Celebrations

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Ruth Ayres invites us to share our celebrations from the week each Saturday.  Thank you, Ruth, for reminding me to celebrate. Share yours at Ruth Ayres Writes.

This week was a very hard, long week after the sudden passing of my grandpa.  However, there were many things to celebrate still.

1. Unexpected time with my family  

Because of my crazy work schedule and work habits, I often miss get togethers.  In addition, my parents divorce keeps me with my dad’s side of the family sometimes when my mom’s side is getting together.  Therefore, I don’t go to all of the gatherings and miss many opportunities to see my mom’s side of the family.  It was great to spend some time with them every day this week.  It’s a nice reminder too that when push comes to shove – family is all that really matters.

2. Old stories

I love old stories and learning things about my grandparents, especially through the eyes of their kids (my mom, aunts, and uncles).  I worked most of the week, but I still went to where the family was after work each night.  On Wednesday night I headed to my aunt’s after a 14 hour workday (normal workday plus extra hours after work getting sub plans ready for the next 2 days).  I was so exhausted, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave, because I didn’t want to miss any good stories.  I laughed learning about my grandpa telling my aunt she should have put an egg white on her hurt ankle.  She said she still wasn’t sure what he meant by this, but he was adamant that an egg white would have cured her.

3. Dear friends

My grandpa’s arrangements were all during the weekday, so I didn’t anticipate that any of my friends would be able to come.  However, my friends sent their love in many forms- flowers, cards, texts, and a few even made the mass/celebration.  This support meant more than they will ever know.

4. Packed house

The church was standing room only for my grandpa’s service.  It was so amazing to see how much he meant to so many people.

5. Puzzle

My grandpa loved puzzles.  A few years ago, I bought him a puzzle for Christmas.  When I ordered it it said that it was a mystery puzzle.  What I didn’t realize was this meant there was no picture to help the person putting it together.

My grandpa called when he was working on it and said, “It a bits (my nickname), no more puzzles.  You better come over and help me with at least one piece.”  I was surprised to see the puzzle framed and hanging in his living room.  My mom brought it to me this week, so I could keep it.  I still need to find the perfect spot for it, but it makes me smile when I look at it.

Happy Saturday.

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Regrets and Silver Lining

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Really would give

Everything if I could

Get one more tight hug from him.

Realizing how short and precious life is.

Even if he knew I loved him,

Totally beating myself up for not calling or seeing him more.

Want Another Hug Like This

Want Another Hug Like This

Regret is a horrible thing, especially when there’s nothing you can do to fix it.

Yesterday I got a phone call that instantly filled me with regret.  I couldn’t make out my mother’s words, but I knew something was wrong. Through her muffled sobs, I finally heard her.

“Papa’s dead!”  she screamed.

She repeated this 3 or 4 times, and I still couldn’t believe/understand what she was saying.  My grandma just underwent heart surgery for the second time in 2 years, so it didn’t make sense that my grandpa would be dead.

I jumped up quickly from bed and said, “Where are you?  I’m coming.”  In that instant, nothing else mattered; I needed to be with my mom.

I took the quickest shower ever and rushed out the door.  As I drove closer to my grandpa’s home, I realized he was most likely still there.  I didn’t know if I would be able to see him in whatever state he was in.

When I approached the house and saw a police car, I knew he was in fact still there.  I walked in cautiously afraid of the sight that might greet me.  I was scared to look, but I saw the rest of my family crowding around my grandpa who had passed sitting in his chair.

I inched closer to him, and I saw him peacefully asleep sitting up with his legs still crossed. He looked just like I remember him.  He had his crossword puzzle close by and a picture of his mother, my great grandmother, was right above his right shoulder.

When was the last time I saw him or talked to him, I began to wonder.  I realized I didn’t even know this.  Life gets so busy, but I cannot accept that as an excuse.

I pray my grandpa knew how much I loved him.  I would give anything to hear him say my name once more.  Even to this day, he still called me ,”It a bits,” the childhood nickname he gave me.

I’ve been beating myself up since yesterday.  My priorities seem so off track right now.  I feel like I devote myself to my work at the expense of relationships with my family and friends.  This has to change.  I can’t let another relative or friend not be 100% clear that I love them.

When I was sitting at my grandpa’s, I overheard my family talking about how his body was being donated to science.  I couldn’t help but be grateful that this happened on President’s Day.  I was given a gift of closure in being able to see him one last time.  Had I been at school yesterday, seeing him would most likely not been an option.  Not only was I able to see him, but I was able to pray with my family and the priest that came before they took him away.

It’s amazing how quickly your family is there when something happens.   Suddenly life stops and your priorities are in check.  I don’t want to wait for another death to have my family come first.

