Category Archives: teaching

My Baby Blog Is Pregnant?

Blogging is cool.

Deep, I know.

But I have to say that I’ve been fairly inactive for over a month… could it be two?  And when I went back to my dashboard, entire conversations had been going on about my writing.  I think writers are sort of introverted divas.  We feel shy and insecure.  What we really want is for people to have conversations about our writing.  Or better yet, for someone to tell us that they like it.  That they connected to it.  That it made a small (or big) difference in their lives.

That has happened to me.  It is totally addictive.

I’ve been thinking for a while about starting a blog about my newest obsession, education reform.  Sort of going at it in a Forrest Gump kind of tone.  Because the whole thing is really so stupid.  It might take a Gump to point it out well. I went to an inspiring talk the other night in Manhattan.  I has again renewed my idea of the blog.  But there’s a problem.  My honey and several of my closest friends work for charter schools.  Sometimes my house feels like what it must be like to live in the Carville-Matalin household.  I don’t need to annoy my honey with a blog again.  (Yeah, this blog annoyed her.  Making the private public, spending so much time and energy, etc.  I understand.)  Sooooo, I’d like to blog, but I don’t want it to end in us having to spring for couple’s therapy.

The other problem is that I would like that blog to not be anonymous.  I’ve enjoyed some success here.  But my name isn’t on it.  For good, vagina-related reasons, I think.  I’d like to have my name on the new one. I’m not sure what I can legally, or safely cover.  Can I write about my students with fake names?  I never would do anything to exploit them, but I have some good testing-related anecdotes.  Can I write about my school?  Would any of it put my job in jeopardy? I don’t know the rules.  Do any of you know?

Tanks, y’all.

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Filed under blogitty blog blog, teaching

When Your Mom Tells You It Has Been Too Long…

…between posts, you know it is time to write another post.

I haven’t written much lately, because my life has become a bit of a black hole of same same same.  Not bad.  Tiring.  Not much new to say.

Except that my stomach problems are still here.  I’m still stressed out. I nearly got depressed, which if you know me in real life, would make you shake your head and say WHAAAAT?  I am one of those people who is normally so happy, that I annoy people.  But the stomach thing makes everything worse.  If I have a stressful day at work, then come home to a tantruming two-year-old and an annoyed five-year-old and I do my best to feed them and love them and get them ready for bed… I can’t have a @#$%$^% glass of wine after they go to bed!  And I can’t have a coffee when I get up.  There is only so much I can do without a little bit of chemical help from food and drink.

But I reached a bit of a low point and went out for drinks with a very good friend (mind you, I couldn’t actually drink) and it helped me re-adjust things.

Things have gotten better.

I’ll talk about my stomach.  I’m sure you logged on tonight because you are just so excited to hear about my digestive system!  Goody!

I was sent by my regular doctor to a GI specialist, who basically told me that there’s nothing to be done.  Some people just have over-active intestines.

This visit, of course, made me stick my middle finger high up in the air (yes, mom,  but in a figurative way, of course) at western medicine.  I decided to stop trying one thing at a time and get all eastern on my stomach.  So I’ve started the following things: a retired teacher in my building insists that aloe vera gel saved her stomach, so I’m taking that; another good friend was saved by a probiotic called threelac (the GI doctor did say that some people have had success with probiotics) so I bought a similar product and have been taking that; aaaaannnddd oh, and acupuncture.  I’m getting to something fairly interesting, I promise.

I don’t care what anybody says, acupuncture does hurt.  And it is weird.  I found this great place that does community acupuncture.  That means that several people are getting treatments at the same time in the room with you.  It also means that it is a lot more affordable than having it done privately.  I really like it. I mean, I would like it more if I actually enjoyed the acupuncture.

So, I sit there on a chair, and the wonderful, healing nurturing acupuncturist sticks needles in me. And they do hurt (maybe it is a red-head thing).  My limbs get heavy.  I can’t really move them.  Some of the needles throb (the acupuncturist says that means they are working).  I start to imagine what would happen if the building caught on fire.  I don’t actually think I could get out of the chair with all the needles in me.  Then you have to sit there with the needles in.  For a long time.  I have trouble sitting still.  But, I don’t recommend fidgeting with needles stuck all over you. No. Not recommended.

I’ve had two treatments.  In both of them, the fact of my infertility treatments has surfaced like a dusty penny from under the couch.  Have I had my ovaries checked? Well…. I was very familiar with my ovaries two years ago.  Very familiar.  Have I had any stressful, traumatic experiences? Have I mentioned two years ago?  Can I blame my current state of imbalance and messed-uppedness on follical-stimulating hormones?  Please?  I would love to.

