Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SCHOOL SUPPLIES -- A SCHOOL DAY REFLECTION

I am blessed beyond belief that I work for a district that has a Family Resource Center -- such a center gathers donations with which to purchase school supplies for those kiddos in need.  I am further ridiculously blessed with a generous SBDM Council that approves a crap load of cash for teachers to spend on academic needs.  I still spend a load out of my own pocket, but the abundance does not get overlooked by this girl.  I came from a district back in Michigan that didn't allow me to ask for school supplies, and I had to get every thing I wanted the kids to use on $175.  I think now they get $100.  

So, I wandered into Walmart this evening, and smack dab in the middle of school supply HELL, to spend some of the monies allotted me.  The number of stressed-out parents was staggering, and all of them had the same thing to say, "They want THIS brand and NOT that brand?!?  Do they know how much I'm going to spend on this [insert expletive here]?  And I have three kids!?!"

I typically get offended by such comments, because I am part of the group they are angry at. But this time, I stepped out of my teacher shoes and really listened. 

Dude!  Some of these teachers are ridiculous in their requests.  Only Crayola crayons?  Why?  Only Ticonderoga pencils?  

Listen.  I get it.  There are certain things that paying the extra money for quality, pays off in the end.  However, I'm thrilled when my kiddos bring in supplies.  Period.  I don't much care for what pencils they bring in as long as they have one or two.

I am relatively chill about the types of crayons and glue sticks and sticky notes every one brings in.  

I think it's because I was one of the kids that didn't have much at the start of school.  We were poor.  Not dirt poor, but I'm thinking probably grass poor.  We had just enough for a new school outfit or two, the necessary school shoes (God bless my parents if one of us had a growth spurt midyear and grew out of those shoes), and some school supplies.   

Now, my mother is the QUEEN OF CHEAP, the DUCHESS OF NECESSITY, and the GRAND DAME OF IMPROVISATION.  Procurement of school supplies was always interesting.  We already had crayons at home. Every other year or so, I remember getting a brand new box of crayons.  However, in the lean years, I was made to pick out the necessary colors from my Tupperware box of crayons and stick them in a baggie to take to school.  One particular year, I threw a grand mal hissy over the fact that all the kids would have brand new crayons fresh out of the box, complete with that wonderful sharpened crayon tip.  Oooooh, there's nothing better in this world than coloring with a brand new, freshly sharpened crayon.  My mother, being the DUCHESS OF NECESSITY and the GRAND DAME OF IMPROVISATION dug in the junk drawer and came up with a handheld pencil sharpener, proclaiming that now I had a special crayon sharpener.  I didn't buy it, but she was not buying the new crayons.  So, we were at an impasse.  I believe the conversation went something like this: "If you want sharpened crayons, you'll use this special crayon sharpener. Otherwise, you're coloring with dull crayons."  I took the sharpener.

Pencils were never a problem either.  Both my sister and I headed to school with a tote full of brand new pencils ... every single one of them advertising an insurance company that my parents sold at their insurance agency.  I never knew if I had number 2 pencils or not, but DOWAGIAC INSURANCE and WOLVERINE MUTUAL were always prominently displayed on them. 

No need to worry about erasers either.  There was always a motorcycle-shaped eraser or two sent with the baggies of crayons and insurance pencils.  

I remember when Trapper Keepers were all the rage.  I wanted that Puppy Dog one so badly I could taste it.  I bugged my mother to the point that she said if she bought it, I'd have to use it for multiple years.  I agreed, not realizing those dang-blasted Trapper Keepers were made for fashion and not for function.  No problem.  Dad just duct-taped that sucker up and was good to go for another few years.

Mom would look for clearance sales on notebook paper, folders, and spiral notebooks.  Those were stored in the antique chest in our family room.  Every year, she'd divvy those puppies out and send us on our way.  

So, you see.  I'm not so much concerned that they have a certain brand of anything.  I never did, and I sorta feel like I turned out okay ...  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I WANT TO BE .... (list of goals for this coming school year)


  1. I want to be the type of teacher that can laugh at a good booger or fart joke.
  2. I want to be the teacher than loves each individual kid for what they have to offer society, not what society thinks they should be offering.
  3. I want to be the teacher that is willing to question with my students.
  4. I want to be the teacher that celebrates the little things.
  5. I want to be the teacher that takes time for health and fitness.
  6. I want to be the teacher that has boundless energy.
  7. I want to be the teacher that hugs just because.
  8. I want to be the teacher that sees the potential.
  9. I want to be the teacher that instills a love for life as well as a love for learning.
  10. I want to be the teacher that recognizes each child is more than a number. 

SUMMER GOALS ... revisited

As you may recall, I had a few summer goals.  Someone just asked me about them earlier in the week, and I had to laugh, mainly because I had to refresh my mind as to what they were in the first place.  Never a good sign!


  1. READ 10 BOOKS ... okay, I am in the middle of reading my 5th one right now.  That's not bad.  Granted, it's not good either, but listen.  I tried. I know, that's a lame excuse. 
  2. WALK THREE MILES SIX DAYS A WEEK ... I walked three miles 5 days a week. I am counting it.  Yes, it is bending the rules, but I'm entitled.
  3. KEEP MY FLOWER BEDS WEEDED ... okay, I did GREAT on this in the beginning of the summer.  However, a quick assessment last night tells me I've slacked off.  At least there are still more flowers than weeds.  
  4. KEEP HOUSE TIDY ... I've succeeded the most on this one!  Other than my counter in my kitchen, the house, for the most part, is tidy.  Now, free of cat hair?  That's a different matter entirely!
  5. REDUCE MY GROCERY BILL ... this has also been somewhat of a success.  The key here is that I am slowly eating less and less.  This is a good thing, trust me!
  6. VISIT THE PUBLIC LIBRARY WEEKLY ... yeah.  I will refer to Goal #1 for an explanation here.
  7. WRITE EVERY DAY!!!  Okay, it wasn't every day, but it was dang blasted close!  I am further ahead now than I was this time last year.  Then end may very well be in sight.
Over all, not bad.  Not good.  But not bad.  I am giving myself a passing grade ... just barely passing, but a passing grade none the less. 