Please call and visit with your loved ones.  Don’t let life get in the way of what’s really important.  I know I would change some things if I could.

The Real Problems

My dad called me today to tell me to turn on the radio.  He was listening to the local a.m. station on his commute to my grandma’s house, and they were discussing education.

“Turn it on,” he said.  “You should call in.  You’d be the best caller they’ve had.  They are discussing the problems with schools, and it is exactly what you describe with your students.”

I didn’t know if I could even stomach to listen to two random people (not educators) discuss what’s wrong with education, but I turned it on. I tried to remain calm as I sat in my classroom on a Sunday working on my mile long to do list.

“Tenured teachers are ruining education,” the first caller said.

“Teachers’ unions are the problem,” the next caller thought.

 The callers continued to chime in with their opinions for why education is failing.  I angrily listened and realized these poor radio commentators didn’t have a long enough segment for me to explain to them what’s wrong.

Then I wondered- what is the real problem?  The biggest problem?

This is the only profession where having a great deal of experience is considered a negative thing.  I don’t hear any other profession dogging their veteran employees.  I’ve never heard anyone say, “That CEO is really lazy now that he/she’s been in the profession for 10+ years.” Or, “That doctor is awful after doing surgeries for fifteen years.  Give me the new doctor who’s never done a surgery before.”

Tenured teachers are NOT the problem.  Sure, there are some lazy teachers just like there are some lazy trash collectors or sales associates.  However, the education system is not being ruined by people who have devoted their lives to educating children.

Tenured teachers are a wealth of knowledge.  I think our system would be doing itself a favor to honor and value these veterans.  My friend and I used to talk about how valuable it would be to match veteran teachers with new teachers.  If there was a way to continue to pay veteran teachers who wish to retire a consulting fee (maybe in the form of insurance) in exchange for mentoring to new teachers, maybe we could help train new teachers into becoming experts.

Teachers’ Unions are not the problem.  I’m sure there are some imperfections to system too, but I’ve seen nothing but advantages to these unions this year.

The problem as I see it is that there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen claiming to be “experts” in a field they aren’t in.  I don’t make decisions/suggestions about health care, because I’m not in that field.  I’m not sure what gives politicians and other figures the authority to make decisions regarding education based solely on the fact that they went to school at one point in their childhood.

Here is another example of why education is failing: Students Shamed for Being Rewarded.  I could barely get through this article and video without screaming.

Not every child deserves a cookie.  You have to work hard to get rewarded.  The point at which every student gets a trophy is the point at which we fail our students.  It scares me that many parents don’t seem to understand this.  And it angers me that this news station questioned this school.

Today I listened to old voicemails and received an angry message from one of my student’s parents.  The dad yelled into the message, “My son said you took his pencil case away.  I’m not sure what makes you think you can take away something from my son, but I swear if you don’t return his pencils by tomorrow, you will be sorry.”

This was an old message, so I don’t even remember taking pencils away from this child.  I’m not going to make a return phone call to that father, but I’m pretty sure he is also part of the problem with education.

If I would return the call, I’d say, “Sir, I’m your child’s teacher.  It’s my job to make sure your son is learning.  I took his materials away because they were distracting him.  I’m an adult and your son is a child.  That is what gives me the authority to take his pencils away.  The materials are in the class, and I will redistribute them to him when he needs them.”

My administrators require me to give my students a reading and a math test every Friday to check for growth on skills we’ve identified that they need to practice.  We also give countless other tests every few weeks.  My students are being tested repeatedly over skills I have yet to teach.  Then, I am questioned on why the students aren’t growing.

My kids cannot get along with one another.  Some of them have parents who are in jail.  Some of them talk about wanting to kill themselves. Others haven’t had their needed meds, because mom and dad can’t pay for the prescriptions.  Others haven’t bathed and are wearing the same clothes from the previous day.  Most of them complain about stomach and headaches daily.

These are real problems.

They show up each and every day, and I try to teach them fractions and about U.S. history.  They aren’t sure whether they will get food at night or if the Division of Family Services is going to come and split up their family.  It’s hard to care about school when you can’t be a kid.

Until someone creating these tests and making all the decisions gets this, we will continue to have real problems with education.

Celebrations

What can you celebrate? Share your celebrations with the world at Ruth Ayres Writes.

Ruth Ayres invites us to share our celebrations from the week each Saturday.  Thank you, Ruth, for reminding me to celebrate. Share yours at Ruth Ayres Writes.

