Friday, February 29, 2008
Today the packages arrived. The contents of each package would make anyone think we strictly ate meat. Each huge Styrofoam cooler contained boxes of steaks, chicken breasts, stuffed sole, pork chops, hot dogs, and burgers. Oh, and twice baked potatoes too. (I guess it wasn't all meat after all.) We had to rearrange our freezer, since it wasn't long ago that we stocked up on meat from Sam's Club. Seriously, we are set with meat for the next few months. At least.
The weatherman said on the news today that spring is coming in three weeks. While I take that prediction with a grain of salt, it sure would be nice if it was warm enough to grill some of this meat. Right now we would have to wade through snow drifts to get to the grill.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I'm just mad about it. I really wanted to be productive this week and get a lot done at school and at home. This throws a big 'ol wrench into my plans. I'm going into school today, but don't know how long I'll last. I know I'll probably need to come home for a nap this afternoon. That's the one thing that makes me mad about colds. Missed sleep. I do take night time cold medicine, but a lot of times it just puts me in a funky state of fake sleep.
The only consolation on this day where my head feels like it's going to explode and my nose is red and chapped? The sun is shining.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
I feel a lot better this week, now that I have time to put it in perspective. I know everything is going to work out. I know that everything will be fine in the end. I have to keep pushing through. I need to think about the kids and their futures. As Rafe Esquith said yesterday at his book signing, "You have to think about giving these kids the skills they will need in five years, or ten years." That is my goal for the remaining months I'm with these kids. I owe them this.
I want to give a huge thank you to all of you that have given me words of wisdom and encouragement as I have ventured out on this new road. Whether it's been in the comments on this blog, emails, or phone calls, I appreciate you reaching out. This has been a big challenge for me, but knowing there are people out there who are thinking about me makes it that much easier. Two people in particular have been extra special in the kindness department:
Stein. He's the one who has to deal with my tears, fears, and psycho babble at the end of a long day. He gently gives me advice or feedback. He's the one who wakes me up on the couch in the morning after a night of insomnia. He's the one who makes dinner for me when all I can do at night sometimes is stare at the TV. He does this all without me asking. He knows me. He supports me. He's wonderful.
Mickey. Almost everyday I get an email from her checking in on me. When I get a spare moment during the day, it's so comforting to see her email in my inbox. She gets the whole teaching thing. She also gets being in a new position for the first time and all the challenges involved. She lets me babble to her on the phone. She listens. Intently. She offers advice when necessary or appropriate. And like a big sister and a best friend, she wants me to succeed, no matter what.
This week as I have more time, I am thinking about all of you. And I am thankful you are in my life.
Mickey even asked if we were going to watch them when we talked earlier in the evening. "Sure," I said. "We'll probably have them on. But I don't know how long I'll be able to last." It wasn't a matter of lasting. We just forgot. I blame this:
These are the (remaining) enchiladas that Stein made for dinner. I posted this recipe before, but it's worth posting it again. Yum.
So after partaking in this wonderful meal, I was in a food coma. I didn't care what was on TV, in fact I didn't care that the TV was on at all. Stein didn't either. We both woke up on the couch at about 10:00 and went to bed.
This morning, as I was watching the Today show, they did a recap of the winners. I realized we missed it. I couldn't believe it.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I picked up the book last week in a desperate attempt to get all the information I could before continuing with my long-term sub job. I was impressed, to say the least, and read the book in a day.
Hobart School where he teaches has 92% of the students living under the poverty level. Most of them speak English as a second language. Rafe's students come to class voluntarily at 6:30 every morning. Many of them don't leave until 4 or 5 at night. They are involved in performing Shakespeare, and participate in the school orchestra.
He also brings his students on his book tour. Today he spoke briefly about his book and his philosophy, and then the kids performed some Shakespeare. In fact, he has traveled around the country and the world with his students. They are the Hobart Shakespeareans. They're amazing.
I thought about the similarities between my class and his class. I thought about how I could incorporate some of his ideas into my classroom. He said one thing that I think is so true: bring yourself into the class. He said if you like to cook, then cook with your class. If you like sports, bring it in. His passions are baseball, music (rock), and Shakespeare. He brings all three into his class.
When I got my book signed at the end of his talk, I told him that I was also teaching fifth grade. He handed me his card and said, "Call me when you're having a bad day... Or a good day." He mentioned that he does answer the phone, and if you leave a message, he will call back. The kids also signed my book. As the last one signed his name and handed me the book, he said, "Thanks so much for coming to see us." He embodied the motto of Rafe's classroom: Be Nice. Work Hard.