SELFLESS VS. SELFISH...IT'S A FINE LINE

It's that time of year again.  The time where teachers across America are hauling crap tons of supplies into their barren classrooms, and, with elbow grease, a frequent flyer card to a big box craft store, and a glue gun (and let's be honest here, a lot of hours spent on PINTEREST), they create glamour in the form of an inviting classroom out of nothing.  

They begin to think curriculum maps and unit plans and fun, creative ways of bringing children to a better understanding in Math and Reading and Writing and Science and Social Studies.  They are invigorated and rested and ready to tackle the world!

And once again, it's that time of year for the sappy, soul-sucking articles to hit Facebook making it plainly obvious what all teachers need to do ... sacrifice their own personal lives for those that they are teaching as well as all of their family members.

Melodramatic much?

All the time!  It's a character flaw.  However, before you get all offended and take up the teacher cross and beat me over the head with it, allow me to explain.

I love my job.  I love the families that I serve.  I love my kiddos.  I am beginning my 13th year in this business with the same fresh-faced enthusiasm I had 13 years ago.  Okay, that might be a slight stretch, but you all get what I mean, I hope.

The point is, I am just as excited and nervous and thrilled and full of anticipation as the kiddos are when those doors open on that first day of school. 

Recently, however, and I wish I could put my finger on when exactly the tide shifted, it has become accepted practice that teachers are teachers beyond the school day.  No, I am not just talking grading and lesson planning.  I am talking an expectation that we be tied to our emails ... that we make sure to friend each and every parent on our personal Facebook pages ... that we make sure to give each parent our cell phone numbers, sealing the deal on making ourselves available to them 24-7.  

I read an article the other day on Facebook that I've noticed numerous people share.  It infuriated me, and I refused to share it.  Why such a strong reaction?  Because it perpetuated the notion that teachers, in order to be considered a fantastic teacher in the eyes of parents, must go so far above and beyond for individual kids, that their own personal lives are sacrificed.  My reaction was so strong that I checked myself with two friends that I feel understand where I am coming from in reading this article.  Surprisingly, they agreed with me.  Both said they had the same reaction to the article. 

The societal push is large and strong, and a lot of my colleagues have unwittingly or unknowingly jumped on the band wagon making it extremely difficult for those of us that have finally had enough.  You see, we are expected to help solve parenting problems and be available for homework help and generally have an open ear to any and all gripes that seem reasonable at 10:30 at nigh -- or later.  

What!?!  Someone has the audacity to contact me at 10:30 p.m.?  Yes.  They do.  I have had it happen numerous times. Early on in my career, I once had a parent call me at 10:45 p.m. to discuss with me the fact that she didn't like homework.  In general.  The stuff I gave her kid.  The entire theory behind it.  Everything.  She took the time, she told me, to call all the people in the phone book with my last name to find me and discuss this with me at 10:45 p.m.

That's why my phone number is unlisted.

I have had numerous requests for meetings ... at 10:30 p.m.   I am not sure if the individuals that were requesting the meetings thought it imperative to have that meeting right then? Or if it was just necessary to bug me with it at 10:30 p.m. Either way, I was awakened during those times to text messages requesting meetings. 

I have been texted at 11:00 p.m. to inform me their child was sick and wouldn't be at school the following day.  Don't get me wrong.  I appreciate the thought behind wanting me to know.  However, 11:00 p.m. perhaps wasn't the best time. 

Thus the reason I am no longer handing out my cell phone number. 

I have had numerous requests for meetings during my vacations.  Let me ask you something. When you are on vacation?  Do you take meetings?  

Thus the reason I set very specific boundaries as to when and where I will be available during my vacation times.

I can imagine, at about this point in my blog, many of you are angered by my words.  There was a time in my life that I would be concerned by that anger.  At this particular point in my life, I no longer care.

There are studies out there that purport that teachers have a higher than average rate of physical illnesses (beyond the normal flu-like stuff we all get during the school year).  There are just as many studies that refute those claims.  I will tell you from personal experience, the number of my colleagues on blood pressure meds, migraine meds, anti-anxiety meds, statins, and a whole host of other meds is, quite frankly, staggering.  And it's more than just a large group of society that all have poor genes AND get into teaching.  Something is amiss, and I've had to deal with it personally rather recently.

When your own father sits you down and tells you that if something doesn't change, and soon, this job will eventually kill you, it's time to listen. When your doctor warns you about the ill-effects of allowing your job to rule your life, you listen.  When that same doctor kindly and gently encourages some rather strict boundaries, you again listen.  Or at least you should ...  I did.

I have had some wonderful, wonderful families who have allowed me to share their children's lives.  They have been supportive and loving and just downright amazing.  It's for those families that I continue doing this job.  However, I am doing this job with some pretty strict boundaries this year, and I recognize that they will, more than likely, not win me TEACHER OF THE YEAR.  I am okay with that.  I have to be.  

For some, this decision will be considered selfish.  I will live with their assessment.  I will also live with the knowledge that I am doing something for me, that makes me a healthier person, a kinder person, a person that hopefully my kids will be comfortable being around, and a person that will make my family proud.  In my eyes, that seems more selfless than selfish.