Tuesday, June 6, 2017

An Open Letter to Teachers: I still love teaching.

I was just sitting on my couch, staring at my 18 month old son as he wriggled in his sleep, and began thinking about how much I genuinely love teaching.  Don’t get me wrong; I am victim to those negativity spells and definitely engage in my fair share of complaining.  However, I truly do love my profession.  

This reflection prompted the curiosity of whether or not anyone else still feels this way.  In 2017, when our education system is a mess, and there aren’t enough qualified teachers and administrators to lead our schools--does anyone else thoroughly enjoy this career anymore?  I’ve seen tons of “Why I Quit Teaching” articles shared on social media, as I’m sure you have.  So I did what any 30-something person would do today and popped “why I still love teaching” into the search bar on my phone.  No results returned with that title.  Tons of “Love/Hate Relationship” articles surfaced, but most descriptions were overwhelmingly negative and ended with the authors leaving the profession or worse -- remaining in it as Debbie Downers.  

Think about that.  I mean, seriously.  Think about it.  Teachers who love to teach are leaving.  Many who hate it, stay.  Imagine the students’ perspectives here.  They’re devastated when people leave.  It’s awful.  I’ve had it done to me, and I’ve done it to my own students by switching schools.  It’s a terrible feeling for all involved.

But the angry, bitter, jaded teachers who stay?  Maybe you find yourself in that situation right now and happen to be reading these words.

WHY? Why are you staying?  The money is terrible, and the hours are long.  Why on earth are you subjecting hundreds of students to your Debbie Downer attitude every single day?  By not feeling passionately about teaching and not approaching it in a positive light, you are ruining the educational environment for the students within your space.  Whether you realize it or not, your energy is being projected onto those kids.  Even if you keep your opinions and feelings to yourself, they feel “it”.  

You know they do.

That makes it even worse.

You have a responsibility to our children.  You chose that responsibility by pursuing this profession in the first place.  The decision and the consequences of it fall on YOU.  

If you find yourself in a funk or questioning your existence within this field, I encourage you to think about what convinced you to become a teacher in the first place.  What kept you going on those insanely challenging days?  What motivated you through the terrible moments?  What still gives you the “warm fuzzies”?

For me, it’s that look on a kid’s face when he or she finally “gets it”.  You know what I’m talking about -- that moment when you see the lights turning in the student’s eyes.  You’re beyond proud, and the student is as well.  That genuine, honest smile creeps up on his or her face, and you have that moment of excited pride.  

It’s teaching a kid who has been failing but is able to turn his grade around.

It’s seeing kids go on to pursue college or join the military.

It’s going through a drive-through window and seeing a former student, who had EVERY obstacle stacked against her, managing the restaurant.

It’s knowing that for many of your students, the positive experiences they have at school are going to be the ONLY positive experiences they have all day.  

It’s knowing that for many of your students, you are going to be the most influential adult they will encounter each day because they see you more than they do their actual parents.  

It’s hearing, “Have a nice day,” from the painfully shy student you’ve had in Homeroom for two years who has always refused to speak.  THAT….  THAT is worth it.  

There are thousands of other reasons I can give.  I can honestly say “thousands” because I have taught over a thousand students in the past 10 years; and every single kid has given me a hundred reasons to keep doing what I’m doing.

My first principal used to print copies of the following Haim G. Ginott quote and distribute those copies to all of his teachers.  I still have mine on my wall, 10 years and 4 schools later.

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”

I wholeheartedly believe this, and I encourage you to realize the power you have within the confines of that small classroom.  

Whether you are just starting out or have been in the education world for years, please take time to reflect upon why you’re doing what you’re doing.  I know the system is messy right now, but there are some awesome kids out there who didn’t ask to be a part of this craziness.  They’re just kids who need you to be a positive influence.  


I’m certainly not the best teacher in the world, but I do love teaching.  If that changes, I hope I change careers.  Our kids deserve nothing less than a teacher who is passionate about helping them learn and grow.  

#OpenLetterToTeachers
#WhyILoveTeaching

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Life is Hard.

Being a parent is tough.

Being an adult is tough.

Being a kid is tough.

Being -- is tough.

Because life happens, and life is unpredictable and crazy.  That's part of what makes it amazing though, right?

Lately, I've been inundated with people who are struggling to just get through the day.  I feel responsible for helping even when I'm not sure what to say (which is 99.9% of the time), so I do my best.  I just think we all need to vent sometimes, and it helps if to know someone genuinely cares enough to listen.  Today, in particular, I found myself repeating some of the same advice to multiple people, so I figured I would write it here as well.

I think you'll find there are more of us out there than you could imagine.  We're all in this together.

