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Two Weeks of Silence

Dear Blog,

It’s been over two weeks since I last posted, and for that, I’m feeling quite guilty.

This teaching thing is, quite honestly, kicking my arse.

I cannot even begin to explain how nearly impossible teaching has become.

I walk out of each professional development session feeling increasingly inept and inadequate.

I worry endlessly about covering everything my students will need to be successful on new and yet-unproven State assessments.

Most nights, I come home and do this…

I even…gasp…fell asleep at 8:30 one night!!!

Chicky’s 23rd birthday came and went with nary a mention here.

Sorry, sweet girl.  You’re a teacher, like your old mama, so you graciously understood my inability to prepare and ship the chocolate chip cake you’d requested.

You’ll get it during Spring Break, if I can muster up the energy.

Despite my fatigue, I’ve managed to get out and walk around the neighborhood with a friend several times…

I dug deep to clean my neglected kitchen…

One day, I left the house with its white refrigerator…

…and returned to find a brand spanking new, stainless steel, model…

I’ll begin posting more regularly…even (possibly) daily…soon.

Writing is my outlet…it is my way of reaching through the confusion that surrounds me to make sense of my hodgepodge of emotions.

Sometimes, though, silence is good.  It can be that much-needed time of rest when the body and mind just can’t travel another inch.

Day 88 – Speaking Up

Day 88 of Year 5 of teaching started out with me looking like this…

Please remember that I must maintain “Basic” status by taking daily selfies.

😀

About an hour and a half later, I looked like this…

I really wish I could do the pretty cry, but I cannot.

It’s a good thing we were in the middle of exams, and my planning period was extra long.

Why the sad face, you ask?

I’ll tell you the long non-sordid tale.

I’d run into my fabulous principal shortly after arriving to school, and because he is generally a very busy man, I pulled him aside to ask him a couple of questions.  One, in particular, had to do with an option that most teachers are being offered in lieu of enduring long, cumbersome observation requirements.

I had missed a faculty meeting during which the particulars of said option had been discussed.  I’d had a parent conference that morning.

So, when I asked Mr. Principal about it today, he said that I didn’t meet the requirements for the option.

To which I think I gave him this look…

We walked to his office, and he read from the official principal handbook (I’m kind of making this up…I don’t know if there is such a thing, but he did read something from a piece of paper).

I’d thought that because my overall VAM (Value Added Measure…the thing used to ultimately “grade” me as a teacher) had been Effective, that I would be allowed to take advantage of the option.

Unfortunately, teachers have to be Highly Effective/Effective in ALL areas of their VAM…including the Student Growth section.

Despite 92% of my Level 1 and nearly 70% of my Level 2 students scoring learning gains last year, the Student Growth portion came back as Needs Improvement…and this with three years of data being factored into the following formula…

My previous years of data were never below effective.

When my principal told me this, I started crying again…out of frustration.

Once again, my VAM score is screwing me over.

Pardon my Redneck.

While I’d normally have a simple walk-thru by my principal, now I have to do a lot of extra paperwork, we have to meet twice, and I have to spend many nerve-wracked hours prepping for something to “prove” that I am a decent teacher.

To his credit, Mr. Principal told me not to worry.  He values my work and knows the quality lesson plans my students work through.

We rehashed the unfairness of it, and then he made a suggestion that I speak at a legislative delegation meeting that was, coincidentally God-incidentally going to be held tonight.

The Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Don Gaetz, newly elected Jay Trumbull, and Brad Drake would be in attendance to listen to comments, compliments, and concerns.

I asked my principal if he thought it would make a difference…if people in Tallahassee would make new laws about education because of me speaking out.

He told me that my VAM story needed to be told, so I said I’d pray about it.

When I got home from school, I typed out what I wanted to say.

I tend to ramble.

Not that you would know anything about that.

:::insert rolled eyes:::

Then, I drove myself to the meeting.

I called Super Sis on the way and asked her to pray…to pray that God would be glorified…that I would not speak out of anger (I’ve had a nasty attitude the last few months)…that my words would not get jumbled.

She said she would pray as soon as we hung up.

I nervously signed in and filled out the card to be added to the agenda.

Then, I waited.

