The Long-Term Decay

Why do I do this to myself?

I happily am a substitute teacher and relish the fact that I don’t have homework, that I don’t have to work every single day, and that I can avoid certain schools if I wanted.

So why did I accept another long-term sub job?

Sometimes I miss NOT being a substitute teacher. Sometimes I love being a regular teacher with my own classroom.

I’m pretty sure it’s easy to track via social media, this blog, and my personal calendar to tell when I’m in a long-term teaching position. I unintentionally fall off the face of the planet. My face is in a permanent scowl from reading so many misspelled words that I just can’t. I leave early for work because if I left any later, traffic would make my commute three times longer than it normally is.

Last fall I taught fifth grade and I loved it! It was very difficult as I was {bear with me} taking over for a substitute teacher who was taking over a teacher on maternity leave. It was no contest. The kids had bonded with him and I was the wicked lady who took over. But I didn’t mind.

Previous to that, I took a kindergarten class for a week. Even though I have claimed in the past that the little ones were my favorite to teach, this claim was long before I had my own children. Five year olds are babies! Luckily they were babies who responded to my read-alouds in foreign accents and singing along to my ukulele. I still see these kids at this new long-term assignment and awe at how much they have grown and dare I say, even matured.

I’ve been at this assignment for two months, also for another teacher on maternity leave. [Whatever is in the water at the school district, don’t give me any.] Sixth grade has been treating me well.

So well, in fact, that there are talks to hire me part-time for the fall.

Perfect.

I reflected on how this might affect our family and as usual, my husband is very supportive.

The kids? Not so much.

I came home at about 4 pm yesterday because I wanted to correct papers there and prep for the following week before I left for the day. I didn’t want to bring any work home which of course, if you know any teachers, is a lie because there is always work to do.

I asked the youngest who will be turning seven years old in the next couple of months if she missed me. She said, “I like it when you come home.”

“What?” I asked. “I come home everyday!”

The middle one who just turned nine said, “Well, not everyday.” They were referring to a couple of days where I had to stay late for a staff meeting and parent meetings.

“But I still came home!”

They just gave me a look and gave each other a Look.

I suppose here is where one would normally queue the working-mother guilt but hey, I don’t have any. Especially now that we are finally a two-parent family after being a constantly-growing-despite-one-working-parent family for so long.

If there is any guilt here, it is because I have forgotten who I am and what I used to do to just be me.

I used to write all the time. About anything and everything. I started writing this blog because I thought it would help me deal with everything that was going on in life.

And it has.

But I stopped for every reason in the book. Life didn’t stop however. My ability to deal with stress has slowly declined. Perhaps remembering who I am will help.

I used to read all the time. Anything. Everything. But like everything else, I tend to get slightly obsessed. Case in point, I’ll go on a reading binge getting to the point where I can read a novel between 1-3 days. And that’ll go on for a couple of weeks until I can’t find any book that is as awesome as the previous book.

Don’t forget about my stupid TV series obsessions phase. We’ll leave that for later.

But part-time work would be a perfect balance. No, let me rephrase that.

Part-time work will be a perfect balance. There is no reason that I can’t be in charge of my own life. If I feel that something needs to change, I need to be the one that changes it.

Last fall I stopped running regularly but still completed the half-marathon that I was working toward for the past three years.

Last month I completed my second half-marathon. I came in second to last but I don’t care. I wanted the medal and I got it. This week I have even gotten up early to run one or two miles four days this week! I hurt but eh, thank God I can still run.

Thank God I can still feel.

I will know more in the next month about my job assignment.

Let’s hear it for taking charge. 

The Long Term Triangulation

I have been a long term substitute teacher in a fifth grade class for over a month now and I can see how truly busy I’ve become. I have not even posted since my half marathon!

I am exhausted from teaching, planning, and correcting papers all day… then I come home to be a wife and mother. If I don’t have a staff meeting, then my son needs to go to karate, my daughters need to go to gymnastics, or I have to teach sixth graders at the church.

Even simple conversations with my husband R are far and few between. Gone are the days when the last thing we’d do at night was… well, you know. Instead we savor the quietness of the house and talk about how tired how we are.

We are okay with that.

I assigned a Saint project to my sixth grade CFF class and the students did everything on their own. Their projects were awesome! I was so proud of them when they got to display their posters in church with all of the other CFF classes, 1st-6th grade.

