Are you paying attention?

How many times a day do we say that or something similar to our students?

“Michael, are you paying attention?”

“Lily, less talking, more listening.”

“2nd graders, eyes up here.”

“Guys, if you’re talking you’re not going to understand how to do the math…”

On any given day, these types of instructions can be constant, making the kids all…

And the teacher all…

It can be such a challenge to get kids to sit still and focus on the task at hand, that sometimes you just feel like popping in a movie and letting the rest of the day be a total wash.

But while we’re poking and prodding and reminding and nagging our kids to PAY ATTENTION, we sometimes forget to take our own advice.

Sometimes as teachers we become so obsessed and consumed with getting through the material that we forget to pause, take a look at our students and figure out what it is that they need from us.

Do they need a movement break?

Do they need this taught in a different way?

Do they already know this stuff?

Are they bored?

Are we throwing too much information at them at one time?

I know that as teachers we have so many things to juggle that it doesn’t always make sense to stop, listen, regroup and try it again. But would we be better off if we did? If we just took a deep breath, took some time to listen to our students, and figure out a better plan of attack… would we be better off for it?

It’s not feasible to think that as teachers we can be doing that all day, every day. But what about those days when the classroom has erupted into complete pandemonium and you have a spinner over here, someone having a meltdown over there, students just not “getting it”, total weirdness happening right under your nose and a group of kids that have been forced to sit still for far too long? What then? Isn’t it time to stop and pay attention to what your kids are trying to tell you then?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Far too often we ignore the ignore the non-verbal cues, the verbal clues, and the outright requests of our students because we just have to get through “one more thing”. We’re not paying attention! Our students are trying to get us to listen, and we’re not paying attention! Sometimes the best thing we can do as teachers is to stop what we’re doing, drop it, and roll with whatever the kids need from us at that moment. Because if we’re not paying attention and they’re not paying attention… how much learning is really getting done?

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

A certain stress-induced insanity, many of us continue to fondly refer to as Christmas.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Every. Dang. Year. And every year, once the dust has settled and the credit card bills start rolling in, and we’re left licking our wounds, we vow to never do it again. But, of course, it never sticks. And somewhere, around mid-December, the stress begins to build and the list of “Have Tos” gets ever-longer, and before we know it, it’s December 23rd and we’ve either worked ourselves into such a frenzy that we’re at risk of developing an ulcer, contracting the flu, or experiencing a massive coronary, OR we’re just so dang tired and cranky that the thought of actually enjoying the holidays seems a distant memory or a mere twinkle in our eye back in November.

It’s craziness, people. And it’s not worth it. Putting our health, our happiness, and our peace at risk for what? A couple days of celebration which never turns out as picture-perfect as we had planned on anyway? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why can’t we learn to simplify? Why can’t we just let it go? Who cares if the packages aren’t wrapped and the tree isn’t fully decked out and the food isn’t ready? That’s not what Christmas is about. It’s about a wonderful gift being given to us… a gift of hope and love and life. And we totally miss the point and go on our greedy little binges trying to be perfect, making ourselves miserable in the end. And for what? You know, as long as you have people around you that you love, and a safe, warm place to sleep, and some food to fill your belly… let’s call it a win and cut all this other crap out. It’s just not worth it.

Who’s with me?

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

As I type this, I am sitting in my bed, curled up under 3 layers of blankets, listening to the wicked wind frantically whip about outside. Why do people always add the “outside” to that statement? Listening to the wind outside. As though the fact that the wind is outside needs clarification. Clearly it’s not whipping around inside your house. Unless you have a hole in your house, in which case you have much more serious problems than just the wind…

Anyway, a typically chilly fall day turned wickedly windy and bitterly cold by nightfall, bringing with it big, sloppy snowflakes that stuck to the ground and left a layer of frosting everywhere you look.

I love it.

I love the snow and the cold. It’s my favorite. Ask me again come March and I might be singing a different tune, but right now, I find it lovely.

It’s the perfect end to a day that began disastrously.

I opened my eyes, saw the morning light streaming through my curtains and the first words out of my mouth were… “Sh*t.”

It was morning. The sun was up. I. Was. So. Flippin’. Late.

I was afraid to look at the time for fear of what it might tell me. I should have been up hours ago, getting ready to go to school. Instead, I slept right through my alarm and didn’t wake up until school was about to start.