Don Gaetz facilitated the meeting, and he began by explaining the rules of order.

I was intimidated.  It was all so formal.

I sat in the back, read over my notes, and listened as others were called up to speak.

Twenty-four of us had requested an audience.

People were allowed to take a lot more than the originally allotted time of 2.5 minutes.

At one point, a teacher friend I’d worked with a few years got up to speak, touching on the subject of teacher evaluations but did not completely delve into it like I’d planned on doing.

Finally, my name was called.

I took a deep breath and walked to the podium.

My legs felt like jello.

I explained, in the microphone where my quivering voice was magnified, that I was nervous.

The representative laughed and said, “You’re a teacher!”

To which I responded that I was used to speaking to 9th and 10th graders…not adults!

I then began to share my story.

I admitted that prior to becoming a teacher, I’d lived in a bubble for a long time…raised children in the school system…children who always passed FCAT easily.  I’d always thought that kids should pass the FCAT by the 12th grade…especially after having three years to do so.

I had also agreed that teachers should be judged based on student performance.

I said my bubble burst when I started teaching…Intensive Reading to kids who struggled with learning disabilities, homelessness, and hunger.

I told those representatives that I’d always heard of these issues but never seen them up close.  Every single day of my four years of teaching reading has had me working with kids facing such issues.  The issues were suddenly real for me.

I shared a story of a student who told me that I needed to find food for her classmate…one I’d just been working with…because she had not eaten in two days because her mom had to give the only lunch money she had to her younger brother instead.

I broke down when I told that story then explained that if I cried, it was because I was so passionate.

God was so good as I spoke and helped me recover quickly, and I returned to my carefully prepared notes.

I told them that despite the challenges, my students had made learning gains, and I shared my stats.

Then, I told how I’d felt sucker-punched and betrayed when this year’s VAM came back, and Student Growth showed Needs Improvement when my kids had clearly improved.

I told them that God had called me to teach…that I absolutely adore my students…but that there were times that I questioned if I should stay in a profession where an impossible-to-understand formula determined my worth to the State.

I said that I was grateful for a principal who validated me…a wonderful staff I worked with…and amazing students.  I explained that I loved my school…that I was still wearing my shirt with the logo from my day at work…a day that had not begun with plans to speak at the meeting.

I asked the representatives to think of my story when they returned to Tallahassee to hash out education legislation.  I told them that my story was one among countless others, and I asked them to change a broken system before more teachers left.

I ended by sharing a line from an email I’d received from a student just before entering the meeting…”You are one of my main motivations for finishing school and going to college.”  This was written by a student I taught last year.  She’s at a different school this year and has had to overcome tremendous obstacles to stay in school.  Her words were so inspiring.

To their credit, the representatives did not stop me when I’m sure time ran out.  They allowed me to finish, only interrupting when they had comments to insert.

When I finished, the entire room erupted in applause.

I was thanked for my words.  Other things were said before I returned to my seat, but in all honesty, I can’t remember!!  All I know is that I breathed a huge sign of relief, to the laughter of a few in the audience, got a thumbs up from a School Board member sitting in the back, and gratefully sat down.

I shed a few silent tears, so thankful that God had given me strength to speak…so overcome with a mixture of emotions.

When the meeting ended, I had the opportunity to thank Jay Trumbull for listening.  I really did feel like he and the other representatives listened to me.

I met a number of teachers who’d sat in the audience.  They thanked me for being so genuine.

I saw one of my mentors…gave her a hug and thanked her for her influence in my life.

When I left, I called Super Sis and thanked her for praying.  I gave her the scoop on the meeting, and I could hear her smile in her response.

She told me that as she’d prayed, beautiful words came from her heart…words so eloquent that she knew God was in this…that I would be okay…that this was the right thing to do.

I give ALL of the glory for this experience to God alone.

He was in this.  He spoke through me.  He calmed my nerves.  He gave me a conviction that was not full of anger but of truth and justice.

Time will tell if my words will have any permanent impact.

Regardless, I stepped outside of my comfort zone tonight and spoke up.  I’ll leave the rest up to God.

