Wednesday, June 26, 2013

WNBP: I Had A Plan. And That Was My First Mistake.

There.  School is finally over for the year and summer vacation is upon me.  We can now look forward to more carefully crafted posts that follow the predictable format.  No more of those random mushy reminiscences about students long gone from my care or quickly dashed notes explaining in excruciating detail all the things I must do as opposed to a proper blog post.

Note:  You've all been very kind in not mentioning the obvious.  The excuse-laden posts were longer than the regular ones I suspect...

So here is your first Wednesday Night Bullet Post of Summer '13.  Grant you, it is as full of excuses and self-absorbed angst as any I've ever written, but I like to think it at least sticks to the general theme of the blog...

*School officially ended for me last Thursday.

*I am losing two of my students:  Little Einstein and Jolly Boy.  They will be traveling up to their new 8th grade classrooms located at the high school.  I will be remaining behind to pick up about forty-seven new kids next September.

*It's been a long two-year journey with these guys.  I am not normally one given to huge displays, but I figured I should give them a farewell befitting the end of out time together.  Nothing fancy, just a few heartfelt words of appreciation for all their hard work and blessings upon their little heads as they continued along the winding road of public education.

*I decided to wait until right before they were dismissed to make sure the whole thing didn't get too mushy.  Teenaged boys do not appreciate mush.

*And then I had to take a phone call from a parent.  This parent is a talker.  And she had some concerns.

*To be fair, her concerns were valid and she had every right to want some reassurances.  Plus, I'm one of the few people who can talk to this particular mother without things getting...heated.

*I'm the Parent Whisperer.

*My lovely planned Bon Voyage to my "graduating" students ended up being no more than me covering the phone long enough to shriek, "Dudes!  That's your bus!!!  Move it or start your summer later than you planned!!!"

*The last I saw of them were the backs of their sweatshirts and the fluttering of the plastic shopping bags I'd handed out so they could bring home all the crap they'd brought in over the course of the school year.

*They made their bus, though.  That was good.  Just not what I'd planned, is all.

*On Father's Day, while we were all at my parent's house, SIL Sheep mentioned that she had no oregano plants.

*Nary a one.

*She did, however, long for the day when oregano plants might grace her garden.

*"Long" might be a strong word here, but I feel that this story works better if she is, for reasons best left unexplored, really desperate for some oregano.

*The next day, a colleague sent out an email saying she had oregano literally taking over her garden and that she was bringing in plants for anyone who might like them.  I emailed back enthusiastically!

*And texted my sister-in-law triumphantly because there is no herbal issue I cannot solve within mere days!!!

*I missed the oregano train.  The plants had found new homes.  However, my colleague had lots more to share and said she would bring me some the following day.

*I returned to my classroom, arms raised in a victory salute and proclaimed myself The Best Sister-In-Law EVER.

*No, seriously.  I said that.  Out loud.

*Here's the thing about saying things where others can read or hear them...

*Emails about free oregano mean that people will assume the plants are there for the taking and won't consider for a second that there is SIL pride on the line here.

*And people who make loud pronouncements about being the best of anything will get quick lessons in that whole Pride Goeth Before A Fall thing.

*I missed the oregano train.  Again.

*Oregano plants became my obsession.  My white whale.  My...I dunno.  Pick your own cliche.  Just know I had to make this thing happen.

*I did, however, turn off my phone for a little while there.  My intent to follow through wasn't exactly backed up with a clear plan of action.  No need to risk sudden calls/texts/emails from the SIL.

*School officially ended for me at 1:00 last Thursday.

*I actually snuck out at 12:45 after throwing boxes of movie candy at the secretaries to cover my tracks.

*When you get fifteen emails about school ending at 1:00 for staff, they probably mean 1:00.

*But I'd run out of things to do and I needed to clean out the Student Bribes drawer anyway.

*Besides, I was really tired.  Crazily tired.  And I needed to buy oregano plants.

