Archive | February, 2011

Don’t Dig

28 Feb

As I was getting D ready for school this morning, she grabbed my arm being silly and just about jumped through the roof.  What was that?  Then I look down at the crook of my arm…Ah, that’s right.

The City is having a wellness screening for all of its employees – blood work and an interview with a nurse practitioner, in exchange for $1500 off your insurance per year per couple.  So, of course we do it.  It is a fasting blood draw, so my firefighter and I go in as soon as he gets off shift on Saturday – before the rest of the chaos of the day begins.  Now, I hear we picked the right lab.  The other one on our side of town was out the door and down the hall for these three vials of blood.  So that was a plus in our favor.  It all goes down hill from there.

After a screaming tween (I felt for that mom) and a few other fire couples get blood drawn, it is our turn.  I warn our oh-so competent phlebotomist that my veins roll.  We discuss the horror stories I have about waking up on the floor after someone did not listen.  My last request before she stabs me, “Please don’t dig.”  Her response – “Oh no.  I would much rather pull out and try again, then dig around in there.”  So, she takes a stab…misses…and…begins to dig…and dig…and dig some more.  My ears start ringing as I watch in horror. I begin breathing as slowly and deeply as I can.  The purple curtain starts to invade my vision.  My firefighter recognizes this and stands in front of me, just in case.

And she finally found one.  I suppose, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Imagine if I had not warned her!


The Secret Password

27 Feb

Now, I know I have been critical of the traditions and rituals when it comes to cubs.  The flour and water seems so silly to me.  Makes no sense and perhaps, it simply never will.  I guess that is okay with me.  I don’t know if “E2 on the Blue” club has a password or a secret knock.  I don’t know if they shared it with J, or not, yet.  But he has seen the inside of the clubhouse now.

One of the guys has taken J under his wing, a bit, throughout this whole process.  Which is rather ironic – from the outside looking in, as he is probably the most outwardly immature guy on the crew!  😀  He, too has a heart of gold, but unlike J, his mouth has NO filter.  What he thinks, he says.  At the Falcon’s game it made me laugh, but his wife cringe.  Anyway, J’s personal time – to study and workout, doesn’t begin until after popcorn is made and the other guys are settled in to their recliners – 8/9pm.  He is not a 21 year-old spring chick and does not seem to find a way to get to both.  So, one of the guys asked the Lt. if my FF could study in the afternoon and workout when they workout.  What an awesome gesture!

We are going out on St. Paddy’s Day and now I have a crew of FFs to hangout with.  We got invited to go along with them.  The cub on the truck, no one has done anything for.   Even at the football party, you could see he was on the outside. J could call everyone by their first name, the other cub was not afforded such luxury.  I feel bad for him, but at the same time, I am so glad to see that the work J has put into this has been recognized.  J has a heart of gold and a work ethic to match.  He knows when to keep his mouth shut (better than I do!) and when/how to speak up.  I am so happy for my husband.  He is becoming one of the guys.  Now, I can breathe a little deeper.  He is one of them and they will do whatever is in their power, no matter what, to make sure he comes home to me.  For that, I will forever be grateful.

And he is happy.  Is there anything else I could ask for?


27 Feb

This whole teachers vs. Scott Walker has put me in the middle of both friends and colleagues alike.  My friends, family and co-workers all have an opinion and many seem to assume they know mine.  There was quite a lengthy discussion at our niece’s 2nd birthday party yesterday – mind you J was a teacher, one of his sisters is a teacher, his dad was a principal and his mom was a teacher turned educational assistant.  And you throw me into the mix.  On the other side of the debate is J’s uncle who is an independent contractor for the federal courthouse.  I think that debate got the guilt juices flowing.

On our drive home, I think I needed to cleanse my soul.  Not about the teachers in Madison, but about the fact that I am teaching in a private school.  This was never in my plans.  And, if I was to be honest with myself, I was probably a bit condescending, in my mind, towards private school teachers.  And here I find myself – one of them. 

I have never mentioned this guilt to anyone and here it was the topic of discussion for at least 45 minutes of our drive and continued to weigh on my mind throughout the night – to the point where I was dreaming about it.  I feel so horribly guilty.  I feel as though I have abandoned my kids.  My kids now, at a private school, do indeed need me, but not like in the past.  They need my input on which private college would best serve them in the quest to be the most influential social worker of their time.  They need me to take a look at their papers and check citations before they submit it for AP Lit.  They do need me.  But in the past, for some of my kids, school was the only sense of stability the kids had.  You don’t know how many trips I took to Wal-mart or Target over the years for school supplies, clothes, food, etc for my kids at work.  How many long hours spent agonizing over what was best for these guys, when no one else really even thought twice. I know most of them have graduated or are about to graduate.  And many of my ‘babies’ know how to get a hold of me and have done so.  But what about the next classes coming up?  What if they need me and I am not there?  Have I failed my mission?  Have I become a sell-out and taken the easy route?

