Saturday, August 25, 2012

Teacher schiava

Well, school (school/school, not work/school) begins once more on Monday. Technically the semester began this week, but the one class that I am taking that will meet on a regular basis begins on Monday. So, the madness soon begins again!

And yes, this will be an incredibly busy semester, with written comps, requirements for two courses, a comprehensive portfolio, AND a 10 page philosophy of education specifically pertaining to teaching students with mild/moderate disabilities all due before November 26. Well, one of the courses may have things due after that date, I don't remember, but by that time I will feel as if I am coasting so I'll either procrastinate dramatically or breeze through the remaining assignments.

Work/school has been interesting and quite challenging on a lot of levels this year so far. I'm learning a LOT, and trying very hard to work on my own discipline issues to try to create a more disciplined environment for my students. It's a challenge, because I am more spontaneous than structured when it comes to my teaching techniques, but I *have* to add structure and learn to be spontaneous within that structure. It boils down to planning, and I admit that is my biggest weakness with this class, ONLY because of the extremes in abilities of my students and the multitude of individual goals that I *have* to teach because of what is written in their IEP. I hope that when my turn comes to write the IEPs for these students that I can write some that are more generalized but allow for specificity for each student's needs. That will make planning *what* to teach far less complicated, even if the *how* to teach it may still be challenging.

Padrone has been dealing with yet another extreme heat wave. The heat, along with other issues going on where he lives, has made his summer "interesting" as he says. Yet he still finds time to spoil his slave with his attentiveness and his guidance ... keeping me on course, helping me to keep my priorities straight, especially after a difficult day at work when he discreetly changes subjects from them to other aspects of our lives. He reminds me to take my medicine. He reminds me to take care of myself. He has me wear the rope to keep my mindset where it should be. He listens and offers suggestions with my kids because it helps me so much to hear another perspective, especially one that is supremely objective. He shares what is going on in his life. He offers funny and the upsetting. He is the most sane and stable thing in my life, and I am more than blessed to have him in my life.

In other news, I am keeping a very keen eye on the Tropical Storm heading into the Gulf in the next few days. We're in "the cone" but as of right now it seems to be headed east of us - or the eye at least. We'll likely still get wind and rain because it's a pretty darn big storm! And what has a few people a bit unsettled is that it is predicted to affect us on the anniversary of Katrina, which affected us severely. So there is a sense of unease about this storm, because even Katrina wasn't supposed to hit us until the last couple of days before landfall. So yes, I have an eye on the tropics right now!

I'll recount a couple of truly hilarious things that have happened in my classroom within the last week. First, I was playing some music in the background while they worked on their "avatars" for the reading incentive bulletin board (monkeys they colored with markers - for each book they read and pass the Accelerated Reader test for, they will get a banana, which creates a very visual record of progress for the visual learners), and they were truly enjoying it. As each of them finished their monkeys, I let them get up and dance if they wished. Soon we were *all* dancing! Here is the song that was playing at the moment in time when the principal walked in with the internet techie guy, and saw the entire classroom dancing and ACTING like the monkeys were had just DECORATED!!!:::

I let them finish dancing, then move on to coloring bananas. I told the principal that he caught us having fun! He said "It's all good!" and I truly think he was a bit taken aback, but happy to see the kids enjoying themselves and not just stuck in their desks doing worksheets or listening to me drone on about synonyms or plant cells!

So, it was a couple of days later when he came to my classroom to do an observation of me. I was actually *teaching* that time, reading aloud from the reader to the class and stopping to ask questions to ensure comprehension. Then I reviewed what it means to summarize (my example was that when they were asked "how was school?" when they got home, they didn't tell every single word that was spoken or what they did in the bathroom...the "summarized" their day....the kids seemed to get it using that analogy), and I asked for volunteers to summarize the story we had just read. So a few of them summarized, and we talked about how they chose what to say to summarize the plot of the story, and that led into a discussion of the main idea. (I know it's backwards to some people, but it made sense to me to start from the general and move to the specific, especially since so many of my students have language impairments). Anyway, I have a leader of the day, and the leader is the one who passes papers out, etc...and when I was ready to pass a worksheet out, I called on the leader who got up to pass them out and...lo and behold the kid had taken his SHOES OFF!!!! And another kid had too!!!! And they have NEVER taken their shoes off in class, so what on EARTH possessed them to do so when the principal was in there, I have no clue!!! I was truly mortified, and yet the only comment he made in his email was to make sure that I continue procedures in the classroom - lol. It was funny, once I got home!

