The best thing I've ever done

Up until a few months ago, I would have said that the best thing I've ever done was teaching. And the hardest. And the most rewarding. And the most important.

Teaching is now second in all of those.

This is first.

He's almost six months old now and I can't even believe how fantastic this kid is. He's so much fun. And so exhausting, and frequently frustrating, and often confusing.....but so fantastic. I get it now, the baby thing. I was never a baby person - I've always preferred kids. Once you can talk to them, they're a lot easier, in my opinion. But now I get why people just lose their minds over babies.

I'm taking a year off to stay home with him. I'm really lucky to get to do this, I know, and I'm enjoying it tremendously. Currently I'm in the process of figuring out what's coming next. I won't be going back to my old school, primarily because it no longer exists - shut down by the district because of low test scores and declining enrollment. I plan to switch districts to the one that I live in, but I'm not sure if I'll do middle school again or try high school, if I want to stay a teacher or get a MA in school counseling and become a counselor (no grading to take home....but I do love teaching), if I'll go full time or try for part time somewhere.....lots of decisions to make.

And I'm thinking about those decisions a lot....but mostly I'm just enjoying this gorgeous, gorgeous baby.

I'll be back someday. Until then, <3. I hope you're all as happy as I am.

I know, I know.

It's been forever. And I'm probably not going to get any better at this for a while, because of a big personal thing - I'm pregnant! Due at the end of the school year (which is nice because then I get the summer with the baby).

So while I am still dealing with absurdities, hilarities, and heart-breaking truths on a daily basis, I'm spending more of my time outside of school thinking about baby stuff. Nursery decor (the plan is neutral walls with pops of color - but WHICH colors?), names (it's hard to find ones you actually like!), eating enough protein (dude, you have to eat a LOT of protein - I had no idea), getting enough exercise (something I'm terrible with during the school year so I have to really focus on it), and everything else that goes with growing another person.

On the school front, things are pretty good. I have great kids - the only one that I was struggling to like got expelled, which is unfortunate for him since he was way behind academically as it was, but better for the other kids since he was expelled for gang activity, including jumping a kid in in the bathroom during a class one day (no, for real. I was stunned when I heard about it. This is apparently our worst year for gang activity in at least 7 years). The kids are working hard and learning a lot (I think....), and have been generally positive about my class overall. Sure, some are slackers and some could have better attendance, but most of 'em are rockstars.

Lots of former students have come back to visit. Most are doing okay, though not as well as they should be - too many of them have at least one F. It kills me that Fs don't matter ONE IOTA all the way through elementary and middle school (at least not in my district - we assign kids summer school, but if they don't go, they still go on to the next grade), so when they get to high school, they've had no experience with consequences in this arena. Some of them are doing great, which is super nice to see. One has been expelled - he was caught with a knife and it was big enough to make it an immediately expellable offense. He hasn't actually come to visit but I heard about it from other kids. So that was depressing. But no matter what, they're at least coming to visit.

Due to budget cuts, we're down staff, so everyone is stressed about that. Class sizes are up, which means grading levels are higher and classroom management is more difficult. I'm doing okay with both for the most part, but part of that's because I've revamped what I grade - no more grading random crap that doesn't actually matter for anything. They still get lots of feedback on their work before the summative assessments (more, probably, honestly), it's just more in individual conferences, which I think is good anyway.

Overall, though, life is pretty good (knock on wood)! I will start posting again periodically but certainly not as much as I was doing in past years - other things have just taken priority for now.

Sometimes what we learn is totally unrelated to my planning.

Yesterday, as we were working on writing topics lists, I got a truly fabulous question from a kid. I'd been modeling, and I'd mentioned how my dislike of Insane Clown Posse is something I could potentially write about someday. A kid had inserted that he thought juggalos were weird.

After, when my kids were working on their own lists, another student raised his hand. I trotted over to help. He said, "Miss Teachin', I thought juggalos were fake."

What? "Um, I think they think they're real...."

"Oh. But....wasn't there a movie about one of them?"

I stared at him for a second, totally lost, till another kid piped up, "No, dude, that's gigolo - Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo."

"Oh, riiiiiight." And work resumed. Temporarily.

Then a third student joined in. "Okay, yeah, but what's the difference between a juggalo and a gigolo?"

I couldn't tell if he was kidding or not. Luckily, my movie buff scoffed at the foolish question. "Juggalos, like, wear makeup and do weird stuff. Gigolos are male prostitutes. Pfft. Duh."

"Ohhhhhh," responded the questioner, clearly embarrassed.

I don't know how much else this kid learned yesterday, but at least his vocabulary expanded a bit.

Today it happened.

Today it happened.

Today we gelled.

Today we were a community.

Today I started to love my new students a little bit.

I haven't been posting because...well, for a variety of reasons, including some things going on that I just don't post about (for example, an issue with a coworker that I don't want to get into), and being really, really busy, and just not feeling like writing....

But mainly because really I just wanted to say, "I miss my old students! Waaaahhhh! These new ones aren't as good! Waaaaaahhh!" And how fun is that to read? Not very.

But today it started to come together. I'm sick right now, and honestly probably should have stayed home today but I thought I'd feel better than I did and it was too late to call a sub without a true emergency, so off to school I trudged.

Anyway, the kids were great - everything we did, they did right away, without complaint, fully engaged. At least 10 kids finished books over the long weekend, and were super excited to get new ones and talk about what they'd finished. Several kids who'd been absent on Friday came in to get their makeup work (I know, it's a little thing, but OH it matters). They were kind to each other, asking questions when we shared work and bringing up things they'd heard from other people that they'd been interested in or excited by. A bunch of them told me they hoped I'd feel better as they left. It just....went really well. And I started to think, okay. I can do this. It's going to be a good year after all.

