Tuesday, January 31, 2012

sad days at school

I've been blue.  I don't usually advertise my actual problems, nor do I care to share my possible shortcomings.  I always preach to my children "never let them see you sweat."  I don't want to inspire others to think I'm anything but invincible.  But... recently something happened that shook me.  Not even earth shattering, just personal defeat and doubt.

I have been filling in for a teacher on medical leave since sometime in December.  The first few weeks in January, I was there almost every day.  I taught on walking field trips, without electricity in the portable, with my visualizer light blown out, and during snow and holidays.

Eventually, the job became an official "long term medical leave."  Fourth grade, my new favorite grade.

The principal asked me to have a 'mini-interview' with her concerning the job.  Despite the casual sound of this, I actually prepared for it, even dressing up on a casual Friday.  The interview loomed at the end of the day, as a different sub took over the fourth grade class.

I had already bonded with these students.  I had already established routine in the classroom.  Friday night I got the call.  They decided to go a different way.

I could now stand on my soapbox and defend all the thoughts going through your mind, and mine.  I have a master's degree in curriculum.  I am a good teacher.  I know the staff, school, and students.  It really doesn't matter.  Nothing changes.

My reaction from those in the know has almost exclusively been wtf!!?  I am embarrassed.  I am sad.  I'd really rather people think that I just didn't want a long term position right now.  But that would be a lie.

I miss these kids.  I miss the boy that cried on my shoulder about his mother being sick.  I miss the sassy boy that thought he was smarter than me and, realizing I refused a power struggle, started to soften.  I miss the blurting girl that bonded with me when I explained that I also have that tendency, and told her my tools that helped.  I miss the learning support student that actually did work for me.  I miss the five students I've know since kindergarten, when I taught them art lessons.

I have a story for each and every kid, and it's tearing my heart out when they ask "why did you leave us?"

Ugh.  And the new sub... a never before seen young man.  What could this guy do to convince them he's the man for the job that I couldn't do over a year and a half of hard work?  Doubt.  Frustration.  Embarrassment.  Sadness.  Yup- this story's got them all.

So now I plot my new plan.  Teach at a different school?  Return to the college professor route, despite my husbands sighs about more school, less work?  Go into the always advised against 'cause I can't handle the emotions social or charity work?  (I have a child, consumer, and family studies degree, too)  Hold my head high and continue to prove my worth to the principal that doesn't seem to have faith in my abilities?

My tenacity seems to be voting for the last choice.  Sigh.  Here we go again.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Voir dire (fancy talk for jury selection)

I had jury duty this week... again.  Wanting desperately to avoid being stuck on a trial, I attempted something I've never done.  I sat in the back row and didn't say anything.  It was hard.  But guess what--  for the first time in 38 years, I managed to go unnoticed and escaped what was sure to be torture in the form of public service.

Wednesday morning, I was late to jury duty.  I hate being late anywhere.  First we had to juggle the kids on a school closed snow day while attempting to avoid a warrant for my arrest.  Then I had to make it across town, late, with the crazy snow drivers.

Arriving at the courthouse, I was immediately aware that the jury duty waiting room is kinda like DMV, except everyone is dressed up.  Well, they try.  This is one of those places that makes me feel incredibly attractive and super stylish.

Numbers were handed out to the potential jurors.  My number was 32.  I immediately started talking to the guy next to me- we'll call him wore-my-hunting-hat-to-the-courthouse.  I excitedly announced that 32 was my son's football number!  That was the moment when I realized if I was going to get out of there today, I needed a low profile.  So I sat there.  For ten minutes.  I didn't start a conversation with anyone.  It was weird.

The bailiff instructed us to the courtroom.  On the 5th floor.  She advised the elevators were small and slow and we should take the stairs.  It was a single file line, slowly moving up five flights of turning stairs.  It felt like march of the penguins.  Near the top, comb-over-man announced "this reminds me of 9-11, but we're all going the wrong way".  Nice.

