Friday, July 7, 2017

The Aubrey Girls of Liberty High

     Two teenage sisters in one house bring lots of drama.  Three is almost unbearable, but four sisters? And all of them in high school at one time? The drama never ends.  Natalie, Karen, Tori, and Frannie. The Aubrey girls of Liberty High.
     Natalie was the oldest of the four.  There had been an older brother, but he died shortly after his birth. So soon afterward, Natalie was told, that there hadn't been any chance to name him, and on his birth and death certificitate, his name simply read, "Aubrey, male infant."  Nat had always wished he had lived so that she could have had an older brother, and that she would not have had to be the "oldest."
     Being the oldest was never easy.  Especially with three younger sisters who had a habit of trying to get around the rules her mother and father had set down for the four Aubrey girls. Natalie would just as soon sneak off somewhere with a good book to read, but it was usually her responsibility to keep track of her younger sister Frannie.
    There was four years difference in their ages, but Frannie was considered the baby, and she was always completely the center of attention anywhere they went.  It didn't help that she had bright blue eyes, golden Shirley-Temple curls, and a cute little button nose.  Nat hated having to drag her along when she went anywhere, especially if a cute boy she liked would be there.  Frannie always seemed to steal the show.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Because I need to say my piece

          I know that I am a highly effective teacher in the classroom, and that I am, indeed, a dedicated and caring teacher with loads to pour into the lives of my students, and that no matter what else others may think or feel or believe about my abilities, or supposed lack thereof, it really shouldn't matter to me because I make a difference in the lives of my students.  Period.  I really, really, really want to stand by that feeling and forget about anything else.
          But those nice things like pay raises and bonus money that are dangled in front of teachers' faces frustrate me, (especially since National Board Certification Bonus money was done away with in our state - the reason I thought I could afford my $1100 monthly mortgage payments, BTW).  I think about all the reasons I really do qualify for the new bonus that has been created and will likely become law, and I feel that perhaps I should start to look outside the teaching profession to regain some self-esteem. (I recently saw an advertisement for someone to work in a rent-a-car office, and the starting pay was over $10,000 MORE a year than I make now as a teacher with 18+ years of experience and a Master's degree.

          Consider my reasons and some of my accomplishments:

  • having my master's degree 
  • being a National Board Certified teacher
  • teaching in my district and the public school system for 18+ years
  • teaching over 9 semesters at the local state college level
  • serving on multiple state-level committees for standardized testing
  • working as an item creator for the Florida State Teachers' Certification exam
  • creating items for the state's multiple-choice component of the previous writing test
  • being a member of the Board of Directors for my state-level professional-development organization for more than ten years
  • volunteering to do things above and beyond what I am required by contract to do 
These things and more that I do should demonstrate that I am not simply there to collect the paycheck, and that I do whatever it takes to stay current in my field in order for my students to be successful.  But then when I think about it, it really ticks me off that all of these things including the 18+ years I've spent teaching in my district, and the 18+ excellent evaluations I've had along the way don't seem to matter.
          And wouldn't you think that an exemplary school such as mine should be filled with exemplary teachers...not teachers who are made to feel unappreciated for the all those extra things they do? Wouldn't an administrator who is proud of the level of hard work the schools' teachers put in everyday feel that the school has the best teachers in the district, and that they should be recognized for this? You would think so, right?  
          So why would someone brag that there are going to be very few "highly effective" teachers at the school this year (a school that is only one point away from an "A," I'm told), and that even teachers who have consistently demonstrated proven student success are now rated as "needs improvement" for things that just don't make sense.  For instance, imagine a group of students in a class discussion who are excited and engaged; these students were permitted to participate in an authentic discussion that was completely on topic and that completely answered the Essential Question of the day, but that they sometimes spoke over each other because they were so passionate about the discussion.  Apparently, this faux-pas overshadowed the realness of their genuine engagement.
          Yes, they should have been more patient and polite, and yes, they should have waited their turn to speak, but when teenagers get excited about something, it's just crazy to put a damper on that. It was such an awesome discussion, and I wouldn't change one single second of what happened.  You know, I have seen adults who don't wait their turn to speak when they are passionate about what they have to say.  Even when those adults have very LITTLE to say, they often demand to say it right away, even though someone else is still talking.
          Well. Okay. There isn't really anything else to say.  So. My rant is over for the moment, and I will go on doing what I do because I love teaching, and I know I have the most personally rewarding job in the world. Every time a student lets me know that they trust me by sharing what is going on in their world, or when they tell me that they have learned something they didn't know before, I feel successful and highly effective.  No one can take that away from me.  No. One. I will continue to do what I know is best for my students, regardless of the effect on my own paycheck. The paycheck is not the point.  The genuine learning of my students IS the point.  There are so many more things that could be added to this rant, but I will leave it at this: Facebook gave me my Bible verse for the year, and it really is very appropriate: II Timothy 1:7 [KJV"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Thanks, Facebook.  I'll take it. Amen!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

This is the first page.  Joe is an 8th grader in this.  I like this as the beginning, but in many respects the voice sounds too "academic" and I think it needs to be less formal, although the conversation here takes place with his English teacher...

