Monday, May 27, 2013

End of the School Year (Take 2): B.A.N.A.N.A.S.!

School ended last week, so I really should have sat down and wrote about the end of the year, then. However, as life goes, after the last time I saw my co-workers (which was the day after the last day of school for the End-of-the-Year Lunch), teaching went out of sight and out of mind. And rightfully so. This past school year has worn me the hell the out. I was tired, and I'm still not fully recovered after a week off. 

Yet, here I am! I can't completely rest since I'm volunteering to teach summer school, I'm taking classes, I'm working on new material for next school year, I'm presenting at a conference, and I'm formulating my next 5-year plan. The cherry on top? I'm still working on my fitness, but that's not new. That's just me continuing with the good work that got started this school year! 

Before I'm go on with my summer efforts, let me recap this school year:
  • The kids did well on the CRCT, which rather shocked me, considering how B.A.N.A.N.A.S. this school year was for them. Shows that kids are more resilient and hardier than adults tend to think they are. Did I wish, as a personal goal, to have more kids perform better? Sure, but all things considered, I'll take it!
  • Again, this school year, on the whole, was nowhere near as awesome as last year. A weak "decent" maybe the best thing I can say about it. I wished I did better, as a teacher and as a grade level chair. I wish I had held other more accountable, and I hold myself accountable for not doing so. However, I will say that this school year has set the stage for great personal and professional growth. Much reflection over what went wrong (which I won't go over) has given me much insight into what can be improved and how to improve it. Look out for more on this later!
  • Lost 20 pounds and still losing! That is all! (Had to share that one now!)
I think that the word that best describes this past school year; "BANANAS!" It was absolutely crazy, drove everyone crazy, and I ate a lot of bananas during it (ate one almost every morning!). I feel like if I got through this crazy school year, then I can take on the next one, provided that the crazy factor doesn't increase by that much. 

Also, I strongly feel that this year is setting the stage for the next several years. I'm plotting it and feel like I'll have the next moves set by the end of summer. 

With that in mind, Happy Memorial Day! Enjoy everything that summer has to offer: BIG MOVIES (already have seen a few, more on them in another post later!), barbecues, lazy time, less clothing (hey, the stuff is restrictive), more sandals, and cold foods!!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Ordinary Day Turned Extraordinary

I can't say that I have anything poignant to say on a Friday night on my blog, but I felt compelled to write, so here I am.

I suppose I should start by saying that I'm definitely out of the shit-spiral from last week.Yes, my hallway still not where I want it to be, and some of my co-workers are still stressing the hell out of me, but I'm coping with it. 

I expressed in my last post the need to have faith in my administrators in helping me to take care of the problems on my hallway. To avoid giving away too many details, I'll leave it at the following thought. There are few things more awesome than acknowledgement of your hard work and efforts and support of your actions towards the positive. 

In fact, there you go. I think that's why I felt compelled to write. I needed to share that my day, while very similar to an ordinary day, differed in that my faith in my administrators is actually paying off. Simply having confirmation that my administrators have my back turned my day from ordinary to extraordinary. As the next month unfolds, here's to more of those!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Follow-Up to Yesterday's Blog Post

I'm sure that scared some folks out there who read yesterday's post. My sanity was rightly questioned. Hell, I'm questioning it myself, even today. 
File:Justin Timberlake album.jpg
Streaming this on iTunes now...So far, it's worth the wait!

However, what a difference a good night of sleep + a few moments of empathy + one kick-ass step class later can do for one's mindset. The questions I raised at the end of the post still stand. I want to know how one can get things done for our kids while maintaining personally and professionally. I'm working on it, and I'm certainly in a better place than I was last year on all accounts. Yet, I can do better, and more importantly, I want to do better. But...I accept that this won't happened overnight, and I won't learn how to do it after one magically, non-imaginary conversation. Time it is, then!

Moving for the other major theme: FAILURE. I still think that this school year has sucked. However, as I was reminder from someone who can understand what it is to be a grade-level chair, we can't control everything. What matters is that we go hard on what we can control. I can control my classroom; I can control how I interact with the kids, and I can control how I respond to my team members who are and are not doing what they need. What they do beyond that...well, that's above my pay grade :) I can only trust that my administrative team is handling things from there. 

Long story short, I'm in a better place than I was yesterday. I have an idea or two on how I can salvage the year for myself and for the kids. Let's see what happens!

Intercranial Conversation With the Principal

I find myself unable to sleep, and I think it is because of the inter-cranial conversation that I'm having with my principal. Before I dump the very one-sided conversation here, background is needed. 