1. Reconnecting with a Best Friend

Life gets busy.  It’s really no excuse, but sometimes I don’t know what I’ve been doing before I realize I have no idea what’s going on with my family/friends.  I’ve been blessed with some of the best girl friends a girl could ever ask for, and I have one that I lost touch with a few years ago.  She was a very best friend.  Life happened, and I let distance come between us (I still feel bad about it).  She’s a nurse (she actually just became a nurse practitioner), so this past week when I was sick and having all sorts of funky things happen she was naturally the first person I thought to consult.  With all my extra time, these texts became the highlight of my day and began to be a fun way we reconnected.  I love that she was there for me in this way.  I don’t think I could have gotten through all my weird side effects without her knowledge/encouragement.  I’m celebrating feeling like it doesn’t matter how much time or distance are between you and a best friend.  I guess this is what makes a best friend a best friend.  I’m happy to have found an easy way for us to stay in touch.

2. Instagram

I sometimes sign up for things I hear about before I have any idea how to properly use them (probably why my blog still has some links or parts missing).  I did this with Instagram too.  While I was texting my friend this past week, I found out she was also on Instagram.  I realized by friending her I could see pictures she posts of her new baby.  I didn’t even know you could do that!  Last night I started finding more of my friends. I’m so excited to have a glimpse into their daily lives.  It’s been so fun to figure out Instagram a little better and to see many of my friends and their kiddos.

3. Card from Grandma

My grandma has been mentally declining fast for the past few years.  It’s been hard to watch her confusion.  Sometimes her child-like innocence provides a chuckle, but other times it is depressing to see this woman who is no longer herself.

One of the things I remember most about my grandma was her love of mail and cards.  She would send me a card for everything, and she never forgot an occasion.  I have boxes of cards from her from growing up.  A few years ago when she began to decline I’d get two Valentine’s Day cards, because she forgot she already sent one.  The last few holidays I either got a card where she signed her deceased husband’s name too, or I didn’t get a card at all.  Yesterday, I got a card from my grandma.  The fact that it was on time, written legibly (her handwriting has begun to change and has been hard to read), and the writing made perfect sense made my day.  I felt like I had my grandma back.  I’m celebrating this moment and holding on to who she was.

4. Letter from Myself

I got my first email from Future Me.  It was funny to get an encouraging email from myself.  The timing was pretty great though, so I think I’m going to have to keep sending myself messages.

Happy Saturday,

Jen

One Day Defeat

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I returned back to the land of the living today.  It was the first day since January 31st  that I went to work and the first time I was out of bed for longer than a half an hour.  I’m exhausted.

I’m glad to be flu free after a long week and a half of complications that landed me in the hospital and gave me all sorts of weird side effects long after.

It’s funny how your mind let’s your forget so much after just a short break.  I’m somehow surprised with my students’ behaviors, the fact that there are numerous negative comments from subs, and the fact that they’ve all managed to lose their textbooks from their desks. (How do you lose something when you don’t get out of your seat?)  Many items were stolen from my desk and spread throughout the room.

It’s been one day, and I already feel defeated. I honestly feel scared. Scared for the future. Scared for their futures.

As I asked students to get out their notebooks for the upteenth time and heard a student mumble that I was stupid, I wondered- when did this become acceptable?  When was it okay to disrespect your teacher/your boss  or to not give your best.?  When did we start to expect to have everything without working at all?

Something has to change.  We have to want more for ourselves and for the future.  We cannot continue to accept disrespect and poor behavior.  I wish I could scream this from somewhere and have someone listen.  We can’t teach children if they won’t listen.  We need parent help.  We need to take things back to “yes ma’am” and “no sir.”  We need consequences and accountability.

I am so grateful to my parents for raising me to value working hard.  I cannot not give 100% on anything.  There are no substitutes for respect/manners and your work ethic.  I just wish I could help my students see this.  I want these kids to learn and have a better life so badly, and their indifference continues to break my heart.

Down and Out

I’ve had some health things come up in the past week that have kept me away from the blog.  First an unexpected, eye opening trip to the doctor.  Then, later in the week I ended up back at the doctor with the flu.

I was confused and voicing out loud how I didn’t know how to pray or ask God for what I should do after my first trip.  It’s funny how I didn’t have to.  I feel like He said, “Don’t worry, Jen.  I got this.”

You don’t realize how important health is until you’ve temporarily lost it.  I’ve been grateful for the calls and texts from loved ones checking in. Yesterday I got a surprise food delivery from my dad.  He was afraid to get sick and I was out anyway, so he left some goodies for me on the front porch.  There’s something about homemade soup that is so comforting when you are sick.

The time at home has been relaxing.  I finished my new favorite show, Friday Night Lights, between naps.  I’m hoping I continue to feel better.  The snow keeps coming down here, so hopefully my days off won’t even count against me.