Needless to say, I was inspired by Rafe, his philosophy, and his rapport with his kids. I just wonder when the guy sleeps.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
What Would Yoda Do?
Republicans for Voldemort
Remember... Pillage First, Then Burn
I'm not a bumper sticker person myself. But I do try to speculate what the people are like based on their bumper stickers. Here in Ann Arbor you see a lot of political, social or environmental based bumper stickers. The people in those cars are pretty easy to figure out. Same with the guy who was driving the car with the bumper stickers I mentioned. Star Wars and Harry Potter references? I had him pegged.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
I had some fun things planned, and hoped that the kids thought they were fun too. I have been planning to use the Iditarod (Yes, Karen!) as a learning tool. I can incorporate reading, math and a little geography into it. The race starts next Saturday (3/1), so I figured I would get the kids ready for it by showing them the website. When I went to plug the laptop into the projector, I realized that it hadn't been used in a while. The dust that covered it was unbelievable. (Add the Swiffer Duster to the list of supplies I have going... ) My thoughts were validated suddenly when the kids were mesmerized by my use of technology. How sad that the former teacher didn't use the technology available. My pity for these kids continues.
Next I read a book that my Mom bought for me when she was in Alaska this past fall. It's called Granite, and it is about a musher in the Iditarod named Susan Butcher and her best lead dog. I read the book to the kids without showing them the pictures to explain the concept of visualizing. They really got into it. We were actually having a conversation. I did have to stop several times to ask kids to be quiet, but for the most part, they were great.
I felt good. I also realized that these kids need so much. They need structure first of all, but they also need variety, technology, movement, and challenges. After the lesson went well, I felt up to the task of trying to give them what they need.
When I told my teaching partner Laura (the other 5th grade teacher) about it, she said, "You actually taught this morning." Yes, I did. And it felt great. I am hooked once again.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I know I have instantly become the bad guy, and to be honest, I don't mind. The kids are stuck in a tough place. They are coming from a place of no structure, being "taught" by a teacher who sat at his desk all day. I am enforcing/creating rules, which most often are accompanied by a snare in my general direction. My friend Regina had some great ideas for me when we had coffee together yesterday. She also told me to have pity on the kids, which would help me put things in perspective. I do have pity on them, and I am also mad at their former teacher for letting them get to this point.
I guess I don't remember much about fifth grade. I certainly don't remember having this much hutzpah at this age. I don't remember that defiance was okay, or even a given. I don't remember talking incessantly when another person (teacher or classmate) was speaking. I don't remember acting like a kindergartner in fifth grade skin.
Yesterday I intercepted notes that were passed back and forth by 4 girls who were supposed to be silent reading. They contained awful words about other classmates. When I mentioned it to my principal today, she said to make copies of the notes, staple them in their planners, and leave a message at each one of their houses. I did what the boss told me. Then I called up each of the four girls and told them what I had done. (You know, I thought my divas were bad in 4th grade. That was nothing.)
Each one of them came up sheepishly and looked at me with deer-in-the-headlights eyes. Except for the girl with attitude who tried to convince me that "it wasn't her writing". Where my next line came from, I don't know, but I said, "Well, then you can explain that to your Mom." (I didn't think "save the drama for the mama" would suffice here.)
As if that wasn't enough, yesterday I also realized that one of my students went into my desk to retrieve something that I had taken away earlier in the day. Although the desk hasn't become "mine" yet, I still consider it off-limits by the students. I mean, I don't go into their stuff without asking. ("You toucha my stuff, I breaka your face" just came to mind.) Those boys were asked to see the principal first thing this morning. She set out to scare them a little. It worked for about 3 hours.
It's too early to tell, but I don't know what these kids really need. No reprimand affects them. Take away recess? They don't flinch. Call their house? Go ahead. I need to build community, all my mentors tell me. I'm trying. Two feet forward, ten feet back, you know? Good thing we're studying negative numbers right now.
I am looking forward to Friday. If I can make it until then, I will then have a week off to regroup, recoup, and plan. I can't wait. We all need it.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I love Easter candy. I even forgo my usual "wait until it's the actual season" mantra when it comes to Easter candy. In fact, Stein bought this egg for me before Valentine's Day. He knows me too well. Even though Reese's makes similar candies for other holidays, their Easter eggs are my favorites.
I think it all goes back to Easter mornings when I was little. Since Easter isn't an occassion for gift giving, my parents made up for it in candy. Malted milk balls and M&M's coated with pastel candy shells, jelly beans, and Reese's eggs. Before breakfast we would search for our baskets and the hard boiled colored eggs that the Easter bunny had hidden.