So I sit there and think.

I don’t get to do that very often.  Just think.  Without a child jumping on me.  Without my phone in my hand.  No book.  No computer.  No stack of papers to grade.

Tonight I started to think about what has made me sad.  A big part of it is the current assault against my profession by a billionaire boys’ club.  I’m taking it too personally.  Another part is that I don’t get enough adult time.  Another part is that I feel like I never finish anything.

I’ve made it a priority to spend more time with adults.  I can do that.  I’m trying to let go of my anger about education reform.  Also, trying to do something about it.  But what about the finishing bit?  Has anyone noticed that I’ve had a page about my so-called book for three years?  And no book?  No freaking book.

Maybe what I need to do to feel better about not finishing things, is to finish something. Yeah. Maybe that.

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Filed under nothing at all, teaching

My Head Is Full of Children

When I lived in Provincetown for a summer, there was a T-shirt in one of the toursity-gifty shops with art by one of those crafty greeting-card women that said that: My Head Is Full of Children.  And it had a picture of a head.  And there were children all over the woman’s head.  And she looked happy for it.

Well.  My head is full of children.

I wake up and dress and feed and prepare lunches for them.  Then I drop them off at various places.  Then I go to my workplace —  which is full of children.  And then I go straight from my workplace to the other building of my workplace to get my eldest child.  Then we walk home.  Perhaps run and errand together, then pick up the youngest child.  Feed, bathe, jammy, read, bed them.  My head is full of children.

There is happy and ummm…not the opposite of happy, but not happy, to this situation.

Here’s some of the happy:

  • My son’s warm hand in my cold one, walking to school on a chilly October day.
  • Looking at, and discussing various Halloween decorations on our walk.
  • Listening to my eldest opine about choice time in his kindergarten.  Listening to him retell the read alouds.  Trying very hard not to jump in and reveal that I know how the story ends.
  • Seeing my little one dressed in a vest and a hoodie with the hood up and his little curls flipping over the edge of the hood.
  • Every little success I have in making and getting the children to eat healthy(ish) fast(ish) food made by moi.
  • The children I spend my day with?  The students?  They are an amazing, hilarious, interesting group of people.  I love them.
  • Seeing how responsible my Cakie is about doing his little kindergarten homework.

Here’s some of the not-exactly-opposite-of-happy:

  • My baby is two.  Full-on one-hundred percent two.  Melt-down city.
  • I don’t even have any kind of cushion of time for myself.  I have a sitter twice a week after school.  For one of the days I plan with the third grade.  For the other day I plan with my co-teacher.  Done.  Then I pick up Cakie.
  • If I stop home before I pick up the two-year-old, the five-year-old is really difficult to wrench back out of the house to fetch two-year-old.  I wish I could flash back to the seventies and just leave him there for the ten minutes it takes me to cross the street and fetch the melt-down king.  But I cannot.
  • I never get to cook.  Not for real.  My co-teacher was sick yesterday when we usually plan, so I got to make potato leek soup.  It was awesome.
  • My honey doesn’t get home until at least 7:30 most nights.  That just sucks.
  • What I really really want is to go out with some adults and drink some freaking alcohol.  But if I do, I’ll get horribly sick because of my stupid stomach/intestinal problems which have yet to be resolved.  Don’t I deserve some good motherf*cking white wine about now?  Don’t I?  Huh???
  • I have no time to putter in my classroom.  I miss puttering in my classroom.

I’m in limbo a bit.

That’s all I have to say right now.

Thanks for listening.

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Filed under nothing at all, Parenting the school boy, teaching, working motherhood

“Gifted”

I’m putting it in quotes.

That’s what I feel about it.  The way NYC does gifted, is that children are tested when they are 4 (!) and put into gifted classes where they stay until high school.  That is so dumb.  As though kids don’t change.

I don’t believe one can tell if a child is gifted until he or she is about eight years old.

All of this is to say that Cakie’s teacher pulled me aside to ask me why I didn’t put him in gifted.  Ummm.   Yeah.  Because I think it is silly?  I think it is a way to pull rich folk into to public schools.  Because I hate how the “gifted” fifth graders are so sick of each other they want to puke because they’ve been in the same class all the way through school.   Because I want my son to work hard, not just think he’s smart.  Because I want him to not feel like he has to be perfect at everything, or else he gives up.  (Ok, he’s already like that.  But no need to fan the fire.)  Because my school is full of gifted kids who are not in the gifted program.

