A Teacher's Journal

Personal observations about life in general and teaching in particular.

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.

Underfunded Education Issues

I've just been informed that teachers may not leave the classroom (students) for any reason. This may not sound like a big deal and you might even agree with the sentiment, I do in fact understand the reasoning behind the rule. However, I am concerned about basic human needs, such as a bathroom break. Teachers get to school at about 7:30 am, children enter the classroom at approximately 7:50, teaching begins at 8. Children get a bathroom/snack break at 10:00, for about ten minutes. Lunch is at 12:10, teaching resumes at 12:30. PE (you are the teacher) at 1:35, 20 minutes, bathroom break and journals take up the remaining 20 minutes or so. Pack them up, walk them out to the buses and you finally get a breather at about 2:30-2:35. The last hour of the day is your preparation time. Specials are supposed to be at 11 am, however, they are hit or miss. You may or may not have it and you will probably be teaching it. So, again, I ask -- when do we get to take care of our own bodily needs? I was told by administration that "In an emergency, you can ask a fellow grade level teacher to watch your class. However, this should not become a habit." Really? Who knew using the restroom was a "habit" that we should not have to take care of on a daily basis? Then they inform us that we have no money for substitutes so "don't call in sick" and don't ask for personal days. Yes, they are paid and yes, they are included in our contract, we will not be paid for any unused days. If, in an emergency, you must call in, then your grade level will have to split your class. So this means, in our case anyway, that you will have your 24 students plus 12 more from your colleague's class. You should prepare a packet of material for your students, in the event that you have an "emergency." Is it any wonder that teacher are burning out so quickly? Just my thoughts, zaggrad

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some days

I have days and days to go before I sleep.
I don’t know why today was so difficult; I don’t know why it was so hard to rest last night. Some days are like that, I guess. What is it about a simple comment, said in jest, that just hits your heart? Thankfully it doesn’t happen as often now as it did back then, but today was spent dwelling in the past…so I have to get it out somehow and this is my method.

“Why don’t you take that boy home and teach him some manners?”
“You need a son. Chet needs a boy.”
“Are you going to try again? You should try for a boy this time.”
“Wow, how did you stop with all girls, you should keep trying for a boy.”

Most days, I can let it go. Just let those words waft over my head and smile good naturedly while they all guffaw at the jest. But some days, once in a while, the words take root and fester. Today was one of those days.

So for my family and friends that maybe don't know and for those that do know but may have forgotten, this is why those days are so very difficult for me (for us).

(Feb 23, 1983) I remember walking into the hospital, seven months pregnant, Chet pacing at my side. The perky little nurse came running up to us and called out to the entire waiting area. “Are we going to have a baby today?” Feeling dead inside myself, I felt Chet tense beside me. I abruptly told her “No,” and continued to walk on, struggling to maintain my emotions. I am not a “public person,” my emotions and tears are not something that I am comfortable sharing with just anyone. So now we were a parade, the perky little nurse, now a bit taken aback trailing behind us, and I felt as if all eyes were on me. What a weight that was…but it was only beginning.

We were escorted to the birthing room where, thankfully, we were the only ones in attendance. The doctor came into the room and described how things would proceed. He offered the services of the chaplain, but this wasn’t something we were ready to deal with. For several hours, I lay writhing in pain waiting for the inevitable. Praying that we would be left alone in that room but the whole time the other bed was mocking me. Apparently God wasn’t done with us yet.

Soon we were joined by a happy couple expecting their third child. Curtains were pulled but we were forced to endure the happy sounds coming from across the room. I lay there weeping quietly while I listened to the other mother bring her little girl into the world. No body came to check on us, the nurses all stayed and cooed over the new mama and baby. Finally, when we could stand it no more, Chet told them that I needed to be moved. They all acted surprised, as if it was a shock that I might be suffering in the wake of such joy. How could I not rejoice? How could I?

The evening passed in a blur. Soon they were telling me that I would have to go home and return in the morning because things were not progressing. I don’t remember going home; I barely remember returning to the hospital. I was in a daze, wrapped in my own thoughts. Questions, so many questions, revolving around in my mind, I could see the words in my head…but they had no answers. No one had any answers. Perhaps that is the most difficult part of all.
Finally, we had him. I cradled little Clarence Joseph in my arms for the first and last time. He was so small, and yet he looked so perfect…it was so hard to realize that he would never draw a breath, never catch a ball, never try my patience, never….

I was so sick the first few days home from the hospital that I don’t remember very much. I remember insisting that my mom bring our daughter, Leigh-Ann, home. I was distraught without her there but Chet was loathe to leave us home alone. I know that he was worried, for a while she was my only reason for getting up in the morning, but somehow we muddled through.

I’m sure that we were a huge burden on Chet for the first little while, I was barely functioning and my world revolved around Leigh-Ann and Chet. Finally the day came; I remember standing in the shower and watching my milk leak down the drain as I cried uncontrollably. It suddenly dawned on me that Leigh-Ann was sitting on the floor crying outside the shower. I was doing this, dragging her down into this pit with me. I could continue the way I was going and destroy her happy world or I could figure out how to get up and move on.

It didn’t happen overnight, I don’t even know how it happened. One day we were grieving and one day I woke up and saw spring outside, so I took Leigh-Ann outside and we played. The next day came and we went outside again, finally, finally, we were playing outside. Soon it was as normal as anything else to hear Leigh-Ann talking to her dolls about her little brother in heaven.

Then, months later we decided, or rather I begged and pleaded, to try again. I had read an article about the best “positions” to ensure a male child. I thought “What do we have to lose? We’ll get pregnant and this might give us a better chance at having a little boy.” Little did we know that we were setting ourselves up to relive the pain, I guess we were just chasing butterflies and rainbows.

