Thursday, March 27, 2008

Major Avoidance

Let me just say, I rule at procrastination. I have this paper that's due a week from today and I've been slowly working on it all week. The truth is, I just don't feel like writing a paper. I find it so hard to be motivated when there's still a whole week left to write it! On top of that, Josh took off work to enjoy some spring break with me today and tomorrow so that took the tiny bit of motivation I had and tossed it right out the window. This morning we watched Scrubs until after noon! Then Josh had work to do so I made some progress on my paper. It's coming along ok, I just don't feel like looking at it anymore. I'm even finished with the research part and now just writing about how the theory applies to myself. Why is that so hard?? Oh well.

In other news I'm thrilled to report that the last two movies we watched were such an improvement over the first three this week. I know you're just dying to hear me ramble about movies you've already seen, but we did end up watching Shrek 3 and Enchanted. I liked them both! Enchanted was my favorite but the little Shrek-babies were very adorable. I have to say I wasn't completely content with the ending of Enchanted, but I still liked it best out of all the movies this week. Tonight we're going to watch Bee Movie. Now this one is controversial because back when network television was on, Josh and I both got so entirely sick of seeing the extra-long, extra-lame commercials with Jerry Seinfeld for this movie. It was the other night before one of the cartoon movies that there was a preview for it. Josh made some comment about never seeing it just as I was thinking to myself -- "what if it's a cute story?" So I said to Josh, "but what if it's a cute story?" And today when he returned from taking Enchanted back he had Bee Movie. We sound like a couple of toddlers but the truth is, we had a hard time even finding a movie for last night because there was so little at our Red Box we were interested in. I'll be sure to let you know how we like this one.

In the mean time, Josh's parents are on their way over to visit and eat. And I have yet another reason to delay writing my paper.... CHEERS! :]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring Break So Far

Easter weekend was really nice. We enjoyed visiting with family and eating lots of food both days. We also visited that new church which turned out to be a really interesting experience. It was pretty usual for the most part, but some of the smaller things about it struck me strange. For example the pastor sat on what looked like a bar stool (it swiveled!) beside a little round table that had a candle burning and a glass of water on it. With the band's instruments and the colored lighting (for the band) behind him, it looked a lot like a night club. The message was really unstructured too. I felt like the pastor knew what he wanted to say and had given that thought, but that he didn't plan how to say it. There were times he would stop and look up, or look off to the side as if trying to decide how he wanted to finish his sentence or how to make his point. In the end, it was an Easter message. I think I'd like to hear the guy a couple more times before I decide if this is a church I want to attend regularly or not.

In other news... Josh and I decided to watch a Red Box movie each night to celebrate spring break. It's only $1 so we figured we could splurge. The first movie we got was Atonement on Saturday night. I had heard that it was somewhat sad, but everyone was raving about it so I really wanted to see it. I didn't see what the fuss was all about. It was fine. I didn't like the ending. It was one of those disappointing love stories, so you got the whole romance piece but still walked away feeling considerably depressed. So then we thought we'd go for something fun and uplifting - Dan in Real Life. It's Steve Carrell, that's gotta be funny, right? Again, very mediocre for us. It wasn't really classic Steve Carrell except he played a guy that was kind of a pitiful person. We didn't feel great at the end or laugh out loud at any point during the story. So we went dramatic again last night with I Am Legend and were once more disappointed. I think the problem is that Josh and I both watch movies to escape from reality for a few hours and really get lost in some fabulous alternative. We want to feel good when we walk away. We want to be amazed, thrilled, uplifted, cracking up, you name it. So I Am Legend - being about total despair and the end of humanity - didn't really do it for us. I held out hope the entire time for a good ending because I could deal with the despair if there was a really exciting ending that made everything all better. Needless to say, there wasn't. It was somewhat better in the end but not to my satisfaction. In short I'd have to give all three of these movies a thumbs down. Tonight I'm pretty sure we're going "no fail" with something like Enchanted or Shrek 3. It's just sad when we had to turn on a few episodes of Scrubs after these movies to cheer ourselves up and get the creepies out of our heads before going to sleep.

