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Doing Things Old School

Monday night, I triple-checked my alarms . . . all six of them.

I couldn’t take a chance on being late.

I didn’t let the rain dampen my spirits either.

You see, for the first time in thirty-nine days, the student body at my school, including staff members, would be reunited.  We had been asked to wear red as a show of solidarity.  It’s one of our school’s main colors.

We had weathered one of the most horrible hurricanes to hit the United States, and we were eager to reestablish some sort of routine.

I had left the school the previous Friday thinking I was ready.

Ha!

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I don’t know that a person can ever really be prepared given the circumstances.

I wondered how many of my students would actually be at school.  I had heard that a lot of kids had left.  I was also concerned about the gamut of emotions that I was sure to face.  Although my school district had provided crisis training, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I grew nervous as I walked down the hallway to pick up  last-minute handouts.

I watched as teachers dropped their children off at the daycare on campus.  The district is providing childcare because most of the daycare centers in town are destroyed, and teachers can’t work if they don’t have people to watch their children.  Our daycare happens to be across the hall from my classroom.

We gathered in the small, middle school cafeteria since we weren’t able to return to our own school.  Our principal gave a great pep talk.

The mayor of the city even spoke.  A student prayed for us, and wow, can I just say how amazing it was?

Then, we went outside where the teachers held up signs with our names so our first period classes could find us.  It felt like we were elementary teachers, but it wasn’t a bad thing.  It was a conglomeration of pure joy.

The reunions were so sweet, and although I’d expected to spend the morning crying, I found that I didn’t.  I was so focused on giving the kids hugs and hollering out to students I’d taught in previous years that I didn’t have time to cry.

When we entered my room, the kids were greeted with this message . . .

They groaned as they realized that I’d retrieved my cell phone pocket holder from my regular classroom, but everyone put their phones away.  I assured them that they would have been very disappointed if I hadn’t.

Ha!

The day flew by.  It was extremely overwhelming.  Because classes had been shortened to thirty-nine minutes (four-minute class changes), there wasn’t time to catch my breath.  It turned out that although the kids and I shared a bit about our experiences with the hurricane, we always came around to the positives of it.  I was astounded at my students’ resiliency.  I attribute that to your prayers and God’s grace.  ❤

During sixth period, we had a special delivery.  My sister, mother-in-law, and another friend had sent items they’d donated via my friend’s son.  I took my class on a “field trip” to the bus loop where he had parked to retrieve the bags and boxes.

Getting outside was good because my classroom is one of four that doesn’t have a working air conditioner unit.  It was very, very hot and humid on Tuesday.  In fact, it was cooler outside than inside my room, so we enjoyed the fresh air while we retrieved the items.

Lunch was a bit of a cluster.  The plan had been to have our JROTC deliver sack lunches so the kids could make their way to the buses or cars without encountering the middle school students, but we were told last-minute to have them go to the cafeteria to pick up their sacks.  Every student in my district is getting two free meals right now.  It was a mess, and things didn’t go as smoothly as hoped.

I finally got to breathe at noon after the kids were gone.

Well, not really because I had to empty the garbage and sweep the room – all before the next teacher got to the room to begin his day.

We are having to do things old school around here because the cleaning crew assigned to our campus has been moved to another school.

The faculty gathered in the choir room around 12:15 for a debrief.

It was a good call because we had a chance to discuss what had worked and what hadn’t.  We wrote down questions and tried to come up with solutions.  Overall, we loved on each other.

The above and below pictures are post-Back-to-School-2.0 day.

The week flew by.  Every afternoon, staff members gathered in the media center.  We ate lunch together, laughed, and commiserated about some of the challenges we are facing.

Imagine living in your house for the first half of the day and then having an entire family move in for the second part of it.

That’s what it’s like for us.

Everyone changes:  Administration, Guidance, Attendance, teachers, paraprofessionals, and the custodians.

Guidance counselors are working in teeny, tiny offices; the Attendance ladies are sharing one desk while manning two phones; the principal’s administrative assistant is holding down the fort in an office that you need to drop breadcrumbs to so you can find your way out.

Teachers are operating with as few things as possible to minimize the footprints we are leaving in other teachers’ classrooms.  Some teachers are conducting their classes simultaneously in the library because they still haven’t gotten portables.  Can I just say that they are doing an INCREDIBLE job too?  I walked in two or three times during my planning, and the kids were working quietly.  It has been impressive.