Sh*t, Sh*t, Sh*t.

I called the school. Apologized profusely. I was going to be late.

I semi-washed my hair. Dried it. Pulled some goop through it. Brushed my teeth. Put my clothes on. I was at school 20 minutes later. No breakfast. No coffee. No contacts. No makeup. I probably looked like hell but at least I had made it. I literally ran the three blocks to the school, arriving huffing and puffing and still apologizing profusely. Real cool, sub lady. Come in late. You’re supposed to be here because the teacher can’t be here. Good grief. I felt awful. Thankfully, the principal had filled in for me and the kids had just gotten settled in. Everyone was super understanding and kind about it, but I couldn’t help and wonder if they were secretly rolling their eyes and thinking, “Wow. You idiot.”.

All I remember is waking up at 4:30 with a sneezing jag, an instant clogging of the nasal passages, and a gooey stream of snot running down my chin that would not stop no matter how many tissues I jammed up there. I went back to bed knowing my alarm would go off in another hour and a half. I don’t know if it was the allergy medicine or the total breakdown of proper nasal functionality, but I slept right through it. I could have died. I’m never late for anything. Granted, the damage was already done, there’s nothing I could do about it but fly to work as fast as my feet would carry me, but… it still felt awful.

So the snow? It’s just what I needed to redeem this day.

In other news…

It is currently 42 degrees Fahrenheit here. Apparently, it only feels like 39. It’s not supposed to get out of the 50s today. So, I have my steaming coffee and my pumpkin spice candle to keep me company.

In other laughable and oh-so-joyous news… the ass hat has decided to visit my quiet small town haven to go camping in the area. I don’t know why. Possibly because he’s an ass hat. Who knows why ass hats do what they do? But regardless, I’m overjoyed that it is so cold. I’m hoping for some rain also. Maybe a little bit of sleet. Snow at this point probably isn’t realistic, but the Lord works in mysterious ways so, who knows? If there’s anything the ass hat hates more than being cold and wet… I don’t know what that would be. He’s a total sissy about getting caught in the rain or dealing with cold weather. So, think cold, wet thoughts, people.

In other scary and somewhat horrifying news… I just picked up two other subbing jobs this morning. Apparently, I’m all about subbing right now. Initially, I was super excited. I was finally going to have a “real” reason to dress nicely and put on makeup. But then I started thinking. And obsessing. And freaking myself out. What if I’ve forgotten how to teach? What if being 4 months out of practice has crippled me and all my training has flown out the window? What if the kids are mean? What if I have to yell at them? What if I get a child of the local pharmacist and I have to yell at them and their parent tries to poison me again?

I mean, these are real concerns, peeps. I mean, I’m a pretty good teacher, but… what, with the situation with ass hat and all… what if I’ve totally lost my confidence and I walk in there and I let the kids walk all over me? What if I end up in the corner of the room curled up in the fetal position crying? What then? I keep hearing tidbits about the kids being pretty naughty at this school, and my first thought was, “Psh. I’ve taught inner city kids with major behavioral problems and students in Level 3 EBD classrooms. This will be a cakewalk.” But then I was like, “Holy crappers… what if all my kids from last year followed me here and they’re back just to torture me again? Or maybe they wrote to the kids here and told them how to torture me? What if small town kids are worse behaved than inner city kids? What if I can’t handle it????” And now I’m wondering if I should just cancel the jobs and crawl back under the covers and hide from the world. It would definitely be the path of least resistance…

But no. I’ve never been a quitter. Pull yourself together, Annie. Easy peasy. You got this. You are Annie, hear you roar. One day at a time. Deep breaths.

I got this… right?

What Teachers Want You to Know

Welcome back!

Welcome back… Kotter.

Today marked the start of a new school year for millions of students and teachers across the country. And I got to watch it unfold outside my living room window.

It was an intricate orchestration of something most of us take for granted. The bright dandelion colored school buses roaring along quickly and cautiously, determined to deliver their passengers on time for their first day. Flashes of florescent orange as student patrols raced to their posts. A flurry of cars, trucks and vans intersecting from all directions as exhausted parents dropped off anxious kiddos. New and inexperienced teen drivers in rust-covered or dented cars vying for the closest possible parking spot. Kids lugging backpacks full of brand new supplies. School mates clad in brightly colored clothing walking arm in arm, chatting nervously about new outfits, new teachers and new expectations. Even a slowly moving navy blue squad car, inching along, checking on everyone’s safety and compliance with traffic laws.

