Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WNBP: Live From The Fields

Sheepie is tired. Sheepie somehow managed to use up every last ounce of energy before noon today. My classroom was filled to the rafters with children who chose today to either lose their grip on what little control the middle school years have afforded them or to have personal crises rivaling that of Job. Acting as ego functioning for 6 other people is tiring. Especially when you must also bolster your staff who are doing their best to help contain the mass misery.

I'd given some thought to posting a picture tonight. I've been a bit weak with the snaps of late. Maybe a nice shot of the Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty in all his massive glory or pictorial proof that The Invisibility Shawl still lives and grows.

I don't have it in me. I'm too tired to take pictures. I also can't take any pictures until I vacuum the carpet. You'd be wondering why I don't plant flowers and vegetables in that barren field and not realize that this is my living room carpet. I also don't have the energy to do any landscaping tonight.

I'm just going to go with the regular Wednesday Night Bullet Post. You can use your imaginations. I think it is good for the brain to imagine stuff. It's like neural sit-ups.

*I've already mentioned The World's Neediest Classroom. That doesn't bear repeating.

*I figured out that two repeats on The Invisibility Shawl is the same as about 35 minutes on the little exercise bike. That is either a good thing to know or a bad thing.

*Sometimes it's better to not know how far you have left to go when you are pedaling a little exercise bike.

*Sometimes it's better to have a reality check.

*Little Exercise Bike Time can fool you. Five minutes can feel like five days...

*After my very long day, I came home to find that someone had been going through the kitchen cupboards.

*There was a time when I would have called the police and counted my valuables.

*Now I just shake my finger at the Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty and make disappointed sounds.

*He purrs happily throughout.

*Tomorrow we begin state mandated assessments with the 8th graders.

*Please feel free to think good thoughts for all those children with individual angst and control issues. They are going to need to act like kids without life challenges for a week.

*I can't see anything that could possibly go wrong with this plan.

*I do not even want to think about how my one 7th grader (aka The Kid Who Doesn't Have An Off Button) will deal with the need for quiet during testing.

*I'm very much in Oh, How Bad Could It Be? mode.

*At the end of the day, my staff told me that they'd been visited by a union rep and informed that layoffs and furlough days are possibly in the works.

*I am planning on chaining my teaching assistants to the radiators just in case.

*Strategic Emergency Planning.

* I spent ten minutes wrestling my pajamas away from the AGK.

*Mommy Sheep always said, "Pick up your clothes off the floor."

*She was trying to prepare me for life. I should have listened.

*A wise woman, my mom. However did she know that I would end up a middle aged woman with a cat who lives life large?

*I ended up distracting him with a pair of clean sweatpants then running away with my jammies before he realized he'd lost them.

*Once again, I am flabbergasted by the direction my life has taken...

There's the day in a nutshell. I think. I'm very tired so I might have missed some stuff. I don't smell smoke so I'm guessing that nothing caught fire in the immediate vicinity and my car looks to be in pretty good shape. I'm reasonably sure nothing big happened while I was daydreaming about retirement.

Goodbye Wednesday. Thank you for being so very interesting. I'm certain that Thursday will be boring by comparison. At least I hope this is the case. I might even find the energy to vacuum the field.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Women And Children First...we think.

After yesterday's evacuation drill, you'd think the poor teachers would get a little break in the action, if only for a day. Not so. This afternoon we needed to attend an extended faculty meeting in order that we might discuss the upcoming achievement testing process. The state is using a new assessment this year and, while it's not all that different from the old one, it still requires the obligatory Power Point Presentation. What's a test without bitter staff people, after all?

Actually, it's good that we are getting the information. It always feels like I'm unprepared when new tests are required and I really should appreciate the effort our administration is making to keep me in the loop. I'm just cranky is all. Staff meetings are long and Power Point Presentations give me the hives. This one came with a soundtrack which didn't make it any more entertaining.

To make matters worse, I didn't even have my knitting. I usually try to have a little something woolly in my bag to keep the agenda from sapping away the last of my spirit. But I didn't have anything suitable or portable so I went into the meeting in what can only be described as a state of Knitting Knakedness. There was nothing to do but watch the Power Point and curse my lack of planning.

To add to my misery, some of my colleagues love the chance to add their thoughts to the proceedings. The agenda is kept a bit flexible and there is always someone who is overcome with the need to emote. It's like Open Mic Night with a limited talent pool. Every once in a while, though, a gem can be seen sparkling amongst the piles of scheduling complaints and announcements that could have been ignored in our email instead of in person:

Teacher With No Concept Of Time And Place And The Effects Of Power Point: Mr. Principal? I have a question.

Mr. Principal: Yes Mr. TWNCOTAPATEOPP?

TWNCOTAPATEOPP: It's not about the Power Point...

MP: That's just find and dandy! We would hate to restrict questions to anything relevant. That might get us out of here before 5:00 and it's not like we start our workdays at 7:00 or anything.

TWNCOTAPATEOPP: I was thinking about yesterday's evacuation drill and got to wondering. What about those of us who are working outside with the kids right now? However will we know to flee? Or where to flee? Or why we are fleeing? We should really have a plan for that.

MP: We do have a plan for that. It's in your Binder Of Very Important Stuff That No One Reads. You are to report to the office when you leave the building and pick up a walkie talkie. Should there be a need to evacuate or if a lockdown is required we shall call you on the walkie talkie and say the following:


Is this clear, Mr. TWNCOTAPATEOPP? Does anyone else have any questions?

We did not. At least none that was voiced. I'm sure that there were a few. I know I was wondering about whether or not I am supposed to take the kids with me when I run pell-mell into the woods or if we are expected to follow the Every Sheep For Herself Rule. That wasn't made very clear, in my humble opinion.

I didn't ask about it, though. I'm not one of the teachers who wants a meeting to run any longer than it has to and I could see the debate on whether or not it is a good idea to hide in the woods with children lasting for hours. I'm just going to trust that, when the time comes, I will somehow intuit the best choice.

I hope I remember my knitting on that day, though. Being stuck in the woods for God knows how long waiting for someone to give the all-clear could be worse than a Power Point Presentation...


Monday, September 28, 2009

There Should Be A Stirring Song Or Poem...

Today was the day. I know you all look forward to it. You probably didn't sleep much last night wondering how it would all come together. It's kind of like Christmas Eve except for the presents, carols, food and happiness...

Every year certain schools in our district must perform Evacuation Drills. In the event that we ever need to flee the building to safety, it is important that we know how to walk five thousand children in a line down the road. So we practice it.

There is a great deal of pre-evacuation activity prior to the actual forced march. We get a lot of emails and reminders. This does no good since we all forget about the drill until ten minutes before it is time to drag the kids down the road. Then we have to close all the windows, shut off our computers and try to figure out how to adjust our lesson plans to account for the lost time. Grade level teams will change their schedules at the last minute and no one will know where they are going for the rest of the day.

Today's drill did not go badly if you put it all in perspective. Frankly it's the perspective that keeps me from dodging into the woods and running until I can run no further. First, we all assemble in the parking lot with our respective students. We stand there for a while until someone decides we should start marching and then we begin the trek down the road to the Grade 5/6 school. Some staff people are given bright orange vests and red signs. They have to stop traffic so passers-by can all get a nice view of us huffing and puffing along.

These people are also part of the perspective process because getting that job would be the last thing this school district would ever do to me. Right after they handed me my vest, I'd be locked in the bathroom trying to drown myself in the toilet.

We make a fine sight, all moving along in coordinated chaos and with the school nurse bringing up the rear toting her emergency kit. We march down the road, yell at the children to get out of the road, cross another road (thanks to the vested people and a police car complete with flashing blue lights) then we traverse a dirt road. From there, it is a short hop to the parking lot of the other school and another long wait in the gymnasium where all children in wet sneakers will use them to make piercing squeaky sounds on the freshly waxed floor.

When it has been determined that we have not lost any of the children in spite of our best efforts, we exit the gym and begin the return trip. We make our way through the parking lot, travel the dirt road so the kids can find the puddles they missed on the first trip and cross the street where traffic is now hopelessly backed up and drivers are getting cranky with the vested people. Now we are back on the first road and, after a fashion, the middle school is in sight. All that is left is a short trip to our own gymnasium where we are told how we did.