Testing season will soon be upon us, therefore preparation season is imminent. After several weeks of odd days off of school, interruptions of the school day, and just plain sluggishness from the kids (and probably the teachers too, if we're being completely honest), things are off. I can't put my finger on what it is and why it's off, but it's off. 

I looked at the calendar today and freaked the hell out. I realized that I basically have 7 days of instructions left, along with 3 weeks of review left before the CRCT. While what I have left to teach in that 7 days isn't really that much to teach, I'm finding it daunting. With that in mind, my inter-cranial conversation with the principal begins with a simple question from her:

[SCENE: THE PRINCIPAL and MS. INSANE board the elevator to the third floor. The door closes.]

THE PRINCIPAL: How are you today, Ms. Insane?


MS. INSANE: Sorry. I was just deciding between a white lie and the truth, but I think the truth would make me feel better. I'm worried. Not just about my class, but I'm worried about everything. From the kids, to the test results this year, to even my job security. I remember when you told me to remember that I can't control everything and that I need to let go. 

However, I can't completely do that, because if I do, things will fall apart. I've tried loosening the reins a bit, and still things are not great. It would be one thing if it were just my classroom I had to worry about, but it's not. I'm trying to think and spin this school year into something that is not a failure, but I'm struggling. I'm feeling as if we, as an entire hallway, have failed these kids. I feel that I, as a teacher and a grade-level chair, have failed the kids and everyone else. Who knows? You might look at the data from this school year and be absolutely appalled by what you see and hold me accountable, which would be your right. 

So, I'm not fine. I'm worried. I'm scared as hell about how this school year is going to down in the books for us. However, I do have a question for you. How do you do it? How do you not crack and lose it? I know, for me, it's hard, and I'm just worried about one grade out of five grades we have here. How do you not internalize every failure? How do you keep this not taking over your conversations at home? How do manage to not let this job take over your relationships? How do you do it? I'd like to be you when I grow up, and you seem pretty successful here at work. You also have a personal life. How do you do this and keep it together?



For obvious reasons, the elevator had to stop when I was done talking, because this is a conversation in my head, and if I had the answers to my question, I wouldn't be having this damn conversation in my head. Also, it was the end of my mind dump :)

...I actually feel somewhat better. At least enough to go to sleep. I'll put a more coherent explanation to this jazz later on. Until, let me add something to this post that DOES make me happy...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Every Damn Day...

A variation of this shirt was seen at a school-affiliated basketball game this afternoon. The opposing team's coach was wearing it, as a matter of fact. While I appreciate the Just no. Not at a school function. Though we had to admit, it would be great as a school motto.

"Every damn day...we teach."
(For students) "Every damn day...we learn."
"Hard Work. Every damn day."

T-Shirt creators, make this happen. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

How Long Can I Afford to Do This?

Provider of lunch and dinner...for several days in a row. 

Before anyone goes off on me and says that this is a "bitch and moan" piece, it's not; it's a response to a CNN article about why a teacher quit the profession. The short answer? She can't afford to do it anymore.

From the article:

"This is Linda DeRegnaucourt's last summer off. When school starts in August, it will be her last year to think about high school classes, advanced placement tests and calculus.

If all goes as planned, this will be her last year teaching at Palm Bay High School in Brevard County, Florida.

She doesn't want to go. After 13 years of teaching high-level math, she has a tested stable of learning methods that helped all her students pass the AP calculus exam. Her room is a popular place for students to escape the drama of the high school cafeteria. Few jobs can indulge her excitement for linear functions and matrix calculus.

"I hate to have to leave it," DeRegnaucourt said. "I really thought I was going to be that teacher, 65 years old and retiring from the education field. That's not going to happen."

She's quitting, she said, because she can't afford to stay.

Two years ago, a divorce left 47-year-old DeRegnaucourt with a single income. Rental properties she owned only caused more financial strain as Florida's real estate market fell apart in recent years. Despite her years of experience, she earns $38,000, she said, less than she made in the past, when teachers received larger supplements for additional certifications.

Once she made a budget, she realized she didn't make enough money to cover her expenses and save for her future. Changing careers felt like the only wise financial move, she said."

My response? Fair point, with a perfectly logically conclusion. I have asked myself if I can afford to do this long-term while looking at it from several angles. Financially. Physically. Emotionally. 

I'll go for as long as I can go. I already know and have already stated that I won't retire in a classroom. I won't be a 20+ year teacher, if I even come anywhere close to that number. I'm year 2, and I'm already antsy to get the know the educational landscape outside of the classroom better. 

