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.

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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.

Disunity and Unity

I’m so happy to have the next three days off. Even though I’ll be going into work on Saturday for a little bit I’m planning on enjoying my mini-break. Tonight we had our Maundy Thursday service & I, being an Elder, volunteered to be a reader. I read the 4th reading:  the Fourth Light-The Darkness of Disunity. I was the only one whose reading was a call and response. As I was reading it aloud I couldn’t help but think of how this month started for me and thousands of other teachers.

“Do your best to preserve the unity which the spirit gives, by peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. There is one God and Savior of all, who is the Lord of all, works through all and is in all.”

“But the meaning of the words is lost in our disputes over our difference. We have spent many years pointing out how each group differs from the other. Let us now give equal time to our similarities.”

“We follow Christ that we might find you, God. He is the path you set for us to walk, but we cannot tread that path alone.”

“We need guidance from you and from each other.”

“We follow the same path, the same teacher, the same God. Help us to respect our differences and work toward the oneness that we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As I read these words the images of the nine days came to mind. I relied heavily on prayer and my church family to help keep me calm. The politicians tried to divide us among each other and with the public. But they couldn’t and I truly believe it’s because of the prayers we all lifted up. Trust me, we were praying a lot for all of that mess to be resolved. I truly love that I was the one selected to read this selection.

Thin Ice

Another long day.

Four boys acting like kindergartners.

18 other students highly annoyed.

And one very irritated teacher.

Tomorrow had better be better.

I would write more but I have a headache & I’m just ready to go to bed and leave today behind.

 

Books are a Teacher’s Best Friend

I love Tuesdays. Why? At 9:14 I line my kids up to go to my favorite place in the entire school. This place has always been my favorite place-even when I was a student there.  Once you enter there the adventures begin. One day you’re dodging tornadoes with Dan Hatch and the next you’re riding alongside Sybil Ludington. Can you guess where we are?

The library. 

Our library is quite vast. Wall to wall with books. There’s three sections: picture books, chapter books, and non-fiction books. The picture books and chapter books section alone is the size of the two classrooms and the nonfiction section is a classroom and a half in itself. I’ve worked in several schools and none of them compare to NMS. The first time we went there this year I walked in just as excited as the students. As they began looking for books I walked around and found a few of my old favorites. One asked me what I was doing and I just told them I was visiting old friends. At this point they’re use to me walking around checking out the new books. I think we get new books added almost every week. My favorite part is when they come to me and ask if I have any suggestions. I have a pretty good idea of their interests and I’ve been successful this year of getting my students fired up about reading. But then again it helps and I think inspires them when they see me sitting there reading right along with them.

A Blur

Today was tiring. Last week when my team level met we discussed having the kids come to the room at 7:40. We would do extra reading and math practice during this time. But I didn’t think we were starting this today. Boy was I surprised when they came in at that time.

My morning flew by and before I knew it I was lining them up for gym. I pick them up from gym and that’s when I learned my day just became more interesting. J comes to me and says Z kept acting like he was going to hit him with the ball. Eventually he did right between the legs. I held my breath hoping J hadn’t decked him. Thankfully he didn’t but that meant I had to call one of the principals to add to their list of offenses. Toward the end of the day they were called to the principal’s office. When they came back J told me that both of them would be in ISS for the next three days. This is J’s fifth time in ISS this year. It’s a little disheartening and I know part of him tries so hard, but his anger often wins out.

Like I said-today was tiring.

Fireworks

Chocolate orbs stare into icy blue ones.
The heart rate begins to quicken.
The old, familiar, nervous habit kicks in and her bottom lip disappears.
An arm wraps itself around her torso and for a moment her breath hitches.
‘Could this be…’ she allows herself to think and perhaps hope.
She balances herself by wrapping her arms around his neck and she’s granted a smile.
A smile that could be likened to a kid on Christmas morning.
Her eyes search his to make sure that what she’s hoping is about to happen is.
But he keeps an excellent poker face and instead rewards her with a kiss to the cheek.
Smiling she returns the favor only to find fireworks.
Dazedly she pulls back and closes her eyes.
‘Please don’t let this be a dream…’
Opening one eye she sees he’s still there and he’s wrapped both arms around her.
Beaming she leans back in and more sparks fly