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And Then There Was This

I’ve never really liked roller coasters.  The sudden twists and turns and feeling like I’m going to fall out of my seat at any time have always left me unsettled and a bit unnerved.

Well, y’all, teaching can sometimes feel just like this!

Yesterday was one of those days filled with ups and downs.  Just when you think you’re making inroads with a student, another comes along and bumps into your happy.

I’d started the day off by getting to wear a brand new Hogwarts Running Club sweatshirt from a recent race . . .

I’d gotten all in my teacher feelings of working together as one with the saying on the back . . .

But alas, teenagers have their own agendas, and they most certainly do not align with mine all that often.

To give you an idea of the silly stuff I get to deal with on almost a daily basis, take a look at the following picture . . .

That, my friends, is one of my kids who had asked for a pass to the restroom.  When he returned, he was trying to hide a bag of food inside his JROTC uniform jacket.

Another student ratted him out, and boy did I rip him a new one.  I also sent his ROTC instructors an email with the picture attached inquiring as to if this was a new part of the uniform.

Ahem.

I later found out that he’d never gone to the restroom but was across campus talking to another GIRL when his GIRLFRIEND caught him.  She has first lunch, but he has to wait until second lunch to eat.  I guess he decided to move the clock up.

I didn’t write him up for skipping.  I figured that getting busted by the girlfriend was punishment enough.

He also won’t be getting any more passes from me for a very, very long time.

Ahem.

Y’all, this is my weekday life!  I’m finding it a bit ironic that my morning’s Snapchat filter was this . . .

Someone, somewhere is laughing right now.

😀

Is it any wonder why I was exhausted by the time I got home?  I settled in for a bit of self indulgence – chips, salsa, and a 30-minute nap . . .

I got into my pajamas as a migraine etched its way across my forehead and settled in for the night (the headache, I mean) . . .

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Then, I heard the familiar sound notifying me that I had an email.

I was surprised to find this waiting for me . . .

A former student sent it to me.  I’d taught him a few years ago.  He was one of those kiddos who actually spent two years in my classroom . . . ninety minutes a day, mind you.  His class had been one of my all-time favorites, and it was an honor to watch this young man mature over the years.  He graduated two or three years ago, so I rarely bump into him these days.

His message, prompted by God, I’m sure, was just what I needed.

No, it didn’t take away my migraine, unfortunately, but it did lift my spirits.

In fact, it energized me to the point where I was able to tweak my seating arrangements (always a tough job), write sub lesson plans for an upcoming TDY day, and outline lesson plans to take me all the way through December 8th (because I’m an overachiever like that).

My to-do list seems endless, but as I’ve often said, this is so much more than a job to me.

It’s a true passion.

I second-guess myself all the time . . . a fact that I don’t think my students would believe because I have to act all confident in front of them (would you trust a leader if that person didn’t exude confidence?).

The truth is that I hear my kiddos complain – a lot.  I sometimes take it personally.  I wonder if I could be doing things better.

Sometimes, the answer is yes.

Sometimes, I’d have to say no.  Still, the kids’ comments can leave doubts in my mind and feed into my insecurities.

And then there are messages from God, disguised as emails or visits from students . . . reminders that He sees me when I’m feeling low and though I may not trust my work in the now, He’s using me to lay the groundwork for the later.

I’m so in awe that God knows me personally and loves me enough to reach down, pat me on the back, and encourage me to keep trusting Him.

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School Days

Technically, I’m in my eighth year of teaching; however, I feel as though the picture on the right side is pretty accurate despite the caption of it being a third-year teacher . . .

Y’all, teaching is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure!

I know that I haven’t been very consistent with the blogging, but can you blame me?

This year, I am teaching six classes . . . forty-seven minutes of fun, most times (sometimes, I’ll admit, not so much).

To date, I have about 150 students.  This is down from the 180 I started out with.

Go ahead and gasp.  I did when I saw my rosters before school started in August.

This year, I am tasked with helping juniors and seniors pass either the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment) or the reading portion of the SAT or ACT.

It’s been a bit stressful, getting the hang of a new prep; however, I work with another teacher who’s been prepping students for these tests for a few years now.

There’s lots of copying . . .

Thank heavens for paraprofessionals!  These test prep packets are thick; many trees were harmed in the printing of this classwork.

Ahem.