So, it’s now Friday night, and although I am exhausted, I can’t help but be proud.

I work with some of the most dedicated educators around.  I haven’t seen a teacher who hasn’t gone the extra mile to make sure that his or her students have what they need.

There’s nothing old-school about the way we are loving on our children, providing a safe and enriching environment for them, and lending a helping hand to one another.

The Cure for Insomnia

If you suffer from insomnia, I have the cure.

It’s called teaching.

I promise you that you’ll be sleeping like a baby after Day 1.

I have always been a person who falls asleep easily; however, I started having problems this summer after I hurt my back and then, later, hit my head.

My woes ended the first day of school, though, because I hit the ground running and have hardly stopped.

I spent the first week and a half teaching my students my classroom procedures and setting expectations.

Buy-in is extremely important for my reading students, so I explained about testing options and the required concordant scores to test out.

My students are Juniors who have never taken the SAT or the ACT, so they had no idea what these score reports looked like.  I believe that it’s important to put kids in the drivers seats of their learning, so I showed them (and gave them copies).

I also had my students reflect on the spring test they took.  This is a form I created a few years ago.

Now, even though the first week was only three days long, this girl was beat!  I dressed down that Friday morning with the evening’s football game in mind.

Isn’t that shirt just the best?  I’d seen an ad for it during the summer and had ordered it right away.  I’d set it aside when it arrived in the mail, knowing that I’d wear it the first Friday of the school year.

The first game of the year was something special.  Our football stadium had been under construction for over a year, and we had the honor of hosting the first football match against a city rival.

I was a bit miffed that teachers were no longer allowed to stand on the track, close to our peeps, but my friend, Leanne, let me sit in the seats her hubby had paid for (teachers don’t pay, but these were reserved seats).  The view was incredible, as was the company.

This was the most moving part of the entire night.  I always think of my Rooster and his service to this country when the National Anthem is played.

My school beat the other school.  It was fun to hear the names of the football players making tackles or scoring touchdowns.  I still didn’t know their names by heart, so I sat with my class rosters pulled up on my phone, cross-checking names.  Ha!

I met friends for some post-game celebrating and then headed to home and to bed.

I think I’ll stop this post right here because y’all, it’s after 8pm on a Tuesday, and your girl is freakishly tired.

I still have so much to catch up on.  I’ll get there.  Eventually.  Just like always.

But seriously, if you need any help with your sleep, give me a ring.  There are lots of job vacancies in these here parts.  We’ll entice you with our beautiful beaches, great coworkers like Your’s Truly, and a never-ending stream of restful nights.

Year 9, Day 1

Yesterday was the first day of my ninth year of teaching.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself because it’s so hard to believe that so much time as passed since my first year.

I woke up before my alarm – typical for the first day because I always fret about oversleeping.

I made myself roll back over, though, and only hit the snooze one time before crawling out of bed.

I had miles to put in.

Yep.  Isn’t that the creepiest photo?   Here’s an even creepier one.

Ha!

The sun was barely coming up when I finished.  I snapped this beautiful photo of the pond across from my house as I made the final loop . . .

I was pleased with my distance.

I showered, carefully applied makeup, and dressed in the clothes I’d semi-agonized over the evening before.  First impressions are always important, even when your clientele is a group of teenagers.

Yes, I am wearing wedges.  I’d been wanting to give this another try since they had not graced my feet in almost two years, before I broke my ankle.  Gianni Bini and first days of school go along marvelously, don’t you think?

I packed a pair of Vionic sandals just in case my feet gave out, which they did around lunch time.

I was pleasantly surprised when I entered my classroom . . .

Notice anything?

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Y’all, the cleaning crew had set up the chairs around my tables!  I always leave them stacked in groups of five to make it easier to sweep and mop my floors.  I have NEVER had a crew set up my room this way.  My room was so inviting!

I was a little nervous, as I always am.  Timing is a huge issue with me the first couple of weeks of school; getting back in the rhythm of the bells and planning each day’s workload can be challenging.

One of our art teachers sent out an email inviting anyone who wanted to go to his room for a pre-school prayer to join.  I did, and those of us gathered there held hands in a circle while he prayed.

It was wonderful – the absolutely perfect start to our school year.  I’m so fortunate to work with selfless educators.

I was also a bit anxious about how my newer and stricter cell phone policy would be received.

