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Teacher, Writer, Proofreader

Potential Tragedy Snuffed

I don’t usually answer my phone when I don’t recognize the number, but for some reason, I did today.

My colleagues, parents, and I received a recorded phone message this afternoon from our principal briefly explaining an incident that occurred right after school. Apparently, two students were arrested for possession of guns. One, a real gun and the other a BB-gun.

I’m certainly grateful for whomever alerted our leaders to this situation. I’m also thankful that those guns did not go off at school. My assumption at this time is that the students were carrying the weapons around in their pockets or backpacks, or that perhaps they stowed them away in their lockers for the day. I don’t know, but I’m really glad that one of them didn’t get pissed off at somebody and make a fatal decision.

I suppose we were not put on lockdown because the situation unfolded after all the students were out of the building? I’ve never really thought this through before, but do we not put the building on lockdown if there’s a situation and only the faculty is in the building? I have a few questions. I’m hoping some will be answered in the emergency meeting that’s set for tomorrow after school.

Why the hell did middle schoolers think bringing guns to school was a stellar idea? Maybe they were scared of a bully and wanted to bring some protection? Maybe they wanted to impress their friends? Maybe they had a plan? Maybe they are in a gang or are heavily influenced by someone else who is coercing them to join?  Maybe they hunt or a family member collects guns as hobby?

I don’t know the answer. I only hope that the investigation reveals some sort of answer that can be addressed effectively in order to prevent such an occasion from arising again.

I’ll admit, my brain was rattled after that phone call. Should I end my teaching career at 12 years and call it good? Should I apply immediately to an online school? Should I apply ANYWHERE else? Should I just let it roll off, just like every other situation that has risen along the way?

Again, I don’t know. This seemed different. There was no way we would have known which kid had a weapon and which kid just might get angry enough to do something tragic.

God, thank you for your protection today. And, thank you in advance for protection tomorrow. Send someone to connect with those kids and their families to help them navigate safely through our society.

No more statistics, please.

No more.

I want to go to work to teach and train, not to lose my life or watch others lose theirs at the hands of a hurting and hurtful young person.

Keep us safe and guide us in spreading love, not hate. Kindness, not rudeness. Peace, not chaos. Truth, not deceit.

Keep me alert, agile, swift, and wise.

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Rampant Apathy and Learned Helplessness

Twelve years ago in central Oklahoma, I began my teaching career in middle school in an area infested with gangs. I’ve probably learned boatloads more than I’ve taught. I’ve had roughly 1200 students pass through my classroom door. (Would’ve been more, but I looped with a group of kids through their middle school years.) I’ve witnessed and experienced a lot of sadness, joy, apathy, excitement, fear, fury, bat-shit craziness, “you can’t fix stupid,” and straight-up “I can’t make this shit up!” Any educator should know exactly what I’m talking about.

Which brings me to today. This school year with sixth graders. I have many hard-working, creative, and well-mannered kiddos for whom I’m grateful. It’s the “others” that are a problem. A problem not just for me because they’re in my class and make me question why the hell I did this to myself, but a problem for you and everyone else in society who will have to deal with their “idiosyncrasies.”

All kids are self-centered and think the world revolves around them and think the world owes them something and think that every adult in their presence is a complete idiot. It’s the age. It’s normal. Irritating as hell, but normal. We all did it to some extent.

Here comes the “but” …

BUT, THIS GROUP! Holy freakin’ cow! The apathy, the learned helplessness, the unwillingness to participate in any way in their own learning is ABSOLUTELY ASTOUNDING! I’m truly frightened for anyone who has to deal with them as adults. I can only pray and hope that somewhere along the line, someone will be able to connect with them and motivate them toward excellence, or some semblance of it, at least.