There is a time limit on this, you see. We get 48 minutes. If we fail to manage this exercise in pretend panic within the stated time frame, we have to do it again on another day. A day which we will forget about as quickly as we did the first one. The final review is a tense thing indeed.

You will be pleased to know that we met our deadline and are now fully approved to drag children down the road to safety should the need arise. The community breathes a sigh of relief knowing that their children are protected from all possible harm unless they keep walking in the middle of the road during evacuation drills like we kept telling them not to.

We were almost back at the middle school when the Cheerful Teaching Assistant commented that this might replace going to the gym today. I quickly agreed and began recounting all the ways marching down the road with middle school students could benefit the body. I was really just looking for a diversion at that point. My sandals were giving me a nasty blister and my stomach had begun making gurgling noises which could only be described as ominous. I knew that my tummy pills were waiting for me in my purse back at school and that I could make it if I just didn't think about it all too much. A little lecture on the benefits of enforced cardio during the workday was just the thing.

Even with the extra walking I did today, I still came home and rode the little exercise bike, though. My tummy troubles were over thanks to the little pink tablets and I really didn't have a good excuse for not doing it. I also wanted to knit another repeat on the Invisibility Shawl and the little exercise bike is quite inspiring for that. I'm stuck pedaling away for thirty or forty minutes and need something to do that will help me forget about the exercise.

There are no people in vests or children running into the road to distract me when I ride the little bike, you see. I'm not complaining about that, mind you. I'm just making the point.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Factual Departure

I have an affection for my blog. I love it for what it is and also for what it simply isn't designed to do. I made it and I like it. More to the point, I've made it a somewhat less than controversial space. I have enough of the conflict in my regular life. I decided that my blogging existence would be a thing of happiness and peace.

Yet every once in a while, something comes up and I feel the need to speak to it. I usually give it a week or so to see if the feeling goes away. If it doesn't, then it is probably something I want to address. This is one of those times.

I will ask of you only a few things. First, please read the full post before scampering off to the comments to share your thoughts. There are some ground rules here. Some topics can inspire differences of opinion and I'm a great fan of diversity. What I don't tolerate is disrespect. As much as I love a spirited debate, it would be rather easy for hastily written words to create discord in my carefully crafted happy place. Please feel free to respond, but do so respectfully. I have gone to great lengths to write this post in that same spirit. Any and all comments designed to incite hurt or anger will be summarily deleted. Most (in fact, I might even say all) of my known readers have always been kind in the comments so I see no reason to worry but one never knows, does one?

OK. So here's the thing:

Maine residents will soon be casting their ballots on the matter of Question 1 and determining the fate of Marriage Equality in our state. As expected, this has created much in the way of feeling. Also as expected, that feeling has led to expression. It's part of the process. Recently, we have been seeing an ad that will probably be somewhat familiar, at least in content, to those who have had similar voting decisions before them in their own states. In this spot, those who oppose the law allowing for same sex marriages put forth a number of reasons why it should be repealed. It features a man in a suit. I have mixed feelings about men in suits. They represent polar opposites. Sometimes they show up at your house with balloons, a camera crew and a big check that lets you take early retirement. Other times, they come bearing a tax audit. For the most part, though, we tend to trust men in suits. This makes them a little dangerous.

The Suited Man in this advertisement focuses a bit more on one concern than the others from his list. He makes it a point. It is hard to miss. Essentially, he says this: If same sex marriages are granted continued validation under the law, then schools will be teaching this version of the union regardless of parental consent.

This year marks my 22nd year as a Maine educator. That is certainly enough time to see a number of changes in culture, economic trends, technology and the practice of the craft. I've taught many subjects and my classrooms have been comprised of students ranging in ages from 5 to 55. I've watched laws governing how we teach change to reflect the times and have worked with my colleagues to develop curriculum that meet the new needs. There is very little I have not experienced during those 22 years and in the variety of settings, both public and private, where I've worked.

What I have never taught is marriage. Ever. Nor has it ever been asked of me. Not once. In 22 years, marriage has not been a part of any school curriculum that I've been required to teach. Further, I do not recall it ever being an elective course or something students might study in-depth as part of an after school activity.

That's not to say that it doesn't come up every now and again. Of course it does. Children like to talk about their families and share stories. The odd wedding tale is bound to crop up in discussion. Sometimes one of my colleagues is engaged and the upcoming nuptials will invariably be mentioned. In my own classroom, the Cheerful Teaching Assistant is planning a wedding and we are being rather shameless in our efforts to recruit a couple helpful students to stuff the goody bags she's giving out as favors. Marriage is a fact of life and part of the culture. Kids are aware of the concept.

Mostly, though, they just want to know how to spell it. That's pretty much the extent of marriage education. Any questions I've asked regarding whether or not there are plans to add this to the report card have been answered in the negative. There will be no marriage classes in the foreseeable future.

When the day comes for me to head to my own voting booth, I think I will be waiting in line with two types of people: those who vote based on conscience, conviction or personal belief systems and those who vote based on their understanding of the facts. As to the former, I do not feel it is my place to forcibly impart my own belief system on anyone. That is not my way and, while I don't always agree with what others define as "moral," I will respect their right to express that belief on a ballot. I expect the same in return. I think that anyone who knows me can safely predict where I stand on this issue and how I will be voting. My own code of conduct is a personal thing and something for which this blog is not a forum. I will sit on my hands and keep my mouth closed on such matters as faith and morality.

However when voters are basing their decisions on fact and I see information that is falsely presenting itself as such, then I am obligated to speak. To the best of my knowledge, marriage by any definition is not currently being taught in the Maine public schools. Of course I cannot claim to know every curriculum in every school, but I do feel pretty safe in saying that my own experience has been similar to that of most in my profession. This is not an issue upon which to base a decision so serious as Marriage Equality and should be kept out of the debate.

On a personal level, I feel angry and hurt that the work I do could be so grossly misrepresented for the purposes of swaying a vote. It was irresponsible and disrespectful. As I said earlier, I do not tolerate disrespect. True to form, I sat on this for a while to see if I really needed to speak to it.

Turns out I did.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thumbs Down

Knitting? In my condition? Oh, I think not! It won't go well. There is a...complication.

Apparently, the power went out yesterday. I knew this because I am a highly intelligent sort of gal and the clues, while not obvious to the average person, were glaring to me. I am incredibly skilled at seeing the little things, those tiny differences so easily missed by less keen eyeballs.

I happened to notice that the microwave display said, "RESET." I realize that seeing gigantic, glowing capital letters isn't necessarily something to put on my junior detective resume, but I am feeling fragile right now and I want something in my life that makes me feel superior.

The one thing I failed to notice (probably because I was exhausted from all the earlier noticing) was that the alarm clock in the bedroom was also flashing. I never bothered to reset it, hence it did not go off at the appointed hour this morning. Fortunately, I have a backup alarm clock and that one is battery operated. It is also a bit on the slow side, so I was running late.

As I was rushing about, I happened to notice a small card in the kitchen. According to this card, I had a doctor's appointment this morning. I could not go to the doctor today. I have many children, all displaying varying degrees of behavioral issues, who prefer it when I show up. Actually, they don't so much prefer it as they take advantage of it. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I have two staff members who prefer it when I show up...

I called and cancelled the appointment. I called again to reschedule it for a more convenient time. I will probably have to pay for the missed appointment. Unless I do that begging thing I do so well. I don't have anything else upon which to depend. My arguments on the matter of not receiving a reminder call were quickly defused by the receptionist insisting that she did call me and that the machine wouldn't pick up.

Power outage...

I slogged through the day. This was made even more difficult by The Kid Who Doesn't Have An Off Button. He began winding up shortly after arriving at school and we were near to disaster by lunchtime. I feared for the furniture. I didn't fear for the pens and pencils because I didn't have time. He broke most of those before I could really get around to any decent worrying.

Finally, he went to lunch and peace was ours. All we had to do was teach a couple of 8th graders who were still waiting for their lunch time to roll around. They were less than enthused about Science. They were hungry.