In the waiting area, I sized up what this slice of America looked like.  Mock-turtleneck-with-cheap-suit guy.  Gonna-finish-my-knitting lady.  Bejeweled-and-bedazzled-constant-texter, OMG.  I'm-holding-my-juror-number-upside-down man whom mistakenly thought he was #9.

To the side of the courtroom door were the friends and family of the defendant.  I try not to judge people by the way they look- but c'mon!  Black jeans with holes, a stretched out t-shirt?  Good advice in life-- anytime you enter a courtroom, please at least attempt to brush your hair.
Inside the courtroom was the defendant's mother.  Let's call her Elvira, and she couldn't stop crying.  She also couldn't stop talking.  Even after the court officers continually shushed her.
The judge was interesting.  He looked like Dauber from Coach.  Kinda sounded like him, too.  I was in a courtroom being addressed by a gray haired, robed man that sounded like Spongebob's sidekick, Patrick.

Questions were asked.  People spoke.  The only time I responded (remember, low profile) was when asked to raise your number if you've been on a jury before.

I was sitting in the back, hardly moving, hunched down.  I had lots of opinions, but for once I kept them to myself.  So did my two neighbors, old-lady-hums-when-she-breathes and teeny-tiny-OCD-ADD girl.  I'm not making this up about her.  She announced this to me in a whisper like she was singing the alphabet. 

Old-lady-hums-when-she-breathes was nice enough.  But... she hummed every time she took a breath!  My students and children will tell you the thing that makes me crazy-- repetitive, annoying noises.  At one point, while I calmly sat there, the inside of my mind was screaming-- jump up, scream, run out of the courtroom!  Announce to the world this old lady makes a hum sound every single time she takes a breath!

Sitting in the back, I was directly across from the 8 person revolving circus there for the defendant.  One man kept picking his nose, looking at it, and wiping it on his jeans.  Not even making this up!  At one point, he actually used his tshirt to wipe his nose, exposing half his torso to the courtroom.  Grandma-home-perm, clearly Elvira's mother, handed the grown man some tissue.  He threw it to the ground in protest, making a sound I have heard many times before---from my 5th grader!

This group also continually and randomly kept filing in and out of the room.  They had a plastic container that I thought contained nuts which they kept handing around.  At one point, a guy seemed to be opening a candy wrapper and was catching looks from everyone.  When he stood up to leave, I realized what the noise was and what was in this mysterious plastic container.  Held between his thumb and forefinger was an unsealed, hand rolled cigarette.  He was rolling a cigarette in the courtroom!  And he carefully carried it out of the courtroom before sealing it up!

It's interesting being in a jury selection.  You have all these ideas prepared in your mind of how you are going to beg your way out of it.  When the time comes, however, you are afraid to breath.  You feel like you're in trouble.  The assortment of law officials seem so stoic and scary.

A few brave souls did attempt a plea to be released.
First attempt:  Nice young engineering major at WSU, in his junior year, only second week of classes.  The judge simply said that sounds inconvenient, but no.

Second attempt:  Fourth grade teacher man that announced it was hard to leave a classroom for several days.  What an idiot.  Lawyers love having teachers on their jury, they know you aren't missing pay, and they know you have perfectly capable substitutes on call.  That man, of course, ended up on the jury.

Third attempt:  Pale, sunken woman takes the microphone and announces she has the flu.  She was excused immediately.  As she handed the microphone back, I noticed the bailiff stifle a sickened look, and attempt to wipe the microphone on her jacket.

I dreaded this part.  The trial was for rape and assault.  Ugh.  Clearly no one is comfortable with this, but when asked if anyone would be too upset to focus, several people were stupid enough to raise their hands.  What followed was a line of questioning that drew out confessions of past events to friends and family that I really didn't need to hear.  One of my roommates boyfriends held us by gunpoint, and then stole my Dodge Dart, and took our laundry money...  Thanks for sharing.