I had labeled every seat with numbers and had assigned those numbers to my roster of students.  Everything was done alphabetically and numerically to keep things easy for all of us.  As students walked into my room, I asked them to check the board, where I had the rosters and numbers listed, put their cell phones in the corresponding pocket numbers, and sit at the same seat number.

It was a beautiful thing to behold.

For the most part, the policy was well received, and I barely heard any complaints.  A couple of my classes had about half of the kids who put their phones up . . . until I told them that I’d be taking attendance based on the cell phones present in the pockets.

You better believe that those kiddos got up really fast and placed their phones in their appropriate spots.  Nobody wanted a phone call home that they had missed my class.

I did have a few kids here and there who either had not taken their phones to school or plain old didn’t have one because their phones were broken.  Hmmm.

Now, I am not dumb enough to think that some people might have been lying, but the cell phone policy I’ll go over with them today will explain, in detail, the consequences for being caught with phones during non-approved times.

This is the first year that I’ve been this strict.  I think that a few other teachers are doing something similar, so the consistency should help.

The morning flew by; my classes were angels.

I’m hoping that this wasn’t the honeymoon phase.

But seriously, my first period class is the smallest.  They were either still half asleep or their personalities just messhed well together because they were a true delight.

My bellwork was fun.

I wanted to do a different kind of icebreaker.  When students finished writing their responses, I did a stand up, hand up, pair up activity.  This is what took the MOST time and threw my schedule off.  Kids have to be taught EVERYTHING.  I put music on to get them moving around the classroom – 60’s music.  So much fun!  Then, I taught them guidelines for being good listeners and good speakers.  Everyone got a turn to share with their partners, and we shared out a few answers as a group.

Good times, y’all.

I have fourth period planning this year which runs into both lunches, so I’ve got an extra long time strung together.  I am not complaining at all.  Someone could market time and make out like a bandit!  I was able to eat leftover Mexican Quinoa Stew, which I’d made the afternoon before, and indulged in a homemade cupcake.

Lunch was interesting.  I got caught in a downpour as I made my way from one building to another.  The gutters around our school are horrible.  Water comes down between them, so you’re essentially walking through waterfalls when you go from one section of awnings to another.  I begged my principal for a ride in the golf cart, which has a roof.  I mean, this girl had straightened her hair for school.  I’d gone all out.

He handed me an umbrella instead.

Chivalry anyone?

Ahem.

Gianni Bini got wet, so I slipped into my sandals (my feet were thanking me), and I proceeded to teach my afternoon classes.

Night and day, y’all.

I think we should just do morning school and be done with our day.  Kids cannot function after lunch.  They just can’t.

One of my classes was quite spirited.  I suspect that they will be my challenge class this year.  The kids have some big personalities that I’ll have to tame.

Fortunately, my last class of the day, and also the largest class, was the sweetest group of kiddos.  I’m praying they stay this way so we can all end the day a bit quieter and calmer.

I stayed a little later after the final bell rang because who in the world really has their act together that first day?

That’s about right, y’all.

Honestly, though, I think the day went very well.  I am nervous about the lesson planning involved with my English 3 class (I have two sections this year), but I felt as though I exuded confidence in my reading classes.  I have kiddos who do not want to be in reading, but I think that as we proceed and trust grows between us (teacher and student), all will be well.

Requiem to Summer

Dear Summer,

Oh, how I miss thee already.

I miss sleeping in until 9am, staying in bed another hour, and slowly sliding out of my bed, no plan in mind and no lesson planning on the agenda.

I miss not being in a hurry because I don’t have anywhere to be.  I think the dogs will miss this too.

I miss working out at 11 or 12 instead of 4:30am.

It was a lot easier to see what I was doing without sleep clogging my eyes.

I miss no-makeup, messy-hair-bun, maybe-I’ll-shower, in-my-pajamas-by-4 days when the desire to apologize to the public at large, if I chose to go out amongst people, waned the further into vacation I got.

I miss lazy afternoons by the pool, or rather in the pool, and hours upon hours of leisure reading.

I miss Netflix binges until midnight and knitting to my heart’s content.

I miss being able to go to the bathroom whenever I want and however many times I need to.

I miss afternoon siestas – sometimes two if the need arose – because teaching is tiring business that requires months of vacation to recuperate from.

I miss afternoons spent in the kitchen, baking up all of the goodies that struck my fancy on Instagram.

I miss being able to put two complete thoughts together because my brain isn’t being pulled in a bazillion directions.