It was the first time I had been able to witness such a thing as neither a teacher nor a student, but a deep appreciation and understanding of both.

Many of my friends and family members are starting their new years along with everyone else. I think they feel badly that I’m not in the same boat again with them this year. But I don’t feel bad. Even after only one year of teaching, I have a much deeper appreciation for what teachers do… and honestly? There’s a big part of me that is relieved that I am not in that boat.

school hallway

Your friendly neighborhood school is now open for business.

Most non-teachers envy the life of an educator. Heck, they get to play with kids all year long, they get summers off, pretty decent pay for only 9 months of work, and they have more vacation time than pretty much any other occupation. But what these non-teachers don’t realize, is that the job of a teacher is just about the most difficult job anyone can ever have. Allow me to explain.

  • Work Hours: Teachers do not work a regular 8 hour shift. In fact, doing a simple 8 hour shift is darn near impossible unless you have appointments before and after school. A typical day for a teacher lasts at least 10 hours. When I was teaching, I typically worked between 7 am and 5 pm. Teachers usually take an hour before school starts to prepare for the day, then an hour or more after school ends to clean up, organize, check in with colleagues, tie up loose ends, and prepare for the next day.
  • Working after work: Any teacher will tell you that their work does not end once they leave the building. I always resented my husband for being able to come home and leave work at work. I was never able to do that. Once a teacher gets home, there’s a plethora of things to do. Correct papers, enter grades into the grade book, lesson plan for the following day or week, return parent phone calls, return colleague e-mails, fill out ridiculous amounts of bureaucratic paper work for any number of inane reasons, fill out charts, create posters, add stickers, and hope you get everything done before “The Good Wife” comes on at 9:00. Also, I realize the non-teachers out there will argue that these things can be done in those extra 2 to 3 hours before and after school. Not necessarily so. Sometimes just cleaning up the classroom and organizing assignments takes up your full time before and after school Especially when 3 kids have spilled glue, 1 kid had a bloody nose, 6 kids managed to get pencil shavings all over the floor, (custodians will only do so much) and you still haven’t finished decorating your bulletin board for the new Language Arts unit.
chalkboard

You seriously have no idea the mess snotty nosed kids can make.  By the way, is that Mountain Dew in the background? I think it is… YESSSSSS!

  • Meetings: Staff meetings and committee meetings take place before and after school. Unlike non-teachers, teachers cannot have a meeting in the middle of the day because they have a classroom full of hooligans they are trying to corral into their seats so some learning can be accomplished. Add to this scenario the fact that most schools require teachers to serve on at least 1, to as many as 3 school committees. Yeah… all that time you had before and after school? That’s gone.
  • School Breaks: Honestly? I think any teacher will tell you that time off from school is highly overrated. Don’t get us wrong… we love our school breaks, but most of the time they are spent preparing for the next semester, trimester, quarter or school year. Plus, the whole time you’re on break, that back to school date is hanging over your head, taunting you, reminding you that you still have so much to get done and you haven’t even had a chance to relax yet. Those ever-looming back to school dates are pretty much the worst.
  • Paid time off and sick leave: Yes, we get paid even when we don’t make it into work. However, there is not a single teacher on the planet who relishes the thought of being away from school. Oh, it’s a lovely fantasy, and we all think, “Hey! I’ll just take a personal day and get some Christmas shopping done!” Um… no. Because as soon as you have that thought, you’re brought back to reality by the amount of work you’ll have to put into preparing for a substitute. Bless their hearts, but typically, subs know diddly squat. (Unless of course you have a sub who has been filling in for you for years and they have everything down pat. These subs are a unique and valuable treasure. Do NOT… I repeat, DO NOT – take these angelic beings for granted.) They don’t know where you keep the materials, they don’t know the classroom procedures or schedule, they don’t know the discipline policy, they don’t know that your prep time was switched to 1:45 instead of 10:25 because there’s a spur of the moment assembly scheduled for 10:35, they don’t know the routine, they don’t know know the students, they don’t know what reading groups the students are in, they don’t know what the hell Daily 5 is, they don’t know that Charlie has gluten, peanut, tree-nut and dander allergies or that Sally probably has some form of undiagnosed oppositional defiant disorder, they don’t know the numbers for the office, the principal, OR the nurse, they don’t know how to run the SmartBoard, and let’s face it… even the best students are only so helpful. By the time you finish filling out the instructions for the sub… you’re 18 pages into it and pretty sure it’s just easier to drag yourself into work with a fever of 105, a slipped disk and a ruptured spleen.
notebook and pencil

Standardized testing… isn’t it just the best?