There’s a lot of Smartboard work . . .

I recently discovered that the Florida standards are loaded with the Smart Notebook software! #win

Is it any wonder that Friday afternoons find me like this . . .

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I usually come home for a couple of hours, rest up, and then head back out for another three hours so I can cheer on my guys as they hit the gridiron . . .

After spending over sixteen hours on my feet, my ankle looks like this . . .

It’s all I can do to crawl into my recliner, apply STEM treatment, and ice down . . .

Although it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m really not.

I’m pretty happy thus far this year.  Most of my students (especially my juniors) are extremely motivated and pretty cooperative.  If they pass one of the tests I listed above, they have been promised schedule changes.  More importantly, they can check another box off of the list of graduation requirements.

As proof that my kids are working . . .

That’s my cell phone holder which, at the beginning of the year, was filled with pencils.  I ordered more from Amazon, and do you know that I already have several pencils missing.  This is not cool.

I have quite a few of the same students I taught last year, which has, for the most part, been a good thing.  The time I spent cultivating relationships has already yielded some positives.

Take, for instance, one of my assertive young ladies.  She grew to love reading last year, and it didn’t take her long this year to start checking books out of my classroom library.  Today, I watched as she added a book to a list she keeps in a notebook.  I only allow one book to be checked out at a time.  It’s too easy to lose track of them otherwise.  She didn’t want to forget the title, so she wrote it down . . . just as she did last year.

Oh my heart!

Although I’m extremely tough on things like tardies and dress code, I believe that my consistency is paying off.  Students in my largest classes are rarely tardy any more.  They know they’ll be held accountable, because Mrs. Auburnchick does not play.

So, if you wonder what I’m doing in between my blogging gaps, just know that I’m probably cat napping . . . in my recliner . . . with my Harry Potter blanket covering me . . . dreaming of, well, nothing much because I’m just too exhausted to do even that.

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Ok . . . so maybe I’m playing with the fun filters on Snapchat . . . right before dropping off into a brief nap or two.

Ahem.

Is it Christmas vacation yet?

Back to Work

Today, I headed back to school for the first day of pre-planning.  It’s a little hard to believe that I’m beginning my 8th year of teaching!

Just the other day, Rebecca and I were texting about this (maybe that was actually this morning), and she said that she could remember when I started.  We’ve been blog buddies ever since I went back to college to finish up my degree, so she’s witnessed this entire journey.  It’s crazy how fast time flies sometimes!

I’d gone to bed at 9pm last night, which made getting up to my 4:30 alarm a tad easier (although still a bit unpleasant) . . .

I’d also laid everything out the night before to make my life a little easier.

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What can I say?  I’m an overachiever in almost every way.

I felt a little more put together than usual and was finally wearing a full face of makeup.  I’d even straightened my hair . . . something I hadn’t done in a couple of weeks.

I wish I could say that I got a lot done in my classroom, but alas, today was the first of four days of meetings / trainings.  Four!  Good gravy!

I will admit that it was fun to see the awesome teachers I’d bid adieu to in June when we left for summer break.  I also got the chance to meet a new friend.  She’ll be teaching at my school this year, and I am so excited!  She’s just the cutest thing ever!

The day did go quicker than I’d expected.  I’m very fortunate to work with a great group of educators.  I talked the Mr.’s ear off as soon as I got home (I was late since I had physical therapy right after school) and all through dinner, which was out because, well, just because.

I did start feeling tired on the way home, though.  It’s funny how sitting all day can be more tiring than actually doing stuff.

Ahem.

I managed to snap a selfie (fun filter courtesy of Snapchat) with a smile on my face . . .

The Mr. was driving, and he wasn’t amused.  He thinks these photos are silly and look like something a 12 year old would do.  Whatever.

I have a lot of work ahead of me before the kids return on the 17th.  With only three actual days to spend in my classroom, I’ll be hoofing it pretty hard next week, but you know.

I’m nervous going into this new school year because I have a new prep, and lesson planning is going to be VASTLY different from previous years.  I’m not sure how my prep is going to fit in with the new protocols because it’s something that only a couple of us will be teaching.

I’ve already started praying for wisdom to address my students’ needs and flexibility to adapt to the changes.  I don’t do change that well, so, um, yeah.  Fortunately, all of the teachers in my school are in the same boat, so I’m not rowing all by myself.  That’s comforting.

