Heartbroken & Disbelief

‘This is a startling moment’: Jewish writers on synagogue attack.

‘There Is Still So Much Evil’: Growing Anti-Semitism Stuns American Jews

These headlines leave me speechless. It’s 2018 and yet it seems history is repeating itself. It’s a scary time in America and it’s slowly turning into a nation that, quite frankly, embarrasses and worries me.

On Saturday a man entered a synagogue and killed eleven people and injured six. These people were there for a celebration. They walked in expecting laughter and the making of wonderful memories. But instead of a celebration they were subjected to terror.  One of the victims was a Holocaust survivor.

I never thought I would see these kinds of headlines in the news. I sit here and as I’m about to have a serious discussion with my students I’m actually not sure how to begin to broach this subject. I have an Elie Wiesel quote written on the whiteboard.

Just as despair can come to only one from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.

But I do feel it’s important that I discuss this with them. In tomorrow’s post I’ll try to talk about how it went.

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Overworked and Over Testing

I swear I haven’t taught anything this year. I’ve gone over third grade skills-yes. Have I introduced any Fourth Grade skills? No. Well maybe a few but it seems like every day I’ve been assessing my kids on something.  Just yesterday I checked my school mailbox and what did I find? A packet of papers that’s a reading assessment with the instructions of TO BE COMPLETED ASAP. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I read that. The packet was ten pages. Three of the pages were the answers but STILL they expect my kids to read a four page story and complete questions on it. They aren’t ready for this & I honestly want to throw my hands in the air over all of this. I already know how my kids are going to react when I break this news to them. They’re going to pitch a hissy fit!

You know that GIF of Sheldon tossing the papers everywhere in the air? That’s how I feel and how I predict I will react the next time I get a stack of assessment papers. They expect these kids to write high school level essays. I never wrote this much in Fourth grade and I don’t know why they’ve changed the rules so much.  I’m fed up honestly.

 

Little Victories

My students just finished their October STAR Math test. They completed their Reading STAR test yesterday. It’s that same test that my happy-go lucky student was cursing the last time.  I was able to compare their numbers this time and while a few went down in their scores several went up. One girl in Reading went up +239 points. She rocketed from red all the way up to the top level of yellow. In Math this same girl rocketed from Red to Blue! That right there was worth celebrating.  I celebrate these little victories with them. Oh and my happy-go-lucky student? He’s the top boy in Math after this month’s testing. I’m super proud of all of these kids right now. They sat there, took their time and tried their very best.  Their reward now is to pick out new library books. They have brand new reading levels and a world of new possibilities.

Butterflies

Rain steadily falls outside and it’s soft pattering is slowly lulling me to sleep.  Steadily it begins raining heavier while Debussy plays quietly in the background. As my thoughts wander I begin thinking of another rainy day. A rainy day back in March where I had a rare day off.  If only I could go back to that day and redo it. Don’t misunderstand me. I wouldn’t change anything about it. I would just like to be that content again. If I were to change one thing about that day it would be that it lasted longer. Why are fleeting moments of pure happiness so rare? The quote by Henry David Thoreau is true I guess.

“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things it will come and softly sit on your shoulder.” 

Don’t get me wrong I’m happy with my job, the house, and my family, but the happiness that I’m thinking about here is an entirely indescribable kind. It’s left me with butterflies in my stomach (even after all this time) and the feeling of still being flustered when they get too near. However I wouldn’t change a thing.

Observations

Silence reigns supreme in my classroom right now.  All of my students are sitting here half worriedly working away on math problems.  Some of them are honestly stressed out already while others sit here and look completely calm.

One girl sits calmly and quickly writes each problem. She’s confident and I know she knows the content already. Move one section over and there’s another girl. She has a determined look on her face. I see her whispering to herself the algorithm for this particular problem and hoping she’s finding the correct answer. She hunches over to double maybe even triple check her work. She’s my most competitive student this year. Across from her sits a boy who looks like he’s just hoping that he’s getting close to the right answer. He’s even using his pencil to type the answers into the answer box. He’s my happy go-lucky student. “I’m just going to go eeny meeny miny moe to find the answer,” he whispers.  Once he’s chosen his selection he presses his face closer to the screen only to find the next problem to be worse than the last. “Are you kiddin’,” is the exclamation I hear.