As I start my ninth year of teaching, leaving summer behind doesn’t get easier – the parting still brings sorrow to my heart.

BUT . . .

New batches of teenagers await my reading expertise and mama love.

They don’t know it yet, but they will thrive on the routines that make my classroom run like a well-oiled machine (if the stars align), not to mention the high standards to which they will be held.

I’ll spy pictures on my camera roll – reminders of warm, carefree days, and I’ll get wistful – especially when my nerves are fraught by the child who has asked, for the upteenth time, if the assignment we are working on is formative or summative (they’re all going to be summative by that point).

There will be days when I am so invigorated by my students’ aha moments that I almost forget about you (not quite though).

SO . . .

Though we must part for now, it is only temporary.

But who’s counting.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing what God has called me to do . . . bridge the gap between His littles and the big world that’s waiting for them after high school.

Weekend Miscellany

Miscellany – yes, that’s a word.  I looked it up just to be sure.

Let’s talk about random things from the weekend.

Saturday

I got in my walk and did #somuchgood

Here’s the photo without the Charity Miles info . . . because Gambit is so cute.

I received a package in the mail . . .

Megan showed hers off during our meeting last Thursday, and I think two or three of us ordered one on the spot.  I’ll let you know how it works!  I’m hopeful because being able to stand in proximity to some of my more spirited students, as opposed to standing in front of the board, will take my classroom management skills up a few notches!

I spent most of the day reading and finished this book . . .

It was excellent!  I gave it four stars on Goodreads.  The author has another book coming out in January.  I’ll probably pre-order it.

Sunday

I slept in, opting to skip church because of the loud music and my head. The dogs were not amused because they were waiting for breakfast.

After they ate, I went for a walk.  Then, I did some laminating.

For some reason, I was really tired, so I slept for an hour.  Unfortunately, I woke up to find a migraine brewing.

I also had a craving for a cherry slushy, so I loaded up the boys and took them along for the ride.

Aren’t their faces priceless?

Despite taking a pain pill, which I had been able to avoid the past few days, the headache lingered.

I decided to do some baking.  I used the same recipe as last week, but this time, I topped them with chocolate frosting, a suggestion from the recipe writer (she kindly responded to the question I asked on her Instagram post).

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The frosting is amazing!  It tastes like the kind I’ve always bought at the store.

The Mr. had been at work all day, not his usual schedule but that’s how it goes.  When he got home, he saw that I wasn’t feeling well and kindly ate leftovers.  Bless him.

Meanwhile, I wound up a skein of yarn for a new project.

Weekends sure do fly by, even when you’re not doing a whole lot.

Getting Closer

When last I posted, I was emerging from my back-to-school funk.

Writing that post was cathartic; I woke up on Thursday in a much better frame of mind.

God, as always, was faithful and filled my heart with peace.

I got up early and walked almost four and a half miles.  This was the second and final leg of my Royal 10k, another Hogwarts Running Club race.  I am looking forward to the arrival of the race shirt I ordered and the medal!

Then, I treated the dogs to a banana with their regular breakfast.

When they finished, I headed to work.  I had an ELA meeting to attend, but it was helpful, which I appreciated.  I felt so much more with-it.  I like smaller groups, remember?

After the meeting, I was free to work in my classroom to my heart’s content.

Y’all, it was simply wonderful to be in my own space doing my own thing at my own pace.  I got so much accomplished!

The advice we always give new teachers is get your lesson plans finished first; however, as a not-so-new teacher (this is my ninth year), I like to start with my room prep.  I cannot function if my room is in disarray.

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I always like to add personal touches.  This is one of my favorite displays . . .

I can’t wear the sparkle heels any more, but I’m not about to get rid of them.

Another teacher came by to chat, and in the process, I mentioned that I was going to be at the school on Friday to make copies.  We didn’t have have to work that day, but my friend, Megan, has a key to the building that has the copy room, so she was going to copy stuff too.  I figured it would be easy to get in and out of there with teachers being off.

The teacher who I was talking to told me that the copy room was dead, and it might be a good time to go in.

Y’all, I almost ran there.  The place was indeed empty, so I got to make copies for ALL of the work we’ll be doing the first three days of school.

Take a look at this career interest survey I’m having my students fill out.

I’ll be teaching six classes of juniors.  I want to keep them thinking about their future plans.

