Tuesday, January 2, 2018

OLW 2018 Steps

Voice was my choice for 2017, and I think it will continue to be a part of my journey for a while. I want to continue to cultivate my voice and to speak out for what I believe is right. However, I wanted to choose a new word for this new year.

 I usually meditate and try to let a word find me. If one doesn't arrive organically, I read through the list Alli Edwards puts on her web site. (She is the one who started OLW for me afterall.)

This year will have many life changes.
*Our youngest is graduating from High School in June.
*He is trying to decide between 3 colleges, but will be going to school in the fall.
*Our oldest has decided he doesn't want to be an engineer. So, he is taking a break from school this semester as he decides what he wants to be and where he wants to go to school. Unfortunately, the school he was at was for engineering, so he has to switch schools as well.
*June will mark 7 years that my husband and their father has lived 2 hours away. He comes home on weekends and has never missed a birthday or concert or special ceremony, but he has lived away from us. Once the youngest is done with school there will no longer be a need for that to be necessary. We will be selling this house and moving to where he is.
*Since we are moving, I will no longer be working at the school I have been at since our youngest started kindergarten. Leaving this job and finding a new one will be challenging, especially since don't think I can continue in education. I just can't condone how education works any more.
*28 years of marriage this year
*I turn 50 in the fall

What word would take all of this into account?

Embrace.... I am not in the frame of mind to embrace each of these major life changes
Accept...I do but I don't want to focus on the change with a word like accept

So those words and their ilk wouldn't work.

I thought of Brave and Bold and they may make a side appearance, but I'm not brave enough or bold enough to face all of this so confidently. So proactive hero type words are out.

Faith based words felt too passive.

I am a planner. I know where I am and I know where I want to be. I can see the other side of all this change. I can.
And I am good at knowing the steps it takes to achieve a plan.
But knowing and being patient enough to step on each step of the path are two different things.

Steps. Steps help to focus on the now and the next. I get bored with "next" and often end up miserable because "then" isn't next.

Plus the obvious -- I need to lose weight, so steps will get me there both literally and figuratively.

Lastly, the camp that helped form and change the trajectory of my life as well as that of my husband and is now working on doing the same for both our boys, has a song called One Step at a Time. The chorus goes:             I'm climbing my mountain
         Step by step
         I'm climbing my mountain
         Day by day
         I'm climbing my mountain
         All the way
         I'm climbing my mountain
         I'm gonna make it....
         One step at a time
         One step at a time
         One step at a time
         With Jesus by my side
         I'm climbing my mountain
         One step at a time.

So in 2018 my focus will be Steps.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

There's a Program For That

When I was young, I wanted to work with kids, and that meant being a teacher ...or so I thought.

I changed my mind before it was too late, and I'm glad. My instincts were correct for me. Being a camp counselor and later a Child Care and Camp Director, was for me because it is instinctive. Teaching used to be an art, but now it is a program.

Need practice on Math, Reading, and Science? We have Moby Max.
Need practice on Reading? We have A to Z Reading.
How are they doing in Math and Language? We have MClass and Acuity.
Improving in reading? Check with Benchmarking Kits.
Practice for ISTEP? NWEA.
Want to be more creative and still focus on standards? Have a Maker Space room.
Technology is the future of everything, so give even the youngest child an IPAD instead of crayons.

And then there's behavior.

Rather than ask, "When did we lose control?" it seems we should ask, "When did we have control?"

When we took away the Art of teaching and opted for scripts, we lost the natural connections that were made. So, now there is a program for that.

Actually we have had several just in the twelve years I have been in the educational system. Our latest is Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports-- or PBIS.
Catch 'em being good and ignore bad behavior.

We need a program for this?

I have problems with all of the "Behavior Management" programs. We who work with children shouldn't need a scripted program to guide us in working with children. A scripted program is only good until the next program comes along. And we all know that is about as long as it takes an administrator to go to a new conference and come back with free introductory offers.

Our latest ...mandate? ... is kids who get in trouble more often will be assigned an adult to check in with them every morning and every afternoon, to hear the child's goals and then to see if they met them. Apparently, our PBIS team heard children do better if they know an adult cares about them. So, to show these chosen kids we care, they will bring a piece of paper with goals written on them, and the assigned adult will sign the paper each day. Because... you know... data tracking.

I want to climb on the highest roof top and scream, "You seriously need a program to tell you kids do better if they know you care?!!!!"

Are teachers are so bogged down with every other "program in an app", that they no longer have the God given ability to know a child needs a couple extra minutes of their time, nor do they feel they have the time to devote to touch base? Really?