**

Depression is ugly and vicious.  It sucks you in and makes you feel as if you're falling into an endless black pit.  There is no bottom, nothing to grab onto for help--you're just falling... and desperately praying for it to stop.  But it doesn't.  You feel as if you're clawing at your throat and gasping for air while the world implodes around you....

Yet, here you are.  Reading this.  Right now.

You are alive, and breathing, and most likely have people around who genuinely care if you're happy or sad.  Someone cares.  I promise.  And if you can't think of anyone?  I care.

You may not believe it, but I do care.  You will get through this.  There is no other option.  There is no alternative.

That's what I always tell myself and every other person who feels comfortable enough sharing his or her feelings with me.

**

I cannot express to you how many students come to me wanting to commit suicide because of these inexplicable, muddled emotions floating through their brains.  I cannot tell you how many narratives I've read where children are surviving horrendous situations (that you couldn't possibly imagine in your worst nightmares).  I cannot tell you how many times I've sat in bed at night, afraid to sleep because of what a student, friend, or family member might do when I'm not able to keep a watchful eye.  I cannot tell you how many times I've sat in bed at night, unable to sleep because of my own demons and stresses.

I guess I just want you to know you're going to be OK.  You have to be.  Like I said, there is no other option.  Seriously.  As much as you are struggling right now, that falling sensation will eventually stop.  It may creep back up on you from time to time, but when it does, you'll be strong enough to climb your way out.

You just have to believe it.  Breathe.  No, really.  Take slow... deep... breaths.  And start over.  Each second is a new opportunity to start fresh, even if that just means trying to smile a little more.

If you aren't happy with your current situation, CHANGE it.  Only you have the power to do so.  Don't underestimate your power.  Stop making excuses and enabling yourself.  Create a ladder in that pit, and cling onto it.  Don't let go.  Even if you feel yourself slipping, use every fiber of your being to hang on and pull yourself up.  You've got this.

You just have to believe it.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Cash Back for Shopping and $10 Just to Try!

Short Story

1.)  Copy and paste this code:  itlfcmd  
2.)  Go to the App Store on your phone (or click this link if using a computer).
3.)  Search and download Ibotta.
4.)  Paste the code in the referral box.  This helps me, and you can share yours in the future to help yourself as well.  :)
5.)  Start shopping, scanning barcodes, and scanning receipts.
6.)  Save money!

Long Story

Does it really work?

Yes.


I'm not on Ibotta's payroll, and this isn't one of those advertisement blog posts.  I did try that once though.  :)  Never again.

I'm just a mom on a tight budget, and we seem to go through groceries at lightening speed.  Recently, I came across an app called Checkout51.  I was excited when I processed my first receipt and actually accumulated some rebates.  Like Ibotta, you have to reach a $20 minimum savings before cashing it out.  After two weeks, I currently have $3.25 in that account.

After I started using Checkout51, I heard about Ibotta on the radio and thought I would try it.  I'm so glad I did.  I was given $10 just for signing up, and with my first receipt, I had earned another $8.  I was anxious to hit that $20 cashout minimum to see if it would work, so I shared my referral code on Facebook.  With each referral, I get $5 added to my account when the new team member processes his or her first receipt.  Within two days, I exceeded my minimum!  :)  That's pretty cool.  I was able to cashout in the form of an electronic gift card which can be used online or in the store.

Needless to say, I'm stoked.

I'm never one to download apps.  I literally use my phone for my work email, texting, and Facebook.  That's it.  Well, occasionally, I'll bust out the calculator since I can't do math, but that's about as far as I go.  However, this is worth it to me.  I'm feeding 3 kids and buying baby formula, diapers, and wipes constantly.  School is starting; the girls are joining dance classes; there are tons of extra expenses on our shoulders.  This $20 gift card means $20 worth of groceries to help get us through the week.  THAT is awesome.

So yes.  This app is worth it if you're wanting to save some money.  Like most things in life, you get out of it what you put in.  Join.  Share your referral code.  Build your team.  Cash out those earnings.

Referral Code:  itlfcmd 
App:  Ibotta

Saturday, July 23, 2016

To the Guy Who Groped a Random Female Passerby at the DMB Concert Last Night

What the hell is wrong you?

Seriously.

What makes you think it is perfectly acceptable to fondle a woman's breast as she walks past you at a concert?

In your drunken state, perhaps you felt no one was watching.  Not even the girlfriend hanging all over you WHILE you were groping an innocent passerby.

If you thought you were hiding under the radar, you were wrong.  Very wrong.

I saw you.

I SAW YOU.

And it's NOT OK.

