Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Sunday Blues

We're back from a long weekend at home for Thanksgiving and it's rainy, cold and gross outside. We had such a wonderful time seeing all sides of the family, relaxing at Mom's house, eating good food and watching lots of uninterrupted sports. In a word, it was blissful.

However, now that we're home, we have laundry to do, lesson plans to write, dinner to figure out and I have to say, it just makes us both feel....blech. Sundays are always hard, and I don't think it's just for teachers. Gearing up for another week at a stressful job where you never get everything done that needs to get done is quite a hassle and it weighs heavy on our minds on Sunday nights. So much so that tonight...we surfed the internet for other jobs! Agh!

Don't get me wrong, we love teaching. But as we plan for the future and the possibility of children down the road, it's hard to imagine being a great teacher AND a great parent. I submit that it cannot be done. And rather than be a half-ass teacher and a half-ass parent, I'd rather find another job that is conducive to raising kids. One where I don't have to grade papers all night and organize lesson plans on Sundays. A 9 - 5er with no committees to be on or newsletters to write. Wouldn't that be nice?

Who am I kidding? Maybe Chud could be happy at a desk, but I certainly could not. If I'm not going to be a classroom teacher, I have to be involved in the world of education somehow. A writing specialist once told me that being a writing specialist in an elementary school allowed her to be a better mom. She didn't have a classroom to take care of, she didn't have to do all the extra things that classroom teachers have to do. So, I went searching for some sort of "specialist position" on the internet tonight, despite my adament cry of "I'll never leave the classroom!" Wouldn't you know...the Kentucky Department of Education is looking for an "Education Academic Program Consultant in Elementary WRITING." Gasp!! This person would work for the state, travel to school districts and help teachers teach WRITING. I meet all of the minimum requirements AND I even meet one of the "preferred" requirements - being a Writing Project Fellow. I basked in the glow of a state job without a classroom attached, until I realized that it would be just as much, if not more, work. Ah well. A girl can dream.

For the time being, Chud and I are going to drudge through these horrendous three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The weeks which are useless to a nine year old and might evoke mutany in a high school. We'll make it through the rest of the year, and the endless Sunday nights, until we find something better that makes us both a little happier. PhD program? Perhaps. Cushy State Job? Maybe. But for now we have to be content with out little corner of the teaching world - a sometimes thankless, always demanding, but never a dull moment job.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Peace Keeper

Who's that, hiding behind the front window curtain? Whose furry bum is peeking out from underneath?
Why, it's the shy but ever vigilant guard cat, Brown Audrey!

There she sits, day after day, watching over the goings-on of Mina Court, looking out for the girl in the blue car and they boy in the black car, making sure that everyone makes it home, safe and sound. Just enough face showing to keep an eye on things, but not enough for anyone to notice that she's there.
What a good kitty!

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Teacher's Confession

Please don't tell anyone, but I have a confession to make. I'm not a very good reader. It's true. I faked my way through most books in high school and college. It's easy if you know where to go. I abandon about 80% of the adult books I try to read. Perhaps it's because I'm a slow reader - trying to fully absorb every word before moving on to the next sentence. Perhaps it's because I have a short attention span - long, dramatic storylines with intricate symbolisms and social undertones bore the heck out of me! Most of the "must reads" that I inherit from friends (i.e. The Time Traveller's Wife and The Secret Life of Bees) just pile up on my bedside. I'm lucky to read more than a chapter or two before tossing them aside and picking up something else.

I do love Children's books, though. Recently I've rediscovered the amazing talent of Natalie Babbit in Tuck Everlasting. I always marvel at the craftiness of Cynthia Rylant and Eve Bunting in their numerous picture books. I've also fallen in love with Jerry Spinelli's Milkweed, which I firmly believe every adult should read. In fact, my list of kid's books that should be read by adults is quite extensive. But when I stand in front of the best-seller table at Barnes and Noble, I feel desperately inadequate.