I’ve also been praying for the students who will enter my classroom, many of whom I taught either last year or the previous one.  They are in for a BIG surprise when they see me on their schedules.

heeheehee

The good thing is that I know their strengths, weaknesses, and habits, so that will help a lot.  They’ll be a few months older, which will hopefully mean that they’ll be a little more serious about the job at hand.

I’ll have a lot of books to talk about . . . 21 to be exact (one is not pictured) . . . all of which I read from June through yesterday.

If you’d be willing to say a prayer for me as well as all teachers going back to school, I’d sure appreciate it.  This profession is getting increasingly difficult as the Powers That Be (:::cough::: state legislators :::cough:::) make ridiculous mandates without having a clue as to what it’s like to actually do the job of teaching.

It’s a good thing we are in it for the kids and not for the politicians!

Thanks, y’all!

Choices

It’s summer break, as I might have said a time or two in recent days.

Part of my routine has been to read . . . as often as I can (in between working out, PT, and household chores).

I brought home a pile of books from my classroom library, but I have also ordered a few . . .

I’ve been wanting to read this for a couple of years now; however, I found that I couldn’t locate it at the end of the school year, so off to Amazon I went.  One of my students did her final project on this book.  I hope it’s as good as my kiddos keep telling me.

I had another book delivery a couple of days ago . . .

Thanks to Rebecca for raving over the first couple of books in the Jenny Han series.  I actually had the first two (the one pictured above is the first in the series), but again, one of the books magically “walked” off by the end of the year.

I saw the book, Wonder, on a friend’s Instagram feed and knew, after reading a synopsis of it, that I had to order it.  I suspect that it will become one of my read alouds this next school year.

I am not sure if I’ll get through all of the books that I brought home, but I certainly don’t lack for choices!

Weekend of Fun

My first weekend of summer break was a blast!  I’m sure you understand how relaxing it is when you know that you have more than two days off in a row.

I spent about four hours at my neighborhood pool on Friday.  Talking to my sweet friend, Megan, who lives in the subdivision across the street (which shares my neighborhood pool) was a rare treat.  We teach at the same school, in the same department, but we rarely have time to chill together.  She taught me something new:  how to read while sitting in the pool.  Novel idea, eh?  I read a lot poolside as well!

I managed to finish the book later that evening.  I’ve got to say that this is one of my students’ favorite authors.  This book, in particular, ranks as her top three on my scale of favorites.

Friday night, I queued up the movie “Before I Fall” on Amazon Prime.  I’d just finished reading the book, which had hooked me from the opening chapter.

The movie pretty much stuck with the book.  It was your typical teenage movie . . . not bad.  Sad, though.

I turned off my alarm and slept in on Saturday.  It was my rest day from my workout program.  Just as I was getting up, M texted me to see if I wanted to go to the store with her.  I had different plans in mind and invited her over.  You see, it was the day I had set aside to do the “We Run Free Because of the Brave 4-Miler,” a virtual race hosted by Gone for a Run.

M went with me on my walk, and we had a lot of fun chatting.  Four miles seemed to fly by . . . except for the humidity and my sore ankle.  We were wiped out when we finished.

Check out my tank top.  It’s one of my favorite race shirts; the medium fit perfectly!  Sizing is sometimes tricky with these race shirts.

I was loving the calorie burn too!

After M left, I got cleaned up, and the Mr. and I went to see the movie, The Mummy.

I liked it, although the story line was a bit confusing at first.

Before the movie started, I saw promos for the USA show, Queen of the South.  It seemed like something I might like, so I looked for it on Netflix when we got home.

It tells the story of a female drug cartel leader.  I watched four episodes that night.  I finished with Season 1 and the first episode of Season 2 (this episode was On Demand) on Sunday.  It was that good.

Sunday wound up being a chill day.  The Mr. and I attended church.  There weren’t a lot of people there.  We suspect that the reason was because the bottom dropped out of the sky shortly before the service began.  The rain put the kibosh on my hopes for going to the pool . . .

Plan B:  Knitting while I watched TV on Sunday.  It wound up being a great day of rest!

I managed to get in a bit of baking (if you’d call it that).  Here’s a picture of the Peanut Butter and Honey Chewy Granola Bars I made.  The recipe can be found here.  They are chock full of peanut butter flavor and are simply divine!