Then we would tear into the candy. It was like the scene from Willy Wonka where they first go into the factory and see the magical, candy filled room. We would gorge ourselves on candy, forgetting about the inevitable sugar high and low that was going to follow. After that, breakfast was pretty much out of the question.
Easter is about a month away. Until then, I will be practicing for that morning with a Reese's egg every now and then. Everything in moderation, right?
Saturday, February 16, 2008
The kids still don't know that I'm going to be there for an extended time. They are asking questions about their teacher. I think the principal is going to tell them next week. Until then, I am being treated like a sub.
Unfortunately the teacher didn't really have any structure in place. I don't know if this was a case of him giving up, knowing he wouldn't be back, or what. So not only am I dealing with the sub stigma, but I am dealing with putting structure into a place where it was nonexistent. Not a winning combination, for sure.
I am excited and nervous about it. I am looking forward to planning and teaching, and getting to know these kids. They are all really bright, so I have that going for me. Now it's just a matter of using structure to get more learning accomplished.
I have already tapped into my resources, and will continue to do so. My teacher-friends, Mickey, Linda (my cooperating teacher from student teaching), Matt (the other 4th grade teacher), and the support people at school have all been great.
My confidence is a little shakey as I start this adventure. But I know that this is a great learning experience, and my confidence will hopefully strengthen as I go.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I'm still trying to get a picture uploaded, but I've given up for the moment. In the meantime, I'll gush a little about the boy.
Stein and I met almost 10 years ago in Chicago. (Wow, has it really been that long?) We had mutual friends and went out to watch a Bulls playoff game with the whole group. After several failed attempts to get together following that night, we finally went out. From day one it has been such a fun ride. One of our favorite wishes of all our wedding "autographs" (we had people sign a picture mat instead of a wedding book) is "Happy Days, Darlings!". It couldn't be more appropriate. I have experienced so many happy moments in the time I've known Stein. Big things like our wedding or the times we were lucky to go to Hawaii. Or little things like discovering a hidden gem of a restaurant or watching a favorite TV show together. Whatever, wherever, I'm so glad that he's by my side to share in it.
Stein was almost born on Valentine's Day, and it would've been so appropriate if he had. He is such a generous, caring person. I told his Mom once that he makes me a better person. It's so true. He is willing to help out anyone who asks. From helping friends with house projects, to watching nieces and nephews at a moments notice, he's there. He seeks out opportunities to help people too. About a month ago when we had a big snow here, he shoveled our walk and driveway and then walked 4 blocks over to our brother and sister-n-law's house to see if anyone needed help over there. (And he does love shoveling, by the way. No joke.)
So here's to you, Stein. I hope you have a wonderful day today. May the year ahead be filled with all good things, especially laughter and love.
Monday, February 11, 2008
The next day I went into the school and the principal talked to me. She said that the 5th grade is a difficult class, but she knows that they really need structure, and knows that I can give them the structure they need. I thought it was a nice compliment, but also thought maybe it was a way to get me to accept the job? Who knows. I told her I would take it.
I talked to Matt and Linda later that day and told them what the principal had said. Matt said that the class was one of his favorite classes, and he couldn't understand why their behavior has been so bad. He thought that with the proper structure, they would be fine.
After school on Friday I met with the teacher who was going on leave. He showed me around his room and explained some of the procedures for the classroom. I was able to get a bit of an idea about how things worked in his class. What I failed to realize, was that this was going to be the last time that I would see him before I started. He wanted me to sub the following Monday (today) and then I would start two days later.
I subbed today for him. Just as with any sub job, I was tested from the minute the kids got to the classroom. I didn't notice the seating chart (did he show that to me on Friday?) until the end of the day, and assumed that all the kids would be sitting in their appropriate seats. I should've known. Kids will be kids - and 5th graders live for getting away with stuff. I reached a level of frustration today that I haven't experienced since student teaching. I began to doubt myself and my abilities. I began to think maybe this long-term sub thing wasn't for me. When I talked to the principal at lunch time, she said, "You can always reconsider if you want." I was tempted.