And why do we not even mention the elephant in the room?  How many administrators does it take to ensure and maintain data points? Could some of that money be spent on more counselor time in every building?

Education majors need training in relating with children. Educators need training in working with kids in crisis. But we are not counselors. We need to be part of the care team and we need to stop hiding behind "privacy rights" and "right to know". I'm sorry, but if a child is acting out because a parent is in jail, or a family member is sick, we need to know. Children often don't have words for what they are dealing with, and giving them a sticker or a dojo point because they hold it together for a morning doesn't help them deal with the emotion. And if they aren't dealing with the emotion, we are all --kids, peers, and adults, paying the price.

The solution isn't a new program or data point-- tracked but forgotten. The solution is common sense, and the bravery to do what is not easy, but instead what is right.

Unfortunately, I don't think there is a Common Sense booth at any conference attended by any administrator.

And even if there was, I'm not sure any administrator would stop to talk to the vendor.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Jacob's Tragedy

There is a census called the mortality census. In 1859, 1869, and 1879, they have a census for those who died in the year proceeding the regular census -- I assume because they survived the majority of the decade. My Great-Grandfather, William Klein, died in September of 1879.  While I was looking for him in the mortality census I came across the records of 5 children with the last name Felton. I was in the early stages of research so I made a note of them and the cause of death... diptheria in all cases.

As I got more into research I realized all five were related to the Jacob that I believe is a great-great uncle.

Of course I then had to look up what diphtheria is. We now vaccinate in infancy, but in 1879 there was no cure.  Diphtheria is a virus that creates a thick mucus layer on the lungs. Victims essentially end up suffocating. Tracheotomies were later performed that allowed patients to breathe until the virus worked it's course. But again, these were not yet performed.

At the time, Jacob and Sophia had 8 children. Between the 16th of November and the 20th of December, they lost 5 children each of which suffocated to death most after knowing their sibling had died from the same symptoms.

Carl Fredrick was born 27 February 1863 and died 20 Dec. 1879 age 16
Wilhelmina was born 29 July 1866 and died 7 Dec. 1879 age 13
William was born 18 Jan. 1868 and died 16 Nov 1879 age 11
Anna was born 17 Feb. 1870 and died 27 Nov 1879 age 9
George was born 18 Oct 1875 and died 25 Nov. 1879 age 4

The thought of watching any of my children harmed breaks my heart. I don't know how one would find the strength to go on after watching 5 children suffocate to death.

But both Jacob and Sophia did. As did the 3 boys they had left. Fred was 14, John was 8, and Frank was 1.

It said in his obituary, Jacob found God several years earlier. I can only imagine the faith you must have to survive that kind of tragedy.

Jacob and Sophia and the 5 children they lost are all buried in Patton Cemetary in La Porte. The flag is there to commemorate the fact that Jacob also served a time in the Union Army during the Civil War.

"Fair is where you get cotton candy."

I just watched a segment that was on Fox and Friends. There is a teacher in Oklahoma who stood on a corner with a sign requesting money for school supplies. Pan handling. Her point was to bring awareness to the lack of funding in Oklahoma specifically and education in general. 

She has been teaching elementary for 21 years
She has a Masters degree
She makes $35K a year

I divided the $35 K by 52 weeks. That came to $673 a week
Divided by 40 hours comes to about $16 dollars an hour

And a McDonalds worker without a high school degree should make $15?

If you multiply the number of days contracted (about 183) by 8 for a "normal" work day you get 1464 hours. Divide 35K by that and you get roughly $24 an hour... roughly what a substitute makes... and they only need an associates degree in something. AND they don't have to prepare lessons or grade or anything only follow what was left for them.

So why go to college? Why have ambition? What is the point in being college and career ready if your career can be making fries? 

What was that? That "living wage" of $15 an hour only provides the bare necessities of life? No luxuries? But you qualify for subsidies. And how is it OK that a teacher who has been teaching for 22 years with a MASTERS DEGREE is in the same boat as a Burger Flipper at McDonalds?

Give me a flip-floppin' break!

What is y'all's solution to making THAT "fair"?

Angry emoticons all over the place.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

30 years

Dear Mr. Vernon,

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy for making us write this essay telling you who we think we are, what do you care? You see us as you want to see us… in the simplest terms and most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Correct?  That’s the way we saw each other at seven o’clock this morning. We were brainwashed.

You may recognize this quote from the "Breakfast Club". I graduated High School in 1987, so John Hughes movies are the soundtrack and videography of my life. But...

I didn't actually belong to any of the assigned groups. I knew people in all of the groups. I was friendly to people in all the groups. But my group became the friends of my then boyfriend and now husband. We find our tribes, I guess.