*I drove by three garden centers on the way home.  I was too tired to process the steps necessary for stopping somewhere other than my own driveway.

*It was only Thursday.  Vacation was upon me.  There was all the time in the world.

*I arrived home to find that it had warned up enough for the window fan to kick on.  And it surely must have blown in a goodly amount of pollen because I suddenly felt the urge to sneeze until my head popped off.

*I should probably have done a little dusting.  Maybe run the vacuum a bit.  That could have cut a swath through the yellow haze.  But I didn't.

*"First things first," I thought.  "A nice, relaxing late lunch on a Thursday that doesn't involve answering the questions of children.  And then, I believe, a nap!"

*So that's what I did.  And I sneezed a couple more times before nodding off, but that's a small price to pay for napping midday on a Thursday.

*I woke up sick.  Full on, shivering, hacking, coughing, sneezing sick.  I gamely kept trying to blame the pollen.  I am nothing if not hopeful in the face of disaster.

*Two hours into vacation and I was sick.  It's a new record.

*I did not go oregano shopping on Friday.  I barely made it to the grocery store to replenish my tissue supply.

*I did go on Saturday, though.  I was eventually going to have to turn my phone back on, after all.

*It took me until Tuesday to actually deliver the foolish plants but, by God, there is now oregano at my SIL's house.

*I'm sort of demoted to Not Quite The Greatest SIL In The World, but I am pretty sure I got some bonus points for going out whilst sick.

*And, in case anyone is wondering, I've been sick for almost a week now.  I'm not exactly sure of the time frame because the days are blurring a bit.  I can't sleep very well because lying down causes coughing fits that wake the entire neighborhood and cause local canines to chew through their leashes in order to find the interloper infringing upon their territory.

*But I think it's been about a week...

*I'm better, though.  Much better than I was a few days ago.  I even managed to sleep a few hours last night so I have hope I might actually start enjoying summer vacation soon.

*It doesn't feel like vacation.  It feels like sick days...

*In light of my sickly state and the horrible twists of fate that were smacking me upside the head with alarming regularity, I decided I deserved a new release book instead of something from the bargain bin like I'd been planning.

*Deeply Odd (Odd Thomas) sports a price tag in the double digits.  I generally do not purchase ebooks for that amount.

*But Odd Thomas is one of my all-time favorite characters and I love the series.  

*The latter books don't have the same emotional impact for me as the first three did.  

*The first actually brought a tear to my jaded eyes...

*But I see the series coming to something big, something that might even encompass a few other books that Mr. Koontz has written.  In fact, it kind of already has...

*And I just love the way Odd talks.  I could listen to him ramble for days and days.

*Except he probably wouldn't have time what with everyone trying to kill him all the the livelong day and whatnot...

Yes, it has been an "interesting" finish to the school year and start of summer vacation.  On the plus side, all that coughing has been quite the ab workout.  Perhaps, if I ever recover, I can produce a fitness DVD called, "The Lungbuster: Swimsuit Ready In Just Seven Days Of Non-Stop Hacking!"

Or maybe I'll write a best-selling self-help novel entitled Be The Oregano: Your Inner Journey To Inflated Self-Esteem.

Failing any of that, one good night's sleep would also be kind of nice.

The sky's the limit, right?  It is summer vacation and I could do any of those things.  The trick, I think, is to not plan on doing them...


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

WNBP: I'll Be Brief.

I just don't have it in me tonight.  Let me give you the highlights and you will understand:

*Today was the second-to-last day of school.

*It was also Field Day.

*Field Day, for those of you who home schooled your children, chose to not procreate or have managed to blank out the days when your own offspring were students, is an event where everyone has to go outside and act like they are enjoying their second-to-last-day together.

*This, at least in our case, was followed by a school cook out and an assembly called Minute To Win It.  The latter involved pitting nominated champions against one another in pitched combat.

*If you can call bean bag tossing and wearing a tennis ball in a nylon stocking in order that one might knock over water bottles like a drunken elephant "pitched combat."