And the last story is about a "living plant cell" the kids created. That day there were several absences, and so it was easier to do something like this without leaving kids out. I needed 7 volunteers, and one girl didn't feel well and one boy had acted out and was not allowed to participate, so I had my 7 automatically. One was the "brain" of the cell (nucleus). One was the "green stuff" (chlorophyll), one held the green stuff (chloroplast), one was the energy (mitochondrian), one was the big empty space that filled up with food and water and waste (vacuole), one was the cell membrane that kept all the parts of the cell inside, and one was the "tough guy" (cell wall). Oh lordy I laughed until I cried at those kids acting that out! I wish I could have recorded it, it was truly hilarious, and yet they learned the actions of the cell parts, if not the names. I'll have to figure out something else to do for the names. Any ideas?

So you got a glimpse of my classroom...the good and the bad, but not the ugly. I haven't mentioned the power struggles, the rebellion, the thrown backpacks due to not getting their way, the fact that one student is already in ISS, three have already been paddled (one has been paddled twice), and the "almost fights" that i break up before someone gets hurt, and the fact that I have been told to handle all of this in the classroom and not write up students for the first nine weeks of school because the grade level principal doesn't have time to deal with them and it won't do any good to write them up. I haven't talked about the emotionally disturbed students who don't consistently take their medication because the parents aren't usually awake to make sure they take it and 10 year old boys won't always remember to take medication on their own. I haven't mentioned the student who burst into tears when I added extra homework because the class can't walk from one place to another in a straight line without talking, because he has nobody at home to help him with homework because his mother refuses to since "she ain't the one in school". It is because of those students, with those issues, that I try to create an environment for my students that allows them to feel safe and accepted, even if their behavior isn't always accepted.

And the first lesson Padrone ever taught me, that changed my own life forever, is one that I daily reinforce to my students in one way or another:

How you feel doesn't get you into trouble. How you ACT does.

If I can teach these students anything at all this year, I hope it is that self control is extremely valuable and will benefit them in every area of their life. I do not expect them to go from acting solely on impulse and emotions, to perfect self control in the matter of a few months - that would be crazy. But if I can plant that particular seed, and water it and feed it, then maybe I can also see it take root and grow just a bit in their hearts and minds and behavior.

I've rambled, I know, and yet I won't apologize for it this time. I am extremely passionate about teaching, and it is bound to show in my blog as it does in every other area of my life. I truly need to figure out how to organize my thoughts and my planning and my physical area, as well as my own schedule and time while at school (planning will help tremendously with that), and I have reached out to experienced teachers for advice as well as teaching blogs and pinterest. It will take a year or two but I will improve and my classes won't suffer for my inexperience as this one may be doing!

Padrone, I have been thinking today how fortunate I am to work in a profession that I love, even on days when I am stressed and feel totally inadequate to the task. And, whether or not you believe this, I would still only be dreaming of teaching, filled with regrets and "what ifs", and living a life of bitterness and sourness if you had not come into my life and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I cannot even begin to imagine life without you, and I feel literally ill when I think of how I would be had I never met you. I am a different (better) person inside, following a totally different path, than I would have ever even had the courage to do, because of you. Words can never say how much you mean to me, Padrone, no matter how hard I try. Thank you, from the bottom of my loving, enslaved heart.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back to our regularly scheduled blogging

I guess since Padrone has typed his last blog post, it's my turn again. Oh well, it *was* nice while it lasted! (I truly don't mind typing here, but a break was nice, especially since the blog kept going)

I've started working again, as planned. I'm teaching 5th grade self contained students, and it's a challenge of course. I go to work every day feeling unprepared and as if I am playing catch up constantly. I can't stand that feeling, and I'm trying hard to get mentally organized. There may be changes coming soon, as well, which may help but also may just confuse the issue totally. We'll see.

My last class for my Masters degree starts this week as well. I already have the syllabus and assignments required, as well as my comprehensive exam questions, and I've begun to think about the answers to them. They are very comprehensive (well, duh), and will require a lot of thought and pulling together information in order to answer the questions. Then I have to plan units and individual lessons within the units, videotape myself teaching those lessons, and write a 10 page philosophy of educating students with mild to moderate disabilities. Plus I'm taking another course as well, but *that* course should help me with some of the specific students I have in my class this year so that will be good.

