#OneWord – Community

Standard

In an effort to meet my chosen resolution to up my blogging for 2016, I wanted to answer an #oklaed challenge. Little did I know that the first one of 2016 would hit me right in the feels.

See, I’m a fairly recent transplant to OK. My family was one of the founding immigrant families in St. Louis, MO.  From Dogtown & Tower Grove Park, to Spanish Lake & (most recently) Eureka, my rather big extended family has rooted themselves into the fabric of that city’s growth. While I’m enjoying my new home in Oklahoma,  STL still spells “home” & we bleed Cardinal red and Blue Note blue, not Crimson (OU) or Orange (OSU)…at least for now.

This past week, my hometown experienced a catastrophic level of flooding – 12 inches of rain over a short time led to nearly 40 feet of flood water. Record levels that even the “experts” couldn’t quite predict.  Or prevent.

I felt helpless watching the news and social media coverage of rising flood waters as they crept up to and over the businesses and homes of people I knew.  I was frustrated as my plans to come back and help friends and former neighbors evacuate areas never meant to flood were thwarted as Interstate 44 closed outside of Springfield, Rolla, Fenton…and Eureka.  I was in near constant contact with my brothers and my best friend since grade school regarding their ability to access their homes…and in Lori’s case, I prayed the train tracks next to her historic home in Pacific, MO would act as a levee.  She was lucky – they held back for her what wasn’t held back from my niece’s home just blocks away.

As what I saw unfold via text & social media became state, then national, then international news I saw story after story of these people I grew up with banning together. #EurekaStrong, #OnceALionAlwaysALion, & #PTown were sayings-turned-hashtags that have been used before to describe the sense of community for this collection of small towns a few miles west of the larger city of St Louis.  But this time it felt different. This time, I was 350 miles away & stuck.  This time, I read about my former teammates showing up in droves to help clean up my former coaches’ home, about how the guy I sat next to in Mr. Robinson’s Chemistry class at Eureka High School back in 1997 was offering to show up with his truck to whomever needed help evacuating, and I read posts where my former co-workers were offering to put up evacuees and those who couldn’t get to their homes.  This was their town and they were ready to care for those who live in it.

Then the waters receded and the help…expanded.  Fox High School was so overwhelmed with donation that they had to cut themselves off as a donation site. Communities dealing with flood devastation, but had clean water, sent pumper trucks to neighboring communities with contaminated sources.  Businesses that had started in these town but had moved on were back to help with the clean-up of their former neighbors while other businesses opened their door to feed and resupply the volunteers.

I had found my word for the challenge.  My #OneWord – Community.

Because no matter what gets thrown their way, these towns bounce back.  Stronger than ever, because they know that the whole is stronger when its parts work together.

“You show up”.

Funny. It was only a few months ago when I used that phrase I heard so often growing up to explain my offer of help to a new coworker dealing with the loss of a parent.  She was surprised at my offer to come over and cook/clean.  To me it was simple. That’s what we do in my home town – we show up.

As 2015 closed and 2016 is dawning, I want that feeling for #oklaed.  I think we’re still young but we certainly know that the community test is here (hello budget/teacher shortage/etc.).  I believe we have the talent and the heart – I see that same look in my fellow educators’ eyes that I see when I run into the folks of my hometown. You’re ready to grab your gear – you know it’s time.

So many well known #oklaed bloggers have written some really elegant, well researched, and content specific blogs on the issues Oklahoma is facing in 2016.  No way am I ready for that level, but I can offer a #OneWord goal.

Community – because when the *stink* hits the ceiling, this group knows…you show up.

 

Chicken Little Out

 

Advertisements

Dear Legislator,

Standard

It’s time to stop the rhetoric, the blame games, the sleigh of hand…all that junk.  You and I each have a job to do – create a better future for the next generation & we need each other to do it.  We also need to rebuild some trust in each other.

I’ve met a few of you and I know you’ve met a few of my coworkers; I get the impression that neither of us left that situation feeling the warm fuzzies.  You saw the educators are unreasonably demanding & whiny.  The educators saw through your double-talk (many of us do deal with teenagers on a daily basis).  In the end, the conversations we had did little to fix the problem of what’s to come.