Yeah, I can’t complain at all.  Summer break has started off well.  I’m getting much-needed rest and am still being productive in the process.

Test Stress

It’s Thursday night as I’m composing this post, and I am stressed.

Why am I stressed, you might wonder?  After all, it is summer vacation, so I shouldn’t be.

I should be happily enjoying a book . . . by the pool . . .

I won’t let the answer float around for long.

Florida teachers who, about a week ago, bade adieu to our precious students, are starting to receive test scores for the recent administration of the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA).

It is my sincerest belief that his event trumps all others as the most stressful time of the year.  The state, after all, has trained us that all of our value is derived from the magical numbers associated with such scores.

It is extremely nerve wracking to pull up rosters of children we spent ten months with and go through each name to see how they fared on a test that is “supposedly” designed to showcase their knowledge.

Ahem.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating because the Powers that Be never seem to listen:  What the heck are the people in office thinking?

We teachers see our students as kids with faces . . . stories that differ as much as their individual DNA patterns.  The state thinks that they are all molded from the same clay and should, therefore, fit easily into cleverly designed categories.

We teachers know that our students arrive on test day with a lot of baggage . . . homelessness, frequent absenteeism, behavior issues, hunger, single or no-parent homes . . . the list goes on and on.

The state thinks that students can turn on a switch and perform on command . . . forget about the emotional stuff weighing them down.  They are, essentially, expected to be robots.

I’d love to see open-ended questions that ask students to describe books they read during the school year, because if we teachers have done our jobs properly, we will have fostered some sort of love for reading (or at least started the process).

I bet our kids would be shocked to see a question that asked them to draw a picture of the plot of a story they read.  My kids would ace this type of question . . . one that would allow them to express their knowledge in a creative manner that goes beyond A, B, C, or D.

Yeah, I’m sure those questions would get scrapped pretty quickly if they were ever mentioned during test question discussion forums.

After all, you can’t exactly quantify such answers, now can you, and the state is all about its numbers.

Looking through scores and comparing them to the previous year’s to determine learning gains produces much anxiety.  Take a look at this chart, published in the FSA manual . . .

That right there is how the state decides if a child improved or not and is part of the equation that determines if a teacher is worth his or her salt.

Seems rather fair, doesn’t it.

Ahem.

There are so many things you cannot assign a number to.

I’d like to see the state award extra points to the kids who come to school on the rainiest of days despite living on dirt roads where their buses won’t drive.

Points should be given to the kids who stayed up all night babysitting younger siblings because parents had to work double shifts to make ends meet.

We should double the amount of bonus points every time a student finishes a book and loudly exclaims how much he/she enjoyed it.  All of my students would get these points if that were the case because not a single one leaves my classroom without being able to talk about at least one book that touched their heart (or a series of them, in many cases).

What about the kids who walk or skateboard to school because the bus won’t drive out that far to get them and they have parents who are sleeping off the night shift when it’s time for their children to get to school?  They should be awarded a few points too.

But the state doesn’t care.  Nowhere in their magical formula is there a place for such seemingly “anomalies.”  Isn’t an anomaly something that is rare?  In many schools around Florida, this stuff is the norm.  Dare I say that those who make the rules are completely out of touch with the everyday “minutia” that truly is the education system.

Before I became a teacher, I was one of those “out of touch” people who had no clue what a real school looked like.

Now, I understand.

A real school is one that accepts every child, regardless of ethnicity, learning ability, or gender.  A real school accepts teachers who are just learning the ropes . . . who might have the “with-it-ness” but need time to learn a few of the basics without being completely punished for lack of experience.  A real school is one where the staff builds relationships with the kids with the knowledge that sometimes it takes a few years for the kids to grow up but, in the end, they will, and they will be celebrated as they walk across the stage to accept their diplomas.  Why punish them in the meantime if they don’t make the cut score?

To be sure, test scores can and should be used as a jumping point for reflection, both on the part of teachers, administrators and students; however, the numbers should not be the end-all, be-all.  I wish with all of my heart that the public wasn’t so hung up by the numbers and could see past them to the faces that the numbers represent.  Each face has a story; each story will tug at the sternest of hearts.