In fact, the boy I like to call The Great Debater was so starved that he began noshing on one of the few pens left to us after TKWDHAOB was done with his expressions of opinion. I got him some crackers. I didn't have enough pens for him to be chewing through them out of hunger.

What I failed to realize was that TGD had chewed rather far into the pen. The Black dots all around his mouth should have been a clue, but I was tired by then. (Remember I'd been doing all that other noticing the day before so I wasn't really in good shape to notice stuff right before second lunch) Since he had ink to spare, none of which was well-contained within the pen, he did what anyone would do under the circumstances. He made polka dots. On the desk. On his science papers. On his notebook...

All I saw was the lack of science progress. I picked up his paper to offer him some of my pearls of scientific wisdom. His polka dots had not dried. In fact, I do not believe they have dried as of this moment. I do not believe they will ever dry because ink that is released from a pen in big, thick polka dots is highly resistant to moisture release.

That is a scientific fact and something I could have told TGD had I remained in the room. Alas, I did not. I had to go to the restroom to wash my hands. They were covered in thick, goopy ink. I washed. And I washed. I scrubbed. And I scrubbed. The ink spread and spread.

It was a mighty battle of wills. There was no clear victor. I believe I can claim the hands as my spoils of war.

The ink can claim my fingernails.

I calmly told the classroom residents that I would be in the office checking on a few things until everyone went to lunch. It was my belief that it would take about twenty minutes for this situation to become funny. I didn't want to risk discussing the matter until I was a little closer to a state of "appreciation." Besides, the office is where one might find the supply closet and we really needed some pens if the educational magic was going to continue.

I think that the fingernail ink is dry, but I'm taking no chances. The Invisibility Shawl can just sit tight until I am less coated in black pen drizzle. Some days you just need to accept that things are bound to go wrong and that the kids are going to eat pens no matter how many crackers you give them. This is the safest course.

I wonder if I can convince my doctor that it is a weird fingernail rash. And if she'll write me a note so I don't have to go to school for a week.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


You guys are probably sick of me not knowing what day it is. I would imagine that it was cute at first but wore thin pretty darned fast. You think you've got it rough? Try to picture the view from my side.

I seriously thought it was Thursday for a while there. I even got a Friday vibe at one point. This was painful on a variety of levels because the realization that it was neither of those days hit me several times over the course of this Wednesday.

I'm just going to launch into my regularly scheduled Wednesday Night Bullet Post and then go lick my wounds. I'll probably eat a entire box of those little low-cal ice cream thingies I keep in the freezer, too. That's what they're there for. Emergencies.

Although eating the whole box will probably defeat their low-cal function in this life...

*I managed to stop for gas and still get to work on time this morning.

*That may not seem like much to you, but it is a victory worthy of its own holiday in my world.

*I'm just desperately seeking out any and all holidays.

*September, 23=National Sheepie Gets Gas Day.

*Banks will close and you won't get any mail that day.

*The exchanging of gifts will probably be optional because of the whole "gas" issue.

*People are going to misunderstand the meaning behind the day and who wants The Gift Of Gas?

*I was on time getting to school this morning, but was late getting home.

*That seems unfair...

*I didn't do the weight training portion of the workout today.

*I rode the little bike for 30 minutes and knit another shawl repeat.

*In our school, classes like art, music and PE are called "Globals."

*I spent an hour straightening out an issue with a kid's schedule today. The changes they wanted to make would mean he'd have to change his Global and he didn't want to do that.

*The Boy Who Has Been In My Class Since He Was Six Years Old was rather insistent on the matter.

*Ms. Sheep felt a disturbance in The Force and knew that measures needed to be taken.

*And hour later, I'd fixed everything and managed to keep his Global exactly the same.

*No differences.

*Just like he wanted.

*When it was time to leave for Globals, he refused to go.

*Somehow, over the course of the previous hour, he'd decided his Global was boring.

*I told one of my colleagues as I was leaving the building today, "It's really kind of a miracle that I don't throw myself out the window more often."

*She looked puzzled, but that has never stopped me from making a point.

*"In fact," I continued, "I should be throwing myself out every available window on a regular basis pretty much every day."

*She said, "You really do look kind of stressed out most of the time..."

*Understatement of the year.

*My Other Favorite Librarian opened the library early for me today.

*I wanted the next two Chris D'Lacey books.

*They have multiple copies in the library.

*But I was seized with panic over the thought of my not getting them.

*My Other Favorite Librarian understood perfectly and let me in to check out the books.

*Well...she wrote it down anyway. The computers weren't even on when I got there.

*Neither were the lights. I had to find the books in the dark.

*But I got 'em!

*Note to self: The back of the book contains spoilers. Do not read the back of book 4 unless you've already read book 3. You will be in possession of information that will upset you and make book 3 an angst-ridden experience.

*Good way to live one's life. I may make that my motto if I can shorten it up a bit. Make it a bit more snappy and easy to recall.

*Remembering stuff is hard when you are racing around a dark library while the librarian tries to helpfully shout out directions so you don't knock over half the biography section.

It is Wednesday. Not Thursday. Not Friday. OK. Deep down, I knew it wasn't really Friday. There was just a little moment where it kind of felt that way. But the publishing of the WNBP means that the day is over. The real Thursday is right around the corner and life will soon make sense again.

That's kind of comforting. But I still think I deserve a few window jumps. Maybe just from the first floor. Or at least my own holiday...


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Darker Truth

My Cheerful Teaching Assistant was sick for a week straight. She missed some work. When she was on site, she sniffled, snuffled and hacked for hours at a time. She is still not quite up to par. During the worst of her illness, I tidied up her desk for her, got tissues when she needed them and was virtually at her elbow should she have a single unmet need. I love my CTA. (enough to exaggerate a little bit about how incredibly helpful I was, but I did do stuff...honest!)

Yesterday I was at a Safety Procedures Training and one of my classmates was quite ill. She went through about a billion tissues and drooped ever further towards her desktop as the day progressed. I inquired as to her well-being several times and even stayed a bit after everyone else left for the day to make sure she was OK to drive home. I didn't once use hand sanitizer after we were required to make contact while practicing physical restraints. At least not in her line of sight...

Today The Charming Boy Who Gets Away With Way More Than He Should was sick. Not just a little bit sick. A lot bit sick. He could barely remain upright in his seat. His color was off and the best he could muster in the way of speech was a helpless croak. I patted his back twice during the day and checked his brow for fever. I couldn't really do much else. The CBWGAWWMTHS loses about five years from his true chronological age when he is sick and I am helpless in the presence of his sad face. I let him sleep in the unused classroom area for most of the day. He made a lot of snuffly noises back there.

I was kind to these people. I cared. Their welfare was of interest to me and I expressed my concern with great sincerity. But I'd be lying if I said that was my primary emotion. I wish I could say that I was a selfless being while those around me labored beneath their burdens.

Mostly, though, I was thinking about how I'd like to wrap these people in protective plastic.

I feel badly about it. I don't like to think of myself as the kind of person who puts herself first. But I'm so horrified by the number of germs circling about me these days that I can't help it. I can only hope that I didn't let it show while I was faking generosity...

If you need me, I'll just be over here bathing in hand sanitizer and boiling the knitting needles. I can't boil the knitting because that is wool and I think we all know what a bad idea that is. But everything else? Fair game for the boiling.

I wonder if any of the plague carriers will bring me a tissue or wipe my fevered brow once I've contracted their various diseases. Or if I'll see the same look of horror in their eyes that is currently in mine...


Monday, September 21, 2009

Running In Place

I swore a blood oath that I would not be teaching the Safety Procedures class this year. I swore it loudly and sometimes with actual swear words. I took great pride in my oath and trotted it out at every available opportunity.

Then I realized that if I didn't teach the course, I was going to have to take it. That, upon reflection, seemed worse because there was no guarantee that the person teaching it would have my general attitude towards the stupid role playing activities. They might actually make me do them. I stuffed my oath in the drawer and stepped up to teach the class again. This meant I'd need to take that trainer recertification course. Again. For the third time. Today.