I think that reviewing the results of this little test will be a great icebreaker!

I worked until 3 and headed home; it was time for a nap.

I was pooped, y’all.

After dinner, I noticed that my forehead was burning.  It’s still got some healing to do.

I watched TV for the rest of the evening.  Pele wasn’t amused; he came out of the bedroom to let me know that it was time to go night night.

So, as the 15th, the first day of school, draws nearer, I’m finding myself closer to being ready.  It’s definitely a marathon, where I’m pacing myself, as opposed to a sprint.  Rome wasn’t built in a day nor was my classroom!

Emerging from a Funk

Y’all, I have a confession to make.

I’ve been in a major funk this week.

The combination of saying adios to summer and holla new school year has done a number on me.

Yeah, the struggle has been real for this here girl.

One thing I know about myself is that I do not do change well.  No sir.  I am that kid who wants to throw a tantrum in the middle of the floor.

Real mature, eh?

On Tuesday, we began two days of meetings, and it was all I could do to hang on for dear life.

Now, let me tell you that I work with some fabulous educators.  They really are.  We have our quirks, and we fuss like family, but we do an incredible job with children who are facing so much adversity.

My not wanting to kiss summer goodbye doesn’t have anything to do with people.

The beginning of the year is freakishly overwhelming.  Like totally.

Hearing about new mandates being passed down from on high doesn’t always sit well either.

Good hair day; accurate expression

I try hard to be peppy, positive, and a team player, but I couldn’t find my mojo on Tuesday.

I wasn’t feeling well, the result of random headaches, although they aren’t constant like before.

It takes me awhile to process information, especially when I’m overwhelmed and a bit emotional (the two tend to go hand-in-hand for me).

It didn’t help when a teacher I have always gotten along with acted snarky toward me.  Grrr.  I later found a sticky note on my cup, and she apologized.

I love this lady; she taught both of my kiddos in middle school.  All ended well.

Sometimes, I forget that I don’t live on an island; we are all struggling, especially this time of the year.

I did manage to win a free Starbucks card when I got Bingo.

I must start being more discriminatory when I post pictures online.

I am not going to lie:  my less-than-stellar attitude, stubbornness, and sensitive nature did not make for a happy afternoon when I got home.

What do you do when you’re stressed?  I did a bit of late-night baking.

I like to fool myself into thinking I’m cutting calories in half by making mini cupcakes.

I found the recipe here and even managed to whip up the icing – at 10pm.

I should have waited longer to ice them.  They were a bit melted.  I took these into work on Wednesday so my taste tester friend, Leanne, could critique them.  She liked the mint icing.  Another friend, Penny (hey Penny, welcome to the blog), didn’t care for it too much, but she loved the cupcake itself.  The frosting wasn’t my thing either, so I’ll figure out a different flavor next time.

But I digress . . .

Wednesday’s meetings seemed to go by a little quicker, although I pretty much stayed in my shell again.  I felt so weighted down.

I worked in my classroom during lunch and got some books boxed up for my friend, Barbara.  She had loaned me a number of them eight years ago when I started teaching reading, and I had finally gone through them on Monday and pulled the ones I knew my students had not been reading the last few years.  This made room for the oodles of new books I’ve purchased recently.

Being productive helped me feel a tad better.  My classroom is my safe haven at school, and watching it come together was very satisfying.

We had one last round of meetings during our afternoon session before we got to leave.

I was still in my funk and checked in with a friend to see how she was doing.  Hearing her perspective on her day and her reflections on the week gave me pause.

This was the conversation I needed to remind me that I needed to snap out of it.

I realized that I was probably setting a poor example and giving new teachers on our team a bad first impression of me.

So, I’m swimming my way to the top of whatever huge wave I’ve been crushed under lately.

I’m trying to pray, although if I can be honest with you, I’ll admit that I wasn’t in a good place emotionally to pray Tuesday afternoon.  By Tuesday night, I was ready to talk to God and re-read my devotion.  I slept well that night despite the angst in my heart – proof that there is One who is able to pull me out of whatever hole I can’t find my way out of.

Please pray for all of the educators and others who work in the system.  Please pray for energy as we prepare for the littles of all grade levels.  We are already worn out, and the school year hasn’t even begun for many of us yet!  Please pray that those in leadership will make wise decisions – decisions based on what is best for kids – and that such people will see these students for who they are . . . young people with names and personal stories . . . not data points.

Thanks y’all!

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