What's worse is the fact that the young woman gave you a quick, puzzled look and then just went about her business.  Let's take a moment to let this sink in and really reflect on what has occurred here.  You didn't just bump into her.  You didn't accidently touch her breast with your hand (like you "accidentally" hit your girlfriend... twice).  You intentionally threw your arm out as this woman passed; latched onto her person; caressed her; and maintained your grasp until she was out of reach.

You see, I know this because my eyes were deadlocked on you the moment I saw your hand pop up and hit your girlfriend's right cheek.  --  The first time.  You feel justified in your anger and justified in somehow causing the crowd of a DMB concert to divert its attention from the music and begin studying YOU because some other guys (smaller than you, of course) were standing around your girlfriend.  At a concert -- where people crowd in next to each other.  You feel justified in flipping out with fits of rage and hunting down the guys you've already driven away because of the potential look toward your girlfriend.  Don't worry, buddy; I'm pretty sure the constant declaration of territory was already keeping the others at bay.

Yet... it's totally fine for you to grab another woman's body.

The woman you grabbed was walking toward her friends, who happened to be immediately to my left.  I listened, shocked and fully ready to defend her, as she DIDN'T SAY A WORD about it to any of the women excitedly greeting her.  I was dumbfounded.  And ready for a fight.

What???

Are you serious???

I can't decide with what I'm most shocked:  the fact that you did this or the fact that she seemed to react as if it were a normal occurrence.

Again, this is not OK.

YOU are why I don't want my daughters to grow up.  Both of you.

To the angry, little man with obvious control issues:  You are why I fear for my daughters.

***

To the young woman who has been coerced into thinking this behavior is acceptable:  You are exactly whom I do not want my daughters to become.  Stand up for yourself.  Speak.  Fight back.  We can't combat this type of culture if we continue to enable disgusting humans like this guy.

I used to think maybe my kids would be alright because they won't be broken.  They won't have daddy issues for some manipulative psycho to prey upon.  I've come to realize it's much larger than an individual issue.  It's a way of life.  The behavior we accept and tolerate as a society becomes our existence.  I don't want that for my kids.

Young people of the world:  Fix it. Treat each other AND yourselves with respect.  It really can be that simple.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cornfields and a Radio Station

All of my life, I've struggled with the concept of "home".

Don't get me wrong; my parents have been in the same house since I was in middle school.  It's beautiful and sits on a few acres of land, far from any of the surrounding towns or cities.  For the most part, that plot of land always looks the same.  Everything is quite familiar and always has been.  My mom, without fail, has planted flowers each spring and summer (some years more than others).  The old basketball goal still stands tall along the driveway--a little more weathered with each passing winter.  My favorite dog (and great friend), Jack, is buried in the backyard.  The young pine trees, in between which I used the riding lawn mower to teach myself how to parallel park, are now mature and entangled in each other's branches.   

I still see the same stars at night from the driveway.  Those stars:  another story for another day.  :)

I love the idea of my parents' house.  I just don't feel at "home" there anymore.  

When I left for college as an 18 year old kid, I ran away from my hometown and wanted nothing more to do with it.  Ever.  The town is fine enough, and I know there are some great people there trying to make it better.  In fact, there are some amazing teachers in those schools.  I just have some painful memories there.  Those memories replay so much so that my brain no longer disassociates the place from the people and events.  Driving into that town initiates an inexplicable feeling of negativity.  I don't feel "at home" there.  I never have.

I love my mother and stepdad and love their house, but I'm grown now.  I've gone to college, gotten married, moved across the country and back, had children.  Life has changed.  I just don't feel "at home" in that house.

Oddly, I haven't experienced a strong sense of "home" since we lived on the Navajo reservation in Arizona.   I felt more at home with that close circle of friends and being 3 hours from non-rez civilization than I had ever felt anywhere before.  When we left there, I struggled to even understand my own existence.

Since Arizona, we've lived in 3 vastly different places.  We seem to be settled, yet I still feel a sense of transiency.  I hope to gain a nostalgic feel for our current town.  I like it.  People are nice; the community is well kempt; and the atmosphere is positive.  I think it's a great place to raise our kids.  It just isn't quite home yet. 

Recently, I took the kids up for a visit to my parents' place.  Earlier in the summer, I used "home" as an example for discussing denotative vs. connotative meanings with my summer school students.  I realized, yet again, that I'm not sure what "home" means for me anymore.  

People say, "Home is where the heart is."  Maybe.  However, even when with my husband and children, I still feel our family unit is still sometimes out of place.  

The visit up to my parents' house had me excited.  At that particular time, I was genuinely yearning for that sense of belonging.  I've driven the 3 hour trip countless times, but for some reason, it finally hit me.  

As the landscape began to change from rolling hills and trees to more and more farms and fields, my favorite radio station also began to come in more and more clearly.  :)  

That's it.  