January Hodgepodge

Joyce is back…with a new son-in-law and delightful wedding tales she’s begun sharing!  Joyce, you made me smile and you put tears in my eyes with the story of the mishap that turned into a beautiful moment with your girls.  If you guys haven’t read it, go read it.  Now.

As for me, I’ll just be over here with my own answered questions for this week’s Hodgepodge!

1.  What’s your best piece of advice for a newly married couple? I’m asking for a friend.

Looking back at twenty-five years of marriage, I think that really, keeping life simple so that you can focus on your relationship would have been what I should have done.  I think life got so complicated…so busy…that the hubby and I lost sight, for a long time, of what was important.  I long for the simple life again and am slowly working my way back to that.

2.  Before we’re too far into the new year I wanted to post a question Teresa submitted during the December giveaway. Teresa blogs over at Being Refined As Silver, so everyone go say hi.

Teresa asks, “What were you doing on December 31st, 1999?”and “Did you or your family make preparations for Y2K?”

On December 31, 1999, we were living in Coral Springs, Florida…my favorite place I’ve ever lived, and we stayed home, not sure what would happen given all of the dire warnings.  My neighborhood had a block party with a big screen, fancy lights, and food.  It was warm…because it was down in South Florida…and glorious.  My kids rode their bikes and had fun hanging out with the neighborhood kids.  The Mr. had to work.  I’m sure we took precautions as far as the computer went (do you remember something we were advised to install to deal with the calendar?), but nothing else really.

3.  According to Global Language Monitor, the most used word of 2014 isn’t a word. It’s the heart emoji. Huh? How can something that’s not a word be the most used word, but I digress. What do you think was your most used word in 2014?

I’m thinking the word “teaching” was my most used word in 2014.  I blog about it constantly, use it in my hashtags, and talk about it.  All.  The.  Time.  People are probably sick of this word coming out of my mouth.

4.  Speaking of words, it’s that time again. Time for Lake Superior University to present a list of words they’d like to see banished (for over-use, mis-use, and general uselessness) in 2015. You can read more about the decision making process here, but this year’s top vote getters are-

bae (before anyone else), polar vortex, hack, skill set, swag, foodie, curate/curated, friend-raising, enhanced interrogation, cra-cra (as in crazy), takeaway, and -nation (a suffering sports suffix).

Which of these words/phrases would you most like to see banished from everyday speech and why? Is there a word not on the list you’d like to add?

I really do not like the phrase cray-cray.  Puleese.  There’s just no substitute for the word crazy, unless you need to insert a person’s name.  heehee

5.  January is National Hot Tea month? Are you a fan? Do you like flavored teas? How do you take your tea? Have a favorite cup or teapot? How many cups of tea do you consume in a given day? 

I can drink hot tea but in all honesty, I prefer cold sweet tea…with sugar, not artificial sweeteners.  I’m not a fan of flavored tea either.  Just regular sweet tea suits me fine…Chick-fil-A if you please.

6.  Whatever happened to________________________________?

Whatever happened to the simple life?  Hold on…it’s waiting for me to retire…in about twenty years.  😀

7.  What is one book on your must-read list this winter? 

This is kind of funny because I am a reading teacher with hundreds of books in my classroom that I haven’t read yet.  The book I’ll select for this question…one that is in my personal library at home, though, is The Best Yes, by Lysa TerKeurst.

It kind of goes with my answers to #1 and 6.  I live a busy life and need to learn when to say no.  I need to do a better job at prioritizing.  Lysa is a Christian writer with an easy style.  I actually started this book in either November or December.  I need to finish it!

8.  My Random Thought

So, you might have read about my students calling me a Basic White Girl and how I exacted vindication.

Well, I enjoyed a second day of proving them wrong…that I don’t always have to be basic…when I wore the following outfit…

I don’t think you can see from the picture very well (self-timers make my pictures look grainy, I’m afraid), but I’m wearing a cute pair of shorter platform black boots.  They have high heels too.

I’m wearing black stretch jeans, not leggings, and a new sweater I picked up at American Eagle, on clearance, on Saturday.  Go me.

My kiddos went ga-ga over my outfit, thoroughly earning an apology from my offending class.

Not that I care about their opinions or anything, mind you.

Insert rolled eyes.

Have a lovely week!

Vindicated!