Workshop and training days are kind of a mixed blessing. On one hand, it is a break from the routine and a day spent with adults instead of children. On the other, departures from the norm never seem to go smoothly for me.

I have never had a particularly good relationship with Time. We are uncomfortable with one another. I feel like Time never really lives up to its potential and that its promises are often more dazzling than the reality. Time thinks I don't appreciate it and that I take it for granted. We go through long periods of not speaking to one another.

This morning, I was happy to have extra time. My training didn't start until 8:30 so I had oodles of extra minutes in which to dawdle about. I thought of all sorts of ways to make this morning extra-special. I probably overreached, though. Before I knew it, the time had come to leave and I wasn't quite ready. The usual morning scramble began anew, just like a regular day instead of a special one.

Note: I still ended up arriving at the high school training site stupidly early. That meant driving around for a while so I wouldn't look like an over-eager teacher's pet. But I drove around too long and was almost late...

Then there was the knitting dilemma. Long workshops require something of a knitted nature in the bag. It can't be just anything, though. It has to be something that can be set aside quickly during those times when you have to get up and demonstrate your ability to successfully extricate yourself from a rear choke hold. (a normal workshop occurrence, right?) You need something very, very mindless and straightforward.

I have two projects on the needles right now. Of the two, The Invisibility Shawl is my favorite, but that one requires counting. I didn't think the trainer would appreciate hearing me whispering, "1-2-3-4, slip, knit....wait, that's not right!" over and over again. That wasn't going to be the right choice.

The other project is a sock. Socks are usually great for workshops except that this one is perilously close to the heel flap stage and that isn't anywhere near straightforward knitting. There is counting involved, albeit the simple variety. I can knit a heel flap pretty easily, but I hate to assume...

In the end, though, that's what I went with. I figured I could probably knit up the heel flap and call it a day. I don't believe in picking up stitches in polite company. Stitches and noses...they both remain pick-free when I'm out and about. I knew I wouldn't get much further than the flap. It wasn't the optimal solution, but it was better than nothing.

However, once I got myself settled in at the training, I remembered that this course is rather firm in its policy regarding hobbies. They don't care for them. They insist on rapt attention. I don't teach it that way when I'm set free to run my own program, but I didn't think that the dude overseeing the class was going to be of the same opinion.

All that decision making was for naught. The poor, flapless sock remained in the bag.

It was a long day. Time disappointed me again and ticked by slowly instead of behaving normally. The group of people willing to teach this course is now down to 6, less than half what it was originally. Those of us left were, for the most part, either sick or injured. The sound of sniffling could be heard from various corners of the room all day. The endless crackling of various joints led one participant to question the wisdom of having a group of six middle aged women teaching this class instead of our younger colleagues. They hardly ever crackle when they get up off the floor.

In spite of all this, I made it through another year of certification training. I passed my test, I did my stupid role play activity and I only nodded off once during the lecture phase. That's pretty good, I think.

I drove home tired and sore but feeling victorious. The next things on the list of stuff to do included hitting the exercise bike, catching a little missed TV on the interwebs and knitting a bit.

This time, I went with The Invisibility Shawl because no one cares if you are counting and doubting yourself in the privacy of your own home.

For the record, time spent working out is also deceptive. It is waaaay longer than regular time. Even longer than workshop time. But not as long as workshop time when your knees are crackling and you can't knit...


Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Fire Still Burns. (just not the needles)

You may remember last September when I reluctantly packed up my lunch and my will to survive so I could head off for my first day at The Bad Job At The Middle School That No One Else Would Take. Due to a drop in student population and a disastrous situation in the 7th and 8th grade classroom, I was transferred into a new position. I wasn't particularly happy about it. In fact, I was rather miffed about the whole business. They took away my Cheerful Teaching Assistant, gave me two Less Than Cheerful Teaching Assistants and plonked me smack dab in the middle of a mess. They wished me well, promised all sorts of helpful support then went happily about whatever business it is that "they" do during the course of a day.

If ever there was a time to look at the bright side, that was it. I remembered how lucky I was to have a job given the state of the economy. I told myself that many others in my position were out of luck once they hit a certain step on the teacher pay scale. Most of the students were familiar to me, some I'd even had in my class since they were in Primary School. If things got really dicey, I'd repeat such trite mantras as, "At least you have your health..." and call it a day.

It was tricky. Fortunately, the room next door to mine happened to be one of the nicest places in any school: the library. I like the library. I like librarians. People tell me all the time what a wonderful human being I am for becoming a special education teacher. That's all well and good, but hear me now: The worst librarian in the whole wide world is still a better person than I am. That you can take to the bank.

The middle school librarian was not the worst one in the world. She was right up there with the best of 'em. She was the stereotypical version that we all tend to think of when the job title is mentioned. She was in her sixties, soft-spoken, cardigan-clad and wise in the ways of media, both print and digital. I loved her on sight. Stereotypes are bad except when they are comforting and then they are nice. This is even more true when you are transferred into The Bad Job At The Middle School.

We got to be good friends over the course of the year. I spent a great deal of time in the library and never once did she make me feel like I was wearing out my welcome. She helped me find new titles to try and always kept a TV/DVD player ready in case I needed it for particularly bad days. When the history of librarians is written, My Librarian will get a whole chapter if I have anything to say about it. She was a gem. Sadly, I only had her for a year.

When I say it that way, it sounds like she died, which was not the case. That would have made a good plot for one of the angst-ridden teen tomes shelved amongst the books she so carefully tended for almost thirty years. In real life, though, it was less dramatic. My Librarian looked around and noticed that kids had changed a great deal over the years. The job wasn't quite the same and the world had moved on in ways both good and bad. Time was marching forward and doing so more quickly than it had before.

It finally boiled down to two decisions:

1. The economic climate was really not conducive to retirement. Ideally, a couple more years would be needed to fatten up the portfolio comfortably.

2. #1 didn't really matter. The economy will always recover and lost monies can be found again with enough effort. Lost time is gone forever, though. You don't get that back.

She retired. I understood and supported her decision. I even encouraged it, although it broke my heart to do so. I would miss My Librarian but couldn't stand the thought of her not doing all those things she really wanted to be doing. I don't hug people often, but I hugged My Librarian on the last day of school.

One day in the spring as I was passing by the library, I happened to see My Librarian with the woman who would become her replacement. I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the bright side before I started having dark thoughts about this interloper. I knew I should give her a chance. I am, after all, an adult. I even went so far as to enter the library so I might introduce myself and give a somewhat sincere welcome. And that's when I saw...

My Other Librarian!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, it was true! My former school was no longer able to support her position and My Other Librarian was being transferred to the middle school. She was nervous and so happy to see "a familiar face" that it warmed my heart. Maybe I wouldn't have My Librarian anymore, but My Other Librarian is just as good, although she is not nearly as stereotypical. That's OK. I don't need the comfort quite so much now that I have a full school year under my belt. My Librarian was there when I needed her and now I can be there for My Other Librarian.

This, of course, is a rather lengthy way of saying that I didn't knit today. I should have knit. I have a workshop on Monday and the first half of it will be frightfully boring if I don't get that stupid sock past the heel stage so that there is a bit of mindless knitting for distraction. But I didn't even pick up the needles. Not once.

I was too busy reading The Fire Within and wondering how I might get the condo association to agree to my getting a dragon of my very own. This is what happens when you have your very own librarian. Knitting goes out the window and you start clearing off a shelf for your dragon.

If dragons need socks, then I am in trouble. I wonder if My Other Librarian can recommend a book on dragon care....


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday Can Be Wednesday If I Want

I have no idea what day it is and I don't expect anyone will feel the least bit sorry for me. This is the first full week I've worked since June and I know better than to whine about that. I'll just say that it is very confusing to me and that there is an adjustment process involved.

Last night was Open House at my school. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, the theory is as follows: Parents will enjoy working a full day then going home to scarf down an early dinner so they can be at their kid's school by 6:00 to participate in a simulated student schedule pared down to an hour.