20131109-210533.jpg

The kids dressed up as Saint Anne, Saint Agnes, and Saint George. A dressed up as Saint Agnes because her story really spoke to her: Agnes was very beautiful and rich and all of the boys wanted to marry her; she, however, did not want to get married.

A has declared that she NEVER wants to get married.

I am okay with that.

20131109-205637.jpg

20131109-205707.jpg

20131109-205727.jpg

It’s a busy, exhausting life but I love it.

The teacher I’m subbing for has extended her maternity leave so I will be in the classroom until Thanksgiving week. Being a long term sub has its pros and cons.

CONS:
I have to be the TEACHER who plans and corrects papers at about a third of the pay per day.
I can’t just call in sick when I’m tired of the class or working for that matter. This was the first year I couldn’t hit the after-Halloween clearance sales. I don’t go too nuts, just buying a couple of things here and there and then putting them into storage for the following year.
I missed two field trips that I wanted to chaperone for my two daughters 😦

PROS:
I get to teach!
I get to decorate!
I get to go to school functions as the teacher!

Speaking of school functions, I was able to attend our school’s Harvest Festival, a major fundraiser for the school. I bought wristbands for my two daughters and they played games and ate candy to their heart’s content. I bought five raffle tickets for five dollars… and WON THE MOVIE NIGHT RAFFLE BASKET! The basket contained eight bags of uncooked popcorn, boxes and boxes of candy, and a gift card for the movie theater.

20131109-213720.jpg

20131109-213734.jpg

20131109-213749.jpg

20131109-213759.jpg

20131109-213808.jpg

20131109-213824.jpg

20131109-213834.jpg

20131109-213841.jpg

Halloween came quickly. We even FORGOT TO GO TO THE PUMPKIN PATCH THIS YEAR. WE DID NOT EVEN CARVE PUMPKINS!

We did not forget to go trick or treating. I dressed as a zombie from The Walking Dead but I’m not going to spoil it for you in case you haven’t seen the latest episodes. I am not one for gore but man, oh man, I love that show!

20131109-210411.jpg

20131109-210420.jpg

20131109-210430.jpg

20131109-210441.jpg

No Pressure Or Anything

It’s the morning of the test!

Nightmares about forgetting number two pencils? Check.

Healthy breakfast? Check.

20120714-133700.jpg

My body shut down on me on Tuesday with a sprained ankle. I had a lot of anxiety about the test that I wanted to run out and was so disappointed because I was looking forward to upping my mileage. On Tuesday I realized I was a runner.

My mind shut down on me two days later. I didn’t have the patience or energy to study vectors or igneous rocks or tRNA for that matter. Yesterday I slept the entire day!

With the kids sleeping over at their cousins’ house, I could fall asleep and wake up when I wanted to. Not that I don’t when they’re home because they know, in the words of the Disney movie Aladdin, do not disturb Mommy’s slumber! I could do all this without worrying about them.

I called R before I left for the test site. He said, “Maybe it’s a good thing all of this happened. Now you’re well-rested.”

He’s right. I probably would have taken both exercise and studying to an obsessively unhealthy extreme. He suggested to go to Starbucks before the test to relax and to not freak out before the test.

Phone call to loving and supportive husband? Check.

The Teaching Reflection

I have only six years of teaching under my belt which includes kindergarten, first, fourth, and fifth grade, as well as teaching ESL for kids kindergarten through eighth grade. I have tutored kids in the public and private sector. I have been a substitute teacher and requested for assignments by teachers and administrators alike.

Years ago I came to the sad conclusion that I could not hold down a full-time job, not without a full-time spouse living with me to help me with the kids when they are ill. And even if I was able to find a job, I would continue to be at the bottom of list of seniority and no matter how many hours I invested with my students and their parents, no matter how many homemade flashcards I made, no matter how many practice assignments and tests were downloaded, I would still be pinkslipped first. Let go of first.

This past school year I have realized that I actually like working with teenagers. They aren’t so bad individually and in small groups. Even in a large classroom of thirty-five, teenagers are still manageable.

I have also realized that I miss being in a school setting, not as a teacher but as a student. My niece, that lucky bastard, has been awarded her doctorate in education. Her sister is on her way to getting hers as well. A friend of mine recently told me she was finally getting her doctorate, a dream she’s always had but only now is finally in a place to begin. She, too, is a lucky bastard.

