It's that time again. Time to write report card comments. We are on trimesters, so we only have to write them three times a year, but I still have a hard time coming up with something new to say. The words that come to me for so many of my students is "works hard to meet all expectation, is kind, respectful and responsible, and is a friend to everyone." I need some new ideas. I need to write 26 comments. I have a set of twins, so the comments need to be a bit unique. Maybe tomorrow my brain will magically create thoughtful and personal comments.
My friend talked me into leading girl scouts when my oldest daughter was entering Kindergarten. She said she would do all the work, and I would just have to be her helper. That worked out well for a while and was a lot of fun. Then my younger daughter started Kindergarten , and I decided I needed to sign up to lead her troop, too. I talked a few acquaintances into leading with me. It was different than leading with my best friend who did all the work, but still really fun. Fast forward six years and both girls are still doing Girl Scouts. I stopped being my older daughter's troop leader as did my best friend a few years ago, but she joined my other best friend's troop and is with girls she's known for a long time. I know it sounds weird that I say I have two best friends, but I really do.
Anyway, now that I'm teaching full time, I have taken a smaller role in leading my younger daughter's troop. I never really asked my other co-leaders if that was okay. I just did it. I do the finances and provide crowd control. A few weeks ago, one of the leaders was completely frustrated with girl scouts, and I felt like I needed to step up and lead the next meeting. I told her not to worry. I would lead the next meeting and she could just relax. Yesterday, she e-mailed and asked if I needed help with anything. I told her I planned on starting to plan the meeting at 7:30 that night and I thought I'd be okay. I hadn't had time to plan anything up to that point, and I had class that night until 6:30. I went home and planned the whole thing. I kept thinking as I was planning, why are you still leading this group? There just isn't enough time.
Well the meeting today was fun. We did some problem solving, group work, role playing and earned the Cookie CEO badge. My co-leaders thanked me, and we all went home. I still think my days or at least years are numbered being a girl scout leader, but it is still fun. I have become good friends with the co-leaders and there is so much value for the girls in being a girl scout. I'm glad to spend this time with my daughter even though she acts up when I'm leading. That's normal, right?
Like a lot of teachers, I love to learn from other teachers. Today has been a good day, a day filled with collaboration.
We started off the morning with a professional development training on Google. Our district is switching our e-mail system to Google because it will allow us to collaborate more easily. We were introduced to Google Drive, and we were able to experiment with multiple people editing a document at the same time. Next year our students will each have their own Google account and will be able to easily work from home and also collaborate with others, too, on projects. Our technology teacher also showed us all of the possibilities of Google Calendar. I'm especially excited about creating a classroom calendar and sharing it on my blog. We've just scratched the surface of what Google has to offer, but I'm excited about all the new collaboration that will be possible by using Google.
After school, I attended a class built around Ruth Ayres book, Celebrating Writers. Ruth visited our group back in the fall, we've met twice now since then, and she will visit again in April. We were each assigned the task of choosing one of her celebration ideas and implementing it in the classroom. While that was a valuable experience in and of itself, I really enjoyed hearing about the successes and struggles of the other teachers there. I feel like I left with a lot of great ideas and some smaller ideas, too, that I will use to tweak what I already do. There is great power is learning from each other's experiences.
Our school district has a dance club for interested sixth grade students. It meets four times for class and has a fifth meeting at a country club to celebrate and give students a chance to show off their new moves. All four middle schools participate together, and they learn dances like the law mower, headache, batman, pulse and box step. They teach how to be polite and treat others with respect.
Some parents have been asked by their children to refrain from dancing at dance club, not take pictures and not wear sweats. My daughter knows better than to ask me to limit myself in those ways. I not only dance, but I take pictures and videos, and I even wore sweat pants tonight so that I could move more easily. My friends, my daughter's friends' mothers, also dance. We even step in and dance with our daughters and their friends when they don't have a partner so they don't have to stand there alone. My daughter is having a blast and so am I. She may roll her eyes when I am videotaping the kids, but she loves to watch the videos and tell her dad and sister everything when we get home. I'm also content with the fact that these boys and girls know that if they hang out with Riley, I'll be around somewhere, too.
My mom graciously offered to come take care of my daughter, Peyton, when we first scheduled her oral surgery. Peyton had two extra adult teeth, and they needed to be removed before she could get her braces.