It's not a bad idea. Except for the school at night part. Everyone has a pretty good sense of humor about it, though. We all know that we're doing it for the kids and we paste on matching smiles so that the young folks feel like we are enjoying the whole thing. Every adult in the building, be they parents or teachers, is having a bonding-through-misery experience.

Meanwhile, I missed the Wednesday Night Bullet Post because I was too brain dead after a twelve hour school day to even speak, much less type. I also didn't have a single parent visitor to my classroom so I'd been sitting around playing first person zombie shooter games at taxpayer expense long enough that the very sight of a computer was painful to me.

How about I take advantage of my scheduling confusion and WNBP guilt? I'll just do yesterday's bullets today. That should work, right?

*I brought knitting with me last night.

*Forgot I had it.

*I complained about not having any knitting to several people.

*It was right there. The whole time.

*Today as I was searching the school building for the papers I set down somewhere and forgot about like I do sixty-five billion times a day, I passed through the office.

*The papers weren't there.

*I announced to several people, "I cannot believe that I am allowed out of the house without a helper monkey."

*There was staring.

*I never found my papers.

*Don't even remember what they were now...

*Last night, the Big, Fluffy Kitty was gnawing on something while I was trying to go to sleep.

*It was annoying.

*Tonight, she was gnawing and drooling.

*A lot.

*I wrestled her into submission and opened her mouth.

*Figured there was a crunchy something stuck in the toofs. Maybe a poorly chewed treat that didn't make it down the gullet.

*The BFK has a very fluffy goatee.

*Six inches of it were stuck in her teeth and down her throat.

*I removed it. Sort of.

*It was still attached to her chin. She did not see the need for a haircut of any sort.

*She ran away.

*With the Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty racing alongside her and trying to catch the chin dangles.

*My life is a little surreal sometimes.

*The matter has been dealt with and the BFK is no longer gnawing and dangling.

*The AGK looks despondent over the whole matter.

*Kitty drool...


*I remain obsessed with the panda cam. It's like a sickness.

*Here's one of baby panda from my ever-growing file of screen shots:

You are permitted to make cooing sounds if you so desire, but you might want to save your breath.

*Seriously. I'm giving you fair warning.

*You are about to collapse from the cuteness and I don't want anyone suing me over any resulting contusions.

*I'm not kidding.

*Brace yourselves.

*Take a deep breath.

*Call your insurance carrier if necessary.






Don't say I didn't warn you...

I'll just leave you with that. Hope that this Thursday edition of the Wednesday Night Bullet Post didn't overly tax your relationship to the time/space continuum. Frankly, I thought it was Wednesday all day so it is kind of nice to realize that tomorrow is Friday. And I've managed to solve a few problems before the weekend even starts! The kitty isn't drooling. The other kitty isn't chasing a sodden mass of chin fur that doesn't even belong to him.

And I've spread a little panda love before it completely overwhelmed me. Not bad...


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Retro Text

It's been an odd couple of days at The Learning Factory. Yesterday, two students were out sick and I had to send the Cheerful Teaching Assistant home because no one should ever be out among living people in that condition. Seriously. There was no amount of makeup in the world that was going to conceal the degree to which she was ill. Short-staffed and with a small enough class that two kids out means a significant dent in the learning population, the schedule was highly altered.

Today, the Teaching Assistant From Last Year Who Is Becoming More Cheerful was out sick. One of the sick kids from yesterday was out again and new one followed suit, leaving me in the same situation as yesterday. The schedule and class coverage was adjusted yet again. Plus I had to leave early for a meeting which always turns the day on its head. The fact that no one was there to meet with me when I got to the designated meeting location made things even weirder.

You start anticipating the weird after a while. It takes very little to give you pause. Today, for example, I couldn't help but notice that The Charming Boy Who Gets Away With Way More Than He Should was passing notes to The Boy Who Needs A Nicotine Patch By Noon. It wasn't like they were doing much to hide this fact so noticing it wasn't fancy detective work on my part. As the teacher in this situation, I felt it my duty to deal with this blatant display of non-compliance. It is, after all, a time honored tradition.

Ms. Sheep: Excuse me! Just what do you think you are doing?

(note: this is a stupid question since the deed and intent are obvious, but this is just how we are taught to do it in teacher-school)

Charming Boy Who Gets Away With Way More Than He Should: (still happily jotting notes and sliding them across the table to his peer) We're texting!!!

MS: (losing any kind of grip on her stern expression) Oh. My. God...

CBWGAWWMTHS: You know what, Ms. Sheep? I think we've invented a new way to text!!!! Pretty soon everyone will be doing it this way!

(Ms. Sheep and the Cheerful Teaching Assistant look at each other blankly for a full minute. Both know that this is a moment worthy of commentary, but neither can think of anything that fits. The boys continue "texting" for the remainder of the class period)

Texting. With paper and pencil. I'd laugh, but this means that I'm now old enough for my own schoolgirl behaviors to be coming back into vogue. This makes my head hurt.

I came home and did some knitting while I pedaled the exercise bike and watched Hulu on the laptop. I felt that some good, old fashioned technology was in order at that point. I mean, honestly! What has the world come to with the crazy kids texting in class and using up all the paper in the process?

As if that weren't bad enough, the texting bug seems to have been caught by another in my immediate circle. Abandon your fur babies so you can go back to school when summer vacation ends and there are sure to be repercussions.

I wants mine own phone. I miss mine mama and wants to send her texts allllll day!!!!!

That would be a rousing NO on that one, I'm afraid. I find it hard to believe that he could stay within his minutes and the bill would be insane. Plus, the Big, Fluffy Kitty would want one, too and I don't know if there are any family plans that include cats at this point in time. I would also imagine that they'd be texting me all day, wanting me to settle petty arguments over who gets The Big Cookie Bed or how much is too much when it comes to crunchies. I don't see how this could end well.

Of course, it will take some time before the AGK accepts this answer. I'm going to have to hold firm. You have no idea how far he will go when he really, really wants something. He can put The Charming Boy to shame...



Sunday, September 13, 2009

25% On

I mentioned earlier in the week that I pulled a muscle in my neck. Being as I am a selfless creature who believes that suffering in silence is the more dignified way to live, I didn't dwell upon this matter. I know. I'm a model of sacrifice in a world gone mad with self-indulgence.

This neck issue has continued to plague me for days now. One does not realize how much of a role the neck plays in day to day living until it starts to complain. One cannot turn one's head to see danger coming. Or pastries, for that matter. One cannot sleep on one's left side because that makes the right side hurt. This is a problem if one really, really needs to sleep on the left and will just roll that way anyway once one nods off. Then one gets to wake up more sore than when one started because motor memory doesn't much care about a pain in the neck. One might eventually find a comfortable way to hold one's head, but eventually something will happen that will jar the neck and then it hurts all over again. (Certain Absurdly Gi-normous Kitties and their love of being underfoot being one of those "somethings".)

It is, in short, a stupid way to live. And it makes one look ridiculous so there is little in the way of sympathy from those who have to look at the hunchback in their midst.

It's getting better, though. In fact, I'd say that I am 75% better than I was on Tuesday. I'm grateful for that and take it as a good sign that things are improving, but 25% of ouchiness is still unpleasant.

However, life does go on and this particular Sheepie needed to go to the store this morning to buy eggs. Eggs are an essential part of the morning commuter breakfast and the ones in the fridge passed their optimal freshness date several weeks ago. Pain in the neck or not, the journey was necessary.

And so it was done. While at the store, I happened to pass down an aisle which caused a sudden head-turning reaction. This, of course, also cause a pain reaction but I barely felt it. I was too mesmerized by what lay before me.

All summer merchandise: 75% off!!!!

I have a weakness for percentages off, especially when they are presented on hastily scrawled signs and taped in place. In fact, I sometimes think I spend more on discount merchandise than I would have had I just purchased sensible, necessary things at full price. But still...75% off!

Just as I was beginning to get my neck pain back under control and start thinking more logically about the things I really need as opposed to those I don't no matter what the discount, I heard a gasp to my left. Carefully, I turned to see a woman standing at my side. She looked at me and said in tones both soft and reverent:

75% offfffffff.....