Overall, I have certainly enjoyed the two full days that I've been home from work. Yesterday I went to visit Amy and her new baby, Myla. She was so perfectly cute I coudln't believe it. After watching some of the other babies grow up- my own neice and nephew, little Lucy Cooke, and even my sister's new baby, Evan- Myla looked so teeny tiny. Unfortunately I meant to bring my camera and totally forgot so I don't have any pictures to post :o( I realize that seeing little babies gets me excited to have my own, but hearing the stories about being awake all night and, well general labor & delivery, I know I'm still not ready. I do want to finish grad school as soon as possible so children can even be a consideration though.

As for today I've got some homework that I'm avoiding, which sounds lame but at least I have the whole day to read two chapters in my pajamas instead of working all day and trying to read two chapters in two hours while cooking dinner. Because it's more than half way through my grad school semester all of my papers are due in the next 3-4 weeks. So as much as I'd like to sit around and vegetate the rest of the break, there will probably be some serious paper writing going on in the next few days. I'll be so angry at myself when I'm back to work if I don't use all of this time off to make some progress on those. And just like grading the papers, I know it will feel so good not to have all that school work hanging over my head, especially when the break is over. Time to get to work.....

Friday, March 21, 2008

And the BEST sign of spring is....

SPRING BREAK! My spring break started today and a lovely day it was. Of course the weather was gorgeous (could have been warmer, but I still opened windows), and I was fantastically productive. Josh had to work so I was home by myself. I decided that I'd go ahead and grade that ominous stack of papers I brought home from work. I know... who brings home papers to grade over spring break? Well I did because the marking period ends the week we get back and I didn't want to be under the gun to get them all done then. So my thinking was - get them done today and enjoy the rest of the break knowing that you're totally caught up on grading. And that I plan to do.

I also thought of a lot of other things I wanted to do today while I was in the shower (where I do all of my best thinking). Many of them were spring-cleaning type things. I knew I wanted to wash our duvet cover and put new bedsheets on. I also had other laundry to do and wanted to mop the kitchen, dining room, and living room floors. I started by putting the laundry in because that could be going while I graded papers. I ate breakfast while watching Regis & Kelly-- something I otherwise never get to do. Then it was to the kitchen table with the grade book. As I worked I would check on the laundry, throw another load in, I made the bed at one point, chatted with Amberly online, ate lunch, and finally finished grading the papers. It was pretty much an all-day process. I finished with them around 3:30-4:00 and broke out the mop & bucket. I finished mopping just as Josh got home for the evening so we caught up on each other's days and decided to order some Chinese take-out (a favorite of ours). Josh is out getting it right now :o)

I was really proud of my productivity today. It felt great even though I was working all day. I feel like I'll be able to spend the rest of my break relaxing. Even if I hadn't done that stuff later in the week I would have been thinking about it because it needed to be done. I'd still like to clean the bathrooms, but at this point I'm saving that for another day. The rest of my break is shaping up nicely as well. We of course have Easter weekend upon us. We're spending tomorrow with Josh's family in PA, and then trying out a new church on Sunday. We haven't really attended a church since the issue we had with the pastor at my mom's church over the wedding. I knew I wanted to try out some other churches so we could find one we could attend regularly and my mom actually recommended this one. She listens to Christian radio and heard the pastor preaching on there. She enjoyed listening to him and found out that his church is right here in Columbia. She told me about it and I looked it up, so we're going to visit there Sunday. After church we're having Easter dinner at my mom's house. Monday I'm visiting my friend Amy who just had a baby about a month ago, and Friday night we have a dinner date with Mary Beth and Joe. Other than that my break is wide open... just how I like it!