*I will probably have nightmares tonight, filled with visions of middle schoolers shaking their booties frantically in order to be the first to expel ping pong balls from the tissue boxes strapped to their lower backs...

*And yes.  It looked exactly like what you are thinking it looked like.

*Pre-teens pooping ping pong balls.

*To an MC Hammer soundtrack.

*And no.  I am not making that up.

*Tomorrow is the last day of school.  It is also the day when we have to celebrate the last three classroom birthdays.  This is a lot of birthdays, at least by our standards.

*Standards which traditionally include allowing the birthday boy/girl to choose their celebratory treat.

*It is taking the entire classroom staff to put this together.  It's just too much for one person.

*Especially when one of those persons is also responsible for supervising Field Day, getting grades posted, packing up the room before the forced budgetary, week long closure of the building and mailing progress reports that haven't exactly been written yet.

*Hence, I was slogging through the frozen food department this afternoon, stinking of Field Day and desperately trying to find a big enough cheesecake, when I really just wanted to go home and shower.

*An hour ago I found my cat eating baking soda.

As you can see, I am fairly well done in at this point.  I'll see about posting something later, perhaps after the last-actually-last-day of school.  Maybe by then I shall have something remotely resembling energy.

Or, at the very least, that damn MC Hammer song out of my head...


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WNBP: One From The Archives! And I Am Most Definitely NOT Crying.

I'm going to divert from the format again tonight.  I can do that.  It's my blog.  I make the rules here, darn it!

Besides, it's good to shake things up every now and again.  Keeps me on my toes and all that.  So here is a Not So Much With The Bullet Points Post and a promise to return to my random blatherings in short order.

I received an email from The Cheerful Teaching Assistant last week.  She informed me that, while wandering the halls and trying to find a clear route through all the seniors lined up and attempting to do a serious version of marching practice, she happened to see a familiar face.  A very proud face.  And once she saw it, she took a moment to blubber quietly in some private corner of the high school and then inform me of the sight so I could tear up a bit myself.

I didn't outright blubber.  Let's be clear on that right now.  I may have gotten a bit misty, but I'm not all pregnant and hormonal like the CTA.  I've got some control going on over here.

Some of you might remember the owner of that face.  I've mentioned him once or twice over the years. He went through a couple of incarnations name-wise due to the fact that I first met him at the half-way mark of his sixth grade year, then didn't see him again for a brief period.  In the end, though, I settled on something like The Boy With The Bottomless Gym Bag.  It fit.  I've rarely seen a more random collection of objects make their way into a school building and to this day I don't know how he managed that particular form of magic.  It wasn't a particularly large bag.

I know I've told a few tales about him.  He was the one who, as a mere sixth grader, had the audacity to speak in dictatorial tones to me while I began the process of moving items to the new classroom I'd been assigned to the following year.

  "Put that down," he demanded.  "You are sick.  I can hear you coughing all the way down the hall and I know you have pneumonia because I heard you telling the other teachers so don't even bother lying about it.  I'm taking care of this.  It's what I do.  You go sit somewhere. are as bad as my mother with this stuff!"

And that was that.  He rallied the other students and had the classroom packed, moved and almost organized before I could work up enough breath to say something about how I wasn't sure we were insured for this kind of child labor.

I remembered that kindness when I was moved up to the middle school to take over his classroom.  It's a good thing, too.  His 7th grade year was an unqualified and oft-mentioned disaster.  So much so that, by the time I arrived, he was being afforded the privilege of repeating it.  But, what can I say?  I liked the kid.  Who doesn't have some affection for a boy who forces you into a seat when you really need to be sitting but won't admit it?