The reality is this – we’ve reached the crisis point.  In our state, we don’t have enough qualified people in the classroom.  This is frightening.  We’re filling classroom teaching positions with under qualified, ill prepared, and (in some cases) the very people our neighbors ran off.

“So what?” you say.  SO WHAT?!?!?!?  You are OKAY with putting your children in this scenario?!?!?!? I, for one, an certainly not okay with this.  Not as a teacher, not as a parent, and certainly not as a responsible member of my community.  Do you not see that by having to desperately snag anyone we can to fill positions means we increase the risk of multiple incidences of “that teacher from the news” showing up…in a classroom…in YOUR child’s classroom?!?!

Stop and let that marinate for a bit.  Have you noticed the number of stories on “that” teacher have been rising lately.  Ever consider why that is?

There is nothing.  NOTHING more important to me than my children and, I adopt yours when I have them in my classroom. Honey, you can point whatever finger you want my way. You can ridicule my profession, question my methods, and call me all kinds of names…but when the scary people come out of the woodwork, I’m exactly the one you hope is there with your child. I’m your 5’6″ ace in the hole. Because those kids are MY kids.

We all agree that we want future generations to further and better the community, nation, world.  We agree that your best shot at making this happen is by being educated.  So fund education – it truly is that simple.

John Green Pays School Taxes

Chicken Little Out

Not my usual blog thing

Standard

While I don’t blog as often as I probably should, I began this site wanting a focus on the Education & Teaching titles of my life.

Today I’m going to deviate from that a bit. Because today is a day that didn’t need to be. Because the suicide of a good person isn’t easy to deal with, even years later.

So why write about this here, on the blog I created for my “education” stuff? Because two years ago an amazing person left us & I spent the week before school started helping his family pick up the pieces. Because today was the 2nd annual “Celebrating Steve” BBQ for this longtime friend in our hometown & the 2015-16 school year starts in a week. Because the start of school is now a time of mixed emotions for me.

I think about Steve quite a bit while wearing my “teacher hat”. After all, he was a pretty common fixture in my own public school experience. But also because he’s recently become the reason why I watch a little closer & listen a bit more with my students. 

I share a bit of Steve’s story with my students. Particularly my own grieving process (oh the anger! If I could throttle that man for the hurt he has caused…but I’d probably hug him senseless given half a chance). Oddly enough, it seems my crazy-confusion-anger seems to make me more “human” with the kids. Certainly has led to a few opening up & I think may have made a difference with one who graduated this past May.

I know it has made me more conscious of what really matters & less focused on the trivial things both professionally & personally. 

Five months after we lost Steve, Luke and I packed up our family & moved 350 miles to gain more time together.  More important than the actual move, we now consciously savor the little stuff. 

Like taking the kids to the STL Zoo on Saturday to meet Kali the polar bear (& caving on their requests for a little polar bear stuffed animal).

  ​ 

Because of the what if.  If “what if” did happen, we both want those who know us to remember the moments we consistently gave the equivalent of that stuffed bear when it mattered. We want our family, friends, coworkers, students/chefs to feel we valued them as individuals & stood up for those who needed support.

We agreed to stop worrying about “image” & “professional” and to focus on people…and it’s bittersweet. We’re probably more content in our life & ourselves than ever before, but we’d gladly give it all up to bring back our friend.

I guess in the end this blog post is more of a ramble & a self reminder to take those opportunities to tell someone they matter.

I know many who sneer at the phrase “building relationships” and see this as a cop out approach to setting strict boundaries.

 Me? I see it as a way to make the connections that may have saved a friend known as “Buddy”.

  

  A picture of Steve from early 2014

Why, oh WHY do you think becoming a teacher is a good idea?!?

Standard

I get it. You watched “Dead Poets Society” and that infamous Oh Captain, My Captain scene and you wanted that moment. 

You’re passionate about a particular subject and the thought of getting paid to continue your studies with a bunch of junior versions of yourself sitting in perfect rows, so rapt with attention that they miss the bell at first; and then still linger to learn MORE…oh, it just warms those cold recess of your soul! Gimme some of that!!!