Cornfields and a radio station.

WTTS (92.3) has been my absolute favorite source of therapy since I was teenager.  I can't listen to it down here.  When I'm driving my car and that station is blaring, I feel a sense of peace. 

And those cornfields... ahhh, those cornfields.  :)  There is just something special about driving down an old country road with the windows down and your hand gliding through the air.  It's predictable and perfect.  And that smell--that mildly sweet, sticky smell.  Even the sound of the insects.  All of it.  Perfection.  :)

Cornfields and a radio station.

There it is.

Home.

Two bewildered little girls enjoying thousands of lightning bugs
Home Sweet Home

One more for good measure... :)


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

My husband is a football coach.

Why would I write about this?

Because as I sit here, working on my blog, he is analyzing film from today's scrimmage.  He left the house around 6 this morning and didn't get home until almost midnight.  His entire life is football.

I know how important all of this is to him, so I wanted to stay up and see how the day had gone.  However, I couldn't help but dwell on how long he had been away.  I wasn't angry.  It's just exhausting, and the season hasn't even started yet.

As I stared mindlessly at Facebook and wandered around the internet, I decided to Google "football coach's wife" just to see what popped up.  I found this post written by Renae Zimmer, and I love this particular section.  I'm just going to drop it in here.

I see the dedication and hard work from my husband and other coaches as well.  The time commitment is daunting and tedious.  Up at 5:00 a.m., to work by 7:15 a.m. (oh yes, because he teaches all day too). Practice until 6:00 p.m then game film, game break downs, planning and prep work.  Then wake up and do it over again.  Don’t forget game nights and traveling to a large city, two or three hours away.  Weeknights he is home at midnight or later then he turns around to go back the next day. 
Exhausting.  Rewarding. Exhausting.
No one really comprehends the time. A coach’s wife does.
I rarely hear him complain because of his love of the student-athlete relationship and his love of the sport. 
I get it.  I totally get.  This is our life.

Two weeks into our relationship, Josh put his hands on my shoulders, looked me intently in the eyes and said, "I'm going to be a football coach."  That was his thing.  Mine was an "I hate drugs" speech, and I fully expected a dramatic declaration that he would never touch any sort of drug for the rest of our days together.  That was my deal breaker.  His?  "I'm going to be a football coach."  I had NO idea what I was in for, but I was young and in love.   :)  "Oh, OK, sure!"

Now, I'm married to a head high school football coach, and it's insane.  I cannot express how proud I am of him and how much I admire his dedication.  It's hard, and I probably complain way too much; but I honestly can't wait for those Friday night lights.  :)

Buying Those Back-to-School Supplies: A Note From a Teacher/Mom

I might have a different approach on this Facebook post I read today, but I do empathize with the author. I spend a fortune (that I definitely don't have) on my classroom each year. When we're struggling to pay bills with our teachers' salaries, I do get stressed about buying school supplies and new clothes/shoes for Emma. I can't imagine what it will be like when all 3 kids are in school. On Monday, when we were in the store, Emma was crossing off her list and making sure she had the right numbers. When we found the Expo markers, she was looking for a pack of 4 (because that's what the list said), but we found a pack of 5. I told her it was fine, but we were really working on numbers, so she asked why it was OK to get 5 when the list said 4. At this point, another lady was looking at me and listening. My response: "because I'm a teacher too, Emma, and we need all the help we can get. Your teacher can use an extra marker." It hurts my bank account to buy all of this stuff, but if teachers were paid a decent salary and provided ample supplies, it wouldn't have to happen. Until that day, I'll continue to buy whatever is needed - for my own children AND my students. I love all of my students as if they are my own kids, and I know Emma's teachers will love her as well. Our goals are definitely the same. We want our kids to learn and grow into good human beings.

The original fb post is as follows:
by Abbey Sandifer 
Dear mom at Wal-Mart,
I know school supplies are expensive, especially when you have multiple children all needing new backpacks, new shoes, new everything. Today I overheard you on your phone as you were sorting through school supplies, "dry-erase board and markers? They can kiss my butt, those teachers want markers, they can buy them themselves." Well dear mom, I can let you know that's exactly what teachers are doing all over the nation right now. Not only are we buying our own storage tubs and dry erase markers, but we are buying extra school supplies so kids like yours don't feel left out. We strive to give each kid a fighting chance, even if that means dipping into our own wallets that were never full to begin with.
I hope you know that we will love your child and give them the very best learning environment within our means, but it would be awesome if you could spend a few extra dollars to help support your own kid's education. I'm sure we both have the same end-goal: to see your kid be the best version of themselves they can be.
Sincerely, a First Grade Teacher who already loves the class she hasn't met yet.


adf😊