So, I return to my final exam grading.  With my helicopter parents, who question every grade in my grade book – why it was a A- rather than an A, and think about the kids I have left behind.  The kids who could not get their parents in for conferences, much less check my grade book on a daily basis. I watch the happenings at the capital, with baited breath, look at the pictures posted by my friends and co-workers and wonder.  I am only two terms into my stint as a private school teacher.  J assures me that I am making a difference and that these kids need strong teachers as well.  I am hoping that my guilt subsides.  Some days it feels as though it will just consume me.

Wish me luck

26 Feb

Our second trimester has come and gone, I have the stack of papers from yesterday’s exams to prove it. I will be teaching two totally new, never seen by me subjects before, during this final term.  This weekend I have a TON of last minute touches to put on EVERYTHING for this new term.  Everything seems to be “almost” done. And I have to do it as a single mom.

Remember how I said Here is where I fall in love with the fire department”I still stand by that. But, this is the moment when I lose my mind because of the firefighter’s schedule.  

Last weekend J worked a 48.  He switched with one of the guys on the red shift, in order to be able to stay home with the girls during our H1N1 micro-pandemic.  He also had a city-owed trade that he is paying back PLUS the teacher in him caused him to HAVE to go on an over night field trip to the EAA.  This was the trip he was in charge of for 10 years.  So here is our schedule over the course of 2 weeks:

  • Last week – Saturday, Sunday –  on.  Monday off.  Tuesday/Wednesday EAA trip in Oshkosh, Thursday off, Friday on.
  • This week – Saturday off – our niece’s birthday party in Manitowoc.  Sunday, Monday- on.  Tuesday off, Wednesday,  Thursday – on.  Friday resume some form of normalcy.

Light at the end of the tunnel – After these CRAZY stretch, I am one week away from Spring Break – which J is home for the WHOLE time!  YEAH!  And the icing on the cake – I am home for St. Patrick’s Day which is also the opening day of March Madness.  BONUS!  Indeed the luck o’ the Irish is upon me this year! We have made arrangements for the kids so we can go out on St. Paddy’s – something silly I have always wanted to do, but always had to work.  

AND…we have been totally in UNDIES with Obabya since we came home from the hospital.  No Pull-ups, except at night.  And every Pull-up has been dry in the morning. (Don’t ask me about the ONE time I get brave and leave her in undies at night, however.)  Never thought I would be discussing undies in such a manner.  So funny how Mommyhood changes things!

So, I take a deep breath today – listening to the chaos break out upstairs along with the dawn.  My firefighter will be home in a few hours and our 24 hours together will begin with our fasting blood draw for his insurance – and may I say, I AM STARVING!  Followed by an hour and  a half trip up north for a fun party with family.  He leaves for a 48 tomorrow and I need to finish correcting some papers that were “forgotten” about by my seniors, along with yesterday’s exams, finish writing my curriculum map and syllabus for my new sophomore class, shore up my second go round with this junior class for their part-deux  (They have missed me so much since November, that I have not been able to get them out of my room all week!  Think it will last?)  and figure out what the heck I am going to do with the little teeny-tiny 7th graders they sent my way this term.  

Peace, love and Coco Puffs from the loony-bin!  

Enjoy your weekend, kiss your firefighters, hug your kids and thank your teachers.

Teachers and the Unions

23 Feb

Okay – I have kept quiet on this issue long enough.  This is an issue that is dividing families and friends.  You should have read some of the horrible emails and FB messages I have gotten – from both sides of this discussion.  So here is my stance…well, it is more of a request.  PLEASE STOP BASHING TEACHERS!  Yes, I know. We only work 10 months out of the year, have all of our holidays off and we are done at 3pm and yada yada yada.  I KNOW!

Please also note that the teachers are PEOPLE!  These are people who hold the lives and futures in the very palms of their hands NOW.  What they do today, impacts your child FOREVER!  You have no kids?  Guess, what we do will impact your caregivers, and therefore your life –  forever!