Some of you might recall him now.  You may remember me telling of the time he found a doll head in his bottomless gym bag.  He hadn't the foggiest notion how it got there, but it delighted him all the same.  He tied a string to it and swung it around faster and faster until it made a whistling sound.  He's also the kid who came to school with food poisoning after a massive storm knocked out power in his town for a week.  He was shooting for perfect attendance that year and needed to make it to noon before the day counted.  I've never seen skin quite that shade of gray, but we stuck it out with him.  And he made it.

I'm positive I wrote about the time he stopped on his way out the door one warm Friday afternoon and said, "Ms. Sheep?  I know you don't have kids or anything like that.  But I still think you deserve to have a Happy Mother's Day, OK?"

There were oodles of good stories I told about TBWTBGB.  But there were lots I never shared because it somehow felt disrespectful.  Downright wrong, even.  Everyone deserves to have a protector, even if it's just about holding back a few details.

For example, I may have shared with you the day we spent trying to not talk about anything food related while he battled power-outage induced nausea.  But I don't think I ever told you about how, in addition to getting sick, he'd also been up several nights in a row with a baseball bat in hand.  He'd been protecting his sister's room after people tried to break in during those extra dark nights.

I am certain I never shared the other half of the story about that gym bag.  Some of the things he brought to school in that ever-expanding marvel of modern stitchery were personal possessions he sold to other kids in order to bring in a little more money.  Sometimes I think it was to pay for his lunch.  That was the year they made some pretty drastic changes to the free/reduced lunch policy and his family just didn't have it.  He never told me and I never asked.  But I am almost positive that is where some of those random bagged items went.

I'll bet you a million dollars right now that I didn't tell you about that time with his Dad and how he hated having to get physical but what else can you do when someone is so drunk he isn't safe?  He only shared that one incident with me.  There were others, though.  I know that.  Not "think."  Not "suspect."  I know.

There was really no way to accurately describe the look of stunned disbelief on his face when we told him that the assistant principal had made a phone call home on his behalf and convinced his mother that his efforts this year should allow him to move up as a freshman as opposed to staying at the middle school for another year.   When it finally hit home that his retention was officially rescinded, I don't think I've ever seen a boy smile so broadly.

Perhaps I mentioned that he visited us last year on a humid, rainy day.  But I didn't tell you that he was stopping by after walking fifteen miles from his older brother's place.  He'd been kicked out of his house and, because he was now living out of district, the buses couldn't come get him.  But he thought he could still make his last two classes and he really wanted to keep up his attendance if he could.

Our high school graduation was last weekend.  Prior to that, they held Convocation.  I know he was there because The Organized Teaching Assistant was present to witness her own son's pre-graduation ceremony and she saw him.  There were a lot of kids, though and it was sort of hard to pick him out of the crowd. They all dress alike for these sorts of things, you see.  In addition, there is a tradition at the end of this event where the seniors leave the stage to go give a carnation to someone who helped them through their high school years.  The idea is to remember to thank those individuals and I would imagine there is a bit of chaos at that point.  The OTA was thrilled to see her son bearing down upon her, carnation in hand.  She lost track of TBWTBGB.  She was pretty sure his mother was there, though and that he thanked her.  That is good. I like to think that there is still hope for them since I actually rather liked his mother and when you think about it, how bad could she be?  She raised a pretty decent kid, after all.

When the OTA turned around to go back to her seat, she realized there was someone next to her.  She looked up and there he was.  Still beaming, just like the CTA described and looking as proud as she'd ever seen him in his maroon cap and gown.  She was thrilled that he stopped by to say hello before leaving.  But he wasn't really there to say hello.

He was there to thank her.

I don't think he knew she would be there nor do I think it was a planned thing.  I believe he caught sight of her and wanted to make sure he said the words.  This, of course made her cry and when she passed on those thanks to me the following day, she was still a little misty.

Again, I did not cry.  I will admit to the room suddenly getting a little sparkly and having to wave my hands frantically in front of my face for a minute, but I did not cry.  I am not a mother getting ready to watch her son graduate from high school any more than I am a hormonally charged pregnant lady.  I've got a firm grip on my tear ducts and don't you forget it.  