The surgery was scheduled for President's Day, a day when we had no school. Although recovery was rough at first, Peyton bounced back and was determined to go to school the next day. My mom saw that she was not needed to stay at home with Peyton, so she decided to head back home to Indianapolis. Everyone made it to school fine, but then my mom received a frantic call from Peyton who said she'd left her lunch at home. It was important that she have her homemade lunch because she had a restricted diet of soft foods. Luckily, my mom hadn't left yet, so she could help Peyton. She looked all over the house trying the find Peyton's lunch with no luck. She finally decided to make her a new lunch. She grabbed what she called "a cute little canvas bag with dividers" out of the bottom of the pantry. She didn't notice that the bag had a picture of grapes and the name of our local grocery store on the side of the bag. She proceeded to put a container of mashed potatoes in one section of the bag, a drink in another and so on. She then dropped the lunch bag off at school, but not before sharing way too much personal information with the secretaries. She's never met a stranger.
During my lunch break, I called my mom to see how her trip home was going. She told me about getting a call from the school and packing Peyton a lunch in that cute little canvas bag. Perplexed, I asked her if the bag had a picture of grapes on the side and the name Kroger. She admitted that it did, but didn't seem to know what that meant. I explained to her what the bag is really intended to be used for, and she didn't seem to be bothered by that. I couldn't stop laughing. I wondered what the secretaries at school must have thought about our family, packing a child's lunch in a wine bag. Sometimes, it's just easier to manage life without the help of moms. To top it off, Peyton actually had her original lunch with her the whole time at school. She had taken it out of her backpack and forgotten. She found it right after she called my mom, and never called her back to cancel the lunch. Her teacher never passed on the message that a new lunch had been dropped off in the office, so the wine bag lunch sat in the office the rest of the day and into the next day until Peyton remembered to go and pick it up.
Last Friday, I had a full day planned. Our fourth grade classes were going on a field trip. I had pushed for this field trip to the Historical Society, because I thought the kids would really enjoy it and learn a lot. My teammate put several stress filled hours into planning every detail. I prepared the lists of students groups, sent our reminders to pack lunches, and printed out emergency contact information. I was ready to go!
As I was putting on my make up at home the morning of the trip, my nine year old daughter showed me the roof of her mouth where she had just had oral surgery a week and a half before. It was really swollen and there was an ominous looking white dot. She had shown me the bump late the night before and it hadn't looked good then, but it was much worse now. My husband was on his way out of town on a business trip, and we have no family in town. I called the doctor. They wanted to see her that day, of course. Reluctantly, I called the school secretary to see what she thought I should do. She worked her magical powers and arranged for our marvelous Leap Teacher to take my place on the field trip. Instead of going on the field trip, I took my sweet daughter to the oral surgeon where they had to put her under anesthesia, open up the area and then clean it out. She now has stitches again and is back on her special diet.
The plans I had made to go on a field trip with my class unfortunately never happened. Instead, I was able to take care of my fearless daughter who handled it all like a champ. I now plan to take my daughters to the Historical Society and experience it with them for the first time. I know my class had a great time without me, and I can't wait to hear about what they learned tomorrow.
I taught fifth and sixth grade in Tennessee for six years and earned my master's in Educational Leadership. I was the kind of teacher that stayed late and volunteered to head school committees and lead student groups like Student Council and the school newspaper. Even though we were expecting our first baby when we moved for my husband's job, I was sure I would continue teaching.
We moved to my hometown, settled in, and then my focus shifted to taking care of my sweet little baby girl, Riley. I completely embraced being a stay-at-home mom. I joined MOMS Club and became president my local chapter. I organized play dates and attended library story times. Then we had baby girl number two, Peyton, and moved again. I joined another chapter of MOMS Club, made lots of new friends, created websites for clubs, read and discussed books with book clubs, and watched my babies grow into school aged children. Then I became room mom, weekly school volunteer, girl scout leader, and yearbook coordinator. My husband worked a lot, and we enjoyed a busy life full of friends, play and school. The majority of my life was my kids and anything that had to do with them.
