A Teacher's Journal

Personal observations about life in general and teaching in particular.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Change is a constant: how I am learning to adapt and overcome!

I think all my family and close friends know that I deal with hypothyroidism daily.  I was diagnosed with it in 2011 after several years of struggle.  The fact that I had subclinical thyroid issues was often downplayed by the doctors I saw, many stating that my levels were well within the "normal" range or caused by other concerns...there were always "other" things that took precedence, it seems.  They told me that my fatigue was due to lack of exercise, depression, anxiety or stress.  My weight gain was due to over-eating and not exercising "enough".  My hair loss was due to "normal" aging.  My reduced (who am I kidding, complete LACK of) sex drive was "part of getting older." My aching joints were just arthritis and I needed to "get up and exercise" completely disregarding the fact that I couldn't even cross the room without feeling like I could crumple into a blob on the floor.

It started while I was dealing with Endometriosis and Adenomyosis, when the uterine cells are embedded in the uterine walls.  I had a fibroid tumor the size of a 4 month fetus in my uterus and cysts in both ovaries. After jumping through the hoops to meet the insurance requirements for a hysterectomy, I was finally able to have that taken care of, almost ten years after the initial diagnosis!  My gyno told me that I "would feel better within 6 months" and I did feel better initially while I was on hormone replacement therapy.  Unfortunately, it didn't last.  As soon as I turned 50 they took that away.

About a year after my hysterectomy I began to notice my energy was depleted much faster than I thought it should and I was experiencing some sleeping issues as well.  Though I was exhausted, when I went to bed my mind would not shut down.  I no longer had the energy to walk across the field and monitor my students after teaching all morning.  Something that I took for granted just months earlier. I began to fall asleep in my chair shortly after arriving home, napping for an hour before I could even find the energy to grade papers and plan for the next day.

I could not keep up with my grandchildren any longer, my back and knees were constantly aching and I gained more weight.  I went back to the doctor and went through several more rounds of blood tests only to be told that I was "fine" and that I needed to get out and exercise more.

During this period I also experienced loss.  My step-father passed, after several years of dealing with dementia and Alzheimers.  My 16 year old pet cocker-cross, Buddy, passed away.  I brought him home when he was just 6 weeks old, the loss was expected but my response was unexpected.  We lost 3, very good friends in that year.  It seemed that we were constantly mourning.  I began to suffer from anxiety and uncontrollable crying jags.  The job I loved, teaching, became a lifeline and it was just about the only thing that kept me focused and putting one foot in front of the other, though it was not without it's stressors.  The emotional roller coaster was mostly lows, I do not think I found too many highs during that period.  The world became a very dark place for me.

I finally insisted on a referral to another doctor and, after some back and forth, it was granted.  The new doctor immediately diagnosed depression and anxiety disorders and prescribed meds.  They helped but not a lot.  Thankfully, she also ordered more blood tests, a more complete work up, and discovered that my thyroid was "cranky".  At least that is what she called it.

I was given the lowest dose of thyroxizine she could give me, to "see if there was any change."  Thank the Lord it did help, however, that was not the end of the story -- as I was given to believe.  I thought I was on the road to feeling better, I felt better in small increments, I began to find more energy and my evening "naps" began to happen less frequently and were of shorter durations.  Then my world crumbled around me again, the job I loved and the students who were my reason for moving forward, the reason I was able to get up each morning, was unceremoniously jerked out from under me.  I floundered. I questioned myself and my calling.

I struggled and I persevered, I refused to just give up.  I found a new reason to get up.  A new reason to move on.  I went back to waiting tables.  I found myself again and I found my husband there waiting for me to stand on my own once more.  He never told me that he worried, he never told me that he was scared, he just quietly propped me up when I couldn't do it and bravely, gently, prodded me forward.

I found my feet, rediscovered my love of teaching with a class of high energy fourth graders.  I began to believe in myself once more and I began to trust again, though I am not where I once was, it was a beginning.

I found a new place, a place that needed me, a place that valued my skills, solicited my input and wanted my knowledge for their district.  I found like-minded people, professionals who wanted to improve their students' education.  Professionals who wanted change and believed in our ability as a team to make that change happen.

I speak, of course, of my new home, Sanders, and the exceptional people I have come to work with, not for, but with -- because together we are more than we are on our own.

While the transition has had some hurdles to jump and some mountains to climb, I believe that I have found a wonderful group of people who believe in me and that I believe in.  Friends that are there for me and who will support me, as they have already lifted me up, when I needed it.

I have learned about the Circle of Trust, and The Beauty Way.  I have learned to always look for the beauty around me, beneath me, above me...there are so many beautiful people here.