Just a little soggy around the edges of my eyes.  That's all.  Frankly, I am beginning to think that everyone is just trying to see if they can make me weep.  But I won't.  I've got it all under control.

It is maybe just a teeny bit hard to see the screen right now, but that is probably just allergies.  No, I am not one given to overt displays of emotion.  I'm just the lady who somehow finds the time to teach in between dodging whizzing doll heads and trying to ignore the storefront lurking inside a gym bag because sometimes a little dignity is all you can give a kid.  Trust me on that one.

I will say this, though.  Most of the time, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it ain't a peacock.  And, sadly, sometimes the kid who looks like a thug and acts like a thug is truly no more than that.  Other times, however, there is more to that story.

And I'm glad I got to be a part of this one.


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

WNBP: Timely Thoughts, Musings And Other Assorted Diversions

April vacation really snuck up on me this year.  Seriously.  One minute I was mourning the end of February break and suddenly...BAM!  March had stomped all over me and I was gifted with a spring break in which to recover.

I've already mentioned my whole What The Heck Do You Mean It's May Already!? drama so I don't think I need to go over that again.  Suffice it to say, I needed some adjustment time before I got my head around May showing up again all fresh and springy when I was still trying to find the mitten I lost back in November.

Now they tell me it is June.  In fact, it is June 'n Then Some.  I probably could have figured it out by the sudden number of middle school girls flaunting tank tops that their mothers clearly didn't approve before they left the house that morning.  That way I would have had a little time to digest it.

Instead, I get hit full in the face with June and the fact that I suddenly have so very much to do and a classroom full of kids who want nothing more than to find creative ways of preventing me from accomplishing much beyond screaming insightful things like, "For the billionth time, I'm telling you to STOP LOOKING AT HIM!!!!"

I know I whine about time a lot, but its rampant and completely inconsiderate progress just burns me up sometimes....

Here's your bullet points for this week.  Rest assured, the I Am So Totally Not A Time Lord theme will prevail.

*Today was Wednesday.  I've mentioned Wednesday to you before.  I like Wednesday.

*It's the day when I can stop for gas on the way to school without worrying that I will arrive to find kids milling around outside my classroom waiting for me to unlock it so the ritual taking of attendance can begin.

*Instead, I arrive just in time for the first meeting of the day.  Or, if I've pumped my gas efficiently, I can make another cup of coffee before going to the meeting.

*Sometimes I even have time to answer an email or two.  Perhaps say a heartfelt, "good mornin' to ya" whenever I pass an equally relaxed colleague.

*Wednesday is memorable.

*So why did I tell no fewer than three people that it was Thursday?  Insist that it was Thursday, actually...

*It was not Thursday.

*The kids were treated to an assembly today.  The band played.  The chorus sang.  They were pretty good from what I could hear.

*I opted to remain in my classroom with a few of the kids that I knew wouldn't fare well no matter how fine the tunes.

*No assembly should last for two hours.  There is nothing so interesting that a two hour assembly is warranted.  At least nothing that should be done in a school building.

*On the up side, we didn't have the first two academic blocks of the day due to all the music and moving from point A to point B so that cleared up my morning rather nicely.

*And the Fearsome Foursome I kept with me weren't missed at the group gathering one little bit.  In fact, I looked like kind of a hero for taking that little bit of potential mayhem out of the equation.

*Note:  I will happily look like a hero if it involves little work on my part.  The Fearsome Foursome isn't really so scary if you bribe them with shorter math assignments and computer games.

*I realized something today.

*If I can survive the next couple of weeks plus a few days without getting struck by lightening, winning the lottery or falling into a time vortex, I will be able to legitimately say I have taught for a quarter century.

*However, I'm not sure if that is something to ever say out loud, legitimately or otherwise.

*I suppose it means I might be somewhat closer to retirement, but that situation seems to be spiraling out of control enough that I doubt it.