Financially-speaking, money has never been my primary motivator, though I definitely respect the importance and need for it. Then again, without giving too much of myself away, I can say that my credit kicks ass; I pay off my credit card every month; I just bought a new Rav-4; and I can't say that don't live comfortably. 

That's right! I'm ridin' on 17s!!
That's not to say that I'm ballin' HARD. In fact, I just enjoyed a bowl of "Furl-Os", the name I gave to the non-Cheerio Cheerios I just ate (and just enjoyed the hell out of them) :)
Totally have eaten 3 out of 4 of these, and currently have one in my pantry now. HINT: Not the one on the far-right.

However, I recognize that teacher retention is a problem. It's not enough that the today's culture is not valuing the important of the role of the teacher in education as highly as years prior, thus leading a good number of teachers to leave to greener pastures. Now, the economic landscape is further kicking dirt in the eyes of good teachers willing to persevere. 

If my immediate goals were to settle down, buy a house, and have babies, hell no, I wouldn't teach! But that not my problem; I'm good with what I get and will get, but then again, I take care of just myself, and I have no plans on staying in the classroom long enough to where, financially, being an educator will be burdensome. (In other words, I'm nowhere close to the point where I'm buying a house and having babies.)

But to those who want to be teachers for a long time AND have the "American Dream", I understand their decision to leave, if they want. I just don't think it should have to be a choice between teaching and having enough money to sustain. Why not both?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

IDK What to Title This Thing: 2012 Edition

I re-read my year-ending post from 2011. (I would have written "last year", but it's 2013 now, so that wouldn't have worked.) It was reflective and for the most part, to the point, so I'll do that again. 
  • There's no question about my survival this year. I'm still here and kickin', which is a minor miracle considering all of the flux in both the positive and negative direction in both my professional and private life. Nevertheless, I'm healthier, psychologically and physically, than I was last year at this point. 
  • Graduate school...I've covered this topic extensively this year, so I won't fully rehash it today, besides saying that I'm thankful that it is done. Also, I recognize that my first experience with graduate school was atypical in that in the purpose was to get my teaching credentials ALONG with a master's degree, which I think watered down the rigor. As we speak, I'm in the process of applying to a M.Ed. program in Teacher Leadership. Hopefully, I will get in, and have more of an opportunity to explain what's going to happen in this program and what I hope to accomplish in it. It suffices to say that me and grad school ain't done. We just can't quit each other.
  •  My ending point/goal for 2013: Find balance between my work and my personal life. I want to give 100% to my work; I love what I do. I'm passionate about what I do and why I do it, so I want give my best towards my work. At the same time, I want to give my best towards myself. I want to be in the best physical shape that I have ever been this year. I want to explore interests that I haven't had time to in the past, like travelling, getting deeper into physical activities, and doing more multimedia projects. Yes, this is all about having the cake and eating it, too. But why the hell not if the cake is good?
  • In the past, I thought I was having my cake and eating it too. It wasn't until 2012 that I realize that I been having the cake but was only eating crumbs of it. Academically, I was/am a rock star. I have an extremely kick-ass work ethic and set of standards, which has made success a given for me; I work for it, dammit! It hasn't been until recently that I realized that this doesn't fulfill the non-teacher part of Ms. Insane. While my professional success is a big part of what make, it doesn't fill the entirety, for which I am now seeking fulfillment. 
Last, but not least, as my final part of the back for 2012, the recap of 2012:
  • January 2012: Beginning of second semester as an actual teacher at my beloved charter school
  • March/April 2012: The race to the Georgia CRCTs ( = Super-Stress & Super-Amount of Starbucks = Nasty Caffeine Addiction)
  • May 2012: CRCT Results back...The kids kicked ass!/Successful end of first year of actual teaching
  • August 2012: Graduated from graduate school/Received Master of Arts in Teaching!
  • August 2012: Beginning of second-year as an actual teachers/Promoted as Department Chair
  • October 2012: Promoted as Grade-Level Chair (I gave up the department as a result, by choice)
  • December 2012: End of second semester as an actual teacher at my beloved charter school
Again, much bitching takes place here on my blog, but I couldn't be more blessed. I asked for this, and have received some much more than what I asked. However, in totality, I'm doing well, and in the process of making sure I do even better in 2013!

To friends, loved ones, and strangers who read this, thank you for rocking with me, and reading this. I put myself out here to: a) get it out, as a cathartic process, and b) in the hopes that someone relates or gets some perspective of teaching, even though mine represents only a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of what happens. 

Again, thanks dear readers, and Happy New Year! Here's to 2013!