I also want to take a second to share an answered prayer. I won't go into the details of it all, but for a while now my neice Lacy and my brother-in-law Chris (her step-dad) have had some difficulty getting along. Some times have been better than others, but just the other day they had somewhat of a falling out. Amberly told me what happened and while I've always worried about the two of them not getting along, this really upset me. With the situation being very much out of my control, I prayed - as I have in the past - that things would somehow change for these two, and my sister's family as a whole. I didn't get to talk to Amberly the next day but I spoke to her this morning and she shared with me that Chris had gone to our mom to talk about the problem that night. Amberly had to work the next day but when she got home Lacy told her that she "had a new life." She said that Chris held her and told her he loved her and apologized for what he had said. He explained that he didn't mean it and that he was just angry. I thought this was such a huge step for them, and completely unexpected. It showed such maturity on Chris's part and just meant the world to Lacy. I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to have a step-parent, especially when you feel like they don't like you. I couldn't be more grateful that Lacy would have a positive step-parent experience. It's amazing how a few small words can change lives. I know Lacy's life is changed, I hope Chris's is too.

Can I get an Amen? :o)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Million Signs of Spring!

All week long I look forward to sleeping in on the weekends. Last night we were out extra late because we had dinner with some friends in Reston, VA. So I figured, extra sleepy = extra sleep. This was not quite the case for me. This morning, early, I woke up starving with a massive headache. I had to go to the bathroom-- as always when I wake up in the wee hours.... wait, is that why they're called the wee hours?-- so I did, and I took a couple of excedrine hoping to knock out the headache. What I didn't realize is that it was about 6 a.m. (before the sun comes up, who can tell?). So my body was thinking it's about time to get up and going and I had just taken excedrine which contains about as much caffiene as a cup of coffee (I usually try not to take it before bed or anything). So despite all of my efforts to go back to sleep, I was wide awake. I dozed in and out for another hour or so and finally the sun was coming up. I figured, why bother at this point? I got up, showered and made some waffles. Now to some this sounds like an ordinary Saturday-- up around 7:30, shower, breakfast, etc. For me it was new and fun. I'm usually just rolling out of bed around 8:30 or 9, so to have showered, cooked and eaten breakfast by this point was amazing! I felt like it should have been noon and yet that was hours away. I sat down and did my homework, slowly, and still not yet noon! I adore sleeping in, but I have to admit that this was fun for a change. And I know you're making fun of me for being so excited about what Saturday is like for everyone else in the world, I just want you to know that I'm okay with that.

On top of this outstanding start to the day, the weather was incredible. Even early (like 8) it was mild enough to go out on the deck without a jacket and be comfortable. It looked so perfectly springy too -- a little mist in the air with the bright sun shining through. Ahhh, a taste of what's to come. Josh and I really maximized the beauty of this day and after peach waffles spent a little time watching Scrubs on the couch. We did some usual Saturday stuff (laundry, homework, phone calls to the parents) and then the inevitable happened, we just had to get out of the house for a while to enjoy the weather. We decided Cold Stone would be an excellent way to celebrate and headed over to Arundel Mills. It was so nice to be outside without shivering... and to get in the car and have it feel warm instead of cold! That is a true sign of spring. Oh how I love when the sun feels warm again. What? Oh right. Ice cream. My ice cream was chocolate with Reece's cups, and Josh had strawberry with cookie dough. Not wanting to miss out on a second of fresh air, we even ate it outside. After our ice cream we decided it might be a good idea to eat lunch. We took a quick walk through Wal Mart to look at toys (ah, my husband) and then went over to Costco for $1.50 hot dogs & sodas... so bad for you, and yet so good. I figured since we walked there from Wal Mart, we must have at least burned a little of it off and so it was acceptable.