As I said, I (we) graduated in 1987, which, if you are counting, makes this the year of our 30th anniversary. About a month ago I got a notification from a member of the committee planning the reunion asking me to join the reunion group on Facebook. 

I did.

But we didn't go to the reunion. Hubby has no interest in attending. We kind of feel we are still friends with the people we hung out with then, so why do we need to attend?

I knew we weren't going, but I followed the updates. I clicked on people I knew and was curious about just to see their fb page. Curiosity you know...

There were people I went to kindergarten with. There were people from youth group at church. There were people from English class. There were the popular kids. There were the athletes, and the brains, and those who may have gotten into... let's say interesting situations. Many were talking about going or mentioning something from the past. 

And once again I felt that anxiety of wanting to be a part of "the" group. The difference was this time I was choosing to not be. 

I have social anxiety anyway, so going would have been excruciating, but seeing pictures and hearing how much fun those that went had, makes me feel like I missed out. 

Looking at the pictures I find myself zooming in on name tags or being happy when people are "tagged". They look familiar but once I see a name I think, "Duh! They haven't changed." 

Of course they have. Many have extra weight. Some have less hair. All have a few more wrinkles. But the eyes are the same. The smiles are the same. I see the 18 year olds in them that I see in myself when I look in the mirror. Bon Jovi has a song in which he sings, "Not old...Just older..".  That's us. 

We may have classified each other as jocks, or dweebs, or druggies 30 years ago, but now we are ...
husbands, wives, lovers, mothers, fathers, or care givers. We are all strugglers and survivors

Hopefully I can convince our old tribe to go next time. 

After all we are all the La Porte Slicers Class of 1987.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Found Truth

I vividly remember being 6 years old and being on the back porch with my 5'4 mom while she switched the laundry from the washer to the dryer. I remember my 6'4 brother saying something smart alecky to my mom. And I remember my mom telling him, "You're not too big for my to turn over my knee and spank your butt."

That left a huge impression on me. I decided I would be "the good one."

My brother was the oldest.
My oldest sister was funny and happy.
Next sister was the gloomy one.
the Next sister died when she was 5 and became the one we didn't talk about.
Then me.
And last my younger sister who was -- then-- "the baby" and just annoying.

My role would be - to be "good".

And I have been.

The Love Languages talk about how we all have ways we prefer to be affirmed.

Physical Touch-- Camp made me more of a hugger and I tend to offer hugs if I think someone "needs" one, but (maybe it's so many years in K-2 where your body is fair game for poking and prodding) I do not seek to be touched.

Quality Time-- I am an introvert. Time isn't necessary, and in some cases, more stressful.

Gifts and Acts of Service make me feel like I need to reciprocate.

So that lead to Words of Affirmation. I'm the "good one". I do the right thing and I like people to recognize that.

But for the first time last week I realized that I not only want to be recognized for doing the right thing, I seek out doing things that will bring me that recognition.

I bend over backward to do things for others. At work, I never take off, because I don't want to let any one down. We get 2 personal days a year and 6 sick days. My sick "bank" has 63 days in it after 10 years. I volunteer to fill in for those who do take time off. I stay late. I work at home for free because I am an only an Instructional Assistant.

Friday I had a scheduled half day because I had to take my son to a doctor's appointment. There were 3 other assistants who were gone. I stayed through my usual lunch and recess duty because I didn't want to make things difficult-- even though I should have left before lunch duty.
I volunteered to stay through 1st grade to cover. Another assistant told me she could cover first grade. Knowing it would affect her ability to take her own lunch I resisted a bit.

Did I want to be recognized for being a martyr?

Yes. Yes I think I did.

How crazy is that?

I think I feel like I have to go big to be recognized. I think this is  mainly because "Thank you," is used so infrequently. And when it is used, it is a general, "Thank you for all you do." directed to a group of which I happen to  be a part.

That is not enough.

"Thank you for putting so much effort into planning your reading intervention. I know you spent your own money and time in doing that," would mean the world to me, because it would let me know I have been seen.

I realized last week just how invisible I have felt under past leadership. Our new principal is so much better. She gave me some of that affirmation last week before my "martyr Friday." I think that is what allowed me to finally see how desperate I had become.

Now what?

I still want to be the good one so I will still volunteer. However, I will also think before I put myself last.

The lesson to others would be to recognize that there is a difference between genuine, specific recognition and manipulation and those of us who appreciate recognition are keenly aware of the difference.

Monday, April 3, 2017

A day's work

When a group of volunteers come together, it's amazing what can be accomplished in a single day.