Do I really want a doctorate too? Yes. I think I will always want to rise to the challenge and begin that path. I will when the kids are older, when we’ve settled into our future. When I get offered a job with a doctoral requirement, I want to accept it without regard to the location.

But not right now. There are so many hopes and goals I have that I just can’t reach for right now. I understand and grudgingly accept this.

However, I can take a class that will allow me to be credentialed to teach at the middle and high school levels. Just one class and online this summer too. Then I can buy cute pens for spiral notebooks to take notes on say, biology and chemistry, and take the tests in the fall.

This I can do.

I have finally realized that I love teaching for the teaching. It does not matter the age of the students or the subject matter, whether it is for our church’s version of Sunday school, high school algebra, or the gold rush.

Teaching is an art. A delicate art that constantly changes. You can give someone paint and a brush. Most people might complain about the color choices, the size of the canvas, the quality of the brushes. Some might even be able to paint a pretty picture. But an educator, a true teacher, will be grateful for her supplies, will constantly step back and look at the bigger picture, and make the best of what she’s got.

20120616-092915.jpg
L, 4 years old. “I love you a cat you can go and wow that is cool”

BTW, the boy M went on a field trip to a gold mining town yesterday. He told Chuck Norris jokes the entire time according to three moms who chaperoned the trip. His teacher even said that she now knows everything there is to know about Chuck Norris. That’s nice.

What I learned in high school algebra

The past three days have been spent with a hundred freshmen and sophomores.

Intentionally.

I was lucky enough to score a three day sub job at a nearby high school but I admit now that it was probably too much for me to handle at the time. R left on Sunday. The kids went back to school on Tuesday. I was still putting away Christmas decorations and cleaning up after a family gathering we hosted on Saturday night.

No, it's not sushi! It's for the sea lions!

"You'll shoot your eye out!" Ahhh, we love that movie...

But I am glad I did it. Just jumped right in and started swimming. That method, while stressful, is probably the one I use all the time on purpose. Less time to dawdle. No time to think about it. No distractions.

Buddy

I enjoyed being with teenagers who are in many ways already dealing with grown-up decisions but still in school. It was pretty scary at the time to think about the question we as adults still ask ourselves: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

FAAAAAHBULOUS!

But I don’t feel sorry for all of them. Many of these kids had iPhones, Coach purses, Uggs, and MAC make up precision. One girl allegedly had her iPhone stolen while she was in the restroom and I did not see a thing.

I taught three classes of algebra and I fully admit that I had no idea what the advanced algebra class was about and that class knew it. I bumbled through the lesson but decided that I was going to do something about it.

I took notes from the sub notes I was given. I took notes from the book. I stared at coordinates and slopes until I couldn’t stand it any more.

Then I started typing on my trusty little notebook and came up with a page of notes, definitions, class examples, and homework. Two sides. Two columns each.

I think it went well. A few of the students remarked that their teacher didn’t even do this for them. They usually get a retired math teacher who sits around and tells stories that have nothing to do with algebra. Another teacher said I went far and beyond what any other substitute teacher would have done.

But I am not “any other substitute teacher”.

I am a “former” teacher but only by name only. I am, first and foremost, an educator.

I can look beyond a paycheck, however tiny it may be whether it is as a full-time teacher or a part-time substitute teacher, to see that teachers need good substitute teachers to continue with their lesson plans, to at least attempt to understand content, and to not waste an instructional day. Students need good substitute teachers, not a babysitter (as tempting as some students’ behavior may drive me to wish I had a movie to show).

I want my kids to go to school and know that if they have a question for a substitute teacher, he or she will answer it with patience and not quit until they understand. I want that for your kids. I want that for all kids.

I took the kids and their cousin ice-skating right after we dropped off Daddy at the airport.

So what did I learn in high school algebra? I learned that relearning high school algebra is like attempting anything difficult in life. Have patience. Relax with a cup of coffee if you need to. Success is inevitable to one who never gives up.

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In #17

The school year is in full swing and while I am grateful to be working a lot, I’m going to be completely honest and say…

AAAAAAAAARGH! I’ve reached my limit!

I think subbing three days a week is my limit. Any more than that, I miss out on the endorphins of Zumba, the benefits of stay-at-home such as being able to kinda keep the house clean, down time whenever I need it and eating right.