We returned home after our beautiful afternoon date and promptly dug out the deck furniture from the basement. Josh is reading, I'm blogging, Sheppie is sleeping on a chair. We couldn't ask for a better afternoon. Tonight we're headed back out to celebrate our sister-in-law, Erin's birthday at Pub Dog here in Columbia. For those who have never been, it's a microbrewery that also makes gourmet pizza-- who can complain about that? They have a great deal where you can get two mugs for something like $4 so when you've got a table full of friends, it's fun to mix and match your mugs and try all the different beers. This will probably also coutn as our St. Patrick's day libation celebration, since every pub in the world will be celebrating St. Patrick's day this weekend. Oh what fun!

I'm hoping to spend some time tomorrow at my mom's visiting with the fam. And for right now, I'm going to sit back and enjoy some more of the weather!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

What I've been waiting to say is....

And this is still kind of risky, but I've got a solution to my work-related troubles. Or at least I hope it will prove to be a solution. Way back in October I received a call from a guy named Ernesto Diaz from the Human Resources department at Howard County Public Schools where I was a student teacher and also applied for a regular position upon graduation from Towson. Mr. Diaz had an open social studies position he was hoping I could fill. Unfortunately, I was already under contract with Montgomery County so there wasn't anything I could do. However, he asked that I contact him again in January to discuss possibilities for next school year. I've really wanted to work in Howard County ever since I student taught there, so this seemed like a fabulous opportunity. In January I called him back, scheduled an interview, sent in some paper work, and just last week he offered me an open contract. Actually, the day I found out about our team leaders stepping down was the day he offered me the contract. I haven't mentioned it to anyone at my current school yet, but I accepted the offer and signed my contract on Friday. The "open" contract means that they aren't sure what positions will become available therefore can not specify what subject or grade-level I'd be teaching, but they are confident enough in me that they are promising me employment nevertheless. It also means I am confident enough in them that I am accepting employment without knowing those specifics either. There is a multitude of reasons why I'm more comfortable in Howard county than Montgomery, and I won't bore you with all of that. But I will say, I'm feeling exponentially better now that there appears to be a ligth at the end of the tunnel.

Don't get me wrong, I've talked to enough teachers that I know every school and every school system has their problems. I'm not expecting that everything will be perfect at whatever new school I end up. I do know that many of the little things will be better or gone altogether. One good example is that right now my classroom is growing mold. I have a heating/AC unit in my room that leaks condensation onto the floor and the cracks between the floor tiles are now disgustingly molded. I have never been in a single school in Howard County even approaching that kind of disrepair. We also have lead in our water. Our building is just old and very ugly with many problems. And with all of the other things going on there, having a repulsive and (let's be honest) unhealthy environment makes all the rest that much less tolerable.

Let me stop before I get on another rant, here. I've decided that in the mean time, and for the future as well, I'm finding at least one thing to get excited about every day. I tried that out last week and I really liked it. It made the week much more pleasant. I'm hoping this will keep me from wishing all my time away like I have been and really forcing me to live in the moment and "smell the roses" so to speak. I don't want to miss out on the great things happening in my life each day. So now I'll have long term things to look forward to as well as something to look forward to each and every day. You should try it too, just for fun. Some things I was excited for last week were- shopping on Thursday (Josh gave me a gift card to the mall for Christmas so I spent about half of that and got some fun new clothes, which I would otherwise never buy for myself), a birthday celebration downtown last night at one of our favorite places, Howl at the Moon, and of course, sleeping in on Saturday! Today was very lazy and wonderful. We had pancakes for breakfast, watched our last season of The Office, and did some little chores around the house. We ran a few short errands, and now we're getting ready to go to a friend's house for the evening to play video games. I'll be packing a magazine and my laptop :o) Tomorrow we have sleeping in, and another birthday celebration!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What's next?