What they don’t realize is that I hate this test prep just as much as I do. I want to be doing the fun stuff but first I have to set their benchmarks to sort them into their math and reading groups. In order for that to be done I need to have them complete these less than fun tests. At least this is the last test. Oh and update on my happy go-lucky student: he’s got a half smirk on his face and he swears I’m the one coming up with these test questions. I had to turn my laptop around just to prove to him that I am NOT coming up with these questions. And I’m pretty sure now he’s cursing his computer because I look up and see him whisper yelling to his laptop and shaking his pencil furiously at it. As if he thinks doing that will suddenly make the computer give him the answer. Oh if only life could work that way and not just on benchmark tests.

Final update on my happy-go-lucky student: his eyes just widened and he’s resigned to the crossing the fingers and spinning one finger down to letter A B C or D. Fingers crossed that he’s correct.

A Clear, Blue Day

September 11, 2001

I’m sitting in Mr. Croasmun’s literature class. He receives a phone call to turn on the tv. We all begin thinking it’s going to be a movie until we realize that everything we were seeing on the screen was really happening. We sit there in stunned silence and watch as the towers burn and people are running in and out of the buildings try to save people. Before class switches we gasp at the sight of the South Tower falling. At that point Mr. Croasmun turns the tv off and told us it was time to go to 4th period. From that point on every time we switch classes it was so quiet & if anyone were to talk they did so in a whisper. When I got home everything was quiet still and mom & I just sat there and watched all of the coverage. We couldn’t bring ourselves to turn it off no matter how intensely sad it was. 

It’s now been seventeen years since that day. For the past four years I’ve taught on this day. Every time it feels so weird to cover this particular day with kids who weren’t even born yet.

This year 9/11 falls on a Tuesday and as I wrote the date on the board this morning I couldn’t help but feel a small twinge of fear. In the time we’re living in right now our news and our world is a little scary. At 8:46 and 9:03 I had my class stop what they were doing and sit there silently. At 9:04 I asked them if they knew why I had done that. From there we began talking about 9/11. Several of them had questions and I tried to answer them. To them it was a historical event-much like Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination was to my classmates.  One of my boys said that he would like to build a time machine to go back to that day and watch it. I didn’t say anything but did raise my eyebrow. A few minutes later as we were watching the CNN 10 video he looked at me and whispered, “I don’t want to build a time machine. This isn’t cool to watch at all. I’m sorry for saying that.” I just nodded my head and told him that’s why I raised my eyebrow. One of my girl’s asked why they didn’t just rebuild the Twin Towers in the years following. I went on to explain that several hundreds of family members did not find their loved ones. And that the reason they didn’t build new Towers in that exact spot was out of respect for those who lost their lives that day.  The one question I always dread answering was asked again this year. One of them asked what happened to the people who were above the impact zone. Their expressions when I told them they were trapped nearly broke my heart. One student whispered no while another just shook their head. One part that really surprised them were the amount of EMTs, police, and firemen that showed up that day that weren’t even on duty. I asked them why they did they that and one answered because they wanted to save people and that was something that was a deep feeling in their heart. That answer right there made my day.

As the day ended and I was dismissing them each of them stopped and gave me a hug. Another moment that made me smile on this somber day. A few seconds later my kids from last year came up and gave me hugs. One came up to me and said, “Ms. B, we talked about why today is so sad. I liked it more last year when we talked about it.” I asked why and they replied, “Because you let us ask questions and tried your best to answer them.” Another hug and he was gone.

I always wake up today with a heavy heart and while my heart is still heavy tonight there’s a glimmer of hope around it. For these kids-last year’s class and this year’s class give me hope. They have big hearts and the world needs a little more that.

Tiny Joys & Many Tears

Hello dear friends,

I know it’s been awhile since I last posted-March to be precise.  I’m so sorry that I’ve been missing out of the Tuesday Slicing. It’s this crazy little thing called life. I have a lot to catch you up on & if you can’t tell by the title not all of it is good.