But then…. there is one part of me that is curious as to how well he’d do on that test.  There is one part of me that would like to see him at the school run by my friend, that only has gifted classes in it, so it wouldn’t be that same isolation/ I’m-in-the-smart-kids’-class attitude.  There’s a part of me that wonders what it would be like if he went to the gifted school in Manhattan that goes all the way up to high school, so I wouldn’t have to stress out about getting him in to a good middle school or high school.

What’s your take on it?

 

PS I was both flattered and appalled by this little chat.  I’m hoping he isn’t acting up, or being snarky.

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Filed under Parenting the school boy, teaching

Who’s The Boss?

On an entirely different note, I want to talk about education.

I’ve been teaching for ten years.  I’ve been teaching in an urban public school for ten years.  I’ve been whining lately about policy makers.  They seem to be so far removed from the reality of education.  The reality: the person (living, dedicated) sitting in a room full of children (real, not grown-up, also alive) teaching.  The unreality: kindergarteners taking standardized tests?  Students needing to improve every single time they take a test, or else they are failing and so is their school?

I’ve been saying that the people who make educational policy should be educators. I recognize the disparity there.  Educators are kind of busy educating.  But let’s say I actually put my money where my mouth is.  What if I wanted to work on educational policy issues?  Maybe I’d start by going back to graduate school.   Sounds good, right?  So I looked at a couple of doctoral programs.  Again, I’m not a rocket-scientest here, but the programs do not make sense.  To learn how to make policy for education, one does not, apparently, need to learn anything about children.  Hmmm.  Ok.  Wouldn’t it make sense, if one were going to spend millions of tax-dollars doling out standardized test money to George Bush’s test and textbook-selling cronies, that said person might be required to take, oh, I don’t know a CHILD DEVELOPMENT CLASS?  Then maybe they might know that kindergarten-aged children cannot necessarily hold a pencil correctly, let alone complete a standardized test?  They are far more concerned with which shoes their mom made them wear that morning, than a question on a paper?  The classes in these programs are all about educational policy, politics, and leadership.  But shouldn’t a leader know who they are leading?  Many of these people trying to “reform” education blame teachers.  Yet, they themselves have never stood in that room alone with twenty-two seven-year-olds.  One of whom always has to go to the bathroom. One of whom just got back from three months in Bangladesh and has forgotten English a bit.  One of whom smells a little funny.  One of whom is very excited about playing with bits of paper on the rug.  And one of whom always always has her hand up, but never quite has something to say that matches the topic at hand.  I believe that every one of those kids has the ability to meet high standards. But how those standards are being measured and how my performance may be measured does not make a lot of sense.

Here’s my modest proposal for Harvard, NYU, Columbia:

Just add this to your program.  Not unlike the swim test I had to take before graduating from Brandeis, because swimming is just something a well-educated person should know how to do.

Each doctoral candidate must substitute teach for one month in a public school.  They must have no outside support beyond what the school provides them.  Nobody at the school needs to know that they are anybody special.  Just a sub.

That is my idea for education reform.

I think if every person trying to fix education would just dip their toes in teaching, education reform would shift from blaming teachers to supporting them.  From testing children to nurturing them, you know, teaching them.

And why is research so disconnected from policy? There is so much research on the value of play, yet current policy causes schools to cut out recess periods for test prep, cut arts programs because there is not a test for them, and spend the bulk of kindergarten teaching reading and math, instead of letting the children have constructive play, which develops problem-solving skills, creativity, and social skills (which, by the way, is what kindergarten is supposed to be about.)

Oh dear, don’t get me started.

I guess one problem I’m having is figuring out how to go from what seems like a whiny teacher to somebody people might listen to.

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Filed under teaching, Uncategorized

Lactophobia and My New Wife

My new wife doesn’t have lactophobia.

I do.  And I have a new wife.

By lactophobia, I mean that even though the doctor said I’m not lactose intolerant, I’m scared to eat too much.  I did tempt fate yesterday with a slice of red velvet cake.  I am fine right now.  So that’s good.  But I’m still putting soy milk into my cereal.

I don’t really have a new wife.  I have a new teaching partner.  I’m just calling her my wife because people keep calling team teaching a marriage.  My new wife is A, from the last post.  I think her blog name shall be Alli.  I am very happy with this situation.  She’s smart, energetic, decisive, and creative.  It really has potential.  We’re going to have coffee this week and hash things out a bit.

