Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cast Your Stone

We need some changes in public education.

I am not talking about testing. Now, before some or you write me off please let me 'splain: 

1. Standardized testing is zero fun for anyone involved. 
2. Standardized testing makes our students nervous and frustrated.
3. Standardized testing has turned some A LOT of teachers into this-test-is-all-about-me-and-how-well-MY-students-perform [and-I-secretly-hope-the-OTHER-classes-bomb-so-I-look-like-teacher-of-the-universe] monsters.
4. But most disheartening is that standardized testing does not often reflect just how far a student has progressed during a school year.  

HOWEVER, [Yes, I am shouting] STANDARDIZED TESTING AIN'T [It is my blog and I will use what ever kind of slang I choose] GOING ANYWHERE SO FIND A WAY TO DEAL WITH IT SO THAT IT DOES NOT CONSUME YOU.


I am not talking about pay raises. Please do not misunderstand: Short and I are flat broke 99.9% of the time because we are both educators.  We could use a few extra pennies.  Our pay has actually gone backwards because we have not seen an increase in pay in several years but our health insurance has skyrocketed...exponentially. [Incidentally that has not equated to better health care or coverage for any of us. Not shocked at all are you?]  We would both like to further our our own educations and pursue our doctorates but with a daughter in college and a son close behind her, that is not our reality at the moment. It may never be our reality. [I am not whining or complaining...just being honest.] In the last several years there might have been opportunities to get ahead if the above situation with pay versus insurance had not been so significant.  A pay raise would be nice but I am not holding my breath that one will come through..soon or ever.  We manage and we have what we need. [You learn to get real creative with money when there isn't a lot around.  Dave Ramsey is amazing and taught us a lot.  We are still learning.]

While the two items from above are things that I think do make or break some educators, I am more concerned about something that I see as far more pressing in our schools today: attitudes. [I am not talking attitudes that can come from children but those that seem to seethe from adults in this profession.]

If there is one simple thing I have learned in 18 years of teaching it is that it only takes one attitude to make a change. One of my favorite people in the whole world, that I go all fangirl over, is Mother Teresa.  I love this quote from her: 

We, as educators, cannot change the culture of education if we do not change some negative attitudes inside the walls of our schools. #FACT

Teachers....we need to step it up and stop petty behavior by adults that threatens what we are trying to accomplish in schools:  L. E. A. R. N. I. N. G.

Stop gossiping. Teaching middle school is a blast and I love it. [One must be slightly deranged, like me, to understand just how stinkin' fun middle schoolers are...even on bad days.] However, the drama that can be created between middle school students is NOT fun. 

So why are there some teachers that act like middle school kids and stir the pot in the building?  We are in education to teach children, just in case some of you forgot. When teachers [especially those that are veteran teachers] walk around and create controversy among the same staff that should be working together then how can students be learning? 

Veteran teachers - I am speaking to you directly. Be the role model. Be the leadership that beginning teachers need to see AND hear. If you spend your time spreading gossip like the plague then that reflects poorly on you and your school. 

If your main goal is to make sure that everyone in the building knows the latest gossip on any and everything then please know that you are doing nothing but causing problems and keeping your school from being the absolute best it can be.

Stop taking everything so personally. When did educators become so thin skinned?  If you are not picked to be the featured classroom, the teacher who is showcased, asked to serve on a committee, chosen to lead something, etc. then guess what? Life. Goes. On. This is not your senior year in high school and you are not in a competition for senior superlatives. [Incidentally, I was not chosen for those either...]  I truly believe for a school to be effective then different voices need to be heard and not always the same ones.  

Believe it or not, a little encouragement of others, on days when you feel like you are not enough, will make YOU feel better. Make it your mission to find something good happening, on a daily basis, with those around you and tell them.  If you only see your classroom and you as the one who needs the attention then you are stealing joy from everyone.  I urge not be a thief of joy.

Stop finding problems that do not exist. Honestly. STOP. Decisions are made based on entire body of people and really, should always be made in the best interest of students. So you disagree with an email or something someone did in their own classroom or you are not pleased with a happens. So put your grown up drawers on and get over it.  As teachers, we have so much to deal with concerning students and learning  - why add to that plate with "issues" that are not really important?  Creating non-existent and piddly [I love that is fun to say] problems only robs you of precious time to do something that does matter in the lives of children.

I am not a negative person. I did not put these thoughts down to run anyone in the ground or to flog educators. I am guilty of all of these things me. There have been times in my teaching career that I have snatched misery and discontent straight out of the closet and worn them like badges of honor. All that ever did was make me worn out, pathetic, and useless to everyone.

I am urging you, teachers, to throw kindness around like confetti - especially towards the other adults you come in contact with on a daily basis. Change the culture in your school by bringing back joy, even when the chips are down. Teaching is a so very hard - we have to root for each other, pray for each other, encourage each other. 

Make a choice to be the change. The solution. The positive.  

Go find your stone.   

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

7,304 Days

Day 1: May 4, 1996

Twenty years ago I married my favorite coach. [To hear him tell the story there were a lot of hearts that broke that day when he suddenly became "unavailable".]

What a wild and crazy adventure it has been....

Some people that are close to us understand the significance of these twenty years. [And no, its not any kind of miracle that he hasn't killed me yet or the fact that he's had it so bad and has still come out smiling. Don't let him fool you....he's got it made.]  We didn't exactly get the order of date, finish college, get married, have children, etc. correct. Honestly, we had no clue about raising children or being married, much less trying to do both at the same time.

Neither is a job for the faint of heart. #truth 

As I look back on twenty years of marriage, the most defining moments make me realize that even when I was not listening, God was making a way for both of us.  We [Short and I] have not done a thing to make this marriage "work" apart from God's grace [I will admit I've needed way more grace and mercy and humble pie than my favorite coach in these last 20 years].  

Trust me when I say that God has given us way more than we could ever fathom. He has expanded our territory and done immeasureably more than we could ever hope or imagine. 

We have been blessed to be the parents of four amazing [fantastic, brilliant, hilarious, sensitive, awesome, loving, giving, etc...I will go on...its my blog] children. In twenty years, there have been a lot of laughs, a few tears, and way too many hugs and kisses to count. Sometimes, even after all these years, I still pinch myself and question if this is real life [ I sing Bohemian Rhapsody]. Raising kids ain't easy...or cheap. 

But so worth every single bit of the good and bad. I promise.

In twenty years I have laughed way more than I've cried. Have you met my husband? He brings his A game to every conversation. [And he's never, EVER met one of those he didn't like...] Trust me when I say that there have been many times laughing kept us entertained because it was all we could afford.

I cannot imagine spending the last twenty years with anyone else. God has allowed us to make quite a life together because we never gave up on each other, especially when the mountains seemed impassable and the storms too big. One step at a time, holding the other's hand.

Thank you to my sweet Craig for loving Christ first, for loving me before yourself, and for always being my partner in crime without a dime. 

Thank you for teaching me the game of football and for encouraging my crazy adventures.

Thank you for realizing that I will never know where my keys are and for ironing my clothes.

Thank you for putting up with my quirks [or what I like to term extremely intellectual tendencies] and for always cleaning the bathroom [because it grosses me out].

Thank you for being organized and for allowing putting up with my disorganization.

Thank you for working hard at your job and for coming home each day full of hugs and kisses.

Thank you for forcing sharing your love of history and for making countless trips to buy groceries to help me out.

Thank you accepting my invitation for a date all those years ago and for never looking back.

Day 7,304 - May 4, 2016: I love your love [and your toast] the most.
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