I have many lessons to relearn and I am learning so many new things, about me, life and my passion.
I look forward to the journey.  I have promised myself to write more often and from my heart.  Follow me, if you dare.  :)

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

First Mother's Day Without Mom

This is a work in progress, might be a poem at some point for now it's just a train of thought running around in my head.


Sometimes I feel your hand on my shoulder
I think you are standing behind me because I can sense your warmth

I felt your hands guiding mine as I finished a project that you started

Sometimes I think of our talks
They make me feel better
even if they make me weepy
at least it's a "happy" weepy

You taught me how to cook
how to love
how to rear my children
common sense
and a work ethic
and I learned

I can still hear you reading The Hobbit
and singing

I remember your laugh and your bright smile

I see you in the mirror sometimes

I hear your words coming out of my mouth

I miss you still but it's getting easier
not having you here

I feel you with me
always there
in the background, beside me

I hope I have your dignity and strength

I hope I've made you proud

I know I was blessed to have had you with me
Even if you weren't with me as long as I would have liked

Saying Goodbye to a Parent

Chatting with Mom part 2

July 23, 2013 at 9:46pm
On the fifth day after you left us, a raven came and sat on the light pole above your room.  I noticed him right away since he was "caw, caw, cawing" loud enough to wake the dead.  He sat there and talked to me for the longest time, at least 25 minutes.  It was so strange, I've never seen a raven do that before.

Chet and I started talking about Alaska and how the ravens were protected.  I think they believe that ravens carry the souls of the dead to the afterlife.  I know we just had a conversation about ravens and myths, it just struck me as one of those weird moments out of time.

I watched the raven some more.  I looked around but he seemed to be alone, maybe he was calling for his pals or his mate.  I talked to him and he "cawed" back at me, turning his head this way and that.

I choose to believe he was telling me that you were ok.  Perhaps stopping by to ease my pain.

About a half hour later, five more ravens flew over the house and he just called back to me and flew away with them.  I watched them fly away down the ravine and out across the desert.

It was a surreal moment.

I love you, Mom.

Good byes are never easy


Chatting with Mom

July 14, 2013 at 5:33pm
It’s been three days since you left us.  I feel better today than I did yesterday.  I hope that pattern continues.

I just want to say that you were an inspiration to me; a divorcee’ in the mid-70’s had such a difficult path but you handled it with determination and forgiveness.  I know you made some mistakes along the way, and haven’t we all, but you always managed to pick yourself up and move forward, no matter the road blocks in your path. You were such a great lady, everyone who knew you told me so.  I knew that but it’s nice to hear from others.

I know that some days will be better than others and some will be worse.  I keep seeing you take your last breath, I hear your struggling words, and the raspy gasp as you did your best to reassure me that I had followed your wishes.  Sometimes that gives me comfort, sometimes it makes it difficult to breathe, but I hold on to those images, regardless because I know they are important.  You should remember the last moments with your mother, shouldn’t you?

I have finally started using past tense when I talk about you, well most of the time, without sobbing.  I think I have some time to go before that’s just a memory; maybe I need to wallow a little longer.  I don’t know.

Everyone tells me I’m “strong” but I don’t feel strong.  I feel broken.  I want to remember the good times, great things that we did, wonderful conversations and quiet moments, but the picture of you lying in the hospital bed overlaps everything…I am not strong, I am weak.  I am angry that you left so soon, frustrated that I couldn’t will you into better health, and heart-broken that I feel that way at all.

I think of you all the time, I wake up thinking I need to check on you, but your room is quiet.  I tried to sort through some things yesterday; maybe it’s just too soon.  The boxes mock me by sitting on the bed, the floor, the clothes hanging around -- a grim reminder that you aren’t coming back.

I washed clothes today and neatly folded all of your things, placed them on the dresser and put them in your drawers before I thought about it.  Then I realized I could have just boxed them up, but maybe I’m not ready for that either.

I have quite a few pictures on flash drives to sort through but I just can’t do that yet.  Maybe tomorrow will be better and maybe not. 

I miss our daily chats, your smiling face, your laughter and your singing.  God I miss you, I guess that’s not going to go away.  I hope it gets easier, they tell me it will, I’m just not sure I believe them yet.

I love you Mom.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ever Evolving "Job Title"

I love that this district has allowed me to stretch my wings and pursue other interests. I am currently working on my administrative certification, producing more professional development workshops, increasing the number of devices we have in our schools and classrooms and now, grant writing! I recently finished writing two small grants to build a greenhouse and design an "outdoor" classroom. Now I am wrapping up a grant to purchase a portable science lab for the high school. I have several other grants I'm looking into for other purposes, and I hope to write at least one grant through the National Science Foundation. I am anxiously waiting to hear about these grants, I wonder how long it takes to find out? Some of them give a firm time line but others, especially the smaller grants are a bit open-ended, so hard to predict.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Using History to Invigorate Common-Core Lessons

Using History to Invigorate Common-Core Lessons

Yeah! This is what I've been preaching for years now.  Don't tell me you don't have "time" to teach social studies, history, geography, civics, etc.  If you have time for reading, you have time for reading in the content area.