Yesterday, I dressed carefully.

I was on a mission…seeking vindication for a comment one of my classes made on Friday.

The Basic White Girl comment.

I blogged about it a couple of days ago.

I pulled out the dress I wore Christmas Eve but decided to make a bold move.

I paired it with the pair of boots I purchased after Christmas at Kohls.

I stood on the toilet lid in my bathroom and sent a mirror selfie to my friend, Megan.

She’s my resident fashionista and a fellow teaching friend at my school.

She’s also almost twenty years younger than me.

That makes her cool.

She’s also not basic.

Ahem.

She gave her approval (yay me!), assured me it was most definitely not a basic outfit, and I took one more selfie with my self timer…

Because I am, at my core, basic.

I was a little nervous.

I’d normally pair the dress with heels.

I was stepping out of my comfort zone.

My first class arrived to my room, and one of my boys gave me a look-over.

I heard him say the word “boots,” but then we got busy with bellwork.

During the break,he told me that my boots were “on fleek.”

Um, what the heck?

I made him spell the word for me…

I’ve taught my kids how to use context clues to find out the meaning of unfamiliar words, but I could not figure out this strange phrase.

I asked him to use it in context.

He said, basically, what’s in the captions below…

Want a cuter meme?

What it means, folks, is that whatever is “on fleek” is on point.

It’s a good thing.

Later, when my fourth period class came in…the class that had originally told me I was a BWG, I told them that I was so not basic that I’d gone home and researched the term.

They laughed.

I told them that Megan had told me they were being mean.

They laughed.

I told them that my boots had been declared “on fleek,” and they laughed.

Even harder.

Still, I felt vindicated.

I’d won.

Sort of.

So there.

Goldilocks and the Three Hats

Once upon a time, there was a girl who liked to knit.

Her beloved had requested a beanie, and she finally got around to making it.

She worked and worked and produced the following hat…

Alas, but though it appears to fit, it was too large for the Mr.

She went back to the drawing board, found a different pattern, and knit the second beanie…

It was more to the Mr.’s liking, but it was too small.

In frustration, they analyzed both beanies, determined to find a solution.

The Mr. wanted a folded brim…a larger one than he’d originally thought…one that required more rounds of stitching before the striping.

He didn’t want the ribbing to continue up the entire hat though.

He didn’t ask for much, eh?

They decided to combine both patterns.

A third hat was produced…

The hat appeared to be just right…

The Mr. happily went on his way, beanie in hand.

The knitter, upon posting on Facebook, got requests for said beanie.

Everyone won.

Epilogue:

The Mr. used the beanie while working late one night and discovered that he did, in fact, want a beanie that was larger..with a brim…with the stitching of the second beanie.

A frogging (not part of the original Goldilocks story) will be had, and a fourth beanie will eventually be produced…thus messing up this Goldilocks story forever.

The.

End.

Dear Self

Dear Self,

This is a post that you need to read around the beginning of November every year you teach.

Go ahead and add this task to your calendar.

You see, around that time, you become very discouraged.

I’ve watched it happen.  After all, I am you.

I’m writing this post to encourage my discouraged self.

As you’re reading this…in the future I mean…you’re feeling frustrated because your classes are over the honeymoon phase.

The kids seem to be trying your patience at every turn.

You are, most likely, questioning why you are doing this for the money you are being paid.  Enduring disrespectful behavior just doesn’t seem to be worth it.  Keeping up with stupid state education mandates is pushing you over the edge.

You’re wondering how in the world you wrote those glowing end-of-the-year reflections…posts that made you cry as you typed them.

You’re thinking that you’ll never gel with your current batch of kids like you did the previous year, and your feelings are getting support every time a former student visits to give you a hug and tell you how much he/she misses you.

You’re longing for that happy feeling you had the previous spring.

I’m writing to tell you to pick up your head…that things begin to change around January after students return from Christmas break.

Despite the fact that you’ve seen this happen each of your years of teaching, you somehow forget.

For some odd reason, students become serious about their schooling after Christmas.

There might be a correlation between their realization that their GPAs are in the tank and that semester exams are around the corner.