Then, in the afternoon, when I had the other 5th grade class for their math lesson, things went a little better. I regained my confidence and thought back to my mantra, "I can do this for 6 weeks." I spoke with the reading specialist and she pumped up the whole thing by saying, "Just think of the difference you can make with this class." I thought about all the other "advisors" I have in my back pocket. My student teaching advisor, a former teacher, teacher friends, Mickey, my Mom, etc. I thought about all the encouraging things that these people have said already. They have confidence in me. I need to remember this when the going gets rough. I know that it is going to get tougher before it gets easier. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It's in six weeks, and it's called spring break.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
This past week I subbed in Chelsea. Most of you know that Stein grew up in Chelsea. It's a small town, and since his parents, siblings, niece and nephews were (and are) so involved in so many different sports and activities, when you say the name Steinhauer, most people know someone in the family.
When I subbed at the middle school, one of the teachers said to me, "You're not related to the Steinhauers we have here, are you?" I said, "Yes, I'm their aunt." Then I went to the elementary school in the afternoon. When I introduced myself to the kindergarten teacher in the room, she said, "Which Steinhauer are you married to?" When I told her David, she said, "Oh yeah, I grew up down the street." It turns out that she was on the same bus route. The next day, I was subbing in Ann Arbor, and was talking to the teacher in the room where I was. I was telling her that I subbed in Chelsea the day before. She asked me who I subbed for, and when I told her, she said, "My daughter was in that class last year." Then I told her that my husband grew up there. When I told her his name, she said, "Oh yeah, I graduated with him."
The whole concept is so foreign to me. Growing up in Chicago, you didn't know too many people outside of your neighborhood. There was a sense of anonymity pretty much everywhere you went. It may sound weird, but I liked this feeling. It was like anywhere you went, you had a new beginning. No one knew your business, where you came from, or what you did when you were five. That's why this whole small-town feeling is so weird to me. Even though I have married into the family, I am still connected to them with the last name. I'm beginning to realize how small the town is, and also how "big" the Steinhauer name is.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
I discover more and more that I am truly my mother's daughter. Especially now that I am a teacher.
My Mom grew up on the northside of Chicago, the youngest of 3 girls. She was the first and only person in her family to go to college, and she graduated in 3 years. She was first a teacher at a public school in Chicago (where coincidentally, my nephew now goes), then stayed home when she had all five of us. When I was in pre-school, she went back to teaching, first as a kindergarten teacher (starting the program), then opening a new pre-school/kindergarten, then as primary coordinator, then as assistant principal, and then when she completed her master's degree, a principal.
So much of her life has been devoted to teaching. Not only in the classroom, but outside as well. I have learned countless things from her. Getting along with others, keeping close contact with family and friends, and having the determination to do what you love are just some of the things she has taught me. I find myself hearing her voice in my head a lot. Most of the time it revolves around a cleaning or organizing project I may have. My Mom is an extremely organized person and also loves cleanliness. (Who else do you know who LOVES washing windows?!) It leads me to think, "What would Mom do?" in so many situations.
My love of reading is also from my Mom, I'm sure. I vividly remember listening to stories as I sat on my Mom's lap when I was really young. My Mom always encouraged us to read - on rainy days, on snowy days, in the car, whenever, wherever. She continues to be a verocious reader, and I enjoy talking about books and stories with her.
But our adventures didn't end there. She was constantly looking for ways to experience the city. We went to plays, museums, outdoor performances, whatever was going on in and around the city. I'm sure that my appreciation for the city and its culture is also due to these outings.
Happy Birthday, Mom! I hope your day is great and your year ahead is wonderful. I also hope the Arizona sun is shining warm and bright today for you.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Everything is done on the computer. If a teacher doesn't have someone in mind to take his/her class, then s/he goes online onto the program and puts in that a sub is needed. This could be a job for tomorrow, or it could be for any day in the future. Once the job is put in the system, any sub who is online at that moment can choose that job. I have learned that you have to be quick, once a job is out there, it only takes minutes for it to be taken. I now just take jobs to take them, then look at them later to see if it's something I want. I can always cancel a job if I want to.
Now if a teacher knows that s/he wants you, then s/he will choose your name from the sub list and put you into that assignment. For example, I got a call from a first grade teacher at the school where I student taught. She needed someone for tomorrow all day. I only had a 1/2 day scheduled, so I went ahead and cancelled that job and took the first grade job.
It really is a game. In the last 20 or so minutes I've been on the computer, there have been 5 jobs posted. Within minutes, they were taken. I did get one of them - a 1/2 day for Friday, but all the rest were for tomorrow when I already have the first grade job.
There's really no rhyme or reason as to when people are posting jobs online. I have found that there are some jobs that come available at midday (I'm assuming when teachers have a lunch break) and right after school. Then there are some that are posted later in the evening. I try to be online especially at these times, but essentially I stalk the program whenever possible. Stein is even in on the act. Whenever he gets on the computer, he clicks on "Search Again" and lets me know if anything pops up. He has even accepted some for me, knowing that I can cancel them if I need to.
