Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Being Different

My husband and I have been downloading a lot of movies from Netflix over the two week teacher holiday, as there is very little to watch on basic cable right now. Two nights ago we watched "Phoebe in Wonderland," about a 10 year old girl being diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome. I highly recommend this movie to every teacher and parent, especially if you have limited experience with students who learn differently. I have started subbing again, as I noted in previous posts, and will be going back to one of my previous employers - a private school dedicated to students who learn differently. This post tonight is in honor of those who don't quite fit in, those who ask the wrong questions or say the wrong thing, those who go to the left when everyone else goes to the right, those who obsess over the miniscule to bring order and sense to the world - you are a precious gift!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blue Christmas in Georgia

A "blue Christmas" for me is hardly a sad one! For me, it refers to the color of the sky and ocean water at this time of year. This shrimp boat seems to be floating on air! Normally our water looks brown or green.

I am grateful for the sun, after so many rainy days in December, grateful for good health, that allows me to get outside and walk and enjoy nature, grateful for family and friends to share with, and grateful for the freedoms we enjoy in our country, such as freedom of religion.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Keeping up with the little elves

This week I subbed one day as a teacher's aide in a pre-K class, and two days as a teacher in a Kindergarten class. It's been five years since I have worked intensely with younger children, and I have a new humility and appreciation for what these teachers do, on a daily basis, seven to eight hours (or more) a day, five days a week! Mind you, these were well-behaved children overall - it is just the age and time of year! They reminded me of little elves, darting here and there, and guess what? You have to keep up with them! I'm probably going to go back to the K class on Monday, but for today I'm having humble pie and lots of rest on a rainy, cold Saturday!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holding flight

Of course I was out on the beach the day after Thanksgiving, and particularly enjoyed watching the shore birds - the sandpipers, the skimmers, the plovers, the seagulls, the pelicans, and a few others I don't know the names of! They were gathered in mass on the north beach.

This holiday weekend has had its share of ups and downs. I went with my son to take his driving test the day before Thanksgiving, his birthday, and he did not pass. What a bummer for him and what a heartache for me! But he is over it and determined to retake it next week...

Our family went to the in-laws in a nearby Georgia town for Thanksgiving. Actually one of the better visits with in-laws, and a great meal. No big dramas. Maybe the beer helped. Also this was the first day of sun in over a week - an unusual weather pattern for our area.

Looking at the shore birds, I noticed that the sandpipers change positions every few minutes, the front birds going to the back, so that no one has the head wind for too long. Smart birds! I took a number of pictures of the skimmers in flight - the black and white looked great against the blue sky and blue water.

I guess this weekend I am in a "holding pattern" in flight - grateful for the people in my life, and the experiences I've had.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

C'mon sun, shine on through!

I took this picture Friday morning at the beach. The sun was trying so hard to shine through the clouds and fog! I feel like I am waiting....for the fog in my life to clear up as well.

Thomas had a discouraging week in high school. His friends were in "The Glass Menagerie," being performed for the entire student body (whoever bought a $1 ticket) and the behavior of many was so poor that it was almost impossible to enjoy the play. He had advisement and is frustrated about his transcript - reasons a bit unclear. Being in the IB program for two years, he should be well ahead of others in credits. Maybe he is just frustrated that he may not be able to get all the AP courses he wants, and also do joint enrollment at the local college next year. I think he was also a bit bummed that he is currently 12th in a class of about 350 - he'd rather be number 1! Ah youth! He really is an amazing kid!

I'm trying to gear up for sub teaching in December, while counting down days to Thanksgiving and Thomas's birthday. He has his driving test next week. Mark is still plugging along at his teaching job, and seems to be doing o.k. but doesn't say much, so then I wonder are things REALLY going o.k. or not? The dog has a sore on his leg and the vet said it is either a venemous insect bite or probably cancer. Cancer! In my dog! After really expensive and involved dental surgery this summer, I can't in good conscience, as well as for financial reasons, put him through more surgery...Seems like I have had a relative with cancer each year lately....Mom just last summer. I can't stand the uncertainty of not having a teaching job now, even though I did it to myself. With the economy like it is, can I find ANY KIND OF JOB in a 50 mile radius? Are my nerves going to be able to handle this? Will the sun quit hiding and come on out in earnest? Please?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The waves roll in, the waves roll out...

I've been thinking about opposite forces - good and evil, positive and negative, the breaking wave, the receding wave - in light of health care reform. We live in a country that prides itself on acts of selfless courage and commitment. Goodness knows there are military personnel, medical personnel, social workers, teachers, and countless volunteers who are making life better for someone, somewhere in this country, right now as I piddle at a keyboard. But there are also many who are so afraid of losing a piece of their own "stuff" that they rant and rave about politicians who are working to make life better for everyone through health care reform. Anyone who thinks that impoverished individuals have it made with free health care should take a good look around clinics and shelters that serve these populations. Not many would be contenders for a Ralph Lauren ad. Sure, there are some who can afford to purchase health insurance and choose not to, but isn't choosing a path in life part of living in a republic? I'm sure there are many like me who have insurance but still pale at the thought of copays, and when visiting a doctor, quickly add up what's left in the old checking account to see if a visit really is doable. Our family insurance is through my husband's teaching job - not the best perhaps but a long way from the worst. For one brief year, we had insurance through a major private business that my husband moonlighted with (yes, two full-time jobs). The coverage was amazing! But yet I'd give up a little of what I have - in the form of at least slightly higher rates - if it meant someone else who needs medical care gets it. I call it being a grownup and learning how to share. Guess some people in this country didn't get that lesson as a child.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ready, set, go....?!?