Padrone's life remains "interesting". They are also in the midst of a severe heat wave, and air conditioning is not as common in homes there as it is here. At least not central units. So they are suffering but managing so far. Yes, I do worry but don't tell him that. ssssssshhhhhhhh!

I have also had mammogram and pap smear, as well as a complete blood count. I'll go back in September for a look at some suspicious spots on my arms, and in 3 months for a repeat breast ultrasound. There was a very small spot found, which the radiologist thinks is a cyst with echos (complex cyst, not typically dangerous at all) in my right breast. So I go back in November for a repeat ultrasound, and the doctor said probably 6 months after that one, just to monitor any changes that may happen. I'm also on a strict diet due to both the effects that long term stress has had on my body, and the fact that my overall cholesterol raised 39 points in 4 months. I can't exercise yet due to the heat *here*, but I'm losing a bit of weight anyway, and I feel better with a better overall diet.

So I've had a little bit going on as well, but nothing like Padrone so far. December 14 is my graduation, and yes I plan to walk across the stage wearing my cap and gown, just as if I were a 20-something! It will be a fabulous culmination of a lot of hard work and effort on my part, and a lot MORE understanding and listening and comforting on Padrone's part for sure! And it is viewable online, so Padrone can watch, which is highly appropriate and wonderful, and I am extremely grateful that the technology exists for that to happen.

I do love his posts, as I am sure y'all may imagine. I love his words, his thoughts, and the fact that he spent so much time to follow through with the results of the wager. I love this man more than I could ever express.

Padrone, I know this post is quite vanilla, and quite boring to you who know all of this, but it is what it is today. I am yours, my Padrone. So beautifully and gratefully yours.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Padrone's Last Post

Padrone has had a lot of things happening where he lives, and so his last blog post is late. He regrets the delay, but life takes precedence - always.

I do hate that this is his last post, and it is my own personal hope that he will choose to type more, now and then.

And here it is:

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you

T. S. Eliot – The Waste Land

I am a lawyer, so I understand the necessity of laws and rules and how those laws and rules enables us to live in a society that's daily becoming more global and complex, and I understand that we can probably have a good idea of the real value of a country just looking at the web of rights and duties steering its citizens in their pursuit of happiness.

Yet, as much as I deeply admire the insight of Thomas Jefferson and of those guys in the French revolution who came out with the idea of freedom, equal rights and fraternity, something deep inside me tells me that the reason I am alive today cannot be found in rights, rules or the protection of society. The real reason why I'm alive today is that so far I managed not to make anyone angry or annoyed enough to kill me.

Any social group inevitably builds the concept of an ideal citizen, the politically correct guy, and even if different countries can have (and do have) different ideals they are identical in just one thing: no one can totally conform to them. At the personal level there is always a tension, a struggle, between what the group wants you to become and what you want to be and who you feel you are, and willing or not there are times when the group looses and our ego flares.

How do we manage that? Beyond the obvious fascination that we feel for villains and criminals and people that at least for some time can live outside the law, making their own rules or with no rules at all, how do we cope with the inevitable unpolitical and incorrect side of our personality?

For me the question is far from a theoretic one, both on social and personal level, because quite early in my life I discovered that I had some peculiar dreams about my romantic and sexual life. During the seventies here in Europe women were still struggling to reach a real social and sexual equality, burning bras in public marches and demonstration, and while I felt that their struggle for social parity was totally legitimate and understandable I had those daydreams, you know, with a girl kneeling at my feet, eager and ready to fulfill my every need and desire.

It was a disturbing contradiction, especially for a teenager. While you are trying to define your social image, fighting to find a place in a community of your choice, you also are struggling to understand yourself as an individual and you suddenly realize that you have a wild side, that you have needs and urges that the community of your choice surely wouldn't approve.

At some point I decided not to deny those feelings and urges. I perfectly understood that I needed to keep them hidden but I also understood that there is a difference between social and private life, if I had a wild side it was probably better not to try to hide it to myself and to learn as much as I could about it. I decided, as the song says, to take a walk to the wild side and see where the way would lead.

I never regretted that decision, for good or for bad I didn't want to lie to myself and I wanted to find out who I was and what I wanted, both on a social and personal level. If social and personal needs don't always match and that has made my life … complicated, well, that's an unfortunate matter but I guess I share that problem with the rest of all mankind.