Saturday, January 31, 2009

Will the WHOLE WORLD Just be QUIET!?!

My family has transitioned back to our busy time. Justin is back in his credential program, so he doesn't get home until 8 or 9 nine every night. My graduate courses are intensifying. And we have a birthday coming up every weekend in February.

I'm already exhausted and I haven't done anything yet.

Feeling rather raw around the edges the other day, I started to think about the causes of my energy drain. I think I figured it out:

I always have to know all the answers.

Now, I know many parents feel this way, so I'm not trying to say I have it worse than others. I'm just happy that I have maybe figured out a problem in my day-to-day life.

So, here, in question format, is a description of my Wednesday:

Morning: I wake up with cats meowing for food. Then, Justin starts in--"Where's my belt?" "Where's my black pants?" Then, Emerson--"I want breakfast. Where's breakfast?" "Where's my puppy?" "I don't want to wear THAT jacket. Where's my Dora jacket?"

Drive to Work: We had the NPR fund drive this week. Not to sound evil, but it really gets grating. "Why can't you donate?" "Don't you enjoy all we do?" Yes, I do. I already donated. Then Em starts in--"Mommy, I want a song." "Not THAT song?" "Where's Daddy." I gave in and turned to music, but I ended up feeling frazzled.

The real fun begins--Morning Meetings: I met with my boss and she hit me with "What are you doing to include all members of your team?" "Why do you use whiteboards THAT way? Why not use them this way?" "Why does English 10 not have a grammar unit and assessment yet?" Then, I had a meeting with other teachers: "Why do we have to teach poetry?" "What's the point of teaching rhyme?" "What are we going to do next?"

And then my "real" job starts"--I cannot possibly list all of the questions 180 teenagers can level at a person, but here are the highlights. "What are we doing?" "Why are we writing?" "Do you have a pencil?" "Do we have to do this?" "When do we get out of here?" "Can you help me?" The important thing to point out is that all these questions are happening simultaneously.

Evening: Then I have class with my superintendent who asks things like "Where do you see educational technology going in the next 20 years?" "What is the biggest problem facing teachers now?" "How are you going to close the achievement gap?"

Thank God that I got home in time to watch Lost. While it has it's own questions, I'm not actually responsible for answering any of them, which is a rare and beautiful thing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Our Girls in Crisis

I had thought about something else to write about today, but a more pressing matter came up.

For 6 years, I taught middle school, and then I moved to high school. I've made a pretty smooth transition, but there are a few things I struggle with.

One is teenage pregnancy.

Last year, a student of mine got pregnant by a boy in my class. Unknown to me, he told everyone the child wasn't his until the last minute. When she had the child, he demanded that his son be named after him. My girl had the good sense to tell him no and named her son a name of her own choosing. Recently, I just found out the father is incarcerated. He's 17.

This school year has been particularly difficult in terms of teen pregnancy. Two young Hmong girls, both married, are due this month. Both live with their in-laws, both seem very scared.

Two girls came to me this Fall, freaked out and pregnant. Both decided to have abortions. This was a good choice in my opinion, but incredibly hard on the girls. One girl was hospitalized for complications. I had to call in CPS for the other because her boyfriend was threatening her if she didn't get one.

And today another girl confessed the news to me. I feel another CPS call in my future. It seems that the father is also threatening her, this time to take the child from her if she has it. I'm pretty sure he is an adult man.

I am very upset that these girls are pregnant. I cannot imagine how difficult their lives are. One small choice can radically shift a person's life. It is so terrifying.

What upsets me more, however, is how these experiences reveal how badly these young girls are treated by the men in their lives. Now, I know these men, most children themselves, are scared, but these girls do not know how to stand up for themselves.

Here are some of the things I've heard from my girls:
"He told me he loved me and he wanted a baby. Now he wants an abortion."

"He said if I had the baby, I'd be an unfit mother, but he goes to work high."

"He told our class I was with other men."

"He told me to get an abortion or else."

Yes, I've only heard the girls' perspective, but it's still very alarming. The girls, for the most part, seem very surprised when I'm outraged by these comments. They are very nonchalant. Also, these girls represent every racial group at my school. It appears to be a wide-spread problem.

Why do our girls have such a low opinion of themselves? What can we do to help? I hate knowing that so many of my students are so desperate for love and attention, but don't know how to spot a user, loser, or manipulator.

I am just so sad about this.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I became a teacher at age 22 in September, 2001. I had very little idea what I was getting into. Two weeks into my career, that feeling was driven completely home.

On September 11th, 2001 I had to look 150 students in the face and try to answer their questions as best I could. I could barely answer my own questions, but still they looked up to me for answers. I muddled through the best I could, hoping that through my influence, my students would not let their fear and anger turn into a permanent bitterness.

I started to think that the only national experiences I would have with my students would be overwhelmingly sad and negative in nature.

Today, that changed.

I made a point to show my students the inauguration this morning. I not only did this because of the historic nature of this event, but I did this because I am very aware that for these young people there has been so much sadness and loss. The particular children I teach were around 9 years old during 9-11. Much of their adolescence has been spent while our nation is at war, and now we face dark economic times.

Today served as a bright spot for my students and I. We all began on a new journey with our new president today. I am so glad that I have the job that I do. I actually turned to them at one point and said, when President Obama referred to the future, "He's talking about YOU." It didn't sound corny or preachy at all. They got it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How to Stay Connected

I'm an extrovert by nature. I need human contact on a regular basis, or I start to feel out of sorts. More importantly, I thrive on quality human contact and conversation. While I do like quiet time, especially during the winter, it's really important that I engage in healthy, interesting human interactions.

My husband and I are able to talk about almost everything and he is a main source of conversation for me. However, he is much quieter than I am.