Either way, reality is beginning to bite them in the butts, and they begin to realize that 1) You might actually know what you’re talking about and 2) They might be spending another year in Intensive Reading if they don’t change their ways.

This is a beautiful combination that results in students holding each other accountable for their classroom behavior, and you find yourself actually enjoying less-interrupted lessons.

Let’s get real, though.

You know that your favorite part of your job is the relationship-building that you do.  That is why you worry so much each year when it seems to be taking forever for the kids to trust you…when they insist on bucking you with the same stupid infractions.

It’s precisely because you do hold them to task each slip-up that they realize, around this time of the year, that they can take you at your word…that you will be an adult they can count on…that it actually takes more time to hold them to task than to let things slide.

I want you to know that it is around this time that the special personality of each class you teach begins to cement itself.

Each class is unique due to the individuals who form each group.

Thus, you cannot expect what makes one class laugh to make another do the same.

You’re now forming different inside jokes…stringing different memories together that will make each slideshow at the end of the year special in its own way.

So take heart.

Things DO get easier.

Do not cave because you were meant for this profession.

You were meant to be awkward.

You were meant to dry tears.

You were meant to cajole and inspire.

You were meant to tell the girls they look pretty and joke around with the boys about football.

Even on the toughest days in November and December when kids do not want to work…when everyone is counting down the days until the holidays and, thus, see no reason to work..have hope.  The light at the end of the tunnel is but a speck at that point of time.

That speck grows larger by January.

Before you know it, Spring Break and then the end of the year will be here.

Then you’ll wonder what you were so worried about, and you’ll laugh at yourself for being so dramatic.

And you’ll do it all over again.

These are the things you need to remember.

Trust me.

I know, for we are one and the same.

Love,

You’re somewhat-less-stressed-Self,

AuburnChick

Basic White Girl

Oh, the things I am learning each year I teach high school.

The lessons I am referring to today have nothing to do with economics and everything to do with social culture.

On Friday, I went to school looking like this…

I take a selfie every morning of school and plan to use them to make some sort of photo collage at the end of the year.

I was particularly proud on Friday because I’d mixed plaid with pearls.

I’m cool like that.

My fourth/fifth period class came in, and sometime during the course of instruction, one of my female students said, “Mrs. AuburnChick, you’re a basic white girl.”

To which my face probably looked something like this…

I wanted to play along, like I understood, but in reality, I had no clue what in the heck the young lady had said.

So, I said, “Say what?” a second time…and possibly a third…

It was quite obvious I needed an explanation, so a different student asked if I ever went to Starbucks.

I said not anymore because the drinks hurt my stomach.

The student then went on to say, that I used to go though.

Well, yeah…

“And your point?” I asked.

My kids explained that I was a basic white girl because I dressed all matchy-matchy, complete with the right jewelry, drove a shiny car, and got my nails done.

I can’t remember what I said to that, but then a student commented that even my proper language bespoke of my basic white girl status.

Folks, sometimes there’s not a whole lot one can say in that kind of moment.  I’m not usually too quick on my feet with comebacks.  I’m the girl who thinks of something good to say five minutes after I’ve walked away from a conversation.

I did have the presence of mind to write down the phrase they were calling me and assured them that I would be researching it.

They laughed.

Later that day, I texted a friend who teaches at my school.  She laughed, told me the kids were being mean.  She then sent me this…

Oh.

My.

Word.

With the exception of the Uggs and Tumblr on the list, Everything.

Else.

Is.

Me.

I actually do own a pair of boots that is very similar to the ones in the picture above.

Sigh.

Still, I felt the need to understand this phrase better, so I googled…

And discovered that yes, my friend was right (go Friend!).

According to Kara Brown’s article, “Overanalyzing ‘Basic’ is the Most Basic Move of All,” on Jezebel.com, “When someone calls you basic, all they’re saying is: I think that the stuff you like is lame and I don’t really like you.”

Sigh.

I feel betrayed!

The class that told me this is one of my favorites!

We get along very, very well!

They.

Dissed.

Me.

I’m going to call them out on Monday and let them know that I’m so cool I went home and did research.  On the weekend.  Because I am cool (I think I said that, but it’s worth repeating).

So there.

See how cool I am?

I’m sure my students will see how wrong they were.

🙂

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