 

  • Testing: You know when you get the school newsletter in the spring, and the principal gives tips on preparing your kids for upcoming testing? And you send your kids off to school with the sage advice of “Just do your best!”? It’s not really that simple. Teachers spend the entire school year preparing for these standardized tests. Their careers pretty much depend on their students’ performance. They study the data from pre-tests all year long to try and figure out how to improve their students’ test scores. However, if Mickey comes to school with only 2 hours of sleep, Tony skipped breakfast, Cindy had the police at her apartment at 1:00 in the morning because of a domestic disturbance, Maria’s grandpa just died, Ryan has severe test anxiety, and Kirsten was working late to help make ends meet… all the test preparation in the world isn’t going to raise their scores. That’s the reality of the situation. And teacher’s hate that their students’ abilities and their own effectiveness as a teacher is based on a stupid test put together by out of touch government bureaucrats who have never stepped foot in a classroom. It’s asinine and we hate it as much as you do.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, my friends. I won’t even go into trying to get specialized services for your students, dealing with administration, FIELD TRIPS, food allergies and art projects using glitter. Suffice to say, the life of a teacher is hard. Really, really hard. And yet, you will never find a bigger cheerleader or stronger advocate for your kid than their teacher.

So, as this new year begins, take the opportunity to thank the people who work with your kids day in and day out. They would definitely appreciate the boost.

Hiding

Hiding

You cannot – I repeat, cannot – see me.

These past few months, I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding. Especially from people. People I do not want to see.

The bad thing about returning to the small town you grew up in is that you’re going to run into people you know. Constantly. Old teachers, neighbors, former coworkers, “friends” from high school, parents of “friends” from high school, random people who went to school with your sisters’ 25 years ago and happen to think you are them… the list is rather lengthy, so I will spare you.

The problem with running into people I know is… that… I don’t want to. I really, really, really do not want to. Because if I run into you, you will want to know “what I’ve been up to”. Nothing. I have been up to nothing. Seriously. There is absolutely nothing new in my life. I’m not that interesting. And I have laundry detergent and grapes to get so, if you would kindly get out of my way, that’d be great.

But, of course, I can’t say that. And of course, they’d never buy it. Sure, I haven’t seen you in 10+ years but that doesn’t mean I’ve been up to anything… Um, no. You’ve surely been up to something. Even if it’s just running a meth lab out of your basement. Things have changed since we last saw each other. It’s inevitable.

I’d love to respond with something hysterically immature like, “It’s none of your beeswax” or “Yeah, I can’t really talk right now because I never liked you” but none of those are an option. I mean, they are, but not for me. I’m too nice. I’ll think all these things in my head, but I will never, ever say them. And since I’m not going to say these things, I may as well tell you the truth. But, what is the truth? I’ve been finding myself conveniently skipping over the whole marriage chapter of my life and talking solely about career. And then if they pry further, I’ll either say something cryptic like, “Well, I find myself suddenly single” or “Yeah, my personal life kind of… imploded” or just deny and say “Yeah, I’m married. It’s good. Nope. No kids… not yet!”  The thing is, if I haven’t seen you in 10+ years… it’s really none of your business. So, can we just stick to the weather? Or your parents’ health? Seriously, I’m begging you.

This is not an option in a small town. It really isn’t. There’s so much gossip, and everyone knows everything about everyone else, so if you run into someone, they need the scoop so they can pass it along to all their friends and eventually everyone will know about your current circumstance and everyone will stop asking. BUT, since I really don’t want to deal with the hassle or the awkwardness, I’ve been hiding from people. It’s quite simple really.

First of all, you become hyper aware of the makes and models of cars people drive. If you see that make and model in a parking lot, you do not proceed any further until that car is gone.

Secondly, you always enter and exit stores with your head down. You do not look anyone straight in the eye. Even if it’s your own mother. Your own mother won’t even recognize you if you don’t give her the opportunity to. You see someone you know? You put your head down and move past quickly, pretending like you never saw them. They won’t call out to you. They’re still trying to figure out if you are who they think you are.