 

Strong and Steady

Strong and steady is our love. Love is different this time. Why? Could be that I’m not 20 or 30 years old any more. Could be that I’m wiser. Could be that I’ve been “established” on my own for many years and have learned to be independent, even when it wasn’t fun. Could be that I’m “set in my ways.” Could be that my libido is lower and doesn’t overpower conversation or reason. Or the need to sleep. Ha!

Could be that I never really needed the “type” of person that I thought I needed. Could be that chains of legalistic religious viewpoints have clinked to the ground and changed my perspective. Could be that I’m not as judgmental as I used to be, given the aforementioned release from legalism. Could be that I can love more unconditionally than I used to be capable of (although, that’s a trait I always strived to attain and live by). Could be that I take my people (my loved ones) for granted less and less as reality taunts that none of us are promised another minute, day, week, or year on this earth. Make the most of each moment, be aware and available. Make memories. Make friends. Make love.

Am I head-over-heels in love? I don’t know. Does my love for him grow daily? Absolutely. I think I prefer the latter. Is he my soul-mate? I don’t know, but based on how things have been going the past 10 months, I think we could grow to be soul-mates. It’s about the journey together. The experiences together. The gains. The losses. The trying new things. The nostalgia. The disagreements. The times when I feel that he gets me. The times we shake our heads, utterly confused by the other.

It’s still new. Still floundering. Still discovering. I hope that one never stops. Keeps it interesting. I need some adventure. I also need stability. Comfort. I feel that with him. Comfortable, that is. He is stable. He’s not quite an adventurer, though maybe the fact that he chose to be with me is adventure enough for him. {smile} Suffice to say, I’m enjoying the ride. I’m enjoying loving him and being loved by him.

 

The Mailbox Prep

So, I’m about to embark on the 5th time teaching The Mailbox by Audrey Shafer to my 6th graders. I’ve refreshed my prediction board because it was starting to look a little sad. I’ve added a couple of words (foster care and PTSD). It looks great, even if I say so myself. What do you think?

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I’ve also loaded links into Google Classroom that will be used as extended activities or added background information that connect to the story. I haven’t specifically nailed down the order in which I’ll share these with my kids, though. This is the first year all my kids have had their own iPads and have quick and easy access to internet searches. So, I’ll try to keep detailed notes and plans on how and when I’ve used them. I don’t want to spoil anything. Also, I’m thinking that some of these might be used when we must be “flexible” because circumstances outside of our control will change my class times, or will take some of my kids out of my class. (ELL testing, assemblies, snow days, etc.) See those links below:

In addition, I have loaded vocabulary words from the first chapter into Quizlet.com. One word, however, is not in the chapter. It’s dialect. Most of my kiddos don’t yet know what this is. Every time Uncle Vernon speaks, he is using his dialect, which tends to throw them off. You could have a mini-lesson on dialect, using examples from other books. I will probably only have time to brush over it, which is why I added it to the vocabulary list.

Ideally, I will load words from each chapter onto Quizlet, or maybe later into the book, I will use some other vocabulary lesson. I know there are better ways to teach vocabulary, but my kiddos need something that will help them learn a boat load of words in a short amount of time. Most of them are English as second language learners.

Now, notice I said ideally. Once we get going, I’m going to be pressed for time.  I’ll be spending weekend time, like right now, on prepping for this. At some point, being with my family and taking care of my personal life will take precedence. I’m planning on starting the book after next week. Or, at least, creating and building anticipation and excitement in my students for the book. It makes a difference. It captures the attention of more kiddos, even those who haven’t paid attention or given a flip about school since day one. That should be something else I keep track of, come to think of it–the individual kids who haven’t participated in their own learning during the first semester.

Sidebar: I’ve missed a few days of my 500-words-a-day challenge. So, I’m going to do a couple more posts today to try and catch up.

31 Day Writing Habit Begins Now!

So, last year I tried upping my word count with a month’s worth of daily prompts. I believe I made it to eleven. Day eleven, that is, not a word count of eleven.

(Total sidebar here: Eleven makes me think of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” I have only begun the 2nd season, so no spoilers, please.)