In short, I drive him crazy.

When I used to teach summer school in San Jose, I'd get out of school around 12. I'd be all by myself until 5 or 6, when Justin would get home. I was like a big puppy, all excited to see him and chat. He was not as interested. This was a problem.

Eventually, I made really good friends with two women at my school. They were great for a chat online, by phone, or over coffee. I was happy. Justin felt relieved.

Last year, however, we decided to move here to Elk Grove, and leave our lives (and friends) in San Jose. After a couple months of Justin and I really only having each other to talk to, I started to look (I'll admit--a little desperately) for friends. I didn't really find anyone at work who I clicked with, so I turned to the Internet. Luckily, I found several great women to hang out with. Some had little kids, some didn't. I have a great group of diverse, interesting friends now in our new area.

When Justin and I started going back to school, we knew it was going to be hard. But I didn't realize how difficult it was going to be in terms of social interaction. Our crazy schedules have us really cut off from family and friends, especially our family that still lives in the Bay Area. We just don't get to see them very often. I especially miss my sister. I used to be able to call her every other day, but we just don't have the time now. I felt really cut off.

I have returned to the Internet for a solution. While I would still like to see my sister more, tools like email and Facebook and blogs have allowed me to stay in contact. My sister and I chat online, send each other messages; it's great. I don't feel so isolated.

Life changes rapidly. Our hectic lives may force us to sacrifice that which makes us happiest. However, an alternative is usually just around the corner. While I don't want to only have an online relationship with my close friends and family, it will do for now.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Kryptonite: PAIN

I have a problem with pain. I hate, hate, hate being in pain. When I'm in pain (this is physical pain, I'm talking about) I cannot think (or really talk) about anything else.

And what I say is not nice.

It's like the filter that typically separates my true thoughts and the kind euphemisms I normally say dissolves. And there I am in all my tactless, pain-filled wonder. It's like I need everyone else to experience my unhappiness.

I do not like this aspect of my personality.

But seriously, I hate pain.

Take the last 24 hours. I got cavities filled last week and I don't my bite was done correctly. I must have been hitting a nerve because every time I chewed, a stabbing pain shot from my mouth straight to my ear. Last night I couldn't sleep. Had to lay on the couch with an ice pack and count the minutes before the Advil kicked in.

Today at work was low key. I graded while the kids took finals, and I was out by 12:30. But I was not my usual self.

Here's how I know I've changed and grown as a person: I actually did something about my pain. I didn't whine and complain. I made an appointment and got my dentist to shave down my fillings. I already feel better.

This is new behavior for me. I used to be in pain, but procrastinate doing anything about it. Drove my husband nuts.

I've noticed since I had a kid that I don't tend to do that anymore. I seem to value my time more.

Or, I have just started to drive myself crazy too with all my complaining. :)

Friday, January 9, 2009

From 60 to ZERO in four days

I started this week on FIRE! I started teaching again on Monday and I was all focus. That soon ended.

Last weekend, I prepared myself for both teaching and returning to my master's program. I graded 120 essays. Bought healthy, protein and whole-grain filled food for the week. I even ironed all my work clothes for the week. (I do not iron in the just won't happen, no matter how much I plan.)

Monday and Tuesday were great. The kids were sleepy and I completely overwhelmed them. Gotta love that. Em transitioned well from break to daycare. And Justin hasn't started school yet, so our dinners this week did not begin in a frozen state or originate in a bag.

Then Wednesday I started my new graduate course. It's taught by the superintendent, who seems super knowledgeable and interesting, but it's going to be INTENSE. It cracked me up how everyone was on their best behavior. So no one complained when he kept us there the whole four hours on the first day.

I never recovered.

Yesterday I had to leave work as soon as possible because I had an awful headache. I laid curled in the fetal position waiting for Justin to get home as Em watched Dora. The rest of the evening I shuffled around aimlessly in my slippers and bathrobe (hot), in a constant state of irritation and weariness.

Today wasn't much better. I felt okay, but I was pooped all day.

I'm just not sure how I went from feeling totally energized to completely wiped out so fast. I ate well, exercised, and tried to take time for myself. To no avail, it seems.

Stick a fork in me. I'm done.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Gift I've Waited All Year For

Well, not all year. But I have waited since August to give myself this particular Christmas gift--TIME. That was my gift to myself this holiday vacation, and it's been wonderful.

As a teacher, I get two weeks off right around Christmas. I am very grateful for this time, as I know many people do not enjoy such a luxurious holiday vacation. (Seriously, vacation time was a big consideration of mine when I became a teacher. May sound silly, but my other option was to be a technical writer--hello, no vacation until I worked my way out of the trenches. No thanks.)

This year it was my husband's family's turn for Christmas, so we headed to Redding last week. After a nice, long visit, we came home this past Sunday. And there we have stayed. There were no day trips, visits to the Bay Area, or anything else of that nature. And it was lovely.

Here were some of the highlights, things I was able to "accomplish", things I never would have been able to do if I was running all over Kingdom Come:

* Wore my pajamas at least until 10 am every day (yesterday I wore them until 3 pm)
* Drank beer and scrap booked with a friend in the afternoon, on a Tuesday
* Played with every toy my daughter got for Christmas (with her, of course)
* Stayed up late reading, playing video games, and watching action movies
* Exercised three hours this week (on target to reach my goal of five hours this week)
* Had actual conversations with my husband (What?! It is a Christmas miracle)

This weekend my vacation comes to a close. I have papers to grade, and a whirl-wind of a work week to look forward to. So far, I have a dentist appointment for Em and one for myself, class on Wednesday night and all day Saturday, and a 130 essays to grade next week.

But I had a wonderful vacation. And I will hold the memories of it close to my heart, no matter how distant they may feel in the next couple months. :)