I felt a little bit better. I'm not the only one. In fact, I was the very model of restraint by comparison. While she stocked up on beach chairs, fans and patriotic plates for next summer's Fourth of July Cookout, I merely picked up two items. In her defense, the party they have on the Fourth is also their anniversary and it will be their 25th so I think she deserves to splurge a bit there. I don't begrudge her at all.

And yes. People do have a tendency to share every aspect of their lives with me in the grocery store. If you met me there, you'd do it, too. You'd be powerless to do anything else if my shopping history is any indication.

Summer clearance items don't always make sense as Fall approaches. But, when you come from a family that uses the grill well past the traditional barbecuing season, it doesn't hurt to snag a stocking stuffer or two when the opportunity presents itself. I also purchased a light-up football for the kids in my class to use when they earn free time in the afternoons. Currently, they are using this time to throw rocks at live hornet nests and I think this will be a better choice in the long run. Unless they throw the ball at the hornets, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it...

It was worth the head-turn. Only 25% of the pain and 75% off the merch. Math isn't my strong suit, but I think this one worked out OK. And I left lots of stuff for my fellow bargain hunter to pick from. When I left the aisle, her mother had joined her and they were eagerly pawing over the shelves. They looked very, very happy.

So uplifted was I by this happy and comparatively pain-free turn of events, I even spent some time knitting today. Of course, it was the Invisibility Shawl that caught my eye and I think we all know how the math works out when you factor in things like lace weight yarn and time invested. I don't have 75% of the shawl done. I might be able to stretch things a bit and say I have 25% done...but you'd have to be using very forgiving math to hang your hat with mine on that one. I am just happy to have been able to sit and knit for a while. Between the lack of motivation and The Great Neck Pain Excuse, I haven't been very good about that part of my life lately.

I only wish my weekend wasn't 75% over. I could use the extra time for healing, knitting and scouring the discount aisles...


Saturday, September 12, 2009


Ms. Sheep had a somewhat trying afternoon on Thursday. As a result, she was a bit behind schedule come day's end. She blearily made her way downstairs to the copier where she hoped to get some worksheets ready for the students to refuse to do the next day and she cut through the main office to shorten the trip.

There, she met the secretary who was putting on her coat and saying her good-byes to all and sundry. Ms. Sheep jokingly said, " should go now. I'm going to copy. There will be collating involved."

The secretary, having had many dealings with the copier malfunctions that inevitably follow Ms. Sheep's attempts at collating, quickly suggested that she use the office copier. That one seems more resistant to whatever it is that Ms. Sheep does to make the other one break down. Ms. Sheep always gets to use the office copier. It is a privilege because that one doesn't require a staff code and doesn't keep track of how much paper is being used at taxpayer expense. The secretaries have an odd affection for Ms. Sheep and find her helplessness in certain areas to be kind of charming. Most motherly types do...

She turned the copier back on and instructed Ms. Sheep in how to turn it off again when she was done. "It is simple," she said. "You just hit the User button which brings you to the User Screen. You select the shut-down function and hit "yes" to confirm. That's it! And if you run into trouble, Mr. Principal is right across the hall in Mr. Assistant Principal's office and he can do it for you. Otherwise, just close the door and it will lock up right behind you."

Ms. Sheep repeated the mantra, "User-User-Yes." She confidently assured the secretary that she could handle it from there. And she did. The worksheets were copied, collated and stapled. The User-User-Yes sequence was followed and the deed was done. All Ms. Sheep needed to do was close the door and she was home-free!

Except that she wasn't. As she was exiting the room, Mr. Assistant Principal hailed her heartily from his office.

Mr. Assistant Principal: Bye Ms. Sheep!

(Ms. Sheep prepares to return the farewell, but before she can do so, she is interrupted.)

Mr. Principal: MS. SHEEP!!! DO. NOT. CLOSE. THAT. DOOR!!!!!!!!!!

(Ms. Sheep is startled and can only make noises that do not translate well into print. They are similar to the gobble of a dying turkey. Mr. Principal is a man of many talents, though, and speaks gibberish fluently. He correctly translates her gobbling as, "Of course, Fearless Leader. Your wish is my command. But may I ask why you wish this door to remain open?")

MP: Ms. Sheep. You have NOT shut off the lights. You have NOT shut down the copier.

MAP: (giving the principal a look of infinite patience usually reserved for small children and dogs taking obedience class for the third time) Mr. P, you do realize that the light switch is on the outside of the room, not the inside, right?

MP: Oh. Well, the copier is still on.

MS: (buoyed by MAP's confidence level and now able to find her voice) User-User Yes!!! User-User-Yes!!!!

(Ms. Sheep quickly realizes that regaining the power of speech doesn't mean she has mastered coherence at this time. She extends her index finger and begins helpfully miming button pushing gestures to lend more meaning to her words.)

MP: I take that to mean you shut off the copier.

MS: User-User...I mean Yes! Yes! I shut off the copier just like Ms. Secretary taught me. I think. Let me look...yes! It is off.

MP: I'm so sorry! I thought I heard Ms. Secretary say she wanted me to shut it off. I didn't mean to startle you like that.

MS: No...wait. Let me look again. Yes. It is off. I did it!

MP: Have I not demonstrated adequate contrition here?

MS: No...I mean yes! I'm just doubting myself now...

MAP: Don't worry. I'm keeping track here. (gets paper and pencil from his desk) That would be Ms. Sheep -1 Mr. Principal- 0.

Yesterday was Friday and picture day. As I waited in line for my turn to be immortalized for posterity and my i.d. badge, I made a point of telling Mr. Principal that I'd told Ms. Secretary how he'd yelled at me. I wished him good luck with that and noted that I'm actually more scared of her than I am of him.

"As well you should be, " he said, "As well you should be..."

I was very much ready to be done with this week and to have a little fun-time. Preferably time that didn't require me to remember shut-down sequences or demonstrate extreme bladder control when very loud principals think I am wasting electricity. Fortunately, I had plans to meet up with my sister-in-law so that we could go with Mommy Sheep to The United Maine Craftsman Show this morning. That is much more relaxing than copying stuff as far as I'm concerned and Mommy Sheep also buys me lunch. She doesn't yell at all.

I was much more conservative in my spending this year. It is, after all, a recession. One must balance the need to support local artisans with the ability to keep the lights on. However, I did manage to snag a couple of Christmas gifts and might even remember where I've hidden them come December. I also gifted myself a bit because I deserve it after all my strife and stuff.

I visited with a favorite potter and picked up a very cool garlic bowl just perfect for bread dipping. I also made a point of dropping by Hilltop Handspun so I could squeeze a skein or two. I love the yarns and the vendor is just about the sweetest thing in the world. She would never yell at me for remembering to turn off the copier.

It's kind of a weird day when you spend more for a skein of yarn than for a hand-made bowl, but I don't begrudge the monies. The heart wants what the heart wants and the artist should be paid accordingly.

It was a lovely day. Even better, SIL Sheep bought me fudge. You can go on and on about that time your SIL gave you a kidney, but I got fudge!!! Fudge!!!! I am not hating on the kidneys or anything...but fudge!!!!!!!

Frankly, it's almost like Thursday never happened. Except for the part where Mr. Assistant Principal gave me that extra point and now I'm saving it to cash in later. I remember that quite clearly. Or how the secretary will probably enforce my payback because she thinks I am rather adorable and whatnot. I also remember how to shut off the copier in the office and know that I will be able to recall that piece of information until the day I die.

Otherwise, I'm completely over it. And I have new stuff. And fudge.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

WNBP: I Object!!

Hello, Wednesday! You certainly did come quickly this week, didn't you? That's the nice thing about a holiday weekend. Just when you start getting used to the week, it's almost over! Let's take a look at this Wednesday's bullet points.

*I had a 1:00 meeting this afternoon.

*One of my teaching assistants went home sick.

*Leaving the Cheerful Teaching Assistant to man the fort alone while I went to my meeting.

*I wasn't supposed to be there for long. It was a simple guest appearance. That was it.

*Promises were made.

*I arrived at the meeting to find an attorney in attendance.

*While I wasn't even close to being a participant in this meeting and only there for form's sake, you can't walk out when the lawyers are on the guest list.