Where to start? I think I’ll start with the good. In March I told you that there was a possibility that I could be RIF’d or transferred.  I wasn’t RIF’d which is a good thing (kind of). I was transferred to another school in the county to a new grade level. This past year I taught 4th grade and the years prior to my permanent job I was primarily teaching grades 3-5. I was transferred to a school that is nearly 30 minutes away versus driving 4 blocks. I’m going from a team of 3 to just one other teacher.  While I do know her and she’s so sweet it’s going to be an adjustment.  We attend the same church and last Sunday she offered to let me into the school sometime to see my room. I’m definitely going to take her up on that offer. I need to see the size of the room before I go crazy shopping at Target, Dollar Tree, and Wal-Mart.  I’ve decided that my theme will be confetti which is bright and full of positivity for a 1st grade classroom. While I’m nervous I’m excited too. I recently started a teacher Instagram account and I’ve already connected with so many amazing fellow educators.

Another joy is back in April I decided I wanted to start looking for a house in the area since I finally had a full time job.  The market in my area is super competitive and so many were out of my price range. By the time you rent around here you would’ve been better off saving and buying a house. I’m happy to report that my summer will be spent working on several repairs on my new house. I plan to have a teaching room and a book room with a swing. I’ve been spending several evenings at the house planning out the different rooms. However getting this house is quite bittersweet. A huge part of my heart is broken as to the reason how I obtained this house…

May 17th is a new date that I will never forget. It was the day I unexpectedly lost Mam-my final grandparent. It hit me quite hard and I’m still not okay. She wasn’t feeling well that morning and was going to the ER by ambulance when I was getting ready to leave for work. I went over to tell Mom I was leaving and she was sitting in her chair. She was in good spirits despite not feeling well. She thought it was heartburn but instead it was mini-heart attacks. She looked at my flowery dress that I had on and told me she liked my dress and I smiled and thanked her. I told her I was off to work and I would see her later. While I’m glad that I had that small moment with her I wish things had ended differently. Everyday I miss her more and more.  I know she would be happy that I’m the one who will be living in her house but honestly I could’ve gone another 10 years of not being able to live in that house.

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This was the last photo that was taken of her and I. It was on Mother’s Day and although I knew her health was going downhill I didn’t think I would lose her that quickly. I must add that I had to leave work on the 17th to be with Mom for a bit and during that time my co-workers stepped up and took my kids.  I went back up at 1 because I needed to stay busy. I collected them all and went on like nothing was bothering me. The mask was in place and yet my kids knew me well enough to know I wasn’t okay. I left a note explaining why I would be missing work the next two days and I must say they did a pretty good job trying to be on their best behavior for the sub. But the part that touched me the most is all of them wrote me a letter expressing their sympathy and telling me they wished they could somehow bring my grandmother back. That right there made my heart overflow with joy. I hated to see this group go but I know that all of them have a lot of heart. I truly hope they never lose that.

This Slice went on much longer than I expected & if you’ve read this far then you’re an all star! I’m hoping to get back into the Tuesday Slicing groove now.

Rain & Happiness

Rain is steadily falling creating a peaceful ambiance.
Cocooned in a blanket of warmth and happiness.
Soft sighs and strong arms make this moment even better.
Chocolate orbs stare up at icy blue ones.
A small smile graces both of their faces before they meet for another kiss.
More stories are told and more moments are made.
Each one is being their genuine self around the other.
True smiles are given and those rare & true laughs are heard.
The walls are down and they tell each other the reasons behind their personality.
More stolen kisses and the occasional wink.
Icy blue eyes sparkling with mischief stare into warm chocolate ones.
Time seems to slow down with each story and with each hug.
And yet it is the enemy too because before they know it one of them must leave.
But for now they settle back into one another’s warmth to delay the inevitable for another moment.

My Little Hideaway

Cross a bridge and take a right. Merge onto the northbound lane and then barely start north and make another left. Take a right and let the twists and turns begin. As you near the top of the hill you look to your left and you see fog settling into the valleys. Keep going out that road and then take a sharp right. You’re met with more twists and turns, foggy valleys, and the occasional wild turkey. Barely coming around a turn you have to cut right again and now you’re heading down a narrower road. Two miles later you come around one final turn to see a parking lot. Looking to the right a bit there’s a hill with a picnic table.  On a clearer day this would be the perfect picnic spot. Or even a spectacular view of a sunrise one morning. However today your view is full of mist, fog and raindrops. Yet there’s a peacefulness to it. Shutting off the car and closing your eyes you listen to the rain falling and pinging off the roof of the car. You relax a little more and your mind begins to drift. All of the stresses of the week and day slowly slip away like the raindrops on the windshield. Almost an hour later you make your way back down that same windy road feeling 1000x better.