Or, maybe it’s the idea of being your own Pied Piper in a room. Guiding eager young minds in the quest of the infinite. Expanding horizons, developing their passions, & sending them out into a world of discovery. It’ll be like having Your own set of Minions being groomed to take over the Tri State Area!

Are you NUTS?!?

Sugar, let’s look at the reality: that movie moment? Yeah, those were actors paid to pay attention. The reality is that keeping 30+ kids in line is an art form that many never fully develop & suffer mental anguish at the lack. That stuff you want to research? About that…odds are good that you won’t get more than one curricular day to talk about it (if even that). And as far as having the last say in your classroom? Oh, honey! Every bureaucrat, district leader, building leader, parent, student (heck, even the bagger at the grocery store & the cashier at McDonalds) is going to *know* better than you what you should be doing; and Heaven help you if you think you can just politely ignore their demands. They all watch the news for the release of those test scores from that amazing test that can magically measure your ability as a professional by asking your student a series of multiple choice questions written by non-educators. After all, those who can do & those who can’t teach. Am I right? *nudge, nudge*

In today’s world of education, you are a tool. Both in the traditional & coloquial sence. You are the implement those in power will wield to enforce some new (& totally created by others containing less experience with both kids and education) idea. You are also the “tool”, that rediculous idiot, that all the above will blame for thing both completely out of your control & the few things that might be. Like being the poster child for the professionally ignored? Become a teacher!

You will be held accountable. Even when no one knows  what the heck is going on (which set of standards are we following today? Well, I don’t care if Bobby hasn’t had enough to eat this past month or that Kiera’s family had a devistating event last week. YOU should have prepared them for this!). Your job security will be in the hands of people who have never been in your position, or have purposely left that position because they didn’t like the environment. Encouraging, huh?

Please, PLEASE, do not go into education!

You will get your heart broken a bit every year. These kids will become your kids. You will wipe tears away, hug away hurts, cheer for their accomplishments big and small…and then they will leave without thanking you. By the way, You won’t care about that. You’ll be too busy with your own box of tissues at graduation.

Your bank account will never be anything to brag about (savings??? What is this magic thing others speak of?). There will never be a big enough budget to cover your classroom needs, so you’ll have to dip into your already laughable paycheck to make sure there are crayons, colorful posters, maybe some of those plastic drawer things for kids to use. Oh, did I mention that to skimp on these will directly & negatively impact that evaluation mentioned above? Great, right?!?

No one will respect you. You with your double-major, post graduate degree & certifications in multiple areas who converses regularly with nationally renowned experts in your field will be constantly harassed by people with less education and no experience (but plenty of money) telling you that you have no clue how to do the job you spent years training (and continuing to train) to do.

…but we need you…

You. That glorious, crazy, passionate, loving, high energy, don’t-back-down-from-a-challenge you is exactly what education needs. Education needs those oddballs that say there’s value in imagination, and play, and all those “soft” skills that cannot be measured by some pricey test. Nerf gun fight in the quad? Eggggggselent!

Your “never say die” Goonies self is exactly what those kids need – as a model, a mentor, a coach, a clansman, and a never-give-up-on-your-dreams example that there is nobility in following a calling (you do know that the money sucks, right?) & that finding satisfaction in your work isn’t necessarily about dollar signs.

I hope you get your Captain moment, but I have to admit: those rumors about training your bladder are true. 

Still, it’s worth it. All the abuse from the media, the political maneuvering, the efforts you make in the face of opposition when you know it likely won’t find success; it’s all worth it for the kids. 

THEY matter most.

…and I hope you get the room down the hall. I’ll show you where the secret stash of extra paper is 😊

Talkin’ Content Challenge – History Edition

Standard

A week back, @BlueCerealEduc sent out a new challenge for #oklaed (& beyond): skip the pedagogy & talk your favorite content.

So HARD!!! How in the world do you narrow your passions down to “that one”?!? …so I’ve had that challenge in the back of my mind for a week now. Yeah, still no closer :/

So, I’ll share one or two of my student favorites based on comments on their end of the year survey.