The state should place a higher priority on the business of raising children.  Doing so would naturally result in high achievement scores as students would finally believe that others are there supporting them, lifting them up when they can’t stand on their own, and eventually releasing them to fly unassisted.

As it is, the kids know that at the end of the day, it all boils down to The Test.

Which stresses them out.

Which takes us full circle.

I vote for E . . . sleep all summer until it’s time to do it all again.

Thankful Thursday

You may have noticed that I’m writing more lately.  Well, cue in summer break and a promise to myself to let my heart speak through my favorite medium . . . the written word.

I struggled, though, with an idea for today’s post . . . until I saw Rebecca’s, and then I knew I just had to join in on the fun.  So, I’m linking up with her for my first Thankful Thursday post!  I’m not going to number my items, though.

  • Summer Break – This week, I am so very thankful for summer break.  I don’t really think it’s hit me that I don’t have to go back for a couple of months; it feels more like a long weekend.  I will say, though, that I’m deriving a delicious sense of joy that I can do such things as read a book at leisure, while enjoying a glass of wine, on a Wednesday night.  Yes, that was me last night.  The glass?  I got it from BoredTeachers.com.

  • The Furminator – Y’all, I have dogs who shed.  Like seriously bad.  I’d washed the dogs on Monday, but because it took forever for them to dry, I never got them brushed out.  Molly looked horrible; her fur was sticking out in all directions.  She was also shedding all over the place.  I was vacuuming AFTER the Roomba had run.  I decided she needed a good brushing, and WOW, what a difference!  Not only does she look better now, but my house doesn’t look like it’s been snowed in.


  • Rare Impulse Buys – On Tuesday, I had an appointment with my surgeon.  His office is two hours away, because when you need a good surgeon, you don’t mind traveling.  As I was leaving the city, I passed by a fun little boutique that I knew sells Ginger Snaps.  I don’t know if you remember, but Super Sis bought me a necklace with a charm for Christmas, and I’d since purchased a few more.  You can change out the snaps according to what you’re wearing or your mood.  I absolutely love this piece of jewelry.  It’s so fun and versatile.  So, because the store is located right next to the interstate, it was convenient to run in real quick.  Oh my word, but I saw an adorable little purse, and it just called out to me, as did the Buy 4, Get 1 Free sale.  Ahem.  So, I splurged, while I talked to Super Sis on the phone (she totally agreed that I’d earned it since I survived the school year with all of my various challenges).

The two snaps in the middle are only placed there so you can see them . . . they don’t really snap in place there. That would look weird.

  • Vegan Recipes – Boy, am I thankful for people who know how to write recipes that cater to my dietary needs.  On Sunday, I whipped up a batch of Vegan Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies and Vegan Peanut Butter Date-Sweetened Cookies.  I did take a few of each to share with the physical therapy gals.  They adore baked goods.


  • Long Phone Conversations with Wonderful Friends – On the way home from my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, I rang up my sweet friend, Jane.  She and I taught our first year together and have enjoyed a sweet friendship since that year.  She recently retired, sort-of, moved to south Florida, and continues to stay rather busy.  I miss her so much.  She’s both a friend and a mother figure.  So, we spent one hour and 47 minutes catching up . . . nearly my entire drive home.  She’s coming to town this week, so we are hoping to meet up for lunch one day.  That will definitely be an afternoon of many laughs.  I love her so.
  • New Friendships – Yesterday, I told you about a new friend I recently made.  I am extremely shy, which is kind of surprising to some people given my presence on social media and this blog; however, I don’t do the public social scene very well.  Thus, it can be hard for me to make new friends.  It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just hard because I have so many insecurities.  I’ve been rejected a few times, hurt in ways that left lasting impressions.  Plus, it takes a lot of time to invest in a good friendship . . . time that a lot of people aren’t willing to spend or are already spending on other friendships.  I guess there’s a difference between acquaintances and deeper-level friends.  Maybe I just expect all of my acquaintances to be those deep-level friends.  Dang, but see how I overthink things?  Cue in the social awkwardness.  Anyhow, I am thankful for common bonds that bring new friendships together.

There are so many more things I am thankful for, but it’s 12:30, the sun is shining after two solid days of rain, so I’m going to head to the pool (remember the first item on this list?).

I am thankful for soooooo much, but this has been fun . . . purposely listing a few of them.  Thanks, Rebecca (I’m thankful for YOU too!!!).

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