This year, I signed up with Jeff Goins for his 500-words daily challenge for 31 days.

The goal is to write 500 words per day, no matter the quality. That part will work itself out later. The problem that most writers (I assume) have is that we read about writing, think about writing, edit other people’s writing, teach writing skills, but don’t plant our asses in the chair (in my case, I’m currently on my bed) and put our fingers on the keys to, you know, make words from our brains appear on the screen.

I’m hoping to do better this time. My mind works in stream-of-consciousness, and my editing brain seeks to fix things along the way instead of letting me just be free to write/type. Perhaps I should just go back to paper/pencil journaling. I think it does have its place for creative juices to flow.

I’m a teacher, a frequently disgruntled one. Disgruntled at some students, yes. Disgruntled at some admin from far above, yes. Disgruntled with some parents, yes. But, mostly, disgruntled with our education system. It sucks. It doesn’t follow researched data on how kids develop and learn. The powers that be say it does, but it doesn’t. They bark “Test scores! Data-driven!” It’s only data from the standardized tests that they care about, not data from brain science, behavioral science, child development, etc.

What moves the system (the education monster) is just what moves the big corporations, the testing companies, the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies, etc. The seductive dollar.

Let me inform you, parents. To the “Man”, your children are numbers. That’s it.

To most of their teachers and principals, they are real, live humans. With needs. With different learning styles that can’t be accommodated with standardized tests. With skills that can’t be tested by choosing (a), (b), (c), or (d). With knowledge and experiences that can’t be shown on pie charts or by percentages. With dreams, desires, goals, likes, dislikes, that your child’s teachers might know if they aren’t overwhelmed by discipline problems or crowd control issues. But, the general public only sees those scores, charts, numbers that cannot possibly sum up who your child is or where they’re headed in life.

I’m a for public education. I’m also for private education, when people can afford it. I’m also for online schools that can take out the classroom chaos, and countless distractions that come with corralling large numbers of students in schools with limited staff to supervise. I’m an educator who loves learning and teaching.  As long as greedy people who don’t really care about humanity and real learning continue to be in charge of the education monster, we will continue the cycle that causes teachers to throw their hands up and quit their field.

We will choose other ways to educate those around us.

Well, there’s my 500 words, plus a few more!

Disclaimer: I am posting this without much editing in an attempt to establish my new habit of writing 500 words per day. 

 

 

Element of Heat

I did it! I replaced the heating element in my dryer! It took me a couple of hours, some flagrant curse words, and a few phone calls and texts questioning my brother and a friend, but I got that bugger switched out. It’s funny how giddy I was about drying my clothes!

Writing Prompt Day 11: Favorite Foods

Oh, where to begin?? This would be easier if it were foods I hate. Like, sardines, liver, intestines …

I like pizza, pasta, chicken, steak, fried potatoes, most veggies, dark chocolate (duh), chocolate malts from Braum’s (a cure-all according to my dad), fruit, coconut milk yogurt, chai tea, Auntie Anne’s pretzels, mini powdered donuts, and SO MUCH MORE!

Salsa on salad or with chips. I can make pretty good fresh salsa. Speaking of salsa …

I LOVE CILANTRO! I always order “lots of cilantro” at any Mexian restaurant. Lots. I love to smell the batches of cilantro in the grocery store. Don’t judge!

 

Working On Me!

Since the whole Tinder-scammer fiasco last year (see posts below), I have had some pleasant dates with actual, real non-scamming dudes. However, I’m still trying to figure out this whole dating gig, even after being single for {cough}, let’s just say, a while now.

I’ve been on another dating site that has been a little less scammy, but I’m finding out more and more about myself as I trek along.

I don’t remember exactly how, but last summer, I stumbled upon multiple YouTube channels of these guys who provide dating and relationship advice to women. I’m a teacher, so that whole lifelong learner mantra stands true with me. I’m a sponge for information, especially when it’s secret intelligence that promises to enlighten me about the male psyche and how the hell I can avoid the emotional peril and perplexities I’ve encountered throughout my not-so-impressive dating life. So, I subscribed to a few of these guys’ YouTube channels.