And now I am officially done with teaching until September 8.  I’m so tired I can’t even stand up.  That is all.

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Why I Have the Best Doctor Ever and Why My Principal Is in the Doghouse

Never mind the fact that she’s a good old softball playing lesbian mom; which is not something she announces to patients, but something I know because of the two degrees of lesbian separation in my particular Brooklyn neighborhood; my doctor rules because she takes the time to figure shit out.

First and foremost, she rules because I can have dairy.  I CAN HAVE DAIRY!!!  After the appointment I went directly to a bakery and devoured a pecan bar. Ahhh, glorious butter.  How I missed thee. I know that she didn’t make me not lactose intolerant, but I’m giving her the credit anyway.

She thinks it is gastritis because of my two cheats that involved alcohol.  And guess what?  Gastritis goes away!  That means that one fine day I will be able to eat everything again.  She rules.

Now get this… she looked at her computer. Then she looked at me and said, “Do you like licorice?”  Really?  Shhheeeaaw.  I love black licorice.  If given the opportunity, I’ll eat a whole bag of those licorice rolls.  Give me Good and Plenty and I’m a happy gal.  Then she said, “I’m going to treat this herbally.”  She rules.  So I have to take this licorice-like substance called DGL.  Diglicorizedsomethingsomething Licorice.  I need to dissolve a pill or two under my tongue on an empty stomach each morning for two months.  And that’s that. I admit that the DGL is a little nasty.  But it is nasty in a licorice way, and I think it will grow on me.

(Well, I still can’t have chocolate, coffee or booze for a while, but forget that.  Give me cheese!  Ice cream!  Cupcakes with buttercream frosting.  Sigh.)

On another note, my arranged work marriage is still dangling.  You may recall that my boss told me I could sit in on the interviews.  Yeah, right.  They hired one woman who I did get to interview and chat with.  But there are two third grade CTT teachers who need to be hired.  I didn’t really click with the woman we hired, but I could definitely work with her.  Then I sent an email out to half (because I got too lazy to go through the rest of my email contacts) of the people I thought might know someone, asking if they knew anyone who might want the job.  Another, entirely different softball-playing lesbian mom sent my email to a friend on her team, who sent me her resume.  I met her for coffee on Monday and really, really liked her.  But when I brought the resume in to my boss, she seemed to have her heart set on someone else she had yet to interview.  Flash forward to yesterday, when another administrator waltzes in to my classroom with an extremely-young woman and says, “This is E, we’re probably going to hire her for the third grade CTT.”  Nice meeting you, person-I-didn’t-get-to-interview.  I was on a prep, too, so I totally could have been sitting at the interview I didn’t know about.  I’m still mad about that.

First I went and ranted with the other third grade CTT gen ed teacher, who they also said could sit in on the interviews, and who also did not interview E.  Then I went in to the room where all three administrators were sitting and sort of stared at them.  Then I said, “So, if you are going to hire this women, how will you decide who works with whom?  I don’t feel like I got to meet her.  I feel like I rode the elevator with her.”  They laughed and said, “We still have one person to interview.”  And they pulled out my softball girl’s resume.  OK.  Well, they may be interviewing her to humor me.  Which I think I maybe appreciate.  But I’m not sure.

There’s more.  Yeah.  This morning, I was sitting in my room paralyzed by the amount of packing and cleaning I needed (and still need) to do, when A, a new fifth grade teacher who came through the same hiring tube as the possible-hire E, walked into my room.  I thought she was going to talk up E to me, but no.  She said that the school may not be able to hire anyone new, and she may be my bride-to-be.  Now let me tell you about A.  She rocks.  I have admired her teaching from afar.  She asked me about my teaching style and I told her how it is all about community-building for me.  I do a lot of conflict resolution.  I like the kids to do the work.  I hate when subs come in and tell the kids what to write, or tell them how to solve a math problem.  I don’t mind if they talk, as long as they don’t get loud.  “Me, too!”  It was a good first date.  We agreed on almost everything, except that she is apparently very neat and I am very not.  But I don’t embrace my chaos.  I would love to be more organized.  I’ve just never really internalized organization.

Bottom line?  All of the possibilities are good ones.  They expect to find out tomorrow if they have the money to hire mystery woman, E, or if I get to have a second date with A.  I don’t know if my softball woman ever set up that interview, though.  It should be good.  I’m hoping it will work out.  Because I would love this to work out well.

Now excuse me.  I’m going to go have some ice cream.

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