Um, also... if you seem jaded by the event, even though you say you aren't, the prosecutors are going to want you on the trial!  Duh.  Of course, the main story teller was, in fact, a chosen juror.

I will end this tale with cigarette rolling gentleman in the back, that seemed to have somehow bonded with me.  Lots of eye contact and smiling.  As I left the courtroom, sandwiched between old-lady-hums-when-she-breathes and teeny-tiny-OCD-ADD, he mouthed thank you to me.  Creepy.

As I drove away from the courthouse, grateful to be released, I noticed a man standing on the corner smoking.  It was my friend from the courtroom, with one of his rolled cigarettes.  He waved.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Everything old is... well, old

Being around kids all the time, I can't help but notice this year's Christmas gift was the ipod touch.  EVERYONE has one.  For once, my kids are accurate.  The retail price dropped drastically for these high tech gadgets, and the consumers responded accordingly.

My son has an old ipod.  A hand me down from his dad.  The generation just before the touch revolution.  He wants an ipod touch, and a phone.  Even better, an iphone.  Ya, I don't think so.  He has been preached a lot lately how some kids don't have shoes or a warm coat.  Some kids don't have the medicine they desperately need, or food for dinner.  He has responded well to these age old tactics.

His peers?  Not so much. 

It's hard to raise a grateful child when every peer opinion contradicts it.  My son was told on the bus that his ipod was uncool, or whatever the hip way to say that is.  Isn't that like saying your Bentley is sooo the wrong color?

When my kids say EVERYONE has one, they aren't making that up!

And the age level keeps lowering by the minute.  Soon, we will be seeing children in preschool with a bedazzled phone and ipad.

We have old ipods, updated phones only as needed, and some tv's that aren't even flat.  I guess we're not cool.

A child spied my ipod in the kitchen the other day and asked what was wrong with it.  What was wrong with it?  Apparently it was nearly unrecognizable with it's first generation style.  That child had an ipod touch fourth generation, and looked over my ipod touch first generation like he was touring a hands on antique museum.

I am worried about this materialistic generation and the lessons we are teaching these children.  I am worried about the children that really do worry about food, clothing, and a safe home.  Imagine how they must be feeling.

The latest 4-D tv?  Hey kids- know what else is in 4-D?  Outside!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New year, New you

I've been thinking this week about new year's resolutions.  I never make them.  The timing makes no sense to me.  If we are supposed to use a brand new year to start fresh, then why do they put all the good football games on right after new year?  Clearly I will not be exercising and watching my diet during that first week!

I'm also confused what these resolutions are supposed to be.  Do I want to be healthier or happier?  I could swear off sugar, carbs, and caffeine to protect the health of my heart, or I could decide to make a truce with my body image and enjoy life.  I could pick the balance... but I'm already doing that.

So what makes a good resolution?

I already spend lots of time with my family, and I don't smoke.  I know I'll exercise more when the warmer weather comes.  Diet?  I love my tachos, but I eat sensibly.  I'm not in debt, I don't drink too much, and I enjoy life.  Organize?  Please.  Already the queen.

I think resolutions are great for people that are unhappy.  For the rest of us though?

I have my vices...

It always comes back to the chocolicious torte.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Life is really not the way I planned it.  I'm sure you can all say the same.

My life is a daily grind of the same stagnate rituals.  It is comfortable and easy.

Sometimes, though, something really surprises me.

As a child, we are instructed that society has a certain blueprint for success.  As it turns out, it's not success.  It's just comfort.  All of our happiness and sadness is a road made of our choices, occasionally sprinkled with surprise.

My best moments in life were surprises.  The things that speak to my soul, warm my heart, and make me smile were surprises.  Unexpected events, chance meetings, fate changing moments... they all make life worth living.

I can try to control every aspect of my success in life, but those sweet surprises are what make it all worthwhile.

I am welcoming warm surprises with open arms.  Stay tuned as life unfolds...