This time about 6 months into the pregnancy I began to experience some strange feelings. I was closely monitoring movements, and constantly comparing my symptoms to my sister-in-laws’ complaints, all seemingly typical concerns but subconsciously I think I knew that something was wrong.

Just before the 7th month of my pregnancy Chet went out hunting, it was deer season, his mother's birthday and Thanksgiving dinner, surely no reason to stop him from following an age-old tradition with his father and brother. However, when I got up that morning and started gathering up our things to go out to his mom’s I noticed that the baby hadn’t been moving much. I counted movements, “OK,” I thought “7 in an hour is low but acceptable.” The day continued on and I got busy, so many family members to visit with, many hadn’t seen Leigh-Ann in over a year. She would soon be turning 3 and she had grown so much, we were happy to show her off.

The day continued on and just before dinner I realized that I hadn’t felt movement for a while, so I went in and lay down. I carefully counted movements, one, two…..nothing. I calmly got up and picked up the phone, carried it down the hall for a little privacy. Back then telephones were tethered to the wall and often there was only one phone in the house because the phone company charged you per connection (even though they all used the same line.) I called the doctor’s after hours line, explained the situation and she insisted that I come right in (an hour and a half drive to the hospital in normal weather.) I pulled Chet aside as he came through the door, explained what was going on and watched as he made things happen.

In short order, Leigh-Ann was sitting happily in her grandmother’s lap and we were driving into another horror story in our short married lives. It was snowing when we left the house. I sat close to Chet in the car, even though the heater was working well, I was cold, so very cold and scared to death. We had been married a bare 3 years at this point and yet we would soon be saying goodbye to our second son.

This time I was insistent that I would NOT leave the hospital that night, I planned to stay there until they had delivered my son. At this point I was positive that it was a boy, even though they refused to do an ultrasound to tell us the child’s sex, we knew. We knew.

They sent me upstairs after the ultrasound determined that our son was not moving, his heart was no longer pumping. Like soldiers marching to a death camp, Chet and I held hands and trudged upstairs to await the next ordeal. The nurses in “Labor and Delivery” placed us in the last delivery room, but it wasn’t far enough away that we couldn’t hear the happy cries of newborns and their parents throughout the long night.

We labored for hours as my body fought to hold onto our son and the doctors fought to convince my body it was time for him to come out. Inducing labor that early in a pregnancy can often be hard on your body and my body was tenaciously holding onto that last connection.

Finally in the wee hours of the morning, Nov. 25, 1984 we delivered our son, Joseph Jeffery Coleman. I held him and cried as Chet held us both. He was perfect. We could find nothing wrong with him, his fingers and toes, his little head, everything looked perfect, he looked so perfect and yet he never took a breath of air, never cried, never smiled.

Chet was my rock; he stayed with me until I slept. When I awoke he was there still, holding my hand, petting my hair, just silently being there while I, once again, came to grips with the idea that I would be leaving the hospital without my baby boy. I’m sure that I was selfish, at least I don’t remember inquiring about how he was doing, and that was bad of me. I regret that I wasn’t more solicitous of his needs at the time.

I'll add more to this later.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wow, what is with this?

I'm just amazed at the way people assume that tipping servers is a MUST-do rather than a gratuity for excellent service.
I worked for more than 15 years (1975-1995) in service industry jobs, from waiting tables and bar tending to prepping food. There were many times that I left at night with $30-40 but most nights I left with more, sometimes much more. My policy is always based on service, if you want my tip (and it IS a gratuity not a right,) I expect good service.
What is good service? My coffee cup is kept full. If we are having drinks I expect to see you before my glass is empty. I don't have to ask for things more than once. My server comes back and checks at least once before our meal is served and a couple of times after we've been served. My bill should be on the table BEFORE we are finished eating (you can always add to it if we decide on desert.) If these things don't happen then it's not good service.
If I don't leave a tip, at least a small one, then you haven't earned it. Check your behavior, snotty attitude, poor service (and/or all of the above.)
If I thought it would be worth my effort of course I could track down the manager however, in my experience, they generally know who their poor servers are and my informing them of it won't change a thing.
I know some very good servers, in modest businesses, who earn more money than I do, and they work their butts off to get it, and more power to them.
As for the increase in the % it's a "guideline" and I choose to use it as a such. I generally tip 10-15% for excellent service and I reduce the tip as the meal goes on, although I have been known to leave more, if the service warrants it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I remember when...

I remember when I was growing up we had to drive for hours to visit our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I remember going to stay with a different set of cousins, for vacations from the time that I was about 10. I don't know, because I never asked, why these little trips occurred, but I do remember enjoying them immensely. What awesome adventures we had, my brother, sisters and I.

One summer we went to visit my cousins, who lived on a farm. We tended gardens, slopped the pigs, fed the chickens and gathered eggs. We entertained ourselves playing in the duck pond, chasing each other around the farm and climbing in the barn to check out the new kittens, swing on the rope and land in the hay at the bottom. Wonderful rites of passage that we would have missed, if it weren't for our "country" cousins.

This may be one of the many reasons that we, my husband and I, chose to live in the country to raise our children. The adventures that we had as children, the trust we had in our community, knowing who was around, who we could count on and who to avoid. Small towns are the best for growing up, and growing old, truth be known.

I remember sending our eldest daughter to visit her aunt and uncle (who lived in a big city) for a week or so, so that she could experience her own adventure. It worked so well that she asked to go visit another aunt and we worked that out too. It's hard to explain the feelings that we experienced, watching her walk through the airport gate to get onto the airplane. A bit of pride, some terror, some envy and sadness that our little girl was growing up. She was heading out, away from our watchful eyes and this was just the first time she would walk away. Sometimes the most difficult part of being a parent is watching your child grow up and away from you.