Common Core (or College and Career) Standards can be taught, in depth, in any area.  You choose the topic, subject matter, and lesson so use your creativity and add reading and writing across the curriculum.  Develop projects that give children opportunities to use their knowledge and they will remember it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Redefining the Writing Process with iPads | Edutopia

Redefining the Writing Process with iPads | Edutopia

Love this!  Lots of good information to drive the technology integration at our school!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Technology Grant LEA Peer Coach Facilitator

"Sometimes I feel like a nut!" Well, a technology nut, at least. I think that we need to focus on integrating the technology into the curriculum rather than teaching students to use the technology. Really, they are intuitively capable! Most of our students know more than we do about using tablets, smart phones and the internet, our biggest challenge is keeping them engaged and learning. Also, check out the Teacher Tech Tips (http://www.teachertechtips.org/professional-development) page that we've recently started. We will try to update the site at least bi-monthly after each professional development workshop.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Caring for our parents

I know why I never thought about this, my mom has always been pretty healthy and self-sufficient. We had always planned to enjoy our retirement years with her, traveling in our RVs perhaps towing a "mother-in-law's" camper behind our own. However, I'm still years from my retirement and this was an abrupt change in all of our lives. In March of this year my mother was hospitalized with Congestive Heart Failure. After spending almost two weeks in the hospital I decided that it was important that she stay with my husband and I to recuperate. Unfortunately, what we thought would be a fairly fast recovery period since she's always been healthy, has turned into a merry-go-round of doctor visits, emergency room visits, blood draws and hospital stays. Most recently a life threatening case of blood clots in both legs which involved a life flight to a larger hospital and the insertion of a "filter" to prevent the clots from entering her heart and lungs. This most recent development led to her requesting that we create a Living Will and a durable Power of Attorney. She no longer wants to make health decisions or financial decisions, preferring to defer those to me. I am so thankful that my husband is supportive, I just can't imagine doing it without his help. One of the most difficult positions I have ever been in -- making decisions for my mother. I am now responsible for ensuring she takes her medication, exercises, eats, drinks, bathes, etc. and we are in the process of getting all her expenses lined up so that we can get them paid on her fixed income. She can no longer care for herself, fix her meals, bathe, even getting dressed is a long process. I'm learning as we go and I plan to keep a journal just to get these thoughts out of my head so I can move on. If my yammering is able to help someone else out there, please let me know. I look forward to hearing from others going through the same thing.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

More Reflections on Teaching

I wonder (as I approach the middle of my 13th year) if I am approaching burn out. I find myself reflecting on an offer to manage a B & B or I catch myself wondering about that management position that is posted at the local fast food joint. Do I want to take on that second master's degree and move out of the classroom or, perhaps, up to the college level? Am I really ready to devote the time and money required to make that step? Have I reached the end of my rope or is this just a passing phase?

How do we, as educators, address these issues? The public education system, administrators and teachers are (it seems) constantly under attack and sometimes, it gets personal. It's hard not to take offense when your character, your professionalism, is called into question by folks who have no idea what your job entails. Trying to enlighten those folks is often frustrating and, most of the time, thankless.

Sometimes I feel like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. I wonder what would happen if all the teachers just walked away from our classrooms and let those folks, who believe they have all the answers, take over. All those public "officials" who've only experienced a classroom from a child's point of view, but who believe that somehow we need their instructions in order to educate the children "the right way."

How many other professionals, doctors, lawyers, dentists, etc. would put up with the constant interference in their profession? Can you imagine going into the operating room and explaining to the surgeon, "Well, according to all the research I've read the first step is...." Perhaps, as you stood in front of the judge, taking your lawyer to task because you believe have a better understanding of the law and your rights?

What makes these folks think that they know more than the person who has devoted their life to learning about education? Those same people who are consistently taking classes to improve, taking part in conferences to learn about the newest developments, technology and tools to reach the students under their supervision and often returning to share that new information with their colleagues.

Many teachers have Master's degrees and there are those few who have more than one degree. The equivalent of 7 or more years of college (typical Bachelor's of 4-5 years + Master's) add to this the number of workshops, conferences and educational conventions we attend, in addition to the extra classes that are constantly added to the requirements for maintaining certification and you soon reach the equivalent of a medical or law degree.