Having made my confession, I would also like you to know that every once in a blue moon I stumble upon an adult book that I can't put down. The first one was The Awakening which will always be my all-time favorite word feast. There have been others, on occasion. At the moment, I find myself sitting home on a Friday night, husband asleep on the couch, third glass of wine in hand, praying for the clock to slow down so I can keep reading my book without being completely exhausted tomorrow. It's an unlikely book for me to love. I've tried reading this author before and found him very uninteresting. However, tonight I am glued to the pages of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. It's strange and it's slow - it took me a few weeks to really get into it. But I just started the "Third Book" and I have to tell you, I'm completely enthralled with his style of writing. I know I'm in the middle of a good book when I picture the author at their desk, spewing out words onto paper or screen, ideas swirling around their head. I find myself in awe of his talent. How does he know all of this history? How does he put the pieces of this story together out of thin air? What an amazing writer he must be. I would love to sit down and talk to him sometime!

Now that my reading confession is off my chest, I can finally sift through the reasons why I like this book and not others. I must be attracted to his particular writing style. As much as I struggle with the concept of "reading" and being "well-read" and "smart," the one thing I do love more than anything in this world is writing. That must be why I'm blogging right now instead of reading the next chapter.

I overhead a teacher say to one of MY students yesterday, as she grabbed a book from their hands and started reading the back cover, "Oh! Do you like this book? I love books. I'm a HUGE reader. I read everything. You'll have to tell me how it is. I'll probably read it soon anyway." I thought, are you kidding?? No one's buying that crap! I don't read much, but I do know that you can't read EVERYTHING. Don't patronize my kids. They're smarter than you.

I'd like to think that my kids are like me (a lofty and conceited thought, I know). But they're not going to read crap they don't like. I'll let them abandon book after book after book as long as they finally come to rest on one, good, solid, decent piece of writing that they LOVE. And then, after they read it, maybe they can picture themselves doing something like it and opening a notebook (or a blog) and writing something. Isn't that what good readers do?

p.s. make that a FOURTH glass of wine at hand - it's Friday. I'm a nerd.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Good Day

Well, I can't get through tonight without blogging a bit about last night and today. I stayed up late to watch the election results and, like 52% of Americans, I was deeply moved and satisfied with the outcome! I remember when Obama gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. I'd never heard of him before, but I immediately fell in love with him, which I've never done with a politician before. He has a way of moving me. Chud bought me his book "The Audacity of Hope" for Christmas, and after the first couple chapters, I thought, "Hmm. He might be on to something here."

Through the primaries I held out hope that we might, we just very well might nominate an intelligent, hard working, community organizing black man for president. Wouldn't that just be a thrill!

Then, last night, I clutched the pillows on the couch and had flashbacks of John Kerry's election when I was so SURE he would win and then he didn't. I didn't want to get my hopes up, even though everyone was saying he was a sure shot. I waited for the numbers. At 11:00, when it was "called" by the media, I could hardly contain myself.

I know lots of republicans and I immediately thought of them. I don't care what party you belong to, I don't think anyone could help but feel proud and special as we watched the coverage last night. And I'd like to take a minute to say that I thought John McCain's speech was one of the most gracious, eloquent and beautiful speeches I've ever heard. I completely changed my mind about him last night. He does put country first. Good for him.

We talked about the election in my classroom last week. Nine year olds have quite an interesting perspecitve on the whole thing. They instinctively knew that voting for Obama because he's black is not exactly right. But they also knew that Obama promised change for them and their families. They knew that he went to law school, that he worked to change the South side of Chicago, and that he is smart, well-spoken and hopeful.

I think what I love most about this election is the implications for my students. I have a classroom full of African American boys, some of which have no fathers. These boys look up to football players and rap stars. To them, life if about making money, getting on top, being famous. And now they have a president to look up to. I know that being president is about as likely as being a football player, but Obama shows them that anything is possible. That you can have GOOD CHARACTER. You can be a lawyer, a doctor, a businessman, an organizer...a president. They now see that they can be anything. I'm so hopeful for them.

When we had our morning meeting today, I almost cried. I pictured my boys (and girls) as grown ups, as young men and women, as citizens. They are dying to be old enough to vote. They are interested in Obama and what he can do. The hope in their eyes just melted my heart and I can't wait to see what the future holds for all of them. Today their future looked a little bit brighter. A door has been opened. The possibilities are endless.

Good bless America!