My "sub teacher card" came in the mail Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, Veteran's Day, I happily got online and registered to be available for calls, and then by Wednesday evening, a bundle of nerves, I changed my availability date to Nov. 30th, after Thanksgiving. What is going on? Why am I nervous about doing something I've done twice before in a 20 year career? Do I think it is so terribly hard at age 49? I should be grateful to have the chance to sub, and for others to see what I can do, in the hope of landing a permanent job. Have I gotten too used to being at home, just since last June? Or do I just want to do something else? Yeah, there are so many opportunites for middle aged women in a medium sized southern city.....hmmm...lots to ponder once again.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Budget cuts - different for everyone

Thinking about budget cuts today, after seeing a local teacher's union protesting furlough days at the local board meeting yesterday. Furlough days have become a reality for many people, and are certainly more desirable than layoffs, no? Listening to teachers rant to the news reporters about how hard it is to concentrate on teaching when you don't know if your power has been cut off, I wonder....does everyone make an effort to budget like my husband and I do?

Here's the lowdown...We are a family of three living on one teacher's salary - a teacher with 25 years in the system. Our biggest ticket budget items are a $700 monthly mortgage (no Taj Mahal but cozy nevertheless) and a $400 car payment on a modestly priced car ($16,000), which will be the first thing to go if we DO get desperate. We have to use about $300 of the money I saved back from my last year's teaching salary to make the budget, which should last through the year but hopefully will be supplemented by my sub teacher pay. We have no bills overdue, and certainly the lights in our home are not about to be cut off. We have basic $9 a month cable, no phone but two cells, and our other vehicles are over 12 years old. We do not eat out except on rare occasions and at the cheapest of restaurants (God bless mexican food!) We do not buy new clothes and I handmake gifts from recycled materials or materials such as shells.

Yes, we are dealing with about $150 a month less due to furlough days, but at least Georgia is not following Hawaii's model yet, only working four days per week. And I know that life happens while you are making other plans. My husband has had unexpected medical bills. But I'm still grateful my husband has a teaching job. I'd just love to have a job to whine about again.

From my past years in both pubic and private schools, I know that there are some high end cars parked in the teacher parking lot, and some high end clothing walking those halls, not to mention the dinners out since teachers work harder than anyone else and can't be expected to cook. (I have one word for you - crockpot).

O.k., enough whining of my own. But let's be appreciative of what we have, folks!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday - let the tide take me away!

I'm looking forward to a weekend - perhaps some yummy, cheap mexican food to start with, washed down with something frozen. My job search is showing a little bit of action. I have almost completed the process to be a substitute - did my drug test (no drugs or alcohol in my system, as I'm a very light, weekend drinker at best), have my paperwork, just have my fingerprinting next week. I learned who is the best contact for new jobs at the orientation, and she told me about several jobs open. Now I play the waiting game to see if principals call for interviews...but at least I am headed in the right direction and "on the radar," so to speak! I feel like Scarlett O'Hara - "I'll NEVER be without a job again" (if I can help it).

My son finishes mid terms today, so he will be ready for a weekend as well. He was like an excited puppy earlier this week, talking about how he had the highest score on recent AP English and AP History tests. Boy, all you need to do as a teacher to motivate him is print out a list of test scores by student number, or tell who the top ones were. If he's not there, he'll hustle to GET there....

My husband has been doing well healthwise, and managing his computer classes. I still don't know if he wants to finish out his five years until retirement or not. It is great to see him happy and content after a couple of rough months. I remember how he was such an amazing teacher 25 years ago, and I was so jealous I wanted to start teaching myself. I can only pray that he finds his way. As teachers, I do feel that what we lose in energy as we get older, we make up for in knowledge and wisdom.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Picking up the little pieces

I spend a lot of time watching sandpipers on the beach - my favorite shore bird. To be so small in such a large world! I am trying to remember that dwelling on daily troubles, or worrying about a certain possible future, represent wasted energy, and are just not worth it! Better to be grateful each day for awakening and drawing a breath, one that is free of physical pain or mental anguish. Like the sandpiper, I have been going along gathering little pieces this week, content in my actions - chatting with a store clerk, comforting a friend, making a cake for family, picking up my son and his friends from school, sitting outside in the sun with the dog.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Going forward, not backward

I know my teenage son is tired of hearing this, but it IS true. As human beings, we can only go forward, not backward, and that is my mantra as I continue to look for teaching jobs that open up during the school year. My husband is feeling better each day, but his recent health problems have emphasized to me the importance of having a job! Would I have made the same decision to leave my private school teaching job last year, if I could have forseen recent events? Who was a crazy time last school year, and being able to say "I'm leaving" gave me much needed peace last May. As much as I could use extra cash as a substitute, I am also hesitant to go back as a sub to my old school. As Scarlett said, "I'll think about that tomorrow." Or next tax year....