*At this rate, I will be teaching long enough for cybernetic replacement parts to become readily available to the general public.  I will be a rattling collection of loosely matched budget limbs because that is all my insurance will cover.

*I'll be the teacher of the future, complete with a defrost setting and handy cup holder.

*I was absent from school on Monday.  I'd been putting off this doctor's appointment for over a month and really couldn't ignore it any longer.

*For the record, when you have to put off doctor's appointments in order to ensure classroom coverage because other people are absent a lot, you don't feel one bit guilty about taking the time off.

*Even if you also decided to call in "sick" last Thursday because you were so tired you couldn't see straight and utterly out of patience with anyone under the age of fifteen.

*It doesn't bother you one little bit.  

*The nurse approved my blood pressure and pulse rate then praised the loss of those extra pounds that crept up over the past couple of years.

*"That isn't possible," I said flatly.  "I am currently living on candy and gum. The cheap kind. Except for the holiday weekend and then I lived on meat and fried things.  What you should be checking me for is scurvy."

*They don't run that test routinely, but she said she'd look into it.  I don't think she will, though...

*It was 90 degrees over the weekend.  None of us were really prepared for that.

*We all walked around sweaty and confused, wondering why we were so hot.  

*Then, a few days later, they were putting up frost warnings.

*So we all walked around in shorts and tube tops, shivering and wondering why the weather gods were hating on us.

*As you might suspect from the overall tone of this post, I did not have the fans out.  Nor were my summer clothes unpacked.

*In fact, I was short one fan due to my having taken it to school in order that I might combat The Heating System From Hell That Roasted Us Like Chestnuts All Winter Long.

*I had to go buy a new fan when I was out so desperately "sick" last Thursday.

*By Monday, I really didn't need my new fan.  But I did catch on to the way things were going enough to go sandal shopping once I left the doctor's office.

*My absence on Monday was planned well in advance.  I left written directions for my substitute.

*The plan for English/Language Arts read, in part, as follows:

Next, you should tell the class that I will be giving them the due dates for their written reports this week.  They will look at you blankly and say, "what reports?"  Please feel free to roll your eyes on my behalf and let them know I will repeat the entire set of directions regarding this assignment  (the ones I gave them two weeks ago)  upon my return.

*Sadly, they were unable to procure a sub for me so I doubt if anyone read that.  I thought it was pretty good...

*One of the best things about going to the family cookout over the long weekend was chatting with my cousin and learning the dishwasher thing is not my fault.

*Apparently, I am genetically predisposed to vehemently dislike emptying the dishwasher.

*I ran the dishwasher on Monday.  My sink is full of dirty dishes that would like to enter the box 'o cleanliness.

*Someday they will get their wish.  For now, they can just gaze enviously at the the steel door and wonder what it's like to be the clean dishes that live behind it.

*My hair is wet.  And doing strange things.  My hair takes time to tame.  

*I can either get up at 3:00 in the morning or deal with the worst of it at night.

*I choose the latter.

*Much to the chagrin of the World's Greatest Stylist And Life Coach who wants nothing more than to hack it all off into something more manageable.

*Frankly, shorter doesn't always mean more manageable.  Especially if you were blessed with eight billion cowlicks.

*But I imagine it might dry a little faster...

*Last year  TWGSALC and I made plans for a day out once school was finished.  It was fun.

*And it feels like it was literally a week and a half ago.

*Now we have plans to go do it again and I still haven't rested up from the last one!

Since the doctor told me I have to eat something besides gum and the stylist told me I have to be kinder to my hair, I suppose I should be looking into one or both of those things.  It is already 7:30 and I can't even begin to understand how we went from 4:00 to 7:30 in fifteen minutes, but there you go. I'll update you on the reading situation next week. Perhaps I'll have more time then.  It seems unlikely, but a girl can wish.

If you need me, I'll just be over here trying to close up my classroom and figure out where I left my comfy sandals.  I hear July is lurking somewhere out there and I'd like to be ready for it...