*They don't call my teaching assistant "cheerful" for nuthin'. She's a trouper, that one.

*Lawyers are hired to do a job. I like lawyers. They help us.

*I have nothing whatsoever against lawyers.

*It's important to have people who help us interpret the law and to advocate for those who need it.

*This was not a pleasant meeting. I did not know this was going to be the situation.

*The words, "Let me rephrase the question" were used.

*None of us knew there was going to be a lawyer there. We didn't think to bring one of our own. You don't normally need to do that in the course of a normal day.

*I did not like this particular lawyer.

*I kept wanting to shout out, "I object!!"

*But I'm pretty sure that I can't do that.

*I think you need a license to object with any real authority.

*Or be in a courtroom...

*I did not knit today.

*I know that you probably didn't need to know that but I have a rule around this.

*Knitting Blog=Knitting Reference. At least one. Every post.

*It's a rule. So I do it. Even if it's only to say that I didn't knit.

*I don't want to be in contempt of my own blogging court.

*The CTA did not have a very pleasant time while I was in my meeting.

*Still cheerful. It's amazing.

*But it was a limp kind of cheerful. I rescheduled my Friday meeting so she wouldn't be stuck alone again. It was the least I could do.

*The other teaching assistant was sent home by the nurse. Possible flu.

*I bleached her desk.


*Gonna do it again tomorrow.

*I'm torn between hoping she is back tomorrow and praying that she keeps her germs home for one more day.

*Tough call.

*I pulled a neck muscle last night.

*Sleeping. That is just embarrassing.

*And now I can't look to the left.

*Fellow commuters, please take note. Approach from the right. It's for your own good.

*A stiff neck is bad.

*Only having to do cardio today and being able to skip the weights is good.

*I kind of hope that I hurt it again tonight while I'm snoozing.

*Except for the pain part.

*Another tough call...

*The lawyer in my meeting was sitting on my left.

*Eye contact was difficult.

*I don't know if that was a problem since I couldn't really see the reaction.

*My director was on my right and I could see her just fine.

*She looked a little bit sick to her stomach...


So that was Wednesday. I miss the days when I spent my mid-week at the farmer's market instead of in meetings and worrying about my teaching assistant or wondering what was going on to my left. But the meeting/worrying/wondering thing is a paying gig so I guess I'll just have to keep my chin up for the time being.

Or not. That kind of hurts my neck. Maybe I'll just keep my head down and file a motion for a continuance until everything settles down...


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Granting Balance

Anyone who has worked in a non-profit capacity knows all about grants. Grants are free money. All you need to do is have an idea, explain it to the satisfaction of those who have dollars to give and do so more quickly and loudly than all the other people who have also had an idea. Suddenly, you have the means to make your concept a reality! Or you don't. Sometimes it doesn't work out. But that's how you play the game and losing is just a part of it.

My school district loves grants. We often have workshops in how to write bigger and better grants. Grants grease the wheels of learning in my world. We revere the grant writing process and have no qualms whatsoever about writing them for the least little thing.

Sometimes, though, an idea slips through that is just too stupid for words. That or it is so brilliant that I'm a little jealous for not thinking of it myself.

Last spring a real hum-dinger of a grant made it through the gauntlet and monies were released unto us for a rather "interesting" experiment. We were all informed of this miracle in a staff meeting and told to expect a large delivery the next day. Sure enough, the big trucks came and many boxes were dropped off in the lobby. What was in those boxes you ask? Well...let me tell you:

Large, bouncy balls. Lots of them.

You know the kind I mean. They're the really big ones that you find in gyms or the living rooms of certain Sheep who are trying to lose their summer pounds. Sometimes they are called "exercise balls." They are big. They are blue. And now they are all over my school.

With health and fitness becoming more of an issue for young people, one of our teachers decided to try writing a grant which would allow her students to sit on big bouncy balls instead of chairs. Staff could also access these magical spheres should they so desire. The exercise ball has long been used to help strengthen core muscles and even sitting on one is enough to provide a bit more calorie burn. The theory here is sound. And, since there were to be clear classroom rules around their use, I actually think it's a pretty cool idea.

Further, anyone who has worked with younger children who have motor control and distraction issues will probably be familiar with "the wiggle seat." This is a small inflatable disc that goes on the student's chair and which is weighted rather oddly. The child is kept just slightly off-balance and the excess motor movements normally used for fidgeting are channeled towards sitting. It works brilliantly and most kids love them.

With the older kids, I see great potential for the bouncy balls in classrooms. Better increase in core muscle's all good.

Except that now you never know when you are going to turn a corner and find a staff person on a bouncy ball. There is just something about that sight, especially if you are unprepared for it, that seems a little "off." You think you'd get used to it. That you will somehow be better prepared for it after a while.

It doesn't work that way.

To make matters worse, not everyone is necessarily of an age where this sort of thing looks dignified. There are some for whom balance is not a gift and who will need to work a little harder to remain safely centered on their bouncy ball. This can be particularly disturbing if you don't know that they are sitting on a bouncy ball because they happen to be behind a desk.

Take for example a certain teacher we all know. She may go into the Principal's office to discuss with him a rather serious matter and they may be very much engrossed in the details of this troubling situation. Suddenly and without any warning whatsoever, the principal might begin frantically bouncing up and down and rubbery squeaking noises might begin emanating from beneath his desk. There may also be a bit of arm waving involved because middle aged men should really practice sitting on bouncy balls before they try to do it in public or in front of their staff. I might also suggest that a look of panic will cross his countenance as he realizes that he may soon be unseated and that his bouncy ball may roll away.

This, of course, will be too much for the teacher. She will bury her face in her hands and say softly, "I'm sorry. I just can't do this. It's too much..."

Some grants should be written with care and the consequences more carefully considered. If every time someone goes into an office to speak of serious matters there is a big rubber ball involved, the whole educational machine could grind to a halt. Quickly. And with a great deal of squeaking. Education as we know it could become a highly endangered animal and we'll have no one to blame but bouncy balls and grants. And poorly coordinated school administrators.

I'm giving some thought to knitting again someday soon. Maybe even in the near future. It would be nice to return to the blog theme for a bit. But for now, I'm just going to take a minute to recover from the grant writing.

Is it wrong for me to want one of those bouncy balls for my own office?


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Is It Really So Wrong?

As you will probably remember, it was only a couple short weeks ago that the temperature in my living room soared into the nineties. We had a seven day stretch (give or take) of this and it came with a side of unbearable humidity. I'd like to say that I bore up well under this trial by fire and that I presented myself with a gentle dignity so as not to burden others with my suffering.

I know very well that I did not.

I was fussy and grumpy while the heat wave rolled across the state. I drank vast amounts of root beer, burped lustily and wore garments highly unsuitable for a lady of my advanced years. I lolled about on the couch for hours at a time and pointed out to anyone who asked that this was perfectly acceptable given the state of the weather, adding more of the lusty burps for good measure. I cursed the very atmosphere and used real curse words to do it. Not the poetic kind. The truck driver kind. This always adds a certain touch of style to a sweaty, root beer swilling, middle aged woman lolling on the couch in a sweaty tank top, don't you think?

This sort of weather always generates the same conversation when people gather in groups. Inevitably, someone will ask the question: Would you rather be too hot or too cold?

Everyone will then chime in with their favorite form of misery and defend their decision with great fervor. Some think that it is better to be too hot because winter is coming and we should appreciate warmth while we have it. Some would rather be too cold because it is such a simple thing to just throw on a sweater and we are knitters, are we not? I tend to sit outside these conversations. My opinion isn't usually helpful since everyone is taking sides on the weather issue. I can't help to settle any ties on this one. When it comes to extremes, I don't feel like I should have to choose.

I'd rather be comfortable.

I know. I'm no fun. Everyone else is playing the game and I have to go and ruin it by being selfish. I'd hate me too if I weren't so busy trying to find the right climate for myself.

I say all this because I think it will help to clear up some confusion. Surely there will be those who will wonder how I could still be unhappy now that the heat wave has passed. Others, of course, have realized by now that I am a fussy creature at heart and have learned to just nod and smile while I rant. I rant a lot. I am easily driven to rant-state. I am highly rantable.