Working Title – The Shadow People

             “Joe! Sit up!  What time did you get to sleep last night?” the teacher scolded.  Joe struggled to straighten up, nearly sliding out of his chair. The dark circles under his eyes and his disheveled hair were signs that it had once again been a late night for him, and it was hard for him to pay attention in class when he was this tired. “Please see me after class.”
            When the bell rang about twenty minutes later, Joe was still groggy.  He wandered up to Mrs. ___’s desk, sure he was about to get a lecture about how important getting a good night’s sleep was.  He really didn’t want to be bothered, and the last thing he needed was another lecture, but he knew it would be worse for him and that he would get in more trouble if he tried to ignore her. 
            “You wanted to see me?”
            “Joe, what’s going on with you lately?  You’re falling asleep and your grades are starting to slip.  I’m really getting worried.  Is there something going on that I can help you with?  Is there anything you need to talk about?  You’re usually such a good student, and I hate to see you in this condition.  What’s going on?”

            “I’m okay, Mrs. _____.  I guess I’ve just been playing too many video games lately, and sometimes the time just slips away from me.  I just got the newest Night Stalker game last weekend, and it’s really intense. Before I knew it last night, it was four o’clock, and then I tried to get to sleep, but I couldn’t get the game out of my mind. Just please, don’t call my mom.  I promise it won’t happen again.”

Monday, July 27, 2015

Yes, I'm full of excuses...

     So.  I started writing.  I got a little over a thousand words in one day (actually two hours or so), but then I got stuck.  The first pages of this story came out okay.  I don't know that it will set the world on fire, but the idea behind the story (I think) will be something teens will enjoy reading.  I am just not sure whether my pacing seems slow, or if I sound too "academic" in my writing.  Also, I have several ideas about which direction things could go, but I don't really have an outline.
     I wrote those first thousand+ words Friday night, and now it's Monday, and I haven't done anything more with it.  I think I'm looking at the mountain, and forgetting that the journey of a thousand miles begins with just a step, followed by another, and then another, and so-forth.  I'm even writing about the writing which in itself makes me feel better because I'm writing, but of course it is avoidance writing.
     I can put words together, and I can write in an "academic voice" but can I actually write a fictional story that someone will want to read?  As I sit here watching the Rays game on television, I think about the fact that I have less than three weeks before I have to go back to work, and then I will have even less time in which to write.  We're also in the midst of renovations to the house and "cosmetic repairs" from sinkhole activity.  That's going even slower than my writing is.  The hubby and I keep discussing our ideas, but I get motivated for a while, and then I complete something, and then we seem to hit a road block that seems to stop work for a few days.  We do have a deadline, so we have to get done by then.  I just hope I can do both at the same time and work on top of it all.  I wonder how many students I'll have this year, because the more students, the more essays to score.  We'll see how it goes.

Monday, July 6, 2015

First day, Second Year of Teachers Write

This is a new step in the journey of becoming me.  Last year when I joined the Teachers Write summer camp, I mostly "lurked," though I did share a piece of my writing that I had done a few years ago.  This year, since I've had this blogger account for a while, I decided to actually start using it to complete the assignments and to get started on some serious writing.  With that thought in mind, here is my list of "wonderings" that is the assignment from Kate today.

1. I wonder what it would be like to be an empath like Phoebe in Charmed, or what it would be like to be able to read other people's minds (some of it may be good, but I'm sure some of it could be a real challenge, especially when you don't want others to know you have this power).

2. I wonder where a specific one of my previous 8th grade students has ended up in life.  This student had a very unusual experience that I felt compelled to relay to a guidance counselor, and then together we had a conference to let the parents know what was going on with their child.  I think it could be the basis for an interesting story, but I would like to know what really happened.

3. I often wonder if any of my HS students have had some of the same experiences as I did in HS.  It's such a time of mixed emotions and uncertainty, yet there were other students who, to me at least, seemed to have it all together and weren't afraid of doing whatever they felt like doing.  

4. I wonder how people discover what it is that makes them passionate.  This one I've been thinking about for quite a while now.  Here's what I've hypothesized: when you find your passion in life, you've found what gives you a driving purpose, and the more you are driven by your passion, the more self-assured you are, and your passion, as a result, puts an end to your fears.  I think that's what I'm most trying to discover right now...what my passion should be, and how to become driven toward the place where I'm so self-assured that my fears all crumble and fall away.