I am no longer in the public world.  I am teaching for a much reduced salary in a private school in order to afford private school education for my 4 kids. (Ironic all the way around, isn’t it!)  It is a trade off the has been wonderful so far.  My class sizes run from 11-27. My boys are in true 15 student classes, as opposed to the 30:2 classes SAGE provided.   Last year, my classes at MHSA were 40-48, with the exception of my AP class which “only” had 16.  We did not have enough books, ever, in the 12 years I taught in MPS, to allow all kids to take a book back and forth.  That meant I had to create assignments that did not rely on the text or the internet – because not all kids have regular access to the web, either.   Aside from those restrictions, we were limited to ONE case of paper per day for 45 staff members and 950 students, in order to cut costs.  SO, no textbook or textbook created materials were used – unless we provided our own paper.  And from what I have heard, copies are being limited, regardless of who bought the paper.  For instructional purposes, I have almost always created ALL my own materials.  I have 2 flash drives FULL of PowerPoints, projects, assignments, rubrics – all created by ME – during the wee hours of the morning when my house is finally quiet enough to work or while sitting on the deck during the summer watching my kids play in the backyard.  I don’t get paid for that.

Especially in urban districts, the teachers are often the only advocates for the children, sadly.  Breakfast commonly consists of Flamin’ Hots and Hawaiian Punch, with maybe a Honey Bun to boot.  We buy clothes and supplies for our kids, students, as well as our classrooms.  I created a “SmartBoard” out of a Wii Mote, a Bluetooth dongle and an IR pen.  I created a document camera out of a ring stand and old camcorder.  We know how to make do with little to no supplies.  Many of our kids are written off by society – forgotten or left for hopeless.  I have lost 18 kids in 13 years – YES, EIGHTEEN!  I have gone to 15 of their funerals.  My  heart has broken with each and every one of those losses.  The guilt is enormous.  What could I have done differently?  What didn’t I see?  Why didn’t I suggest something different? I have been called Mom by more kids than I can ever count – sometimes by accident and sometimes by affection.  I am touched deeply by that compliment.  These are MY KIDS.  I am here in spite of all the issues, because of the kids. Don’t you dare tell me that I am in this for the money!

As for the issues being debated, we in the education world know that there are sacrifices that must be made.  WE GET THAT!  Please don’t lecture us about the private world, we understand that as well.  But when Gov. Walker wants to dissolve the unions, there are bigger issues at hand.  We have – for years – forgone pay raises in order to keep our health insurance, so we have indeed made sacrifices all along.  We began paying into our insurance several years ago and knew that trend would continue.  Now, we as teachers know that there are more cuts to be made and are okay with that – believe it or not.  But you have to realize that there are work conditions that the union ensures are safe and productive.

I have a student I can think of at this very moment – from 1999.  (At 150-200+ kids per year, you can do the math on how many kids ago that was.) I can picture him and remember his name just as clear as though it was yesterday.  BB had “that look” in his eyes, a ticking time bomb.  One day in my social studies class, he got upset because I would not give him my colored pencils during my instructional time.  He literally threw a table at me.  Kicker to this – I was 5 1/2 months pregnant.  The school board required me to keep him.  It was part of his disability – I needed to be more understanding.  The union stepped in and had him removed from my classroom.  They also ensure that we have something as simple as adequate parking, security guards for our halls and comp time when we stay until 9pm to ensure all parents have the opportunity to speak with us regarding their children’s progress (after coming in to teach a zero hour class – FOR FREE at 6:50 AM). The positives of the union definitely outweigh the negatives.  I can go on and on.

I am not a Union Lackey.  I think there are some teachers who should not be in this profession and are protected by the union simply because they have put in three years and achieved tenure.  BUT, had administration, college education faculty or mentors stepped in during the early years of their education/careers, perhaps these sub-par teachers could have gotten the guidance they needed – either to improve their teaching  and/or classroom management style or to continue looking for their true vocations.  Unions, aside from negotiating our salaries and benefits, also ensure our working conditions are safe and secure.

Until you have spent any amount of time in the classroom, please don’t bash teachers.  Most of us work long and hard to make sure our kids are educated – both academically and socially.  We work with little to no supplies or support – sometimes from homes, administration or the community at large.  We are


N.B – Didja know that teachers in the public schools often only get paid for 9 of the 10 days of their pay period?  This allows a paycheck to be sent to us on our breaks.  The days are “banked” for us and distributed over Winter and Spring Breaks, etc.

Says it all, doncha think?

23 Feb

Sign number 364 that you are cub

22 Feb

When there is a massive snow storm hitting the city….

and everyone else’s car looks like this…
and this…
and your car looks like this…
    while you are doing this.