I do not think it is unreasonable to keep the windows open in early September. In fact, given the recent heat wave, I think it is prudent because you never know when the sun will suddenly decide to turn on us again. Hence, I am somewhat miffed by the fact that the temperatures dropped into the forties last night and that the situation in the living room was venturing towards "arctic" when I got up this morning. (forgetting to turn off the fan in the window was probably a judgement error on my part, but I don't want to talk about that...) I think it is kind of mean of Weather to play such a cruel trick, especially when I have made my position on comfort quite clear.

I stayed chilly for most of the day. During the family cook-out at Mommy and Daddy Sheep's house this afternoon, I bundled myself into a heavy sweatshirt and gave some serious thought to sticking my steak in my pocket to try and get my core temperature back up. (I didn't do that. I just thought about it.) I cursed myself for wearing sandals and kept getting distracted by thoughts of what little body heat I had left oozing out between my toes. Fortunately, the food was amazing so I was able to keep up my strength, but it was a near thing. Why, I barely made it through to dessert and I would have just kicked myself had I frozen to death before getting chocolate cake!

You'd think this sudden turn in temperature would inspire me to knit in defense. I should probably be feeling the need to start cranking out various woolly body coverings before it's too late. But I'm not. I've barely picked up the sticks since the start of school.

Mostly I'm just inspired to huddle. I'm still drinking the root beer and there is an equal amount of lusty burping going on, but at least I'm doing it while decently covered and not in a sweaty tank top. I suppose that is an improvement. However, I still find the whole thing incredibly unfair and I am writing a letter to whomever is in charge of Weather to voice my complaints. It will be a strongly worded letter and I will get to it just as soon as my fingers thaw out enough to type.

It would probably help if I remembered to close the windows. I still haven't done that. But I don't want to get out from under the blanket just yet...


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Summer vs Weekend

Whoops! I lost you there for a couple of days. That wasn't really my intention. I honestly planned on dropping a line somewhere between Thursday and Friday but somehow both of those days slipped by without my remembering that the blog might need some attention.

What can I say? Maybe I was just so overwhelmed by the thought of a four day weekend that I lost all sense of how things should be. It was rather nice of my school district to decide that a two day week was enough of an orientation for the kids. Having yesterday off and knowing that this would be the state of affairs until Tuesday morning was nothing short of a delightful.

It's not like summer vacation, though. During the summer, I tend to think of the weekends as the time when everyone else is home instead of being at work. While it's nice to have a bit of company while I'm out and about, I usually consider it something of a waiting period. I just sit tight until everyone is out of my way so I can move about more freely. It takes a while for me to get past that, I guess. Soon I'll get used to being just a regular weekend person and grateful for the two days where I'm not expected to be at work. That's the way things are supposed to be anyway, right?

Meanwhile, I have not exactly used these weekend days to my advantage. I'm still kind of programmed to wait for everyone to move aside. I haven't knit much of anything since the summer began grinding to an end, nor have I returned to the spinning wheel for more than a minute or so. The carpets still need to be vacuumed and it occurred to me an hour ago that I somehow have to make bread happen before lunch at my parent's tomorrow. If I don't get my act together sometime soon, there will be no lunches for next week, no breakfasts for eating on the commute and I'll be going to work in my pajamas. I've been sitting on the couch in my usual weekend holding pattern and nothing seems to motivate me to land somewhere productive.

It's a long weekend, though. I have time to convince myself that I'm no longer one of the special weekday people and that my summer privileges have been suspended until next June. I'm sure I'll put it together eventually and get back into the swing of the schedule which defines me most of the year.

Meanwhile, the tasks keep piling up. None of them are crucial in the grand scheme of things, but I can't help noticing them. Even if I don't seem all that motivated to do anything about them. For example, someone within my current field of vision is in dire need of a belly brushing. Dire.

I'm not naming names, but it rhymes with Wig Wuffy Witty...

I'm certain that, given the state of her belly right now, she is probably grateful for my lack of motivation. But if she lolls there for much longer, I'm not going to be able to avoid it. Whether it's a summer vacation or simply a plain ol' weekend, some bellies just need to be brushed.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Back To School WNBP

It's hard to believe that a week ago I was writing a Summer Vacation Wednesday Night Bullet Post. Where did it all go? When did those lazy, hazy days slip away?

Oh yeah...that would be yesterday. I remember now.

But a Wednesday is still a Wednesday and that means it is time for the weekly bullet points. If nothing else, getting out of the house to spend time with teenagers is good for a few pithy observations. Here's this week's dose of random:

*I think I've got my morning routine down pat, even after a summer of not having a morning routine.

*It's the evening routine I can't seem to get a handle on. I forget things like putting the coffee on, laying out clothing that is school-friendly or making my lunch.

*This is screwing up an otherwise orderly morning routine.

*Yesterday we had workshops for the adults. Today we had actual students upon whom we could inflict our enthusiasm for education.

*"Inflict" is not an overstatement.

*At least that's what the kids told me.

*As far as First Days go, it was pretty quiet.

*But it isn't a First Day until a 7th grader panics and pukes under a teacher's desk.

*Not mine.

*I don't allow the kids in my office.

*It wasn't the one that belongs to The Teaching Assistant That Came Back From Last Year Just To Torture Me. I could have found some humor in that.

*It was The Cheerful Teaching Assistant's desk. The one who came back to me after a year away and who I missed more than words can begin to express.

*I cleaned it up before she got back from her lunch.

*She has a sensitive nose. Had she gotten a whiff, I would have had lots more tummy tumbles to mop up.

*The Teaching Assistant Who Came Back had hidden the bleach wipes on me.

*She'd probably describe it as "putting away the things certain teachers leave all over the place."

*It's a matter of perspective...

*I hurt my back picking up a pencil today.

*That is a bad sign. I should probably just put in for Workman's Compensation and stay on the couch until retirement.

*I was wiped out when I got home. And my back hurt.

*I did not work out. I am too old to work out.

*I hurt myself lifting a small piece of wood. I shouldn't be doing much of anything, really.

*I should probably spend some time on that sock, though. If I'm not going to work out, I should at least knit.

*The teaching schedule is really different from the summer schedule.

*You may hate your kid's teacher.

*You may even have good reason to hate her. She may be the worst teacher in the world.

*But you have to admire her bladder control. Give her that.

*I miss going to the bathroom when it is time to go.

*Now I go when there is time to go.

*There is a subtle difference between those two statements.

*But it is a significant one.

*On the first day of school, the buses are always wicked screwed up. If something goes wrong with the afternoon routes for the older kids, the little ones don't get dropped off until after dark.

*This causes great angst among the parents.

*The little kids don't care because they have gone to sleep by then.

*But it's bad. So we have early dismissals for the first two days of school to allow for any errors and still get the kindergartners home before breakfast.

*Today's dismissal began at 12:40.

*Tomorrow we will dismiss at 1:30.

*I have Friday off.

*I have Monday off.

*Daddy Sheep refers to this Back-To-School Schedule as "The soft start."

*I tell you this because I think that full disclosure is important.

* I still want lots of sympathy for having to go back to school. I hate being back at school because I am not the type who fears I will become bored upon retirement.

*I feel very strongly that I will handle retirement like a champ. I'm already really good at it.

*But I think it is only fair that you be given the opportunity to keep my sympathy rations in perspective.

*Two short days with kids and a four day weekend.

*You'd have figured it out at some point and I didn't want anyone to be caught by surprise.

*Or hate me for both whining and deceiving you.

*The AGK was in full Needy Mode this morning and the dollar store cat cave was required in order that he be distracted enough to let me out the door.

*But he was much better when I got home today. There was none of the pouting we saw yesterday.

*I think we are going to be OK with the new routine.

*That or he is planning some horrible revenge for my daring to have a life outside of the house...

Happy Wednesday, Folks. Hope yours was a good one. While I do miss the summer vacation days and the restful feeling that comes from being a lady of leisure, I can't help but think that a little structure will be a good thing for all of us.

Except for the vomiting part. I could probably do without that being a regularly scheduled event...