During the summer before my youngest went into first grade, I was able to squeeze in a few classes and a couple of national tests so that I could earn my Ohio Teaching License. Once my kids were both in school full day, I started to substitute teach. At first, it was a very tough transition. Even though I was subbing at my own kids' school with teachers that I knew and really liked, I didn't sleep at all the night before my first day. I had to send my kids to my friend's house who would put them on the bus. I felt like I was abandoning them. In reality, they were fine. The more I subbed, the easier it became. I even took a long term substitute teaching position in Kindergarten at my children's school. It was a whirlwind six weeks at the end of the school year filled with tons of new learning on my part and squeezing in my children's own busy after school activities and recitals.
Then summer break came and we decided to move locally. When school started back up in the fall, I focused on getting the old house ready to sell and then fixing up the house we bought that needed tons of work. I painted every wall and supervised various house improvement projects like new windows, new garage door, and new air conditioner. One day when I went to volunteer in Riley's classroom, I was asked to substitute as a paraprofessional for about eight weeks at the end of the school year. I gladly accepted as I was ready to get back into the classroom with students.
When the next school year rolled around, I still had a lot of work to do on the house, so I just decided to continue substitute teaching. I walked with one friend in the morning and another friend in the afternoon before the kids came home. In between I would take care of household responsibilities and continued work on the house. I subbed occasionally, but was enjoying the balance between substitute teaching and being a stay-at-home mom. My dad was also very sick at this time, so I was going back and forth between Indianapolis to help out and visit. My dad passed away on December 2, 2012 and two days later I received a call to interview for a long term substitute teaching position that had the potential to turn into a permanent teaching position. It may seem strange, but the timing to me seemed pretty perfect. Although I was very sad that my dad was gone, I knew mom wouldn't need me to come and help out as much anymore. I was hired to take the position at the interview and started just a few days later. I grew to love that class and the teachers on the team I was lucky enough to join. My workaholic tendencies took over and I spent a lot of time and energy planning and teaching that fourth grade class. My husband wasn't thrilled at the shift in my focus, but he understood. Our family made it through to the end of the school year, and we all learned a lot. I was even hired for a full time teaching position in the fall.
I tried to divide the summer into equal time periods - work on the house (which will never be done), do fun activities with the kids, and prepare for a great school year with my new fourth graders. In the end, I worked on all three areas but there didn't seem to be enough time to do enough of any of them. The house still needed work, there were a lot of activities on our list of fun things to do as a family that we never got to, and there was still a huge stack of professional books and children's books that I didn't get a chance to read.
We all jumped head first into a new school year, feeling somewhat prepared, but not completely. Riley was starting middle school, and Peyton was starting fourth grade at a different school than mine. We made it through, day by day. Some days were easier than others. The theme of never having enough time for everything continued. We learned to work hard, do our best and enjoy everything along the way.
Over the past few months, a few teaching friends have told me not to stress out or worry. Keep family first, work hard and it will all work out. I think I started to breathe a little easier when I realized that I wasn't alone. Of course, I knew that all along. In fact, I knew I was lucky that I had ten years that I could focus the majority of my time on just my family. Many other people don't get that opportunity. Now I was joining the normal people who had already figured out how to balance a job and having a family. I know I was pretty wimpy to have such a hard time, but teaching isn't just 8:20-3:55 nine months a year. Teachers work at night and on weekends planning. I worry about my students and the effectiveness of my teaching when I get ready in the morning or when I am trying to sleep. Balancing it all is like juggling. I try to keep all the balls - the kids' evening schedules, grading papers, lesson plans, curriculum changes, coursework to maintain my license, family activities, housework, braces for Peyton, homework, birthdays, girl scout meetings, Sunday School lessons, and everything else up in the air. Sometimes a ball falls and that can be embarrassing and disappointing. Now, we just throw it back up in the air and smile. I've done a lot of laughing lately, and it hasn't been only because something was funny. I laughed uncontrollably when my sliding van door wouldn't shut and I had to pick up a kid in 10 minutes and then drive 10 miles to drop off the van while the van door was wide open. I had a million things to do that night, but I've come to understand that plans change and you just have to laugh and find the bright side.
Even today when I have a lot of work to do for two classes I'm taking for my license renewal, I have a stack of writing assignments to grade, and I need to work on report cards, lesson plans and some fun Read Across American ideas, I will find time to laugh with my kids, tell Peyton how cute she looks in her new glasses, and maybe go to dinner with my husband while the kids are at sleepovers. It's certainly a different life than I had a few years ago, but I wouldn't go back for anything. I love the students, teachers, and the new learning I am continually doing. It's a challenge, but a rewarding one!