When I can’t do those things above, things happen: Starbucks moves back into my life. I’m not exercising. I am not motivated to eat better. Making poor carby choices. I can’t stop to take time out for me!

Today I hit a teacher milestone that I am sad to admit. I am so sad I will probably cut and paste into its own post to truly feel the full effect of guilt.

I kicked a student out of my classroom.

Not literally, of course. But I had to.

Earlier that morning a VP came to warn me about a student who may need to be placed in a different environment and gave me her number to call if I had any problems.

Well, fast forward a few hours and I am teach teaching math with all fifth grade classes. I have the lowest students in the grade level. As you may or may not know, some come with behavior problems. EXTREME BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS.

Three boys gave me the impression that they thought they were badasses and I’m thinking, HMMM, not a prob. Just get through the lesson. No biggie.

I separate a pair of boys who I have already warned to stop talking. They do and one in particular is, when you get him away from his friends, the sweetest kid. The other not so much. He couldn’t concentrate on his math to save his life because he was so busy trying to see what my reaction was to the head honcho. We’ll call this head honcho J.

So J mocks me, constantly mumbles through the test even after several warnings, whistled loudly, and eggs his neighbors on to join in his behavior so finally I couldn’t stand it anymore. I called the VP.

She gets to the classroom and I said, “I need you to take a student but you never told me which one it was.”

She said, “I NEVER SENT HIM.”

Right then and there my heart, my world, my spirit stopped. I was kicking a child out of my class. I could not reach this child no matter what I did.

She began to escort a student out but it wasn’t the one I was referring too.

I know, right?

I don’t think I’ve ever felt that deflated before in my entire life. And here I was, chuckling because yesterday I saw a substitute teacher make his students go back and line up, taking up his own lunch time.

All day I’ve just sighed at myself and wondered what I could have done differently. I didn’t want to be a substitute, a teacher, a parent, a PERSON who gave up so easily but I also needed to give the other students a chance to learn.

I read in a staff room bathroom (of all places): “Every child deserves to be loved, especially those who don’t deserve it.” And isn’t that the truth? How much was this child at fault for his own behavior? Was it ANY of his fault? Or was any or all of it learned?

I was truly sad to know that an eleven year old could have so much disrespect, defiance, and just utter disregard. But I don’t know his story.

And I know he’s got one.

***sigh***

So over on Wife of a Sailor, Wife posts questions for other bloggers to answer on their own military spouse blogs. (Still with me so far?) And since my brother freaked me out by telling me he killed the neighbor’s rotweiller because the dog tried to bite him earlier (HE SAID HE WAS KIDDING AFTER I FREAKED OUT IN FRONT OF THE GIRLS’ GYMNASTICS STUDIO! AAARGH!), I thought this might be fun to fill out because I haven’t posted in forever. Then I’m going to zzzzzzzzz…

1. Right now, our weather is STILL IN THE 90s AND 100s, but what I’d really like is FALL WEATHER TO GET HERE ALREADY.

I was born and raised in the Monterey Bay and went to college in San Francisco so I’ve been spoiled with mild temperatures. I wore shorts and flip flops with a sweater tied around my waist all my life. All my life until I married my sailor then moved to the DIRRRTY SOUTH, that is! I miss fog!

2. I like to let my hair down and WEAR CAMISOLES AND PAJAMA PANTS AND LAY AROUND THE HOUSE READING VAMPIRE NOVELS AND EATING KIT KATS.

Okay, probably not the way it was supposed to be answered but hot damn! I’m tired and this is what I’d rather be doing all weekend.

3. Mommy Rambles made a post about heroes… my heroes are MY CHILDREN because INSTEAD OF LOSING IT AFTER EVERYTHING THEY’VE BEEN THROUGH, THEY’RE TAKING IT ALL IN STRIDE.

If anything, this whole experience has made them grow up faster. There has been a lot of heartache and sadness and fear in the past year but there has been so much love and understanding as well.

4. It’s a weird combination, but I swear MY HUSBAND and I are a perfect pair!

Our interests are so different like night and day. He’s so mellow and easy going while I kinda like being the devil’s advocate when we “discuss” various issues. He keeps to himself a lot (but still as friendly as can be) but I don’t know. I have word vomit and will probably talk to anyone and every one if you give me the chance. We’ll probably never agree on a honeymoon or a getaway since I’m more five-star where he’s more into roughing it.