I may never love them quite as much as last year's kids, but that was my first class and they were just all-around remarkable (most of them, at least). These kids are great too, I know that, and as long as I'm starting to love them some, it'll be fine.

(Image credit to Shermeee)


And I clearly can't hide it. But I'm trying really, really hard to maintain control, despite what Olivia Newton John says.

It's not about getting physical.

It's about getting completely caught up in a book.

Mockingjay came out today.

I'm hoping to only read it when I am at the gym, but let's be honest here - I'm going to get into it and not be able to put it down. I figure I can read during independent reading time tomorrow as well; hey, gotta model reading engagement for my kids. But after that....

Possibly I will just go to the gym after work tomorrow and spend like four hours on the treadmill.

So excited.

So that was a while ago....

I don't have a particularly good reason for not posting for so dang long except that I was all caught up in summer fun. And then I was all caught up in back-to-school prep. And now I'm all caught up in teaching again. But at least now I have stuff to write about again that's not just about going to amusement parks and watching baseball games and having drinks on patios and all that other good summer stuff that I hope you partook in fully! Nothing too extensive yet, but I'm sure we'll get there. We always do.

So. New year, new kids (well, a bunch new - and then a bunch that I had two years ago when I taught 6th grade - what will I do after this year when I have to get to know ALL my students and don't have any past relationships with any of them?). Generally it's good - I miss my kids from last year a bunch, but a few have already come to visit and even to help out as I set up my classroom, including the Antagonizer, Drama King, Athleta, and a few others. That's been nice (and was actually really helpful). And I know that at least a few kids did the summer literacy challenge so I've been starting to put together prize packages; I've got to arrange a time to get up to the high school to give them out.

Of my new students, only one is flashing warning lights so far; I have a couple of challenging ones (or so say their histories/reps) but either they're trying to turn over new leaves, or they're still on their honeymoon best behavior. We'll see in a few weeks. :) I do have one boy who wants nothing to do with me or anyone, far as I can tell, so I've got his counselor doing some research (he's new to us this year).

Friday I started my positive parent calls - I made twelve, speaking to about half the parents and leaving messages for the others. Everyone I talked to was delighted, and one mother said I'd made her whole weekend. That kinda made mine too.

I do have push-in sped support in one of my classes this year for half of the block; I haven't totally figured out how that's supposed to work yet. As long as it's not as bad as Ricochet's situation with Funsucker, I'm sure I'll manage.

Overall, the year is off to a great start and I can't wait to see where it goes from here! :)

(Image credit to Sally M)

No hate.

I know I've mentioned before how it drives me crazy when kids use the words gay (or any variation thereof) as a pejorative; it's the only time that I use the royal we in my classroom, because for some reason, the first thing I always say is, "We don't use that word." And then we talk about it.

First I ask them if there's something wrong with being gay, and they always say no. (Though to be honest, there are a couple of kids that I might not ask that of, because I do have some blatant homophobes. And the first time I asked it, I was pretty dang nervous that the kid in question would say yes....but even if they maybe do think that, they're smart enough to know that that would just (a) enrage me more, and (b) get them in more trouble.)

Then they argue that they don't meeeeeeean it like's just what people saaaaaaay.

To which I nod, and say that I know they don't mean it like that, but they're still implying that there's something wrong with being gay by using it as a negative. I follow that up by equating it to the n-word, and how people used to use that without a second thought but that wouldn't be okay these days, would it?

They always say that no, it wouldn't, and I think it makes them think a little bit, and they never use the word around me again (or if they start to, they catch themselves and change it). I've been fairly happy with the results, but I've always thought I could do a better job.

Glee did it for me.

Some backstory, including spoilers, in case you don't watch Glee. (Um, if you don't, WHY NOT???? It is BRILLIANT. Though they seem to have completely given up on Mr. Schuster actually teaching; he's all Glee Club, all the time. Still. Very charming show.) This episode aired at the end of May; called Theatricality, in it, the Glee Clubbers had to find their inner Lady Gagas (though most of the boys went with KISS instead).

As part of the episode, Finn and his mom were moving in with Kurt and his dad (the two parents had been dating for some time), and for some reason that was never really explained, the two boys were going to have to share a room. Finn was angry and uncomfortable; Kurt decided to redecorate to make Finn feel more at home. Which was pretty nice of him, considering that Finn and Kurt's dad had started hanging out a lot in the episodes before and Kurt had been super jealous of that relationship.

Right before the following clip, Kurt unveiled the new digs, saying his inspiration was Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper in Morocco. Finn, rather than being appreciative, kinda loses his shit and basically accuses Kurt (who used to have a crush on Finn) of still being into him and says that he's not like Kurt. And then, this brilliance (thanks, Perez Hilton!):

I think I might show this clip next year; maybe get the school to incorporate it as part of a PBS lesson. Because it says exactly what I want to say, exactly what I want them to know. I don't want them to have hate in their hearts. They're better than that, and the gay students in my school deserve more.

Oh, and in the end of the Glee episode? Finn dresses up in a red vinyl dress to stand up for Kurt to some thuggy football players. I guess he doesn't want hate in his heart either, and he's doing what he can to get rid of it. Don't you love television happy endings? :)

(Image credit to Rev Dan Catt)
"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
Copyright 2009 I'm a Dreamer All rights reserved.
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