Thirdly, no matter what kind of errand needs running, you are in and out like a flash. No dilly-dallying. No “browsing”. You get what you need and you get out. You move quickly and with purpose. Even the store clerk won’t remember you.

Lastly, if you can, a disguise is always helpful. I’m not talking fake glasses and a mustache… although… kudos to you if you can pull that off. A ball cap and glasses will suffice. It’s amazing how people don’t recognize you without your hair showing and your eyes encircled by frames. I actually had my old history teacher wait on me at a restaurant, and with my ball cap and glasses on, he didn’t give me a second glance. It was awesome.

So, yeah. You could say I’ve become pretty adept at hiding. For right now, it keeps the nosy gossips away and gives me peace of mind. Heck, maybe in a few months I’ll be able to go shopping like a normal person and just tell everyone my ass hat story with a smile.

Hiding

Hiding

You cannot – I repeat, cannot – see me.

These past few months, I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding. Especially from people. People I do not want to see.

The bad thing about returning to the small town you grew up in is that you’re going to run into people you know. Constantly. Old teachers, neighbors, former coworkers, “friends” from high school, parents of “friends” from high school, random people who went to school with your sisters’ 25 years ago and happen to think you are them… the list is rather lengthy, so I will spare you.

The problem with running into people I know is… that… I don’t want to. I really, really, really do not want to. Because if I run into you, you will want to know “what I’ve been up to”. Nothing. I have been up to nothing. Seriously. There is absolutely nothing new in my life. I’m not that interesting. And I have laundry detergent and grapes to get so, if you would kindly get out of my way, that’d be great.

But, of course, I can’t say that. And of course, they’d never buy it. Sure, I haven’t seen you in 10+ years but that doesn’t mean I’ve been up to anything… Um, no. You’ve surely been up to something. Even if it’s just running a meth lab out of your basement. Things have changed since we last saw each other. It’s inevitable.

I’d love to respond with something hysterically immature like, “It’s none of your beeswax” or “Yeah, I can’t really talk right now because I never liked you” but none of those are an option. I mean, they are, but not for me. I’m too nice. I’ll think all these things in my head, but I will never, ever say them. And since I’m not going to say these things, I may as well tell you the truth. But, what is the truth? I’ve been finding myself conveniently skipping over the whole marriage chapter of my life and talking solely about career. And then if they pry further, I’ll either say something cryptic like, “Well, I find myself suddenly single” or “Yeah, my personal life kind of… imploded” or just deny and say “Yeah, I’m married. It’s good. Nope. No kids… not yet!”  The thing is, if I haven’t seen you in 10+ years… it’s really none of your business. So, can we just stick to the weather? Or your parents’ health? Seriously, I’m begging you.

This is not an option in a small town. It really isn’t. There’s so much gossip, and everyone knows everything about everyone else, so if you run into someone, they need the scoop so they can pass it along to all their friends and eventually everyone will know about your current circumstance and everyone will stop asking. BUT, since I really don’t want to deal with the hassle or the awkwardness, I’ve been hiding from people. It’s quite simple really.

First of all, you become hyper aware of the makes and models of cars people drive. If you see that make and model in a parking lot, you do not proceed any further until that car is gone.

Secondly, you always enter and exit stores with your head down. You do not look anyone straight in the eye. Even if it’s your own mother. Your own mother won’t even recognize you if you don’t give her the opportunity to. You see someone you know? You put your head down and move past quickly, pretending like you never saw them. They won’t call out to you. They’re still trying to figure out if you are who they think you are.

Thirdly, no matter what kind of errand needs running, you are in and out like a flash. No dilly-dallying. No “browsing”. You get what you need and you get out. You move quickly and with purpose. Even the store clerk won’t remember you.

Lastly, if you can, a disguise is always helpful. I’m not talking fake glasses and a mustache… although… kudos to you if you can pull that off. A ball cap and glasses will suffice. It’s amazing how people don’t recognize you without your hair showing and your eyes encircled by frames. I actually had my old history teacher wait on me at a restaurant, and with my ball cap and glasses on, he didn’t give me a second glance. It was awesome.

So, yeah. You could say I’ve become pretty adept at hiding. For right now, it keeps the nosy gossips away and gives me peace of mind. Heck, maybe in a few months I’ll be able to go shopping like a normal person and just tell everyone my ass hat story with a smile.