comforting my little sick friend as we walk down the hall. I rub his/her back with one hand and hold the trash can with the other. I keep assuring him/her that everyone gets sick. It is nothing to be embarrassed about. I am the picture of compassion.

Do I get a medal for my efforts? Do the parents thank me for caring for their little ill child (who, by the way, had thrown up before school, but the parent had a busy day so she sent her to school anyway) NO, I get none of this..........I get the flu. No one held the trash can for me. No one rubbed my back. I spent my whole weekend running to the bathroom. I missed Spring Fling, a night out playing cards, and my son's basketball game. No one murmured words of sympathy to me. (OK, maybe my husband was kind to me and I am exaggerating a little)

I'm just saying...

feel sorry for me!

It's been a rough year

The title says it all. The sad part is, inside my classroom walls between 7:35 and 2:10 it has been a great year. It is all the "other stuff" that has beaten me down this year.

We are a failing school. The title doesn't bother me as much as the thought that my former students are being told that they failed the "state test". We have been told by central office that it is all the teachers' fault. We are not lay blame at anyone else's' feet. As a professional, I find it ironic that we would have to be told this. When I have a kid below grade level at the end of the year, you can bet that I have spent countless hours, many of them in the wee hours of the night, wondering what I could have done differently. You can bet, that I have asked countless other people in my building for ideas. You can bet, that I have accepted that it was my failure. That doesn't mean I didn't look for contributing factors (ENL, homeless children, speech issues, etc..) and tried to address these issues. We try to identify these issues not to place blame, but to further understand and help the child.

Words will not convey how it felt to be told by someone I respect that we are failing our kids. It brings tears to my eyes as I type this. Of course, I believe I can improve as a teacher. If you know me, you know I am constantly reading and discussing new methods. I feel like retreating into my classroom and shutting the door to all the other stuff. But, that would be the worst thing we could do. Our whole teaching staff needs to come together and collaborate even more. We need to support each other and continue to do what is best for the kids.

I'm sorry that this post is such a downer. It felt like every time I sat down to blog these thought were blocking any other thoughts. I promise to blog about what is going on inside my classroom and try to be more positive from now on!