Monday, July 14, 2014

They Say "Change is Gonna do You Good."

I was just reading over my older posts (not that there are that many), and I can't believe the number of big changes that have come my way in just the last two to three years.  I'm sure there are many people who could list major upheavals in their lives as well, but I hate to admit the fact that I seem to be struggling significantly to bounce back from it all.

I've had very close family members and friends who have passed away.  I've had three major surgeries (including heart stents and two total-knee replacements).  I resigned from the board of directors for the Florida Council of Teachers of English after being the Webmaster for ten years, and I left my middle school teaching position after 15 years to start teaching high school. I've also started teaching night classes at our local state college.

Of all the changes, though, the biggest change has been going from teaching middle school to teaching high school and college.  I love the older students, and I am so glad I moved from middle to high school, but it has still been a huge adjustment.  I've gone from being a pretty good sized fish in a smallish pond, to being a tiny little minnow in what, at times, feels like a vast ocean.

I do think that not being noticed can be a good thing.  It gives me a chance to "breathe" most of the time, and to allow myself to be less than perfect.  Other times, I miss being a part of the decision-making team.  I also don't like not being taken seriously.  I guess it mostly feels like what I have done and been in the past is just the past, and that no one knows me or what I am able to accomplish.

The frustrating part is that I am still that same teacher - the one who loves to be involved and learning new things.  Now, instead of having that secure and carved out position where my colleagues respect my accomplishments and know what I can do, I feel like I'm starting on the bottom rung once again.

But do I really want to climb the ladder at all?  Is it time for more change and other interests?  I'm really uncertain at this point.  In the past, whenever I've been at a decision-making crossroads like when I left Pennsylvania to move to Florida, I've had a moment of inspiration that gives me a hint at which path is right for me.  Something has sparked my interest, or some opportunity has presented itself.  It may take a while, and it may be that I'm supposed to be right where I am for now, learning and growing where I am, but I know that there are more great adventures ahead.  I just have to be patient and look for the signs.  And when I see them, I'll have to willingly take them wherever they lead.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Being a Strong Person

I've always thought of myself as a strong person.  I think, for the most part, I've attempted to live life in a way that shows I am a kind person, that I can "get the job done" when I take on a task, and that I put my own interests on the back burner when it comes to the good of my family or the "group" I am working with.  But I've noticed something.

As I walk through isles in grocery stores or in shops, I'm the kind of person who steps out of other folks' way when I am going down the isle.  "Okay.  So what?" you might ask.  Think about it.  In this life, there are the people who plow their way through, concerned only for themselves and where they're going, expecting others to get out of their way.  And then there are the "others."  The people who find themselves trying to get where they want to be, but end up encountering those first-described people (we could call them rude, self-absorbed), and they feel the necessity to get out of their way rather than to stand their ground.  I would wager they probably do this out of self-preservation and good manners, but I think there's more to it. 

I've seen that there are people in life who have an inordinately strong sense of self.  They don't even question the fact that everyone else should just understand that the world was created for them, and that everything is here to revolve around them.  To their way of thinking, of course, you should move out of their way!  Their life is so important that they don't have a second to step aside for someone else.

Then, there are, at the opposite extreme, the "doormats" of life.  These are the people who have had a strong upbringing in customs and traditions that require they be on their best behavior at all times.  They would feel guilty if they even presumed to not give way to others.  Think of them as a throw-back to the '50s and '60s when TV shows like Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver taught children moral lessons of life, and we all wanted our families to be just like these models of perfection. 

I have to confess that I fall more into this second category than the first.  I have to ask myself, though, what would be so wrong with living somewhere in the middle of these two extremes?  I know, personally, that I need a stronger sense of self...not that the world should revolve around me, but I do know that I am a good person, and that I have much to contribute to those around me.  I am more than willing to give credit to people for what they have honestly accomplished, and for what they honestly deserve, but I would like the same credit and recognition afforded to me when I have contributed to life. 

I think some of it comes with how one "walks."  Someone who plows their way through life leaves a wide wake of personal destruction.  A doormat, on the other hand, never seems to really get anywhere.  A self-confident person, however, has a calm and confident walk.  They get where they are going, but they don't have to plow through without regard for others.  It means they will graciously move to one side, even though they know they don't have to do so.   They know that they have self-worth, and they also know they don't have to prove it to anyone.  It just sort of oozes from them, and you only have to be around them for a short period of time to understand that they are truly quality people.

The Bible says it all so well.  "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." (Isaiah 30:15 KJV)  I am determined today to accept that I am a person of quality, and that I don't have to feel intimidated by anyone.  Yet I won't have to go around telling everyone what a great person I am.  I just need to accept that I am, and understand that my quiet actions and sincere confidence will speak for itself.