I was talking to another teacher today about the whole subbing world. I have to admit, at this point in the game, I like the variety that comes with subbing. Unless I get a long-term sub job, I am in a different classroom everyday. Not only do I get to see different kids everyday, but I also get to see different classrooms, procedures, and schools. If something isn't going right, it's reassuring to know that tomorrow I won't be in the same place. Last week I taught fourth grade, today I taught a variety of kids in a special needs resource room, tomorrow I'll teach first grade, and the next day sixth. I feel like I'm expanding my experience, and honing in on my likes and dislikes too. (Talk to me in a few weeks, and I may be singing a different tune...)
Today I learned that there are a lot of incompetent subs out there, even some that have been banned from certain buildings or even whole school districts. Apparently when someone competent comes along, people notice. I made business cards printed with my name and info. so I can have something to leave behind. Hopefully I'm one of the competent ones, and teachers will want to use me again. At least that was the case today - I already have 3 days set up next week with one teacher. Score!
Sunday, February 3, 2008
We did venture out Saturday night when we met Matt, Anne, Eric and Mia for dinner. It's been a while since we've seen them, even though they live only 4 blocks away. So it was nice to catch up and grab a bite to eat.
We went to Casey's, which is a local pub/grill. It's always a great standby for those nights when we just want a burger and a beer. They also went smoke-free in the past year which is another bonus. (By the way, I can't tell you how good it was last week in Chicago when we experienced the smoke-free ban which went into effect 1/1).
Tonight we're hanging out watching the game and eating a variety of football-type foods, including chips and dips and chili. Stein's Dad is going to come over to see a bit of the game too. We've never been Superbowl party people, but just prefer to watch the game at home. May the best team win.
Have a great week, everyone!
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Friday, February 1, 2008
Unfortunately, it is well camouflaged on our brown fence in this picture, and I took the picture from inside the house. But if you click on the picture, a much larger one will pop up and you can really see him (or her?). If you look at the fence, starting from the right and move left, you will see it sitting on the top. Also, you can see the scared squirrel on top of the neighbor's garage. Heh, heh. (I hate squirrels.)
Yeah, yeah, I know you may think I'm trying to flub a picture of a pigeon into a picture of a falcon. But we don't have pigeons in Ann Arbor (which I love). I'm keeping a lookout for him again. Maybe next time I'll get a picture outside.
This morning when the alarm went off at 6:00 and Stein got up, I turned on the TV. I couldn't help but be anxious with anticipation. Even though not going in meant that I wouldn't get paid, I still had that "what if we don't have school today?" feeling. I waited impatiently for all the counties to be listed. (It didn't help that I kept flipping between 2 channels and would miss the beginning of the county list where Ann Arbor District is located.) Finally I saw it listed. We had a snow day!
At 8:30 this morning Mickey called. She has a snow day today as well. We asked each other what was in store for the day. Neither one of us came up with an instant list of things that we were going to do. Maybe walk to the grocery store, maybe read a book for a book club, maybe nap, maybe cook a yummy dinner. That's the beauty of snow days. They're unplanned, spontaneous free days, waiting to be filled with anything.
I couldn't help but think of the days when I was in grammar school, waiting impatiently by the radio to hear if our school was called. Even though my Mom was a teacher at the school, for some reason she never knew if school was closed. Or did she? (Mom?) And they never announced the closings on TV. It was always on 2 different radio stations where it would be announced. As if waiting through the hundreds of schools being called wasn't enough, our school started with a Q (Queen of Angels) so it took extra long to get through most of the alphabet. It only got worse in high school. I went to St. Scholastica.
The waiting was always filled with enormous possibilities. Possibilities of having school and not having school. I remember dreaming of the latter. Playing in the snow, having the unfamiliar weekday shows to watch on TV, just being home when I should be in school. It had a feeling of being bad without getting caught.
And the excitement when our school was finally announced? Explosive. My siblings and I would do a cheer, and quickly get to doing what we dreamed of. I'm sure that it would've started with a bowl of Cocoa Wheats, our favorite warm cereal. Hmmm, that gives me an idea...
The best snow days were ones that were attached to a weekend. A Monday was the best, Fridays were cool too. Today I'm reveling in a Friday snow day filled with possibilities. Maybe some weekday TV watching, maybe some reading, maybe some napping, maybe some cooking. Maybe.