Despite all of these things, we’re a great pair! (Usually.)

5. Some may see the glass half empty and others may see it half full, but I SEE TWO GLASSES BECAUSE SOMEONE LEFT THAT SHOT ON THE TABLE SO I DRANK IT.

FAST. YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE BABY!

Good night!

Mommy Maestra

Back in 1999 life was great.

I was back in my hometown after spending six years in the Bay Area. I made new friends and was dating a sailor who was studying at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey.

I remember the first farmer's market we ever went to, R bought me a caramel apple. We had to have another one for old time's sake.

I was in my third year of teaching and so excited to be with six year olds again. Yes, I was teaching first grade again.

After thirteen years, I still remember the question that I was asked by parents the most that year: “So… do you have any kids of your own?”

I have to admit that I was mistakenly offended whenever someone asked this question because I got the impression that parents couldn’t believe that I could adequately teach their children if I wasn’t a parent already. Maybe some parents deep down believed (and still believe) that notion but I think that many were questioning my fabulosity youth.

While I don’t think you need to be a parent to be a good teacher and vice versa, I know that both roles complement each other… and I exploit them ruthlessly.

What I Learned Being a TEACHER:

1. The moment you engage in an argument with a child, you lose. Mommy won’t argue with you. Period.

2. Diffuse the situation with silence. Quiet is MUCH scarier than yelling.

3. Routines work. Bedtime and alarms are the same and vary only by an hour on weekends and on vacation.

4. Lists work. To-Do Lists put the responsibility on the kids.

5. Use bribes sparingly. “What? We’re gonna go to McDonalds? We haven’t been there in a long time! Let’s hurry up and clean our rooms!”

6. Find allies quickly. Team up with teacher/parent and agree on an objective whether it’s reading independently or remembering to study. Constantly reenforce objective until kid knows it like the back of his hand. Like when your older daughter refuses to put her sweater on during a Disney On Ice show. Simply turn to the woman next to you and whisper, “Would you mind telling my daughter to put her sweater on?” and a knowing gleam appears in her eye. Problem solved.

7. Let learning be its own reward. I don’t do raffle tickets or anything too complicated or I’ll get too lazy. I do simple but special things like table/group points for Lunch Bunch (bringing lunch back to the classroom and eating with moi). I have been known to do something special such as letting the kid choose the once-a-week (TRYING to keep it at once a week) foray to the drive-thru of choice for a great report card or note.

***GUILTY SIDE NOTE***
Last trimester my son got STRAIGHT A’s in third grade for the FIRST TIME EVER. We decided to go big and get him a huge Nerf foam dart machine gun. He was so happy and excited that as he was lugging it out to the car, he said, “This feels really good!”

I said, “What? Getting a huge present?”

“No,” he said. “Getting good grades does!”

YESSSSS! We’ll see if he gets those grades again and remembers what he said…

What I Learned Being a PARENT:

1. Every student is someone’s child. I don’t get too grossed out if a kid has a runny nose. I just get the kid a tissue. No biggie.

2. Every kid walking or biking or skateboarding on the street is going to be treated like it’s MY KID out there so honk if you must but I’m still not going to speed up. Jerk.

3. Every kid has a backstory. It may be something as simple as getting reprimanded for something minor or worrying about whether or not he packed his homework. It may be something life-altering like dad getting in a car accident. Whatever “it” is, it’s important to the kid so it’s important to you.

4. Kids can’t hear ANYTHING. “What? Clean my room? Huh? What did you say?”

5. Kids hear EVERYTHING. My daughter was upstairs in her room playing but she heard my husband and I talk about where we might go for lunch. Apparently the phrase “BEAN BURRITO” registers in her superhearing.

6. Kids don’t remember anything. My son forgot his homework for an entire two weeks in a row until…

7. Kids remember EVERYTHING. My son quotes his new fourth grade teacher verbatim and has a newfound responsibility that kinda freaks me out a little. Also, they never forget when I forget to pay them for cleaning up the dog doo in the backyard or the promise of going to the movies every season.

WHAT ALL PARENTS AND TEACHERS HAVE IN COMMON:

1. They check their egos at the door and let the kids be right at their own goofy expense.

2. They are compassionate, caring individuals who contribute to our society in the highest roles possible as parents and/or teachers.

3. THEY ROCK!