So here's the latest on work... today we're in the middle of celebraing a birthday (the 6th grade teachers) and our two team leaders tell us that they are stepping down from their team leader positions for next year. Of course everyone was suprised, but none could blame them. The job is horrendous. So as we stand around and discuss this the conversation turns to who will be team leader next year. Each of us looks at one another and realizes, no one wants to step up. Then a co-worker points out, do any of us plan to leave? The truth hits us, if none of us want to be team leaders, and none of us is leaving, the administration will involuntarily transfer (to some other school, who-knows-where in the county) the least senior member of each team and bring in someone willing. On my team, that's me.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Forgive my rant...

Well, it's been one long week since my last post. And I hate to say this- but I'm counting down to the end of the school year. There's no worse realization than to notice that you're wishing your life away. I became painfully aware of this as our wedding was approaching. Of course, my relationship with Josh gave me a lot of new meaning and love for my life. That made me want to cherish every day and every minute in hopes that life would feel forever long. I really wanted the wedding to hurry and get here, but I didn't want it all to be over. I promised myself I would thoroughly enjoy the engagement, and I did. It was the other elephant in my life that made me count down every single day. I have multiple calendars and lists of dates with each day giddily crossed off. What could make me so happy for my beautiful life to be passing by? Work.

Now I'm sure most teachers count down to the end of the school year. We all know the feeling of looking forward to summer break, even winter and spring break. But I go into work every day just wanting the day to be over. If I never saw any of my students another day in my life, I would be happier. If my building were to explode and I never walked through it again, I'd be happier. I could even stand to be "let go," Apprentice-style where you go straight home without saying goodbye to anyone. And that's the part that makes me really sad. I dislike my job so much that I'd be willing to walk away from people I actually care about without ever saying goodbye.

I don't doubt for a second that I was cut out for teaching. I know I was. But I wasn't cut out for the children in my school or the administration who is afraid of them. I think on some level we're all afraid of them. I'm afraid of when they reach voting age. I'm afriad of when Josh or someone else we know is their boss at work and they treat the boss with the same disrespect they treat me and the other adults in their lives. I'm also afraid for them. I just don't know how they're going to get by in life having the attitudes they've been raised with.

The school system, administrators, counselors and teachers are perpetually trying to figure out how to help the kids who continuously fall behind despite having potential. The bottom line is that something has to come from within them if they're going to succeed. Just like you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped, or change someone who doesn't want to change, you can't teach someone who doesn't want to learn. And the hardest part of teaching is trying to instill the desire to learn and succeed. I teach a culture of students who believe that they do no wrong. They draw no line between adult and dirt. They speak to teachers and peers alike with attitude, disregard, and disrespect. They are not responsible for their actions, grades, or words. One day they all believe they'll have a job that pays them infinite amounts of money for the same amount of effort they're putting into their education now - none. They are all better than everyone around them, and those people should know it.

I started teaching because I wanted to make a difference in children's lives. I wanted to help kids learn and grow up to be productive contributors to society. But it's incredibly disheartening, discouraging and disgusting when for 7 hours a day, every day your hard work and tireless efforts are thrown in your face by the very people you're trying help. It's frustrating enough that they're totally engrossed in conversation while I'm teaching or while they're supposed to be working on an activity. But the frustration is ten fold when I interrupt them to encourage their participation in the lesson and they respond to me like I'm beneath them. A good example is when a student entered my classroom yelling the F word. I calmly (because this isn't unusual in my school) said, "you need to watch your language." The student snapped back almost before I ended my sentence, "I ain't watching my language!" As in, don't tell me what to do lady, I'll do what I want and I dare you to stop me. This is sixth grade, 11-year old children. I've had others tell me that they run the school. Who would spend 30 years of their precious life putting up with such abuse? Despite my efforts, they might not ever achieve their dreams, but they're ruining mine at the same time.

Right now I am working on my master's to become a school counselor, Lord knows these children need some serious counseling. But even with that, is there anything that can undo 12 years of improper child rearing? I hate to make this comparison, but like criminals when sent back into their former environments, these kids go home to the same bad habits and lack of guidance that has turned them into who they are. I don't know if any teacher or counselor can counteract that.