Drumroll…

Exhibit A: That Time We…

This one is a hodge-pudge of all those times we went outside and other classes looked out windows and thought we were nuts. 

There was the Nerf gun fight where they puzzled out for themselves the value of the Spartan phalanx style grouping (bonus fun for those classes who decided to attack the teacher once they got the formation, lol). 

 

Or when we blared trench warfare sound bites while simulating with paper wads. We drew many a face to out window that day! (To the class that got inventive creating backpack “tanks” and planted “spies” – you shall go far my minions, mwahahahaha!).  

 

Yes, that student really was doing a body-roll-sneak-attack to steal enemy “ammo”. 

And who could forget the fun of “WWF – Explorer Edition”? Do you realize how rediculous it sounds when you explain the reasoning behind your students’ clear grasp of “who did what” is due to wrestler masks & theme songs?!? But whatever works, right? 

 

Exhibit B: “Presley, you are evil”

I have a confession to admit to here – I love doing DBQs with the students & I then want to kick my own tail for doing another one when they are a foot deep on my desk for grading. But I just love the doing part! It’s that separating those who play well at school from those who can think. And when they reach that point when they see them as “doable” or (gasp!) preferabl, oh I get all tingly (excuse me a moment…)

..and I guess I am guilty. I just realized my “Content post” is actually one on pedagogy – whoops! At the end of the day, I just LOVE seeing the students ENJOY history. However bizzarre it may look (and you probably understand my aversion to heels, pencil skirts, really anything that doesn’t move a bit more now too).

Chicken Little Out

Here I go again…in a good way :)

Standard

Half a year into a new position & I’m getting a pre-intern. In “OK Education Speak”, this means that I’ve been paired with a college student for 50 hours of observations & a single-taught lesson prior to their student teaching. If the pairing works out, the student stays with me for their internship (student teaching).

I’m pumped.

Really, really pumped.

You know that commercial with Ickey Woods doing a celebratory dance at the deli counter? Yep, but I’m the 5’6″ skinny 30-something white girl version. “Woo-hoo! I’ve got an intern!” (Yeah, somehow not as cool as Ickey).

I love watching someone grow and master all those little (non-testable) pieces that go into being an educator. Like a version of Victor Frankenstein, I love helping piece together the best parts of what makes someone go into my field and building a fire under them so they are arriving each day with a bounce in their step ready to shout “let’s do this!”

Can you imagine a building full of teachers, principals, counselors, & support staff that agree with that (and if you are in one, my Twitter handle is @STLinOK – hit me up!)???

It drives me absolutely bat-shite crazy when I hear things that suggest I am still passionate about my career because I haven’t been teaching long enough or that I just haven’t met the right kids yet.

…you read that right. I’m apparently still passionate because I haven’t met the right kid to ruin that passion. (?!?!) This is usually the point where I just smile brightly, chuckle, & quickly beat feet away from the cancerous Debbie Downer. ‘Cause honey, I’ve got one decade down, I plan to sink a couple more before I walk away, & I dream of the madness growing with each passing year.

The reality is that those very kids are the ones that are the most rewarding. Let me repeat that: THE ONES THAT ARE HARDEST TO REACH ARE THE MOST REWARDING. I don’t teach AP. Mostly because I know that the parts of “me” that reach kids are most often the aspects that AP kiddos can function just fine without & that other populations do respond to. So I actively avoid those discussions about me and AP or virtual teaching; I feel I’m most effective with the “goofballs”, the “trouble makers”, the “strugglers” & your plain old “average” kiddos. Besides, I’m still confused about how what you teach says about how well you teach in general, but that’s a discussion for another day…

After two days together, I think this pre-intern is going to be awesomesause. She is what my husband, a profession chef, would call “hungry”. She’s excited, wants to learn, & most importantly, she wants this to go well. She has this rocking mindset that gets me excited. Two days in and we’re co-planning a unit for next month & I’m excited to use her lesson ideas.

She reminds me of the perfect response to the following statement one coworker said just today: “You can’t show up every day dressed as a pirate.”

… Wanna bet? 😉

Chicken Little Out