Now, these experts charge for classes, webinars, downloads, and videos because these are their businesses. But, they also offer free tid-bits, to lure you in. I don’t mean that negatively, though. Truly, the only reason I haven’t already purchased one or more of their programs is because I’m an Oklahoma teacher, and I HAVE. NO. MONEY.

Let me tell you what their videos have done for me thus far.

  • They have encouraged me.
  • They have reminded me that I’m valuable, and that I need to act like it.
  • They have made me more aware of times when my behavior or attitude exudes insecurities instead of confidence.
  • They have shown me that I sometimes allow the negative and hurtful things from past relationships (dating or platonic) to dictate how I perceive the world, my circumstances, and men.
The main takeaway for me is this: Work on me. Make sure I’m happy within myself before I add a long-term relationship to the mix.

Now, I’ve known this in my head for a long time, and I thought just knowing it to be true was all that was necessary. But it’s not. I have to work on it, apply it, keep learning about myself and adjusting accordingly as I go. It’s not an overnight thing. It’s not a I’ve got it, I’ve arrived thing, either. It’s a growing, cultivating work of art. Yep, I’m a work of art and God is the artist. I know that analogy is overused, but it’s true. And I like it, so there. 😉

Does this mean I’m not allowing myself to meet and talk to guys? Nope! I’m just doing it with incremental confidence. Baby steps. Keep learning, keep trying, keep enjoying.

Tell me in the comment sections what you’ve learned about relationships and yourself lately.

Below are the aforementioned Tinder posts, in case you missed them. Know someone on Tinder? Share these posts!
  1. My Tinder Mission
  2. Tinder BS-O-Meter Sounds Again
  3. Actual Tinder Scamming Profile
  4. Tinder Photo Swiping
  5. Bye Tinder, I’m Swiped Out!

Writing Prompt Day 10: Top Five Pet Peeves

These are in no particular order. I’m  sure there are more–just ask my students.

1) Grammatical mistakes in posts or articles that are meant to be poignant but immediately lose credibility due to complacent ignorance or blatant irreverence of the English language. (Is that grammar snobbish enough?)

2) Disrespect.

3) Arrogance. (Unless you’re a member of the grammar police, like me. Ha! Am I hypocritical?)

4) Students (or anyone) exuding entitlement.

5) People who are energetic, early risers. If you speak to me within two hours of my waking, you simply don’t know me and don’t value your life. (This amends #2 for those of us who are not morning people.)

Writing Prompt Day 9: Something I Crave A Lot

Crave physically? Mentally? Emotionally?

Physically

Sometimes I crave french fries dipped in a chocolate malt. Yumminess.

Mentally

I crave intelligent and inspiring conversation.

Emotionally

I crave love and companionship from a man who will love me inspite of my flaws. I also crave to reciprocate that.

Let me be clear. I know how to be single. I’m independent and do enjoy facets of my singleness. Alone time is important and necessary for me to recharge and regroup. I can come and go as I please. I can decide when or if I’ll cook or do the dishes. However, singleness and loneliness are sometimes synonymous.

I don’t NEED someone in order to function and thrive, but I WANT to share life with someone. Someone who can bring out the best parts of me that I wouldn’t easily discover without that significant other to inspire and encourage me toward new adventures.

I know that some people in the world have found their perfect match or soulmate. You might scoff at that word, soulmate. Scoff if you must, but I choose to believe it can happen. To me. No one’s perfect, I get that. But, perfect simply means a perfect fit for me.

I’m going to keep growing and learning, to keep cultivating a better and better version of me. I’ll continue on my journey, hoping, trusting, moving, enjoying, fighting, and loving. He’s bound to show up, ready to be my fitting soulmate.

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