Mark and I had two wonderful walks this past weekend - one to local fort and nature preserve, and one at the beach. The weather is just about perfect here in Georgia in October!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Principals on Power Trips

I had a wonderful morning walk at the south end of the beach last week, and took this photo. Morning sunlight makes the water and sand looked as though each has been dusted in silvery glitter, alight with new possibilities for the day! This old tree had washed up on a sand bar.
My son and I have been talking about school administrators a lot on the way to his high school in the morning. Last week he had dress down days for homecoming - no uniforms! - but the week was marred by the "rules" for each day being changed at the last minute. Why is it so hard to get a school administrator that can relate to teenagers? What good is a dress down day if you can't wear jeans? This is a minor, inconsequential thing, but indicative of the larger problem. Do administrators give up brain cells when they take on this job? Why do they act as though they never set foot in a classroom as a teacher themselves?

I went by my local branch of the public library and was amused to see a display of "banned books" - books that were banned when they first came out or thereabouts. Kudos to the librarian who prepared that one! I saw books from 1900s on to present. Surely the best way to get someone to read a book is to ban it, but the whole idea of book banning is like poison to a teacher/English major. A book incident was the beginning of the end for me and one previous administrator. Now, mind you, I welcome positive or negative comments from peers, administrators, students and parents on book study choices, and I will follow what a principal decides with grace. BUT DON'T DIS A BOOK UNTIL YOU HAVE READ IT!

When I attended my son's public high school, we had an amazing administrator - she was respected and loved by all. She brought together two races, both disgruntled a bit over busing, and made the student body a unified whole. Then, when I started teaching, my husband and I each worked at separate public elementary schools in the downtown area. Our principals were close friends, and just about perfect. Both have long since retired, but the ones who rise to take over leave a lot to be desired. I have come to the conclusion that power truly can corrupt, and much quicker than ever before!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Co-dependency Revisited/Currents Can Pull You Down

My husband, also a teacher and also 49, is in the middle of a depression, touched off by recent medical issues but something that has been building for a couple of years. While he struggles to find peace and joy in his life again, I sometimes feel like I have walked out in a strong current in the ocean, with the undertow pulling me away from shore. Sometimes I just want to let it take me. I know I'm in danger of sounding really whiny, but it isn't easy being the caretaker, the one who organizes things, makes doctors appointments, checking to see that he is "alright" when of course he isn't really "alright." But then again, what IS normal? This reminds me of my childhood with a physcially disabled, and sometimes depressed, mother. I was so happy the day I moved out and into my own apartment, so that I only was responsible for myself, even though I love her dearly!

On a much happier note, my son, who is a high school junior, FINALLY got his schedule straight and he is in four "good" classes - one International Baccalaureate elective, two AP, and the last Spanish he needs. He dropped out of IB this year, due to heavy work load and dislike for the A/B schedule, but AP pickings are slim at his school. Tragic that most of the students DON'T want an education, and they make it insufferable for the ones who DO. I really think public middle and high school are "dinosaurs," soon to be extinct in the education field. Those who can afford it use private schooling, and more and more families are drawn to home schooling in the upper grades. The safety issues are just not worth it! I don't think this is the situation our founding fathers imagined for education in America.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dolphins at Play - Great Start to Day!

My husband and I walked on the beach this morning, and saw dozens of dolphins in the north channel. Several did high, out of the water jumps, and a couple of others did back flips. Such joyous, beautiful animals!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Racism and Prejudice - Ebb & Flow

I walked on the beach this morning, before errands and before housework! Lots of wind, whitecaps and foam, and hardly any tourists!

I want to talk about the white elephant in the room, or to use another symbol, the stinking, dead fish on the beach that everyone just walks by, holding their breath. That would be racism. My son came home from high school yesterday, aghast and perplexed that so many fellow students feel it is perfectly acceptable to talk about things like "beating up gay guys" or "how much they hate white people." He attends a public high school with about an 80/20 black/white racial balance and a 10/90 gifted to low achieving balance; he is decidedly in the minority. As a political independent, I voted for Mr. Obama, and I'm glad I did, though I admit I'm disappointed at the push and confusion of the health care reform bill. I still believe he will make strides in global relations. I realize, however, that I was naive to think that a mixed race President could heal the divide between the races just by taking office. Now some African Americans might say I am just experiencing what they did for so long - point taken. But why, decades after the civil rights movement, do I have to hope and pray that my son makes it home safely? Why does anyone have to? Schools have become like jails - see through bookbags, metal detectors, constant searches, no doors on restrooms - built to keep unruly students in, and earnest, hard working students out. I don't think any healing can take place until we can admit there's a problem here, and bury the dead fish.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tides of Diane - Tide Changes

I've been riding out a "rough current" in my life lately. I'm a middle aged mother, wife and unemployed teacher - looking for sanity, looking for work, looking for calm waters, looking for patience - not necessarily in that order.